Thursday, September 23, 2010

Excalibur


“Do you remember who you are?” said the disembodied voice. It came out of a very dark and long tunnel that stretched out in front of him.
”Do you remember who you are?” said the voice again. This time it lingered inside the tunnel, like a cloud of vapor. He thought that it was surely hiding something malignant within its folds. It had to be.
The earth trembled underneath his feet just then, the tunnel vibrated like a string on a guitar. His heart started to race, faster and faster.
He feared a heart attack, he always had. This prompted him to scream in desperation. But there didn’t seem to be anyone there that could listen.
His scream ended but his lips were still wide open. His mouth had turned into a kind of vacuum, he felt as if he was swallowing the tunnel itself. The tunnel was rushing into his mouth, a big black snake making its way past his open lips.
As the tunnel disappeared underneath his eyes, another landscape was revealed behind the
emptiness that was left behind, something that looked like a room, a familiar room that was proportionate to his body.
The tail of the snake was suctioned violently into his mouth and it disappeared completely. This final step in the process made him jump a bit. Again he felt like screaming. But he managed to keep the scream inside.

He felt something heavy pulling him towards a chair. He looked down and recognized his legs, little by little he recognized his hands. He brought them to his face to examine them and he noticed they were glittering.
As he bent his head to examine his hands, he felt a pain right behind the neck and just below the cranium. He moved one of his hands and positioned it behind his neck, stretching and opening the fingers, massaging his own knotted flesh. In the meantime his head swung slowly on its base from side to side. He wasn’t purposefully doing it, but it was happening nonetheless.
He heard some voices in the background, they became louder and louder as he listened more intently. He balanced his body forward and opened his eyes wider. He managed to stop his massive bold head from swinging and he allowed it to rest on one of his hands.
A moment of stillness, a moment to come back.

The voices were coming from the television at the end of the room. This made him realize he had fallen asleep on a couch, a particular couch that he knew very well.
He discovered his daughter Ada sitting on another sofa. He remembered how before he fell asleep he had been working on something. He also remembered that at some point Ada had joined him in the room and turned the TV on.
Ada was a dark skinny girl, with a disproportionate head that made her look like a gigantic brown ant. She had her black hair rolled behind her neck in a bun. Every so often, she would let her head fall forward while opening her big mouth, allowing a silver spoon to feed her white chunks of melting vanilla ice cream.
He was scanning her with his eyes, trying to remember her completely, allowing the previous events to pass away from the antechamber of his mind as his attention settled on things he could name and track in a consistent timeline.
Then the voices on the TV interrupted him again. The colorful pixilated image of a familiar face was jumping on the screen. The dark, eerie face occupied most of the available space.
All of a sudden the camera seemed to be moving backwards, slowly showing the whole figure of a person.

“Do you remember who you are?” this person kept saying. It was a man sitting in a dark room and wearing a black robe. He looked like some kind of monk, with the black robe and a black hood that produced a shadow over his eyes. All of this made him look somewhat sinister.
The camera then revealed another figure, sitting backwards right next to the talking face. This figure had a shiny bald head, with chunks of white hair on each side.
He realized that the room on the screen was the main chamber of a medieval castle, lit by a fireplace. At the very least, it was a movie maker’s idea of what a medieval castle would look like inside. The reflections from the fire made the entire image jump around in an ocean of shadows.

“Do you remember who you are?” The voice uttered again.
This time the camera moved closer to the person sitting backwards. Like an invisible satellite, it started to orbit the bald head as if caught in its field of gravity.
It was an old, old man, with big black eyes. His eyes were fixed on the trajectory of the needle he was holding between his fingers. The needle was leaving a trail of exes on a long piece of cloth.

“Do you remember who you are?”
The voice exclaimed in the background again, this time louder, more insistently. This startled the old man. His eyes moved like loose balls on their sockets.
He turned his head around. On each side he was greeted by empty dark space.
He exhaled and shrugged his shoulders, then resumed his sewing. He did 3 more exes, and stopped to pick up the pair of scissors that were lying next to him. With them he cut the needle loose from the thread. He tied the thread with his fingers and lifted the black cloth. The cloth rolled down and hung from his fingers. He was slowly turning it into a black robe, sprinkled with silver stars stitched to the hem.
He swung the robe in the air, and placed it over his shoulders. He stretched each arm underneath the long sleeves and allowed the hands to pop out on each side. He used the hands to button the robe closed. While he was doing this, he took a few steps towards one of the brick walls.
He smiled when he finally spoke up to say:
“Oh that’s it! I have finished it! Finally!”
He said it with deep satisfaction. He picked up a pointed hat from a table next to him, and laid it on his shining bald head. He adjusted the hat and rushed to the wooden door and disappeared in the dark hall beyond the door.

The image on the screen changed again. Now it was brighter and clearer. There was a person standing on stage, dressed as a jester. He had a microphone in his hand and he was raising it to his mouth to make an announcement:
“Ladies and gentleman, please help me welcome to the show… the one and only Merlin the Magician!”
As the jester said it, a shower of claps could be heard in the background. The old man with the robe full of stars and a pointed hat slowly made his way onto the stage. He placed himself in the middle of the scene, bending forward respectfully to salute the unseen audience.

