The long curves of her calves always pleased Celia. When she sat on the edge of her tub and shaved them the razor slid through the thin slick of soap smoothly, the slight pressure baring her clean skin, so soft and colored a creamy tan. But what’s this? Spots of blood spattered through the lavender soap foam. That ingrown hair must have caught on the blade, she thought. I sliced through it so smoothly that I didn’t notice it. Too excited about Dad’s third wedding. Big hall and a dance after and I get to sit there all by myself. That prick. Which one? Dad or Chris or how about we go all the way back and spend the morning angry about Keith. I haven’t done that in a while. Been angry about Keith screwing up my life. At least not for a couple days. Well, it’s been at least an hour. A girl has to box up her horrors to get by in this world. That’s the way it is. Chris, you can’t really hurt me. Keith already got there before you.
Celia tore loose a piece of toilet paper, rolled it into a ball and halted the tiny trickle of blood. There. It hardly even hurt. Give it a few minutes to heal up.
Celia gazed out the window of her apartment’s bathroom. She saw the same slice of sky, blue this afternoon. Thin vapory clouds drifting way up there. Trail of a plane? No. Just clouds floating. There was the bare wall of the building across the street, the bricks a harsh dark red in this light. She looked down at the cut, noted that the blood still oozed. From her perch on the edge of the tub she reached for the magazine she had been leafing through all week. An article, Ten Things to do Until He Calls, had caught her eye when she was in line buying single serve frozen dinners, orange soda and a new bag of razors.
Number 9 – Treat yourself; after all you are your own best friend.
It says I can get a pedicure, take a walk in the park, read a book. Thanks for the permission. Do guys read magazines to get permission to do what they want to do?
Her phone went off in her bedroom. Still the same spiritless chirping that came with the phone. Must get around to changing that. It rings around people and everybody knows you didn’t even read the manual.
Number 7– Go bowling with your friends. Girls can play games too!
Women. Women can play games. No, that doesn’t sound right. Mean. Sneaky. They were right to use girls.
How do you get jobs on those magazines? College I suppose. In the articles girls, correction, women are always getting hired for their dream jobs when the phone rings in their darkest moments. He hasn’t called, the rent’s overdue. So I should have troubles and then good things will happen. Well, I’m ready. Chris is a proving more a loser every day, my job is sucking away my life and hope and today I’m getting a new stepmom. Bring on the good stuff.
Number 13 – Make a mess of something and call him to help clean it up. (Just kidding!)
That cut is almost clotted. I’ll wear the dark tights under the dress. No one will suspect a thing. My secret. But what if they stop the whole wedding. The minister’s voice full of outrage. “There! In the front row. The girl in the fuchsia low shouldered minidress, with the dark tights. A spot on her leg!
Woman. Must be the aging thing. We want to be girls forever.
Never mind. Look people in the eye. They will see what they want to see. But not this little spot under the dark tights.
There. The phone stopped and I did not move a finger or muscle. I didn’t even daydream. I am all myself. Was that something I read in a magazine? Be all yourself every minute every day. Sounds like a lot of work.
How to know if you are doing it for yourself, or doing it for him?
Write that down. It would make a good article. But why should they care what I have to say? Well, I was almost a celebrity, one of the chosen. Tell them about Keith. Maybe they’d still remember. My moment in the sun. Well, my hour in the trunk of his car. That time he wrote to you after he got out. “I hope you know I did what I did out of love.” Well Keith. I showed you.
Dear Mr. Hibber, as Keith Perkins parole officer I thought you would want to have a copy of this letter he sent me recently.
Now Chris knew how to show a girl he cared. At night anyway.
But will he show up to her Dad’s wedding!!??
Better check if that last ring was Chris.
No. No hurry.
Think about Dad for a hopeful minute. Dad when he was still Daddy, before he went away. The sound of his words in your ears. Laying your head on his chest on the shore of the lake. A sea really. Daddy used to say. They are inland seas.
She let her arm trail along her thigh, felt the delicious cool of her skin under her fingers. There.
The bloody pellet fell away onto the baby blue rug. She picked it up between two fingers and dropped it in the wastebasket. Just the smallest red speck on the leg. Not something you would notice if you didn’t know it was there.
But you know it is there.
She readied herself to check the number and message on her phone. This meant holding her mouth firm but supple, her forehead relaxed and her thoughts perfectly calm. It was important to avoid projecting anger or frustration to the empty room around her. Somewhere she had read that such tactics worked. Good things happen to good people who think good thoughts.
So what did that make her?
Dad again. Fifth time today. What now? A problem with the flowers? The caterer ran out of chairs? Just thanking me. Oh great. Drop everything to listen to him talk about how he appreciates you putting yourself aside for him for like the thousand millionth time.
Fresh dressed and ready for the street Celia scrolled through her incomings for the last eight, twelve, twenty four, seventy two hours.
I’m not obsessing, she almost said out loud. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not. It doesn’t hurt to be careful. I might have missed something. There were a bunch of calls since I started this ignoring thing.
Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad. Alright Dad. You have my permission to marry the bimbo. Correction the ex bimbo. What comes after bimbo? Grown up bimbo. Julie’s story. Baby, little girl, teen ager, bimbo, my Dad’s third wife. C’mon Celia, you’re not being fair. And why should I?
Ah, someone other than Dad called. It’s Payne. How special. Two crummy dates six weeks ago and he still calls, just to see if I’ve changed my answering message. How lucky can a girl get? Payne dear, I think you need to do something about being The Most Boring Guy I ever met in my life!!! God, why can’t they tell when you’re just being nice?.
Oh look! Julia called. What does she have to say. Oh lovely. She just wanted to chat, to spend some time getting to know her new daughter. The one she will be convincing Dad to disinherit. Not right away. Get a ticket on the clue train lady. I talk to my real mom twice a year whether I need to or not. And you want me to make time to get to know the real you. To have a relationship with Dad’s number three. Well I know you. You’re exactly the sort that started turning up once Dad made some money, which by the way seemed to neatly coincide with me turning eighteen and the payments stopping and my finding out that the divorce decree makes no provision for him to pay for college for his only child. Not that I’m bitter. I’m too angry to be bitter.
Man, she’s talking on and on. Julia, get a clue, You’re a trophy wife. Second place. Past your prime yet still youngish and hotish enough to seem trophyish. And old enough that Dad doesn’t feel absolutely ridiculous walking down the street next to you. He’s sensitive that way. So we’ll have a relationship. Take your Christmas present and get in line lady. Actually I liked number two. Clarissa. She was sweet. Kind of like a younger sister. But I think she was actually older than me. She just seemed…. I was back from Florida like three years? It was creepy when Clarissa got caught in the rain that time and borrowed my clothes. Dad’s hands peeling my bra and panties off her.
When was that? The trial was done. The newspapers were done with me. Working my way through my sole solitary year at Detroit State. Older than everybody around me then. No matter what their age.
No call from Chris.
Number 17 – Spend an hour wondering why your Dad married a woman who looked like she was five years younger than you.
Silly. Save yourself the hour. The answer is because he could. And maybe Clarissa got something out of it. They had what, four years? She dumped him after she finished her masters. They seemed happy. Maybe that’s the best we get. Seeming happy for a while.
No text message either. Wait. There is one.
Nothing. A group send from Carly on St. Johns. Snrklng & Sngglng. Whatever.
