It was in that moment when he entered their apartment, a one room flat with a tiny kitchen where they would make quesadillas and spinach salads, when he saw her reclining on the bed smoking and reading from a thin paperback novel, and she looked up at him and smiled a twisting, dangerous smile behind the swirling smoke, that he knew he loved her. The place was a mess with many books scattered about, empty wine and beer bottles stacked near overfilled ashtrays, dished piled and stained. A Clifford Brown CD was playing George’s Dilemma and was accompanied by the buzzing of the refrigerator. He stood still briefly and watched as she went back to reading. She was always reading. And smoking. And drinking. But then so was he. And he loved her. In that instant he felt it shake him. Loved the small twists and creases in her eyelids, the small dimples in the back of her earlobes. Her closed and loose sense of humor, her pseudo-Parisian style of clothes. He loved that she was more brilliant than he would ever be, yet stroked his ego out of compassion. The sunlight streamed through and lingered forbiddingly along her curved legs and tender lips. Other than the smile she did not pay him any mind, or give recognition to the fact he was home early, but simply resumed reading as he got a beer. It was in that moment, with her eyes leaking brilliant sexuality, the smell of the cheap beer assaulting his nostrils, her long thin fingers flipping a page, the subtle yet alluring movement of her head as she shifted her attention to the next, that he knew from the depths of his abused soul that he truly and passionately loved her. And he knew he had to leave.
It is the second Friday of the month, so that makes it Short Story Friday! Okay, I just made that up. But here is a short story.
“Who do you read, then?” She asked that night at the party as they stood outdoors on the veranda. She had a light in her eyes.
“Anyone worthwhile,” he said, trying to dismiss her and her question.
“Would you read my writings?” Hope and vanity were syrup dripping out of her mouth.
“But why not?”
“Wasn’t this question already answered?”
Seven months later he recalls this conversation upon seeing her novel on the shelf for bestsellers. He laughs silently to himself, takes a sip of his coffee from a paper cup, and moves down the aisle seeking a lost asylum.
Silver Steel Box
For the sake of reference say
there is a farmer with a track of
land four hundred acres long. He
always starts early in the morning
when the crows will pay him no
attention. Finding in the middle of
his field a box he feels alienated.
The box is silver steel with the letters
“SW” in black print. They mean nothing
to him. He hauls the box away with
his tractor as it is too heavy and too
large to lift and puts it in his barn.
He forgets about it the rest of the day.
Eats dinner, watches his wife play
cards with her friends, admiring her
nimble fingers. She smiles at him
while sipping an ice tea. She does not
like mint. The next morning the box
disappeared and in its place is a sapling.
Green leaves and buds bursting with
a multitude of color. He mistakes their
fragrance for hyssop. It is in a steel bucket,
and the letters, while still there, “SW”, are
now yellow. They still mean nothing to him.
He tells his wife who says it might be a
demon. He does not believe it can be
possible, but kisses her cheek and asks
what’s for supper. She goes outside to
check on the kids. There are figments
that sparkle about his family. Small balls
of light that dance in and out and over and
around them. His family does not see
them and say “what’s what” when he asks
them about it. He goes back to the
barn to check on his demon tree
that he does not think is a demon,
but now is also no longer a tree. Only
a black cloth bag is there now. When he
opens it, it is full of bones. White
bones, old and dry. Human. One
of them has the letters on it, “SW”,
but now they are purple. He likes
the color, but is still puzzled about
the letters. He decides to do as anyone
should with bones, and takes them
out to be buried. In the middle of his
field he digs a deep hole. He feels that
it is the proper setting. He covers them
up and goes in for the night. In bed, he
and his wife read books, make love,
and sleep until noon. He dreamt of
almonds. The night was riddled with
creeks and knocks suitable for an
old farmhouse that has been in his
family for generations. When he wakes
up and notices the time he is shocked.
So is his wife. She goes out to check
on the kids and wakes them up.
They don’t go to school that day.
He goes out to the fields where the
box was buried and finds once more
a silver steel box. All that has changed
are the letters. The letters are now
“PN”. He still does not know what that
means. He takes a swig from his flask,
bourbon, and decides to leave the box
alone. Let the seasons come to
rust it and settle into the ground
once more on its own. He sees the balls
of light that now surround the whole house.
All of his property. He feels happy, suddenly,
joyful, and lays down to watch the white and
grey clouds pass through an orange sky.
Out she says,
the tender of her heart
Fearing an inescapable
by their own
of the situation
their feet and
exit the room.
So after some thought, I came to the conclusion that I should have posted the fourth chapter of Marcello’s Revenge. This was originally broken into 3 parts, but I decided to just dump it all together. Sorry for the ungodly length of the piece, and the out of order sequencing. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.
Other installments can be found HERE.
With no traffic delays, the drive from our house to the Periwinkles normally takes about forty-five minutes. With Francine driving, though, we made it in about thirty-five. With quite a few white knuckle moments for me. Not so much due to her being a speedy driver, which she most certainly is, but for the fact that she never seems to brake at the proper stopping distance, waiting to be nearly on top of the car ahead of her, or at the cross walk of the intersection before aggressively applying the brakes. But the drive was good fun, with her wearing a smart pink dress that curved snuggly about her hips and ended just above her knees, her legs applying the pedals and moving oddly in sync with the salsa music playing on the stereo. I watched her as she pressed the clutch, the brake and the gas like they were a part of some complicated dance routine (clutch, brake, gas…clutch, brake, gas…). We spoke sparingly, if at all, but she would occasionally look over to me, my reflection in her dark, oversize sunglasses staring back dumbly at myself.