“What is it that you are watching, Ada?” he suddenly asked.
Ada had kept her eyes fixed on the television set the whole time, and she kept them in place even as she replied in a rush:
“I am not so sure, but I think it’s some kind of horror movie. Something about a man who plays a magician in a performance without knowing that he is a real magician. Then something creepy happens. I’m not sure yet about it all. But it’s something like that…”
“Ah, a horror movie!” he replied with disappointment. He shook his head and remembered to
keep doing what he was doing before he fell asleep. He had a deck of old Tarot cards laid out on the floor, and a wooden panel right underneath his feet. He had been going trough the deck, sorting them out, trying to decide which ones to stick to the wooden panel.
Ada noticed how quickly he lost interest in the movie and turned around towards him with curiosity.
“What are you doing dad? What is that?”
“Oh I am doing something for the restaurant. I want to place it on one of the walls. You know, for d├ęcor, to add more ambience to the place. So I am selecting the Tarot cards that have illustrations that relate to the middle ages, you know, castles, magicians, jesters, etc”
“Ah, cool,” said Ada, and she continued to watch the horror movie and eat her melting ice cream.

The camera zoomed out of one of the windows, and a wooden billboard appeared outside of the house.
“Excalibur Restaurant, Magic and Entertainment”
Underneath the billboard there was a paper flyer pasted on the fake stone wall:
“Tonight’s show: Merlin the Magician! –Starring the Magician himself! Don’t miss it!”
There was a rush of strong wind just then. It lifted up a flock of dead leaves and scattered them over the deserted street. The sound it made was like something you might hear in a movie. As suddenly as it had arrived, it died down and everything went back to being quiet, just the sounds of a TV in the distance and a little boy laughing a few houses away.

“Do you remember who you are?” said the voice.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In Order To Cry


In order to cry, think of the lover that left you without a home. A lover that came back from the far off beaches and mountains of Costa Rica, all the while sending notes filled with love and the promises of kisses in a soon to be future. In order to cry, remember when he looked at you with a distant eye and those kisses turned strange and full of salt and he didn’t seem like familiar skin, but something that only housed the shadow of old laughter. He came off the plane with dreams of walking through Mexico hand in hand, but in days, as leaves fell and marked the beginning of fall, he took the keys to the trailer and didn’t help carry your clothes and books to the sidewalk. He pulled out of the driveway, taking your home and smile, driving off into the mountains without a kiss or a soft glance backwards, driving as fast as he could to avoid the sound of your tears as they fell, crashing on the worn hardwood floor.

In order to cry, think of the night when you slept alone in an unfamiliar room, the only familiar tattooed flesh a few miles away behind metal bars and thick glass. The walls of the room were pale white, but covered in the blue dawn light of morning that came seeping in through the bedroom window. Remember looking around, feeling the floor below the thin mattress just a few inches thick, and then, oh yes, it all comes back, the horrible twists and turns of the night before. A convulsing 90 pound teenager, the sirens, the police handcuffs and a ride to the station. The interrogation and then walking free while some stayed behind in orange jumpers and the promise of long, noisy days and anxiety-filled nights and court-appointed lawyers in wrinkled suits. Think of your impotence, the jewelry you wore for good-luck as you watched the court proceedings with a pained heart and tears and a wet pussy, since your man still looked hot in the orange jumpsuit.

In order to cry, think of your missing dog, the one you walked on warm summer nights through the gentle fog of misty marijuana and fading orgasms. The dog that was your link to human connection, for people dared look at you and smile while you held a leash. Remember the soft brown eyes you still dream of, fur clinging to the lint of the sliding glass door is the only remaining physical manifestation of the thick fur covered body. In order to cry, think of the restaurant, sitting with your parents and sister when the truth finally came over appetizers and ice water sitting in wine glasses, when their lies finally spiraled in on themselves and you realized with one quick tear that Blackstar didn’t die, she was killed. And you know that she was old and could hardly walk and you knew every time you walked out the front door of your parent’s house that it might be the last time you saw that graying black fur, but still, they lied, letting your sister come home for Thanksgiving, looking around the house, opening every door, calling, ‘Blackstar!”

In order to cry, think of your young sister, growing older, growing more jaded and contorted by the day. Her smooth pink skin turning into wrinkles of worry, her mouth producing only complaints and concerns. Think of her all alone after you left for college, that poor skinny body starved and stressed while your mom’s concerns about weight seeped in, finding a home in the fabric of her muscles, taking the place of any fat; and now, when she eats, she talks about calories every time she moves in with a spoon on a mound of whipped cream. Your sister, who wants to give facials and mud masks, but your parents ‘spent too much money on college for her to be a beautician,’ so she stays in the suspended Bardo, caught by invisible strings that pull on each one of her fingers. She wears all black and helps rich women pick out sunglasses that could pay your rent.

In order to cry, remember all the things that you have lost, that pink and white batik shirt that disappeared in the wash. That 500 year old piece of turquoise that was stolen right out of your own jewelry box in the yellow-lit bathroom. Your vinyl records taken by the same mouth you had fed spaghetti two weeks before. The friends you left standing at the altar without a girl in green to clap and cheer. The friends you just stopped calling. The people you wonder about, but you cannot call now because it’s too late and too much time has passed. The family that you can barely visit and talk with, the potted plants left in the care of others.

In order to cry, think of yourself. Turn your attention inward, as has been advised in the manual. Focus on your skin, your breasts or penis, whichever may be the case. Think of the ache of your skin, the unfulfilled desires that call your name.

In order to cry, stand in the corner of the room with your face to the wall. Stand there till the feeling of isolation grows, until you begin to chant the phrase, ‘I am alone.’
Look at your missteps, your sidesteps, the sadness that just needs an open door, the failure of the sun to grant every wish and orgasm.

