Friday, April 12, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

Her wings are a blur - pure speed. She blasts the sunlight outward, green and red. Brilliant red. The air tastes like panic, but that's on you, not her. You don't have to worry, hero. She'll be fine without you. Just listen to her song and smile.

Warmth. Tickle of grass under your feet and sun-baked hair. You walk over kingdoms and civilizations without wondering. There is no profit in wonder. What's the point?

I wonder.

The Jay holds my secrets tight, and I am a good and noble servant. The Blue Jay wears no clothes, but I would never tell him that. 

The whole world smells like a flower shop. The cute girl working there has multiplied by the millions. She's everywhere. Don't touch her. Don't say a word. 

Just be glad it's Spring.


  1. 1.
    Evelyn’s bedroom faced the back courtyard of her family’s house in Brooklyn; she had a window seat where she read and wrote and daydreamed. It was above the kitchen, and often she sat there after dinner, accompanied by the clink of dishes, the running water, the Irish songs Mary their housekeeper sang while she worked. One night, when her parents went to the theatre, Evelyn pouted up in her room. She considered fourteen plenty old enough to be allowed to go with them, but she was sort of glad they hadn’t invited her. The idea of all those people admiring each other’s fancy clothes when so many were out of work and didn’t have enough to eat…well, it just made her sick. So as she sat in her window seat writing her own play, one where people were treated fairly and made good in the end, she sensed movement in her peripheral vision, a shadow crossing the yard. The shadow looked like a man, and he tapped softly on the back door.

    “Hush now, you’ll wake the neighborhood,” Mary said. She opened the door and pushed a covered basket toward the man. He grabbed it on one hand and Mary in the other. “Bless you, my darling,” he said, and then he was gone.

    It wasn’t until the second night that she realized Mary was giving the man their leftovers. But this time, after the man departed, Evelyn padded downstairs and came face to face with Mary, who blushed as red as her hair. “Miss,” she said, pulling her sweater tighter around her slight figure. “Is there something you need, miss?”

    “I saw the man.”

    Mary drew a hand to her own mouth and began to fumble out excuses, apologies. Entreaties not to tell her parents, because she needed this job so very badly.

    “It’s all right,” Evelyn said. “In fact, I think what you’re doing is a fine thing. I wish we would do more to help. I don’t think my parents are of the same mind, but I am. I’ll keep this between us.”

    Mary’s shoulders seemed to sink a foot in relief.

    “Can I help?” Evelyn said.

    Mary told her about her church. The collections they took up, the food they distributed to the needy, those poor souls who’d lost their homes and slept where they could. “We are always in need,” she said. “Food. Clothing. Personal items, and the like. I would never ask this of you and yours, but I could hardly stop you if you found it in your heart to share.”

  2. 2.
    Evelyn took off her pearl bracelet and handed it to Mary, who blushed even redder than before.

    “Oh. Oh, I couldn’t possibly. That was a gift from your grandmother.”

    Evelyn had a feeling her bubbe would heartily approve. She missed her terribly, in that moment. Her grandmother was a generous woman with a bright smile and a wonderful laugh. If you said you liked her scarf or her ear bobs, she would very likely take them off and hand them to you. She raised money with the Hadassah ladies to send to Palestine. Surely one bracelet would not matter. If her mother noticed, Evelyn could say she lost it. She was forever losing things.

    “I have a feeling she would like you to have it. To do with as you see best.”

    “Bless you, miss,” Mary said.

    Her parents never noticed her bracelet missing. Or the other things she did. She gave her lunches to classmates; sometimes she would leave them on one of the benches in the park near her school, or in the poorer parts of her neighborhood on the way home. She “lost” more of her jewelry. Pieces she would never miss.

    And she wrote. The newspaper sometimes published letters about what should be done to put people back to work and help those in need. She added her voice to them, using a false name. Several of her letters had been published. She thought all was well until one day her father asked to speak with her.

    He was an imposing man, thick and tall, and he hunched forward like the bad guys in the Looney Tunes cartoons. Sometimes it made him look kind of sad, a gentle giant aimlessly wandering…but other times…well. She was happy that the few times she’d seen him very angry that he hadn’t been angry at her.