All the way back to Wednesday. Bastard. What did he say when I invited him? Sure. Sounds cool. Words to that effect. Then I had to remind him to write down the time and directions. How could you? Don’t crowd them. If he doesn’t call it only means he hasn’t called. Nothing less. Live with it. Live for him. That’s what good girls do.
She turned off the phone and did her last mirror check before walking out the door. She loved this dress, the way the tiny lark on her shoulder rode the edge of its neck line. Now you see it. Then you don’t. My only tattoo. That friend of Keith’s did it the week before I went to Florida. Mom was so mad. Mom was always mad though, so it hardly counted. What was it she said that time? I hate everything about you, you little slut! Everything I can see. I suppose I could have misinterpreted her, maybe she was trying to be supportive. You must always look for the subtlety in parental messages.
There girl. You are ready. Go ahead fellas, look at the bird. That’s all you get to do.
She turned the phone back on and dialed her father while trying out a few faces in the mirror. Doing ok girl. Doing ok.
“I’m leaving now.”
“Wait out front. I sent a car to get you and then Julia. It will be right there. “
“Can you at least try?”
“This is trying.’
“Then succeed. For me.”
“Sure. Great. I’ll get her.”
What the ever. If you wanted me to succeed you could have helped with college. I mean I’m sorry the court made you pay for walking out on us when I was six. Sorry you spent twelve long years writing checks and spending all those bored Sundays with me. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. We’re just a couple of sorry specimens. Of what? Unresolved yearning for parental attention? Guilt over abandonment. Memo to self -- if you can only get it together to pay for one year of college avoid the psych courses.
“This is Chris. Rock On and Leave me a Message.”
“Chris. The ceremony is at four pm at the Crofton. Downtown. Don’t dress casual. The reception is right there so you can just park anywhere.”
I can’t believe you called him! When did you dial? When you were thinking about your Dad abandoning you then wanting to come around and be loved for his mediocre choices. How subtle. But I was not going to call. I called. It happens. Live with it. You’ve lived with worse than a stuck up jerk standing you up for your Dad’s fourth wedding. No wait. Dad’s fourth won’t be for a couple more years. Today is the third.
Of course Chris will not call back. That was not what he did. He has his way doing things, of living his life. I am welcome to fit myself into it. How did he put it? So delicate and romantic. I’m not really into something that emotional. I’m more into physical relationships.
I could show him a physical relationship. Being stuffed into a car trunk not knowing if you are going to live or die. Physical enough for you? How’s about being chained to a bed? It wasn’t chains. Then why did the TV call you the chain girl? Thank god it’s been a couple years since she had to explain that one.
There had been that story. About a year after. A good long version of the story. The writer, Sam short for Samantha was her name, spent time with Celia and helped her understand what had happened, or at least find some perspective on it. Sam’s phrases still shaped the spiral of thoughts that cascaded through Celia when she thought about that summer. Sam had written Celia’s story, had given it shape and distance. She had given Celia a place to stand so she could see herself.
How did it start? When she was sixteen years old Celia Miller had the sort of flawless fragile beauty that blooms only once. Her nose was not quite right but Oakwood Heights was not the sort of town where girls got their noses fixed. She would spend her mirror hours trying different tricks to make up for her nose, playing with shadows and the angles of light glancing off her cheekbones. “A girl gets one shot at beauty,” she wrote in her diary “It has to take care of her.“
Then love happened to her. It showed up in front of her house in the form of the face and strong arms and convertible of Keith Laxton. Keith was blonde and blue eyed and had been kicked off the junior varsity football team for fighting and then out of school completely. He’d laughed at them all, shown them all up. Now he had a GED and a job testing engines and a restored vintage mustang convertible that beat every car that challenged him on The Flats, what the boys of Oakwood Heights call the slanted flat concrete banks of the Rouge River, channelized by the Corps of Engineers back in the sixties.
It was fated he would first glimpse Celia one evening after racing, blasting Zeppelin on the oldies station with the top down while driving slowly down streets not big enough to hold him. There was that first look, then a middle period of coded conversation, battles with a stubborn single mom who wanted better for her little Celia, (It could be assumed by his presence on this planet that Keith had, or at least had once had, parents somewhere. He never said. Celia never asked.) They carried on in secret until in the course of things all convention was thrown away and they ran off together into the golden future of love Celia heard about on the radio. “We’re going to Kashmir,” Celia said when their first song, their always song, came on the radio as they crossed the Ohio line on I-75 south. Keith nodded and pulled her up against him.
The end was predictable, but it was the details that made Celia famous. First, a short forever of endless nights, mornings and afternoons of love in a pay by the week motel outside Tampa. Then Keith had to report for what he called a crummy no future job in a tool and die that his cousin had hooked him into, then the job lost, the fights over who knows what. Celia’s awful loneliness when he stopped coming home, the call to her mom.
When Keith saw the number on her cell he woke Celia up by slapping her face, told her if she said one word, even one, she was a dead bitch and that she better just do what he said. What he told her to do was lie still while he tied a cloth sack over her head, handcuffed her hands behind her back and rolled her in a blanket.
“Maybe it doesn’t seem like it now, but I am doing this for us, for our love,” he said as he carried her out to the car. He drove an hour to a buddy’s fishing cabin on the Tolquammie river with Celia locked in the trunk. Celia he kept handcuffed to an old cast iron bed. It was three days later that she picked the handcuff lock with a paperclip. Keith was out trying to close the meth deal he figured would finance their trip to the west coast, once Celia’s attitude came around. When he got arrested he had three ounces on him. Bad luck for Keith. Because Celia’s mom and dad had reunited to come to town and search for their little girl, because she was missed long enough to get her cute junior year picture onto the news, because she still had the handcuffs on one wrist when she came out of the woods and most of all because there was on old dog chain on the floor of the cabin when the first wave of reporters hit the door. Celia was famous for about a week. She was the Chain Girl.
How did it feel when you were locked in that trunk? Did you fear for your life? What do you plan next? Celia learned answers to all the questions until nobody came asking any more. Keith got eight years. Celia got her own GED, did a year at Detroit State, found herself a job processing retirees’ medical claims for an industrial clinic down in Lincoln Park. This paid for an apartment and an old Toyota that broke down during the winters. Her Mom became a vague presence in Celia’s life. Dad stayed in touch, surprised everybody by making money from a software investment and then real estate. .
At first Celia was grateful to Sam the writer. After the interviews she felt alive, awake, like she could see herself without the weight of everyone’s notions about her crushing her every minute. Then the article came out. Chain Girl Speaks. It got a lot of attention and helped sell Sam’s first book. Smart Ladies, Dumb Moves, How Women Destroy Themselves. Celia was the worst case scenario for the chapter about teenagers.
The car arrived. Celia settled into the seat behind the driver. The driver just waved when she tried to tell him where to go. He already had his instructions.
Can’t see that cut through these tights. Like it never happened. How much of being a woman is getting good at hiding things? Too much. Chris doesn’t know my story. At least he has never said. Could he be that clever? Knowing all about me but waiting to see if I’ll tell him? Don’t Let Him Know You Know He Knows!
It’s probably ok. Just because everything is out there does not mean everybody cares enough to look. I’m just this month’s girl for Chris. He’s smart enough to know you don’t get the good stuff unless we can at least imagine there is a relationship blooming. Did you really let yourself think that?
As soon as the car pulled to a stop in front of her condo Julia opened the door. A small tree’s worth of garden green chiffon exploded onto the seat of the car next to Celia. Dress and shawl and some sort of veily thing around and through her hair. She looks like something growing up the wall. Oh a violet scarf bound by a leaf locket at her neck. I see. Intended. She can make it work. Takes your eyes off that nose. She’s one of those people who makes a living off her flaws. She can make anything work except her marriages. Maybe this time.
