Professional to the End

He thought of lifting her onto her desk and pulling her hips up to his.  No words no sounds.  Her deep blue eyes serious but soft looking up at him. He imagined the sweet, peach taste of her perfect lips on his. 

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He thought of lifting her onto her desk and pulling her hips up to his.  No words no sounds.  Her dark blue eyes serious but soft looking up at him. He imagined the sweet, peach taste of her perfect lips on his.  He thought of just taking over, feeling her slip into his embrace and following his lead, perfectly trusting his every move.

He had never met her before face to face, they had talked a couple of times over the phone.  That was her job, customer service.  He was a client.

She was nice, pretty too, not beautiful and not athletic just pretty.  She smelled really good.

She was too nice to be up on her desk and pulling his body toward her in a less than ladylike fashion.  He wanted to stop thinking about her that way, but it was her scent, the clean, cool scent of her skin and the way she looked at him, straight on with an open smile.  He felt thin and hollow, and his heart beat deep down into his echoing stomach.

Her office was full of papers, and she was talking and working.  She was walking between her computer and the copy machine and telling him that she was always ready to help.  He needed the help, paperwork wasn’t something he was good at.  He needed her to slow down because he needed to look at her while speaking; when he got nervous, he went deaf.

Suddenly rather than thinking about fumbling with that tight-fitting slip that he knew she wore under that flowing summer dress he wished he was sitting across from some pencil pushing moron from the IRS who had no interest in helping him at all.  He felt the hot prick of sweat spread out between his shoulder blades.

She was still smiling at him and still handing him papers.  They stood side by side, and she was pointing out key and important telephone numbers, websites and email addresses that would get him through his present dilemma.  She didn’t lean in, her hands moved slowly when she talked, and the pen she used to point out what might keep him alive was tucked up nicely behind her ear when she was done.

They had not shaken hands brushed up against each other nor stopped the flow of conversation between them in any sort of meaningful way.  He was someone off the street who needed assistance, she was doing her job.

“Well, I think that should get me through.”

She was already looking at the papers on her desk.  “Don’t ever hesitate to call me.  I’ll try and help in any way I can.”

He hesitated, he had been taught never to extend his hand to a lady, but he wanted to touch her before he left.  She stood smiling totally oblivious to the fact that he had made love to her in his head during the whole damned ordeal.

He extended his hand as a sort of reward to himself.  She stepped forward smoothly placing her hand in his.  There was no spark, no electric current, only the cool, soft grip of kindness.  She was professional to the end.

Accidents

he sat stony-eyed not acknowledging Carlos at all.  “Darla will have a glass of the house wine,” I said hastily fearing she would do something unconventional. 

“I have one question.” She looked at me with something between dread and vexation which merged and culminated in a purely “Darla-like” expression.

“I know, I know but really just one question,” I pleaded.  Darla leaned back and gave me a slight nod.  Taking that as permission I blurted it out, “What happened to men?”

Her pale skin blanched to a sudden milky gray and her beautiful sculptured lips turned a leaden color her smile conveyed a sort of evil satisfaction.  “Nothing, they’ve always been that way, you’ve just noticed.  That’s what I hate about optimists.”

Darla’s voice sounded as if she were down a deep echoing well.

Carlos, our usual waiter, was walking up to our table.  I could tell he was having a bad day because his usually pristine and pressed black trousers were splattered with something shiny from the knee down.  His small white apron had a washed out yellow looking blob almost dead center.  I felt myself turn red because the stain was dead center so I hoped whatever hit him hadn’t been painful.

“Stop blushing you idiot,” Darla whispered, “and stop looking at his crotch.”

Darla was never very nice.  I looked away and tried to compose myself.

Carlos came up to me and didn’t smile.  “How are you today?” he asked and I knew he didn’t care to know.

“I’ll just have a cup of coffee and whatever pie you have today,” I said squinting up at him.  He had managed to stand just where the sun was painful when looking up.  I though perhaps he should have been an international spy or an assassin rather than a waiter.  I looked over at Darla, blinking heavily.  She sat stony-eyed not acknowledging Carlos at all.  “Darla will have a glass of the house wine,” I said hastily fearing she would do something unconventional.

Carlos walked away not letting me know what sort of pie to expect.

“You see?” said Darla.  He’s a man and a typical one.  He has had a bad day, splattering grease on his pants…

“Trousers…”

“His pants when emptying the garbage at home before he came to work.  While at work some clumsy American tourist like you…

“Expatriate, I live here,”

“Tourist spills their orange juice in a projectile fashion because they saw a spider on the table so naturally, he’s a total shit to you.”