This is the final installment to the poem Gomorrah. Other entries can be found
At home Gomorrah puts his newspaper in a drawer. Hangs his straw
hat up on a peg nailed into his desk. The purple sky paints the room.
Owls are out. Hunting in the dry air. The trees shake. Gomorrah
finishes his dinner and prepares for bed. Seasons his cast iron skillet.
He will not sleep. He knows this. It has been years since he has.
He smiles. “I picked you.” Michelangelo and Jonah escaped. They
carry the knowledge of The People. The Door The Old Gods
departed from stays hidden. Forever buried in the catacomb maze.
The snow is continuing to fall in the higher elevations. In the mountains
there is joy. Thick ice now blocks all of the passes. Secretes cool
water to the west. To the sea. The radio plays ballroom jazz. Muffled
and static. Bells in the towers ring. The key must have gotten lost.
Time walks. Creeps. Keeps the bass line occupied. Skips a beat. Bleeds
and yearns for a forgotten past. A future lost. Gomorrah can feel it. Hair
tingles his arm. Tickles his neck. God and gods stung by their own victory.
The fire approaches. It comes to consume the hollow remains of the city.
Thank you for following along and reading!
Other installments of the poem Gomorrah can be found:
The Tribunal asks Gomorrah what he remembers. He says to tend
roses in the yard. And to gather the rain water. They ask him if he
remembers his family. His Father. His Mother. Susan. He says only
that they are dead or gone. The clock is covered in wet cheesecloth.
“What of Emily?” they ask. Gomorrah sees blue eyes. His soul stuttering
in the living room. The spell of a smile. Hears forget me nots whispered
in the wind. Under the sun a whimpering kiss. The stone of doom weighs
down heavily on his heart. He replies he does not know an Emily.
The Tribunal requests the book. They tell him to open it. To read from
it. Gomorrah can see the words but they no longer make sense. Random
scrawls along the paper. But he knows they cannot see them. Blank
pages brighten the dank room. The Tribunal mutter among themselves.
The verdict comes. The book must go to the furnace. Gomorrah knows he can-
not take it any longer to The Shrine. Only Susan knew the way. A man leaves
to stoke the coals. Gomorrah nods his permission. He is given a cane. The
city emblem is on the handle. He leaves. The Peacock Sun King is crowned.
Other installments of the poem Gomorrah can be found
They say that from the top of the tallest of the three spiraling
towers one could see past the mountains to the ocean. It is
so tall it makes Gomorrah dizzy to think about. He never went
up to investigate. Inside on the first floor City Hall resides.
Built over the entrance to the catacombs. Writhing in organic
shadows cast by no light. The lobby has many chairs. People wait on
their discourse. An empty desk. No receptionist. A television
broadcasts a game show at low volume. Gomorrah passes through.
He finds the room matching the number he was assigned. The
Tribunal waits. Gaunt men and women whose number Gomorrah
does not care to count. They wear pleated pants. Or skirts.
All grey and white. Their vision disappears under domed hats.
The welcome him kindly. Firmly. Seasons change outside. Gomorrah
sees the maple. His favorite tree. It stretches arms to collect the
sun. Shifting green patterns sneak in. Play on barren walls. He takes
a seat at a long table that fills the room. The leather burns him.
Only two more entries to go on this poem. I have them written. Just running through the final edits. Thanks for reading!
Other installments of Gomorrah can be found
Drums announce a procession in route to the Evening Gate to perform
the Opening Ceremony. It marches down Gomorrah’s Street. He
stands by his fence. Incense perfumes the air from golden decanters.
All of their eyes red from the swirling smoke. A robed man leads them.
The man carries a tattered flag at half-mast. The cities emblem emblazoned
upon it. Four white dots in a diamond pattern on a field of blue.
The leader asks Gomorrah if he captured the rain water. He nods. He does
not know anyone in the parade. Only that their number has dwindled.
They leave. The horn of an unseen car sounds. But then all numbers have
dwindled Gomorrah thinks as he begins his journey to City Hall. He walks and
recalls Father and Mother’s House. The many rooms of crowded camaraderie
with his brothers and sisters and cousins and friends all meeting in mirth.
The nights in summer. Parties under stars and moon that are now oblique and
un-known. The music and dance. The delight. Father’s stories. The laughter
and the love. Mother showing him the Earth with tender patience. Susan
being taught the tales and legends and secrets of The People from Father.
Other installments of the poem Gomorrah can be found
Gomorrah prepares to leave. He picks up the book from
the attic. It had been there for years on top of the piano
next to an empty bird-cage. City Hall requested it. Stale
water in a vase holds a grudge. Maliciously bends light.
He thinks of the flower Susan gave him. A rose. She picked it
from Father’s Garden when they were kids. She said
“This is you. I picked you.” Her skin was translucent when
they came for her. Luminescent. The Old Gods hid in the wind.
It masked their laughter. The furnace was stoked. Coals burned.
All Susan left behind were her children. She told Gomorrah
they were his now. The father being long dead. He kissed her hand
and wept and cursed heaven and raised the boys until grown.
Michelangelo left one day. Crossing the mountains to the
ocean to sail in unbound compassion to distant lands. Jonah
descended into the catacombs in search of The Door. Both of
them never returned. The Old Gods disappeared in a sigh.