No. I don’t want to kiss you. Oh well, there on the cheek, like we’re people in some movie about people we’ll never be.
“Love your smell.”
“I’m not wearing anything.”
“Lucky one. The fresh scent of youth. You should bottle it.”
“If I only knew how.”
“Enjoy it while you can.’
“Your big day.”
“I’m just giddy. Let me lean back. This dress is puffed out all around me. What was I thinking.’
“Where’s Carol Anne?”
“She’s running things at the church. You know that girl always has to be in charge. How did I get so lucky?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where’s your young man. I’m sorry. I forgot this one’s name.”
“Chris. He’s meeting me there.”
“Oh yes. I suppose that’s how it’s done. Carol Anne is a bit more old fashioned. But your independence becomes you. I’m so glad you are on your two feet. When your father told me the story it was. Well it was overwhelming. I remember all the news stories, it just never connected. You were younger of course and you looked much heavier on TV. I’d been meaning to ask. Does Chris speak? I mean I think I’ve heard him speak. He’s the tall brooding one? Checks his phone all the time. I must say that would be very distracting at a movie or whatever. Carol Anne’s fiancé is, well I’ll grant you bit steady. Calm. Dotes on her and does he make the money! I don’t understand how they do it. Six figures under thirty. What a world. It must be hard being young and on your own. But you do have that Chris. Listen to me. Chatterboxing. My wedding day.”
“Which number is this?”
“Just three. Same as him. And I have a very good feeling about your father and I.”
You are never borrowing my underwear woman. Even if you are still my size. At forty four. I know how you do it. You just talk your food away.
“Excuse me for asking dear. But we do have a few minutes and I know you don’t want me going over and over the wedding details. I hope it was alright me assuming you would not want to be part of the wedding party. I just wanted to ask. I mean I’ve been thinking ever since your father told me and I thought back to when it was all on the news. Did he really chain you up?”
Keith. Evil bastard. That drive to the woods. I thought he was going to kill me. I peed myself in the trunk of his car. Like a horror movie and you scream and scream but your mouth is stuffed full. Years later and I still have to have a window or door open at all times.
“It was handcuffs. And he’d bind my legs with rope when he went out. The newspaper people saw his dog’s chain on the floor and got it all mixed up. It was only for a couple days. He had rented this cabin along the river. I had tried to run away from him. So he tied me up. Then I got away. While he was out. On the third day. I found a road and some people stopped and helped me. Just like on the news.”
”Did he make you....”
“I was only sixteen. First lovers. I ran away with him. He just went crazy when I tried to leave him. “
“I got away. He didn’t really hurt me. He did his time. He has to register for the rest of this life. If he ever tries to see me he will go right back.”
“Good. I hope the worst happened to him there.”
‘I’m just happy never to talk to him again.”
“Amen sister. Or should I say daughter?”
“Whatever. Thank you.”
Keith’s voice when he was locking those handcuffs. I still hear him. “Now honey I just need you to understand how much I love you. I need to show you how much I love you. Give it some time you’ll understand. You’ll love me for this.”
Don’t let him be the boss!
Why did Dad have to tell her. Now her kids.... Ughhh!
What To Do When It All Comes Out!
Forget it. Just think about Chris. Something real there. Despite what he says. Really. Well, there could be. He looks in my eyes when we do it. Most guys won’t. Who was it I overheard? Not Karl. Henry. Liked to be called Hank. The one before the one before. He didn’t know I was awake, he was talking to his brother out of dating some poor girl. Didn’t know I was listening. “Sure she’s got a hot body but do you want to spend your life watching that face come?” They never stop judging us. We have to pay attention to our image all the time. It says so, right in all the magazines. Pictures and words all saying one thing. Pay attention to how you look!
Look at her. The plant lady. Growing vines to ensnare my father. Here we are. Quality time with my Dad’s next. Ryhmes with sex and ex. Now I get to mingle with her gang. Carol Anne and her cousins and their boyfriends and etc etc. Their set. They travel in packs. Like rats or killer whales. No, rats don’t travel in packs. More like hordes.
“Oh sweetie! We’re here!. Hold my hand. My heart is racing. I’m like a schoolgirl.”
“Here you go.”
Of course Chris was quiet. It was only our third date and I brought him to meet my dad. We had those funny drinks Dad made. He remembered I liked them. Orange and lime juice, vodka and raspberry sherbert. Tropical sunset. All the best for my little girl. Chris drank his beer. It’s not like anybody but Julie got to talk anyway.
Look over there. Tweed jacket. Those shoulders. Don’t look.
Make Him Come to You!
“Is Carol Anne around?”
“Somewhere. Not here. Not right now.”
Chase, the legendary fiance’ of Julia, the one with a good job and better prospects, took the step closer than comfortable that he always took towards Celia.
“I need to check with her. See if I’m needed,” Celia said. She stared over his shoulder at the wide open double doors between the reception room and a ball room filled with rows of chairs for the ceremony. An open door. A deep breath. It was alright. The cops made her sit in a holding room. When you’re a victim you are part of the deal as far as the cops are concerned. It sucks to be a victim was a lesson you were supposed to learn. Chase was still saying something. He put a soon to be something like a brother in lawish hand on Celia’s shoulder. The touch of his fingers on her bare skin scalded a hidden place in Celia. Her breath and heart beat sped up and her eyes were sure the ballroom doors were sliding closed. She stepped away from Chase quickly and firmly.
“Are you alright?” He tried to send the hand back to her shoulder and she pivoted out of reach.
“Yes. I’m just looking for someone.”
“Where’s your boyfriend? What’s this one’s name? Karl?”
“Chris. And he’s just someone I’ve been seeing.”
“You’re so mature Celia. I could never date around with different guys like you do. I’m just a simple girl.” This came from Carol Anne, who must have been lurking, waiting for the right moment to step up to Chase’s side. She wore a tastefully less extravagant version of Julia’s dress.
Who am I. Cinderella? Cast to an evil stepmom and her vile brood? Go take a walk. Escape these two, maybe get lucky and suffer a tragic accident before the ceremony. Who could have foreseen? Impossible really to know. Each moment could be our last. Is our last really, at least for that moment. High school science. All our cells are replaced every few years. Who was it chained in the back of that car? How many times have I got to tell myself there were no actual chains in involved? Just an old pair of handcuffs belonged to his uncle the retired state trooper. Some rope. That and he was so strong. I am not the Chain Girl. She was an illusion invented to sum up a story and make it more compelling. The sin of our age. We trade endorphin hits for the nuance of what is real. What could be real. What could be marvelous if we would only accept our truth and our possibilities.
“We gotta go. Almost ready to start. Your Dad is already back stage.”
Fine. Go. Take Mr. Prefab handsome boyfriend with you. I’ll just sit here by myself. Let her stand by her mom in their ivy green dresses. I’ll just sit over her in fucshia. Give it a minute and catch Chase looking. Glare back at him. Make him feel bad about himself for a change.
