Sunday, January 31, 2010
I wondered if maybe the doorway was warped, once I replaced the heavy old cracked door with a new lighter one and it continued to swing open and closed at its convenience (or more precisely my inconvenience).
I woke one night, to hear “s” and “p” sounds cracking from below the hum of the wee-hour darkness that painted my room. I couldn’t make out the words, though the quiet conversation--or at least half of a conversation--was occurring not more than three feet from my ear.
My voice resisted for several hyperventilated attempts before it finally mustered, in a cowardly faux baritone, “Hello?”
The whisperer ceased in mid-sentence, then a drumroll of what sounded like very small feet trilled against the floor and out the doorway, the door opening itself as usual.
As my heart swung back-and-forth from chest to shoulder blade, my darker half joked, “At least I don’t need to buy another door.”
I felt beaten and betrayed as if one of my arms had leaped from my body and slapped me before running off with my wife.
In a move born from the marriage of my stung vulnerability and inherent refusal to be dominated by a machine, I found myself standing over the disemboweled hard drive tower which was sprawled across my dinner table like a poor geek’s Frankenstein’s Monster. The caveman inside me marveled at the fragile components, crisply green and silver, exposing themselves as if a potential mate coyly revealing her flesh “accidentally” to catch my attention. I approached it with the same nervous meticulousness of a rookie lover, following step-by-preordained-step, and escaped the encounter similarly, relieved to have made it out alive and strutting like a peacock.
Part 1: Ninety Degrees
“What’s atcha got there, lil’ fella?” Raverus asked, trying not to sound or look as anxious as he was.
The little boy turned around holding the hourglass sideways in front of his face, its fluorescent aqua inhabitant shining his glow onto the young man’s broad, toothy swoop and revealing to Raverus and the crowd that he was one of those filthy, poor, unruly miscreants from the Outerlands.
“Won'cha go on an’ give that over t’me, kid?” he said, not working nearly as hard to soften his words now.
“No, I found him!” the boy shouted, taking a step back as he shook his head and turned the hourglass vertical. The genie swirled down slowly, granting the boy’s silent wish. Raverus was angry, probably the angriest of all those in attendance, but he knew better than to insult the Emporer.
Part 2: Penance
“It’s quite a long fall, is it not Raverus?” asked the High Witch, whose chuckle-laced words might have been mistaken for frog croaks--particularly given the gangrenous forest green hue of her rotting skin--were Raverus not already familiar with the sound from previous encounters he had wished to forget.
“A boy, one of the Outerlanders, found one of the Three Genies,” he said, sliding his jaw from side to side, grinding his molars in disgust at the humbling act of imploring a Witch, no matter how “High” the reprobate may have esteemed that kind of magic.
She croaked through another slimy rattle of laughter, “They’re Inlanders now, Outlander.”
Raverus’s chest slowly inflated with an indignant sip of the squalid Outerland air as he stood at the foot of the mountain separating the two lands. “I need you to change things back before my people suffer these conditions any longer,” he hissed tempestuously, though careful not to offend her.
She faced him, her natural eyes replaced by empty sockets that peered deeper into him than their former residents would have been capable, and said slowly “Nothing has changed for me to undo.”
Thursday, January 28, 2010
My wingtips and suit were ruined, I saw in the lantern’s light. My companion looked as if he’d never been anything besides muddy, in his high-water boots and overalls.
“Gonna make it this time?” he snorted.
I looked at him curiously. He continued walking.
“I remember you,” he said, stepping out of my light.
I hurried to catch him. “I’ll be fine.”
“Like last time?” he sneered.
“I was very young then.” I first came after my grandfather’s funeral. We were very close, his death was difficult. He was the one who told me about this place, this man. But I was much younger, not hardened properly yet. “I’m ready for this now.”
He snorted. “Sure, fella.”
We stopped at the edge of the lake. Many years had passed, it was pitch dark around us and the foliage had grown thick. I still could’ve spotted the lake from a mile off.
He pointed at the water. More shadows. The boat was coming across, slow, unreal. Just like last time. That same damned cloaked figure in front, and in back… it was her.
