Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.
She was waiting in my office when I got there, and I don't leave the door unlocked. Never. Tricks of the trade and all that. I wasn’t worried about it; the lock could be picked by a third-grader with a bobby pin. In fact, I was impressed. It didn’t hurt that she looked like Marilyn with black hair and the kind of body that altered gravitational fields. She was magnetically charged. So was I. I started wondering whether we would attract or repel. Her red dress revealed much.
“Mr. Saunders. I’m sorry I had to … let myself in. I can’t be seen here. Anywhere really. That’s why I’m here.”
“Somebody’s looking for you?”
“Ma’am, I’m gonna stop you right there. I don’t mess with the blues, and they leave me alone. I don’t…”
“It’s a frame up.”
That’s usually a guarantee of guilt right there, but her eyelashes were practically tickling my chin, so I bit.
“Who framed you?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are they saying you did?”
“And you didn’t.”
“Of course not.”
She smiled. Didn’t look a bit offended. That set off all the red, blinking lights and whistles, but I was still enjoying the way she smelled – like cigarettes, butterscotch, and perfume people like me can’t afford. She was dressed to the nines, too. Her fur could have covered the rent on my office for half a year.
I reached into the desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of scotch.
So, I made the fucking drinks. I even lit her a cigarette. Ain’t I a goddamn prince?
“Do you believe me?”
“That doesn’t really matter.”
“I’ll pay whatever you ask.”
She said it in a way that meant maybe more than greenbacks, and I wasn’t sure if I was happy, angry, or tired. I yawned. Adjusted my pants.
“Would you tell me if you did do it?”
I put my worn boots on the table and lit a cigarette. I took a deep drag and let the smoke envelope my face. Even through the smoke, she looked like a goddess. You gotta worry about all of them, but especially the pretty ones. The prettier dames are, the worse off you are. Cinch.
“So, what do you want me to do? Start poking around?”
She smiled bayonets.
“No, Mr. Saunders; I want you to kill my husband.”
A sip of scotch got caught sideways in my throat. I coughed for a good thirty seconds, but she didn’t move a muscle.
“Listen, lady. You are very, very pretty. You also seem crazy and misinformed. I’m not a hired killer. I’m a detective.”
“Everybody has a price.”
She passed me an envelope, and I took it. I expected it to be fat with cash. No such luck. Maybe just an offensively large check, then? But no. It was a polaroid picture. A picture. Of me. A picture of me that would put me back in prison for the rest of my life. I thought I’d destroyed all the evidence. The picture was like a punch to the solar plexus. My hands were shaking as I filled my glass and watered the table with cheap liquor.
“Where did you get that?”
“I guess not.”
She pulled out another envelope. This one was as thick as a Presbyterian’s skull. I looked inside. Enough money to buy my way out of the game. I extended my palms. She stood up and walked slowly around the desk, making sure I was watching every little hip twitch.
“Can I ask why you want your husband dead?”
“Sure, doll. I’m tired of him, but divorce is so unseemly.”
I was about to tell her to take a leap, but then I looked at the picture. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, but it looked plenty bad, and I had no convenient explanation. She sat down on my lap and looked into my eyes. She ran one manicured finger along my jaw. The jaw I hadn’t shaved for weeks.
“So, what do you think?”
“I think it’s time to make a terrible decision. Or a few.”
I took her on the desk. She was calling the shots, though. I was just too scared to do anything about it. And, well, she wasn’t ugly – it wasn’t a chore is what I’m saying. And there was a good chance I wouldn’t be seeing any women for a long, long time. No matter how it played out. Only thing I knew was that I was not calling any shots. On the desk or anywhere else.
When we finished and got decent, I grabbed my hat and overcoat and slipped a flask of scotch into my pocket. She freshened her lipstick and wrapped silk around her head. Big sunglasses. No point putting it off. I dragged a hand down my face and tried to look ready. It didn’t work.
#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...
Gawd, I love when you write noir... I can see the ceiling fan that you didn't even mention, and the file cabinets... and his unshaven face. You could go places with this one, boss.ReplyDelete
Love, love it! The noir is so good. Ditto what Leland said, too. This one has legs til next Tuesday.Delete
Even in a city as large as New York, it was inevitable, but you are unprepared when it happens.ReplyDelete
It’s the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. You are there alone, nursing a paper cup of hot chocolate, and tasting the cardboard more than the liquid it contains. Warm chocolate. Does it even have any milk in it?
