Friday, July 29, 2022

2 Mins. Go!

It's easy to feel hunted when you're surrounded by cameras, but there are benefits as well. Used to be, you wanted to ruin somebody, it wasn't too difficult. It boiled down to one person's word versus another's. It's harder to stick a lie on somebody when they can prove you wrong with video.

Cops wear body cameras to protect the public. I wear one to protect myself. You want an example?

She was a slippery character. She lied out of both sides of her mouth and punctuated the lies with a little twitch of her ample bosom. It was an effective strategy, for sure. I'm sure she was used to it greasing the rails everywhere she went, but there were things she didn't know about me. Hell, there are things I don't know about me, for that matter. 

I took on her problem because the money was right, but I didn't trust her for a second. 

Lucky me, I found the guy she was looking for. She got her jewels back. And then she tried to stiff me on the final payoff. She spread a few rumors around, stoked them until they turned into gossip, and then stepped back and let the mill do the rest of the work. 

I noticed the evil eyes first. Then, drunks wanted to fight me. More than usual. And finally, I heard it from an old acquaintance who hated me, but who knew I was no rapist. I dug around and got the full story. Then, I sent her a copy of all the footage I had. Sure, I could have omitted something, but you can't fake that smile and bounce. And you don't give that kind of smile to someone who hurt you. 

It helped that the footage also included her saying some ill-advised things about certain power players in town. It was an open and shut kind of thing. I got my money and a bonus. The gossip stopped soon after. 

The money never lasts, though. I'll be back at it soon enough. But in the mean time, this whiskey ain't gonna drink itself.


  1. I've missed Mader Noir. Compelling all the way through.

    1. Personal bodycam would be very handy at times!

    2. Nice sharp vignette. I agree: write more noir, bro!

    3. The last line makes it. Love this. I agree with them. More noir, please.

  2. Haze hung over the city that Saturday afternoon. Those venturing out looked as if the humidity weighed on their bodies like a yoke. Even the traffic moved slower. Still, Anya waited on the stoop for Bubbe’s arrival—it was a promise she’d made to herself when they’d found each other again. That day, Anya had brought down a tall glass of lemonade, with extra ice. Moments later she spied Bubbe, her step quick and head high despite the heat, as if daring it to stop her.

    Soon they were upstairs and settled, with a frosty pitcher and jam-sandwich cookies and one beautiful, perfect sunflower. “The market had already cut it down,” Bubbe Yulia said in apology, for she hated the idea of anyone decapitating the blossom. “I consider myself to have liberated it.”

    Anya now studied the yellow face of the sunflower, which she had honored by setting up in her prettiest vase. She thought about her adoptive country’s national flower, and the symbolism behind it. How Russia had tried to destroy them. But Ukraine had survived. The sunflower had survived.

    Bubbe Yulia had survived.

    “Why don’t I remember more about you?” Anya said.

    Bubbe seemed unfazed by the non-sequitur. “You were so small, then. Maybe, what, four or five? And don’t forget, the circumstances.”

    Anya nodded, tightening her hands around her glass. The circumstances were a muzzy combination of memory and what little Mama had told her. Papa had disappeared. Mama snatched up whatever she could carry and hustled Anya out the door and into the night. She’d woken up in a strange house, to the sound of arguments in language she didn’t know. There were charcoal drawings on the walls, some that made her blush because the people were naked. In that part of her childhood, nudity was a shameful thing.

    “We didn’t stay that long,” Anya said. “Maybe that’s why.”

    Bubbe touched ice-cold fingers to hers. “You stayed by me for a month, tateleh. Maybe it was the shock.”

    Anya gazed toward the window, where the leaves of a nearby maple drooped from the heat. “Maybe.”

    “She was stubborn, your mother.”

    “She had her reasons.” Anya pressed a hand over her mouth. It had come out harsher than she’d intended.

    But Bubbe responded with a sad smile. “Yes, I know. I am hardly a paragon of virtue. We make our choices, we live with the results.”

    “You chose to abandon her.” Again, Anya shocked herself at her boldness. But she’d been so polite for so long, with all her questions simmering beneath her skin. She deserved answers, and her mother could no longer supply them.

    Bubbe sighed, gazed at the crumbs on her plate, the smear of jam. “I left her in good hands.”

    “While you risked your life—”

    “To fight for my country!”

    “Should I thank you for your service?” Anya thought of the photo. Her mother had presented it to her shortly before she died, as a kind of bitter trophy. A thirtyish version of Bubbe, pretty, brown-haired, stood between two burly men. All in uniform, all with their arms around each other’s shoulders. She’d woven a daisy through her braid. This is what your grandmother was doing while I was raised by strangers on a Polish dairy farm. Playing dress-up with the men. Doing god knows what with the men.

    For the moment, Bubbe Yulia sat silent. Anya scraped back her chair, went to her bedroom, withdrew a scrapbook. Opened it to the page where she’d mounted the photo, set it before Bubbe Yulia, and reclaimed her seat.

    Bubbe drew in a quick gasp. Touched a finger to the protective plastic over their faces, wistfulness and pain clear on her face. She tightened her jaw, fought to toughen herself over, and finally, she spoke, the words soft but measured. “I had my reasons.”