In order to cry, think of your tears, ready at the waiting, waiting to roll down your cheeks, eager to take the ride they were always promised.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Valley In The Sun

Ferdi, sitting on the hill smoking little brown cigarettes held between fingers that had been painted with black polish. He wore the black hood too, eclipsing his face, hiding his ordinary charcoal hued sweater and cut off jeans, a trick, like when they projected images of the Virgin Mary on banks of smoke in an effort to spook strangers. His face was really quite young, cherub-like with ruddy round cheeks. Far from intimidating, brown curls hung over his brow and small even white teeth hid in the trenches behind soft rosy lips.
He could not have functioned very well as a guardian if his face had been allowed to come out like the sun to light up the hillside with its innocent charm. The magicians were under the hill and the believers still awaited the coming of bubble-headed saviors in saucers. The world was really composed of those two kinds now, believers and magicians, the hordes of uneducated human animals that wandered the wasteland and the keepers of the last bastion of technology and civilization.
This particular post was mostly unthreatened, an unknown entrance to the kingdom under the hills. Nothing elaborate was required to keep the unwashed away, just this boy in his frightening black robe. Any person wandering far from home, herding sheep or searching for plunder would think twice before approaching this sinister apparition smoking on the hillside, black boots pressing into the tender green grasses. They would see a magician, a sorcerer, a demon, or a ghost. The cloaked form would inspire the imagination.
These were dark times. It was a new dark age, made dark, paradoxically, by a bright sun. Less than 10 years ago the world had been a veritable Atlantis, a place where you could speak instantly to anyone you wished, send them a photograph or video with your cell phone, hold a library of thousands of books in the palm of your hand, transfer currency you would never see from one bank account to the next, obtain goods with nothing more than a small card fashioned of plastic.
The end of the world had been anticipated and delayed time and again, the last time as the Mayan calendar approached its end and the followers of Christ, as usual, expected his return. One of the most heavily trodden alternate dimensions of online obsession revolved around such predictions of destruction. The seas would boil, the dead would rise from the grave, the son of God would return to deliver his followers to the kingdom of heaven.
There were blurry lines, points of deviation arising from a common fixation on the year 2012. Where one audience subscribed to the predictions of the old testament, another awaited a race of alien Gods that would return on a planet with an irregular orbit, or a reversal of the magnetic poles would cause a shift in consciousness that might restore humanity to the aboriginal dream time.
Theories abounded, were espoused upon web pages and in videos posted to popular media sites, in electronic books that swam in the ether ready to be downloaded into your portable hand held device. Then in 2010, a good two years too soon, a real force intervened in the destiny of the human race. The good old sun, center of our solar system, the star once worshipped by primitive humans, had been quite forgotten by modern man. It was hardly considered by the civilization whose nights were electrified with artificial luminescence, whose food came on trucks from nowhere having been grown by professionals in far flung provinces.
Its behaviors had been well observed and documented by scientists. Grab any astronomer out of his observation tower to ask him and he could have told you that the sun experienced cycles, periods of relative peace and periods filled with wild solar storms. It had at times affected the earliest radio broadcasts when sun spots erupted into flumes of charged particles that interfered with the signal. Then the sun slipped back into low gear. During that time, the years in which the sun slumbered, the people of the 21st century came to rely heavily on new high-tech systems for the basics of daily life, systems which were highly sensitive to solar activity, but which thrived in its absence.
Years passed and the sun continued its existence quietly until 2010 when it entered a predictable but unconsidered period of stormy weather during which its molten surface and the civilizations of Earth were thrown into turmoil. Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications were all knocked out by intense solar storms that erupted on October first of that fated year.
All of those who had been anticipating an end found it at last. A civilization that had been in the works for hundreds of years was deconstructed in a matter of weeks as panic and desperation took hold. It was the fall of Rome all over again, but this time the barbarians were the Romans themselves, tearing their own homes and lives apart in a frenzy of uncontrolled hatred and fear.

Ferdi, with his cherub cheeks and chestnut locks had been ten years old at the time. If the system had failed a week earlier he would now be a member of the horde rather than a magician. His father had been a physics professor at UC Berkeley, his mother a young artist come cult member after their separation.
For two strange years after the divorce he had lived with her, with rituals held in the living room once a week where strangers in lavish costumes paraded around barefooted. It was their feet that he was most acquainted with, peering out at them from under the locked bedroom door where he would lie petrified and curious.
At first it had seemed quite tolerable as he had loved his mother, but after he learned, (through a Google search conducted with his Iphone) that the notorious Order of the Solar Temple told its followers that the highest levels of initiation involved meetings with extraterrestrial beings, and that children had been murdered under suspicion of being the antichrist, he begged to be sent to live with his father.
That decision had shaped the course of his life. It was the sole reason that he lived now in the decaying bosom of science rather than at the thriving heart of superstition. It was the reason that he knew what had happened to the world he had known, unlike so many other ten year olds who had come home to be roped into mass suicides by their parents, or who had possibly barely escaped starvation and the brutality of others to become citizens of the new earth, never knowing what had happened, or suspecting that the rapture had come and gone and they had been left behind. He knew what had happened because he had been able, as a ten year old, to grab a weeping astronomer by the arm.
Nate Fisher, with his alpaca wool sweater and coarse red beard shook his head mournfully over a shot of whiskey,
“We knew this could happen, I helped write the report. We knew this could happen. And nobody listened.” Tears fell into the drink so that the small glass overflowed slightly. They were in the depths of Professor Ashton’s astonishing green home built into an Alameda county hillside. It had been designed to blend in with the shape of the land and most of the house interior was nestled underground.
Ferdi felt safe within this home whose off the grid power supply kept it warm and lighted and whose design made him feel like a rabbit secured within its hole. In the next room his father and Professor Ashton were talking quietly with Able Strong .
“..motors that use liquid metal for liquid contact…” Able’s trebly voice carried through the wall.
“…would have to be quite hot...” came fathers reply and after his the high feminine voice of Professor Ashton cut in.
“…done with Mercury…”
“…get a hold of him?” father asked
“…transistor…a week or so…luck…”
“We knew.” Nate Fisher sniffed morosely.
And then Ferdi had asked him that all important question.
“What did you know?”

