Daub of hope for your morning, sir? Spot of optimism? Here, let me rest this feathered lightness on your cheek. The storm is coming, and you must remember. Underneath the skin, wires run. Slick, refractive reverie. You are inches from oblivion, and you have no metrics – your head is a bloviated side-prank. Your ornaments hang off you like cheap linens. Bit of paint will fix everything, and everything has a place, everything in it. Don’t look too close at the body language; this illusion is not made for inspection. Sit down and follow directions.
Rub this lemon juice into your eyes, your abraded skin. Let the sear speak. You are callow and weak. You are drowning and no one wants to save you. Remember that optimism? That smear of hope? You need to hold onto that. Never let go. It should be enough for you. You’re an American, right? So, dream!
Adam was dying. He knew he was dying, and it bothered him, but not as much as it would bother most folks. Adam wasn’t at peace with death, but he was not surprised by it either. The dogs had died, and he would die. The death of his dogs had severed the connection that Adam felt to life; to the goodness of what life had to offer. With each death, he had moved closer towards it himself, and he was ready.
The pain was there, but it was outside him. For days, it had been inside his body like a storm, a chaotic fever, but now it was hovering on the periphery of his vision and he could take an accurate appraisal. He laughed at it, a desperate, fearful laugh that clutched at strength and missed.
As the dawn teased the day, Adam’s life ebbed away. The forest sighed and shook its shoulders. The animals were curious, then hungry, then sated. The night and day continued marching and the life spirit drifted into other clearings as the life force intended.
And there was beauty.
I love this line: your head is a bloviated side-prankReplyDelete
You can taste the distaste, disgust and anger in this.
The second piece is sad but not sad. I like the idea of his pain being inside him and then moving outside, where he can see it. It's personalised and I see it as a separate entity that he's assessing. I like the end as well. This one is my favourite of the two. The connection between the man and his dogs, and nature, and the greater world, which his spirit goes back to. It isn't sad, but a natural cycle.
Yes, that was the very line I highlighted. I heard the sinister carnival-barker voice behind it. There's so much said but unsaid in the second piece, and this line is brilliant in its compact-ness: The animals were curious, then hungry, then sated.Delete
Ah, the well-placed cynicism in the first piece speaks to a lot of the feelings I've had over the last couple of weeks. So many "Big boys don't cry, big boys aren't scared" moments, when we all needed to remember it was okay to mourn and be afraid.Delete
The second piece hit me square in the heart, and is beautiful, and speaks truth.
In times of quiet we dream
We place action on the backstop
Life is too hazardous to face
Come inside to discover a place
I love the structure of this. The premise and action in each verse set in the first line, the place and the tone in the second.Delete
Linger a while
We can choose
Leave a review
But don’t hide
I sneak a look
I write a word
In this vacuum
Nothing is heard
When we wake
There’ll be a call
To be true.
I like this a lot, especially the last stanza. "Phoenix style" is perfect, and so is the last line.Delete
Thanks, Leland. It's about not working in lockdown.Delete
In times of terrorReplyDelete
In times of terror
Skeletons walk –
They said things,
Never did them.
Just walking lies,
Reflections of zero.
Recrimination ran high,
No one admitting
Anything to the self
Or each other.
Day became night
In their expressions.
Sad and true. Reflections of zero is an awesome phrase... because no matter how reflected, it remains zero. It'd also be a great title for a book.Delete
Thanks. That's a good point! A good idea.Delete
They say you never appreciate what you have till it’s gone. So it was the year of never-spring.
One by one, the folks he knew were gone. He mourned them, in his way, contemplating the memories and the changes they left behind.
No requiem masses. No funerals. Almost no obituaries. At least not the sort printed in newspapers. Most just disappeared.
So he improvised.
A hollyhock planted for Harold, tall and strong, with just a bit of flamboyance. A daffodil for Dixie, whose smile once brightened the day of all who knew her. What else but a rose for Rose, the baker? Simple she was, and beautiful, and a surprise when her stolid German countenance blossomed into laughter.
