Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The Indulgences of the Perverse, Poetic Puddle" by Josh Mitchell

Our saturated shit-house poet, splashing in a poetic puddle, turning abstract ideas into ecstasies, stood on a milk crate bombing a naked space on Tremont Street.

He dressed his words up in drag and made them fuck each other – lashing them against the concrete until blood ran black and ink broke their veils.

The annual Easter Egg Bash at the Playboy Mansion was the very definition of a hot ticket. To be invited was the Hollywood proof of arrival. Playmates, hundreds of beauties, barely dressed in get-ups that ranged from fur-trimmed baby-doll lingerie to bondage gear and leopard-print body makeup, scattered through the chateau in search of painted eggs, as butlers attended to the trays of apricots dipped in chocolate and Hef, as our horn for porn calls him, socialized with his shimmering celebrity guests, secretly wondering in his head if some of them will last beyond the moment.

The decor of the palace was exquisite. The walls were oak paneled and the beamed ceiling was adorned with flowered frescoes. Long leather couches, abstract lamps, oversized armchairs, and abstruse paintings sparked conversation and added a sense of prestige and piquancy to the 30-room Mansion.

“The rhythm of the house is the rhythm of the people inside it,” Hef said to one of the press pricks as he posed for a candid with an armful of pectorally superior bunnies. Not many people were in the house yet. Well, not many important people. Mostly just workers, Playmates, and second-rate gossipy media meatballs that Hef invited to create buzz for his magazine.

After all the eggs were found and the Easter Bunny did his eventful thing, the place exploded. Evolved. Transmogrified. Holiday festiveness gave birth to dauntless exploration and seditious fantasy. Limos crowded the gates. Fireworks erupted above the castle. Loud house music echoed through the hallways. And the lights got dimmed.

In less than ten minutes, the manor was packed with herds of famous party monsters: Bill Maher, in a Japanese silk robe, smoking a cigar and talking to Drew Carey on the back patio. Kato Kaelin waiting in line for the restroom with Kool Moe Dee. Britney Spears and Jenna Jamison standing by the bar munching on Head Candy, a fruit-flavored, mouthguarded-shaped gummy candy that prevents scraping during fellatio. Sean Combs and Ashton Kutcher doing Kamikaze shots at the bar as they flip through the latest issue of 944 Magazine. The place was like the Star Wars bar – it was full of random, eccentric stars whose radiance and energy knew no limits.

Our rancid vacuum stood by the door with his best friend Mohican Man drinking Old Speckled Hen and assessing the array of hot Hollywood ass that came through the door.

In walked Alyssa Milano in a black tube-top and a short red skirt.

“I’d beat off to a poorly drawn crayon picture of her,” said our well-known drone.

Mohican agreed.

The next three guests were male: David Spade, Bradley Cooper, and Kid Rock. After them came Lacey Chabert, looking all grown-up. She had the type of chest that the Greeks used to eat olives off of and a bucket so hard you could have cracked a lobster on it. She was active-volcano hot.

“You know you’re getting old when the girl from Party of Five becomes fuckable,” said our observant servant.

“No shit,” said Mohican. “Look at Punky Brewster over there by the fireplace. Burger King must be after her with those Whoppers.”

“What time are you guys going on?”

Droopy Cracker was asked by Hef to provide the spirited entertainment, which explained the huge big name turnout. Their latest single “Play-Doh Ho” was the number one song in the nation.

“Whenever J.M. and the boys get here.”

“That doesn’t leave much time to go over there and mack her.”

Before Mohican could strut his stuff, the rest of the band bounced in already half in the wrapper.

“What up? What up?” yelled J.M., decked out in a ripped White Snake T-shirt, a pair of Nike warm-up pants, and his infamous red fitted Yankees hat backwards.

“So much for that,” said Mohican, slapping our wasted seed’s hand. “It’s time to rip shit up. I’ll check ya after our set.”

Being alone didn’t scare our superintendent of sexual neuroses. He figured he’d fire back a few more Long Islands, enjoy the smoke show, and try to land a prime spot near the front of the stage. But, before he could get situated, two Playmates, twins with twin overweight milk duds on their chest, grabbed his hand and escorted him away.

“Mr. Hefner would like you to come to his private quarters,” they said in sync.

“If I did something wrong, I’m sorry. I’ll leave. I just--”

“Don’t worry.”

After traveling through a few hallways and down two flights of stairs, the twins opened a big wooden door that led to the Underwater Bar – fully-equipped with booze, Playmates, small windows on the wall that allowed you to observe half-naked women swimming in the pool, a hot tub with colored lights and scented water, a huge movie screen that lowered from a hidden compartment in the ceiling by the touch of a button, and Hef himself.

“Come on in, my fine fickle friend,” said Hefner. “I have more pleasures in this house than most people find in a lifetime.”

Our rogue revolutionary took a seat on the leather sofa next to three blonde Playmates who had the kind of tits you only see on blonde Playmates.

Hugh, now decked out in black pajamas and a red smoking jacket, walked over and introduced himself.

“You’re the writer, Mohican’s buddy. I’m Hugh Hefner. Nice to meet you.”

“It’s an honor,” said our nervous ninny, firmly shaking Mr. Playboy’s hand.

“I invited you down to my private quarters for two reasons, actually, three.” He stood at the bar fixing himself a drink. “Can I make you a drink?”

“Malibu and ginger ale would be great.”

“One, I figured you’ve seen Dumpy Cracker a million times and could use some new excitement. Two, I wanted to check you out. One wrong guest, one wannabe, and my legendary status could diminish to the size of Mini-me’s flaccid pecker. And finally, I thought as a writer you’d appreciate what’s about to happen in the next five minutes.”

After another drink and some uncanny dialogue, a black woman in a leather S&M outfit was escorted in by a big, bald black guy that looked like an ugly Ving Rhames.

“Who’s that?” asked our captain of curiosity.

“The entertainment,” said Hef.

“Who is she?”

“Her name’s Mara. She’s a prostitute.”

With our snooping stallion, Hef, and over 15 Playmates watching, Mara began quickly stripping off her tanned hide garments to the funky sounds of 3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite.” Vest. Chaps. Boots. Then came her cowhide halter-top – liberating her midnight tits that looked like the sinus lobes on an elephant’s head. Their roundness exemplified a severe affection toward the fly machine at the gym.

Finally came her deerskin panties. She had a bush you could have lost golf balls in and a slot as big as a hippopotamus’s yawn.

Following a few gyrating moves and a brief lap-dance for Hef, the naked whore lied down on the rug in front of the enthralled crowd.

Enter a slobbering Saint Bernard.

“Watch this,” nudged Hef.

Without a flinch, the big dog bolted over to the nude harlot and began excessively licking her downstairs gizmo. The violated whore moaned with supreme pleasure. The snatch-sucking canine continued his slobbering trek until the lady of the night had her second orgasm. Then it took its erect dog dick, stuck it in the strumpet’s fiery fern, and fucked her doggy-style but not actually doggy-style.

“Have you ever seen anything like this in your life?” asked Hef.

Our baffled bohemian shook his head – his mouth open – his eyes still fixated on the demented deed before him. The dog’s humping was now being fueling by boisterous barking. It was clearly enjoying itself. So was the call girl. Based on her animated whimpering, it was apparent that watching 101 Dalmatians would never be the same for her.

Man’s best friend had transformed into woman’s best lover.

The pooch pounding continued until the whore had her 15th orgasm. One more and she probably would have combusted. Her moaning evolved into piercing opera singing and Hef, detecting the Playmate’s annoyance from the noise pollution, signaled to the bodyguard to end the fornication. The dog, still wailing away, plainly was not ready to stop fucking. When the Ving Rhames clone went to pull it away, it bit his hand profusely.

The whore’s pleasure quickly turned to fear.

The bodyguard sprawled out on the rug, clutching his left hand, which was ardently dripping with blood.

The dog, unfazed, kept slamming the reluctant prostitute.

“Do something,” said Hef to our thunderstruck guest. “The girls are getting disturbed.”

Without even weighing the issue, our instinctive mercenary went over to the bar and grabbed a plateful of shrimp and a bottle of Absolut. He then went over to the heated couple and threw the shrimp on the whore’s stomach.

The dog eyed the tasty seafood, but didn’t take the bait. So, in an act of desperation, our usual animal-loving ally slammed the possessed canine in the head with the hard bottle of vodka.

The startled whore jumped up, gathered her clothes, and limped out.

Hef handed the bleeding bodyguard an envelope and a towel to wrap his arm with. The dog lay motionless – its dick still stiff and its cracked head oozing buckets of blood on the Persian rug.

“Is it dead?” asked one of the Playmates, sticking it with a fire poker. It didn’t move. Foam excreted from its mouth.

“Get it out of here,” said Hef to our accommodating serf. “And don’t get blood everywhere. Here, wrap it in this.” He handed him a nice quilted bedspread.

“Why do I have to do it?”

“Because you killed it and because you’re my guest.”

“Where do you want me to put it?”

“There’s a trash room up the hall to your left. Put it there.”

Our mutt assassin wrapped the dead dog in the flowery blanket and dragged it by its tail. Hef yelled to him as he left the Underwater Bar: “Don’t let any of the other guests see you. A dead dog can really ruin a party. Oh, and hurry back. I have a surprise for you.”

As our master of the golden glow dragged the perished pooch down the newly waxed linoleum floor, all he kept thinking about was Hef’s surprise. What was it? Or who was it? He quickly kicked over some boxes, dropped the dog, and stuffed him under a locker.

When he got back to the vault, he was astonished to find a pair of naked Playmates lying on the leather couch. They looked like angels brightened by incandescent flights. Hef was gone and so were the rest of the girls. One of the unclad beauties was holding a couple of pieces of paper bounded by a paperclip.

“This is for you,” said the bare seductress, handing him the papers. “And so are we.”

He read the top of the first page as the other girl started to undress him. “This is a contract.” He rapidly read more. “Hugh Hefner wants me to submit a piece to Playboy.” One of the girls nodded her head and said: “There’s a check attached to the last page.”

Our ecstatic fanatic quickly flipped to the back and found the check. “Three thousand dollars! Holy FUCK!” Now he was naked. “Holy FUCK!” One girl started blowing him while the other one stuck her plump jest-totes in his face.

“Holy FUCK!”

Two hours later he emerged from the vault and the Mansion was as dark as a mustachioed villain’s thoughts.

Everyone was gone.

The place looked like it had already been cleaned up. There was a fire going.

“Hello,” hollered our eagle-eyed electric, looking for some form of human life.

A voice emerged from behind the big chair in front of the fire. It was Hef.

