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.

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.

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.

 

Clever Girl

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it. Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what. Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you. Just keep working and focus on that.

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it. Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what. Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you.

Here’s the trick, don’t even think about it.  Don’t think about the sound of old floor boards when the pressure of a foot presses down from who knows who or what.  Don’t think about the dimming of lights and especially don’t even think about what the room looks like behind you.  Just keep working and focus on that.

That’s what I wanted to tell her but I didn’t.  I told her that she was welcome to the coffee in the pot (just brewed), and I showed her the location of the bathroom.  I then left her to become acclimated to working with me and working within my haunted rooms.  When she shivered, I looked up from my manuscript.

“You okay?”

“Yes, felt like someone just walked over my grave.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, that’s something my grandmother used to say.  When she felt a cold shiver run down her back or shoulders, she always said that.”

I nodded and smiled while letting my eyes drop back to my manuscript.  It was rude but these Indiana girls had to keep their back-water statements to themselves.  She got right back to work without any sniffs or huffs.  The girls from outside the city were usually very conscientious and she was no exception.  When we broke for lunch I asked her how long she had been living in Chicago.

“About 12 weeks.  I was ready to give it up, I felt so overwhelmed.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t.” I was sincere as I passed her the salt.  I needed her help and, well, I needed someone around.  The cold spots were getting worse, the sounds of footsteps and God help me I thought I had heard a few sighs.  I needed someone who would come every morning, work hard and make human noises, human movement, human scents, and human residue.

“So this used to be an old warehouse, huh?  It makes a beautiful apartment.”

“It is nice,” I said  “I like the view all around.  I think the realtor thought I should be here because she found out I was a writer.”

She laughed slightly and nodded as if she understood that as a writer I must also be a Bohemian by nature.  I wasn’t, I was just a writer.  The apartment suited me for other reasons, one it was isolated for Chicago and two, the noise of the city didn’t crowd in upon my work.

We worked together for 13 glorious weeks and the manuscript began to take shape.  We even managed one night to make a timeline of the plot and conclusion.  She stayed until 11 P.M. we became so consumed with the work she lost track of the time.  Her hair began to fall out of its pins and curl down around her neck.  Her freckles began to glow through her smudged makeup.  She almost looked 12.  She definitely looked beautiful.  But this was business, all business and I couldn’t mix business with pleasure.

One Wednesday morning she was standing, looking out toward Lake Michigan.  The city was clear and gleamed before her, like some promising city.  I admired her body as she studied the scene before her.  Her straight, sky-blue, skirt was too large but still looked enticing around her rather bony hips and her soft, buff colored sweater cascaded around her narrow shoulders and folded softly around her thin waist.  Her clothes always seemed a size too large but she wore it well, oddly enough.

“You know,” she said, “I know this apartment is haunted.  I heard her crying in the bathroom.”

I stopped what I was doing.  My pen was in mid stride as she said those words.  She turned at my silence looking a little perplexed.  “What do you think happened?  Do you think she died in an accident while this place was still a factory?”

“No,” I said, slightly relieved she was forming conclusions that didn’t include me.

She looked slightly pouty and my heart beat hard.  “Are you sure?  How do you know?” she asked.

“Because the sounds and the cold spots started after I started living here.  I’ve never heard her cry before though.”

The dear girl actually frowned and sat down next to me as if to try and comfort me or dissuade me from my idea.  “You don’t know that.  The former owners probably wanted you to buy the place so they could leave.”  She looked so sincere and concerned.  I grasped her tiny hips and pulled her under me, wanting that one kiss, that wouldn’t be tainted with fear.  The kiss was sweet, and moist and lingering.  I would regret this one, I remembered thinking.

“I know you killed her actually,” she whispered softly in my ear.  “I know you did.”

I felt her pull the trigger, felt the bullet rip through my shirt, my skin, my heart my back.  My weight muffled the sound; just what she needed to leave me here to sigh, chill the air and press down upon the old floor boards.  No one stays for long.

She was a clever girl, whoever she was, a very clever girl.

 

Her Beautiful Days

Even in his dream, he hated himself for wondering about his cat.

He was never quite sure what to do when she spoke to him.  He was shy by nature but not annoyingly so.  She was beautiful sometimes, and at others quite plain.  He was sure (he thought his reactions out alone) that her times of beauty and plainness were what made his mind spin into desire and want.

So when she would say hello, he would return her greeting and move quickly on and imagine her close to him — just close, not touching and the idea was wonderful agony.

But he made sure he never told her.  Not for the sake of her — he was almost (almost please take note) sure that she would accept his advances (let’s face it they were both not young) but his life was so perfect just thinking about her.  Having her would be a different matter.

First, there was his cat.  His cat was old and didn’t like his mother, let alone a possible lover.  Then there was the fact that he liked being alone — not always, but most of the time.  He was able to distract himself; HG Wells, F Scott Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, even a little Shakespeare when he had a few days off of work.

He spotted her after work.  She had stopped by the little Italian restaurant and took a table right by the window.

The restaurant had taken an old retail store and converted it into a nice, quiet little eatery that everyone frequented.  Of course, it was a perfect day for him, the clouds gray and low, the mist of rain in the air and the cold of winter in the wind; late autumn.  One of those nights when the street lamps could not cut the gloom and the gray and the ghosts of the city’s past loomed in the shadows.  There she sat next to the cold-to-the-touch window, a novel (he was sure it was a novel) before her and a thin waiter hovering around her with wine and cheese and what looked to be some wonderful pasta.

