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Friday, April 30, 2010

Overflow - 4/30

Frank nearly slipped on the wet tiles as he leaned through the shower curtain. His sore fingers found the hot water knob and he turned it to full blast. He added just enough cold water to temper the already steaming pool beginning to fill the oblong tub.

As he straightened, his back screamed. The tight knots and cramps of worn muscles wracked against his spine and shoulders. Bruises and splotches of purple from the inevitable falls and crashes were already spreading across his bare lower legs. He cocked his neck from side to side, sending pops that rose above the splashing faucet.

Before he could start stripping out of the clinging uniform coated in corporate sponsorship, the phone began to ring.

He glanced down at the tub, barely a quarter of the way full.

With a wince he left the tap flowing and headed towards the bedroom. His legs bowed awkwardly. The haunting rhythm of the bike pedals flowed down each limb, making them want to circle and not step. He managed not to sink his sweaty form down onto the bed as he scooped up the receiver in a glove tanned hand.



"Hey," he frowned and stared at the closed closet door as Joan's hurried voice poured over the numerous state lines. "You alright?"

"Yeah, yeah." He could hear traffic roaring behind her quick response.

"How did it go?"

"Um..." Her heavy breaths coursed into his ear, as if she was hurrying down the bustling city sidewalk.


"Oh, I can't wait. They offered me the position."

Frank felt his chest constrict like it did when he tried biking up Fremont hill. His knees wobbled as they struggled to keep him upright. His free hand thumped onto the closest door.

"Honey?" Joan's rapid breathing had stopped. Traffic still rolled on in the background but Frank knew her frantic pace had slowed with worry.

"That's great." He winced and hoped it sounded genuine.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, nothing..." He blew out a breath and forced his tense shoulders to relax. "It's just surprising. And fast."

"Yeah, I know. But it's a great opportunity."

"Yeah." Frank nodded. He leaned his forehead against his supportive hand on the closest door. "So are you going to take it?"

"Well..." Joan's voice trailed off into the countless conversations that had proceeded each prospective interview. "I'm not sure. I mean, I think we need to talk about it."

"That'd be good."

"Alright. I'll see you at the airport tomorrow then?"

"Of course."

On the other end, Joan sighed. "Sorry. I wanted to tell you in person but..."

"No, it's great news." Frank managed a smile. "Really. Congratulations."

He could feel her worry lines transitioning into a small grin that would be colored by blushing cheeks. "Thanks."

"We'll figure it out...ok?" He could feel the steel coming back into his voice and helping to steady his knees. The initial blow slowly wore off.


"See you tomorrow."

"Can't wait."



Frank placed the receiver carefully back into the phone's cradle. He let out a long exhale and pushed himself away from the closest. Options and consequences boiled in his mind in a cloudy mix of problems and opportunities. He raked his hands across his face and winced as his sore shoulders flared.

The pain was punctuated by a heavy, splattering sound. He blinked dumbly as he tried to figure out how water had anything to do with Joan's potential new job.

His wandering gaze drifted over the bedroom and the clutter that would probably need to be packed as he searched for the source of the noise. His eyes widened at the sight of the soaking edge of the carpet beneath the bathroom door.

Plate of cookies - 4/29

Patricia let out a light cough as she heaved up the trio of steps, carefully balancing the heavy dish.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Edwards."

In his oaken rocking chair, Mr. Edwards bent his wrinkled neck in a stoic greeting. His balding head glistened like the dark frames that sat upon his sharp nose. His hands stayed firmly layered on the top of his dark and gnarled cane.

Laying at his side, Barclay lifted his head with protective curiosity. The retriever's fading golden fur shone in the rays of warm sunlight that filtered onto the brick and planked porch. His wet nose flared. Patricia was sure he could smell her floral perfume as well as the savory aroma from the plate in her hands.

With a smile for the dog, she leaned against one of the plaster columns that held up the sloping roof and took a moment to catch her breath. She pushed aside the creaking pain in her swollen knees.

"I just wanted to bring over some cookies. Fresh out of the oven and still warm!" Patricia smiled at the withered face while the older man's gaze remained steadily forward.

"I don't like sweets," said Mr. Edwards stiffly.

"Oh," her face fell but she quickly shook off the disappointment. "Perhaps you might like these, then."

She set the plate down on the small table next to his chair.
Barclay gave her a sniff and then gave one to the layered plate. His bushy tail wagged slowly, thudding against the porch floor.

"They're not too sweet. Full of oatmeal and raisins."