Dad looks nervous. Biting his lips, shoulders hunched like he’s some old scarecrow guarding a field. Who are those guys with him? Softball buddies. Oh yeah the one on the end. What’s his name? Mac. Mac something. Tried to hit on me at the barbecue last summer. Said he could treat me right. Make me feel special. I’ll bet. Nothing makes a girl feel special like a forty five minute fuck, shower and goodbye on a Saturday afternoon when the wife and kids think he just ran out to the hardware store. Dad. What are you doing? Still, not his fault. You date, he marries. Love is all around us. Just sign here Mr. Wilkins. Your new family. We’d have liked to have you in the party Celia but Julia didn’t know if it was right. What with all and all. What all is that? And then Julia with her, oh I’m so sorry, but now there’s no time to find a dress and to be honest ever since my second divorce I always thought I would want my daughter to stand up for me. It’s just a silly fantasy I had. Really you can understand can’t you? Indulge a girl? You could be an usher. An usher? For you? I’m so honored but no thank you. No thank you very much. Well then. Alright. Even though you are not my daughter I’ll always think of you like a daughter and we’ll make sure we take extra pictures to include you. Whatever.
God the preacher is a prig. Where’d I get that word? Must be a book. A priggish prig stood before the assembled about to be blended families and pronounced the words that would forever take her father away from her. At least until the next time he called in the middle of the night to say he’d been locked out of his own house and could he come crash on her couch. Thanks a lot little girl.
Here we go. Always surprises me that weddings aren’t longer than they are. Everybody all worked up and the whole thing is over in fifteen minutes. Nice gazing up at Dad Julia. And life takes many different paths. Damn right it does. You got that right Mr. Preacher man. Almost done. Saved a seat for him. Just in case he’s the one. Chris. Right. Just in case nobody here had noticed that I was all by myself at my Father’s wedding I saved an empty seat for my latest hearthrob not to fill. What’s with the old fashioned words? Not that it is his heart that throbs. Chris. Admit it. You knew he wasn’t coming this morning when you woke from the dream about him that you let slip away and walked across the room naked. Always thrilled when you can walk into or out of any room. No chain on your leg. There was never a chain on your leg. Except every idiot who owned a TV back then thought you had been chained up. Does that mean there is an alternate universe where you were chained up? Actually it does and in fact that alternative universe has a lot more people living in it than the one you live in. In your world the central fact remains clear. Your boyfriend handcuffed you and threw you in the trunk of his car and drove you for an hour – an hour you are still living smelling your own pee, afraid if you puked into the gag you would choke, choking on fumes and the smell of oil. And I’m supposed to care if Mr. But really I do love the time we spend together doesn’t call.
Number 15 – Sit alone at your Father’s fourth wedding and make sure you look way hotter than your new evil stepsister; not that that is hard or anything.
Third. His third. Why can’t I remember that?
Are they done yet? Richard Carter and Julie Haight pledge to give it a decent shot at finding some sort of emotional sexual bond that might last more than a few years. The dress looks nice on her though. She knows something about herself, taking a chance like that and making it pay off. Hello Chase! Caught you looking! Think about that tonight when you are trying to make it happen for little miss fussy britches. Make it happen. That was Keith’s line. He did too. Made it happen for me. So I threw away my future and nearly my life because he made me come the first time. Sure felt like love to me. Why don’t they teach you this stuff in school? I mean if it’s called Sex Education teach us about sex. What to do. Why to do it. How not to get in terrible trouble because you are a human being. How to tell the truth. I knew two girls in high school got pregnant before they ever got off with a boy. What kind of educational system is that? Actually, I did throw away my life. I just got lucky and got away. Lucky. Handucuffed in a locked room in cabin and you called yourself lucky? Well. In a way. If he had been halfway nice I might still be living in that cabin. Raising his kids while he sneaks away to make some other girl feel special. What a lucky gal I am. Just spend the rest of my life afraid to be in a room with closed doors. That court counselor said it all happened because my Father wasn’t available. How can anybody say my father is not available? I’m sitting here killing time trying to get a shaming flirt going with my new stepsister’s boyfriend at my Dad’s fourth wedding. He is available.
Third. This one is the third.
When He Wants Everyone But You!
Til death do you part. Great! Almost done. Til death if you’re lucky. How depressing. No wonder so many divorces. You are marrying your own death. I only dated mine. Smart cookie. Old time thoughts. Saw that once in a graveyard Together in Death. Skeleton hands wrapped together. Nice kiss Dad! Go for it! Life beats death one more time. Of course death makes all the rules. Who cares. It’s not life or death. Even life and death aren’t life and death. Screw you
Chris. I am getting so drunk tonight. Give me a bucket for the ride home.
The cake was the traditional three white cakes of descending girth piled atop one another on miniature Greek pillars. Icing vines the nearly exact color of Julia’s dress twisted up the sides in graceful leafy curls and loops. On top were miniature manikins, handmade by Carol Anne. One mimicking her mother. The hand sewn green dress an exact duplicate in virtually every way of the actual gown swirling around the actual Julia. The red hair of the doll was real hair of Julia someone whispered to Celia as the great moment of cake cutting was awaited by the gathered circle of the nearest and dearest. This made Celia’s back of the neck hair raise and skin chill with thoughts of voodoo and black magic. The doll beside her was an average man just slightly taller than his doll wife. He wore a tuxedo and had hair of yellow and eyes of blue and a cherry colored mouth in a perfect cupid’s bow curl. This doll struck Celia as a bit odd since her father, the actual brand new husband of the actual Julia stood a full head higher than his darling vegetatively clothed bride. And his hair and eyes were brown and brown respectively.
“It’s a conceptual thing,” Carol Anne said when Celia commented on the discrepancy.
They made sure I didn’t get to talk to him before the ceremony and they couldn’t be bothered to get his hair right on the cake. That’s that. Well, I’m not coming over to sweep the cinders from their fireplace. I’ve got my own pumpkin of a life. Plenty of rats too. Where’s the booze. I’m already thinking like a drunk. I may as well be one.
Julia let go Richard’s hand and raised the knife to the highest level of the cake. Celia’s phone buzzed silently through the thin walls of the purse slung against her hip.
About time he called. She backed out of the festive group as the chatter and hum of excited expectation built to a cake cutting climax.
“How’s it going?” Chris asked.
“Oh just fine. Everything is just fine.”
“Good. Uh. Look, uh I can’t make the wedding but if you’re not doing anything later you can stop by.”
Cheers from the circled assembled blotted out Celia’s reply. It had been, “OK. Sure. What time?” Chris was good at one thing, and only one thing. At least as far as Celia could observe from her limited perspective on his life. That one thing was actually many things, it was the stroking of his just slightly calloused hands (rowing was one of his activities,) across the softness of her inner thighs. It was the way tongue and fingers worked on her until she forgot the hassles of her day, the memories of her week, the darkness and terror she had brought upon her slut bitch self, ( But those were Keith’s words following her across the years. They would follow her to her grave, in fact nearly had) Chris could make her forget and float to a clenching quivering rising moment when all life spread out around her and it all inexplicably made a kind of sense. You have to give the guy credit. Actually don’t never give a guy credit. At least not the type of guy you end up with.
Are they ever going to stop cheering? Damn. What I like about Chris is it’s all one thing. I don’t give two specks of a damn for him. He must know. We could be two different people doing the same things to each other. As long as we do those things. Oh yes. As long as he can make me feel good about it. That bit of sadness that it really doesn’t matter, that’s real too. Like spice on the cherry on top. Nothing matters. What matters is that at a time Chris is giving me permission to name, as long as it is sufficiently after tonight’s hockey playoff game to give him time to grab a burger and head home, he will take me where I long to go.
“I didn’t hear that? You coming over?”
But something’s different. Has the light in the room changed?
“That’s alright Chris. Maybe some other night. I don’t know how long I’ll be here.”