    1. Anya, feeling guilty, schooled her tone. “You were safe on that farm. You were safe in Poland. You could have raised her there, and both been safe, instead of leaving her—”

      “We were the reason Russia did not win this war, we are the reason Ukraine still exists, it is because her people fought like hell! I fought”—her voice broke—“I fought for her.” Bubbe snatched a napkin from the holder and pressed it to her eyes. “I did not want her to…to go through what I did. I would fight those Russian bastards with every last molecule of my strength.”

      Silence fell over the table. Condensation dripped down the side of the glass pitcher. The sunflower was reflected in its surface, distorted by the beads of water. Some pieces began coming together in Anya’s mind. Questions she didn’t know if she want answers to. Not now. Not yet. She cleared her throat. “Did…did those soldiers there with you…did they survive?”

      Still looking at the photo, Bubbe shook her head. She touched the one to her left. “Land mine.” Then the one to her right. “Shrapnel from a cluster bomb. They were good men. Those fucking bastards. Putin khulyo.”

      Anya repeated the familiar curse under her breath, hesitated only seconds before speaking again. “Did you kill any Russians?”

      Bubbe raised a determined gaze to her granddaughter. “As many as I could.” She looked back to the photo, pressed her hand to it, and closed the book with a kind of finality. “And I’d do it all over again.”

    2. I can feel the generational pain in this. I love how you approach trauma, without any embellishments... just truth.

    3. I love the back and forth and the fact that you can feel for both of them. You do so well with fleshing out characters and getting people to empathize with them.

  3. This adventure.

    Upstream must be a falls since we hear it, but here on the silty bank it’s quiet and gentle while we watch a woman hold a young boy’s head under the surface of the cleanest stream, pebbles bright and colorful below, resolute while he kicks and bucks and attempts to rear against her grip then slows until his body brooks her assault and his dark hair waves like tendrils of so long.

    Between the dog and the wolf lies the fleeting butterfly of youth.

    Eventide. Zimbabwe.

    “Give me your hand. I will hold it now and beyond.”

    This cocoon we arrived in, snared between a train’s blare and the stutter-step of the land. Someone told me there were mushroom clouds over New York City and maybe LA too. I was two-thirds into my trip, urgent to curl inward, blessed by topography and the sky’s corvid plaint. Mercy me. Lucky me. I never saw the land itself upend.

    That whole wood—those quaking dreamland treetops—flinches in the glare of our stopgap moment.

    Ain’t no one can bring the news like… Shine Billy Until… Swine Hilly Unwell… Spine Silly Upswell… Crime Filly Upscale.

    It’s a silvery muscle caught in a creek and released, a quick last shiver in the treetops.

    It’s drama and glamour and the scarlet clamour of a cardinal; admit you never understood Manc swagger.

    Moyo wangu. Moyo wangu. Moyo wangu.

    Claudia is a woman playing an accordion in the barroom on the headland. She must endure jokes from the regulars, all men, about catching her tits in it. But she isn’t playing for them. A man who might have passed on by is snagged by the wheeze of her songs and changes course to enter the small room. Claudia only thinks of blood in a river. Of a bloodred heart.

    “I miss you, my singular boy.”

    Slung amid the clatter, clenched like knotted ganglia, the night is mostly silent till a siren blurts, greyed beneath this brickwork, cursing such rodent luck this far underneath the aqueduct.

    Cry, my blackcurrant eyes, my sly rat face.

    “Did Anna fall, or was she claimed?”

    When did you arrive? How have I missed you? I meant to write a poem or even a song, awaiting your approval, but my aim failed, all these sounds imploding like elastic chatter, some cleansing, cumulative, noteworthy collapse.

    Not everything succumbs to appraisal, yet much exceeds our grasp.

    If you are here, please love it all, most everything, the faraway horizons, the clotheared, ruined, spangled things that mattered.

    1. David, how I've missed your words. I love the music in them, want to read them all again.

    2. Thanks, Laurie. It's funny you used the word "music" as this piece came out of listening to a Dylan song, "Blind Willie McTell," then a Thomas Mapfumo song, "Moyo Wangu" ("My Heart") after watching a poem of a film, L'Avventura. Oh, and the French expression "Entre chien et loup" ("Between dog and wolf") refers to evening, "that time of day when the light is such that it becomes difficult to distinguish between a dog and a wolf, between friend and foe, between known and unknown." It felt good to write again, although it's like spaghetti in my head, all these endless strands, lol.

    3. You manage to paint such a vivid picture. It's beautiful and startling at the same time.

  4. Fluidity

    It begins light,
    flickers, so slight,
    no sound, only specks,
    colourless. Fuelled by
    air, it gusts, stoked,
    drums a rhythm on
    car roofs, sweeps the
    streets, circling drains.

    It uproots, saturates,
    a sound curve builds
    into a haze of reckoning.
    This sheet of water
    cascades, envelops,
    awakening everything.
    New growth, fresh air.
    The smell of green.

    1. You describe it so delicately, and in only a few words you manage to evoke disquiet ("a haze of reckoning") while ending on a note of hope.

  5. All I could think while reading this is, "Man, I miss spring." You are great at making me feel like I'm in your poems.


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