The Nervous Kid

He scared easily.  He had always been nervous and when his “friends,” needed to feel superior (which was often) they would devise ways to scare him.  You know the usual stuff.  Keep him distracted and then one of them would fall asleep with the inability to wake up. 

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He scared easily.  He had always been nervous and when his “friends,” needed to feel superior (which was often) they would devise ways to scare him.  You know the usual stuff.  Keep him distracted and then one of them would fall asleep with the inability to wake up.  You know, the nervous kid would eventually panic after telling them to stop it and quit screwing around.  They knew the nervous kid would always succumb because hey it could happen.  One of them might fall asleep and one of them might not wake up.

You know the scenario one would slump over, pretend to sleep but actually fall asleep while the others distracted the nervous sidekick.  Maybe the sleeper was wrapped up too tightly or got too warm or board and fell asleep.  Sure, that could happen.  So, the nervous kid is running around and when he has his back turned the others are sniggering and the guy who is supposed to be pretending isn’t pretending anymore.

Yeah, that could happen.  It’s like all the guys sitting around and yakin’ it up eating the nervous guy’s snacks while he’s sneaking around his parent’s house looking for contraband.  Yeah, that’s the way it could happen.  The nervous kid is going around his parent’s house looking for odds and ends of booze that he knows his parents don’t have the money to buy.  Sure, he might find his grandfather’s bottle of bourbon from 100 years ago but the seal is still on it, so no way can he take that down to them.  Or he might find some cooking sherry that his mother thought she might need for a recipe for a bunch of snooty ladies.  You know for that small little party where she planned to get to know his friend’s parents.  Yeah, they showed up but it was just real stiff.  None of the other moms invited the nervous kid’s mom to the garden club or to tennis lessons – not that she could take the time off work and go, right?

So anyway, here’s this kid, he’s sneaking around the house and his buddies are like snickering and laughing and then take a swing at the sleeping guy and the sleeping guy just sort of falls over,  wooden like.  Of course, they laugh and tell the guy – hey he’s in the house looking over his lousy parent’s cheap stash of booze so knock it off but the sleeping guy’s expression is like frozen on his face.  He’s like looking at the person who sees hell coming.

The nervous kid’s buddies sort of sober up but still start knocking the sleeping kid about a little.  What happened, they joke with the sleeping guy, did the nervous kid’s snacks harden your arteries, or did they like numb every nerve ending in your body?  What crappy food, where do they shop the dollar store?  Still nothing but a blank terrified stare from the sleeping guy.  The sleeping guy is like looking but his eyes are not moving but you get the impression that he is seeing and hearing everything but he just can’t move.

Then there’s that moment when everything is quiet and all the guys say nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  There are no noises in the house, not even the sound of the nervous kid shuffling around in his parent’s dusty cupboards looking for something that they all know isn’t there.

What the hell, right?

So, these guys they start whispering all at once and calling the sleeping guy by name and they notice their voices don’t sound like a bunch of rich smart asses in a middle-class home.  Yeah, now they sort of sound like a bunch of whiny, tall skinny guys in a shit load of trouble.  Did he have drugs, what’s his parents going to say?  Hey, man I didn’t give him shit.  Should we go, we could get out the window and blame it on the nervous kid – hey where the hell is he anyway?   Yeah, that’s what they’d do, ditch the sleeping guy and blame it on the nervous kid – he could explain an overdose.

So, they start gathering all their stuff and wondering how they are going to make it look like they were never there and then they think about a plan that they left early.  That the nervous kid and the sleeping kid hung out after they left.  Yeah, that’s what they’d say.  The nervous kid he had some wicked stuff and these pristine assholes didn’t want any part of that because you know, what would their well to do parents say to that?  Yeah, so they left, maybe it was wrong, maybe they should have called the cops right away but hey they were friends.  Friends don’t do that.  Right?