And upon saying those words she knew she would never see Chris again. Unless she did. But that wouldn’t matter either. She was free of him. They hung up friends, but she had heard heartbreak and disappointment in his sure, whatever, I’ll call you sometime voice. Celia for her part, remembered that due to the recent flourishing of her father’s business concerns this wedding’s bar was an open bar.
“Manhattan. Two Cherries.”
“Who’s the other one for?” The bartender asked. “Or is that a mystery?”
“I”ll tell you after my second one.”
Nice eyes on that one. Brown and round and soulfull. I’ll be back soon.
But when she went back it was a girl about her age pouring the drinks. Macsomebody showed up just as Celia was stuffing a bill into the tip jar.
“Come here often? How are you?” He said, rushing into the mundane comment when saw her mouth slant towards a frown at his attempt to be cute and familiar.
“I can tell. How many is that?” He pointed to the drink.
“Just my second.”
“Plenty of time.”
Nothing now was said. The band washed the air with thundering power chords. Celia smiled. Dad had won at least one battle in the long wedding planning campaign.
“I’m really sorry about hitting on you that time.”
What did you think? Chain Girl from the news was just waiting for your gentle fatherly touch to set me free from bondage to my mind demons? What did you think? Oh whatever. You didn’t think. Why should a guy think when it might get in the way of him perhaps getting lucky?
“It’s nothing. Really.”
“I just want you to know...”
And from his pleading tone and thinning hair, from the way he leaned in close smelling slightly of sweat, face red with something she probably did not want to name – from the very quality of his need Celia had an instant inspiration and reached out a finger and laid it on his lips.
“Don’t. Don’t say anything else. Ever. To me. I’ll fucking tell just for the hell of it.”
And that ends the Macsomebody problem. I’m rolling now. This drink is short. No I’m drinking fast. Mmmm. I love pulping the cherry. Dad. What’s with the second rate bourbon. Oh well. If he’s that on his game maybe he remembered to do a prenup.
“Where’s Carol Anne?”
“Cool. Want to dance.”
“It’s a slow one.”
What’s with you? Think if you talk like you’re in a magazine your life will turn out like one? Why not? Why the carefree feeling not? I want to live in the advertisements. Or at least have another one of those drinks.
“Your father picked the band? “ Chase asked.
Nice arm placement. I’m melting. I see what the wicked witch sees in him. Sure, it’s fine if our hips flow together. Just a little bit.
“Probably the last decision he will make until he picks his lawyer for the divorce.”
“Don’t you wish.”
Rendered him speechless. Nice light on his cheekbones though. And that outdoorsy smell. I am in an ad. Second Chance Perfume. When everybody in the room knows you were once cuffed to a bed in a cabin in the woods.
“It’s just that after the second it starts to feel like a routine. Like, let’s be married for a while. It’s something to do.” There. Cynicism masking a deeper yearning for romanticism. A yearning that can only be filled by....
“Did you tell him that?”
“Mostly I just listen. He thinks I’m a wonderful listener.” What am I doing? I’m talking about marriage and my Dad! We should be talking about smoky meetings in secluded romantic settings. Hints of what might come. Or not. It doesn’t matter to me. Nothing matters to me. Until. Until the passion that ripped a family apart was exposed at Julia’s Christmas party. Yeah. Right before they carve the turkey. Interrupt the toast. I’m sorry. Chase and I thought we could contain ourselves in an affair, but it has become more than that. I’m sorry Carol Anne. Sorry for your hurt feelings. Through her tears she will look pleadingly at me. Begging. Or I could just play out the fantasy in thirty seconds of dancing. Less people get hurt that way.
“He needs you.”
“He needs something.” Chase’s eyes went away. Light years. Galaxies seperated them now. He turned her one last time and there was Carol Anne with arms uncrossing to basically push Celia away.
“I’ll take my boyfriend back now.”
“Sure... I “ But they were gone. Swirling away sharing a laugh, putting rapid distance between them and Celia.
Which number is this. Four? I was going to stop at four. That makes eight cherries. I know what I should do at the next wedding. Save the stems and count them and divide by two. And whipped cream on top! But did I call? What did I tell Chris? You lousy bastard come over here and get me. Take me I mean. What did he say? Wait. I need not wonder. I can check the phone. Here. Nothing. I didn’t call yet. Thought I called. I remembered calling. Some other night. Some other girl calling some other guy.
“Daddy. At last.”
“Sorry honey, big day.”
“Daddy was I ever a big day for you?”
“Now honey. Don’t you start.”
“How would you know if I started?
“I called you all those times. You could have answered. You could have returned my calls.”
“I could have.”
“It’s my wedding day.”
“And I came to this one too. Didn’t I? You cheap ass college not paying for slime sucking bastard.”
“Celia. You have had enough.”
“Nice of you to notice.”
Well. There. Good bye for now. Handled that well. Damn. Oh look, they are coming for me. Probably already calling the car. Quick, run away. Escape. Hey. You’ll do.
Good moves on him. Damn. He’s like sixteen years old. Well got to start somewhere. Oh he probably already has. What is the world coming too. Not to me. That much is true. Got to go for it. Change the energy. Your inner will come alive!
Celia twice caught Chase looking at her as she danced. She looked to him a third time and fell right over somebody’s grandma’s leg and hit the ground. Hard. There was no blood, but quite a bit of consternation. At that point Julia arranged for Chase to put Celia in a car.
“I’m gonna throw up.”
“Hey,” said the driver.
“Here,” said Chase. Handing Celia a couple twenties.
All in good funds. Be a sport. Share the wealth. C’mon Chase help me out here. Don’t be afraid to touch me. What do I have? Amnesty? No wait. That’s not a disease. Oh well. Chase is a creep but he smells nice. No wonder he makes all that money. Now the next task is to ride home without throwing up. Life always presents a challenge. Bye bye everybody. See you next time.
You’re kind of cute Mr. Driver. And you are the type that knows it. He likes knowing that lock of hair hangs across this forehead when he checks his phone. That’s right. Shave every other day. Devil may care. C’mon guy. You’ve got a drunk hottie in the back of your car. Pay some attention.
Kids. I’m going to tell you the story of how your mother and father met. Mommy was drunk because her arrogant scuzzball boyfriend, (really we were just dating) stood her up at her Daddy, that’s grandpa’s, fourth wedding. Now mommy lost the twenty dollar bills her new almost brother in law that she had kind of been flirting with gave her to pay for the car ride home. So she had to do some sex with the driver to get back to her apartment. Now mommy was so good at sex that the driver reported his car broken down and took the rest of the night off. And that driver was your Daddy!
Make the Magic Last!
He doesn’t even look up when I laugh out of the blue. Probably afraid I’m crazy. Gets a lot of that. Girls throwing themselves at him because he’s got that little curl to his lip and oh the angle of his sideburns. He should see what I had going on when I was sixteen. Perfection of youth. Drove a boy crazy. Or at least to crime.
Oh well. Nothing for you driver boy. I’ve got these twenties somebody put in my hand. They are going in my purse. Whoever called this car is paying for it. Thanks Daddy. There. Pull out a five for you Mr. Driver. Hey. Maybe I turned a profit on the night. So goodbye Mr. too hot and too busy to make eye contact in the mirror. Take your modest tip.
“Here. Can you sit here until I get to the door? This neighborhood.”
“Sure. Whatever.” Tap. Tap. Tap. What is he doing? Writing the story of his life to some girl. I hope she appreciates it. I hope she appreciates him. I hope he appreciates her. I hope the whole world just melts into a big ball of appreciation.