When at last the virus came for him, when his breathing grew labored, when the coughing began, he wondered what floral eulogy he ought write himself.
He used his last breath, weak and whistling, to blow the dreamlike seeds of a dandelion, and with that, he lived forever.
Just beautiful. Thank you.Delete
Thank you, for taking time to read it!Delete
Part 1 (The ending isn't really an ending, feels like there's a lot more with this story.)ReplyDelete
Jessamine shuffled inside the front door of the Anderson’s rundown Victorian, one leg ahead of the other to prevent Reese from running outside, should he have a mind to. He wouldn’t be the first cat or dog to sprint for freedom. But the orange tabby continued staring up at her with those unblinking green-olive eyes. Mid-mewl, he pressed a front paw to her bluejeaned calf, as if to confirm she was real. She cast about for a space to set her things, found none, and put the bag containing the can of sardines and the Andersons’ mail on a dusty, overstuffed velour chair near the door, already piled with outerwear and empty shipping boxes. Then she took off her mask and gloves and shoved them in her coat pocket. She’d read somewhere that animals couldn’t contract the virus from humans, but Jessamine took no chances.
“Let me wash my hands first,” she said, and wound her way to the equally cluttered kitchen. Reese followed close behind. Dirty dishes filled the sink, spilled over onto the counters. Reese hopped nimbly up among them as if accustomed to navigating the clutter. She let out a dispirited sigh, remembering the state of her own grandmother’s house by the time she was able to visit. “The Andersons must have been sick for some time.”
The faucet creaked, the water chattering until the air bled from the pipes. Houses need to be used, Jessamine thought. Like anything else. They need to be loved. She chided herself for not taking care of this during her last visit, but she’d been so focused first on Reese’s welfare, then on completing her remaining errands, that she’d put it off.
The bottle of liquid dish soap was nearly empty; she dribbled water into it, shook it around, and got enough to get a decent lather.
“I’ll bring more next time.” Reese trained his eyes on her every move, the dance of her fingers under the faucet. “Now,” she said as punctuation, drying her hands on a paper towel. “We can get acquainted properly.”
She held out her right hand to him, as she’d done for every new animal in her charge. His whiskers twitched at the scent of the soap. His ears flattened, then he backed up a step. The teacup had been perilously close to his left hind foot. “No!” She grabbed for it, too late, and the cup crashed to the floor. Reese yelped then disappeared into the miasma of the living room.
She tried not to take it personally. Just cleaned up the shards, left some food in his dish, and quietly departed.
Jessamine stopped in as often as she could after that, checking the food, water, the litter box. When she had time, she did some cleaning. Sometimes Reese made a brief appearance, darting away when she tried to get close. Other days he stayed hidden. But whatever food she’d left for him would be gone the next time she came.
The hospital aide again advised her to be patient. “He’ll show soon enough. The son is coming any day now, and then he’ll be someone else’s responsibility.”
But until then, he was hers. “I know you’re here somewhere,” she said one afternoon while she washed a few more dishes. “I’m sorry, Reese. I wasn’t yelling at you that day. It was an accident, it’s only a teacup, nobody will miss it.” Blood rushed to her face. “Oh. I didn’t mean to say nobody, I—” She sighed, dried a cereal bowl, placed it in the drainer, stared at it for a while. “The Andersons must have loved you a lot, for you to be so mournful at their loss. If I were you, I’d run from me, too.” She continued with the dishes, feeling contemplative with the warmth of the water flowing over her hands. “When I lost my grandmother, I was a wreck. A guilty, nervous wreck. I should have visited more. I should have pressed her when she said she felt fine, just a case of the sniffles. I should have…well, a lot of things. I thought that if I did enough good things for enough people, it would somehow clean my slate. I guess it doesn’t work that way.”
She tired of hearing herself talk, of the emotions welling up her eyes. She wiped the tears away with her forearm.
She turned. Reese stood at the entrance to the kitchen, eyes more open, if that were even possible, as if asking if she was all right.