Sitting on the hill smoking little brown cigarettes held between fingers that had been painted with black polish. Under his dark hood, Ferdi let his mind drift. Out along the green horizon a figure emerged. He watched it, ready to radio for assistance if necessary. As it drew nearer he rose to his feet so that he would be more visible.
He thought he saw the figure look his way. It stopped and then turned sharply away and slowly vanished again. Ferdi sat back down and sighed.
The world was really composed of two kinds now: believers and magicians, the hordes of uneducated human animals wandering the wasteland, one of them his own mother, and the keepers of the last bastion of technology and civilization. Grab any astronomer out of his observation tower to ask him and he could have told you… but now it was much too late for that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hot House Flowers

Each house had its own unique smell dictated by the habits of those that dwelt within its hardy walls. This one smelled faintly of cigar smoke and coffee and roses, of cologne made from orange blossoms and the wood of the floor and of course, clean linens. Elsa washed these herself once a week and ironed them before folding them away in the linen closet. Now she changed the bedding, stripping the navy blue cases from the pillows and peeling away the old sheets from the large mattress in the master bedroom.
There was a bar of Belgian chocolate wrapped in gold foil under Mr. Gardner’s pillow with a wilted wild flower and a small note card hidden between the foil and the paper wrapper. The note card had only a time scrawled in the banker’s flowing script: 1:00. Elsa smelled the chocolate and the dehydrated little flower with a smile before pocketing these items in her cleanly starched apron pocket. Mrs. Gardner would get fresh roses this evening, but her maid felt that she was the one getting the better part of the bargain. At 23 she was still young enough that hot house flowers seemed befitting only of grave yards. She finished making up the bed with the clean set of avocado green sheets and pillow slips and moved on to the dusting and emptying of waste bins.


Mrs. Gardner would have friends for tea at 11:00 and enlisted Elsa’s help in preparing the table before she left. She was paid weekly with a check from Mr. Gardner’s book for basic housekeeping, but never minded being asked to help with something extra. In particular she liked handling the fine bone china with little pink roses painted on them. She couldn’t imagine bothering to drink from cups so small and delicate herself, and never coveted such items. She was content to handle all of the belongings of Mrs. Gardner only momentarily, becoming acquainted with their textures and shapes and odors without ever having to worry about loosing them. She even helped fasten the pearls around her employer’s neck before she departed, thereby adding their smoothness to the storehouse of her memory. She neither envied nor pitied Mrs. Gardner, but felt something like disdain for this woman who knew so little of her husband and her house that one could hide notes in the other without fear of discovery.


The Finch household was another arrangement all together. Elsa tripped on the garden hose left carelessly in the walkway on her way to the front door. The houses on this street were smaller than those on the street where the Gardners lived and nestled together like pigeons on a rooftop. The yards were composed of neat little squares of green grass protected by white fences and within their confines, clothes lines were strung flying brightly colored shirts like flags. The screen door hung crooked over the threshold of the Finch residence and Elsa opened it and let herself in. The odor of bourbon and old grease from frying greeted her nose along with the scent of stale cigarette butts and bleach. Dahlia Finch was hanging off the sofa in a nude toned satin slip surrounded on all sides by half drained glasses of bourbon and Jim Bean. She appeared to be sleeping with her mouth wide open and a burning cigarette dangled from the fingers of one hand.


Elsa gathered up the glasses and put out the cigarette, taking them all to the little kitchen. Elroy Dean, Dahlia’s brother was sitting at the round wooden table solving crossword puzzles in his rumpled undershirt and boxers. His greasy dark hair was turned every which way.
“Oh. Hi Elsa, how are you doing?” he asked her in his soft almost lisping voice glancing up at her over his thin spectacles.
“Fine Roy. You?” she asked, filling the sink with hot sudsy water.
“Uh, very well under the circumstance.” He said shuffling one black sock clad foot around on the linoleum under the table. His big toe protruded from the end of the sock.
“What circumstance would that be?” Elsa asked him.
He sighed deeply and stared intently at the crossword puzzle, penciling something in.
“Oh, uh, Bertrand hasn’t been home for a few days.”
Elsa shut off the faucet and dropped the glasses and an assortment of dirty dishes that she gathered from the countertops into the hot water. Then she turned to face him drying her hands on the apron.
“Really?”
Roy looked at her and nodded.
“Where did he go?” she asked and he shrugged.
They looked at each other silently for a moment, Elsa forgoing the formality of asking why. One glance around the house supplied enough “why”. The disheveled brother in law in the kitchen and drunkard wife in the living room were adequate explanation for the departure of any reasonable man.
“You want to smoke a reefer?” Elroy asked her after a while.
She shook her head,
“I have an appointment in an hour.” But then she walked across the kitchen and ran a hand through his stringy dark hair. She bent over him, bringing her face close to his. Breathing the scent of his unwashed hair and searching over his pale face with her blue eyes she brought her mouth to his and whispered,
“But I might take one for the road.”
She pressed her lips against his. Slowly she worked her way from his mouth, down his throat and chest under the shirt and beyond, until she had sunk to her knees and Roy unraveled her bun so that the blonde hair spilled out over his lap like liquid gold.