You look up, as the crowd gets quiet, waiting for the switch to be thrown, and you see him.
He looks like you. Like the you of two decades ago. When you had hair, when you had some shard of innocence. When you fell in love with the City for the first time.
They say everyone has a double, but you know his story, without even talking to him. You remember. Her name was Trish.
You remember more. You remember that even though you knew you were gay, you felt an instant connection with her. A sort of North meets South magnetism. You laughed together a lot that night.
She knew you were gay, too.
She didn’t care.
She invited you back to her apartment. Her tiny, no-bedroom apartment. You told jokes to each other at first. Then poetry. When you both confessed you knew all of Romeo and Juliet by heart, she brought out the champagne.
“Always have a bottle chilling, in case there’s something to celebrate,” she said. “And there’s always something to celebrate.”
You fell into the sofa sleeper together. She removed your clothes, you removed hers. There was nothing sensual in the act. It was a friend helping a friend when he’s had too much to drink.
But when the lights went out. When only the headlights on the street below lit the ceiling. When her hand rested on your chest. When she whispered, “Have you ever…with a woman, I mean…”
And you answered no. And you’d never be able to answer no again.
In the morning, she made breakfast. You laughed together. You promised to replace the bottle of champagne.
You never spoke again. You had the champagne delivered. In the City, you can have almost anything delivered, if you’ve got the cash.
You never imagined. Never in a million years.
He looks across the crowd, and you see his eyes stop on you. He starts to walk your direction, his curiosity showing on his face.
You turn away from him and run to the street.
An early Christmas miracle brings a cab to a stop in front of you, and you get in. As it drives away, you look out the back window, and you see him waving. Both hands, as if to try to stop you.
When you get to the hotel, you order up champagne. And when it is delivered by a bellboy who is thirty years younger than you, you find yourself weeping uncontrollably and you tip him too much. He asks if you are okay, and all you can do is nod.
You pop the cork, you forego the glass, and you drink from the bottle. You raise the chilled bottle to the city outside your window, and to all the mysteries, all the untold stories, that its dirty streets contain.
Bleak and brilliant. I love this. And I've had that experience in real life (saw a kid who looked exactly like a younger me at a show) - then it made sense that all these kids kept calling me Steve. ;)Delete
Thank you kindly, Steve.Delete
I love this, the pulse of it, the emotion. Thank you.Delete
I was young when I became interested in boys. I thought they were swell.ReplyDelete
My first boyfriend happened to be Larry. He was older but still in the fifth grade like me. We would press lips together on the playground at recess time any chance we got. That lasted a week. I was over him quickly.
There were many crushes after that. Nothing serious. I fell in love (some might call it lust) but it was fleeting. Gone with a breath. This went on until the summer before middle school. That’s when the magic happened. I was obsessed with a much older boy who would end up taking my virginity from me. He was a John Stamos look-a-like. That’s another story. He was my first serous crush. In the mean time I was destine to have my first make-out session with a friend who thought I was cute under the influence of Jack Daniels. We drank and I kissed him for an hour until the porcelain gods called my name. Not one of my finer moments but I managed to kill the bottle and a friendship in one night.
My best friend instigated many of my hookups. Always with a disapproving tone but she still worked her magic to make sure I was working on the next Mr. Right. My next victim was her brother. He was a terrible kisser and very handsy. Five minutes with him and he wanted my shirt off. I was not about to let that happen so I broke it off. I was not popular after that. And my best friend didn’t talk to me for a week.
Next came her cousin. He had a car so I was totally in love. A boy with a car was a desirable quality. I hooked up with him. He drove us around town on Friday nights but he had bad breath. That was the first problem. I refused to kiss him. He didn’t like that. The second problem was I was totally in love with his younger brother. Needless to say he broke it off and there went our car. I hooked up with the brother. We snuck around but we got tired of each other and moved on.
After that I was a free spirit I went to middle school and had fun. There were many crushes to be had. Not really a lot of kissing going on but I was ok with that. I liked a lot of boys. If they liked me I didn’t know about it. But then when I was about to go to high school, things really started happening. It was the summer before high school and my best friends other cousin, (the John Stamos look-a-like) started paying attention to me. He had a girlfriend but he knew I was in love with him. He flirted and I flirted. We would meet in the hallway way of my girlfriend’s house and kiss. One night I was out at a neighbor’s house and we were doing some underage drinking (yes, I did that too) he invited me to his car. I went thinking we were going to kiss and drink. Nope he took me in the front seat of the car. I had no idea what I was doing. He did though. I can’t say I was expecting marriage but I liked the attention.
