Saturday, February 18, 2012


There's a man, sitting in front of me, head shaved down to a central fire-red line from forehead on back, dyed to an unnatural extreme. He's wearing a filthy cloth shirt, covered in what looks to be the end of other people, in all types of little pieces. And he's looking at me, eyes shining with a kind of rapacious curiosity, as if ice could be imbued with the sense to be fascinated. Stubble on his face is uneven, at angles, like it's been cut with scissors, and quickly. Combat pants and boots coated with equal amounts of grass stains, mud, and far worse beyond. My eyes are only just coming to terms with the poor lighting, and I don't think I want to be able to identify much of it.
He speaks, not waiting for a sound or encouragement. Not that I can produce either, with what looks like, from the bottom of my eyes, a strip of duct tape over my mouth.
“Did I ever tell you how much I love it here? Have I ever told you? Maybe? I love every thing about it, even the things I hate, It's just so fucking great. I love it.” There's a brief whisk of his wrist, and there's a cruelly sharp knife in his hand before I can blink. He points it at me, smiling, and then touches it to his cheek, pensive, before the hand holding it descends to his lap. “I mean, you look at a place like this, and I don't know how the locals can stand it. They've got a poor frame of mind, man, a poor frame. They need to be more like me, I mean, fuck!” He stands up, knocking his chair back. I can barely see where it clatters to, the bare bulb that lights the room only hints at the barest of shadows. But this guy-- I can see too clearly. “And you know, I can't get angry at them, I can't. I mean, I do, but I can't, I shouldn't. They just need-- they need adjusment. Yeah. That's what they need.” The knife, again, goes to his cheek. He starts scratching, not so much pensive as absent-mindedly. “But you don't know what I'm talking about. You're just off the boat, right? Make the world a better place? Right? Fuckin' little white coat and pills and fuckin'-- tinctures and shit to coat the lining of this acid-filled place.”
He begins prowling, and he's nicked his cheek with the tip of the blade, but hasn't noticed. “Yeah. Acid-filled. Like a stomach, right? Stomachs have acid, all this corrosive stuff to make life easier. Break down to build up, that's what it's for. I guess I can sympathize. Acid.”
I nod, not knowing what else to do.
“Acid. I remember, once--” he looks back and then sets up the folding chair again, flipping it to sit with its back to me, him sitting with his chest resting on the back, akimbo. He turns points his middle and index finger, gunlike, at his head, “I shot this guy, right? Not in the head, in the stomach, I shot him through the back, through his ribcage, I think. Bullet went in and carried out more on the other side, tore a hole the size of, like, a teacup, where it came out. The worst fucking kind of smell you ever had hit your nose. Like something that comes out of the 'fridge after the power's been out for a week, but, like, instantly, you know? Fuckin' reeked. Haha- fuck-- never managed to get that smell outta the carpet he spilled out onto. All these little scraps just, y'know, melting into... Like, like the way your hands get when you douse 'em in bleach-- just wet, slippery, like, your skin can't make its fucking mind up whether it wants to get off or stay on. Break him down or try to build him up.”
He stands up again, and puts the knife back in its sheath. His cheek is bleeding with a slow, steady trickle. “All that life leaking out of him couldn't make up its mind either. Instead, just went and ruined my fucking carpet. But I bought another one. And you know, it was all so cheap.”
There's a laugh, deep, throaty, and booming. “Fuck, man, that's it. That's what I love about it here. It's all so goddamned cheap. I can't even remember why that guy needed to have that bullet in his belly, but I'm sure there was some good kind of motivation, y'know? But there's no need for a why here, wasn't back then, and there's no need now for me to, ah, y'know, elucidate a meaning, or whatever, now. It's all so cheap.”
Pain isn't enough to make my brain go for those endorphins that will calm everything down, take the edge off. I'm on an edge, tied to this chair, slowly waking up to the bruises and cuts, slowly waking up to the likelihood that those aren't going to be the last. The likelihood that I'm not going to make it out of here at all.
“So cheap. So I can't be angry at him. I don't think I was at the time. I mean, fuck, that carpet, I got another. Same price. Same price, the entertainment he bought me.” There's a gun, now, a dark gleaming under the bare light. “That's what I love here. Everything is so cheap. These, all these--” He thumbs out the release for the clip, deftly catching it as it falls out, his other hand then beginning to pop out bullet by bullet of ammunition. “Not even dollars, not even pennies. Nothing like what you'd have to pay back in the city, man. They grow crops of these here, and each season is richer than the last. There's a market, too, man, there's people selling this shit by the barrel, maybe just hoping that by being sellers, they won't be buying something far worse, be on the receiving end of their products.
“I can't believe it, here, why you'd stay at all if you didn't have this understanding that I have. How these people sell what you can pick off the ground for free. How you can buy someone's life so cheaply and sell it in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, you don't even have to pay.
“Yeah. Carpet costs the same as a man: one bullet. One bullet at the right time. Maybe when they answer their door, maybe when they're down on their knees, begging for the safety they ain't got. They don't understand, like I do, how that cheap little bullet is all they're worth. I mean, fuck, some people, a lot of people, as a whole, around the world, they know. They know that if they pay for that little chunk of powder-propelled lead, they're buying a change that binds.”
There's a grin of yellowing teeth. Icy eyes again settle on me. “Like you're bound now. Like you could be changed now. Think you didn't come cheaply?”
Sweat covering my forearms doesn't leave me enough lubrication to try and slip through the rope without losing skin. Life or limb is the encroaching decision, a coin-flip waiting to be called. Like he'd been sitting, the back of my own chair is against my chest, my hands tied together around it, a line of rope running down to between the ropes below. The ropes below that tie my feet together to the chair's back legs, together. My shirt's sticky enough to almost glue me to the chair-back. I can feel down my back, there's enough flowing down into the seat of my pants to stick me to the bottom of the chair there, too.
“You come to the lion's den, chico. You come selling nothing, just walking in on your little dreams of goodwill among men and that shit? Hah, you guys kill me.” He grins, tossing the empty clip to the ground, and in a gesture, snapping another into the gun. There's the sound of the slide swinging forward with a click. In the movies, that's how they tell you the gun's loaded, ready for use. Ready to be used on me. That's what he's telling me. “You kill me, I say that, but nobody can. I kill me. I'm doing it slowly, surely, deliberately, and with that calm fucking kind of crazy that you see so viciously poised in front of you, man. Nah, crazy, that's me. Now, insanity, insanity's the thing that's got this whole goddamned continent soaking in clotting seas that they never stop filling. Insanity is their sanity, and that makes anyone who's crazy the only lucid ones around.”
He's up, walking, that little cut dripping down his chin, drip by drip between the stubbles of hairs, little dime-sized blots collecting on his shirt. Little spots on the carpet. He's behind me, now, and there's a small chuckle. A drop lands on my shoulder, and I feel the prickles of hair next to my ear, a hotness of breath. I feel a circle of metal pressed suddenly against me. The gun is pressed to my back, left side, lower part of the ribcage.
“Did I ever tell you-- how much I love it here?”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Driving on a Friday