“Can I talk to her?”
He gave me a dirty look.
I could just watch. I knew without asking. We’d been over it before. Now, all I could do was watch.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
He cast a look quickly and then back down, careful not to smile. She chuckled and he hardened his face to counter.
From the front seat of the black Coupe he had a very nice vantage point of her cleavage via discreet glimpse at the rearview mirror. She was handcuffed from behind, police style. Her red three-button polo was agape from the collar to the bottom button. She boastfully yet subtly arched her back to improve the show, both because it worked well and just for funsies.
It was a kick for her, playing him like this. One of the few she had left that could really get her blood pumping. He tracked her down; she escaped. Time and again. If the jails couldn’t hold her, he shouldn’t have had a chance. In her younger days--though she was the first to tell you forty is where you start--she wouldn’t have slowed down enough for him to catch her. But, she was getting older, no matter how vibrant and lethal she still was. Oh, she could’ve outrun him. She outran everyone else.
That should have sent up a red flag for him, but it didn’t. Ah, the male ego. How plentiful are thy tricks. He was one-hundred-thirty for one-hundred-thirty and keeping honest record; if he let her get away, he just wouldn’t have felt right calling himself the best bounty hunter in history.
Tired, crisp green eyes strung from crows’ feet hung above his dark stubble-filled face. He wore a dark grey suit over a white shirt, (loosened) black-and-white striped necktie, and oxblood wingtips with a white band crossing the top beneath the laces. He looked as if he might well have stepped out of one of the film noir classics he’d raised himself on.
In the interest of fairness, Grady wasn’t exactly getting younger, and he ought to have been chasing after more realistic goals. While his machismo helped him bury it, deep down he knew he shouldn’t have been able to catch her this point in his life.
It would have helped if she didn't do things like saying “I was wondering where you were,” as he found her standing beside the apples at the outdoor Farmers Market. There she was: a lifer, a well-known fugitive, armed and dangerous, FBI’s Most Wanted, and she was talking apples with a farmer in front of God and everyone. No one any the wiser as she just walked around anonymously. And, she was eating free apples no less. Guess it’s nice to have a body like that.
Now, to say Lenor was smashing would be unduly flattering to smashing people everywhere. She was a lady top to bottom, through and through. Even her crimes were classy. When your rap sheet includes robbing a museum with armed guards for an 18th Century masterpiece, well… You don’t exactly belong in the pen with the hard-nosed missies who bashed in their baby daddy’s head with a rock. Not just because she exceeded them so thoroughly in grace, either. Any one of them try the same on her, that rock’s coming right back at them and it won’t be nicely. And what’s more, if it came to that and she had to do some bashing somehow she would’ve done it with class. She was in a class all by herself; the last of a certain type, but a whole new breed.
The British tabloids had dubbed her Dame Desperado after the footage of her shaking hands with heads of state at a White House event--she walked out with over three million dollars in jewelry that night. She liked that title a lot. So did he, it added significance to the bust. Bringing in “Lenor on the Lam”--as the city boys had once called her--would never satiate his thirst for fulfilling his delusions of grandeur. Bringing down “the Dame?” Oh baby.
“So,” she said with a flirty shake of the head that wiggled her big round sunglasses low enough that she could peer over the top. She leaned forward and caught his sight in the mirror, her brown eyes getting through his defenses like machetes. “You’ve got me. Now what are you going to do with me?” She curled the right side of her mouth. Age had made its mark on her once-flawless skin, but she made it work in spite.
“You’re going to jail, Lenor.”
“Where else?” she said, increasing the smile to reveal her top teeth, which she clamped gently onto her lower lip.
He snorted defiantly. Not again. He looked back at her. She reclined so that her eyes were again hidden behind the shades and her breasts were back to work. She released her lower lip and ran the tip of her tongue back and forth along a small portion of her top lip, making it look like she didn’t even know what she was doing. Yes. Again.
He looked at her in the mirror. “You tell me,” he sighed. His blinker was already on, as he maneuvered for the next exit toward Mexico.
“Thank you, dahling,” she said in her most majestic English accent, with a bow of her head.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Jamie didn't come back down with Reg and that made Billy shake.