At 12:30 Elsa stole a shower and borrowed some black lacy undergarments and a dress from Dhalia’s closet. By then the Matron of the household was stirring and volunteered to help the other woman doll up. A cigarette dangled from her lip as she applied the make up to Elsa’s face in the bathroom. Roy, partially clad now with a pair of gray slacks and fedora to accompany the rumpled undershirt offered to drive Elsa to her appointment. She accepted and had him drop her off a block away from the hotel. Before she climbed out of the car, he fished three joints out of his pocket and pressed them into her hand.
“For the road, remember?”
She put them in her purse and walked the block to the Hilton.


1:00 at The Palace. Hotels too had their own smell, clean and impersonal. One might catch a whiff of polished brass or the detergent used to clean the carpets. Bell hops smelled like soap, desk clerks like after shave. There were lilies and carnations and roses mingling together in crystal vases in the lobby and under mirrors in the halls and in the rooms. The heavy drapes had been pulled shut blocking out the afternoon sun and a view of the street. Elsa felt the glorious starchiness of the white sheets on her naked body and the warm softness of Agnew Gardners great paunch under her arm. The scent of his cologne, familiar to her from her daily visits to his home blended with the impersonal hotel odors forming a collage of worlds in her mind. She pretended to sleep because that was the way he liked to leave her, no good byes, no promise of future encounters, and a fold of bills on the nightstand, to keep things fair and impersonal.
She let him slip out from under her arm, a great round man with thinning flaxen hair and large pouty lips that covered her whole mouth when they kissed. She listened to the shower run briefly, then as if it were all music, to the rustling of his clothes as he dressed himself, to the sound of the door opening and closing with a soft hiss as it scraped the plush carpet, and at last to his footsteps fading in the hall. She could picture him in his dark blue suit and hat strolling down the street, traversing the three blocks back to the bank, whistling to himself and tipping his hat to other pedestrians cigar in hand. She rolled over and tossed back the sheets, then paused before rising. There on the night stand rested the customary fold of bills, but on top of it waited a little crystal vial of perfume. She smiled broadly, fingering it, feeling a rush of warmth spread through her body.


Mrs. Peffing answered the door when Elsa rang the bell at 2:45.
“Elsa!” she exclaimed throwing both hands into the air, “I forgot you were coming. It’s just as well, come in.”
Elsa followed her inside and into the kitchen, cheered by the aroma of citron candles and sunflowers and vinyl.
“Please sit down and help yourself to a piece of lemon cake. Baked it this morning. I know how you like cake, though you’d never know it by looking at you, you skinny thing! I’m running late for a dentist appointment. Would you let Henry in when he comes? He lost his key again.” She shook her head of shiny brass curls, “I don’t know what he’ll do when he goes away to college year after next.”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine.” Elsa told her, admiring Mrs. Peffing's creamy skin and thick arms as she set out the cake and knife, a plate and a fork. “And I can let him in today.”
“Wonderful, thank you so much!” Mrs. Peffing’s apple shaped cheeks shone rosily as she smiled.
“Just let me go and cut you a check before I leave. I’ll be right back.” She said and hurried out of the kitchen.

Elsa’s hand was on the knife slicing the cake when Henry popped in a moment later.
“Hello Miss Daning.” He greeted her. She clapped a hand to her heart.
“Oh, Henry! You startled me. I didn’t hear you come in the front door.”
“I’m sorry.” he said coming closer to her with his sunny smile, “Are you alright?”
His hair was brassy like his mother’s, his jaw square, his teeth straight and white. In his yellow and blue sweater he looked like a young Apollo, the lean muscular chest and arms evident under his school colors.
“I’m fine,” she assured him.
“Is my mother home?” he asked her.
“She’s just on her way out, she has a dentist appointment.” Else explained putting the slice of cake onto the plate and pushing it towards him.
“I know she does.” He grinned breaking a piece of cake off with his fingers, “I’m the one who had her appointment moved to today instead of Friday.”
“What? Why?” Elsa inquired.
“So that I would be here alone with you.” Henry answered pushing the plate with the slice of cake back to her. His brown eyes bore into her. She fumbled with the fork and managed to knock it from the table.
“Why would you…would you want that?” she stammered.
Henry moved quickly, kneeling beside her chair to retrieve the fork before she could. With one hand he set it on the table while with the other he stroked her calf and turned his eyes back on her.
“Don’t you think you should look for a nice girl your age?” she asked him striving to maintain an icy demeanor.
“Oh, I’m not looking for a girl. And I was kinda hoping you aren’t too nice.”
Elsa’s jaw dropped slightly but she found that she could think of nothing to say to the young man who’s hand was traveling from the back of her knee to her thigh under her dress.
“Here it is.” Mrs. Peffing said from the hall just before entering the kitchen. Henry slipped swiftly under the table where he was concealed by the long linen cloth. Mrs. Peffing handed the check to Elsa.
“Did I hear Henry come in?” she asked.
“I don’t think so.” Elsa answered. Henry’s cheek pressed warmly against her inner thigh under the table and his hands caressed her calves. She picked up the fork and smiled.
“I worry about him sometimes.” Mrs. Peffing said, “He spends more time at the drug store after school lately, socializing, which I think is healthy, but I hope he doesn’t loose track of his studies. We have such high hopes for him.”
He now had her gripped by the thighs with both hands and his face was well nuzzled between her legs so that she could feel the heat of his breath through her panties.
“Well, I don’t know him well, but he seems like a nice boy.” Elsa said and he pressed his nose and then his mouth against the thin undergarment.
“Thank you.” Mrs. Peffing smiled. “Try the cake before I go.” She gestured to plate sitting before her house keeper.
Elsa sunk the fork into the moist slice of cake and brought it to her mouth while Henry chewed the panties with his perfect white teeth and his mother looked eagerly on.
“What do you think?”
“Delicious.” Elsa answered breathlessly.
Mrs. Peffing clapped her hands together.
“That’s what I thought too!” she exclaimed, “Now I really have to run. Oh, Elsa, before I forget, we’ll be out of town next week. Could you come again this Friday before we go? ”
“Of course.” Elsa told her, feeling Henry’s tongue dart daringly beyond panties.
“Excellent! See you Friday.” Mrs. Peffing said and hurried out of the kitchen. Elsa waited, straining to hear the front door close before she moaned.