Another lovely morning birthed. Okay, so that was a lie on at least one count, thought Lenny, fingers digging into the few itchy locks left on his head. If it had been a birth, it'd be the kind of birth that worries. A blue baby, hypoxic, suffocating. Much like the city at this ungodly hour, a lack of screams was more worrying than anything else. Cynicism, chalk it up to years in a yellow cab, with the back of your neck and the seat slowly exchanging color with one another.
Chrissakes, it was still dark out, and they call it a morning.
Christ? That was one to bother the rabbi with-- would that still count as an expletive? As far as the light blasphemies went, it was probably Lenny's favorite, barring the occasional bacon-burger with melted cheddar. In either case, he was pretty sure these things would be glossed over in whatever post-death judgment awaited him when they'd point out that he usually drove the cab all through the weekend.
“What can I say? I tried to make it Kosher, you know, for the Sabbath. I tried, I did, but you guys shoulda laid out something in the Torah about whether or not automatic transmission was on that 'thou really shouldn't'th' list. I at least get partial credit for never learning stick, right?”
That was how he imagined it'd go, with him throwing up his hands, laying thick on the charm. He was pretty sure the G-dash-D would be one to let the schlepping slide for a kidder like Lenny. What's a Jew to do when gas prices are what they are? Maybe, and I'm not trying to complain, but maybe if you'd put the Promised Land in a little further in-land closer to some of that goopy black you instead decided to our neighbours who ain't so fond of us, maybe then a guy could rest easy on the Sabbath. I mean, sure, our guys cracked the atom and made with the power plants, but you could have at least put a little bit more effort into giving us some of that good stuff, that most liquid of assets. Oy.
“Look at you, you're falling asleep back there! You want I should get you a nice pillow and some warm milk?”
The fare, some college-age gunking up the window with an indistinguishable facial oil of some description. His eyes flicker. “Mmmmuh. Need... sleep.”
“Don't be roused to articulation, now, my friend, I wouldn't be able to handle it without having a nervous breakdown. Inadequacy. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you, it's a sentiment that brings people together when combined with that right amount of pity. I know you haven't met my parents, but it's gotten them through hard times, y'know, the kind that really only started after I came along.”
The kid peeled himself from the window, and it was difficult not to immediately think of the sound that comes from undoing velcro straps. “Need sleep. Doctors say we're not getting enough, or something. I'm all for that.”
“Doctors oughta know better. Sleep's only really something for the really young and the really old. Sure, you fall into the former category, and I myself am approaching on the latter like my mother at a chinese buffet, but we are still part of a category that exists solely as a caffeinated milieu that runs from dawn until dusk and then puts a few more hours on the punchcard to cover the incidental expenses you're doomed to bring up because in the end, you just had to have another dessert because not only does it taste so good, but you come from a family where your mother convinces you're anorexic until you're starting to put more on the plate than can be reasonably lifted by the average athlete.”
Traffic was slow, dull, molasses moving up-hill in the tundra. Over the dashboard was a sea of assholes who'd neglected to turn off their turn signals. Honking one-upmanship felt like a necessary pursuit to avoid the urge to put four on the floor and ten grand's worth of repairs into the bumper in front of you.
“Trust me, you get enough to do once you're my age. You don't get to be tired, not a bit. You're too exhausted to be tired. Don't listen to them, what they say, it's the perfect example that two wrongs make a right.”
“Or a left-- at the lights-- the, uh, the ones behind us.”
“C'mahn, that thing was more jammed than a peanut-free PB an' J. Only way we could get it moving would be to do something terrible with something sharp and throwable, and I'm dressed in my good shoes today, so I'd rather not resort to something so litigious at this early in the morning.”
The student shifted back into his seat, eyelids protestingly halving his already glazed-over sockets. “If it's too early, you really should get up at a later time. More sleep.”
Smug little schmuck. Way to win an argument and make me feel inadequate.
“Christ!” Grinned Lenny, but it probably didn't count. Probably.
Just another morning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