So, the nervous kid comes down to a trashed basement and a wooden looking guy curled up on his parent’s couch and the back windows open where his “friends,” crawled out the window.  The nervous kid shuts the windows, cleans up the mess, even sweeps the floor.  The nervous kid’s mom comes down and check’s the sleeping kid’s pulse and looks into his eyes.

“It should wear off by morning.”

“Did you call his mom?”

“Yeah, told her he was staying over tonight, that you were playing video games.”

“So Mom, what would you have done if they’d had not tried to stiff me?”

“Oh I was pretty sure they would run like scared rabbits but if they had tried to do the right thing I’d have slipped him the quick cure.  He’d have puked and shat for a few hours but they’d have blamed it on our “crappy food.”

“Look, I think he’s actually falling asleep.”

“He won’t remember a thing in the morning, might have a slight headache.  Do you think we should tattoo something on his ass?”

“Nah, I prefer the subtle dump.”

 

Dead Today

How long are we dead Missy? A moment, a flash of time that encompasses exquisite pain and then – what? Do we remain in a paroxysm of memory or do we go blank a sudden release?  And really, old friend, what is worse?

So I read today that you are dead.

Are dead, and were dead, and was dead. Ah the beauties of the English language, each statement reflects for the audience who I am…well to hell with them.

How long are we dead Missy? A moment, a flash of time that encompasses exquisite pain and then – what? Do we remain in a paroxysm of memory or do we go blank a sudden release?  And really, old friend, what is worse?

Your obituary was short and brief; no viewing, no opportunity to submit to your favorite charity – the abortion clinic, the woman’s homeless shelter or possibly the city’s club for user men. They put you in your grave and since weather permits a “brief” family ceremony is allowed, graveside, where the dirt hides their mess now. At last, my friend, your very own address.

And what dear, is the ceremony about? The children that don’t know you because you were unfit or broke or worse, deceived into believing you were too much of all the above?  What of the son who was raised by your parents, the same parents who smiled at our girl scout uniforms and told us both we were communists? What, would, will, shall, it be about?

And your “companions,” will they be there? Yeah, I know dear and so do you, if they slept with you then they loved you right? Tell me, did you ever get over that notion? You know, being able to brush your teeth, look in the mirror and say, ‘I am more than an easy lay’? Or did it ever occur to you that possibly sex, no matter how intense, is not love? Did they ever give you the time?

Maybe, I don’t know.

Missy, I always thought you pretty; your smoke-blue eyes and blemishless ivory skin, even young as we were, I thought you pretty. It was always you who ran from the boys on the playground — they showing you their crotch and yelling, “sharpen my pencil, Missy, sharpen it for me.” On the playground, God help the early-developed girl.

Later we watched the boys, who stood up straight for the blond prom queen’s father. While they fawned over future wives, they made sure you knew their intent; making you blush and me shudder. They snickered in their Christian youth groups and pondered you. We fooled ourselves into thinking that their gold crosses meant something to them. But they were raised right and condoms were always ready in their pockets and roomy back seats. For justice’s sake, I wish them daughters with large breasts and low self-esteems.

As for me, I wait for the dead to tap on my windowpane, and for someone else to tell me their name. Today it was yours and in a swirl of green girl scout uniforms, hobo Halloween costumes and trampled prom dresses your blank, smoke-blue eyes, look back at me, no more questions just perhaps surprise.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Caves

The cave was deep and little was known about it.  That’s the thing with quiet little states like Indiana, nobody realizes the secrets it holds.  I knew simply because I was, for the most part, alone.  What else did I have to do than read books and listen in on conversations? 

The cave was deep and little was known about it.  That’s the thing with quiet little states like Indiana, nobody realizes the secrets it holds.  I knew simply because I was, for the most part, alone.  What else did I have to do than read books and listen in on conversations?