“Issa ghost up there, Billy. They done got Jamie!”
Billy looked at ‘im real stupid. “No such thang as ghosts, y’dumb bastard!” Billy was lyin’ his ass off. You know good ‘n damn well everybody believes in ghosts. He ain’t special.
Jamie hollered out, real loud from upstairs. Billy an’ Reggie got so scared they was practic’ly holdin’ each other. Just a shakin’.
They took to arguin’ over what they oughtta do. Finally, Reggie goes, “Hell, if you ain’t scared, you go on up an’ check it out!”
Billy was scared as he ever been. His soul was real sick, real guilty. He didn’t wanna see what was up them stairs.
Little while arguin’ at it, they decide they was both goin’ up. So, they’s holdin’ real close an’ shinin’ their lil’ lights an’ all. Jumpin an’ squeakin’ whenever they hear somethin’.
“Jamie! Jamie, come on out, now!” They was yellin’.
When they saw Jamie’s ghost walkin’ cross top them stairs, them boys was ready to haul ass! But Billy’d done forgot all about that cigarette, an' fire goes quick through them ol' houses.
I might oughtta feel bad, I reckon. But I told them. I swear, I told them boys straight out. “Y’all sumbitches leave me here to die, I will haunt you!”
An’ they went an’ runt off. Now, if there's four o' ya and you see a lil’ bitty foreign fella come out a liquor store with a double-barrel, he empties two shells into your buddy… Well, hell you might reckon “He only had two shots, let’s go back an’ get Lyle 'stead o' leavin' 'im there on the sidewalk outside the package store just a bleedin' and hollerin' at us.”
So, them sumbitches is with me now. Cause that’s whatcha do, ya go back for friends.
Jocelyn had introduced four of the hottest artists in the country over the past two years. She was known, to put it mildly.
Not that an art promoter, even a highly-influential one, would be particularly “credible” in all circles, but she wasn’t a nut either. Still, she knew that artsy types were theoretically given to bouts of eccentricity; if she weren’t thought to be insane, then it would have been suspected that she had done some bad drugs, or gotten trapped in the spell of a dream or some other such nonsense.
She smiled at him. As she did, she recalled a guy she’d dumped because he vehemently believed in Bigfoot--she had told him “commitment issues,” but it was the Bigfoot thing. Now, she was having her umpteenth meeting with an alien.
His body was perhaps too long and slender but otherwise could pass as human, if not topped with a hammer-like, leathery black head.
They couldn’t talk, of course, but art can leap that hurdle. In their first encounter she was convinced it was a dream. She had slept in the gallery, not uncommon before a big show, and awoke to find Ernie (that’s as close as she could get to the sound he made when gesturing to himself) and a few others exploring the exhibits, examining each work with due appreciation.
Ernie was the only to return. He was an artist, it turned out. Once he felt safe enough to share, she was mesmerized by his skill. He expressed himself unlike any other painter she’d ever seen.
The visions, the emotions he conveyed…
If she were to show the world, to share these works, they would be relentless in their pursuit of the painter. She couldn’t do that. No way. The world wasn’t ready for this beauty.
Get it? 'Cause of the “l” “r” confusion.
Ok, I’m racist. Fine, whatever.
I always think of that joke when I come in here. The old beat-up door, covered in dings and chips unveiling the dirty brown board beneath the cheap white paint, even has a sign on it--probably as old as the door judging by the contrast between the color of the paper under the tape and open to the elements--big, hand-drawn block letters: SUPPLIES. The “IE” is written on top of a “Y.” That kind of makes me want to laugh. Someone here--in this office of geniuses--someone tried to spell supplies “supplys.”
Then I don’t want to laugh. That confirms what I’ve always thought: I’m better than this place. I know I could do better. If things were different. If I could get away somehow to just… I don’t know.
It was a train! They were working on a train and each worker had to answer roll call with their position, and that one guy was missing, and he jumped out…
Man, I really gotta quit telling jokes like that.
I just wish things were different. I never really need anything from the supplies closet. You know?
