And there are some things I won't tell you, she whispered, her eyes releasing their tethers and wandering from his face. Like what? It won't be that easy, dude. It's been that easy so far. I decide how easy it is. A rush of regret rattled him and he sighed before he could stop himself. He reclined against the broken springs in the couch and wished he'd never heard her voice, touched her neck, tasted the inside of her ear. When she found him again, the shine in his eyes had fizzled and she left him sitting in the boiling mix of smoke and conversation. The tonnage of jeunesse dorée began gelling and coagulating, growing thicker, expanding through the doorways and creeping under the furniture, replacing the air, devouring his focus. Afraid one of these punks had drugged his whiskey, he set the tumbler on the cluttered table that had been pestering his knees and he stood straight into the invisible ooze and he breathed it deeply and a malevolent rush traversed him like a closing zipper. He even heard it. An ascending metallic rip punching through the top of his skull. A large vase fell and shattered in his wake through the ooze and the gleam, the shapes of young breasts under logos on T-shirts, yards of inconceivably clean teeth. He discovered himself gripping a balcony rail. A crisp breeze was dragging the ocean air through the streets where the traffic roared. The harsh halogen beams strafed his perch as they peaked the hill in the distance below him, chilling him with each direct hit. He closed his eyes and dropped his head forward to the rail. A low dull vibration massaged the cold steel against his forehead then faded, soothing his vertigo as it went. She was standing behind him when he realized he had no clue how long he had been on the balcony. How did you think this was going to work? He rocked his brow temple to temple on the metal. I don’t know, he told her. How old are you again? You know how old I am. Well, you’re acting like a child, dude. I’m fine. We both got laid. Yeah, we did. We might get laid again. Okay. And your wife might not find out. Uh-huh. Chill the fuck out. She went silent. And then she was gone. The thought of her skin against his or the freshness of her breath or the heat he had fingered between her young buttocks never crossed his mind as he gathered a deep breath and shook off the remaining globs of ooze and swung each of his legs in turn over the rail and jumped the distance from the balcony to the roof of her BMW which belched concave as he landed, his ankle curling and popping beneath him then he limped into the night pleading with the gods of minor injuries that his joint wasn’t broken.
He was a salmon colored fellow with a horrific shroud of acne across the topography of his vulturine features.
The redheaded rhino behind the glass sneered at him with an expression usually reserved for prison guards. She watched the pink man slide across the lobby and leave the building. At the doors, she checked the street with a quick side-to-side then traced the man’s path across the street and around the corner and spotted his stocking cap swaying in the delta of heads milling at an intersection fifty yards ahead of her. She glanced at the street signs above him and unpuzzled his destination. She turned into the alley that would eventually empty into the parking lot of the apartment complex where she had first discovered him weeks ago. The gun had warmed in her pocket and she caressed its shape and jagged features, the heat of her hand moistened the lining in her pocket, glazing the weapon. The robotics in her brain took control and she found herself on a stoop in a shadow, staring at discount signs in the window of a convenience store, the freezing sweat crawling down her temple.
He never could talk the dog into the house.
She would sit in the snow, her black eyes knowing him the way ninjas knew their victims in the movies he watched late at night. And just like he never saw the ends of those films, he never saw her when she would dash silently through the barely open sliding door to whatever safety she felt compelled to steal. He had tried baiting her with treats. No go. He had tried a bait-and-switch with her leash. Not having it. She just stared at him like a cop. He would sit with the cold air filling the house, deliberately averting his eyes from the open glass lest she be there, stalking her opportunity. When he did gamble, her face was reliably there long enough to register the movement of her black coat, more a shadow of the dog than the dog really. Eventually, he would find a way to forget the duel and keep his attention occupied and she would invariably appear coiled on the bed, barely acknowledging his presence, a satisfied sigh.
What are you gonna do?