I was never really in a relationship until after high school. Oh, there was those (lustful) encounters that last for a week but isn’t that what high school is about? My first serious relationship was with a much older man. He had commitment issues and I didn’t. We were together for about a year. It was great sex but I was young with daddy issues. The thing was is he was interested in living with me but he enjoyed the company of others. I put up with it for a time but then I started to have my own flings. We were toxic together and I began to see that. One night I met my “the jackass” to be and that was the end of that relationship. We parted ways and he was devastated.
I got married six months later and popped out a couple of kids. This was my life for about 15 years. Then one day “the jackass” decided that we were not happy and left. He was gone for nine months. I was devastated this time. I truly loved him. But life is life and I plugged along. Eventually I was ok with what was going on and he came back. That lasted about two years and then I found him in bed with the cow. Well that changed things for me.
Agree with Leland. This is a cool reflective piece. I really dig this line, wise in its simplicity: Not one of my finer moments but I managed to kill the bottle and a friendship in one night.Delete
Thank you. This is the continuation of a story I posted a few weeks ago.Delete
Well, that went in a direction I didn’t expect. Fascinating.ReplyDelete
She liked to see herself disappear, watch the traces she'd left behind her fading away. She’d always thought of herself as being impermanent. A pebble on a beach; one of a million more which could be forgotten, her influence on the future negligible beyond being a footnote on a page in a book no-one would read. She saw that as being her freedom, the knowledge she could do anything and it not matter a whit to anyone else, whether they be living, dead or presently unborn to this world.ReplyDelete
This freedom came with a price. She’d often watched others experiencing their lives, living flamboyantly and without thought. They took and they took and they took, spewing and erupting into the world. They bought properties and cars and went out into the city, spending money and engaging in relationships with one another. They lived noisily and in colour, cross-pollinating their own lives with others’, diluting themselves as they did. Eventually, there’d be nothing left of their original selves, their spirits dispersed into the atmosphere like smoke, subtly influencing others but forever being lost to themselves.
That was not how it would be for her. She would be the ghost nobody saw. An unseen wrath, content with being pure to herself, taking little and leaving nothing behind. She would be like dark matter, an exclusion of light in a world where everyone else blazed. She would be the calm before everybody else’s storms.
An eye that saw all.
Oh, love it. And that last line. And this: They lived noisily and in colour, cross-pollinating their own lives with others’, diluting themselves as they did.Delete
The first flarings took out the blasphemers, their ‘Righteous’ bracelets taking off their right hands. The Church had been active until then, issuing us warnings for months, warning us all of God’s might and emphasising the cautions the Lord had given us. The resulting micro-explosions were small, but still powerful enough to harm anyone close by, making it dangerous to share a space with anyone harbouring heretical thoughts.ReplyDelete
The Pastors called it a cleansing; an essential action they used to help us concentrate on the sanctity of the race. People became more guarded after that, congregation numbers rising each week once it became known the Primary’s decrees would be announced, new moral offences sometimes being added daily while the legislation was being corrected. It became simple to enforce too, there being no need for appeals; ignorance being no defence for any malcontents railing against The Lord’s Method.
It wasn’t easy, of course. There was some resistance to the bracelets at the beginning. It became necessary to provide incentives for wearing them. Many local chapels gave special awards to the members achieving the most conversions each month, the most successful ones getting featured on the Church’s television channels at prime time. It was a heady time then, when everyone was competing, some folks tagging ‘reluctants’ while they slept. We all knew it wouldn’t last, but it became ‘the thing’ for a while; the ‘an empty wrist is a Godless wrist’ promotions running countrywide, the Church’s tally-men everywhere, people everywhere going crazy with their enthusiasm to serve the Lord. That was before the culls began and us learning of the microphones hidden in the bracelets.
But it was too late for us then.
The Congregation was everywhere.
Listening to every word everyone was saying.
I suppose it’ll be illegal one day, but until then they’re just property.ReplyDelete
Robots, I mean.