We were going into third grade at the end of summer and we could think of no better way to spend our remaining vacation than in a lot alongside an old building. There were four of us that day, sometimes more but it seemed a bit crowded because among us was Gary, Tom’s little brother; aka “Nerd-turd.”
Finally something happened--some infraction while we were playing spies or soldiers or something--and Oscar snapped. “Go the hell home and take your damn stupid son of a bitch brother with you! Jesus H. Christ, you stupid assholes!”
It was just me and Oscar after that.
“He takes that stupid asshole everywhere,” he would say--or something like that--from time to time.
Otherwise it was quiet.
The brothers, it seems, were not quite done playing with us. As we both lay, watching the sky, we heard from the roof of the old building, a horrible war cry of sorts.
Tom jumped down, satisfied to startle us. Gary, blissfully ignorant, went further. He jumped out and grabbed onto the power line. We shrieked girlishly, and waited for him to die.
We all had just assumed they were live. From then on Gary was ok.
This is an older short story I wrote after reading about a similar case that ended, to say the least, poorly. I tried to find the love story in a story rife with hate and I think I managed. Hope you enjoy.
Yousif felt tiny pieces of dust flying past his shoulders as he sat in the dirt. The rocks below him were now satisfactorily arranged; they were now situated to suit his purpose. The little boy stood, to improve his view of the imagined village he now ruled. The wind still blew, constant, but not intrusive.
Shemin watched him from behind a row of rocks where the young girls sometimes played. The size of the rocks hid them so well that they could wade, unobserved and unafraid into the pool of water which had stood for some time in this secret place. Shemin had always dreamed it was magic, a gift from above. This made sense to her, since she rarely had visited the Sea but remembered well that it was not so set apart and lonely as was this body of water. Though now she stood before a sea more vast than the Caspian; a magnificent neighbor to Yousif's grand village of pebbles and sticks.
Shemin's legs were covered with water stopping just below her knee cap. She backed into the water never losing site of Yousif and his village. The cold water, she thought, made it feel as if her legs had vanished from her body and traveled to some other place, free from the burden of her form. She wondered, now and some few times before, if she were to suddenly plunge herself beneath the water, would she too vanish?
The soldiers had come when they were both too young to understand why the adults of the village wanted the soldiers to leave. Yousif even now was envisioning the uniforms and prototypical, manly specters he once followed at the pace and distance of a keen and seasoned observer. They too seemed to be from a magical source; men of mystique and unwavering courage. They carried guns, but this did not give them the courage. What did?
A bottle cap drove through the central road of Yousif's city, steered by the thumb of the Creator.
"Stupid woman!" Yousif shouted for the driver who had stopped for an imagined old woman, congesting the main road as she feebly crossed. Even as youthful as snow, the young boy had the wherewithal to stop himself at this: Why should the woman be slow? Is she not my woman, now? He couldn't answer this question, so he imagined the woman had never existed and returned to his route.
Shemin was brought to attention suddenly at the cry "Stupid woman!" She had heard her grandmother called this before, others as well. She remembered a particular time when she imagined -- must have just imagined -- someone had directed this to her mother as they walked through the streets.
No, she had eventually reasoned, he couldn't have been talking to her mother; her mother never took note of the admonishment. Nor did they ever discuss it. Shemin would grow to learn exactly why her mother had never discussed it, and would eventually come to reason that the man had said this to her mother and every woman at once, no matter where he had cast it.
Her surprise at having heard that phrase amidst the tranquility made her miss a step, but she caught her balance. Locking her knees, her body sprang forward and then tottered to and fro briefly. Long enough, though, was the sound of this in the water that it drew Yousif from his puppeteering of this new world. In the way young children often do, he confused his game with the real world; was someone attacking his city?
"Little girl," said the boy, "I can see your leg!"
She too was lost in the world of her own device. "No you can't! They're in the ocean."
Excited to learn of the ocean, Yousif quickly forgot to command, and became the follower. "Is it a big ocean?"
"Oh yes. And, fresh!"
He stood looking. He couldn't remember seeing a little girl's legs before this. They were much like his he thought. Gentler, maybe, but similar. He scrutinized the thin, wet sticks from their bottommost cloak of dark blue to the white robe she clenched modestly around her thighs. He liked them, he decided.