Mr. Edwards hand slipped off his cane top and gave the dog a brief rub on his raised head. Barclay's nose brushed against the leathery palm before dropping down to his paws once more.

Patricia gave the dog's large watchful brown eyes another smile as she stepped back towards her post at the porch steps.

"Didn't you hear?" Mr. Edwards wrinkles deepened with a firm frown. "I don't like sweets."

"Perhaps Liza would like them."

"She doesn't have treats between meals."

"No, of course not." Patricia rested against the siding and folded her hands in her ample lap. "She's does have a sweet tooth though, just like me."

"You're not like her."

"Well, no." Patricia had to agree with him on that point. The other woman had 30 fewer pounds, ten years and two children on her. "She's your daughter and there's nothing like family."

Mr. Edwards nodded.

"It so nice that you were able to come stay with her."

"Of course it is," said Mr. Edwards gruffly.

"Do you know if the boys will be able to come down for the holiday?"

"She didn't say."

"Oh, well I hope so." Patricia plopped herself more firmly on the porch railing and gazed out at the small stretch of manicured lawn that ended in a trim line at the concrete. "I remember those boys romping around the neighborhood. Feels like yesterday. Steven would always be on his bike and Jason would be drawing like mad on the sidewalk with those giant pieces of colored chalk." She shook her head at the memories. "And then they were heading off on dates and then graduating and then off to college." A broad smile spread between Patricia's plump cheeks. "Time certainly flies." She turned back to the stern figure with the same glowing grin. "And they always loved my cookies."

"You won't go unless I try one?" Mr. Edwards grumbled.

"That's not true." Patricia slipped off the railing and back onto her feet. "I should get back, but maybe...maybe you could just give them a chance."

Mr. Edwards con-caved chest heaved in a heavy, resigned sigh. One of his gnarled hands reached over to the plate, tapping carefully until he found the tower of decadent mounds. His fingers arched around his lumpy choice and he brought it slowly up to his nose.

His wide nostrils gave a hearty sniff. He grunted, but Patricia couldn't tell if it was a positive or negative evaluation. She held her breath as he took a small bite. He seemed to chew forever, but Patricia always preferred making them chewy than crispy. Liza's boys liked them better that way.

She could see the morsel finally drop down Mr. Edwards lean throat. His mouth smacked over the crumbs that lingered on his tongue.

"Needs milk."

"Liza told me her boys liked to dunk them," said Patricia. "I happen to like them with tea."

He nodded and took another small nibble. Barclay's tail flopped lethargically once more.

"Speaking of which, I might have left my pot on the stove." Patricia glanced worriedly at her lacy curtains in her kitchen window across the tiny gap between the two houses. When she glanced back to Mr. Edwards, the cookie had vanished.

"You could bring more tomorrow. Liza would like that."

Patricia beamed, the potential of a whistling teapot completely ignored. "Oatmeal and raisin?"

"Do you make any with walnuts? Liza likes walnuts"

"I'm sure I can!" Patricia glanced back towards the kitchen and remembered the teapot. "I best get back though."

Mr. Edwards nodded again.

"See you tomorrow Mr. Edwards." Patricia took the first of the porch stairs, her hand resting on the column for balance on her rickety knees.

"Don't forget," said Mr. Edwards sternly. "I'll be telling Liza to expect them."

"I won't."

"Good," Mr. Edwards gave her a dismissive nod. His fingers that were curved around the head of his cane waved her off while his other hand went searching for another cookie.

Patricia turned with a smile and girlish flutter. Trundling back to her front door she scurried inside where the teapot whistled. She tossed it off the burner and started opening her flour and sauce stained cookbooks. Somewhere inside the perfect recipe for Mr. Edwards lay hidden.

Scorched - 4/27

Mason poured a trickle of water onto Jared's bone dry lips.

He had the driest skin either of them had ever seen. The tepid drops lingered in the dusty cracks that lined the limp man's sagging mouth. His sun drenched and parched face turned towards the source of the water. A pop snapped in his rusty jaw as he sought another taste.

"Careful," said Erin in an admonishing tone. "He'll make himself sick."

With a grim nod, Mason pulled back the canteen. His hand landed on Jared's shoulder and gave the lean muscle underneath the flimsy cotton shirt dotted with rips and holes, a firm squeeze. Even with the heat of the day hours behind them, Jared skin still felt like fire on his fingers.

"Come on, man," Mason said quietly.