    He’d just come home from his office. His shirt wrinkled and his hat in his hand and the newspaper under his arm, his driver dismissed for the night, sliding off along the dark, rain-damp street.

    “We have to have a little talk, you and me.” He waved the newspaper at her. Evelyn blushed, feeling wobbly in the ankles. But he didn’t look especially angry. Just kind of tired. Oh, no. She never used her real name in the articles. Papa didn’t read her stories or her schoolwork. How would he be able to tell…

  3. 3.
    “Your mother says you’ve been giving your lunches away.”

    Evelyn had no answer for him. Had Mama seen her? Had someone told on her? She wouldn’t put it past some of those snooty girls in her school, especially that horrid Barbara Wasserman.

    Apparently Evelyn’s face gave her away. She reminded her face who was in charge.

    “She makes those lunches special for you. Don’t be giving them away, Evvie.”

    “But Papa…it’s not right. It’s not fair!”

    “Life ain’t fair, sunshine.” He sat down on the couch with a flumph. She hated how he always said that.

    “But if we can do something about it, why not…?”

    “You don’t think I give? You don’t think my business gives? Never take it for granted, the good things you have. We’re all right, not as good as we were, not as bad as some, but we’ve got. Some don’t. I know. You see the people with no work, on line for a meal. Who do you think pays for those meals they give out? Who do you think is taking some of those poor schlubs, those men with children at home younger than you, taking them off the street and giving them good honest work?”

    She looked up at him.

    “Yeah. Yeah. I do. We take care of our own. So you don’t have to sacrifice. You eat your lunch and be grateful. Okay?”

    She nodded. “Okay,” she said softly.

    “Now go do your schoolwork. Mama will call you when dinner’s ready. Which I assume you’re hungry for since you went without lunch.”

    She swallowed, mumbling, “Thank you, Papa,” and started to turn away.

    “Evvie?” His voice was soft but had an edge that tightened her stomach.

    “Yes, Papa?”

    “Where’s your grandmother’s bracelet?”

    Her lower lip began to quiver. He reached into his pocket and pulled it out. She stepped closer. She was about to mumble an apology, that she only gave it to Mary because of the poor people, and why did she need something so extravagant—

    “Don’t worry,” he said. “We won’t be seeing Mary around here anymore.”

    Evelyn’s mouth rounded.

    “I’m a tolerant man,” he said. “But I won’t tolerate thieves in my house.” He shook his head, smiling a flat smile of triumph. “She and her sweetheart were running a regular racket. She’d sneak whatever she could grub out to him, and he’d go pawn it and spend it at the track. Don’t think I don’t know what goes on around here.”

    Evelyn was frozen to the spot. Her father’s face softened. “Yeah. You liked her. But as I said. Life ain’t fair. If it were fair, I’d have turned her in to the cops. A fine thing. We give her a good wage and bring her into our home, and she steals not just your bracelet but your mother’s diamond engagement ring! What kind of a schlemiel do you have to be to try to pawn a ring like that? Engraved on the inside with our names.” He snorted. “Oh, it’s good I got friends all over. Guy who owns the shop called me right away. Not a brain in his head.”

    Her mother’s ring? Evelyn wouldn’t have dared to give Mary that. So…she was truly stealing? And those baskets she pushed out the back door. Evelyn felt awfully stupid. “I didn’t know. Papa, I had no idea…”

    “Don’t worry yourself, princess.” He stood and planted a light kiss on the top of her head before heading over to the cart in the corner of the living room to fix himself a scotch. “There was no way you could have known. Right?”

  4. Oy. I didn't realize it was so long.

    1. It wasn't long at all. I was right there with it, the whole time. Excellent!

    2. Yeah, every word. And I loved the ambiguity of it all, how we so want to side with the girl, but the cruel realities of the world slowly intrude. Or do they? Again, this could be expanded into something way bigger and so profound.

    3. Riveted. I loved the twist because the world is never what we seem to think it is. And it's eye-opening when we learn that at a young age.