I hate the summer heat and to this day I lay low when summer is at its zenith.  I suspected that the small cave near the river was not just a small cave.  John Wilkie would take foolish girls there and so it began to have a reputation.  I suspect that John Wilkie, tall and good-looking as he was, really didn’t know what to do with a girl, so he took the doe-eyed ones to the small cave by the river just to get the girl to sit close to him and shudder.  There were a few fathers and elder brothers that didn’t weep at his memorial service but still, he has his name in bronze over at the courthouse square on the World War I memorial.

I digress.

John Wilkie, Salem Schultz, and Nathanial Barrow were the river rats of the town and on hot summer afternoons, they would take a raft up and down the river and spear carp and catfish.  Every once in awhile they would put a line in and pull up bluegill.  Salem’s father was a whiz at smoking fish and I even had the honor once or twice to try the delicacy as my father and Salem’s father were fairly good friends.  One such night, my hands greasy from smoked fish, my senses were deadened by the drowsy conversation between my father and his friend.  They spoke of their own fathers and their memories of the civil war, which to me, in 1914 seemed eons ago.  I was fourteen, wore wire-rimmed glasses and had grown at least two inches that year.  I stuck close to home, the library and anyplace relatively cool.

“Let’s go to the cave.”

“No, I don’t want to go to that stupid cave.”

“Why not?  It will be great at night.”

I spoke up, amongst the whispered conversation of the boys who never took any interest in a bookworm like me.  “You know, I think that cave is probably connected to a much larger cavern or cave system.”

There was a dead silence and I felt myself grow red.  The heat along my neck and face positively burned.  What had made me open my mouth?

“Who asked you worm?”  I couldn’t tell which one whispered that in my ear but all three chuckled as if the words were unique in the annals of slights and rudeness.  Perhaps that was what prompted my boldness, they were such dullards.

“Actually, I’m sure that cave is part of a larger cave.   There is even a possibility that an underground river is involved.”

I was practically drug to that cave with the words, “prove it, know-it-all, and smarty pants,” filling the air as we walked down the dirt road, and down the narrow path to the river.  The darkness was complete as the town’s lights disappeared behind the steep bank of the river.  We felt our way along the bank with the swift water just at our feet and the gleam of fast running river expanding out before us.  I was relieved when we all managed to crowd into the narrow cave opening.  To actually get into the cave we had to belly crawl.  I didn’t like it as I wasn’t fond of small places but the natural stone walls quickly gave way to a fairly large cavern.  Nathanial lit the lantern and the cave walls lit up with the spark of tiny quartz and dripping wet stone.

I had been in the cavern before and seen the impressive glitter.  There had even been some geologist down from Chicago to examine the cave.  It was from over hearing those men talk in my father’s store that they suspected the cave was part of a larger cave system.  The bought supplies from my father intent on exploring the cave in greater detail but were at the last minute called back to Chicago.

They never came back.

“It’s cold in here.”

“Hush, did you hear that?”

“Stop it, Salem, nobody wants to hear your ghost stories.”

“No, Nate, really, I think we should go.”

The cave did seem unusually cold.  I was delighted.  Perhaps this was where I could escape to occasionally from the heat.

“Hey, I think I heard it too.”

“What?”

“Like voices.”

I moved to the outer line of the light.  Nate had held up the lantern but his hand was shaking and the light shook with him.  Suddenly we were in complete darkness and what shattered me was that I heard nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  There was no sound from the boys, no teasing or angry words and I heard nothing hit the stony ground.

I am pretty good at keeping my bearings and I felt that if I followed my left hand straight ahead I could reach the small opening that led to the river.  I knew that I had been duped but still it was terrifying to be left alone in that cave.  I moved ahead swiftly and bumped into something soft and warm.  It bounced off of me and then seemed to swing back and forth a darker shadow than the blackness about me.

I fell to the ground.  The ground was wet and smelled of urine.  I scrambled forward and bumped into a soft lump that shuddered and cried softly.

“John?”

“Worm?”