Erin ringed out her dark blue bandanna again. The drips splattered in the pool filling the base of one of their sifting trays. She laid the damp cloth gently across Jared's forehead.

Water coursed down Jared's temples. The drops soaked into the canvas bag they had fashioned into a makeshift pillow and spattered on to the cooling sand.

The tent flap at their backs shifted in the rising night wind. A chilling breeze snuck through the narrow opening and stirred the dry strands of Jared's sun bleached hair.

"Wendy?" he murmured. His head tossed to one side then to the other, searching with tightly shut eyes.

Erin sucked in a startled gasp. Her hand flew to her mouth in order to hold back any other murmur.

"Jared," Mason said sternly. He pressed his fingers deeper into Jared's shoulder.

The other man winced at the pain. His closed eyes tilted down to Mason's strong hand but at least his dry mouth stayed quiet.

"Try some more water," suggested Erin hoarsely. She rose to the knees of her cargo pants and leaned over. With a firm hand she pulled back the tent flap further so that the dark night, broken by a pair of kerosene lamps and a blanket of stars, could peer inside.

Whether because of the second round of water, the breath of fresh air, scent of burning oil or simply time away from the glaring sun, Jared finally managed to peel his eyes open. His pale blue gaze fought to focus on the canvas ceiling.

Erin reapplied the bandanna and let her damp fingers linger on Jared's boiling cheeks. He leaned into to her cool touch.

"Jared." Mason set the canteen down in his lap, suddenly wishing it held something more potent than water.

At the sound of his name, Jared squinted, obviously trying to focus on the speaker. Mason shifted forward so he hovered over the other man's face.

Jared managed a swallow down his barren throat. His dusty tongue raked across the canyons on his lips.

"We...we found it."

Mason glanced over at Erin but she hadn't moved. She stared intently down at the weak figure spread across the tent floor.

"Can you get back there?"

The question tumbled out of Erin's mouth and she winced almost immediately. Mason couldn't bring himself to glare or reprimand her. He had barely kept the same words from launching off his own tongue.

He turned back to Jared, with the same searching stare.

Jared let out a sigh. His shoulder's sagged into the soft ground. His dry lips began to gape then Jared's mouth curled into a weak smile. A light, hoarse cackle crawled out of his throat. The hovering pair frowned.

"You want to go back?" Jared stumbled over the words and his chest heaved with the brief question. His ribs contracted in a laugh that quickly descended into a round of coughs that turned him onto his side and brought his knees up towards his chin.

They let him lay, curled and nearly fetal as the hacking slowly subsided.

"The sun got to him," whispered Mason.

"Maybe..." Erin finally looked up from Jared's curved body. Her brown eyes were hard and intent. "But we can't just leave...Not after all of this."

She waved towards the tent and stacks of boxed excavation equipment. But the motion encompassed more than mere gear. The presence of those they hadn't found out on the sand lingered within the cramped space.

Wendy leaned against the crate of cameras and film and her white smile grew between her curving ebony cheeks. Meanwhile Derrin chewed on one of his power bars after another witty remark and stared out at the stars.

Mason shook his head.

"You think he's up for it?"

Erin shrugged. "Maybe in the morning."

Mason felt his anger rising and heating his voice, but he didn't care. He lashed out with a pointed finger at the quieting form laying between them. "Erin, look at him."

Erin sank back on her heels and wrapped her arms around herself. She turned her face towards the darkest corner of the tent.

Mason exhaled and forced it to carry as much of his frustration as he could force out. He shifted his eyes to the floor, giving Erin a chance to deal with the tears running down her face with as much privacy as they could afford. He took up the canteen again and brought it to Jared's mouth.

"Here," he said quietly.

Jared gasped at the tiny sip. Mason helped him roll onto his back again. Jared's chest heaved with the effort but then rose and fell with a bit more rhythm. His strained breaths filled the silence.

Mason watched his own hands fumble with the round canteen and its dangling cap. On the other side of the tent, Erin left dirt streaks down her cheeks.

"Mason?" said Jared, slicing through the tension with unexpected ease.

"Yeah." Mason leaned forward, searching the burnt face until he was caught in Jared's icy eyes. Their focused gaze sent a chill down to Mason's dust and sand covered boots.

Jared's voice was cold and flat and as serious as either of them had ever heard him speak. "I know how to get there."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mr. Benet - 4/24

Even from across the room Samantha was drawn to the curious figure. She could feel his mind churning while he sat in quiet silence.