“Hey writer. How’d you like my surprise?”

“It’s a lot of money for a shit-house poet.”

“I was referring to the girls.”

“Oh, um, amazing. They were unreal.”

“I’m going to need something from you by Friday.”

“Oh yeah, I was intending on paying for them,” he said, digging into his pockets. “How much do I owe?”

“I’m talking about your piece for the magazine.”

“Right, right. I’ll send it over as fast as I can.”

“I’ve arranged a car to take you home. It’s waiting for you out front.”

“Thanks, Mr. Hefner. Thank you so much for a great party.”

He headed for the exit but Hef stopped him in his tracks.

“Oh and writer.”


“Don’t forget that the only lasting fame is literary fame. And call me Hef.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

“Would Be” by Simona Blat


There, at the center of the table, would be a bowl of fruit – apples, two red, two yellow, and four pears. The pears would be bruised, unappealing yet juicy and ripe. There would be grapes in a separate bowl. They would be dark and deep purple. There would be books piled on top of one another clumsily – L’Amant, Les Choses, Un homme qui dort. They would appear as though they were to lose balance and spill, collapse. Under them would be newspapers, some old, some new, but most unknown. A tall glass used to hold several pens – gel ones, and ballpoint ones, some black, some blue, and red. A pair of scissors and a letter opener. Next to that there would be what was once a pile of letters. They would now be scattered and take up most of the room on the table. There would be extravagant place mats. Whose patterns would only be visible here and there beneath the sheets of papers and opened envelopes and bowls and books. There would be fancy rustic napkin holders that would cradle cheap flimsy napkins and there would be so many that they’d be spilling out from the sides. There would be two small teacups that would create a perpendicular angle to the teapot. In between the cups there would be a saucers with milk, honey, and cubed brown sugar. There would be chocolate and éclairs and croissants and raspberry tarts – all in separate plates. The plates wouldn’t match – no two would be identical in design or size. There would be butter and jam and cream cheese and nutella. There would be room for improvisation. At the end of the table there would be an exotic bottle of Ukrainian honey pepper flavored vodka. It would seem out of place. There would be an overhead light and a clock on the wall. The room would be hot. There would be silence. Except for the exchange of glances no words would need to be said.


You would sit at the table as if it were your own. Your eyes would scan it, hesitate, and then reprieve. You would eat a grape- it would be hard, sweet at first but then sour and dry. You would notice it is seedless. And then you would try to read the slanted names of the books piled on top of each other – L’Amant, Les Choses, Un homme qui dort. The corners of your eyes would gather from effort. You would be amazed by their impeccable condition. You would want to ask to borrow one, L’Amant in particular, but then decide that you probably wouldn’t be up to reading much anyway. Your eyes would scan the clusters of letters. You would try to read the addresses on them. You would discover letters from banks, law offices, market researchers, telephone companies, and then you would find that there would be too many to acknowledge and there’d be no use in trying to find any illegitimate ones. You would exhale. Your eyes would discover a little piece of a place mat. You would concentrate on it and try to decipher the entire picture on the mat. Your eyes would be serious. To your dismay, it would be hard and the clues you’d be given wouldn’t be enough for you to put the whole picture together. You will be frustrated and your brows would sweat. Its drops would flavor your tea. Your eyes would dart over all the delicacies being served. You would feel insatiable. You’d think it was heaven but there would be so much to choose from you wouldn’t want to make the wrong decision and so you wouldn’t touch anything. You would stare at the sealed bottle of Ukrainian honey pepper flavored vodka and you would wonder why it looked so adorned. Due to its extravagant appearance you would assume it had flavorful contents and it would spark your interest to set your mind on trying some. Your eyes would rest on it for quite some time. The likelihood of it inflating your insides would only leave you craving for it more. You would be disappointed to know it’s only for special occasion. You would again glance over the treats spread on the table. You would finally want to try some chocolates. But still you would hesitate because you’d feel they wouldn’t be enough. You would look at the clock and then work your way up. Your eyes would follow the dark spinning shadows on the ceiling. You would want to make a comment about the heat.


I would not be able to look away. I would try to make you comfortable, seemingly without making it obvious that I was solely unprepared. I would try to distract you from the disorder of my life. I would pray and I would tune out because concentrating on your face would be too nerve wrecking. I would offer you the sweetest things. I would wait for your appeasement but it would be absent and I would curse myself for having thought you could have been swooned. I would count the grapes in the bowl in front of me, there would be eleven and I would wonder if you hated me for having the ugliest ever grown. I would watch you. I wouldn’t be able to stop. I would adore you. Your symmetrical face accented by the harsh overhead lighting, as it would form shadows of your eyelashes that projected onto the bottom of your eyes and you looked like a girl whose mascara was running from crying too hard. Your worn hands as the middle finger on the right hand gently played back and forth against the inner thumb. The way your hair would intimately frame the stark features of your flawless head. The way the harsh light would lend you a momentary halo. Your eyebrows would be a pair of fuzzy caterpillars resting briefly on your face and the stoic lines of your forehead would offer no indication of where you were from, where you have been, or where you were going. I would ponder about whether or not you were contemplating our future, our past, or nothing about us at all. I would catch you looking at me and I would feel ravished. I would adore you. I would wonder why you wouldn’t have anything to say to me. Why the fan wouldn’t make the room any cooler. I would begin to find a thousand things that were wrong with you. How your tiny mouth would appear as though it were being eaten by the enormity of your face and your tiny wandering eyes that were too quick to catch. Their vastness would offer no suggestions. The flawless ease of your motions would make my bones ache and I wouldn’t be able to decipher whether it was for you or for the lack of you. I would loathe you. I would give in and explode. I would grab the plates and the books and the papers and force them off the table. I would plunge them at you. I would purge at the look of scorn on your beautiful face. I would close my eyes and I would tell myself that you did not exist. That you could not have existed. Because why would I want you to?

Monday, June 28, 2010

“Great Deception” by Jose-Gabriel Almeida

New York City 1989

Carlos was a gifted saxophone player that captivated listeners. His unique timbre lit up the show, gathering a large crowd on the sidewalk. Under starry skies, he performed outside Mickey Mantle’s Bar on Central Park South. Night after night, delighted audiences applauded with enthusiasm. These people rewarded his effort with some pocket change into his kitty, which lay set over the pavement. The young musician was destined for the ladder of success. At the bottom stood this kid from El Barrio with dreams of glory; at the top stood the world’s stage: if talent alone would’ve been the bridge between the gap. 

His climb began back in 1977 when he was only nine years old. That year the Yankees reached the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The year before, the Bronx Bombers had been swept in four games in the best-of-seven-game-series by the Cincinnati Reds. And for fourteen years before that, no Yankee team had made the playoffs at all. So what were the fans to expect? The general feeling was that this new and talented bunch would play as never before, but eventually lose as always. 

As a loyal Yankee fan, Carlos hoped with all his heart that they would win. He even asked his father Rodolfo to join him in prayer. Rodolfo was happy to oblige. Every morning during the days of the competition, they would pray together, seeking divine intervention for the sake of the Yankees. And for the final game seven, Rodolfo went one better. He bought a saxophone.

“Play tonight and they will win.” 

“But dad, I don’t know how.” 

“You’ll learn.” 

That night, Yankee Stadium exploded with excitement, with the full capacity crowd screaming at the top of their lungs. While Carlos played his little heart out from the bleachers, the Yankees won in spectacular fashion on the field. The Bronx Bombers were finally once again World Champions. Convinced that his off-key toots had led them to victory, Carlos became hooked on his horn.

Rodolfo was glad at what he had accomplished. Raising a boy without a mother took some clever maneuvering and now he felt glad that he had cleverly given his son a new dream in life. He was a loyal father in the true sense. After the death of his wife getting marry again was never an option. No one will come between them. The best future for his little boy was all that mattered. Rodolfo’s parental clutch would prove his biggest asset and his fatal flaw in the years to come.

Ever since Carlos was born they lived on the second floor of a two story building in Spanish Harlem. Doña Esperanza occupied the ground floor. The old lady took a liking to the young single father and his infant son. That was a blessing. Rodolfo relied on her to watch over the baby while he was away at work. In those days, he drove a cab for a living. The money was good and he saved every nickel. But he dreaded the long hours that kept him away from his pride and joy.

When Doña Esperanza died suddenly, Rodolfo was devastated. Her passing was like loosing a second mother. On top of that, he had no one else to care for little Carlos. The kid was still only five. Rodolfo made the most out of bad situation. He tried talking to the landlord so he could rent out the apartment Doña Esperanza had left behind. Taking over that space was crucial for a plan he had in mind. But the greedy landlord who owned the property rejected his offer, citing that he could get more money for the apartment from an outside tenant. No words could convince the shifty little man. Then Rodolfo went one better. He bought the entire two-story unit.

Rodolfo backed the bloodsucking landlord into a corner by speaking to him with the only language he could not resist. He put a hefty offer on the table and practically snatched the property from the landlord when the shifty little man dove for the money like a hungry wolf and ran like a thief.

Making the dwelling his own, the cab driver dad became a stay-home father. He opened up a bodega on the ground floor. From there Rodolfo could make a nice living and watch over his son as he grew into manhood.

After that miracle night at Yankee Stadium, Carlos gave himself a mission. During the next twelve years he locked himself in, literally. He distanced himself without a backward glance from any distraction for his dream of becoming a saxophone tenor. Besides school he never went out anywhere else. After doing homework, he routinely came down to the bodega and helped out his father until closing time. Late at night, the rigors of a grueling day did not keep him from going back up to his room and practice with the saxophone. The young man and his music became so inseparable that he even slept with the saxophone by his side.

Carlos, now in his teens, knew he was overextending himself. Apparently Rodolfo thought so, too. He encouraged his son to get some fun out of life outside the goal he had set for himself. Going out on date with a nice girl would be a start. Only the innocent young man had no clue how that worked. Rodolfo explained that by tradition it was the man’s place to initiate the encounter and not the other way around. The gentleman approach was to ask the lady for a date. Carlos had great admiration for his father and respected his good judgment, but this business about asking a girl on a date did not sit well with the teen-ager.

Since his youth Carlos had lived and breathed the lonely world, imaging himself with no one else but his father at his side. As far as girls, of course, there were feelings involved, but not now. Maybe later. His mission of turning out as a saxophone tenor took center stage above all else.

Because he wanted to be the best, Carlos practiced with the aid of musical sheets from the recordings of the great masters like Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. Carlos was determined to some day hit the perfect note. When he finally did at the age of twenty one --managed by years of effort that had completely isolated him from the outside world-- he was ready for the big time, but not for the raw of life. The blows came fast and hard when a new excitement came into his life.