She forced a wobbly smile. “Not really,” she said, sniffed, and tugged off the rubber gloves. “Are you?”
She reached down to him, as slowly as she could. He stretched forward. She bent to the floor, offered the hand again. After a quick sniff he rubbed his forehead against her palm. Taking a chance, she offered an ear scratch. He tipped his head up, closed his eyes.
Her next thought was what the aide had said, and it tightened her throat. She’d gotten too attached before. It had broken her heart when the family arrived to claim her charges. “But we can be friends until then, right?”
“Okay. You and me, kid. Quarantine buddies till the end. I just hope you’ll remember who brought you the sardines.”
I love this, and I love Reese. You're right, this isn't finished, and it's going to be a beautiful story. What's especially wonderful is how close you let us get into Reese's head, and then seeing Jessamine through those eyes. Animals that get us to talk to ourselves know all of our secrets.Delete
I didn't see the parade, people thronging as they pushed back against the walls. I didn't hear their chatter, their voices raised, discussing the celebrations they were looking forward to enjoying. I didn't feel the warmth of the sun, smell the fragrance of the season, taste the flavours of early-season fruits. I didn't encounter any of these; not at all, not today, even though I waited and watched. Any other year I would have been out there, living my life out loud. I would have been out in the street, pressed shoulder to shoulder, pin-balling between people I knew. And I would have been clasping a jumbo hot-dog tightly and smiling through mad smearings of ketchup. But today was much quieter, more a solitary meditation, a place marker of a day in my life.ReplyDelete
You put me right there in the middle of the crowd. Love "living my life out loud."Delete
I like the "place marker of a day in my life" concept a lot. It seems to me we don't pause often enough to honor those transitions.Delete
Laurel felt as if she had hashtag mischievous written with a sharpie pen on her forehead. She always felt that way when she had a secret. And this secret was big. So big, that if she told anyone or someone caught on who wasn't supposed to, she'd have to get a gun and shoot them. It was her livelihood at stake, after all.
There was an old adage about how you should only look for a new job while steadfastly holding onto the old one, no matter how soulcrushing it got. In Laurel's case it was also a necessary obligation. There was no other money coming in at home nor was that likely to change in the foreseeable future.
She hadn't even told her mom who was hands down Laurel's best and only real confidante. In this instance she wasn't being dramatic either like her dad always said or opined. Opined was definitely more like it. Opined was exactly the kind of word her father would have used too. But if her current boss found out she was job hunting, he'd get rid of her in a nanosecond. Then there would be cause for real life drama.
Consequently the only other person who knew about this appointment besides her soon-to-be interviewer was her partner Aaron and that was because he insisted they have no secrets between them. Besides telling him, was sort of like talking about it with herself, wasn't it?
The bullet train stopped at her destination. Getting outside she noted that the station was named for the street. The street with only one building astride it. Each of it's four sides marking the expanse of the space strikingly. The building itself several stories high with an extensive number of Corinthian columns was an ancient architectural feat. Mired in gargoyles and stone motifs with a huge majestic staircase leading up to the second or third floor and hopefully holding treasures that Laurel could see herself indulging in for at least a year or even more.
The job interview was with Belinda Silver who headed up the Office of External Affairs for the museum. In research mode, Laurel hadn't been able to find out much about her on google except for a brief stint she'd had as an Executive Director for a small community gardening non-profit on Staten Island and there was a short breathy article she'd written about building racoon traps in her backyard.
Were there a plethora of racoons on Staten Island?
Laurel went through large wooden and glass doors marveling at their weightiness as she pulled them open. Then reminding herself for the thousandth time to make an appointment with Aaron's personal trainer. The first thing she saw coming through the doors was the magnetometer. Large and imposing in the small foyer, this security device was a good deal older than you might see going through a similar process in the airport.