  5. Here beneath the Target sign, by some nameless roadside, I want to tell you something, whisper it even.

    Cue faraway hillside banjo.

    This child now, this sparrow hawk. Quietly edging past the darkest of holy hours, suspended in dwarfland, tens of millions cowed and streaming SoCal dreams, old strings droning like worlds of doom, pale bronze things draped nude as headlines, the hidden corners articulated, the lost so close to being found. This is now.

    Drop into a mandolin pizzicato.

    I went for a ten-dollar haircut at the ramshackle mall. Felt like being sheared. Now I run my fingers up through tiny spines against the grain. Scratch my itch with a loose grip then wish you’d kiss me there. You contrary winsome fucking bitch.

    Arpeggiate this, motherfucker.

    Ahead of low skies, a cellist sweeps her sorrow like the last signifier after a flood, a flare of rainbow. Will you hear that? Are you friendly, are you kin? Does this tide recede beyond the rocks? Expectant, we are here now. Reading a book and lost in a wood. Waiting for something. Drop your instinctive pretense and stop, then listen.

    Verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus outro.

    Silent night. Some melody. That Indiana sawgrass. Those amphibian eyes. Miss Sarajevo. The first Noël. Adagios. Requiems for all. Dig deep, my sister, my glorious friend, make this a worthy jaunt, our celebratory hands clasped like prayer flags first held aloft then whipped by leeward gales.

    “Look to windward.” All gathered and ready.

    A fjord song, echoing past the headwaters, into the wailing abysm.

    O please. Not now. Let me hear their harrowing song. So defenseless. Divested of everything. My heart. My queer, derelict, tumbledown heart, don’t quit on me now. Don’t you dare fucking protect me.

    1. I love the rhythm of this. And the words, of course!

    2. I wasn't happy with it at first, but I kept at it, tweaking and editing and all that fun stuff, and the version I'll upload to my blog is better, I think (I hope)! Sometimes I try to reproduce the cascading tumbles of words I hear in my head more as music than language, and it's not always an easy thing to do.

      Thank you, both, for reading and commenting. :)

  6. And some love for the opening story. "The air tastes like panic." Great line. Poor naked blue jay.

    1. Yeah, I couldn't see a place to comment on Dan's piece. But here is good.

      I was going to pick out the same line, but instead I'll say how much I loved its lurch into the surreal at the end: "The cute girl working there has multiplied by the millions. She's everywhere. Don't touch her. Don't say a word."

    2. There were many lovely lines in this one but what struck me overall was how happy it made me. The smiles while I read it were genuine yo.

  7. Thou shalt not suffer a witch, they’d all said,
    Their eyes never meeting with hers,
    Each afraid of her gaze.

    You should be so ashamed, another added,
    Spastic hands crossing at his chest,
    Not caring that she saw.

    There was not one there who would raise their voice.
    Just a low muttering of dissent,
    Darkly directed and vague.

    Not even the other women who watched,
    Seeing for themselves the price paid.
    Casual complicity.

    It was then they brought out the witching hood.
    A sack doubled up on itself,
    Made rancid with their piss.

    It smelled of disgust, tainted with their fear;
    The fear which they'd owned and passed on.
    They’d gifted her with that.

    Inside the hood, her breath caught at her chest,
    The wetness dripping down her throat,
    A soft calming caress.

    A score of rough hands took her, raising her.
    Binding her about, making her fast.
    All uncaring and brutish.

    And then everything stilled to one moment.
    A single scratch, a subtle crack,
    Then a rising of heat.

    1. Harrowing and brutal. I love how you refuse to let us look away from the reality of mob injustice.

    2. Yikes! Yeah, compelling and scary.

  8. Part One:

    It had been almost two hours that she’d been trying to walk it off. It wasn’t her first break up so ultimately she knew she could handle it. It was just how Carla had cut her loose that was intolerable. Like the last six months didn’t mean jack. Like she hadn’t brought her to new heights. Olivia Bekker knew how to please a woman. She’d known since she was fourteen years old and that was even before she starting taking pointers from that playa Daryl.