Has it gotten to a point I have to do something? You said she’s wandering, talking to herself, seeing things—. I said it seems she does. Seems she does? Yeah. Either she does or she doesn’t. That thing at the window could’ve just been a startle, maybe a bird? You are rationalizing. Who doesn’t talk to themselves when they’re alone? You’re rationalizing. Maybe I just got lucky a couple of times. Lucky? What do you propose I do? Call a doctor. A doctor would just stuff her full of pills. What if she needs pills? She doesn’t need pills. You get to decide that? I get to decide she needs a doctor? I just think it sounds worthy of attention. I shouldn’t have brought it up. Have you talked to her? Like I said, it’s really not that bad, just noticeable. You are rationalizing. You sound like you’re willing that to be true. You said she screamed in the kitchen, like in terror? Yes. And no one else in the house? Yeah. And you found her washing dishes? And I asked her, what-the-fuck…? And she acted oblivious? Yeah. You don’t see that as out-of-the-ordinary? Of course it’s out-of-the-ordinary. Have you met her family? They live back west, met her brother once, briefly. Could you call him? I don’t know. Just tell him what you told me. I’m just not convinced something’s wrong. You have got to be kidding me. Look, I’ll admit we might have jumped into the living situation a little prematurely. What does that have to do with it? Maybe she’s just not adjusting very well. How would you know? What do you mean? I mean you have no baseline for her behavior. We dated before. No you didn’t. We damn sure did. I’m not gonna argue about how long you knew her before this. I should hope not. But you said—out of your mouth—this may have been a little quick on the draw. Don’t get me wrong—. Dammit, don’t tell me something worth discussing and then take it back. Jesuschrist. You’ve been doing it since you started this conversation. So I’m having some mild regret. Uh-huh. But we both know that happens when you find yourself living with someone. It’s natural. Of course it is. What regrets did you feel when we were living together? Don’t start that. Start what? You know exactly what. Listen, we had our time—. We did and let’s leave it at that. Fine but you have to admit we had more time before we moved in together than you and she had. I understand that. But what you don’t seem to understand is that it’s what you don’t know about her that may be the problem. What I don’t know? Yeah. What about what you don’t know. There are reasons we put things in orbit. Huh? Satellites see more up there than we could ever see down here. Gimmie a break. You don’t want help. I’m not sure I need any. Then why would you bring any of this up with me, the woman who used to be where she is now? I don’t know, just talking, making conversation. Really? You asked how things are. And you certainly had no problem telling me until—. Until you suggested I have her see a shrink and dump pills down her throat. I have a friend. I’m sure you do. He’s really good. I’m sure he is. He’s helped a lot of my friends. Let’s drop this. Just think about it. I’m sure you’ll be doing that for me.
My attempt illustration for The Rain. My book of 3 short stories, one poem and several scintilla will be available for purchase in June 2014, each work accompanied by an illustration by various artists.
The Rain can be found in the scintillae section on this blog.
Cal was staring into the tops of the trees when she found him standing among the fresh splints of pine scattered among the needles and wilting dandelions.
The axe stood tipped into the battered block next to him. She asked him why he was cutting wood and he reminded her that fall is the time to do it. She tried to explain again that the boy could do all this. She asked if he had packed his things. She asked if he had turned off the well. She asked him the whereabouts of the dog. He told her he had taken the dog up the hill and tied him to the Fairchilds’ porch. Her face went blank. He smiled at her, the deep wrinkles folded against his corners of his mouth with satisfaction. She shook her head and reminded him they had all discussed this and thought they had come to an agreement. He remembered the meeting but he didn’t remember discussing anything with anyone much less coming to an agreement. He remembered all his children—she included—coming to some consensus amongst themselves. And he told her that was fine for them but they really had no say in his matters, no more than he in theirs. He struggled with the small backpack until he finally got it over his shoulder. He told her he loved her and that she had raised two of the best children he had ever known. He told her to tell her brother and sisters that he left items for each of them in the cabin, in his bedroom. He smiled again at her distraught eyes and kissed her cheek, the softness of her face warmed him and he thought happily of his younger self who could never have hidden his blushing face, a face now petrified and crumbling beneath the decades, a face no longer vulnerable to the embarrassment his father had found so contemptible. Her confusion lived in the cold tear sliding down her nose. I’m going up the mountain, kiddo.