That new excitement was called Adonay.

One night while walking the streets, Adonay bothered to stop by and watch Carlos play. Amid the crowd she stood out like a figure of glory, looking young, sweet and innocent. Her striking beauty captivated the young musician. At one instance they exchanged smiles. That was a big turning point from which Carlos would never returned; he felt madly in love, even though he had no idea what hit him or what to call it. All he knew is he felt different in a way he had never felt before.

Thrilled by the prospect of meeting Adonay, Carlos wrapped up his playing session quickly. He then approached the young goddess with a smile as she was leaving so he could speak to her, except he had no clue what to say.

Adonay tried to help get the words out. “You want date?”

This caught him off guard, taking the wind out of his smile. Carlos did not know how to respond. He was confused with disbelief. A girl asking a boy on a date was unheard of for him. In his world, the man was always supposed to make the first move. He felt flattered that such a beautiful woman would take interest in him. What man would not want to spend the rest of his with her, he wondered. Yet, she had chosen him. Adonay took his hand ready for the romantic flight, but Carlos hesitated.

The big question in his mind still eluded him – why should he be so lucky? Then he was confronted with a powerful revelation. When he asked her why she had come on to him so strongly, she explained that it was only a business transaction. Adonay, it turned out, was a prostitute. She worked the strip along Central Park South. Carlos felt as if a stampede of some wild animals had mowed him down. Horses, he figured, riding at full speed over him. The pain of jealousy pounded his chest. But his young heart was lost in the grip of love at first sight. 

For the next several nights, Carlos put away his saxophone so he could follow her everywhere. Adonay would normally not entertain the advances of any man that was not willing to indulge. But she was amused by his innocence and felt bad for the wounded look in his eyes. Carlos liked her attention towards him, not caring about her past life, just as long as he could be next to her. The infatuated young man eventually asked her to marry him. Adonay accepted the proposal as a way to get rid of him. Carlos took her approval as a sign of love.

“I can’t wait to tell my father”

“Not your father.”

“Yes. My father.”

When Carlos told his father about the whole incident, Rodolfo became angry. The first thing that came to Rodolfo’s mind was that Adonay must be a snake on the prowl, hunting for some fresh meat. He yelled at Carlos that he would never accept such a woman and to get on with his music. For the first time Rodolfo had lost his temper towards his son. Scolding his boy annoyed him, but he was firm in his reaction. Only Carlos wouldn’t hear of it. He was not about to give up on Adonay, but he wanted to keep the common ground between himself and his father.

“Dad, you said I could date girls”

“I said a nice girl.”

“But she loves me, dad.”

“Carlos, she’s a prostitute.”

Carlos shut the words out off his mind. All he understood is that Adonay and he loved each other. What could be better? In his eyes, that was all that mattered. He burst out of the house against his father’s will, announcing that he was going for a walk and to please not wait up for him. He didn’t want to hear more about the subject. When Carlos walked out, Rodolfo lowered his head, closing his eyes with disappointment. But he found comfort in the thought that his son will soon comeback home. 
Carlos made all kinds of plans for himself and Adonay. They would get married, that was a must. A few years down the road they would have children. Meanwhile, he could work the bar scene playing the saxophone. Whatever little money he earned would sustain them through the lean times. But playing in bars was only a temporary gig until his promising career will flourish. Then the big pay off would come in. They will have money to burn. Some day he would build her a palace where they could live and grow old together.

At first, Adonay saw Carlos as nothing more than her ticket to a better life, the way out of the streets. In the course of a short time, however, she grew fond of his affection for her love and in turn started warming up to the possibility that she was capable of falling in love with him as well. He made her feel special, something no man had ever done before. She realized with enthusiasm that Carlos was gradually finding his way into her heart. Many times she had read stories about how people fall in love and the feelings involved. And yet, somehow, she had never imagined anything remotely like this. The tender butterflies of passion consumed her. 

But just when Carlos thought Adonay was his, just when he thought that he had the woman of his dreams in the palm of his hand, she told him that it would never work out. Adonay said that in time he would have a change of heart about her pass. Once he would come to his senses, he would eventually walk out on her and leave her all alone and heartbroken.

In her young and rough existence, she had built the resilience to handle just about any kind of suffering. However, abandoned by the man she loved, she was all but certain, was not the kind of pain she could endure. With no other option, Adonay decided to go back to the streets; the only life she knew, where getting busted up inside had no major repercussions. On the streets, the skin thickens and the soul hardens. A loving heart is too fragile.

During moments of despair, she had always dreamed of a special light that would shine on her with hope. Perhaps one day that light will glow on her dark and dreadful world. For now, all she could do was buy herself time and keep dreaming for that day to finally arrive.

Carlos went to Rodolfo in tears. How could she not love him? Why did she prefer to be with all those men? He knew that this feeling for her was eating away at him, but without her, he felt excluded from the future. 

“She’s not meant for you, son.” 

But Carlos still wouldn’t see it that way. Like any kid in love for the first time, he had an aversion to being the rejected lover, refusing even to take into consideration the kind words of a loving father. When Rodolfo tried to offer him a warm embrace Carlos resisted him. 

“Maybe you are not meant for me, dad.” 

“You are all I have.” 

“Not anymore, dad.” 

Carlos turned and left the room as he done before, only this time with no word if he was ever coming back. Rodolfo broke down in tears at the way his son was growing apart from him. What hurt the most this time was the uneasy feeling that possibly Carlos might not want to return home.

Meanwhile, Adonay had cleaned up her act. She was no longer walking the streets. In her quest to better herself, the former prostitute had landed a job as a waitress. Making an honest living gave her seriously eroding self-worth a boost. For the first time in her young life she felt a genuine sense of value as a person. This was an outlook she welcomed with open arms. Staring in the mirror didn’t hurt as much anymore.

With her new sense of purpose, the first thing that came to her mind was Carlos. Thinking about the whole scenario, it made sense. Carlos was willing to take her out of a life that she had been forced into, and in fact: he had offered her the prospect for a better one. Now she was willing to take the chance and go with him. The place didn’t matter. Just as long they could be together. Maybe Carlos was the light she was waiting for to shine on her dreadful world after all. Adonay dreamed about the day when she could finally be together with the love of her life. Sooner or later Carlos would find her, she was certain. But the light, as she would drastically find out, would shine ever so briefly. 

During this time, Rodolfo was looking for Adonay as well. He got word that she lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. Rodolfo went to see this woman. Reaching her doorstep, the angered father rang the bell. Adonay at that instance had just finished coming out of a shower. The bell was music to her ears. Thinking it was Carlos, she opened the door in her bathrobe with her hair still dripping wet. The sight of Rodolfo took her by surprise.

“Who are you?”

“I am Carlos’ Father.”

Adonay opened the door wider inviting him in. Rodolfo regretted her beauty and wanted to punish her for it. He was standing in front of the object of desire, the forbidden fruit that had alienated his son away from him. He walked in and got right to the point.

“My wife died giving birth to Carlos and I never married again, you follow,” he said with forward motion forcing her to retreat across the room. “I raised that kid all alone. He has never been around women. You are the first girl in his life. And you can’t let that cheap smile fool him.” 

These were strong words that hurt even stronger. By now they were standing just outside the bedroom. Adonay was surprised that she had allowed herself to be backed up into a corner. Her street-bred temperament was well conditioned with reserves of stamina to wear down any man’s daring approach toward her. But she had noticed the strength of mind in Rodolfo’s eyes about keeping her away from Carlos and her stamina had buckled under his parental urging to reclaim his son. The words he had spoken kept recurring in her head, kept haunting her. A deep sense of terror overcame her delicate beauty. She felt Carlos was beginning to slip away from her hands. The trembling young woman regained her composure when she heard a familiar voice and the pounding on the door. 
“Adonay,” called Carlos. 

“Carlos,” responded Adonay. 

Adonay ran to answer the door while Rodolfo sneaked out of sight into the bedroom. In Rodolfo’s thinking, he always identified the meeting point between what could possibly be achieved with words and what was certain to be accomplished with actions. As the situation remained, talking Carlos out of his desire for Adonay was a loosing battle. Another measure must be taken.

While hiding in the bedroom, Rodolfo waited for the right moment when he would make his move. He had a fifty-fifty chance of success. Like the pieces on a game board of chess --the right move meant victory, while the wrong one, meant absolute defeat. With what he had in mind, he was afraid the odds were against him. Deep in his heart, he was overwhelmed with the distinct notion that his plan could backfire and he would end up crushed by methods of his own device. But he felt compelled to make any desperate attempt that will bring his son back to him.

Meanwhile, Adonay opened the front door and Carlos burst in with the saxophone hanging from his back. They immediately fell in each other’s arms. Carlos enjoyed the scent of her wet hair and the feeling of her soft naked body under her damp robe. She felt completely protected in his arms. They loved one another; there was no doubt that they would’ve been happy together.

Suddenly, Carlos saw something that chilled his bones, a colossal horrific sight which brought down his world to pieces. He was staring at Rodolfo emerging from the bedroom with his bare chest exposed. Adonay understood right away what was happening and became shocked with fear. In her immediate reaction, she tried to plead with Carlos not be fooled. Her effort never got the chance. Carlos pushed her straight across the room, landing her on the couch. Looking into his eyes, Adonay realized in a moment of horrible certainty that nothing on earth would convince him otherwise. Her fate with him was sealed. The doomed young woman burst into tears.

All the while, Rodolfo had remained still outside the bedroom. It was nerve wrecking to be standing there. He had observed in complete silence Adonay’s downfall at the expense of his merciless act. For the first time he made a sound. Rodolfo let out a gasp of air; sweating out the moment, while he waited for his son to cast judgment on him.

Carlos turned slowly and locked eyes with his father. For a moment, Rodolfo almost came forward, but he stopped himself before even getting started. The hate in the eyes staring at him, he thought, was too powerful. This is precisely what Rodolfo had feared. He had executed his plan. The move, however, had backfired and now he was torn apart. The discouraged father remained back in place, looking straight at his son.

Then Carlos severed the last tied he had with the man who had been his hero all his life. He freed himself from the strap of the saxophone, letting the instrument slide off his back. The saxophone landed with a heavy thud on the floor.

Without any other gesture, Carlos walked out. The room was left in complete silence with Rodolfo frozen place and Adonay hunched over on the couch. She still seemed to be in shock while Rodolfo realized that this was more than what he had bargained for, saying, “He’ll never be back.”

These were prophetic words. Neither Adonay nor Rodolfo ever saw him again.