I crawled over him and he grasped my foot following me forward.  I heard a soft scratching and some whispering overhead.  I moved faster and John Wilkie nearly crawled over me.  I felt the fresh air and so did John because he pushed me aside and pulled himself out.  As I crawled out I felt a stabbing pain in my right foot and I shouted out in agony.  I made it to the small cave at the river and found John standing at the edge weeping.

My foot and leg were never the same.  I wasn’t fit for active duty when the war came.  My parents spoke in whispers near my sick bed and to me, they were always a little distant from that time on.  I was ill for a very long time.  I even had to complete my first few weeks of school at home.

I was never a popular boy so I can’t say I was bothered by the solitude.  The whispers were what bothered me the most.

“He’s poisoned.  What got Salem and Nate got a piece of him too.  He can see in the dark and his eyes flash red.”

You see, it’s important now that I stay incognito, I’m not so changed I need a cave to hunt in.

Old Things

or perhaps she was thinking of a long term lover who knew her moods and who knew she didn’t do well on rainy days.

She stood there without a coat and really, she needed one.  It was cold outside – not bitter mind you, but a wet cold.  The mist was chilling and when the bleak sun rays intermediately slipped from behind the heavy clouds, the light reflected coldly in the dripping moisture that clung to the bare tree limbs.  The sluggish, he’d almost say lazy rain semi-solidified upon the winter brittle tree limbs and bushes, pulling the branches down toward the ground. So he stood there and watched her and pondered; why would she be without a coat in the middle of the semi-freeze?

So he continued to watch, intrigued, despite his concern regarding her lack of forethought. He enjoyed watching women. She looked down at her feet and studied her brown, nondescript shoes with more solemn attention than they deserved.  She glanced up and he realized that oddly enough she smiled, in a sort of tired accepting fashion, at the long and bleak trail of the empty railroad tracks. He frowned in returned and glanced about for the person who must be teasing her — certainly someone must be — or perhaps she was thinking of someone.  A young child that acted out to perhaps cheer her on dreary afternoons or perhaps she was thinking of a long term lover who knew her moods and who knew she didn’t do well on rainy days. He peered about certain someone must have caused that Mona Lisa smile but the train depot was empty outside of her and him.

He kept his distance, tactically checked his chin for any roughness; a sign that he wasn’t careful enough this morning while shaving but found his chin faultless.  He didn’t understand the rage today to allow so much stubble on a man’s chin.  It was nothing new, chin stubble.  He remembered his grandfather, from the old country, German to the core, going a day or two without shaving, especially during harvest time.  However, no matter how tired the man was he wouldn’t go out socially without a good shave. Why young men thought that going about in public with what he reasoned was a harvester’s beard made them sexier or more intriguing to women, was beyond him.

He glanced over at the young woman again who was now just inside the depot, standing alone by the door. She was staring right at him. She ducked her head, embarrassed to be caught in the act of obvious assessment. Though she looked away, he tried to give the woman a half smile and a nod. Wasn’t he doing the same? Looking her over? He just didn’t get caught – he wasn’t embarrassed.

What was there to be embarrassed about? A sixty-something, thick glasses, his tie too wide for present style dictates, his sports coat was a good fifteen years old, not quite navy blue and his khaki pants were ironed – taboo. He knew when he reached his destination he would be the only man there, young, old or otherwise with a plaid shirt. He knew he looked neat in appearance which of course would make him appear fastidious and unattractive.

He took out his well ironed, white, cotton, ’kerchief and wiped lightly at his nose to hide a smile. He had no idea why he thought it was funny to appear as a fussy old man but suddenly it was funny.

“Excuse me?” Her voice was soft and he could tell it took a lot for her to approach him.

“Yes?”

“No one is at the ticket counter.” She turned to look at the vacant counter to confirm the obvious. He knew Mr. Mullins would be in the back making tea and spreading too much mayonnaise on his hard salami sandwich; a fact that he had to push out of his mind quickly for fear his disgust for Mr. Mullins and all things sandwich would show upon his face – and she would certainly misinterpret that. “I was wondering – do the trains run on time?”