“Oh I know men are moody and take out all their frustrations on women, I was just wondering what happened to them physically.”

Darla lifted her eyebrows to me in question.

I looked about at the street, narrow hipped men with billowing shirts and long hair.  “They are all different colors and heights but all look the same.”

“Perhaps you are simply become cured of obsessing over them,” Darla said.

Carlos reappeared, his face looking like it was carved in oak.  He placed my coffee and blueberry pie in front of me and Darla’s wine in the center of the table. “Will that be all?” I could tell Carlos didn’t want to be standing next to the table. Darla stretched out her long gray hand and pulled the wine to her side of the table.  Carols blanched visibly.

“She is here today?” asked Carlos.

“She sees you, Carlos.  I’m sorry for that, truly.  I’m sorry too about the clumsy American tourist.”

I was sorry too, Darla was relentless and very good in causing accidents.

Candle Number One

I was and still am the bad girl. She held my hand through the first disastrous marriage, the second lackluster marriage, and subsequent love affairs, Harley purchase, nude beaches in France and my feeble attempt at motherhood. She walked me all the way through.

“What could possibly go wrong?”

I stared at her.  Yes with obvious disbelief. And here is the thing, I was and still am the bad girl. She held my hand through the first disastrous marriage, the second lackluster marriage, and subsequent love affairs, Harley purchase, nude beaches in France and my feeble attempt at motherhood. She walked me all the way through.

And now she is the one asking that dumb ass question.

Before I could say anything she was on with another cliché – “you owe me.”

I furrowed my brows. Yes, I owed her until I died but her voice sounded possessed.

“What do you mean…”

“You went out with my boyfriend.”

“Whaaat?”

“You remember, I know you remember — Tom?”

“Tom was your crush, chic,”

“And you went out with him, knowing.”

I looked at my friend of over forty years.

“He actually puckered up when he kissed, Vicky, I saved you a lifelong trail of misery.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“I was fifteen.”

“You lost your virginity when you were sixteen.”

“I was eighteen and I paid, I’m still paying.”

“Birth control.” She said it in her home economics tone of voice and I had a sudden urge to kill her. “Right, can we get on with this?”

She turned back to the cake on the table. I picked up the fiftieth candle and placed it in the middle, feeling suddenly like the ten-year-old girl in the backyard – her parent’s back yard. I had just moved in next door with my Mom and step-dad number two. I was drug over to celebrate the tenth birthday of a girl I never met.

I locked eyes with the fifty-year-old woman sitting across from me. Perfect life, perfect husband, two perfect boys and scared to death of fifty.

The cake looked like a damn porcupine.

“If you light them all before the first one melts, I’ll live to be 100.”

“And if I don’t make it?” I felt a shiver run down my spine. Secrets hushed to each other under the covers, tears, and pain during childbirth, weddings, and champagne, death and boredom all faced together.

“Then I’ll live to be 80 and that will be better.”

I lit the flame, watched it flare up between us and set it to candle number one.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Mirror, Mirror, Mother

Okay, listen, let’s get one thing straight before we go on.  I loved my father.  He loved me.  I couldn’t help his natural appetites.  My step-mother was there, yes but if he would have said ‘hey, I’m tired tonight I’ll see you in the morning,’ he may have lived longer. 

It didn’t work, my Mother was right.

She isn’t my real Mother but she’s the only one I have.  I speak to her in the mirror and no, we don’t look anything alike.

She’s beautiful, I mean really beautiful and I’m pretty.  There is a large difference.

She told me that deceit only works if you want to be rich, it never works if you want to be in love.  I thought, (and naturally so) what the hell does she know?  She seduced my father and I’m not too sure if he died of natural causes or if she helped him die of natural causes.

Okay, listen, let’s get one thing straight before we go on.  I loved my father.  He loved me.  I couldn’t help his natural appetites.  My step-mother was there, yes but if he would have said ‘hey, I’m tired tonight I’ll see you in the morning,’ he may have lived longer.  I suppose he died of what we all die of; free will.

Anyway, I was up in the attic trying to figure out the spinning wheel and thinking of a guy I just met at the well.  Now, Mom always told me not to touch the point of the spinning wheel because if I got a drop of blood on the snowy white wool I was spinning I’d fall asleep for 100 years.

I believed her because she worked like a dog for that snowy white wool.  She said that with my dark complexion, big brown eyes and rosy glow I’d look fabulous in white.

She wanted to marry me off as soon as possible.  To her credit, she was sizing up a very rich baron with lots of lands and a modern manor house with water heat.  I think of what life may have been there every once in a while.