In the sweltering and humid air he still wore a crisp white suit. A matching, dapper hat with a pale green band rested on the table beside him. His veined hand cupped a tall gin and tonic that was flourished with a sprig of mint. With the drink resting on his knee, he looked straight out from the patio into the descending evening.

The rest of the parlor bubbled with conversation, the swish of skirts and the clink of glasses. In the corner a young woman in lilac concentrated on the keys to the rickety piano. Notes only slightly out of tune due to warping wires underscored the pleasantries with a light harmony.

Samantha's eyes however were constantly drawn back to the stoic figure calmly viewing the setting colors.

"Who is that man?" She gestured with a delicate finger to guide her mother's attention.

Beneath her gray curls, Lady Horne's eyes narrowed. Samantha pursed her lips. She should have known the figure might be too far for her mother to truly see clearly.

"I am not certain." With a rise in her chin, Lady Horne turned and scanned the room. Her gaze landed on a pair of square shoulders nearby. "Reginald?"

The tall officer spun on a polished toe and blanketed them in a broad grin. Medals and ribbons on his lapel swayed on his chest. One palm rested on the gilded hilt of a long decorative sword while the other maneuvered his wine glass taking care not to spill a drop.

"Lady Horne." He gave a bob of his sandy haired head. "Ms. Samantha." He nodded prudently again.

Samantha felt her cheeks flush as his eyes failed to drop to the floor and instead lingered on her face.

"What might I do for you ladies this evening?"

"My daughter was interested in that quiet figure on the patio. Do you happen to know who he is?"

Reginald glanced towards the darkening porch. The flicker of torch light gleamed off the mysterious man's suit and his thin layer of snowy hair.

"That would be Mr. Benet." Reginald turned back and lowered his voice. "A quiet man I'm afraid. He tends to keep to himself and to his drink." His toothy smile stretched. "Might either of you care for some punch? I find a cool glass makes these evening much more bearable."

"That would be delightful," said Lady Horne with an appreciative curve of her lace collared neck.

"It would be my pleasure." With a click of his heels, and a bend at the red sash wrapped around his waist, Reginald headed towards the long table with it's beaded bowl filled with a cranberry colored pool and floating orange slices.

Samantha's eyes trailed back towards the porch and it's sole, curious occupant. Mr. Benet she thought with rising interest. He seemed older than the rest of the officers and diplomats parading around the parlor. She followed his gaze out into the darkness, but the flicker of lanterns blotted out any details of what might have captured his attention.

"Samantha?" Her mother's terse tone made Samantha leap in her laced boots.

Startled, she turned her back on the porch. "Yes, mother."

"Didn't you hear me? I said, Sir Reginald is quite a gentleman."

Samantha's eyes wandered away from her mother's stern gaze and found the officer had been detoured into conversation with another man. This one had an array of tassels on his shoulders and a plump woman in dusty yellow curtsying in introduction.

"Yes, mother."

"You could do much worse than an officer like him."

Samantha blinked and looked back at her mother. The older woman was scanning the room again with an evaluating glint in her eye. Samantha felt her mouth turn dry.

"Yes, mother."

"You need to be sure to make a good impression."

Samantha's knees began to quiver.

"I think I need a bit of fresh air."

Lady Horne's gaze whipped around from her usual inspection of other potential suitors. Samantha could feel her mother searching her blushing face and making note of the nervous breath coming through her pinked lips. Lady Horne's narrow lips wrinkled with disapproval.

"Don't be long. And don't catch a chill. He'll be back with punch before long."

"Yes, mother."

With a relieved exhale, Samantha headed out towards the patio and its evening breezes.

Her heels thumped upon the wooden floorboards as an array of floral scents tickled her nose. Without the lanterns, she could see down the rocky path that stretched from the set of stairs. In the distance, the wide river surged slowly by, its surface glinting in the orange and purples of dusk. Around her, shadows flickered through the dense foliage that drooped in the heavy air. The last twitters of the brightly colored birds now hidden behind branches and wide, flat leaves echoed out into the growing night. Chatter from a hungry baboon rose like a trumpet.

She breathed it all in deeply, soaking in the simplicity of the jungle. Behind her the social graces, clinks and tinny tunes drifted off into another world.

"Beautiful night."

Samantha jumped at the rumbling bass exuding from the still figure in the wicker chair. As she calmed, a small smile crept onto her lips as she glanced at Mr. Benet and then back into the evening.

"Yes, it is."

"I remember when it all looked like this." He waved his half drunk glass towards the darkness. "Before pianos and evening tea."

"Have you been here long then?"