Friday, June 25, 2010

“The Wedding Day” by Lisa Bernier

George whistled tunelessly as he switched off his alarm. 11:55 a.m. It was his wedding day.

He lay in bed for a moment, thinking over the day’s events. To get to the church, he would have to leave an hour before (forty-five minutes at the latest) to be able to be standing at the altar as the clock struck noon. For it would, undoubtedly, strike so; the church’s bells were loud.
Ceasing with thought, he rose, stretched, touched his toes, did four jumping jacks to get his blood moving and moved to the bathroom. His whistling stopped as he grimaced at the sleepy reflection in the mirror. Resuming his whistles, he turned the shower on, making sure the water was close to scalding before stripping and jumping in. George yelped in pain. He danced about for three minutes, waiting for his skin to acclimate. When it didn’t, he gave up and started to scrub.

He lathed his hair with shampoo and conditioner, his whistling turning shrill as he tried to do an octave jump. He took the sweetly scented soap Lara had given him as a pre-wedding gift and used it. He would smell like an Appalachian spring on his wedding day. He smiled and attempted a trill.

Getting out of the shower, he reached for the fluffy white towel Lara had also bought him. She had one too. They had coordinated their toiletries for the day, so that even though they couldn’t see each other, they would be thinking of each other. It had been Lara’s idea, and, George maintained, something of a good one.

He toweled off and stood in front of the sink. He spurted some shaving cream into his hand and spread it over his bristles. He took out his razor and, as he shaved, replaced whistling with humming. It was difficult to whistle when one shaved (Lara had once pointed this out) and George had been amazed at the reduction of cuts on his face once he had stopped the practice.

Rinsing and drying his face with a smaller fluffy white groom’s towel, he stepped back out into his bedroom. His old bachelor’s pad, he thought. He chuckled.

His whistling grew loud as he took out his tux and pulled it on. The clock said 12:20 as he struggled with his bowtie. He sighed and walked back into the bathroom to do it in front of the mirror, which didn’t help since everything was flipped. His whistling turned mournful as he wished for Lara’s delicate, clever hands.

He slipped on his shoes and was tying them when the clock turned 12:35. He patted his pocket for his cell phone. He took it out to make sure it was off, as to not have an embarrassing moment during the ceremony. Of course, anyone who would possibly call him would be in the church. Still, like Lara always said, better to miss it than risk it. He chuckled again, not realizing the phrase was a lazy rhyme.

Closing the apartment door and locking it, he skipped down the stairs two at a time, whistling all the while. He waved to Garrett, the guard at the desk. Garrett stared at him blankly before nodding. George shrugged at Garrett’s surliness and pushed the song he was whistling down a third into a new key. Lara said he was a baritone, not a tenor.

Stepping out onto the sidewalk, the sun beat brilliantly down onto the black of his suit. George stopped whistling and brought his hand up to shade his eyes. He frowned.

“Where…?” he said, turning in a three hundred and sixty degree circle to scan the street. He thought a bit and shrugged. He checked his watch. 12:40. The church was a fifteen-minute walk away from his apartment. The car had been Lara’s idea anyways. He remembered fondly her desire for him “to once, arrive like a man, not a bum.”

He started whistling “Here Comes the Bride” as he began the trek to the church. He smiled to watch the squirrels gambol in the grass, hear the birds scold each other in their trees, feel the zephyr bat at his coat tails. A fine May day, he thought and passed the little neighborhood community garden. Red flowers exploded along its outer edges.

He checked his watch. 12:50. He quickened his steps and shifted up the tempo of his whistling.

“Get me to the church,” he whistled wordlessly. “Get me to the church.” He climbed the church steps. “Get me to the church.” He opened the side door, which had a “Groom” sign in Lara’s handwriting posted on it. “Get me to the church.” He walked into the hall. “Get me to the church.” He turned into the back room the priests normally used to play poker, but today had been converted into his waiting room.

“Get me to the church.” He added a quick little trill to the song he was whistling; the door closed behind him as the clock struck one.

George dodged the bouquet of flowers thrown at him and felt inadequate.

“But I didn’t know,” he protested to the vision in white that was his bride.

“An hour!” she shrieked. “An hour!” She tore off her veil and threw that at him as well. It soared through the air only to lose momentum mid-arch, and drift down like a dark night’s falling snow.

“I didn’t know,” he pleaded and stepped forward. His shoe caught in the lacy drift and he tripped.

She picked up the bouquet and threw it at him again. The tastefully bunched lilies hit his head with a soft thunk. He held his eyes wide open and the air stung at them, trying to make him cry.

“How could you?” she cried. “How could you? You know what mommy and daddy think of you. The mayor is here!”

She toddled over and kicked at his shins.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know.”

Her pale face flushed a deep, dark red. He looked up at her and clutched his shins.

“I didn’t,” he said to her. “I didn’t.”

She drew up to her full height of five feet four inches. Her face was like a piece of Roman architecture; timeless and unyielding.

“I don’t believe you,” she said, and taking off the diamond on her left hand threw that at him too.

Mrs. Weatherby held her husband back by the collar of his suit.

“You son of a bitch!” said Mr. Weatherby. “You misbegotten ass!”

His right fist swung wildly and glanced off George’s chin. Caught off guard, George stumbled and fell into the folding chair behind him. It collapsed and dumped him onto the floor.

“Your blood pressure dear,” said Mrs. Weatherby.

“I oughta…I oughta…I oughta…” Spittle grew and formed at the corner of Mr. Weatherby’s lips.

“But I didn’t know,” said George. “I didn’t. My watch…” He looked at his watch. His eyes grew round. 1:35.

Mrs. Weatherby’s eyes narrowed. Her face, tinted and powdered into refined elegance, loomed above her prospective son-in-law.

“You little bastard,” she said and let go of her husband.

George’s mother was weeping. His father cradled her in his arms as she cried into his Ralph Lauren dress shirt.

“This shirt cost four hundred dollars,” Mr. Lee said.

“Dad,” said George.

“I’m over here, son,” said Mr. Lee. George turned his body towards the direction of his father’s voice.

“Put some steak on your eyes,” George’s mother cried into her husband’s chest.

“Your mother said to put some steak on your eyes,” said his father.

“I can’t,” said George. “Lara’s a vegetarian.”

Mrs. Lee let out a howl. Her husband patted her on the back.

“Four hundred dollars,” he said.

George sat outside the door to the Women’s Restroom. Lara was locked inside.

“Lara,” he said, “Lara.” He touched his lip. He touched his eyes. He touched his cheekbones. In minutes, all were going to swell.

“Lara,” he begged. “Lara.” Time was against him.

He cocked his head as he heard the toilet flush. He sighed. She had been flushing parts of her wedding trousseau down the toilet every five minutes since he had locked her inside. A thought occurred to him.

“Stand on top of another toilet if that one overflows,” he called. Lara hated the water like a cat.

George twisted the gold ring on his left hand. He figured as soon as they restarted the ceremony, it’d be easier for all concerned if he were prepared.

“Lara,” he called again. “Lara, please.” He bowed his head and sniffed. He winced and then cursed as the blood began to flow once more.

Footsteps sounded on the carpet, which was the color of half-dead moss. A pair of shiny black dress shoes came into George’s field of vision.

Andy bent down to gaze at his friend. George met his eyes, bewildered.

“You know Lara left two hours ago and it’s her maid of honor you have locked in there,” Andy said.

George stuffed a corner of his sleeve up his nostril. It was soon completely stained.

Andy sighed. “Come on George,” he said and lifted his friend to his feet. He faced George in a direction and gave him a push.

“That way,” Andy said. “I’ll catch up in a minute.”

As George began walking down the hall he heard Andy unlock the bathroom and stick his head inside.

“Jen,” said his best friend, “you can come out now.”

Loud flushing sounds replied.

“How could he!” a female voice suddenly shrilled.

“I didn’t know,” George mumbled without turning around, and Andy sighed again as George was hit on the back of the head with a violet satin heel.

George stabbed at the invoice on his desk with his pen. The end went through with a crunch and made another squiggly circley tear in the corner. A bit of blue stained the edges. He closed one eye, and then the other, to look at it. Lara’s eyes were green. Green like a leprechaun. Green like a cabbage leaf.

He took another nip from the keychain flask Andy had gotten him in London. The scotch burned on its way down. He hiccuped.

A knock sounded on his open office door. George ignored it and brought the keychain flask up to his mouth again.

“George.” It was Jonas, the intern

Jonas coughed a bit and shuffled. “Uh, George.”

George lifted the keychain flask to salute Jonas. He drank to the very best intern.

Jonas averted his eyes. “Mr. Minos wants to see you in his office.”

George rose to his feet and was surprised when the floor moved with him.

“What was Newton’s third law?” he asked Jonas and tripped and hit his head.

“George,” said Mr. Minos.

George nodded. Mr. Minos’s face, thin and angular and chapped and red, reminded him of the Lincoln bust in Lara’s front parlor.

“You have to understand,” said Mr. Minos. “You have to know your performance these past few weeks has been…well, it’s been. You know.”

George did know. He thought.

“Besides, Lara is my niece,” said Mr. Minos. “And I hate to kick a fellow when he’s down, but…my wife…well, you understand.”
George nodded and grinned.

Mr. Minos studied him and sighed. “I’m sorry, George, I am, but…well…” Mr. Minos fiddled with the gold pen on his desk. “How could you forget?”

“I didn’t know,” George said.

George kicked the soccer ball one more time. It bounced off the wall, to add another grayish imprint to the series of grayish imprints that dotted his living room walls. It came back to him. He kicked it again.

The ball bounced against the wall to ricochet off the wood floor at a sixty-five degree angle and knock into the lamp next to his couch. The lamp teetered and then fell with a crash as the ball dribbled off to rest under the coffee table.

George looked at his living room and picked up the ball. This time, he punted it. It went through the only unbroken window in his apartment.

“Out!” screamed Mr. Vasquez.

George lifted his beer to his landlord. “Want one?” he offered.

“Look at this place!” Mr. Vasquez yelled. “It’s practically ruined for the next tenant! You can’t do this!”

George nodded. “Probably not,” he said.

“I’m suing you for damages!” said Mr. Vasquez.

George nodded and thought of Lara.

“And you owe me four months rent!”

He loved her so.

“I’d understand,” said Mr. Vasquez, “if she left you. But you…you…How could you forget!”

George took another sip of PBR. It truly was disgusting.

“I didn’t know,” said George.

“Out!” screamed Mr. Vasquez. “Out right this minute!”

“I’m sorry George,” said Crenshaw. “You have to understand. We just can’t give you the loan right now.”