“No, I’m afraid not. I do hope you are not trying to make a connection in the city.”

She smiled, almost it seemed in relief. “No, actually I’m not. I was just here to get away for awhile. I’m in no hurry to get back.”

“Ahh, you live there then.”

Her face became suddenly still, void of animation, and almost pasty. “Well, I work there.”

He could only nod, not knowing really how to take her odd reply. He wondered suddenly, with dread, if she was going to start telling him her life story. How she was alone in the world, working for next to nothing for a man who had everything and existing in a small garret apartment in a rather run down part of town.

But he felt his shoulders relax for she simply turned away and walked back to stare out of the window, watching the mist gather into pools of muddy water upon the sidewalk and along the tired tracks that never varied in direction since the day they were laid to accommodate the so few who used public transportation.

He looked about at the depot, not changed since sometime in the 1970s – and at that the only change was disconcerting. The railway had thought it best to do away with the long time wooden benches and replace them with spoon-like fiberglass seats that not even the most agile of hoodlums could slouch into a workable, relaxing sit-down. Most in the small town were outraged at the change and so the renovations stopped – the wood and glass of the depot were saved for prosperity. The benches? Most were saved and had places of honor in homes around the small town; his own front entrance sported a sanded down renovated bench – it glowed in shining glory there under soft lamps and amid walking sticks and umbrellas. Of course, no one sat on it any longer. Good company just wiped their feet and kept on toward his large living room – forgetting about the bench altogether.

Of course, there were the Smiths. They wanted two of the benches and insisted that the carvings and the overall wear and tear of the benches made them pieces of art. He snorted aloud at the memory. Checking himself, he glanced over at the young woman to see if he had offended her at all with his noise of disdain, obviously not, she didn’t even look in his direction.

Works of art indeed. He knew they had no intention of cleaning up the wooden benches while their copious amount of children and now grandchildren still charged about their house as if they were aboard Vice Admiral Halsey’s Enterprise, during the battle of Midway…

“I’m sorry to bother you again…”

He stood abruptly and she took a step back. He tried to smile but he knew that his attempt at trying to look friendly only made him come off as condescending so he tried to frown just a little as if the next words out of her mouth would tilt the world.

To his delight, she fought a genuine smile. “I was wondering, just how late does the train arrive? I thought of going over to the café for some coffee…”

He interrupted her. “OH, I’m afraid it maybe a little late for that. I think the train is nearly here. ”He was swelled with his own good luck. Mr. Mullins had come around the depot and was standing on the sodden wooden planks outside. He must have been notified that at last the errant train into town was coming ‘round the bend.

She turned following his glance past her. She flushed slightly and said “Oh. Well, I guess that’s what I get.”

He wasn’t quite sure how to respond to her – what sort of retribution had she received? He had only stated a fact and it certainly wasn’t an inconvenience to let her know the train was imminent; as a matter of fact the timing of the situation was wonderful, it reminded him of a Sherlock Holmes story but for the life of him he couldn’t remember the title.

She turned and seemed to wander away from him, rather than walk in any one direction. He cocked his head slightly; a habit his last lover found particularly annoying. He smiled to himself and wondered what that eminent and profound woman was doing with herself lately.

He heard the clatter of the slowing train and the low warning whistle. He filled his lungs, suddenly exuberant with the thought of the two-hour train ride, and a day and night in the city.  He had some shopping to do, then a late supper with one of his long time sorority friends. They planned to meet at their club, and though the dress code was a nuisance, he was looking forward to the all-male company the club offered. He liked women but only in small doses.

He turned and she was standing in the rain, huddled was more like it. He was instantly annoyed. Why on earth didn’t she stay in the station until the train had stopped and was ready for passengers? He shook his head but determined, he grabbed his umbrella and headed in her direction. He walked up to her and extended his deep, black umbrella over her.

“You could have stayed in the station…” she was obviously crying. “What on earth is wrong?”