After-school Specials

“What seest thou else in the dark backwards and abysm of time? In Shakespeare's work, elements of prophecy and vision are recurrent themes, often punctuated by impending darkness to set the mood. One can imagine that the sinister nature of these predictions was all-too-real for Shakespeare's time, where faeries still lit lanterns in the still night, and witches plotted strange and unnatural alchemies. The dark and frequently cynical message of Shakespearean prophecy works with the paranoid tremors of the day, where anything outside of Christendom was foul magic indeed. Thus, any use of it must somehow be justified. In the case of Macbeth, the faith that the titular warlord has in the witches' fortune is his undoing, as he is still ignorant of the clear anathema demanded by interruption of nature's course (having committed regicide). One must not ignore the urgings of the supernatural, as they do tend to be entirely correct, but again underlined is the often dark settings of any words of prophecy. A seer warns Caesar of his impending death at the Ides of March; A ghost tells of murder and betrayal at the hands of a certain uncle-cum-king of the Danes; a coven of witches push on a nobleman the expectation of royalty and invulnerability, provided that the deal is sealed in blood. Even the more benevolent use of magic has sinister undertones: consider the vile Caliban that the magician Prospero has restrained.
Anathema is just as constant: Brutus, Macbeth, Claudius, etcetera, all meet their ends for having consorted with unnatural prophecy. Even the great Prospero burns his books, washing his hands of magic once and for all, and in this case, the appeal to the audience is explicit as in his parting words Prospero asks for the indulgence of their benevolence...”
My eyes are heavy as I read this last sentence. “Not a bad start,” I write, “but it needs more focus. Your use of language is deft, and this makes for an intriguing introduction to your essay. Just be careful to stay on track! It remains unclear as to whether you're talking about magic, prophecy, or simply attitudes towards witchcraft in Shakespeare's time.”
The pronouncement is already bleeding through the page in appropriately red ink. I've made my mark, given my opinion, and have made the opening blows for him to start trimming the fat from his essay. A sigh escapes from my lips. I am the Grand Executioner of rhetoric, but even this righteous work is making my eyelids heavy.
“Mmm? What is it, honey?”
That sweet little face looks up at me like I'm a work of art wrapping a visionary-mastermind. I can't tell if she's looking cute like this on purpose, or whether she's just incidentally showing off my impacts as Number One Mom. Ever. I have as much written on my coffee mug.
“I'm done my homework. Can I watch the TV?”
“You're done already?”
“Ahuh!” Her head bobs, wiggling around those lovely little bangs.
“Well, okay, but only until Daddy gets home. Then you wash up for dinner, right?”
Oh, honey, you're going to be a heartbreaker when you grow up, like it or not. You know I can barely refuse you as it is. So innocent and full of some of that happy fluff that too many of us adults need to be stuffed with. We're so empty next to you, sugar. Momma loves you so much.
She's in the other room, and has already flicked on one of those 24-hour kids networks, you know the kind: less eyebrow-raising content for parents. God knows we need some kind of distraction for those little minds now and then, and having TV babysitting your kidling lessens the guilt if they're getting in some of that ostensibly wholesome educational programming.
I have to smile. Not that she keeps one off of my face every time she flashes that cutesy thing she does with her eyes. I did something right.
But! Back to the papers. Older young minds must be moulded into essay-writers of superlative quality. I live in hope. If I have to be cynical, it'd be to say that it's more to enforce some sense of literacy on these kids. Keep 'em in school.
…Something whispers impatiently in the back of my head: “That's what you get for letting TV babysit 'em, huh? They don't know a book from a boulder, much less a raven from a writing-desk!”
My brain is such a smart-ass sometimes.

Don't overdo it. My little star pupil here has some nice stuff down about the Bard's hocus-pocus, but he's missing a few details. Maybe it'll add to his argument?
Maybe it'll throw him for a loop, make him do a re-write. Hm.
“Have you thought about some of Shakespeare's comedies? Midsummer Night's Dream has some comparatively sunnier instances of magic.”
The ink is on the paper. I've done it. I've made my verdict. It's a bait-and-switch approach to teaching: if the kid is smart enough to address that, he might come over with a stronger essay. Maybe throw in some of the disasters that happen with the spells, or some of that 'center cannot hold' jingle-jangle by magical mischief-makers.
“But what if...”
The voice is back, boxing my ears.
“But what if he really is defeated by this? You specifically mentioned it, so he knows that he has to mention it if he wants a good grade!”
So? I'm starting to feel the coffee leaving me, and I rub my eyes impulsively.
“So-- if he can't fit it in, he'll give up and toss this away!”
Voice is right, but it can't be helped. Sometimes, a bit of unnatural selection is needed. What doesn't kill us makes us better writers, right?
Right, really happy endings for Poe, Plath, and that nice Mr. All-American novelist whose Grapes of Wrath turned out to be ball-bearings in a loaded shotgun fixated on providing a last meal at the behest of its owner. Oh, Hemingway, you cad.
“So don't stomp on them!”
I swat Voice away. I'm a teacher, fer Chrissakes. 'Kill with kindness' is hardly a guiding philosophy if you want a student to progress. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is an indespensible tool in the ink-stained quest for truth, knowledge, and academic happiness.
Rewrite, restructure, and he'll pass with flying colors.