George didn’t understand. He fiddled with the free pen they had given him at the door.

“You have no prospects,” said Crenshaw. “No job, no savings, no home to put up for collateral. You’re just not a good investment at the moment.”

George was rather offended. Lara had believed he was a good investment. She’d said yes. He smiled dreamily, remembering the moment. It was rose-tinted.


George turned his attention back to his banker.

“—you have to understand,” finished Crenshaw. He took out a pocket-handkerchief and wiped his baldhead. George was confused as to why Crenshaw, just shy of twenty-nine, felt the need to shave his head.

“Did you hear what I said George?”

George nodded.

“Lara’s such a lovely girl,” Crenshaw said. “We dated for a while in college.”

George hadn’t known that. His eyes narrowed.

“I think, George, you may have to think about filing.”

George’s eyes narrowed even further.

“This month.”

More narrowing.

“For bankruptcy.”

George’s eyes popped open.

Crenshaw stood and reached over the pluck the pen out of George’s limp hands.

“Sorry George,” he said. “The pens are for people who are opening accounts.”

George mumbled blearily in his sleep. He shifted so the church’s brick wall would poke him in his right shoulder blade instead of his left. He slept.

Someone shook his boot. “George,” said a voice. “George.”

“Fuck off,” said George. He drifted back into Lara’s hair, her dulcet voice, her cinnamon and violet perfume.

“George.” More boot shaking. “George!” Someone kicked his ankle.

George opened one eye. “What?” he asked.

A thin, pale face bent down to scrutinize him. “It’s me. Artie,” explained the face.

George nodded and closed his eyes.

“George!” This time the kick landed on his shin.

“Ow!” George looked up in irritation.

Pale face thrust a paper bag at him. “I brought you McDonalds,” he said.

George looked at the bag. “Fuck off,” he said and went back to sleep.

In the darkness, he heard a gusty sigh. He felt the bag being dropped into his lap. “For later,” a voice mumbled, followed by receding steps.

George’s hand curled around the bag as he dreamed of Lara’s eyes.

“You see,” said George as he munched on a fry, “I didn’t know. I didn’t.”

Artie nodded and took a sip from his Coke.

“And,” said George, waving a second fry, “I really thought it was twelve. Truly, I did.”

Artie nodded and looked down. His fingers groped inside an empty fry sleeve.

“Here.” George generously pushed his fries to the center of the table. “We’ll share.”

“Thanks,” said Artie and took a fry to munch.

“But no one would believe me,” George said. His eyes fixed on the blond woman ordering at the counter. The child clinging to her knees demanded his Happy Meal toy at the top of his lungs.

“Why would they,” George continued, watching as the child smacked its mother’s thighs. “It’s not the sort of thing you forget. I mean, really.”

Artie nodded and ate more fries.

“But I did,” said George, looking Artie straight in the eyes. “I did.”

Artie nodded.

“I suppose there’s some meaning behind it,” said George, taking another fry. He stared at it. The ends were burnt and sharp. “I keep racking my brains and racking my brains. I only love three things in this world completely, and one of them is her.”

“What are the other two?” asked Artie.

George popped the fry into his mouth and chewed. He hated the crunchy ones.

“Maybe,” said Artie, reaching over for another fry, “you just forgot.”

George fiddled with the straw of his drink. “Can I have a sip of your Coke?”

Artie pushed the cup over. “Knock yourself out.”

George picked up the soda. It sweat into his hands. “We’re still engaged,” he said and then finished the drink.

George sat hunched against the church wall, eyes closed. He pondered. The coolness in his right hand spread throughout his entire body, until he felt like a dirty, homeless ice cube.

He sat very still, as still as possible, since friction caused ice to melt. Ice could be dark, he thought. Dark and clean and still, like an Arctic sea on an Arctic night in an Arctic winter.

He could be cool, he thought. He could be cold. He would be the icy heart of a frozen world.

He shouldn’t have said, “Fuck off,” to the kid. He had been taken to McDonald’s.

Stillness, he thought and froze his right hand. Statis. Gravity to the nth degree, to form a singularity, to form—

The image burst upon his brain as the sun crowns the Alps at dawn.

George shuddered, clutched the gun in his right hand, and wept.

George sat on the altar and touched his right cheekbone. He winced. He touched his left cheekbone. He winced again. It was his wedding day.

“Here.” Andy sat next to him and handed him a plastic bag stuffed with ice. George nodded his thanks and brought the bag up to cover his face.

“You look weird,” said Andy.

George nodded. It was starting to hurt too much to talk.

“You see, Lara—” said Andy.

George bit his split lip. He let out a shriek of pain.

Andy patted him on the shoulder. “I know man,” he said. “I know.”

George sighed gustily through his ice. His eyes could barely register the golden afternoon light streaming through the church windows. He squinted, and was confused. He pointed.

“Whyzzitthluantink?” he asked.

“Stained glass,” said Andy.

“Ah,” said George. “Ifergottheesaltic.”

“That’s a pretty big thing to forget man,” said Andy. He gave George a hard look. “Apparently not the only thing today.”

“Idinnoo,” said George. “Nooo.”

“Sure George,” said Andy and patted him on the shoulder. “But,” he said, and pulled out the collar of his shirt, “I don’t think she’ll let you come back.”

George put the ice down and turned to stare at his friend. Andy’s tie hung loose and slightly crooked, a look that managed to convey a rumpled sexiness. George loosened the bowtie on his tux and looked slovenly.

“Look here George,” said Andy, and gently lifted the ice back up to press on George’s face.

George smoothed the hair on his head one more time. He glanced quickly at his reflection in the puddle on the doorstep. His hair was black again. He grinned, then grimaced. Then grinned. Then—

The door swung open and George swung his gaze upwards. He stared at his fiancée. The May sunshine caught her blond hair and crowned it. George gaped. Morning glory.

In her arms the two year old wriggled without mercy.

“Come in,” said Lara and stood aside. George carefully wiped his shoes on the doormat and stepped into the house.

The hall was cool, despite the light streaming in from the front windows. The sunshine spread against the polished oak floor, warming the brown to gold.

“Would you like some coffee?” asked Lara as the child spasmed against her hold. She set it down.

“Up!” it clamored.

She picked it up. It wriggled.

“No, thank you,” said George and clutched the paper in his hand.

They stared at each other over the blond mop of curls.

“I brought you,” said George and held out the paper.

“I saw,” said Lara.

The child ceased to wriggle, subdued by its mother’s tone.

George’s hand dropped down to his side. He fidgeted.


“Do you want the ring back?” asked Lara.

George was confused. “I don’t—”

“Because I sold it. I can give you the name of the pawnbroker,” said Lara.

“Oh.” George furrowed his brow.

“Don’t,” said Lara.

“Sorry.” George schooled his face. “It was for you,” he added.

“You told the reporter,” said Lara.

George was surprised. “You saw the news report?”

“It was on the six o’clock news,” said Lara.

“Oh.” George fidgeted. The child stuck its thumb in its mouth and stared at George. Its solemn hazel eyes had gold flecks in them.

“It was nice of you to save that convenience store,” said Lara stiffly.

“Oh. Yes. Well. Thanks,” said George.

“Those people owe you their lives.”


“Lucky you had that gun.”

“Lucky,” echoed George.

“Lucky,” piped up the child.

Lara absently stroked the blond curls. George’s eyes lingered on the gesture. His scalp tingled in remembrance.

Steps sounded down the stairs and turned into the hall. Andy came to stand behind his wife. The gold flecks in his amber eyes seemed to somehow too catch the sun.

“George,” said Andy.

“Hey Andy,” said George. He looked at Andy’s tie. It was loose. He touched the knot of his own.

“You’ll just look slovenly George,” said Lara.

Their eyes met in perfect accord.

“Please don’t call my wife your fiancée anymore George,” said Andy. “Especially not to The New York Times.”

“The neighbors.” Lara’s arms tightened. Her lips thinned. The child howled.

“Your parents,” said George.

Her eyes snapped against his. “Yes,” she said.

“Do you want—”

“No,” said Lara.

“Let me take Ian,” said Andy.

George looked at Lara, surprised. Andy carted the child off to another part of the house.

Lara walked past George and opened the door. George nodded at her and left the paper on the hall table. She picked it up and gave it back to him. He nodded again.

She dug into her right pocket and unearthed a handkerchief.

“This is yours,” she said.

He took it. The cloth looked all the whiter against his sun-browned skin. His thumb skimmed over the monogrammed initials.

“I liked the name,” Lara said suddenly. George nodded and turned to walk out.

“George.” A slender, manicured hand pressed gently on his shoulder. He stopped.

“Why?” she asked.

He looked at her. Hazel eyes and blond hair and Gap chinos and a pale blue sweater set. In the spring light, her porcelain skin looked unearthly.

“I don’t…I don’t know,” said George. He licked his lips. “I think…” They were dry. “I…forgot.”

Lara nodded and took her hand off his shoulder.

Her voice was silver birdsong.

“Fuck you.”

The door pushed him out into the spring day as it closed.

George looked at the glory of the lawn in May. The grass was very green. He loosened his tie. “G.I.L.,” his fingers traced. He took a step forward. Stopped. The zephyr blew through with gusto and ruffled his hair.

He went to step. He stopped. He went to put his foot back down it its place. He looked slovenly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

“Planet Rain” by CC Long

The 747 rolled into the birth and he heard the mantra, “Set doors to manual.” He looked out the window through the rain that pounded the standing water on the Heathrow tarmac. He waited for the familiar ding to release him from his seat belt and the purgatory of having to sit next to Carl Taylor for seven long hours, talking incessantly about money, money and more money. Carl was an investment banker or DMV (dead man walking) thanks to the latest economic crisis everybody in finance was hated and deserved to die. Ding. The Upper Class section clicked open their belts and rose in unison outfitted with bags and coats given back to them by the Virgin Air host and hostesses. Freedom was in sight.

A song familiar to him filled the restlessness of the wait. Air weary passengers queued for the door receiving fast track vouchers from the blond stewardess that his fantasy had lain bare during intermissions of talk of a bad stock market, malfeasance and yields one way or the other, not to mention the world wide monetary crisis, the Yen’s bleeding and the devaluation of the Pound. Vedder incanted, “Don’t you think you ought to rest. Don’t you think you ought to lay your head down tonight...” The lyrics to a Pearl Jam song, All Those Yesterdays, that his oldest daughter had turned him onto from the album, Yield.

The cabin door opened and a mellow waft of airport air mixed with the regenerated staleness of the cabin. He took his first step toward the door but was held back by a firm shoulder grab from behind. “Nice to meet you, Adam.” Carl put his hand out to shake and he responded in kind.