“I don’t want to go.” Her voice was strained and hiccuped out her words. He wanted to run. Hand her the damned umbrella and run. She was young, probably sentimental and had heartbreaking thoughts of never seeing this tiny, little, quiet, peaceful, peering, scrutinizing, gossiping, town again.

“My dear young lady, I’ve lived here all of my life, you’re better off in the city and facing the heartbreak of leaving this antique encrusted little tourist town once a year on vacation rather than being tethered to it and all its gossiping politics for the rest of your life.” He heard Mr. Mullins clucking in the background and it was all he could do to keep from turning on the old man and glaring him into his grave. He turned back to the young woman, “What’s your name?”

“Sarah.”

“Mine’s Abraham, how do you do?”

And for the first time in his life, he saw a romantic glimmer of hope for she smiled through her tears, “I’ve always wanted someone to say that to me,” she said softly “but I don’t think your name is really Abraham.”

He looked hard at the simple, almost gray woman before him, young, her eyes red from crying and she needed a tissue for her nose. Her hair curled under the misting rain and the little bit of makeup she wore was blotted on her face. “My name is Nathaniel Barrett and I am the proverbial “Philadelphia Lawyer,” which has allowed me to retire early and work on only what interests me in the world of high finance. I hate romantic books, antique dealers, and the crushing academic weight of “women’s studies.”

“I’m Sarah Lewis, I’m a poet and essayist. I majored in women’s studies and I love anything old.”

He stood staring at her as the train spewed exhaust and clanked contently to a stop He smiled at the young woman without thinking how he must appear; “Pleased to meet you,” he said.

 

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Her Perfect Green Eyes

“You seem timeless, too old for the nonsense of high school and all its silliness.”

“You know, I used to date a boy in high-school just like him.”

Cara had perfect green eyes.  I suppose those eyes were the physical feature to which I was drawn. When we first met, and just now, with her comment regarding a high-school sweetheart, her eyes narrowed and when narrowed they glowed.  The atmosphere around us didn’t matter.  We could be sitting at our favorite sidewalk café on a quiet street or in the gloom of a club dancing our hearts out; when she narrowed her eyes, her eyes shimmered in a jeweled tone green.

“I thought you too old for high-school remembrances, ” I said not really focused on her comment but on her emerald features.

“What sort of remark is that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”  I shrugged and looked away.  I was always nervous around Cara but not like most people.  She chose me, you see, so when her narrowed eyes and lowered voice were directed at me I just looked away and focused on some other salient point of interest and confronted her with my voice or line of logic.  “You seem timeless, too old for the nonsense of high school and all its silliness.”

“I endured like all the rest.”

I glanced back at her and she was looking toward the bar where most men leaned, gazing out at the dance floor; their faces dimly reflecting the flashing lights that glared from the ceiling, floor and walls of the club.  Her pristine skin and darkly painted lips now seemed to be the only thing that existed, her eyes now in deep shadow.

“Of course, no one really survives,” I said.

She faced me again, a wicked smile on her face, “Oh I survived.”  She seemed about to say something more but laughed instead, as if realizing she was about to say too much.  Whenever she laughed I felt that I was only her sounding board, the sidekick that made her extraordinary beauty and perfect look a little more normal in a less than perfect world.

“So what was this boy in high school like?”  I asked.

“Oh, you know.  After we kissed for the first time and I found him wanting he went about with any girl who would have him.  He didn’t want any of them except me but he was determined to show me how happy he was; how very much happier he was than say…me.”

It was my turn to laugh and I looked again at the man I had just danced with and who was now walking another girl out to the dance floor.  “I suppose we don’t really grow up.”

“Did he hurt you?” she asked me, “that man, did he hurt you just now?”

I had known her long enough not to lie.  I watched as he gyrated and swirled the new girl around and looked oh so handsome on the crowded floor and in the flashing lights.  I examined myself and searched for that pang of regret.  Was I sorry I had not been asked a second time?