Already later in my mind than it is in that 'real world' outside of it. Note to self: learn to control time. I'm massaging my temples over a mug of hot tea, thumb and forefinger working magic headache-healing semicircles on either side of my forehead. I'm in the doorway to the den, where Shawna's nice and hypnotized by Big Bird and Elmo. Go, learning box, go! Make my kid smarter for me while I do other stuff!
Ah, she ain't doing half bad, I have to say, even if I'm a teensy bit biased in that regard.
Well-put, clearly capable judge of character. You've earned another Mom Of The Year mug, and good on you for being so awesome.
Why, thank-you, equally impartial part of me that congratulates my hard work as a mother. I think I will celebrate with a goofy smile and a bit of hot tea.
“What's the matter, Mommy?”
“Oop, nothing to worry about, honey, Mommy just forgot her tea was so hot.”
I didn't need those tastebuds anyway. Stupid goofy grin. Stupid parental pride making me get blindsided by the thermal properties of microwave'd Earl Grey.
“Okay, Mommy, just be careful.”
Shucks. Look at Shawna give me some good motherly advice. She's a natural. The self-satisfaction, having survived a minor scalding, bubbles back to the surface, where it puts a probable smirk on my features. Kids: Clearly the best medicine.
“Hey-hey, sexy lady.”
The whisper in my ear, low and purring, is so sudden that I almost spill/scald myself again. I'm caught off-guard, and a little swear escapes my lips.
“Shit, Stu! You scared me!”
Fortunately, Shawna's too busy singing along with a number-reciting plush Dracula on the TV to have picked up on my misuse of the grown-up language.
Stu's standing there, giving me a wide grin. “Sorry, babe. Thought you heard me come in.”
My ass. He's not sorry, and I'm damn sure he crept up on me on purpose. I narrow my eyes, giving him the pouty you're-in-some-shit-now pucker. Don't giggle when he's looking at you like that, you'll never fake being pissed at him.
“Guess I'm sleeping on the couch tonight, huh.” Oh, that's right, you know what's good for you. He pulls some puppy-dog face, trying as hard as I am to keep it straight.
“Not a chance. I'm going to let this offense slide, but you'd better make it up to me.”
This nets another grin.
“You're too good to me.”
I am. He pulls me close, and I get that eyes-closed rush when I'm in his arms all over again. God, I love him. I can only think of how he still does this to me. I breathe it in, getting a nice hit of cologne. Aw, shit. I've caught myself letting it slip. Old habits, right? Loving, forgiving me, checking for perfume on his clothes. Old habits die hard, dammit, but I'm trying, Stu. I really am. You gave me my life back.
He doesn't sense my stiffening, and pulls away to greet our daughter on one knee and with open arms, the standard opening for accepting a flying daughter. She turns away from the TV, and her face lights up. Here comes the pitch...
“Daddy! You're home!” She bursts from her sitting spot on the rug right into a chest. Like a spring-loaded man, he clamps his arms around her the moment she hits him at Mach 3. Kiss, kiss.
It's a bad mindset that I've triggered. I had to hold myself back from glancing at his collar for lipstick, and now I'm trying not to think that it's only Stu who gets that kind of warm welcome. When did I last get to catch our daughter on the welcome-home kid-launching? Stu gets them all.
Come on, it's not true, and you know it. Number One Mom for a reason, remember? Smiles and sparkles and hugs and snuggles, to say nothing of bed-time tuck-ins and kisses goodnight.
“Number One Mom forever.” I murmur. And don't forget it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The time's arrival was among those subtle enough where the day's sunshine simply slipped away to follow the tree leaves' escape some few weeks earlier. Breath would linger in the air so crisp without ever softening it. Nights grew and grew along the clock faces and sundials, simply swallowing up the soft light. For those with a certain affectation for the sun's luminescence, this would be problematic.
Rebecca, on the other hand, had found pleasant substitutes to the apparent antidepressant effects of UV radiation. She had made the glorious realization that winter was a time whose delights were reserved for those who had contrast available to them. Appreciating winter was like a zoo, as, for the most part, the answer to that question, 'what would be easier', was easily grasped: Better to see close-as-glass the majesty and triumph of a pride of lions playfully batting at each other in the lazy sun, or better to be dropped straight into the dry season of the Savannah where the most available appreciation of a pride of lions would be strictly in the internal sense after that majesty and triumph devolved into an easy meal for capable lionesses.
Yes, thought Rebecca, snow was a heap of lions burying any possible escape from the frank comforts of home. She was sitting in the perfect manner of a home-happy woman, gown and slipper-dressed, conquering a novel from her recliner. Her tabby, far from a lion, watched the swirls and strides of the vast winter squall outside, comfortably purring on Rebecca's outstretched legs. It was a sight that would make you curl your toes in bare joy for being on the right side of the glass dividing line.
She sipped at her coffee, conspicuously adorned with a candy cane. Winter definitely was the best way to feel warm.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Her own little island, an inverted pyramid of dirty and rock, twisted into a vague spiral shape by the gnarled roots of her tree, floated through the twilight with a leisurely ease. she had no boatman, nobody at the tiller, but it wasn't like there was any of that to be had, Direction, that is. She wasn't even sure she was drifting, or whether it was just the stars moving around her, twinkling wineglasses of quicksilver caught in a cloud that stretched as far as the eye could see.

Sitting on her back, in the shade of the tree (that wasn't really shading her anything at all, with all the brightness in a distance many times that of the old Earth to its sun), she wriggled her toes into the cooled grass, and watched the Everything go by. she didn't get tired or hungry, and the little island seemed to have mass enough to keep her feet sturdily anchored.