I had other plans.  He was fair, noble, handsome and brave, the guy at the well. So I pricked my finger and dropped my own blood on the snowy white wool.  As I tumbled into that deep, deep sleep my Mother warned me about I heard her yelling my name from the basement.  Something about being an idiot.

I think if she would have just left well enough alone she wouldn’t be talking to me through the mirror.  She could have stayed in my father’s castle and lead a normal albeit rather evil life making her poison apples and scaring little kids.

“Did you have to lock your door again last night?” asked the mirror.

“Yes, and you don’t have to tell me I told you so.”

“Move up into the tower, with that game leg of his he won’t follow you up there.”

“He won’t let me cut my hair.”

“Let your hair grow.  It’s always grown fast and thick; you might be able to escape by it in a year or two.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“So is being married to that frog of a man you waited to kiss on your wedding night.”

Alien Maiden

I was married once and for a very short time.  I’m not sure what made me decide to get married.  I hated every moment of it.  I missed my solitude, and I hated meeting all the people that came with letting one single person into my life.

My brother-in-law was dating a dog.  I’m sorry but the girl was painful to look at and she had the personality of a soggy wool blanket.

So, I tried to befriend her.

I wanted to champion her, actually.  Yes, she was ugly, and she had no charm but I simply hated the way my sisters-in-law rolled their eyes when her back was turned.  My wimp ass brother-in-law was too cowardly to dump her.

That’s when I was certain that everyone in the room hated me including my husband.  I mean he smiled when I showed up in white and he seemed happy to put a ring on my hand but he seemed unhappy that I sympathized over the girl.

I excused myself during one family gathering and went into the bathroom and looked at my face.  No, I wasn’t beautiful but I wasn’t ugly.  My hair was done and my makeup wasn’t smudged.  I heard laughter outside in the room where everyone was having fun without me.

They were a clique that’s all.  I and the ugly girl had walked into a tiny little house where everyone knew each other and we were lumps next to the guys.

When I arrived back to the party, I looked at my husband who was talking to his best friend from high school who was now dating his ex-wife.  I felt a little sick why hadn’t that bothered me before?  The room began to swim.  I excused myself for some air and wondered how many eyes rolled as I walked out into the tiny backyard.  My skin began to crawl, I wondered what it would be like to grow old and live with a cat.

I walked home. When he came into the house he was shouting and yelling at me that everyone was looking for me; they thought I had been abducted.

“By Martians?”

“What?”

“Did everyone think I was abducted by Martians?”

“Where were you hiding?”

“I want a divorce.”

I have two cats, Athena and Artemis.  We live in a different town, with a big red maple in the front yard.  I pay the local neighborhood boys to mow my lawn in the summer and shovel the walk in the winter.  I plant inpatients in the shady areas around my little house and listen to the whispers coming from the sidewalk.

“She’s someone’s mistress.”

“She screened in her porch for her cats.”

“She may have loved once, you know like one of those old dame movie stars.”

“I hope she doesn’t die in that house, she’d be the type to haunt it.  It’ll ruin the neighborhood.”

“Oh hush, she’ll hear you!”

“Do you think she’s an alien?”

“That’s enough!”

I See In All

The angry are better off. The weak and frightened cling to me. To see the soft weeping, the gratitude for my listening and understanding ear does move me. They don’t see it coming, the price they pay for believing without faith but rather naiveté. It is just the right type of absorption I need that keeps me craving but not without pity for the terror that at the end I see in all.

The angry are better off. The weak and frightened cling to me. To see the soft weeping, the gratitude for my listening and understanding ear does move me. They don’t see it coming, the price they pay for believing without faith but rather naiveté. It is just the right type of absorption I need that keeps me craving but not without pity for the terror that at the end I see in all.

I regret none of my interactions with those of whom I have shared the gloom of tombs, dark empty spaces, sounds of voices from beyond the grave and the sudden awareness of being two in the room. Ghosts are subtle, and after years of exposing their secret places, I must conclude they are nothing to encourage, nothing to hope for and nothing for the living to live pursuing.

I see the young writers making heroes of those that exist beyond the grave. The more modern and exalted flimflam showmen flutter to the call that the dead have some vague romantic goal to reunite with the ones they love. The dead are just that, and if there is any ambition, it is to have more join them in the aching spiritual icebox they inhabit.

So, there we have the dead but it is the living that is the greatest heartache of all. They become involved in seeking their fairytale within the realms of the supernatural; especially those who crave touch and forgetfulness most of all.