"Long?" His laugh carried a warm and slightly sad note.

Samantha stepped closer, her skirts swishing as she perched upon the edge of the chair next to the hat holding table.

Mr. Benet's wrinkle lined eyes shifted from the dense jungle. She could feel him taking in her features one by one, as if locking each away in his memory. He nodded finally, his cloudy eyes trailing back to the river.

"A very long time. Well before you were born."

"Really? Was it so very different then?"

The smile that broadened on his thin lips lit his face. Samantha could see a shine in his eyes that sparkled like the light on the water.

"Would you like to hear about it?"

"I would." Samantha rested her hands in her lap and leaned forward. Her attentive eyes rested on the sharp nose and sagging jowls of Mr. Benet's profile.

He took a gentle sip of his gin and tonic. "It would be my pleasure..."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Morning Stop - 4/22

When the door swung open a brisk morning breeze cut through the layers of frying oil that hung thick in the air.

Most people remained slumped in the pair of lines that led up to the glistening counter beneath the illuminated menu. The cashiers stood in their bright orange polo shirts and jaunty angled conical hats. Their swiftly moving finger tips brought beeps that resonated above the murmuring conversations that were struggling to wake in the early hour.

Shuffled steps sent customers away with their trays loaded with breakfast biscuits, hash browns or platter of pancakes. Each was decorated with tiny primary colored flags and marching animal figures on the wrapping paper, tray cover or cardboard container. As one left, another another blearily eyed body stepped to the front.

The louder flops that walked through the opened door echoed over the soles of other shoes hitting the recently moped tiles.

"Mommy look!"

The energetic squeal of excitement turned a few heads. They first meandered towards the source of the cry and then slowly shifted to where the little girl's plump finger was pointing.

Frowning faces that seemed to be questioning whether or not they were still dreaming poured over the rest of the newcomer in stares that were bouyed by fatigue.

Meanwhile the flopping slaps slowed until the shiny, red and ridiculously long shoes found the end of one of the lines.

Baggy sky-blue pants that billowed in a surge of the rumbling air conditioner seemed large enough to blanket the heads of everyone in the fast food joint. The fuzzy yellow spots shone like the rising sun while the bright purple streamers gleamed and fluttered like feathers.

The blossom of white silk that made up the blouse fought to use as much fabric as the lower half of the costume. Sleeves draped down arms whose shape and size were lost beneath the tent like columns. They ended in a fluttering array of frills at the cuffs and engulfed what hands might have been at the end of the invisible arms. Ruffles poured down the front in a roller coaster of bends and curves. Round plastic horns wobbled where they were pinned to the front of the shirt, giving off tiny toots as they banged against the body. A water squirting flower drooped lazily from the lapel.

Even sloping, the shoulders still managed to support a mane of bright blue hair that rose like an untended bush to mount the head like a halo.

Where most people lingered however was the face.

The white paint was almost fresh. There were splotches that were growing thin and hinting at a more flesh colored tone underneath. The broad cherry colored lips stretched from cheek to cheek and chin to just below the bulbous caramel apple of a nose. Streaks of black made happy triangles around a pair of weary eyes that were slashed with red veins.

The eyes barely flinched as a few rounds of laughter built up in the waiting lines. The few tables that were being used continued to gawk and giggle as the red shoes slapped again as he moved forward to the front of the line.

The sloppily shaped mouth flickered at the corners, bringing out a pair of crescent dimples as the little girl waved.

"Welcome to Bozo's Circus," offered the cashier beneath her spotted hat. Her eyes bounced between the painted face, the register and her co-workers in a ping ponging double then triple take on her newest customer. "Um... Can I take your order?"

"Coffee," said the clown, his voice low and hoarse as if burnt out on too much laughing. "Black."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wilbur - 4/19

At least Wilbur hadn't died.

My orange and gold flecked fish was still swimming lethargically in his small globe-shaped tank that rested on the bookshelf. The pudgy guy's fins were drooping as tiredly as my sagging shoulders under the weight of two bulging suitcases.

Since he hadn't died, I imagined the poor animal had gone stir crazy in its constant circular view of the living room. I knew I couldn't stand being stuck in one place like that and had the nearly 50 hour delay to prove it.

Other than the fatigue that seemed evident in his stout and scaley body, but which might just have been a subconscious transfer of my own weary state, Wilbur didn't seem any worse for wear upon having been abandoned for an extra two days.