The things the cosmos had for her to see, innumerable but not uncountable, boundless as imagnation, were all there as surely as could be. For moments that stretched out to their very limits, she couldn't help shake the feeling that this was hers, that she was at the center, or that it had been made for her alone. But, on reflection, she concluded that this was a selfish thing to think. Who then would have have a chance to share it with? Surely it was as much theirs as hers (whoever 'they' were). It would be much better just to share in the beauty of it. Yes, definitely that. she'd still just keep her island to herself for now, as it was small enough, but everything else-- well, there was enough of it to go around.

It had rather been a while since she had seen anyone, really. It became difficult to tell how long or how far ago, or even when she'd come here and started drifting as she was now. She certainly didn't feel old, and although she really was rather young (perhaps 10), the unshakeable sense that she'd been around for millenia gave her little shudders. she'd get wrinkles. she'd start getting back pains and grow hair out of her ears. She'd start calling everyone 'Sonny' just to remind them how old she was and how young they still were, as if they needed the reminder.

No, better to lie here in the grass for now.

She started wondering about the big things, and not just the ones in the distance. Big ideas that couldn't be so much seen or heard so much as thought about or pictured. Big head ideas. Just how long had it been? How much time had she seen and felt run through her fingers? She'd tried counting it out one by one, each single units of some grander measurement, but she kept forgetting the numbers. Just as much, it wasn't at all a help that she didn't always seem to be moving forwards in time, and strongly suspected that time would catch up on her when it felt sneaky enough to do so.

Forwards? Backwards? Upwards, maybe, or side to side. Worlds did loop de loops, or turned over on their head, and every so often, the long silvery stretch of cosmos rise and fell from her island's horizon as it pleased. Or maybe the island itself was twisting and turning while the universe stood still. It just became so hard to keep track of what wasn't moving when all around her the creeping swirls of star-stuff curled itself in and out of the velvet void.

One day, she'd walked across her island, from one end to another. One hundred and twenty steps, in small strides. Sitting back afterwards, there was the satisfaction of knowing at least one constant. her island was one hundred and twenty steps long.

After a time that may or may not have been longer than it was short, she jumped again to her feet, and walked the distance again, same as she'd done before, from the little patch of clover to the old root on the other side of the island. How good it felt, to march on top of her new finding! she wanted a trumpet and a marching band with streamers and baton-twirling acrobats, a fanfare of adulation for her one hundred and twenty paces, a journey like no other.

Only, as she came to the old root on the other end of the island, she twirled about, looking back at the clover. Something was amiss. Something was different. Ninety-two footsteps had taken her to the root from her starting point. Ninety-two?

When she thought the journey would be like no other, she didn't think it would be in that sense!

she sat down dejectedly onto her usual spot, plopping back onto her back with her arms stretched out and her hands behind her head. Ninety-two? Surely she'd stepped in different amounts. That must have been it.

In the pale light of a billion stars, each burning with flames long extinguished by the time they'd met her, she walked again, this time with one foot firmly after the next, heel to toe, toe to heel. Two hundred and sixty-three steps, her arms stretched out on either side like wings. Much better. Much more accurate. Another accomplished smile spread across her face. Wiping the stardust from her shoulders, she made her way back to the tree, whistling without echo.

she heard it before she felt it, a curious warbling in an otherwise even whistle (she'd thought). Suddenly, she felt pushed back, and she fell to her knees. she sat there for a few moments, puzzled, before rising anew. No pushing, it seemed. she gave a cautious whistle, low and steady. It didn't change. She wiped her grass-stained hands on the legs of her jeans.


A curious thought squirmed its way to the top of her neck, and she found himself dashing to the small patch of clover. Before she knew what she was doing, she was again putting one foot in front of the other, step by step, measuring out to the tree as before.

Three hundred and forty-two!



She'd almost lost count, maybe she'd slipped a number or two in by mistake. she tried again, this time going to the clover. Three hundred and forty-two again. Drat!

A neat puff of pollen fumed up as she sat down in the clover, not knowing what to make of this, much less that, or even anything. Well, she did know what to make of some things, but this--

As if in anticipation, a blue-green cloud of misty being bloomed into view, and her frown was muted into a flat expression of enraptured appreciation. A sigh was followed by watery eyes, wiped away. It wasn't bad to feel so small when the elegant universe around her was so big as to never be completely seen. So very, very big, and all she had was her little island.

Brightness again, the soft glow of a countless minute dots of light over a dark blue mass that loomed forward. As it came closer (or she came closer to it), the dots separated into tinier pricklings, pinholes on a surface that became flatter and flatter before she'd even had time to count. she looked back, away from the engulfing place, and to the brilliant house of lights to which everyone and everything had been invited to stay. She waved at it in thanks.

“What'cha up to, honey?”

She jumped at the voice. “Dad! Don't creep up on me like that.”

Dad gave a low smile, and her eyes twinkled at his daughter as he took a sip of coffee from the white mug in his hand. “I made plenty of noise as I was bumbling out here in the dark looking for you. I think you were just too caught up in whatever it was you were doing, which from your mother's point of view, is letting your dinner get cold.”

“Awww,” she pouted. “Can't I stay out a bit longer? I'm only slightly kinda hungry.” An angry grumbling at the statement announced the sudden betrayal by her empty stomach. Dad raised an eyebrow. “It's... It's just so nice out here tonight.” she looked up, and dad followed her gaze to the night's prism of shrouded colors.

“But it will be waiting for you when you finish your supper. Heck, you might even get to come out to it again if you eat everything on your plate.” said Dad, scooping her up off her feet without serious protestation.