The Government was inclined to view it as folks letting off steam. Beating a droid. What’s the harm in that? It’s not as though they’re not paying for them to be replaced or repaired. Of course, it’d be different if it was someone else’s droid. That’d be criminal damage, no doubt about that. But I guess ministers are getting twitchy about the androids folk are getting now – the humaniform replicas. Especially the ones made to look like real people. They cost a pretty penny - it breaks my heart when one of those comes in needing a refit.
It’s a growing trend, they reckon. Folks used to do it in private. Buy one, get it delivered after dark, hide it in the basement. Set to it like it was a real woman. It was mostly men in those days, being a big-ticket item and men being as they are. A bit of rough and tumble and no guilt: what’s the problem with that? It’s just them letting off steam and making the world little safer while they’re doing it. Damping down their flames, so they can act nice when they mix with normal folk. It’s an expensive prescription, but it seems to work for what ails most of them.
Of course, there’s always problems; that’s the way of things. The imports of Celebrity Droids - that was what caused the first alarms. Not the thoughts of what folk were doing to them in the beginning – adolescent boys have done that for decades – but the other cases. The ones that began to raise those folks’ perfectly-trimmed eyebrows over in Hollywood. And then in Manhattan and in New York and finally in Washington. It got out that there’d been a black-market catering for other requests – replicas of spouses, for example, created for folks with marital problems. Once again, it was just folk doing what they needed to do – scratching an itch that was bothering them. Relieving the pressure before it got too much for them and took out an innocent. Or a bank clerk, or a celebrity, or the wife of a minister. We get replicas of all sorts coming in now, many a little beaten and bruised.
But a Mandroid who’s been set alight?
Now this, I have to report.
Fascinating. Poor humans, we're so flawed.Delete
Ten fingers, ten toes. It’s all Jeff ever wanted. Early on he and Marta had their separate and shared expectations, but after a sleepless night of labor and encouragement which ended in a whiplash decision to do an emergency C section, their perfect daughter—their daughter!—dozed in recovery, with Marta in another room, all stitched up and doing the same.ReplyDelete
He could have stood at that window for the rest of the day, despite his fatigue, despite the ache in his feet and back, watching that pink squirmy bundle, the red hair of the McNeil’s already curling atop her head. Then he felt a hand hover and then light on his arm. As if afraid to touch him.
Marta’s mother. “Jeff. Let’s you and me get a coffee, all right?”
Lillian’s too-sweet tone raked his nerve endings, for the bitterness he knew lay beneath. It was clear to him the first day they met that she didn’t like him. Never thought a lowly truck driver was good enough for Marta. But perhaps now with the baby they’d yet to formally name, that could change. She’d finally understand that Jeff was all in, would never do anything to hurt his family. He’d put in for the shorter runs now, so he’d be home more, and if it came to it, he’d look for a new job.
He followed her to the cafeteria and got them settled at a table. Milk and sugar were added, bagels smeared with cream cheese and jelly, neither of them speaking except for the discomfiting combination of Lillian’s false smile and the worry lines between her pale brown eyes. Her gaze followed the movement of his hands as if measuring the calorie count of his breakfast.
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Jeff said quickly.
His hope for a diversion only lasted a few seconds. “Yes…indeed she is.” Her gaze settled somewhere behind Jeff’s right shoulder, then dropped to her coffee. “Maybe… Maybe this would be a good opportunity for you to look toward the future.”
Yeah, he thought. Here we go. “I can provide for us just fine,” he said. “And if we need more, I can look for other ways—”
“I didn’t mean…” Her voice came out breathy, flustered. A flush rose to her painted cheeks. “I meant…your health. Maybe it’s time to think about one of those programs…they worked so well for Oprah…”
He bit into the bagel so he wouldn’t blast her with the first words that came into his mind.
“I’m just thinking about that little girl,” Lillian said. “How heart-wrenching it would be for her. To go through the milestones of her life without her father…”
“I’m fine,” he growled.
Her head jerked back, as if she thought he’d strike her. Jeff took a couple of deep breaths so he could keep a civil tongue. “I’ve got it covered, Lillian. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“I’m only thinking about her. Whatever you decide to name her.” She took a ladylike bite, set down her bagel, wiped her hands. Then sat a little straighter and said. “Have you ever thought about going back to college, Jeff? Finishing your degree? It would give you more options, and maybe make it a little easier for you to—you know—look after your health. So you won’t have to settle for whatever’s in those truck stops.”