“I’m over it you know. I’m over all of it.”
When there is nothing more to say!
“I’m going to go upstairs and take care of myself. For a change.”
The couple conceptualizes the beings of another couple in the spacious blinded window facing theirs. 'The neighbors must be watching us', he says. 'Yes!' She says.
Their hairs wave along the length of their arms. They disrobe and think of the other couple watching them through their colonial blinds. Then they feel their shadows talking about them and water staring through every bead at them while they lave their skin.
They close their window, and through the blinds of their own they observe the couple on the other side. They keep watching. Sundays are the best. Warm cats asleep on the cornice, the cups of tea cooling down.
Sometimes they wish the other window opens up to show the inside.
One Monday, the third one of the month, right before the moon rises, as the couple stands near their window and peeps through the blinds the other window opens. And
there stands a couple much like themselves- the girl looks like the boy here and the boy there fashions after the boy. The couple here can think of anything else but to open their own window. The moment they do so they are in the other couple's room much like theirs.
The app-cab driver waits outside the inn with an eye on the watch, old fashioned, fastened to his thinning wrist. He knows it is silly, albeit he thinks his arms are wooden – in monsoon they swell and come winter they shrivel.
The stranger he will ferry to the airport urged him to wait below as she ran upstairs, past the hotel’s lobby, past the rickety bellhop, to make love with a stranger she met, because this is a strange city.
Yonder, from the sea return the fishermen with the booty of silver fish. Gills open and shut, shut and open. The fish breathe in and breathe out for the last time as the stranger sprawls wide and lets the other stranger enter into her. The linens are white, and they are surrounded by blue walls – narrow, because everything in this town is narrow except the tourists. They are wide and liberal. They arrive from every sphere and every stratum of life in every possible form.
When she comes down the app-cab driver takes his stranger to the airport. The journey was silent although he keeps his radio on, and the music is light. He keeps thinking about the fish – gills opening and shutting, breathing in and out.
At the gate of the ‘Departure’ he collects his fare and calls his wife, “What’s for the dinner, sweetie?”
She says, “Fish.”
A child buries a plastic knife in the sand, and the waves dig out the same again and again. Sniff its edge; desire to drag it out from the deep.
A blue plastic sheet for a minuscule picnic spread. I see no parent. I dare not ask him where they are or what he did to them.
The Washington Job
Wednesday, 11:36 A.M. Today here in Washington D.C. is nice and bright sunshine with the northern winds willowing through the streets, it is now November so maybe get yourself some nice warm tea, if you don’t have a coat today you might want to have one lend to you, and maybe by the end of the work day cozy up near a fire. Thanks for listening and we hope everyone has a wonderful day.
Please being an English man in an American environment is not wonderful. England is nothing like this place. I’ll at least try to have this day not be long and not be bad, just like the last two days were. So today all I want is for me to leave my job. That is my main objective, I look in the mirror and say “Your goal for today is to get out of work early.” If I can get the work done quick then I can leave quickly. Right should be simple and easy.
1:45 P.M. Stupid taxi driver can figure out where to go. Great a street slum who begs for money like a cat meowing non-stop for food. They just won’t leave you alone, I wonder what bull story this one has got.
“Excuse me sir but you see my sister was coming to pick me up for the holidays but she missed her flight and now she needs help getting to another airport on time but she needs me to call our mother because she’s in a terrible spot to make a call. So could you give change to a small hobo?”
I kindly respond with “Wow that’s a good one, did you pull that out of your arse at the last moment?” I then walked right passed him.
Finally at the building where I write posts and articles constantly, where else would you except from The Maryland Shaft.
Joy the worker I sit next to Gilbert, possibly the most annoying American I’ve ever met. He has the mass of a hippopotamus, the accent of cowboy, the scent of roadkill, and probably has a brain the size of a mustard seed.
“How ya doing?”
“Hey, Irving I decided to be nice today, cause it’s been a rough week so I got you some tea.”
He holds up two cups and out of nowhere throws one at me, and then molten and steamy tea splashes all over me and begins to get sticky.
“Got ya, that was the empty cup, this cup is full of tea. I just threw the empty one at ya, so would think that, that I….”
Gil suddenly realizes his mistake.
“But I may have um, got them switched up.”
Gil automatically runs away, and I’m left with tea all over my white shirt and black tie.
I hear my name shouted in the back and my boss standing out of his office. I tell him I’ll be right there.
“Good god Irving what happened to you?”
“Well Gilbert went to..”
“Never mind, listen Charles’s birthday is today and we forgot to get him some tea cause he prefers that over coffee. Do you mind going out and getting some for us, and you gotta make it ASAP!”
“Can I at least dry my shirt first?”
“No Irving, make it quick or he’s going to notice!”
Great I have to go out and get some tea with a bunch of splashed tea all over me, God please get me out of here for the day. 4:55 P.M. I finally get to the coffee shop Sun Cheers and get the tea for Charles’s birthday as I’m headed back the cold weather starts to really kick in and the spilled tea all over me is not helping. I’m walking down the alley for a shortcut yet the blistering cold is really creeping down my back. I’m starting to shiver.
“Hey son!” I hear someone shout.
A hobo comes up to me and says “What’s going on with you, you look severely cold.”
“No sir I assure you I’m fine.”
He responds with “At least let me lend you a coat for the cold weather.”
Oh dear I don’t want to wear a slum’s coat, but I could really use it right now.
“There you go fits perfectly.” He says.
“Cheers.” I say.
“Cheers.” he says.
Sure it’s got holes in it but at least I feel warm.
6:35 P.M. Finally making it back to Maryland Shaft I charge to get the tea up until I’m stopped by a guard.
“Excuse me sir. Where are you going?”
“Officer I need to get this to my office upstairs.”
“Alright I’ll deliver it.”
“Oh I see you think I’m a bum, no I swear I have I.D.”
I reach in my pocket too get my I.D. but it’s gone and so is my phone. Oh god no.
“Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Wait I did have my I.D. but you see this hobo you gave me this jacket he stole it while he but the jacket on me, I swear to god. I work here!”
The officer smirks at me and says “Wow. Good one, did you pull that one out of your ass at the last moment?”
He takes my tea and goes in the building. Next to the building is the slum from earlier nodding his head at me.
“I work here!!!!” I shout.
8:45 P.M. the shaft closes at this time and I should be at home right now. The day is over at work and I’m down here putting my hands to the nearest trash can with a bonfire in it. I don’t get it, I didn’t mean get out early like that. It always seems like the world is trying to go against me. Or is it me going against the world? Naw, it’s the world against me. This is humiliating, I’m moving back to England. At least it’s nothing like this place.
Meanwhile Somewhere in England….
Good morning lads today in the queen’s land will be having swift winds of the cold so if you don’t got a coat yet, you might want to have one lend to you. Then get a nice cup of old grey and when the day of working is done go and cozy up near the fire. Hope all you lovelies have a wonderful day. Thanks for listening.
“Please, being an American in a English environment ain’t wonderful.”
A Monstrous Night
Becca’s eyes glowed a bright red in the distance as she flung out her sword disguised as her belt. She walked up to the isolated cabin in the woods as this fiery glow of armor transformed around her. Leaves burned beneath her feet with every step she took. Her hair swinging in the wind, bright red, her fiery tail whipping out from behind her. It’s like a fireball had formed as she shapeshifted into a Japanese fire fox. Her scent was so strong from her armor around her, that she created smoke, making ambulances come out from a distance, as if it was a real fire. Becca rings the doorbell, waiting for a response. A few seconds later, the door opens revealing both Mr. and Mrs. Martin.