“I guess.” she said.

“You guess right, pumpkin. Now come on, let's go have some dinner, and then the universe is yours until bedtime. All yours, every last speck of it.”

“...Dad?” she asked, perhaps a little too close to her father's ear.

“Yeah, kiddo?”

“It might be too much for just me. You should have some too.”

“Why thank-you. Count me in.” said Dad, who then gave her a big squeeze as they made their way back across the clover that dotted their backyard and into the waiting light of home. There were definitely a few things she could count on.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spilled Milk

Helene was no particular slouch in the looks department, though approving her in the looks department would be like approving a V8 engine in a bicycle. Best to play it honest and give her due credit for what would be in any appraisal a tongue-ejecting specimen of smoke and sex. Honestly? Such a thing to ask for with Helene. With perfectly toned legs that, as they say, go all the way to the top, the merest hint of acrobatic sexy-flexy more than just made a bottom half begging to be twisted and turned in a tumult of steaming potency, instead making it the men brought to the begging positions, sparing her knees the effort. Even without being US-legal a drinker, she was a punch-drunk knock-out stretch of coiled sleekness. Why she was working in the bar-- nobody knew.
When she moved, it would always be as a pouring of muscle in every sense of the fluidity one thinks of with the words 'lithe' or 'mercurial' come out in your paper's yellowing crossword puzzle. Add a pair of wings to those heels she has a hidden stamina for wearing from one end of the evening to another, and she's suddenly a Hermes on the decidedly pink end side of the androgyny wall. Well, pink and black.
The engineers would come in and make whispered jokes about getting the numbers on her curves, and sometimes she would smile at their barely suppressed premature ejaculations of calculus notation, spreading all along the edges of whatever writing paper could be found. And sometimes she would taunt a more literal reaction out of them by daintily picking up one of their rulers or protractors, holding it to her breasts, asking for measurements (it was never elaborated on who would be providing them).
After all, it was all about fluidity: stalking from one dry spot to another, watering down whatever sobriety threatened to bollock the mood fuelled by cheap jukebox jingles and cheaper ethyl of varying quality, spills and splashes of conversation, blood, beer, vomit, laughter, song, urine, or unmanageable combination of most of them. The pub heaved and sighed, crested and waned, and Helene hopped about to treat the dry sores.
It wasn't that Jason ever remembered the place as being nice, or fun, or even forgivably cheap, nor did he ever expect that it would get better, worse, or change in any particular sense. The point that it was a constant hodgepodge, predictable in its turbulence, a little chaos fractal generated by the simple equations containing the usual variables and coefficients for tempers, stupidity, pathos, and intake. Simple things, simple people, leading to something occasionally fantastic, usually if you zoomed out or waited long enough to see it. Oh, sure, bias in hindsight, maybe a little bit of cognitive dissonance where your memory decides to Stalinize every last image with an airbrush of nostalgia, attachment, or other crap-- still, the place was as it was and as it always would be, the firmament that came with the void and chaos just because there needed to be a place for people who, from the moment the first fermentation put the first protoplasm a good two sheets to the wind, had been giving the whole of Creation the finger. Ernie's Den earned that distinction, being a repository for all manner of assholes, ingrates, and fuckers with a reputation that could outdo Hades if only it were to get itself a proper mastiff guardian instead of the limp-wristed security that pretty much regarded the legal drinking age as a suggestion.
That had been the initial appeal to Jason and Stan, who had moved beyond the faux maturity of the trendsetting cliques who drank (heavily sweetened) cappucinos, complained about migraines, and broached the octogenarian mode of thought in that they inundated one another with contempt for how the world was turning out under the leadership of people whose greed blinded them (preferring instead the visionary idealogues whose clear political and social iconoclasm were obviously the only reasons for their repression). By the time that the mid-stage teenagers had discovered the ether pit that was Montreal, flocking as they would to the buses and parents who would be wont to purchase summer homes in Dorval, Brossard, or else on the island itself, the two had already become afficianados of malt, hop hedonists of the snobbery of which would regularly further the divide between the Pabst-drinking pursuivants of the high-proof rush and the selectively consumptive have-nots who preferred the complex tastes of the brasseries to actually admitting that even heavy integration into the former group of swill-drinkers would not in any way get them laid by a woman of Coors-compromised critical faculties. So it was that Jason and Stan would grace the hormonal urges and demands of their newly de-alopecia'd genitals with the company of suds rather than sex.
In moderation.
Ed's, the bar in question, was as much to them a part of their education as the classes they skipped out on to go there. They didn't just learn about throwing a punch (in Jason's case), or taking one (in Stan's), playing darts, or hustling at pool (again, also Stan's)- they made their own strides of maturity in deft contrast to their social superiors, most important of which was not the contempt of the popular groups, but instead a rich and fertile pragmatic cynicism.
Of course, other lessons were learned, a necessity in the face of the fresh and screaming infant on their shoulders that was puberty, which could only be moderately stunted by immoderate consumption of abortive spirits, or perhaps by gorging onessself on engorging imagery followed by self-administered release motions. Nevertheless, despite the varying strategies to calm untested lust with a literal handful of strategies, the only clear resolution would be to actually go and divest themselves of their virginal charges.
“Helene.” said Stan, one night, knee rattling worryingly against the underside of the table. He gripped his Pilsner with an intensity that might fling it out of an already sweat-filled space between hand and glass. “I totally need to fuck Helene. Oh, Christ, I need to get laid.”
“Nobody fucks Helene. Not only is she more likely to lay you out than lay you, but you have to deal with the fact that she's a cocktease of lethal proportions. Picture a nymphomaniac who exudes venomous barbed wire from her skin. That's Helene.” Jason busied himself with overdue homework, already spattered with flecks of drying lambic, the particulate remains of which were a vague eyebrow-raising worry as to when the pub had last cleaned its taps.
“Don't make me picture that, Jesus, don't you see I'm already jonesing for this?”
Boys.” There was a stifled squeak from Stan as he only partially succeeded in reining in his sudden anxious terror. The glass did not make it, ruining a full page of Jason's scribblings, causing him to move in one motion to the backing of the booth and raising his arms and hackles to their full height, his mouth framed in a wordless 'O' of fury. “Another round for you?”
Helene had a habit of flowing into the environment without being noticed. She had her lips curled in a canine demi-smile, and was dressed in her usual oil-slick dress that resisted the greasy anarchy around it to a level of remarkable endurance that was on par with her resistance to being worn down in heels. She flicked a mascara-rich lash at Jason. “Better get that blow-dried.”
Jason, oblivious to the wink or at least feigning it to further punish the ham-handed unhanding of the hops (which was working, by any measure of the full-body stiffening of Stan), dryly said, “Stan, you can help me with that, can't you? Just purse your lips, huff, puff, and stop blowing down your damn beer.”
Helene's canines exposed themselves further. “I'll get you a new one, Stan-man. Can't have you jonesing about like that.” She bent past a crimson Stan, bringing a suddenly produced washcloth in swoops about the table, mopping up the beer. This exaggerated the movement of her breasts, and with the barely measurable proximity that Helene was putting herself, a similar tinge to Stan's red crept up Jason's collar. Helene straightened up, slapping the cloth onto the dress that wouldn't even notice it.
“I'll tell Morgan at the bar to set you up. Call me if you need me.”
She slinked away in a writhe-inducing writhing, and Stan slammed his face down onto the table.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Also:Fuck.”
Jason, however, was drawn to the one dry corner of his workbook, where appropriated ballpoint sounded out a local number. A 'call me' would probably have been superfluous, distracting from the point that the number had been given at all. “That's new.” he said. It wasn't. It was just Helene attending to the dry spots. A knowing smile crept about Jason's face. “Cheer up,” he said to the bruised ego sitting opposite him, head still in an unmopped puddle of flat beer, “You don't have to deal with barbed wire and venom.”
Stan muttered a thanks steeped in sarcasm and followed with profanity. Jason tucked the number in his pocket without particularly announcing the motion. No point in being excessive about it. Well, even if such things promised to exceed... Well. The pragmatic cynicism drifted into his now unflappable good humor. Virginity's loss, by the large, would already be humiliating, disgraceful, and probably forgettable. Better to go in being certain of that. Better still to have a fucking wonderful time doing it.
“Well, blow me down.” said Jason, rather relieved at the prospect of dousing his ailing parts with something less volatile than booze.
“Just shut up and get me my beer from the bar. I'm jonesing.”
Of course he was.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Loco Motion