One, two, three… He forced a smile. “You know, Lillian, it’s been a long night. Maybe you’d like to go back to the hotel and get some rest. I’ll call you when Marta’s awake.”
Her lips pursed. Message received. “You do that.” She returned his smile, even tighter. On her way out she snatched up her bagel and coffee, dumped them in the trash, then wiped her hands as if she’d been touching filth.
Jeff sat a while, finished his coffee, chewing on her words. But then the memory of his daughter, seeing her for the first time, chased everything else away, and he headed back to the maternity ward to check on his girls. Marta and… Caroline. He was starting to love the sound of the name Marta had added to their list. That Lillian had turned her nose up at it was just a bonus.
Again, you paint such incredible characters with so few words, with such subtle actions. Beautiful.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
True story. I fell in love with him before I ever saw his face. It was in a bar, and he was standing, waiting for his beer. His wide shoulders. His tight waist. And, well, other points of interest.ReplyDelete
I knew he’d have blue eyes. Not dark blue, but light blue, like a Kansas sky in summer. Which, it turned out, he did, I found out when he turned around. And it turned out he was from Kansas, when I finally got the nerve to introduce myself.
He was home on leave. Of course he was. Only Marines have asses that perfect. It wasn’t a gay bar, or I might have been brave enough to suggest a kiss. Might have. But something in his smile, in his direct stares at me. Not just in my eyes, but up and down. Something gave me the courage to just go on talking and smiling back.
I bought the next round of beers, and we went out to the patio. Weeknight, so it was quiet out there. Might have been because it was fucking winter, too. But neither of us noticed. He liked to read. Westerns, of all things. We argued over Zane Grey vs. Louis L’Amour. Both of us laughed at Brokeback Mountain, nobody called people who tended sheep cowboys; they were shepherds. Could only have been written by a woman from back east who’d never met a cowboy.
And then he looked at me and said, “But the sex scenes were hot.”
And my mouth went dry. I croaked out, “Yeah, they were.”
He made sure we were still alone on the patio, and then he kissed me, and I didn’t close my eyes, and neither did he.
“I go back to California tomorrow, and then I deploy,” he said while I tried to remember how to breathe. “Feel like giving a proper send off to a boy in uniform?”
I nodded. And he took my hand, and we didn’t care that we were in Kansas, or about the stares we got as we walked out the door.
We ran through the parking lot. I let him lead the way to a battered old truck, and he held the door for me, ran around the front and got in, too. Starting the engine.
“It takes a while for her to warm up.”
More time than it took for either of us to warm up, it turned out, and we played anatomy by Braille until the defroster finally cleared the windows.
His hands found their way to the steering wheel, and we drove off into the darkness.
“I want to take you somewhere.”
I looked at him in the dimness of dashlights. “Where?”
“It doesn’t have a name. It’s just a place that’s important to me.”
“I’m good.” But was I?
He put his hand on my knee. “I swear, I’m not going to kill you.”
If you can’t believe a Marine, who can you believe?
I watched the power poles whiz by through my window. The headlights illuminated them and then poof, into darkness they returned as we drove by.
There were snowdrifts at the side of the road. Dirty, but still there were sparkles.
“How far is this place?”
“We’re almost there.” He took his hand off my leg to downshift. A hard right. Gravel road. Over a hill. He slowed, and then stopped.
“Come on.” He got out, and I did too.
We walked across the road, and he pointed. “See that? That’s mine. 80 acres of virgin prairie. Creek running through it. That’s why those cottonwoods grow there.”
I saw his breath turn into fog. I saw his eyes light up as he described it all. Where he was going to build a house, the barn, a corral.
“It’s beautiful, especially now, all covered in snow,” I said as I felt his arm around me.
“But I don’t want to do it all alone. I need someone I can trust to help me. Would you…”
His lips were impossibly full and I answered with a kiss.
And then we went back to the truck, and we made more work for the defroster.
That was twenty-seven years ago. He came back from the war, a couple of times. In between, we built a tiny ranch, and I spent a lot of time waiting for him to come home.
And he still looks mighty fine in jeans.
Awww... This is beautiful. I was with you every step, every breath. Now you made me want to go look up Annie Proulx.Delete