The room itself smelled like the algae floating in his once clear but now cloudy water. Dust the color of the small tank’s pebbly floor coated every flat surface. The air was musty and stale but at least wasn't pressurized for 30,000 feet. Somehow the lack of pristine sanitation in defense of a traveling public felt welcoming.

I dumped my luggage in a heap on the carpet and slipped out of my sandals. The fuzzy texture greeted my toes like familiar little fingers that massaged my soles. It wasn't tile. It wasn't hard packed, industrial strength carpet. It wasn't concrete. It wasn't another line to stand in so that I could get to another ticket counter and try and figure out another flight to get free.

In long, knee popping strides, I headed to the window. Flicking the latch I shoving against the frame.

It wouldn't budge.

With a moaning growl, I put my tired shoulder into the sticking panes and heaved.

The window thudded through the disuse and slid open the rest of the way. A waft of pre-dawn air gusted into the room, swapping the staleness for the scents of dew and distant exhaust from the highway.

I took a deep breath and tried to blow out the flavor of unlaundered clothes, stale coffee and newspaper that was unique to airports.

Rubbing my red eyes generated a shower of sparkles that danced before the growing sunrise. I raised my arms overhead and savored the lack of cramped space. Even on my toes, my fingers barely brushed the ceiling. I swung my arms wide and twisted and bent in ways never meant for a flying tube or the hard cushioned seats that forced passengers into L positions for unseemly amounts of time.

The insistent gurgle from Wilbur’s tank turned me away from my blood circulating routine. I wasn’t the only one who was desperately waiting a change of pace.

Taking the small spice shaped bottle of flakes I twisted the cap off, took a pinch and sent a sprinkle of orange and green papery petals onto the surface of the water.

"Sorry, Wilbur."

He swam slowly towards the first descending fleck. His fishy snout sucked in the dissolving green with one tentative little peck. The sagging tail and dorsal fin seemed to perk up a bit. He twisted towards some of the others, still swimming tentatively but with rising enthusiasm.

Whether he thought it was an illusion or dream or that some benefactor had taken pity on his trapped little enclosure, I couldn't say.

I guess it didn't really matter. He was fed and I was home.

Buried Treasure - 4/18

"You're scared!"

"Am not!" Sam punched his fist into Paul's narrow shoulder.

"Quit it," grumbled Paul as he rubbed the puny but throbbing muscle beneath his t-shirt.

"I'm not scared." Sam spoke softly, more to himself than in an attempt to convince his best friend of the truth he so wanted to believe. His wide eyes turned back to the gaping tunnel.

"Then go." Paul nudged Sam in the back gently but he wobbled in his sneakers at the edge of the black pit.

"Where do you we'll end up?"

Paul shook his head, sending long curls in need of a trim bouncing. "Dunno."

Sam picked up a small rock in his stubby fingers. It rolled for a moment in his hand before he flung it into the depths. Both boys held their breaths and leaned forward.

The clink of stone against stone and the duller thud of hitting packed earth rumbled out of the darkness. The noises seemed to tumble out in a never ending roll that only gradually began to go quiet as the exploring rock fell further and further away. There was a sharper clang then a distant, but definitely wet splash like jumping into a pool. The rustling started just as the moist echoes reached the surface.

"What's that?" Paul asked timidly while in tandem they scurried a few steps away from the fraying edge.

The rustling grew louder and louder, building with the darkness that filled the hole and the dusk that was settling over head.

Both boys had hands to their ears by the time the bats soared free with their clicks and the brush of wind on leather wings. The funk of dampness filled the air as the tiny creatures surged past the two huddled forms and up above the trees into an orange and navy sky.

As they turned to look at one another with the same wide eyes, the gaping mouths of the two boys coiled into nervous grins. They shuffled towards the hole again, peering into its dark depths.

"Maybe there's a cave?"

"A pond?"


"A secret lair!"

"Buried treasure!"



"Boys!" The clarion call from the house up the hill jolted both boys from their escalating guesses and up out of their squats. "Dinner!"

"Oh..." grumbled the pair with feigned regret.

Both turned forlornly towards as yet uninvestigated tunnel. They both kept their eyes locked on the dark pit in order to keep the other from seeing the relief that was filling their faces.

"Tomorrow," suggested Sam with a nod.

"Yeah, tomorrow," said Paul.

Their mutual and whole hearted agreement of putting their exploring off for another day went unspoken.

"Come on," shrugged Sam.