I was reading the end of the article when he finally returned from the register and scooped his keys and cigarettes, moved the messy plate out of his way and sat with his elbows on the table.
Here’s what I’m talking about, I told him and dropped my phone into my chest pocket, a SWAT team in Abilene, TX—a population of less than 120,000—is called to what was originally thought to be a hostage situation but by the time these armored goons get their stylish gear and guns on, the suspect has fled the scene and now it’s a manhunt with an armored personnel carrier and a bunch of squad cars and shock troopers busting down store fronts and at approximately 11pm, this municipal army, hopped up on testosterone, loaded with thousands of rounds of live ammunition, kicks in the door of a community theater during the climactic final battle of a Vietnam War drama. The cops shot eight innocent people, five actors and three audience members. In Abilene? he said, when did this happen? Looks like six hours ago but my point stands. Oh sure, let’s get rid of the cops and we won’t have anymore shootings; that makes total sense. There wouldn’t be anymore shootings by cops, I told him, they killed a 107 year old man in Florida last week and a black kid who walked up to the wrong house after he’d been in a car wreck. What do you propose we do about hostage situations if we don’t have SWAT teams? The threat of SWAT teams is the cause of most hostage situations. Look, I have to get out of here; make your point. My point is, I’ve got investors, found the land; I have learned and prepared people involved. It’ll never work, he said and rose from his chair and extended his hand. I stood and we performed a less than enthusiastic grip. This is going to happen, I said, I’m telling you so that hopefully your people won’t turn this into a mess. You really think I have any control? Maybe not but you have a presence. But I don’t believe in any of this. You don’t have to.
I can’t look at him, she told me then turned and severed the line of bodies at the register as she made her way to the back door.
I followed her through the rear of the building into the rutted parking lot where she stopped, leaning against the fence with a stiff arm, her purse dropping to her elbow, head down, giving the impression of a decapitated creature exhausted from some fruitless search. I reached for her shoulder. She was trembling. Samantha, I whispered and any words that might have followed failed to render. I just can’t stand it, she said. I know. It kills me to see him; he’s gone, gone like he’s dead and that’s some hideous ghost who has stolen his face. He’s just sick, Sam. I know what the fuck is happening; don’t treat me like a child. She started sobbing, her body convulsing against the palm of my hand. She resisted briefly as I pulled her close to me. This isn’t like cancer where he’ll be sick and suffer and then get well. She was pushing the words through some boundary within herself, the struggle leaving residual bits of pain on each damaged sound that fell from her mouth as if they had no intention of leaving and wanted nothing to do with the world beyond the dark cavern of her body. The tears soaked my shoulder. The sun faded. We stood that way for a very long time. I don’t remember when we finally made it back to the car.
A pair of head-banded young men in loin cloths appeared stretched and distorted across the upper half of the wall via his perspective at the rear of the room.
They were cutting the hide from a buffalo with the vast horizon reaching into the corner of the lecture hall. The mural spanned the entire perimeter, young black haired papoose yoked women, steely eyed men pointing into an imperceptible distance, a circle of blanketed people passing a long feather adorned pipe, tipis, yucca, a Franciscan friar holding a crucifix in one hand, the other palming the bowed head of a native, the eyes of those around him filled with blank fear. He leaned closer to Clark’s ear, Doesn’t this strike you as slightly morbid? Morbid? Clark asked. We’re here to look at a first edition King James Bible, Clark. Clark tilted back from him with a tight quizzical frown, I don’t get it. The mural, Clark. Oh, he said and gave the room a survey. We’re here to see a bible, Clark—“the” fucking bible. Don’t start with this, Derrick. I’m just saying. I know what yer saying. It doesn’t seem disrespectful to you? Just stop it. Fine. When the pear-shaped lecturer announced with toothy humor that he had very little knowledge of the history of the King James Bible before the university requested he give the talk, Derrick patted Clark on the shoulder then quietly slipped out of the room.
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Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.