“You too,” he answered, as Carl stepped in front of him and escaped through the cabin door.

Carl called back over his shoulder, “Don’t forget Cheadle Industries,” an insider’s tip he had mentioned earlier that he would totally ignore because there was no insider information that could help anyone these days. He tried to respond but Carl was gone.

He decided to take his time down the corridors of Heathrow. He wrestled for a cigarette from his coat pocket. It dangled unlit from his mouth. He did not want to meet Carl again in passport control and then be laden with him at baggage control. He couldn’t take it. There was good reason anybody in finance was hated. Yes, everything was about money especially when you needed more. Seven hours of high density financial speak had made him very weary and somewhat depressed.

He walked slowly on the moving walkway holding his briefcase by the tips of fingers looking through the floor to ceiling windows at the deluge that was washing them. The sound was a strange water chant. He had left sixty-degree spring-like weather in New York but he was glad to be here, nonetheless. He had been traveling to London frequently in the last five years, shuttling advertising for Pantene shampoo from the New York to London. Shampoo was the name of the game brought to you by your good friends at Proctor and Gamble.

Passport control with a fast track voucher was too fast. Much to his chagrin he saw Carl still waiting for his luggage slashing through an edition of the International Herald Tribune. He looked up at him and waved him over. “Look at this, Microsoft is at eighteen bucks and Brazil is devaluing its currency not to mention Obama’s remarks,” he said relatively upset, business speak flowing from him like Niagara Falls. He folded the paper rough shod and barely taking a breath, asked, “Where are you staying?”

“The Halcyon,” he said, searching the moving turnstile for his bag.

“Holland Park? A little small for me.” Carl smiled.

“I like small.” He watched the luggage chugging around on the conveyer belt. He did not see his bag and prayed Carl’s was there.

“No health club,” Carl said, reaching down for a black leather soft suitcase.

“I’m not healthy,” he answered, pointing to the unlit cigarette.

Carl laughed and adjusted himself to the new weight. “Well, nice meeting you, again,” he finally farewelled.

“Yes, and thanks for the tip,” he lied.

Carl held one finger to his lips, winked and moved away through the immigration’s doorway.

He watched his brown leather bag approach him on the conveyer belt. He let it go around again.

He reported to the Virgin Air limousine desk and gave his name. He was approached by an older gentleman sporting a very impressive handlebar mustache. “Can I take your bag?” he asked, reaching for and grabbing it. He for no known reason gave resistance causing a slight wrestling match with the driver. “Let me do my job, governor,” the driver said, irritated, snatching the bag away.

Somewhat puzzled he followed the driver to the elevator up to the parking garage, where he waited for him to retrieve the car. He lit the cigarette and took the purposeful drags of a smokeless hiatus. His smoking doubled as soon as he landed in London. It was all about freedom. The driver returned in a Range Rover as he finished his cigarette. He lit a second as the driver came to take his bag. “Can I smoke?” he asked.

The driver nodded affirmatively, a now extinct gesture in the US. He lit the cigarette as he opened the door and slid into the leather-upholstered seat. He cracked the window and enjoyed the feel of the damp cool air. His smoke funneled out without restraint. As soon as they left the garage a deluge soaked the car and dampened his jacket, but he didn’t roll up the window. The Rover sprayed rooster tails from both back wheels. The window wipers moved in marvelous syncopation. It was raining very hard but the premium range all terrain-vehicle moved through it smoothly.

“Nice weather,” he said loud enough for the driver to hear, breaking the subtle tension from the earlier wrestling match. He finished his cigarette.

“Tell me about it. This here is the fortieth day of rain. Down right biblical,” the driver lamented, “That’s probably why I’m a little touchy. Sorry about that.”

“I thought you were just doing your job,” he said diplomatically, opening the ashtray and snuffing the butt. “It’s been raining for forty days and forty nights?”

“Close mate, not constantly but a little rain every day. It’s diabolical.” He let out a giddy nervous laugh.

He sat back not liking his entry so far. Relax, you’re back in London, he told himself.

He watched the M40 float by, a myriad of cars all driving down the wrong side of the river. Sheets of rain blew against the windows. He closed his eyes just to hear it pound, but the thought of ‘rough hair’ disturbed his ablutionary auditory.

‘Rough hair’ was the root of the most recent critical meltdown on the Pantene business. ‘Rough hair’ was why P&G was spending thousands of dollars to fly him over. His, and the agency’s opinion, was that nobody describes or wants their hair described as rough. Rough hair? The absurdity of his life.

He was alone, divorced with two daughters at UCLA. He was paying for that and everything else his ex-wife could legally coerce him to pay for, including enough alimony to feed a small village forever. He made over a quarter of million dollars a year and he didn’t have a penny to spare. He had just turned forty-five and things were getting no better. He lived in a cheap studio apartment around the corner from Gramercy Park and ate a lot of take out Chinese food. He wanted out of his life but there was no escape, except these trips to London.

He arrived at the Halcyon Hotel off Holland Park Avenue. It was a Victorian mansion peach colored with white trim converted into a homey but elegant hotel. The rain had let up and he dodged a slow drizzle from the Range Rover door to the black baroque cast iron awning over the doorway of the main entrance. He checked in without any hassles and undressed in front of the TV set watching an Arsenal versus Manchester United football match, smoking another cigarette. He held the remote surfing the sky TV channel log barely glancing at the programs that swam by in multi languages. After flying through all one hundred and fifteen channels he turned it off.

He lay down on the bed and looked out at the gray day through the pulled back green and white paisley ceiling to floor drapes. He took a final drag from his fag and put it out. He closed his eyes to see if there was any inkling of sleep in his body. Lights blinked in his closed eyes. He felt the firm bed against his bareback.

His thoughts drifted back to the fantasy stewardess. She looked a lot like Princess
Diana. Which made him remember that fatal day and the week after. He was in London then, too. On the day of her funeral with the haunting procession. He had gone to a masseuse of the non-professional variety to try to blur it out. He was quite depressed that day but not as depressed as the French beauty who massaged him. She wept for Diana as she massaged him, her tears mixing with the baby oil.

‘Rough hair’ popped back into his head. He sat up straight and went to his opened bag and pulled out a pair of khaki pants and a blue shirt. He put on some black Doc Martins and a light rust colored anorak. He looked at himself in the mirror, his hair in dire need of a cut, his eyes itchy red with dark circles below. He was six foot tall and shrinking. He thought himself ugly. The blues were invading. He needed a margarita.

It had stopped raining but the dampness permeated the duller than gray day. He walked up Holland Park Avenue; the ancient Roman road that runs through the center of London, changing as it goes from Holland Park Avenue to Notting Hill to Bayswater to Oxford Street splitting at Holborn and annexing the City. Century old white maples that line both sides of the avenue were pruned like amputees with sapling branches and leaves spraying out of their severations, unrolling in the warm dampness. Spring was in full swing, clearly a month or more ahead of New York. The smell of jasmine, lilac and honeysuckle from the myriad of walled hidden gardens he walked beside made the moisture rich and perfumed the dampness. He heard the distant howl of a peacock in Holland Park. He lit a cigarette and walked up Notting Hill, feeling the standing dew against his face. It was dot matrix rain, not falling just there. It was hard to keep his cigarette lit. He was soaking wet before he reached Ladbroke Grove. He quickened his step to the top of the hill and Nachos, a Mexican bar and restaurant.

He frequented Nachos when he was in town. It was by far the best margarita in London. The food was fair and the help was worth watching. Two young women in particular had struck his fancy, a Swedish bartender that looked anything but Swedish. She was dark and wicked cool. Her name was Tara. She wanted to be an artist and was traveling the world to see if she was. Quick, smart and sarcastic, she had a definite opinion on most everything. The other girl, Karreen was a waitress and an aspiring dancer from South Africa, ‘currently performing at all the clubs throughout London and vicinity,’ she joked. They were both fun loving and about the age of his oldest daughter. He enjoyed their banter almost as much as he enjoyed his margarita.

The bar area was mustard yellow and authentically decorated with Mexican bric a brac. The large picture windows provided expansive views of Notting Hill. He entered and took a napkin from a cocktail table to wipe his brow. He put out his cigarette. Hip-hop music grooved from the sound system. Tara was behind the bar, a myriad of tequila bottles glowing silver and gold filling shelves towering behind her. She turned and smiled through a grimace. Her hair was a long black mane tied straight up in a ponytail with a paisley necktie. She wore an orange Lacoste shirt that was shrunk so small her medium sized erect nipples were in full view. It was hard not to look at them.

“Hello doctor,” she said, using the nickname she had given him for no known reason, pronouncing her English more American than British, “the usual?”

He nodded, shaking out his coat and hanging it on the back of the tall bar stool. “Nice day if it doesn’t rain,” he quipped.

She surprised him with a scathing glance and kept looking at him askance as she made the margarita. She shook the shaker harder than need be, pounded it on the bar, and poured it into the salted rim margarita glass. She carried it to him never changing her acrimonious stare. She placed the drink in front of him and shook her head slowly. He was baffled; should he apologize for looking at her nipples?

“You don’t understand. It’s not a joke anymore. We now officially live on the Planet Rain. It has rained here for forty days and forty nights. Forty days and forty fucking nights! Everything is different here now. It’s not the same London you left. It’s not cool Britannia anymore. Its wet, very wet and people are losing their minds.” She was serious. Her eyes were blazing brown and unwavering. She let out a very soft whimper.

“And am I looking at one of those people?” He joked.

She smiled slightly, shook her head wearily and walked away.

He sipped on his margarita and watched her walk away on platform tennis shoes that made her at least three inches taller. Her black pants were a synthetic stretch material that clung to her like skin. Her hair fountained from her head. She was a visual paradise.

He looked out across Notting Hill at where the infamous restaurant and bar, The Pharmacy, that Damien Hirst had designed, used to be. He liked that place. Now, Damien was auctioning off his own work and making millions. Who would have thought, making millions making art. “I miss The Pharmacy,” he said.

“Yeah, right,” she said sarcastically, standing across the bar from him, looking out as a sheet of wind full with rain whipped the scene. She looked at her watch and then stamped her feet. “Noah was fucking lucky! He had an ark to flee the flood. All we get is seeping in. Dampness that permeates the ether; you breathe it, you taste it, you look through it. It’s nature’s version of the Chinese water torture test.” She looked outside at the rain that pelted the windows and road and she laughed a tortured laugh.

Karreen, the South African dancer, walked up with tray in hand and smiled at him.

“She’s not boring you with her Planet Rain rant is she?” she asked, eyeing Tara suspiciously.