“Hi, Becca,” spoke Mrs. Martin. Becca transformed back into her natural state, clicking her belt back into its original place.
“Hello, Mrs. Martin, Mr. Martin.”
“Hi, Becca,” said Mr. Martin.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin wanted to take extra precautions tonight, so they hired Becca to babysit their two girls while they went out. Becca waved her goodbyes and Mr. and Mrs. Martin were off. Becca goes inside the quiet cabin, looking at the interior in awe. Wow, this is beautiful, Becca thought. Fine china placed neatly on the timber wood, the lining being very crisp. Marbled floors, and a nice fire burning off to the side in the firepit as a chandelier hung just about Becca’s head. The ceiling looked as if a mural was painted on it from the decorative colors, almost like a fresco painting. Sets of little feet could be heard coming down the stairs as Becca watched Harper and Halle make their appearance. She looked at the two girls seeing they had very identical features. Both had the same eyes, but one was slightly slanted than the other. They both had the same nose and mouth, but one had a mole just about her nose, while the other had one just below, resting on her top lip. Both girls had two pigtails and sported tutus.
“Hi, I’m Becca.”
“Hi, I’m Harper,” she said giddy as ever. “and this is my sister Halle.” Halle hid slightly behind her sister and gave a small wave. Moments had passed, and Becca was upstairs with the girls engaged in a tea party. Becca noticed that Halle was inching closer and closer to her as time went on. Becca looked down and smiled at Halle as they continued their tea party. Becca had a weird feeling inside her, but she let it go for the time being. Minutes later Becca sent the girls to their bathrooms to wash up as Becca went to prepare the food. As the time was winding down, Becca had this weird feeling again, but this time she couldn't shake it off. She told the girls to stay put as she went outside and proceeded caution towards the woods. Coming out of the woods was a Berserker, a Viking warrior with armor made of animal pelts, mostly from a bear or a wolf. His skin was dirty, and his hair was matted to his head as if he hadn't had a wash in years. He stood at 10 feet. He had a spear in his right hand and a shield in his left. Becca whipped out her belt and transformed into her alter ego. The girls stood from the doorway with their mouths wide open. Becca looked back at the girls in her fox like state, much like scaring them as they ran back into the house, locking the door.
Out of nowhere, the Berserker ran towards Becca catching her off guard as he picked her up and threw her to the ground. Becca rolled over, coughing up dust as the Berserker went to grab her, but Becca quickly moved away.
Meanwhile, Harper and Halle had moved the couch to the window to get a sneak peek. Even though they were afraid, their curious little brains had taken over as they seen Bella in a different state fighting this aggressive monster.
In the short time, the Berserker was ready to end Becca. Becca gets herself together as she does a full 360 spin in the air while flinging tiny daggers disguised as her earrings towards the Berserker way. The Berserker used his shield to cover himself. Becca ran at full speed towards the Berserker with her sword in hand as she was ready to dismantle it. The Berserker caught hold of Becca before she could swing and ripped her sword from her hand. The Berserker’s swung his spear as it caught hold of Becca’s arm, ripping at her skin. Becca screamed out in pain as she held her arm, her eyes turning redder than before. She quickly whipped out her fiery tail and caught hold of the Berserker’s throat. She meant to drag the Berserker, but he was too heavy. Instead she whipped up a couple of fireballs from her hands and threw them at his tough skin. The berserker went down in agony as his skin was being ripped apart, killing him. The berserker mentally transformed into a wolf, lying dead on the ground.
Becca got rid of the wolf and went inside to clean herself up. “That was awesome,” screamed Harper. “Yes, can you do it again?” asked Halle. Harper and Halle were now intrigued. “Maybe some other time.” Just five minutes after, Mr. and Mrs. Martin had pulled into the driveway. They didn’t get to even make it out of the car all the way before Halle and Harper ambushed them about their day. “Mom, Dad, Becca is a fox,” said Harper. “Yes, she turned herself on fire and she had a tail with a sword, it was awesome,” said Halle. Mr. and Mrs. Martin looked at Becca, then the twins and laughed uncontrollably. “Yes, I’m sure she did girls,” said Mrs. Martin.
Next Door Paranoia
Jason’s phone bleeps, Reminder: Date at 7:45 With Jenny
But just as Jason goes to pick up his phone, a low tone electrical click is heard from inside a vent in Jason’s apartment. Ever since Dimitri moved next door, Jason has not known peace. Many sleepless nights and theories running through his head as to what is going on in the next room. It's time he did something.
Jason starts a war path towards his closet, puts on his Harvard sweatshirt and sweatpants that are practically falling off due to the elastic band being worn out to all hell. Jason doesn't have a clear head right now, he has had to endure this paranoia for months and months as to what was going on and if he was safe in his own apartment. As Jason puts on his shoes and ties the laces, he hears a muffled cry from the vent. He stops for a second. That didn't happen, it's just sleep deprivation getting the better of you Jason. The muffled cry is then followed up by a loud thud.
“What the hell? No, no this is some sick dream, Jason. Y-You’re dreaming,” he stammers, trying to collect his thoughts. Then the click is back, but this time it seems as though it may have been the last.
Jason takes a deep breath, grabs a kitchen stool, climbs up to the air duct above his TV, and opens it up. Jason is in awe. He feels the cold crisp air, it pushes into his eyes and he looks up, noticing something staring him in the face. It’s a small blinking light from a CCTV style camera. Jason feels his entire body go numb. He can barely collect any words to think, let alone say anything out loud.
“All this time i-it was true?” Jason quietly mutters to himself, sounding almost as if he is about to cry in sheer disbelief.
Jason shakes his head and snaps out of it. The anger is back in his veins, and he dashes out the door to Dimitri’s. As Jason goes to grab the handle, his hand slips. What? Jason looks at the handle, a slick red coat covers itand now, part of Jason's hand. I-is this blood? Jason feels goosebumps start to run through his body, but as he looks at the floor beneath the handle, he notices there aresmall blood splotches leading from Jenny’s apartment.
“Jenny...” He feels the heat in his body turn up higher and higher, tears streaming down his face.
“That's it, I’ve had enough of this shit,” he stammers through his uncontrollably shaky voice.
Jason runs back to his apartment, gabbing the bat from his foyer closet and rushes back outside to Dimitri’s door. He takes a deep breath, shuts his eyes for just one second and whispers, “One, two…” On three, he kicks the door in. With a loud bang it flies open. As he enters the apartment he notices something particularly unsettling. There are notices from the complex on the kitchen counter, alongside a pack of adhesive spray. Upon closing the gap between himself and the counter, he looks up and sees sound suppression boards on the wall. The hairs on his skin raise once more at the mere sight of this, though he’s unsure why, exactly. He walks into the center of the living room and notices the nice white vintage rug, but it’s covered up by plastic wrap, almost all of the furniture is
“Why is everything covered in plastic wra-”
Before he can finish his sentence, the stereo system starts to blare, “Don't you want me baby, don't you want me oh?” He cups his ears and drops the bat, the music is so loud that Jason cant even hear himself try to think. The door is slammed shut and from the other end of the room,Dimitri runs at Jason and before jason has time to grab his bat, we hear a loud metallic thud.
“Yeah, yeah I got him. No, he doesn't seem to be a threat anymore. Yeah I'll wait outside in the hall for you to get here” Dimitri calmly says
“You know, I never did like you.”