I met a young man once, his eyes a deep, dark, blue who became angry with me at the end of his story. He was the hero, the gallant who would save his beloved from the shadowlands of death. Too there was the young girl with deep black eyes who thinks to this day that I bewitched her in some way. These escape my attempt at the soft sound of reason and comfort I try to convey.

It’s obvious to me that those who crave the unknown to quash the loneliness of existence live shallow little lives and those who have seen something they cannot explain wish for memories of the urbane but one-dimensional type in an attempt to reclaim their lonely little lives. Such quests never end well.

Corner of the eye movements. Reversals. Pictures that fly not drop from the walls. Anger. Fear. Sleeplessness. Tears. Some will escape, others will confide in me, especially after an alcoholic drink.
I draw large crowds, you know, of all sorts. I am not bragging, just well known. I am surrounded by actors and directors and glamorous dancers of every type. Inevitably someone will ask me if I believe in ghosts because, they will say, I certainly write as if I do. What is interesting or perhaps comforting is that the beautiful crowd reacts the same as those within the supermarket or the brown shoe beauties I meet in some obscure bookstore signing that I adore. Their eyes become large and luminous but after the hubbub of my first ‘yes,’ I follow those who walk away upset.

These I know are the failures who overstepped a living person’s boundary and challenged the notion of making good evil and a fatal habit of thinking evil good. These struggle less when my eyes turn red and explain that justice has nothing to do with me and getting away with my appetite falls at the feet of their determination to see the best in me.

 

Soulless

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

Do you ever wonder about the life of the inside of…anything? I do not believe in soulless objects…people perhaps.

Think about it, the empty inside of a pristine-upon-the surface oil tanker. Think of the viscosity pour or pump of that liquid gunk rising within that tanker. The very weight and wetness pushing up and off the flakes of rust and paint so that it floated upon the surface of refined and refined and refined again flammable liquid that had stayed hidden in the earth for so long.

Now hidden in ribs of rusting buoyance.

For my part, I wonder about the inside of houses. Any house, the bright, well lit, well-manicured house and the tumble down, slowly overgrown lumber rot of a house are equally compelling. The most interesting are the estate sale homes. Small, demure little signs with bold black letters “estate sale,” that denotes its lost occupant.

I wander in, and there are usually two types of people within; the embarrassed or the angry. The angry follow me around and complain about those who have bullied in before me “thinking that I’m here to barter with them.” I nod and frown and keep on wandering. The embarrassed hardly say a thing and are usually related to the ghosts that expose themselves in the used books, used utensils, used furniture and used clothing.

Flakes of paint and rust that float to the surface of pumped or poured in money that seems embarrassed to be exchanged for moments of history.

It was a little ranch style, slab house with a picture window looking out upon a postage stamp front yard. There was a small, stone walkway that started midpoint of the single lane driveway which tried to wend its way to the front door but only managed to curve slightly and stop. The evergreen bushes, trimmed into square, squat, little sentries and stood in decorative service to the bright white front door.

I made my way along the small street gutter and up the driveway and over the stone pavers to the front door. An embarrassed person met me and smiled down upon the floor. Though the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint was prevalent, I could sense the smell of old, forgotten and wonder. Wonder, from the walls, the dustless furniture, and the minimalist counter tops, if God had forgotten her.

Her, this I knew because the embarrassed person who met me was female and sad and either a daughter or granddaughter of now an estate sale house.

“The antique clock that was over the fireplace was that sold?”
“Yesterday.”

“You didn’t want it?”

The embarrassed woman eyes widened, she opened her lips to ask me a question, hesitated and then simply shook her head. I turned away and looked around the small living room with the small fireplace which opened into a kitchen-dining room, that in its turn lead to the outside and a small fenced yard.

“What happened to the dog?”

“On a waiting list for adoption.”

“Yes, but where is he?”

“With a small animal rescue family.”

“Funny, she didn’t have his future provided for – she loved that dog.”

“Did you know my grandmother?” The answer was angry, so I understood that she was to have taken the dog.

“No.”

The woman’s face wrinkled in confusion, and I walked down the narrow and shadowed hallway that lead to the rather spacious bath and three tiny bedrooms. Each bed made without a wrinkle, each closet open to show it’s well cared for linen, clothes and seasonal bric-a-brac.

“Hello?” I heard the woman’s footsteps hesitantly walk down the hall. I heard her hesitant step at each door and then her rapid retreat. I heard the front door open, and I thought of meeting her there but suddenly felt too tired to do so.

“Someone’s here. I told you I didn’t want to be here alone.” Her voice whined into her phone. Silence. “She knows about the dog.” More silence. “No, she walked into this house and down the hall and disappeared. I’m telling you, she disappeared, there was no way she could have gotten by me.