He nodded.

“To much E,” she mouthed. The party girls often partook in the ecstasy scene on their clubbing adventures.

“I heard that! And my extracurricular skooby snack ingestion has nothing to do with this! Look outside girl! It’s fucking raining!” She choked out a whine. “I’m going rain insane!” She turned into a limp rope her head dropping to her waist like a rag doll.

“All I want to do is cry and I can’t,” she whimpered, pulling her torso up.

“Don’t start rambling on about your theory on crying, I need two golden margaritas,” Karreen ordered.

“Make that three,” he added, wondering what ricochet she was going to pelt him with next.

“You can’t cry on Planet Rain,” she moaned, trudging through her duties of mixing the margaritas. “You can’t because there’s no tears, all the moisture is outside. We are dry. Try to cry. I have, I can’t. I’ve pricked myself with needles. No tears. There are no tears on the planet and that changes everything. No release from the hurt, the frustration, the fear. It all wells up in the dry cavern in your soul and every attempt to cry is met with the most excruciating feeling of remorse and searing pain that turns your guts cold and hard. A slow painful strangulation that tortures the essence of your being. Try to cry, I dare you. You can’t! Nobody can.” She shook the margarita shaker and the put it down on the bar softly.

Karreen lifted an eyebrow. “I think you should take a couple of aspirins and call me in the morning, honey,” she said, breaking the ice. Tara put the two margaritas on her tray just staring at her until she left. She carried the third to him.

“So when did you arrive from the land of the free and the home of the brave and the country with a black President ?” She changed gears like a Ferrari.

“About four hours ago.” He licked some salt off the rim of the glass.

“You Americans have it made don’t you, ruling the world an all? What was the weather like when you left the Big Apple?”

“Do you really want me to tell you?”

She nodded a put me out of my misery nod.

“When I left it was sixty degrees Fahrenheit and sunny,” he said, taking a large drink of the citrus ambrosia, preparing for the worse.

She chuckled in an eerie way, sounding suspiciously similar to the laugh of the driver when he mentioned the weather. Maybe everybody was going insane here he thought.

She raised her hand to the window that was now being cascaded by rain. “It’s always sunny in America,” she lamented, looking at it.

“Not always, haven’t you heard of El Nino?”

“No, I’m from Mars,” she smiled wryly.

“So how long are you here for doctor?” she asked, down shifting again.

“A week, I wish longer,” he answered, letting the margarita chill his throat.

“Stay longer in the rain? Wow, that’s a great idea. I like that. You have sixty-degree weather and sunshine to go back to! Go! Go! Are you crazy? If you aren’t now and stay around here, you will be!” She shook her head.

“Being crazy?” he paused and then continued sadly whimsical, “That sounds like a good change. Better than what’s available for me in New York. Depression, frustration, irritation not to mention disillusionment, desolation and desperation.” He stopped himself, feeling all of the above simmer in him. He remained silent, drinking his margarita. He felt embarrassed. He finished his margarita and looked up at Tara standing in front of him, staring.

“Let me warn you now, Planet Rain is not the place to come to get away from those things. It is the place you come to die from them,” she spoke softly and seriously.

“Thanks for the warning,” he said hesitantly, mulling over her words not knowing what to think. He put a ten-pound note on the bar.

“No, thank you,” Tara said, pushing the tenner back at him. “They’re on me. Your money is no good here.”

He looked at her and nodded politely taking the ten-pound note and stuffing it in his front pant’s pocket. He dug out two pounds and placed them on the bar. He stood putting his trench coat back on and raised the collar.

“Here.” She handed him a white baseball cap with, Planet Rain, emblazoned on it in fluorescent red felt pen.

“You even have your own hats,” he said, looking at the vibrant scrawl.

“It will protect you,” she said.

“You’re generosity is overwhelming,” he said, putting it on.

“I feel sorry for you, being here now in your state,” she intoned.

Her words made him feel strange and laugh a queer laugh he had never heard himself laugh before, sounding much like the eerie chortles he had recognized earlier of both the driver and Tara. Something was different here. Something was changed. He shook his head and left the bar without saying goodbye or thank you.

The day was even grimmer. It was not raining but he heard distant thunder. People hunched over fighting gusts looked like lost gnomes. He walked on, letting the wind almost take the hat and then he caught it and pushed it back on. He walked across Kensington Church Street and onward past the crumbling Russian Embassy. He walked briskly but with no purpose or place in mind just trying to rid him of the feeling.

At the Lion’s Gate at the northwest corner of Kensington Hyde Park he walked into the park pausing to look at Kensington Palace. He remembered being here when it was surrounded by an ocean size moat of flowers left by mourners for Diana. He had been in London for the entire week and had experienced the epoch of grief. The gongs of the bells of Westminster Abbey on the day of the funeral still echoed in his mind. It was strange how the whole thing had affected him even though he never considered himself a big Di fan. It was a mass mourning contagion that no one escaped. He stood remembering, looking at the palace, drinking in the damp moisture of the park. He lit another cigarette.

He walked on up the northern walkway paralleling Bayswater Road. Daffodils and rising tulips filled the grassy knolls under the mammoth trees. He reached The Fountains at the end of the Long Water of the Serpentine. It was a myriad of rising water, cresting and falling. He listened to the splashing din. The water rose from ancient urns that sprayed into a large elaborately landscaped pond. It was strangely desolate so he moved on spooked. Trudging up Buck Hill Walk across the carriage road that divided Kensington and Hyde Park. He walked with hands in pockets, head down and smoking, cig dangling from his mouth. Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere he was startled by the powerful breathing and cantering of a mountainous chestnut horse ridden English saddle by a large man who looked down at him disdainfully. He had cut them off on the bridal trail. The horse reared and made him tremble. He scurried away, his heart pounding from the surprise encounter, cigarette lost and gone. He lit another.

He paid more attention to his surroundings trying to shake the horse scare. The sky shown through with streaks of blue that were quickly covered by moving banks of gray clouds. The large lawns of Hyde Park stretched out in front of him and he could see Marble Arch, Cumberland Gate and a small gathering of people at Speakers’ Corner.

He headed for the bastion of free speech. He had never been there on a Sunday when people came to espouse their opinions, standing on upturned boxes and stepladders.

The first noticeable thing was that almost everyone was talking about religion in one form or another, the second was that because of the rain there was a real lack of tourists viewing the event and the third was that the hecklers were far more interesting than the speakers.

One heckler in particular caught his attention. A short Middle Eastern man with a broken nose that a pugilist might sport, a missing tooth and a scar that looked like a third eyebrow above and between his other two thick black mounds of hair that rose from his brow. His hair was short, black and he could not believe the word came to mind as he looked at the man’s hair; it was ‘rough’. He wore a brown suit jacket that he took off and put back on while he pontificated. His yellowing white shirt was a short sleeve button down. His pants were brown with no belt, his shoes were brown, too.

His hackneyed English boomed out over the small crowd so that everyone’s attention came to him. He was verbally devouring a Latter Day Saint boy who stood in front of a sign that read: Miracle performed at 4:OO. This amused the heckler to no end.

“Four o’clock! I want my miracle now!” He checked his watch. “It’s ten to four. Can’t you give me a miracle now? I want my miracle now!” he ranted, standing in front of the boy who retreated from the heckler’s breath. “Why not now?” he bellowed.

“Not until four o clock” the boy said, pointing at the sign.

“Wait a minute? You’re an American. A red, white and blue blood,” he twanged.

“Where from boy?” he cross-examined.

“Minnesota,” the boy answered nervously.

“Minnesota? The land of a million lakes, huh?” he sniggered, “And you call yourself a Christian. What kind? Aren’t there about a million different types of Christians in the U-S-A?”

The defenseless boy nodded patiently.

The man pushed himself closer, seeming to grow in size versus the boy. He fanned his body odor, making the poster boy step back again. The man knew why the boy was stepping away and attacked the impropriety. “Don’t you like my smell boy? What do you think Jesus Christ smelled like after spending time in the dessert slumming from town to town? What do you think boy? You think he smelt like bloody Fairy liquid? How can a boy from a state with a million lakes know what a dessert god is like? He wasn’t white like you boy. He was like me, ugly, scarred and smelly. I’m from Jerusalem, all-American boy and Jesus Christ wasn’t from America. Your American Jesus Christ does not exist. The real Jesus Christ would rise from the dead if he knew you were his spokesman,” he paused and smirked, “I guess he already did that.”

The crowd was pushing up from behind feeling the tension rise. He watched mesmerized by the heckler. The man’s voice was booming but his rhythms were hypnotic. He felt a push from behind and turned, coming face to face with a blond haired, large breasted woman. “Ta, mate,” she apologized leaning even closer, listening.

He felt her tit against his arm through his coat.

“Do you understand, all American boy? Jesus was not from your land. You killed all the gods in your land when you wiped out the American Indians. You have no gods. Oh, forgive me, you Americans do have one god. Your most powerful and sacred god, money! Money is your god! And you worship it well,” he lambasted the boy.

The boy stood dumb and immobile.

The man tapped his watch a couple of times and then looked up into the sky. “Well the time is here, where is my miracle? Change some water into wine, Minnesotan. Show me your miracle.” At that instant another bright and shiny American boy stepped forward out of the crowd that had circled. He put down a small stepladder and climbed its three steps. The Middle Eastern man stood back gesturing grandly in mocking condensation.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the boy greeted the crowd.

“I’m no gentleman unless turning me into one is your idea of a miracle,” the heckler clowned.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please. We come to you because we believe in the power of prayer creates miracles. We want you to join with us in prayer,” the Latter Day Saint preached.

A guttural roar came from the heckler. Then he spat out the words: “Prayer! Prayer! Let me see here, you’re facing northwest. I guess that is where Minnesota is but I assure you there’s no god that is going to perform a miracle for a begging boy! Here,” he said, stepping forward and flipping a fifty pence coin to the boy who watched it rise above his head and hit the sidewalk below. “Well there it is ladies and gentlemen! The miracle that these boys promised. An American who doesn’t love money.” He laughed in a maniacal loud cackle that made the crowd laugh guardedly. Then he turned from the boys and looked into the crowd. Brown crazy eyes leaped from the heckler’s face. He looked at him and held his stare and then turned back to the boy and magic all descended to his prior dwarf self and walked off mumbling, “Miracle, miracle.”

As the heckler moved on looking for his next mark, the small crowd followed him leaving the boy on the ladder smiling incomprehensibly. He moved away too, the woman with the breasts had backed away from him and he watched her as she moved as quickly as the crowd would allow toward the Marble Arch roundabout. Her breasts bounced recklessly. Then he felt it, or the lack of it. He had been robbed! Pick pocketed by the big-breasted bitch.