Their sneakers spun on the loose leaves that littered the ground. They found traction with toes and fingers and dug into the soft soil. With churning legs they raced up towards the house set in the fading warmth of the setting sun. The mystery of the tunnel dwindled behind them with each step. It would return soon enough in the darkness of their dreams.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day off - 4/14

She woke up at the usual time. As always, it was a few minutes before her alarm actually went off.

A dark and dreary dawn was slipping through the crack in the pulled curtains.

She rolled over and pulled the covers tightly in order to snuggle into the lingering warmth.

The clock ticked over to the top of the hour, but today the beeping wasn't going to shatter the sleepiness that still hung in the room. Today she wasn't going to haul out of bed, to the shower and out the door. Today, she had taken the day off.

Her eyes drooped with that pleasant thought.

The pillow's soft case coaxed her cheek to nuzzle into the feathery depths. She felt a wave of relaxation course from her shoulders to tip of her toes down at the foot of the bed.

The hazy memory of the past nights dreams started swirling with the choices of how to spend her hard earned hours of freedom.

There could be a soaking, bubble-filled bath. Maybe some time with the book that had been gathering dust on the night stand. A late breakfast followed by an early lunch? If the showers ebbed, perhaps a walk down to the park or a bike ride out on the tow path.

The details didn't matter. The day was hers. Whatever whims took hold she would be free to follow them.

For now though, the blankets held her in a soft and warm embrace. They coaxed on needed sleep. Gradually misty visions took hold, taking her to places far beyond the bedroom and house that surrounded her.

A sleepy smile coiled onto the corners of her lips while the light grew in the window and the rest of the world jumped back on their daily treadmills.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What she said - 4/8

Beneath the frosted bulbs Amanda preened at the wispy bangs that weren't falling right. She pursed her lips at her reflection and picked out a few more strands with her red tipped nails.

At the next smooth sink, Rachel was digging through her narrow clutch. From its shallow depths, she found her lipstick. The cap popped off with a click. She leaned over the counter, her nose nearly to the glass and carefully coated her already pink tinged lips.

Amanda glared again at her dark tendrils and heaved a sigh. "Did you see Joe out there?"

"Yeah," Rachel replied with her mouth still open like a gaping fish. She finished with the lipstick and smacked her lips together as she leaned back on her needle thin heels. "Did you see Iris?"

Amanda let out a delicate snort. "Red is so not her color."

"Tell me about it."

"Washes her out completely. And with her blonde hair. Awful." Amanda shook her own dark locks. "She looks like a deformed hotdog."

Rachel laughed and inspected the gauze, cornflower toned should straps of her dress.

"Everyone's been saying so," Amanda continued. She bared her teeth at the mirror to check for anything left over from the hors d'oeuvres. She found them free of the caterer’s spinach quiche and melting brie. "Joe said he hates that color anyway."

Rachel’s wide eyes found her in the mirror. "Really? When did he tell you that?"

"At the last marketing session. He said it was a bold, aggressive color. Only good for stop signs and advertisements." She patted down invisible folds in the wavering fabric around her hips. "Sounds like he wants something softer on a girl."

"Oh no," murmured Rachel. Her impeccably smooth forehead adding a single trouble filled crease.


"I told Iris he’d like it."

Amanda's mouth gaped. "No..."

Rachel shrugged and sucked in a quick breath. "I knew she'd look terrible." She glared at herself and then put her back to her own reflection. Her eyes cast down to watch her hands twirling the small periwinkle clutch. "And well, I had heard from Samantha, that he liked blue." Her cheeks colored.

Amanda whirled around so she could see Rachel's flushing face without the mirror's help. "It’s contagious."

Rachel shrugged and stared off towards the pastel hued stalls at the other end of the ladies room.

"What are you going to do?" Amanda's voice was soaked in curiosity.

Rachel shrugged again and let out a heavy sigh. She shoved back her long hair around both ears. "I feel bad enough about telling her to wear that god-awful thing." She shook her head. "She really looks terrible."

"Well, this is war isn't it?" Amanda crossed her arms beneath her half hidden chest. "There are always a few casualties."

"But I heard Jessica and Andy talking the other day. They said that Joe had gone out with Pete the other night but that he was hung up on someone at work."

"That could be you."

"They also said he liked blondes."

"So? Dye it."

A dry laugh fell out of Rachel's slowly shaking head. "And never wear red again?"

Amanda shrugged. "Do you want him?"

"He's not a purse or a puppy, Amanda."

Amanda's dark lined eyes rolled. "If you want this guy then you're going to have to work for it. He's not going to fall into your lap."