“No, honestly no.  Which makes me wonder if I’ve not grown too old for clubs, dancing and searching for…I don’t know what.”

“I was hoping you were not going to say ‘meaningful relationships,’” And we both laughed at her tone of voice.

I listened to the music for a time and felt my companion shift and fidget next to me.  She got up without a word and began to dance without a partner.  She often did – she was rarely asked to dance and I noticed she was only asked by men who seemed to be as beautiful as she.  She danced close to the man that had asked me to dance earlier.  I knew what was coming and sure enough, he did abandon his partner on the dance floor.

I felt suddenly tired.  Suddenly weary of the noise and sway of humanity.  I found myself suddenly hungry.

She was like that, my green eyed beauty.  She knew when I was hungry and she knew the type of men who would follow her to her car.  She knew too I’d be waiting.  I suppose I had learned just a little more about her tonight, this slighted beauty with a low self-esteem.

“You won’t ever feed on me will you?”  She asked after a rather tedious fight I had with one of her stronger, more determined dance partners.

“Not until you are ready,” I promised.

Hollow

She knew that going wasn’t necessarily allowed.

She could not stand another moment in her small apartment – not with the carnival going on.  The carnival had been in town for three days – tonight would be its last.  She thought, with regret, of the workers waking up on a Sunday as she walked to church, silently unhinging their mechanical rides and sweeping up the small pieces of litter that escaped the trash receptacles.  She did not want to hear the squeak and rub of peopleless rides before she had a chance to enjoy a Saturday night at the carnival.

The town welcomed the carnival every year but she could never attend – the carnival was too worldly for her family – still was, but her family need not know she found the lights, the noise, the smells so fascinating. Besides she was on her own – she needed to make decisions on her own. She would be up early in the morning and get to church early, but tonight she had to know what the carnival was all about

She hesitated at the gate, five dollars was a lot of money to walk around a carnival.

“Half price, half price now until we close down.”

A sign she felt and so put her money down.

She would simply be careful with her milk and eggs – they could last the entire week.

She ducked her head shyly as a gust of wind pulled and fluttered the canopy at the entrance and the ticket taker gave her, what she thought was a wicked grin.

She hurried along the carnival grounds and listened to the sounds of young children shouting with delight as the mechanical rides twirled black against the red-orange sunset sky.  A small family of four walked ahead of her laughing and sharing pink cotton candy. She smiled at their compact and secret ways of knowing each other; the dip and sway of the candy making its way to sticky fingers all, in turn, the smiles upon each face.

She was careful to stay away from the rides but watched the Ferris-Wheel glided several times around against the then darkened sky.  The last of the summer warmth curled about her in a soft breeze that lifted her hair in a gently swaying lift that seemed to keep rhythm with the music being played.

“Do you want to ride?”

His voice was deep and directly behind her. She jumped and turned, then stepped back.  He was tall and slender and she was sure he had some sort of makeup on his face. His eyes were startling brown, golden flecked and when he smiled at her and tilted his head she thought for a moment that they turned red.

“You’ve been watching that wheel for some time. I own this little place – I’ll make sure you have a ride.”

“No thank-you.”

“Why not? This is our last night.  We’ve done very well – I don’t think we will miss the price of one Ferris-Wheel ticket.”

He glided her past smiling and paying customers and walked her up the back stairs, where weary workers, not much older than she, dressed in black and white shirts, stepped aside as they walked by. “She’s next,” and she went inside a small cage seat that swung precariously back and forth and she was lifted up into the summer night sky.

She came back down and he was still there and laughing at her frightened face. “Look straight out, not down, child.”

So she did and gasped at the sight.  Her small town was all alight. She saw the church steeple, the town square and felt she was level with the flag on the courthouse tundra. She twisted around carefully not wanting the seat on which she sat to swing too precariously – yes, just there but barely, the small farm where she was sure her family sat upon the screened in porch.