He panicked and jumped trying get a better view of where the woman was going. He lost sight of her and then saw her hailing a cab on the roundabout. He ran in full sprint to her, losing the hat but not stopping to retrieve it. She saw him coming but a cab had stopped and she stepped in. He arrived at the roundabout seconds later and hailed a cab, too.

“Follow that cab,” he ordered and without taking a breath he asked, “Do you have a radio?”

“Sorry mate,” the cab driver looked back, “What happened?”

“That woman stole my wallet,” he said, watching the cab about two blocks ahead. The cab driver stayed steadily behind even through the countless speed bumps, quick turns and roundabouts that London has to offer. After about fifteen minutes of tailing the cab, the driver pointed out it was stopping. “She’s getting out, mate,” he said.

“Get me as close as possible,” he said. The driver brought him to about a half block away from the woman, who was fleeing to a brick apartment block. He jumped out of the cab throwing the ten-pound note he had stuffed in his pocket at Nachos to the driver.

“Watch yourself mate that’s council housing,” the cabby warned.

He ran as fast as he could seeing her turn a corner. It was raining again and he was soaked by the time he got to the corner she had rounded. She was gone. He searched the desolate brick buildings that were state financed tenements. He heard a door open and turned to the noise seeing the woman hurry through. He ran to the entryway and heard her ascending the stairs. He followed her up the stairs three steps at a time catching her on her landing unlocking and opening her door. “Stop!” he yelled, making her freeze for a second allowing him time to make it to the door and slip his foot in the threshold before she closed it. She forced the door against his foot but offered little resistance against his shoulder forced entry. He fell clumsily into the room.

“What do you want?” the woman screamed.

“You stole my wallet!” he yelled back, as what he had just seen flooded back into his mind and it stopped him in his tracks. On the floor were two rag-tag twin girls, four years old at the most with long black hair, staring at him with big brown eyes. Beside them was a mammoth castle built from thousands of credit cards. Mastercards, Visa and American Express holographic stickers glimmered in the dull light.

The woman looked, too and scolded the girls, “I told you not to play with those.”

He stood there mollified by the sight, breathing heavily from his chase.

She turned back to him screaming again, “You better get out of here before he gets here! He’ll kill you!”

“I want my wallet,” he said, wondering who ‘he’ was but surprisingly unfrightened by the threat of death, “and I’m not leaving until I get it.”

The woman growled but dug through her dress that concealed huge pockets where he noticed an array of wallets were deposited. She pulled his out. “Here, and you better leave, now,” she said in a threatening tone, again.

He was dumbfounded. He stood there still in shock, weak with wondering what he should do next, holding his wallet clumsily. He looked at the girls again, who looked at him with accusing eyes. He turned to the door and left closing it behind him. He walked down the stairs trying to make some sense of what he had just seen. He stood at the entryway door looking out at the steady rain. He was sorry he lost the hat. He put his wallet back in his pocket and took some pride in that he had recovered it. He watched as a hunched over figure hurried toward the door. He opened it and the person stepped in and he stepped out only to be stopped by a gnarly hand.

“I know who you are,” the heckler from the park spat, pulling him toward him with titan strength and unloading a spleen splitting punch to his stomach that knocked the wind out of him and made him vomit as he fell out into the muddy square. He spat blood. The rain pounded him as he lay there.

“I never want to see you around here again,” the heckler warned and slammed the door.

He lay in a fetal position, the rain now soaking him in torrents. He heard thunder and felt the nausea of his existence wrenching in his guts. He tried to cry but nothing would come. The pain tore at his temples and turned his guts cold and hard. He screamed as he felt sharp blades of excruciating pain cut through his being. Still there were no tears, no escape from the hurt. He could not cry. He lay there writhing in pain, praying for mercy on Planet Rain.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Magic Moments" by Allison Fine

He began sending her emails to the head of the program—forwarding them onwards without telling her, then once, without thinking, she caught the program director’s email address on the Cc line. Oh Christ, she thought. How many of these emails have been going to Doug? She was an adjunct professor in the neurology department and was mentoring a few of the first and second year medical students, bringing them along and hoping that this careful attention would get her at least an associate professorship, and hope against hope, full faculty member with tenure. That was further down the road, murmurs in the background, some little buzz about her gentle but firm teaching skills and her willingness to be available to hungry medical students, extending office hours, shouldering the burdens one has to shoulder in a new job in order to prove that yes, she will be a good member of the team, they need her, she is valuable, indispensable, but then Michio came into the picture. She’d never had a thing for Asian men, but this man was different. He was a poet, a novelist and guest writer in the graduate writing program. They probably should never have met but she attended a reading he gave in town and afterwards asked him to sign the book of poetry she just purchased. Hyperspace, the collection was titled and inside were terse, exciting and disturbing poems that got inside of her, nothing anecdotal here, she was certainly in no position to judge, but she felt certain that there was a wildness in the subtext beneath this man’s careful, disturbing, challenging imagery.

Her beauty was not an issue although she knew how much interest she stirred being a neurologist, a neuro-engineer, young (under forty) and gorgeous. The legs, long, the hair, deep blond, naturally kinky curls cascading and tumbling around her face, layered in the fashionable way, her deep set green eyes and the thick eyebrows—it was an image of control, power and yet she had to constantly contend with the problem of self confidence. Where were the boundaries? she asked herself. Secretly, (she’d never admit this) checking her astrology daily, she was constantly reminded that Pisces were people of deep psychic ability, capable of getting into people’s thoughts, feeling their experiences, empathetic, compassionate—well, she knew it all boiled down to being a narcissistic bitch who tended to take everything personally. Every minute feeling and emotion got blown up all out of proportion. But only in her mind! How she managed to hide this in her work, in her profession—perhaps it was a mastery of acting, or something deeper, not exactly faking it, but what? She was driven—she must accomplish the mission she had felt was hers since she declared to her clueless mother at age three that she wanted to be a doctor. Of course Mother supported this--- a doctor in the family, why not? And this gorgeous girl with the bad temper—well, let’s put that energy to use somewhere!

The bad temper. That’s what got her into trouble here.

Michio was married, his wife a lovely, quiet self-effacing Japanese girl who did all the cooking, Sarah thought, although the ‘girl’ was actually a woman of forty-two with a childlike face and tiny little teenaged sized arms and a butt like a ten year old boy, and also this child was a full professor in the Economics department, so that was simply a question of image versus reality. It started with one email she sent him—slight innocuous, but with a certain kind of flirtatious subtext and an ambitious emoticon at the close :) ? she couldn’t remember. He answered back within minutes and there began the flippancy in a flurry of emails, cascading, (tumbling almost) back and forth, like reports from two firing guns, rat-a-tat something exploding, fissures of sound and sight making colored trails and smoke clouds in the air—they were sexually masturbating in their email while talking of poetry and neurology and her career and his book tour and then his wife sent her an email and that was that.

Why are you emailing my husband and what is your motive? I don’t like it. I see the two of you emailing back and forth and this is how all this kind of thing starts. I just want you to know that we have been married twelve years and this kind of thing has occurred—I always nip it in the bud, and especially now that I have tenure and we are likely to be here for many years. Don’t email my husband again or I will get aggressive. I have already confronted him and he agrees. You see, we have a social bond that goes beyond love or sex or any of all that.

Sakura Kaku

Oh, she felt shame like a curtain choking her, she wished she had gotten married when Jack wanted her and now he was in Whitefish, Montana working at Big Mountain ski resort, managing it, actually, with someone else, but what could she do? Being a doctor and a teacher was the central focus of her life! Men are desserts, not a main course, she told all her friends. But this—what was it?

Michio agreed to meet her at a designated place off campus—the little Italian place where no one knew who they were, but the meeting lasted only long enough for two glasses of wine and then to the backseat of her Subaru Legacy—his hands so powerful, his hips and penis thrusting into her making her want, want, want and then to have, have, have. It was so lovely to possess the unattainable. She could not exclude that possibility and the danger! It all made her lovely and warm, and he was ecstatic himself.

No more emails, he told her as they hastily put clothes back into their rightful places. But she did not listen and sent emails to his campus address, which he always loved and laughed at and responded to, which made her believe in it all. I am getting away with this! Until another email from Sakura came.

I am forwarding this to Doug Carver, head of your department. If you continue to email my husband I will do more damage.

All right. Sarah stopped the emails. Although not entirely. She could resist sending Michio one last email—a story she found on some Zen blog while cruising the blog-o-sphere:

“Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku. Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received." Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"

It received no answer.

But now Doug had the whole pile of them, the emails back and forth; even the last stolen story. Michio had been forwarding her emails to Doug all along! It was a joke. She had become the object of planned ridicule. As she went back over her deleted email she wondered how many of these emails had been forwarded to Doug—she didn’t know because it was only a month in that she caught the Cc mistake. He’d probably forgotten. All the pseudo-dirty things they snapped back and forth, the stupid comments meant to be funny and when a faculty meeting came up, a tea actually at Charlie Boon’s house, Sarah could see from the faces that everyone knew—she had become a comic story. Michio had played with her. She couldn’t deny that sex with a married man meant she asked for trouble, but public humiliation was not the punishment! The days of stoning fallen women were over, weren’t they?

One cold day in October she saw his slim body encased in a leather bomber jacket scurrying along the pathway next to the library. She was walking toward him, knowing they would have to pass one another on the path. She bent down to find a small stone, something small enough not to be life threatening. As they neared one another she caught his nasty little expression, he planned to ignore her but just within a foot of his body she flung the little stone at him. It hit his shoulder and he brushed it off like a fly.

Oh fuck you! she said to him somewhere between a whisper and a shout.

He turned to smile at her. Do I know you? His quizzical look asked and drew his jacket closer to his body walking faster and faster on the pathway away from her. Even a brilliant mind and a great education could not save Sarah but she simply walked into the library and allowed the smell of old books to take her into another corner of her mind.
Gravity is an illusion, she thought, and if something as heavy as a falling stone is nothing more than the figment of mind and imagination, then surely this love thing is nothing more than twigs floating along the surface of a river and getting caught in the mud. Come winter it will all freeze over anyway and the twigs won’t even know where they came from. That their place of origin was the great tree. However, the great tree is somewhere else and the twigs—well, aren’t they dead? The murmured sound of people’s voices hardly impinged on her consciousness, the weight of books in her arm comforted the tiny strands of thought she could brush away the few times that she noticed them. But most of her time was filled with the communion between mind and book and library and moment and every kid hates to reminisce anyway.