They lay on their backs in Mr. And Mrs. Peffing’s bed afterwards sharing one of the three marijuana cigarettes that Roy had given her and eating the chocolate left by Mr.Gardner.
“What made you so bold?” Elsa asked after they had passed an eternity in restful silence.
“I don’t know.” Henry said as if he too was full of wonder. “I mean, you want to know something? I never did it before. I told guys I did, and they pretended to believe me just like I pretended to believe them, but I never have. Until now.” He rolled onto his side and gazed at her. “You’re just… your just so very beautiful.”
“I wish I wasn’t.” she sighed, “I get into more trouble…” she passed the joint to him and the quiet settled over them again. Sunlight slipped in through a crack in the curtains and the muted tinkling of wind chimes reached their ears from beyond the pain of glass.
“What kind of cigarette is this?” Henry asked her. He laughed his easy happy young laugh.
“It’s marijuana.” She told him with another sigh.
“Really? Well I never tried that before either.” Again he laughed.
Again the silence and the shadow of a tree branch dancing over the sunlight that peeked in past the curtain. He passed the joint back to her, “Miss Daning, I think I love you.”
She turned her head so that they were face to face.
“I doubt that Henry. You don’t really know me, but you should call me Elsa now.”
“Elsa. I think I do love you. And I know all that I need to know. How could I not love you? Now that I’ve really seen you. I used to watch you dusting and pushing the Hoover, and think ,‘man she’s something!’. But that wasn’t like this. I never saw you like this before today.”
She smiled and he kissed her softly, with renewed fire.


A fresh vase of red roses expelling their perfume into the atmosphere of polished wood and coffee, cologne and cigar smoke. That same familiar smell. Hot house flowers for those who have something to loose. A card under the pillow reading, 7:00pm, beside it a lavender blossom stolen by Mr. Gardner’s plump fingers from some hedge. A check signed by Mr. Gardner handed over by Mrs. Gardner while in the living room white gloved friends waited to commence with a game of bridge.
“Miss Daning, I regret to inform you that I will no longer require your services. On account of the short notice I asked my husband to write you a check for two additional weeks of pay. I’m sure you will find it generous of us. Good bye.”
Nothing further was said by either woman. No questions asked no explanations given.
On the way from the front door to the street Else asked herself again and again,
‘Does she know? Does she know? Or was it something else? Forgetting to dust the mantle?”

Walking to the bus stop, the smell of fresh cut grass. She passed a hedge of lavender. Could it have been from this bush that Mr. Gardner selected a bloom? And from that house over there, yesterday’s daisy? Would there still be 7:00pm at the Palace tonight, 1:00pm tomorrow, 3:00pm or 5:00pm the next day?
“Does she know? Does she know? Or was it something else?”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Waves of Truth


Moving with a rhythm, a disordered rhythm of contradictions and divided impulses, Dorian made his way down the hall towards me, his fingers lightly brushing the wall, a neighbor’s door knob, the molding around the doorway. Every gesture conspired to create a chaotic rhythm that was somehow harmonic in the purity of its chaos.
Even his hair moved as if electrified, swaying in black ringlets atop his head, and his shirt sleeves seemed to breath as if drawn by an unsteady hand as part of some sketchy animation. Blue gray eyes with a halo of yellow ringing the pupils erupted from his anonymous face like a burst of noise hiding a carefully constructed melody of microtonal intensity.
The small soft looking nose, round cheeks, and unobtrusive chin were all so perfectly shaped that they melted into the back ground like a ghost and only those wild eyes remained.
Any person who tried to recall his countenance would have difficulty in restructuring the details of that face, but the eyes would haunt them. They would remain in dreams, integrated into the structures of other easier to conjure faces.
He seemed to bounce, erratically from wall to wall, then hover in between, then zig zag. The shiny black shoes thudded on the thin tan Berber as if each foot strove to walk independently of the other, as if these two feet belonged to two separate men who had been tied together for the sake of a novel race.
Even the legs bowed and squiggled as if they were involved in a mutiny against the feet, while the arms aided the hands and fingers in conducting their senseless groping. Somehow all these many singular movements, all these many notes and sounds produced by uneven footfalls and rustling garments and finger nails on plaster, they all added up to one very distinct and clear beat, something so polyrhythmic that it couldn’t be measured by me, and yet it was there. I could hear it.
Those quivering shirt sleeves were fashioned of black Italian silk, the slacks were some miracle blend that appeared either gray or silver depending on the way the light hit them.
How many times had some fool mistaken him for a billionaire’s retarded son? With a gait like that. It was easy to assume that he wasn’t all there, but it was a terrible mistake to make, a mistake that Dorian would make you pay for, mustering all his considerable mental ability to the task.
A mind like that. How does a genius perceive the world, how does his mind unfold? I imagine the inside of Dorian’s mind to be like jazz, waves of truth wrapped in disorganized bits of light and sound that collect around this or that nexus, all suspended by his attention like stars in the night sky.
As always, the nearer to me he came, the more confused my senses grew. Was I repulsed or attracted? My skin would tingle, every inch of it, the way one’s flesh crawls when in the night one awakens and sees by moonlight a spider crawling along the window pane.
It was like that, but also like when a very attractive woman is so close you can feel the heat from her body before she is quite touching you, and maybe she never does.
I stuck the needle-like tip of my mother’s broach behind the night light and was electrocuted when I was six. Being within yards of Dorian was like that. I am never sure if it is a proximity to life or death that induces these sensations. I have long suspected that they are, in fact, one and the same.