    She and Daryl had been kicking it since high school. Daryl had the looks and groove. He knew women inside and out. Olivia had started modeling herself after him. The way he dressed. The way he cut his hair. He saw how she copied him and in no way found the admiration off putting. He was flattered. He’d help Olivia feel less awkward about being a man in a woman’s body. He’d made her see she could be sexy even if she was faking the equipment.

    So when she’d seen Carla and her startling cleavage leaning over the pool table in Brooklyn Tavern and their eyes met, she was cool. Olivia had given her the briefest hint of a smile. Then after their third game and their seventh screwdriver when she gently pulled on Carla’s braids, put her mouth to her ear and told her how she could rock her world that was all that needed to be said. Olivia let her tongue and her fingers do the rest of the talking. And Carla took it in. Soaked it up. All of it. Smiling and sighing, like she’d been starving for it. But then yesterday at the card table they used to dine at, Carla had abruptly flipped the switch.

    “I want to fuck men again.”

    That’s what she’d said. That’s actually how she started the conversation over Rice Krispies like it was nothing.

    Olivia didn’t know what to say so she wound up saying the first thing that came out of her mouth.

    “What about me?”

    “Oh, you’ll be all right Livie.”

    She hated that nickname. She preferred Becks. That’s what Daryl and Julie called her. But they were her best friends. She’d figured Carla had special privileges since they were laying up against each other every night.

    “Look we were never gonna get married or anything, but it was fun, wasn’t it?”

    Carla reached across the table letting her fingers flutter like some bizarre variation of dance hands reaching for Olivia’s.

  9. Part Two:

    Becks dropped her spoon into the bowl with a clatter. She deliberately pulled both her hands away placing them on her thighs. Gripping herself under the table she felt the rage bubble to the surface. Pursing her lips and clenching her teeth she trembled slightly with the effort to keep it inside. The torrent of words, if she let them go, would engulf them both and that would really be the end of them, wouldn’t it? There was still a chance this was just a stupid test of some kind.

    Carla had the nerve to look hurt. Pouting she pulled her hands back to her side of the table and took a languid sip from her coffee mug. Then shaking her head dismissively she was brave enough to say, “I don’t know why you look so surprised Livie. You always knew I was fucking straight.“

    Becks got up swiftly in one motion with the power of her legs shoving the rickety metal chair that went with the rickety metal table back three feet across the room. For the first time Carla looked startled but she didn’t look afraid sitting there in her short kimono robe and little else. She looked… Becks tried to put her finger on it. Shit. She actually looked turned on.

    That’s when the anger fizzled out of Becks like borrowed gas from a birthday balloon. It just dissipated into a swampy muddle deep in her gut. When she did finally speak her words were clear but her voice came out hoarse, cracked, and messy.

    “So what was I to you, then Carla? A starter boyfriend?”

    Carla cocked an eyebrow.

    “You always have a way with the words Livie. Starter boyfriend." She said it nodding her head and smiling, savoring the phrase. "That’s certainly one cold ass way of putting it.”

    For Becks living it was the worse part. It wasn’t the first time. It always started the same way. Hot. Way hot. Then there’d be the talking and sharing and more talking until she felt talked out. Nobody was that interesting, especially not her. Her life was mostly sad because of how boring the trip was. But she’d still get comfortable, hoping against all the odds that this was the one. The one that would take it the rest of the way and make the journey for Becks mean something. Make it a worthy passage to somewhere. That would be dope. If that’s the way it ever happened.

    Becks picked up her cereal and dumped it in the kitchen sink. She took one last look at Carla who was still valiantly pretending that there was nothing to be upset about.

    “This may be a shithole but it’s still mine. I pay the rent. I’m leaving now, Becks said. “I’ll be back this afternoon. Don’t be here.”

    She left without another word. That’s how the long walk to nowhere started and who the fuck knew how it would end.

    1. Sometimes I wonder why we have genre labels. Human relationships can be tragedies and comedies. Dramas too. But also they can be horror stories. Brava for this, Lily.

    2. This is so achingly wonderful. I want to know more. Thank you.

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