“What book were you reading last night?”

She blinked at him and he started to stutter a little.  “I saw you reading at the restaurant last night, the little Italian…”

“Oh,” she smiled and looked a little relieved, “Jane Eyre.  I always read Jane Eyre when I feel a little down.”

He wasn’t a stupid man.  There was the gate, she just showed it to him – Jane Eyre, a little down, women were great with clues.  She likes to read, she has different reading moods.  He could ask what her good mood reads were, or why she was down.

“Oh, I’ve never read that novel, I’ll have to give it a try.”

Her face went a little steely, “Yeah when you’re depressed give it a try.”  She grabbed her copies from the copy machine leaving him smiling bleakly at her back.

He did have sense enough to question his reaction when on the bus home.  His apartment that night wasn’t necessarily the sanctum he loved.  The cat would have nothing to do with him, sensing his agitation and the walls of the place seemed darker.  He woke the next morning tired, achy and dreading work.

She wasn’t there, nor was she there the next day.  He wanted to ask around — hey where was she but he didn’t want to seem interested around his co-workers.

He dreamed of her, she was sitting at the little Italian restaurant and he was the waiter.  He was watching himself wait upon her while she read Jane Eyre.  He watched himself not say a word to her, but he was never far.

“Pick up the book, you idiot, pick it up and throw it through the window.”

He watched himself pour her a little more wine.  She lifted her head and smiled weakly in thanks — he could tell he was annoying her.

“Grab her and kiss her, the cat will get used to her.”

Even in his dream, he hated himself for wondering about his cat.

They met at the copy machine the next day.

“Haven’t seen you around.”  He was tired from four nights of restless sleep and his voice sounded gravely and grouchy.

Her eyes widened just a little. “You okay?”

“Yeah, why?”  What’s it to her?  She had been away, somewhere, didn’t bother to tell him.

“You usually shave.”

He shrugged and looked at her.  Today was one of her plain days, sexy in a strange sort of way.  She held his eyes for a moment and seemed to make some sort of decision.  “Do you like to read?”

“Yes.”  The room started to expand around him, the world was vast and the people sparse, they were the only ones near the copy machine, the world was silent.

She waited just a moment, pressed her lips together, took a deep breath and asked, “What do you like to read?”

A shaft of light reflecting his apartment on cold winter nights, a good fire, a book, leather bound upon his lap and his cat next to him — a sigh of gratitude that he was his own man…

“Popular Mechanics mostly, not much on novels.”

He still watches her as she sits down once a week with her novel at the little Italian restaurant — those are her beautiful days.

 

Trip Her

Why not trip him? Because the world doesn’t persecute intelligent men. Intelligent men are simply persecuted in a family setting, not on a societal scale.

I have learned, from dubious experience, (dubious being a universal description or rather an attitude toward the experience of..well, experience) that to avoid extreme mental fatigue and emotional pain avoid intelligence.  There is not much hope for you if you are intelligent already.  I’m afraid you must simply live your life out and take the mistake up with God when you meet Him.  But if someone you know is near the brink, the precipice, the mountain top of intelligence, trip her.

Why not trip him?  Because the world doesn’t persecute intelligent men.  Intelligent men are simply persecuted in a family setting, not on a societal scale.

Shut up.

Once a woman is tripped and looking confused and perhaps a little bloodied try and reason with her.  Maybe she is not physically attractive in the modern sense.  Perhaps she is older and has decided to be a “late bloomer.”  Stop her.

Explain to her that intelligence will only bring her grief.  You need not explain to her how if she has not actually accrued intelligence or if she is at the cusp of understanding, there is time to push her back into the womb of self-absorption.  Tell her to take a long hard look at her constituents in the pursuit of marriage, relationship and exquisite mind melding sex.  Don’t tell her those goals will never happen just tell her the pursuit of romantic love will be less harrowing than the pursuit of intelligence.

Are these lies?

Shut up.

Tell the woman you are trying to save, that she must trust someone and to trust you.  Intelligence is a never-ending pursuit and it will only, in the end, frustrate and demoralize.  Whereas on the other hand, the pursuit of relationship will frustrate and demoralize but she will have a better body (due to her pursuit of just the right partner) and she will have the indulgence of self-deception when explaining to a bleary-eyed intelligent woman how happy and content she herself is in her safe and happy relationship.  Will it be a lie?

Yes, but the bottom line is not to have love or even have intelligence but to outdo the other woman.  That’s what women want.  Not to be happy, content or intelligent but to be better than the next woman.

Think about it.  A group of women around some table in a restaurant, complaining about the job, the husband the kids and trying to outdo each other.  Then in walks a 20 something knock-out that they wouldn’t notice if the men in the room didn’t stop and gaze with wonder and awe.  Nothing, and I mean nothing unites women faster than an outsider beauty.  The only one who would throw this unity out the window is the intelligent woman.  The woman who would calmly state that the beauty can’t help she’s beautiful, that each one of them had their opportunity, and that they are all in different stages in their lives – give the girl a break.

See?  Intelligent.

And lonely.

 

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.