When he was a few feet from me he said,
“Remembering itself as itself. From the inside, yes. Everyone is an Observer of themselves, but who can process this reality? Are you ready Billy?”
His voice was always a little raspy, like autumn leaves scratching along the concrete, propelled by a breath of wind. In it you heard both the breath and the scratch and it made him seem both frail and boundless.
“Sure thing boss.” I told him and his hand made its way from the wall to the front of my shirt back to the door jam.
“Imagination is more important than pure knowledge. If you can't see through the other one’s eyes, then you’re blind to the oneness. Lets go bird watching Billy boy. I’ve left my cane. Lend a hand?”
I offered him my arm and he leaned on it trembling. I’d helped him this way before, but it was always startling to feel the storm of tremors that was the body of Dorian Finch.

We strode together back up the hall to the elevator and rode it down to the garage. Horace was there in the black Jaguar waiting patiently behind the wheel. Dorian lifted his hand in a gesture similar to a wave. It looked as if he were caressing the air, feeling it with his finger tips. Horace nodded.
“Not my car Billy. Your car. Separated individuality collected in the uniqueness.” Dorian explained.
“Should I get your cane?” I asked.

“Won’t be necessary. I’ll remain in the car. Image making. You brought the camera?”
“Yeah. I got it right here.” I said giving the camera bag a tap.
Dorian leaned on my battered Corolla feeling the rear windows as I unlocked the passenger door for him. He slithered in touching everything as he moved. Once installed behind the wheel I asked him.
“Where to?”
“1491 Jamestown Dr. to deliver us from SIN. From IGNORANCE Billy Boy.”

With his legs and feet at rest he was almost still. His hands caressed his own pant legs, the door, the upholstery of his seat while his wild eyes were glued to the road ahead. We waited at lights in silence, passed down the thoroughfare watching the golden dusk yield to darkness while the shop lights glimmered into wakefulness. Restaurants and nightclubs let lines of people in evening dress hang out of their doors like long tongues out of small rectangular mouths.

When we arrived at 1491 Jamestown we were submerged in suburbia, mid sized residences surrounded by manicured lawns. I had turned off the head lights seven or eight houses away and we eased up to the curb across the street from the house. The lights were on inside.
I took the camera out of its bag and fitted it with the telephoto lens, then waited. Soon I got my shot. The woman in her red underwear and the man smothering her with kisses by the window. It took me a moment to zoom in on their faces. A moment longer to recognize the woman. I slowly lowered the camera.
Dorian sighed.
“So THEN all things CAN change.”
“That’s Bettina.” I said.
“Precisely.” he breathed.
Bettina. Dorian’s girl. And my girl too, though I hoped he didn’t know. It would break my heart if he knew.
“Dorian.” I turned to him and his wild eyes met mine.
“We hope yes, BUT when THIS particular timeline ends THEN all these things ARE FULFILLED RELATIVE to the people and individuals aware of it. I am the one who can’t follow and I am the one who leads the way.”
“Dorian.” I could only repeat myself, could not fathom what he was saying to me.

Bettina seemed to be making the deadly mistake. The unforgivable mistake of underestimating the mind of Dorian Finch. Had I made the same mistake too? Was this the web? The web wrought by Dorian to ensnare us both? Did he suppose that I would kill her out of jealousy? Or was it that man in there that he wanted to see wiped off the board. Or did he know me, really know me? Did he know that I could not be jealous for myself but that I could feel jealous for him? That I could feel for him possibly more than I could feel for myself?

How many times had some fool mistaken him for a billionaire’s retarded son? Moving with a rhythm, a disordered rhythm of contradictions and divided impulses, weaving his webs without beginning or end, every gesture conspiring to create a chaotic rhythm that was somehow harmonic in the purity of its chaos. My betrayal of Dorian, Bettina’s betrayal of us both, this probable politicians betrayal of a wife and his constituency, Dorian leaning on my shoulder in the hall, that camera revealing and capturing the truth. All these many singular movements adding up to something so polyrhythmic that it couldn’t be measured by me.
I am the one who can’t follow and I am the one who leads the way, my hands cleaning my 9mm colt semi automatic deftly while my mind churns through the options and the photos dry in the print tray.
Which is the one that he intends, or which of those possibilities that he foresees does he prefer? Waves of truth wrapped in disorganized bits of light and sound.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Locked Hotel


The sun is setting and the orange gold light of the late afternoon streams in through the plate glass window and doors on the western side of the hotel lobby. There is a certain amount of tension in the room, there is a cluster of people in the center by the large round wooden table and flower arrangement.
We move hesitantly for a few seconds, like a school of fish not quite sure where to move, but I grasp that I need to get out of the hotel quickly and walk towards the door with a setting sun in the distance. I see her out there on the other side of the sliding glass door, her huge blond, almost white afro teased into a puff of cotton candy. With her lean tan arms raised, she pushes the door closed from the outside, her fingers and palms pressed against the glass doors, pushing the door towards its stable counterpart, locking them together as I, and the rest of the group walk towards her quickly.
As soon as I see her bleached white hair I know it’s too late, the exit is a solid opaque wall. I turn mid-stride, looking quickly at the other glass door on the other side of the thin-carpeted lobby. It is darker by that door, leading into a casino that dark walls and dim florescent bulbs, but also at the same time, providing an escape to the outside world.
I walk quickly, covering the lobby in five long steps, but I’m not fast enough, there’s someone else out there, an androgynous figure covered dark brown cloth and plaid. There are another set of hands pushing that glass door shut and I know that we are locked in.