Rules were nothing either young child knew of or could explain, though they were professional at breaking them. The customs of their tribe had been followed completely as long as they lived, and would do so after they died. As such, the rules would have to exist exclusive from the worlds these two brought into being.
As though expected, Yousif's britches were now pulled very high, marking his thighs to correspond with Shemin's. The cold water thrilled Yousif. A fish swam past his leg. There were no bottle caps or slowly-moving phantom matrons in this world. He liked that.
Shemin's uncle had a cackle which slapped the walls of every building in the village with echo. It did so now, shattering their playworld instantly.
Shemin gasped "I must go!"
"Will you be back?" Yousif was running parallel to her on the opposite branch of a v-formation from the pool.
"Yes, little boy," she stopped. "Will you watch my ocean?"
The next morning the wind was whipping, blades of dust and air. Yousif's village had fallen into the grip of this mighty wind. There were no rock buildings, no stick houses, and no bottle cap cars. He climbed onto one of the stones overlooking the ocean. It now resembled in no way the body of water he'd seen one day before. Instead it looked to him as unimpressive as it actually was; it was but periphery. There was no beauty in it.
Night came ending a day spent imagining himself and the girl swimming as fish through the legs of some mighty master. Her legs, again he thought, were so pleasant.
More nights would pass and the rocks he placed became bigger, the buildings he constructed became real. His interests too grew, right along with him until they and he were proper and trained. He became a young man. The ocean became little more than a memory. The legs of that little girl devolved into little more than an ideal and a secret he would cling to during the hours when the sun seared his weary, torn flesh.
He strolled home from work one evening with the thoughtless gait of cattle, the air growing as cold as it was dark.
"Little boy!" a whisper broke through the darkness.
With no time to process, he replied simply and numbly, as if only vaguely curious "Little girl?"
He ran to the sound. He looked around, unable to see anything but shadow. The girl, now a young woman, grabbed his arm. This was an unusual sensation for them both, as boys and girls do not touch.
"Is my ocean safe?" her voice was soft as he remembered, but severe.
"Yes, I guard it every day. I have lunch there. It's my secret place."
"And, your village?"
"Where have you been?" he said, forgetting what village she meant.
"We traveled to the big Sea. My mother my father and I went with my sisters. Only my mother and I returned."
With naught else to say, he asked. "Was it nice?"
"It wasn't cold like our ocean. My father and his wives were angry with me for wanting to bathe in it."
"Why did you go to the Sea?"
"My sisters and I were to marry." The darkness hid no shame.
"Then you are a wife?"
"No, I am a fugitive. My uncle, the elder, has decided that I must not have respect for my father because I did not want to marry the man he took me to meet at the Sea."
"You know you must marry who your father demands!"
"Please, don't be angry with me, I wanted to come back and play with you."
"I don't play anymore."
"You are angry with me, aren't you?"
He was. "I came back to play with you and you weren't there. You drew me from my village into the water and left me there alone! My neglect has left my village in ruins!" The memory came through rather than to him.
"Little boy," she whispered, battling feebly to stave off tears hidden only from sight. She paused, not for a response, but to regain control of her heaving breaths. "I'm very scared. My mother and I fled in the night. We traveled for years through the unknown desert. She is now an old lady and has little more life remaining." Moments passed as the boy digested this information. He thought the woman and girl were ridiculous to have expected any less from breaking the rules of society. He would have said so, but the girl said first, "Do you remember my legs?"
"No one has seen them since you. Since my birth, only you, my mother, and the fishes have seen my leg. I had always wished that one day we might be…" She had no rights, she knew, to even imagine these things that she had planned to tell him. For years, these criminal thoughts had run through her mind safe from observation, but now they were free. She felt more fear than she had felt since the night she fled with her mother, years ago. The darkness did little but increase her fear.
"I…" the boy wasn't sure what words he sought, though he knew what he wanted to say. The girl having surrendered more villainous words than he could devise gave him the courage to finish. "I would like to touch your leg."
She did not speak but stepped closer.