In an ocean of heat, he sat with the kind of sagging posture that, had he been any younger, would have been the immediate attention of a orthopaedically obsessive parent. Instead, he simply endured snide looks from people whose nipple-tuck beltlines instantly marked them out as bitter seniors. Boredly, Carlos’ eyes would flicker to the fifty-something in barely sufficient khakis, who sat opposite them with her legs simultaneously on top of the table and splayed out, giving a shudder-inducing view to anyone not yet overwhelmed by apathy. Her thighs seemed to drift and wander in the currents of the ceiling fans, and with the blank expression on her face, there was an obscene sensation of being winked at, if not beckoned. ‘Come out and play, nobody else is home!’.

If Carlos had marbles, he would have tried to flick one in.

“How long until the train?”

Six hours. “Reply hazy,” said Carlos, half-eyelidded to mask the frank magnetism of the flickering inner thighs. “Ask again later, but fuck off until then.”

Tim stirred in his seat, having lost count of the Mississippi-seconds that had escalated into the realm of the exhaustively long. “Ffffffffffffuck,” he declared.

He pulled himself from the chair, hearing a small rip of leatherette chair as it sweatily tried to follow him, and ambled over to the ticket counter. A newspaper-reading attendant sat behind the inverted T of speaking space, presumably designed to minimized the less-welcoming effect of regular Amber Alerts in far-away counties, Terrorism Alert warnings, and the stern message that those who left their baggage unattended would be left to the overactively imagined punishments of a few uniformed and enthusiastic sadists with latex-clad arms greased up to the elbow.

Carlos had muttered earlier: “I always get the impression that the better part of the Border Patrol have done time. Who better to stop the rampant threat of terrorism than a group of gold-tooth fuckers with prison stars and cobwebs? Bin Laden will shit himself.”

The teller, at least, looked calm and bookish, pen ticking out the day’s Sudoku while also attending to the consternations of synonym-finding in the crossword, a well-worn thesaurus at arm’s length further indicated the commonality of the hobby. Air conditioned chill poured from the bottom of the window, drenching Tim’s front with a ball-clenching shiver of envy.

“Six hours.” The teller hadn’t even looked up from his paper, smirking only with an accompanying 9 in the centre square of his Sudoku.

“Fffffffuck. Excuse my French.”