"I don't want to have to try so hard." She waved her purse vaguely in the perfumed air. "If it's meant to be then shouldn't it just happen?"

"Love it not gravity. Sometimes you have to make it work." Amanda pivoted and stood before Rachel's slowly slumping figure. "You have to give it a hand."

Rachel winced and didn't meet the other woman's exasperated gaze. "Like telling her to wear red?"

"Let it go, Rach." Amanda's hands found her hips. "So you gave

her some bad advice. She took it. She'll pay the consequences. You on the other hand would look great if you'd stop worrying. Come on. I can guarantee nothing's going to happen while you're in here."

The gloom on Rachel's face lifted with a small smile. Amanda's confidence started to seep into the air, filling it with strength that lifted the other woman's chin and helped straighten her shoulders.

"Ok, let's go."

"That's more like it," said Amanda with a nod of approval.

When they reached the door Amanda pressed her hand around the knob. She paused and looked over at the other woman.

"Go get him," she ordered with military crispness.

Rachel laughed and shook her head once more. "We'll see."

With a pull of the door the crowd noise flooded into the bathroom. Rachel and Amanda sauntered out with smiles in place and a sway in both of their steps.

Sleepless - 4/6

Glenda started having trouble sleeping after Howard died. The bed was too big, too empty. It felt cavernous every time she pulled herself beneath the blankets.

She would put her gray haired head to the cold pillow and stare blankly towards the windows that lined the bedroom walls. The space at her back yawned as if just waiting for her to roll so that the darkness could swallow her whole.

That emptiness didn't scare her. The part of her that wanted to tumble backwards and give way to that infinite black was what scared her. That's what the space reminded her of. That's why she lay awake at night, staring at the street lights that glittered beyond her window.

She'd watch the lamps glow throughout the evening, throughout the night and finally fade as the sun slowly grew again, promising another day.

When the sun rose, she knew what was expected of her. She would wait until the alarm rang, then click it off with a wrinkled finger. Heaving the still warm but barely untucked blankets aside, she would let her feet find the plush carpet. Her toes would patter towards her slippers. After a moment to gather her strength, she would rise on rickety knees.

When she left the mattress behind, the day would come a bit more easily. Her feet would move with more speed in their shuffling step. The routine of bathing and breakfast would enable her to work through the morning. An afternoon of activity, even if it was just reading the paper, would help connect her back to the world that surrounded her. By the time night fell again and the quiet music on the radio was silenced, she almost felt like herself.

Then she would find her way back into the small bedroom, their small bedroom. The unwrinkled sheets, the gap where his book would have been on the nightstand, the air free of his strong aftershave would face her like a bright and shining light. The darkness would beckon. She would wonder whether tonight the tiny voice inside of her weakening heart would answer.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Just around the corner

Jerry had been talking about how great it was the whole week. It was smooth. It was delectable. It melted on your tongue like little drops of bliss. It was far and away the best damn ice cream you would ever have. It sounded like it as going to be heaven in a cone.

Unfortunately he had forgotten where it was.

We drove in circles. We took lefts. We took rights. We went down the same short main street to the point where I knew the order of the antique stores that lined the narrow thoroughfare by heart. I could have listed what was in each window.

I kept my eye out for this horde of people surrounding this delectable destination but no one was out on this stupidly hot and humid day. Not even the most ardent of dessert hunters. Everyone else was prudently inside where it was air conditioned and cool. That is to say, everyone but us.

We were riding around in Jerry's thudding '88 hatchback with its heat magnet of an interior and broken AC. If we had been going more than ten miles a hour, having the windows down might of helped. Of course, going more than ten miles an hour meant we might miss the radiant star hanging in the sky above this elusive parlor.

Every once in a while Jerry would apologize gruffly to the steering wheel. Alternatively he'd growl at the asphalt that wavered in front of the bug spattered wind shield and rolled with a sticky sound under the tires. His frustration would usually boil over once we reached one end of town. He'd curse and turn us about for another reconnaissance mission through the sleepy town.

I had given up suggesting that we ask for directions. I had only mentioned once that perhaps he had the wrong town. That had been followed by the rather pessimistic idea that the store had closed. But we didn't stop for directions from the non-existent pedestrians. He was one hundred and ten percent certain that this was the right town. And no place this good would close.

I sunk down into the seat as we made another pass and stuck my bare feet out the window in search of a breeze. I had pretty much given up. I was tired of being in the heat. I was sick of being stuck to a leather passenger seat. I had a pint at home in the freezer.