And, he did.
"Shemin!" a voice slapped the air. Through the black they could see the figure of command they had both learned to fear. Shemin's uncle being a head of the tribe and a man of great size, was generally understood to be as fearsome as an earthquake.
The question danced about Yousif's subconscious mind as to why he grabbed Shemin's hand and began to run with her, but he did. The uncle was now an old man with little mobility. He knew there were followers in his tribe with a vehicle, so he trudged through the village streets slapping each wall with orders.
"Shemin has dishonored herself, her family, and our village! Abdhul, Radjou, bring me your car! We must bring her to pay for her crimes!"
The two could hear the tribesmen rushing to the street. They could hear chaos, excitement, and suddenly a car engine starting. They felt ill immediately.
Years of travel had improved Shemin's endurance tenfold however this made no difference without the benefit of rest from her sojourn. She was tired and frail. Yousif had often wondered how such delicate pieces of stock could support any frame, even one so docile. Now, he saw, they could no longer do so. He snatched her waist to his body with his right arm, running all along. As he lifted her she clung to him as a daughter, frightened tears shoved into the merciful neck of her protector, the beautiful legs bent and clamped around his ribs.
Before him he could see the headlights rounding a corner some thirty yards back. Of course that was quite a jog for a young man carrying a young woman, but he knew it would be no matter for any vehicle to achieve this distance momentarily.
The light cast onto a wall to his left and crept to the right. His path tore off diagonally away from the light but he knew his chances were failing. Once more he looked to the wall, trying to see where his pursuers were. A shadow broke the beams as the brakes released a metallic yelp.
"Stupid old woman!" spat from all sides.Of course, more patient, observant eyes might have seen through the years of travel and torment which had aged Shemin's mother so that she was little more now than a road obstacle. And, a wiser man certainly would have realized the difference between a woman wishing to hurry across the road more than her frail bones would allow and that of a woman who had finally discovered a way to enjoy the dictum of her society. She knew now that since a stupid woman was expected, even tolerated somewhat, she could likely be without blame for her fault, even if it prevented a mob from capturing its prey.
"Where are we?" Shemin asked as Yousif set her down. He was taking off his shirt. She had never allowed herself to acknowledge such, but she had often imagined what this might be like to witness. In the moonlight it was nicer than she had thought it could be.
The wind picked up and her robe danced within the gusts. Yousif was now naked. He grabbed her hand and she was not afraid, though she expected to be.
"We're where they do not know we can be!" he said intently.
She looked and saw the ripples from the wind passing through the reflection of the moonlight on the water. She followed as he stepped into the pool. The engine sounds were coming again.
Her pace quickened to the water as it lifted the robe from her body until she waded completely out of the garb.
Their naked bodies stood distant from their desert world in the arms of their ocean mother Shemin had known once before. The two heads floating above came together, facing.
"Are you ready?" he asked. She removed the remaining cloths from her face. The two locked eyes. The water pushed them even closer. Yousif was weakened by the unimaginable perfection of her face. The skin was so soft looking, the nose was just as his mother's, her eyes held the moonbeams from the water.
He had waited to touch her legs for years and knew the torment that each moment held all too well. He wouldn't feel that again. So, he cupped the back of her neck gently with his left hand and pulled her silk cheek against his gritty face. He couldn't imagine how something could feel so nice. But, he was glad he wouldn't ever have to try to imagine it again. He knew now what pleasure was. He had not spoken of and attempted to define, but had experienced in every sense true beauty. Her smell was washing off and though it was created from work and toil he thought he could wear it as a perfume if he were able. The odor which he knew had come from her pain and strife, and which even she would say was unpleasant, was to him more wonderful than a bank of flowers too magnificent to name.
He breathed her in one last time and pulled her body to his. He freed her sweet cheek from his only so he could enjoy the sight of her once more.Then without need of talk or thought, the two vanished beneath the surface of the water to be where it led them: another world where only their legs had been brave enough to have traveled, a shallow pool of water with no natural claim and no right to be, or perhaps even a secret land where disobedient children became fish and swam away from the village forever. They needed only be certain of this: it led to one another.