At least there aren't any dogs here. But there were two armed and uniformed guards. One was a little shorter than Laurel in her heels. He was broad shouldered and held his hands to his waist making him appear wider and slightly intimidating. With a stern face and jaw, he stared at Laurel's chest inquisitively for several seconds before frowning, moving aside, and indicating she should head through the device.
"You should put your bag and things in here Miss." said the other lady guard while holding out a gray empty bin on the table between them.
Laurel removed her crossbody and the small portfolio she carried with the writing selections she felt comfortable sharing and put them in the bin returning the lady guard's perfunctory smile. She went through the arched machine with a small measure of confidence since she had on little jewelry except for her smart watch. A splurged gift to herself she bought after a lowkey fight with Aaron over closet space. He had big feet and so many different types of sneakers they left no room for even the six pairs of footwear Laurel owned. The excessiveness of his foot gear also felt like a remedial clapback to Laurel's impatience with Aaron's myopic focus on sports and fitness.
Well, if she got this gig it would mean more money and probably more clothes and shoes she might need to make a good presentation to her new coworkers. But she'd cross that battle when she got to it.
There was another guard at the desk waiting for her. He called Belinda's office and when it was clear Laurel was supposed to be there, he pointed to several doors along a wall behind him.
"It's the third door on the left, Miss."
"Thank you, sir."
The formality was kneejerk and uncomfortable but seemed appropriate in the setting. The floors were white marble made more noticeable by her heels loudly clicking as she walked along the empty hall. Another uncomfortable feature ,but easily managed with a different pair of shoes.
When she opened the door, there was a woman with huge glasses and abundant black hair sitting at the front desk with mounds of newspapers that were all opened and strewn around the desk in front of her. She looked up instantly and before Laurel could say a word she spoke with a cigarette smokers growl.
"You're here for Ms. Silver. Her two o'clock I presume."
"Yes, I am."
"Well, go on in." She said, waving a hand at the door on her right.
"Just knock on the door before you do."
Laurel did as requested. When she heard a muffled sound from behind the door, she took a chance on opening it.
Belinda Silver was standing behind her desk looking exactly like an expectant grandmother. Short gray hair on her head and eyebrows, stooped and small in stature with brilliant blue eyes, she rounded her desk. Coming closer to shake hands she quickly hustled Laurel further into the room and shutting the door, she made it so they both sat on the same side of the desk very close to each other.
"It's lovely to meet you in person Laurel."
"Thank you Ms. Silver, it's nice to meet you too."
"Please, call me Belinda. I do hate pomp and circumstance."
"Oh of course, Belinda it is."
Belinda smiled. For quite a long time. For at least fifteen seconds that's all she did as she stared at Laurel. Finally before Laurel managed to eke out the first thought that came to her, Belinda said something.
"I'm afraid I'm also not much of an interviewer Laurel. I have good instincts about people. You seemed on the phone and on your resume like someone I can use effectively here even though your resume also suggests you haven't worked anywhere in the past year. But I can't help feeling that you're leaving out something significant."
Pursing her lips, Belinda squinted at Laurel for another few seconds.
"All right then, I have one question for you Laurel and I'd like you to be honest with me. You came here for a job when it's very clear that you don't need the money. Do you have gainful employment elsewhere or is money something that is readily available to you?"
"Not at all." Laurel blurted. "I mean I absolutely need a job for money and other things."
Belinda sat back in her chair, waiting.
"I do have a job right now I didn't mention. I don't mention it to many people actually. I'm a reporter for a magazine. An... adult magazine."
"Which one?" Belinda asked, snapping to attention.
"Um... it's called Mega?"
"Ah yes." Then, giggling she continued. "You seem to be asking me who you work for Laurel."
"No. No... I'm not used to talking about it so openly. That's all."
"Well, there's nothing to be shuttered about. I imagine they pay quite well. Maybe more than I can afford to pay you."
"But you're offering something much more Ms. Silver."
"What's that, dear?"
Oh, this is a fascinating and well-fleshed set of characters you've built here... the secrecy and the weight of the building bode for something sinister, or at least magical... I'd read more!Delete