She swung down and felt her heart lift, she was sure that she could fly forward to whatever direction she chose.

He was standing there again, now smiling and she was lifted away gazing at his countenance.  This time she stopped at the very top.  She tried not to think of the small summer breeze slowly pushing the wheel backward and forward.  She closed her eyes the rest of the ride until she felt herself arrive within the well-lit exit.  A tired young man opened the gate and allowed her to step away unaided.

He was at the bottom of the steps. “Are you glad you went?”

“Yes,” she gasped and felt herself turn red to the tips of her ears and down her neck.

“Come I’ll buy you some cotton candy, looks like you could use some.”

“No, no please, I don’t really care for it. We had a cotton candy machine at church and I thought the stuff too sweet.”

He laughed aloud and she jumped, then smiled not comfortable but liking his laugh all the while.

“What’s your name,” he asked.

“Laurel,” she whispered feeling ashamed – this was no proper introduction.

“Well, Laurel, would you like to see the two-headed chickens or the trapeze act in the big top?”

She looked down and whispered no thank you and hoped he would believe her.

“Well then,” he said soft and low, “why don’t you let me make sure no one follows you home.”

She looked up into his face, somehow kind, somehow not.  He seemed without age and her heart pounded in her ears and her hands clenched around her waist.  She liked his stare and was very afraid.

“But you would be following me home.”

His face softened in the green, then yellow, then red glowing lights.  Touching his fingertip to her soft cheek, she felt a shiver deep down. He had found a hollow place within her brief existence.  She knew he would take and keep it.

Reading

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided I hated everything written by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. I know that probably kicks me out of the league of women despite my gender qualifying me but the only thing a woman hates more than green peas is deception.

It was a dark and stormy night when I decided I hated everything written by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.  I know that probably kicks me out of the league of women despite my gender qualifying me but the only thing a woman hates more than green peas is deception.

I know as I scribble away in my garret room (garret because it’s true even in the 21st century, women suffer financially from divorce and I have two behind me, divorces not marriages), that the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen are probably mere pawns in the battle for my psyche.

I also realize that perhaps the Bronte sisters and Miss Austen would have had less infamous influence if Sigmund Freud had died in obscurity but he didn’t.  Actually, men don’t do they?

The veil split too late before my eyes that these women were writing fairy tales.  You have no idea my suffering.  The artist even bohemian atmosphere around me closing in, the impending July thunderstorm and my single paned window looking out on a back alley, opened wide for the storm to enter in.  I had stripped down to nothing, my skin absorbing the heat and humidity of summer, even prickling in the anticipation of cold wind, thunder riddled, coming my way.  Sense and Sensibility was open before me and the margins, where I had penned notes over the decades of reading the novel, consoled my loneliness.

Yes, Colonel Brandon, even though he wore flannel waistcoats (or something flannel) was a true knight and our young heroine would embrace his calmness, his intellect, his nonexistence?

His fiction?

Shit!

The storm had not hit, there was time and I knew to keep up my own self-induce façade I had to bring out the big guns.  Villette?  No, Jane Eyre.  Rochester must pave his road to hell and with single-minded passion. Would such a man really have brains enough to covet a mousy little governess over an accomplished coquette?

The storm hit with such a vengeance I jumped and the rain hit my clammy skin like so many needles and the blue-white lightning split the skies before me and I saw the face of God.

Don’t believe me, I don’t care.

He was there beard and all – the Father and in my despair, He did what only a loving, encompassing parent could do, He drove the lesson home.

“I told Adam anything but one thing – he took the one thing.”

“I told Abraham he’d have a son in good time but he had to help it along.”

“David had any woman he wanted, freely but he took the one that didn’t belong to him.

I raised my arms in an appeal to stop, and He did.  The storm passed with a shudder and I sat in my garret room cold and damp.  The pages of my books, both Austen’s and Bronte’s were damp with rain but not tears.

I’ve not evolved, I have adapted however to reality.