My sister and I are in a hotel room above the locked lobby doors. We are locked into our room too. My sister is on the queen sized mattress, reclining against the headboard on a few fluffy white pillows, her bare white legs are stretched out on the thin maroon bedspread with a satin sheen and a polyester feel. Her elbow is pressed into the mattress by her hip, her raised hand holds a silver remote limply, pointing to the quickly changing bluish hues of the tv. Her face reveals nothing but boredom and she searches for escape.
I am standing a few feet away from the tv on the light brown carpet, my bare feet are pointed to the room’s window on the wall perpendicular to the tv. The window does not greet me with cool fresh air, but rather provides a view of an open-air hotel restaurant on a lower floor. I approach it and kneel, as it is close to the floor.
I look out the window, seeing long rectangular cafeteria-sized tables, fake green ivy in large tiled rectangular pots and a few open umbrellas that insinuate sun, though only a thick roof hangs above. The interior walls of the hotel are painted a reddish brown and look even darker with the sparse lighting.
I turn my attention to our window and examine the sides of the glass and then push on the screen. I quickly find that the screen is easily removable and I pull the large mesh frame from the window and lay it beside the bed.

I am in the restaurant two floors below our locked room. I sit on the long wooden cafeteria tables surrounded on all sides by employees of the Italian- theme restaurant. I turn and look up towards the open window and remember my sister is still up there watching tv.
The workers of the restaurant are understanding and sympathetic, they know where I have been and what I ultimately want. They crowd around, providing me with a bit of shelter and a sense of protection. Their bodies protect me from an unseen oppressor.

I look up at the window without a screen. I think I can get my sister to climb out the window, there are plenty of decorative ledges along the wall that lead to our window. I imagine that I can climb those ledges and use them as foot holds, I imagine my sister could do the same. But then I remember, it’s not just the hotel room that’s locked, the glass doors leading to the street are locked as well and I don’t have a solution to escape the glass doors.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wild Darkness

There is a wild darkness deep inside the crevices of my heart. It shines like obsidian when I turn and face the sun, though no one, not even I, can see its sheen. It is like a forgotten forest, left long ago when I was just a child wearing little pink dresses. I used to know this place, I could visit and sleep in the world of trees and fallen leaves, it was a place just as pretty as the land of rainbows and laughter. Both were equally inviting and I could walk towards them on well-marked paths, eager to discover the messages they offered.
When I ran there with pig-tails and bare feet, I saw pine boughs grow heavy with pale aged moss and green leaves that held in their color a thousand other hues I could not see. This place used to be another chamber in which to play, a place slightly darker than home, a little less bright, but full of dark open-ended mystery. There I could explore, I turned over heavy gray stones and looked into the holes of knotted trees, asking for their stories. But when I left this place in a slow fit that covered my body in bruises and fear, the path faded in seconds. Cobwebs clouded the canopy and blocked out the weak sun. I left this place and did not go back, abandoning all the crickets and wolves that still take up the call each night, beginning the chanting until the ghosts join in chorus.
The wild darkness can no longer be reached by foot. The paths have disappeared and are covered with poison mushrooms and miner’s lettuce. The map I once sketched and vowed to keep is buried so deep I cannot reach it. I glimpse it in dreams and forget about it upon waking. The darkness cannot be touched by my hands anymore, but I know it’s there. It is waiting for me, and the night animals sing to me when I breathe deeper. It is there, and I look to the left and the right, I look under the covers and behind closed closet doors for a way to enter. But when I sniff the dank air of rotting earth, when the thick strands of a cobweb catches my hand, I run and hide in the bath, submerging my head in the safety of warm water and a mother’s sheltering womb.
The darkness is buried inside, and while one side of me hides, another part searches. The wild darkness swirls with all of my rage and clouds of anger. It dwells there. It grows among the chaotic spider webs and fallen logs and the knotted trees that always resemble distorted human shapes with humps and missing faces. My exiled pain feeds off of the moist low-hanging clouds and the damp fallen needles.
I have banished all my demons to that dark land. Ghosts walk the forest floor, feasting on other new arrivals and the echoes of tears. I have pushed everything in there all of these years, all the things this body living in the sun cannot face.
I see my mother, my daughter, my husband, my lover. Parts of them walk through my darkness. Shadows of me walk there too, dancing with old memories and biting their fingers. Shadows of me flicker, some are missing limbs or just a hand. Some hobble, and some are bleeding from the chest. They are everything I cannot face and they hang suspended in this place, wandering the grounds, dodging trees and poisonous beasts and sucking on mushroom caps. It is a forest of hidden emptiness, though it fills itself with sorrow. I hear it going thump, thump, thump, thump.
The part of me that still looks under rocks, she looks for the place without a map, but she cannot find the door. She slams into walls and gets lost in the closet. She knows she must go back. She must visit the place that was always there, the land where everything exists at once, the past, present, and future. It is all hidden, yet repeating the same well-worn cycle. It is waiting for my return.
I can smell it now, dank and moldy, smelling of earth, tasting like rusty blood. I turn to the left, looking for a new path to carry me back.