“Mmh. Dastardly prevention, six letters…”

Carlos, on the other hand, had pulled his eyes from the peeking come-hither hairs, and concentrated his attention on the efforts of a pinched woman pulling back on the leash of a dog whose unfortunate lineage had probably been assembled from breeders who simply hated the well-being of other people. He couldn’t tell the exact breed, but it was almost certainly the kind that would make the most satisfying sound when crushed roundly beneath a heel, a sound that would, with equal certainty, be drowned out with the relieved sighs of everyone around.

A mail courier came in, apparently celebrating a canid bastardization of Daddy-Daughter work day with the appearance of a black lab whose size and beauty was mentionable even in the absence of a comparative Snap-Crackle-Pop mutt such as the one owned (though the word was only barely applicable) by the pinched-looking woman.

“He doesn’t bite,” smiled the mail courier.

The fuck he won’t, thought Carlos. Chow down, if there is a God, the lab has a taste for mouth-sized mutts. Silent thanks to a provably existent deity were whispered when the mutt launched itself at the lab with decibel-scale disregard for its own safety. Come on, come on. The sudden image of brain-atrophy’s general correlation to the degree of domestication materialized in the very front of Carlos’ prefrontal, aided by the lab’s three degrees of difference from its lupine counterparts. Do the smart thing, do justice to Cujo and Cerberus and all those other wonders of your kind, o lordly lab.

The lab, however, pussified in the clear absence of its balls, backed off, the mail courier giving an obliging dogs-will-be-dogs look at the pinched woman.

“Foofers does bite, I’m afraid,” said the desiccated dog-owner.

“Fffffffuck.” Came the distant exclamation of Carlos.

“Agreed.” Said Tim, neatly settling back into the welcoming slop of sweaty leatherette.

The clock ticked on with a mean-spirited disquiet. Crowds had come and gone in the face of false hope bursting up from the depths, before being dragged under again: “It’s going the wrong way.”

“Fuck’s sake. I just lost count of the Missisippis.”

“You need to get a watch.”

“You need to watch as I bang your mom.”

“Well, you are virginal enough to get a pity-poke from her.”

“And that’s how you were born.”

“Only if you seesaw the blood alcohol levels of both party with the time involved. I’d say she’d need a new liver after your thirty seconds in heaven.”

“Heaven is right, man. Just love those Pearly Gates on her.”

“Yeah, I like that, Biblical. I can see that you’re speaking from experience, getting that whole Rod of Judgment thing from those curly-haired cherry-bum cherubim over at the local hole of glorying.”

And so on…

“How long until the train?”

Three hours, but Carlos was giving out a band-saw snore, squeezed ass-to-neck inside the leatherette dividers along the bench, his bucket hat pulled over his clumped hair.


“Would sir care for a nap?” Asked the affable Stephen Fry Jeeves, conjured up from the air in a gentle poof of dulcet-toned English. Jeeves proferred a tray of imagined daiquiris, strawberry slush drenched in the humid sweat that if nothing else was sensible for the mirage’s setting.

“I’d like that, Jeeves, but more useful would be my time-control slippers.”

“Very good, Sir. I’ll simply inform the laws of natural temporal passage that you are not to be bothered. Would that be all?”

“No, Jeeves- if you’d be so good as to modify my imagination’s output into something more… erotic, I’d be much obliged.”

“Also a very good choice, Sir. The usual able-breasted sophomore nymphomaniac line-up?” Stiff upper lip, eyebrows ever-rising into an unwrinkled and unfettered brow, Jeeves always understood without passing judgment. Or, at least, without passing judgment in a manner that wasn’t in some way drily tolerant a barb of disapproval.

“Shirtless. And no bras, Jeeves, I will not abide that.”

“But of course. I assume also that Sir will, once he has wiped off the ropy strings of excitement from his abdomen after the passing of that so-momentous occasion within the restroom’s cubicle, appreciate something to alleviate the injurious self-loathing?”

“The Long Island Iced Tea- without the snark, Jeeves.”

“Your wish is my command, sir.”

And so on…

“Uch, dude, you stink.” Said Carlos to the rejoining and unnoticeably flushed Tim.

Tim paid him no heed as once more he slapped into a chair unhygienically marked as his territory. Antiperspirant, he thought, all the while waving a dainty pinky against the refreshing heat-hallucination cocktail, should have brought some of. Make a note to Jeeves.

The magnetic cougar flaps across from Carlos had now been replaced with a lumpy figure swaddled in bandages in the area of a surgical brace. The man’s arm had been placed in a plaster cast set at an angle against his torso, propped up by a sturdy looking device that together with the other white wrap of gauze gave the curious sense that if the man were tipped sideways, the fingers on his broken side would drip tea. His eyes snapped open in time with a uni-tooth mouth.

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Came the wail from the oxycodone-deficient man, settling in for periodic repetitions apparently unnoticed by the apathetic tolerance of the observers.

Two hours. Carlos pulled the bucket-hat down over his ears as far as could be done.

“Fffffffuck.” Said Tim.

And so on…

“How long-“

“As long as my dick, cabron, so stop asking.”

“Hey! You’re right, it’s here!”

Carlos leapt up with an implacable ferocity. “Oh, fuck! Yes!”

Masses set into the neat lines of the queue-forming variety. Yips of excitement joined a burbling hum of grateful smiles.

“Only three hours until we’re there!” cheered Tim.

“Three hours? What?”

“Three hours!”

Carlos squinted at the timetable on the wall. Slowly, his eyes screwed themselves together in some tremendous mental constipation to combat the shitstorm. “All the times are printed in military time. 24-hour clock. That arrival time is in the AM.”

“…Fifteen hours.”

The Unison, “Fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffuck.”