A door slams, Jason jolts awake but his hand is cuffed to the table. He is in strong panic and can barely sit still.
“Mr Miller, I’m Detective Harris and this is Officer Morrison,” He says as hes now gripping tightly onto his suspenders
“We wanted to inform you again, now that you seem more conscious and in at least a somewhat better state of mind that we have uh, charged you with one count of Breaking and entering of Mr Volkov’s apartment. Would you like to tell me what you were doing in his apartment?”
“With a bat nonetheless” Chimes in Officer Morrison
Jason is sweating and is stammering to get words out. Dimitri must have these guys in his pocket “But… but the blood on the handle… It led from Jenny’s room, h-he killed Jenny Why isn't he here!”
“Sir that was red paint from the door, the maintenance guys were there doing work on your floor, H-he must've just not been careful and it dripped from the bucket door and retouching up the walls. Which in turn, would also explain why you saw most the furniture covered up with plastic protective wrap.”
“And we also heard you muttering something about a camera and a vent?” interjects Officer Morrison.
“Yeah..yeah my apartment! He put a camera in my apartment vent, i saw the flashing light,” Jason mummers in a cold sweat
“Sir what you had grabbed was a rat… the only thing in the vent was a rat. There's no possible way circuitry could have been fed through the vent,” detective morrison says,
He pauses, “Jason do you have any family history of mental illnesses?”
“Listen I’m not fucking insane you should be out there looking for him, He got Jenny”
“I'm not saying you are. However, just to be sure, would it be okay if I made you an appointment with one of our doctors?”
It starts coming back in flashes now to him, he looks down at his hands, and sure enough, it's just paint.
Jason slowly picks his head up and looks at the detective in the eyes. He slightly nods his head yes and waits in the room for the Psychiatrists to come in.
Nicole Sarrantonio is the former co-editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Fragments and has experience writing poetry and short stories. She has written copy for websites and has been published in a few small anthologies. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @vivalanik.
What Brothers Do
We sat on the roof, backs pressed up against the side of the house. The sun was setting behind the trees and its golden light filtered through the leaves. We were quiet, partially because we didn’t want to get caught and partially because we had nothing to say.
We passed the joint back and forth: inhaling, holding, exhaling. I looked at him from the corner of my eye. I almost said something, but I caught myself. We could sit for hours in silence, but as soon as we spoke, it got uncomfortable. I couldn’t ask him anything and he never cared about what I had to say, so we just sat.
I had enough, and I let him finish the joint while I looked out across the backyard. It was completely surrounded by trees, their leaves leaking chlorophyll and slowly slipping from their branches. The yellow-brown grass below was peppered with small birds pecking through the dirt.
The smoke around us cleared and I stared at my brother. He turned to me. “What?” “Nothing,” I said, biting my bottom lip. We looked away from each other. “Mom wants to send you away, you know. She thinks you need help.”
He coughed. “Oh?”
“I tried to talk her out of it, but she was set on it.”
“I could tell her the truth. It was my fault anyway.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I could. I-”
“Don’t worry about it.”
We fell silent. I inhaled the scent of cool air, fallen leaves, and feathery smoke, chewing on my fingernail. I wished that I could leave and take my brother with me. Because of me, his life as he knew it was over. It wasn’t fair, but I knew better than to tell him that. He wouldn’t want to hear it.
It was dark, maybe midnight, maybe later. My brother and mother were asleep. The front door slammed. The stairs creaked under his heavy, uneven footsteps. I cracked open my door and watched him pause at the landing. He looked up, eyes dark and shiny, and noticed me in the doorway. He stomped over, roaring and pounding. I brought you into this world, I can take you out.
His outstretched hands grasped for a hold on my small frame. I slipped under his arm. He was angry, unsteady. I saw an opportunity. I took it. My arms moved on their own. His off-balanced body did the rest. He fell head over heels over head.
I stepped backwards and bumped into my brother. I looked up at him, shocked and relieved. We breathed. He didn’t.
We called 911. It was an accident, we said. He fell. They came, took his body, and left. No questions, just an old drunk who got what was coming to him.
Our mother knew better. She confronted us, already knowing, she thought, the truth. She pressed and pressed, and my brother confessed. He recounted every detail. Except one. He became the monster after the monster instead of me.
She didn’t look at him after that.
The sun fell lower in the sky, casting purple shadows over the backyard. Goosebumps formed on my bare arms where the breeze brushed past and I pulled my knees up to my chest, shivering. I knew I didn’t have much longer with him, so I sat there despite the chill. In the morning, he would be gone and we wouldn’t have another moment like this for a long time.
It was completely dark by the time I worked up the courage to ask him the question.
“Why did you lie for me?”
He was silent for a while, either thinking or too high to think.
“It’s what brothers do.”
Tears of Blood
It is clean and pure. A stream of water flowing in a channel to a lake.
Until, a red liquid overtakes the river making it thick and dense. No longer was the water pure and sacred. Now, it was damaged.
“You see that? That’s your sister up there,” said Mr. Williams. “Oh don’t worry, you’ll be joining her shortly.” Williams put one of his arms around the kid and made him watch his sister dance for dozens of people.
What bothered the kid the most was not his sister dancing in front of a bunch of strangers, but it was the laughing. Some of the people in the audience were laughing at his sister. Mocking her every move. He wanted to run up to his sister to get her out of there and make everyone in the room pay, but he couldn’t. He remembered what his sister told him after they were sold to Mr. Williams by their parents.
“Amadeus, we need to stick together. We can’t be separated,” Mia said.
“Why did they do this? Why did they leave us?” said Amadeus. Tears went down his face and he clenched his fists.
“We can’t worry about that now,” said Mia. She put right hand on his shoulder trying to comfort him. “We have to stay calm and have hope.”
“We can’t lose ourselves, if we do, they win.”
Amadeus proceeded to calm down and have hope. The same hope his big sister told him to have, but he was still wary.
The siblings were in a different location. Mr. Williams had a club in a rural area. He threw a type of party in that club. He invited only the richest of people to the club. The people had expensive suits and dresses. They were the kind of people to drink expensive red wine.
Amadeus and Mia were the ones going to treat the audience tonight. They both were put on these circular stages where they would dance. They both saw the same thing they have seen for years.
Mia looked at Amadeus with reassurance. She went up to the stage and then Amadeus followed behind.
Then the people entered the club.
Several hours later, a man wearing an expensive white suit sat down on one of the chairs close to Amadeus.
As he danced on the stage he looked at the man with the white suit and noticed something near his waist. It was a handgun. He knew he had to be careful and not piss him off. He then thought to himself, This is it, this is the opportunity I've been waiting for. Amadeus then looked at his sister.
She looked back and wondered what he wanted.
He then looked at the man once again and Mia was able to spot the handgun as well.
Mia nodded her head, signalling him not to do it.
Amadeus waited for the right moment, one of the people put their wine glass on the stage.
In that moment Amadeus grabbed the wine glass smashed it against the man’s head.
The man fell to his side.
Amadeus grabbed the handgun.
Mr. Williams saw what happened and grabbed his handgun. He pointed it at Amadeus.
Amadeus was able to fire before Mr. Williams could and shot him in his right shoulder.
Mr. Williams fell backwards onto the wall. He dropped his weapon.
All the people in the club screamed and ran out the front door.
Amadeus was going to fire again, but the man in the white suit got up and tried to retrieve his gun.
Then from behind the man is hit in the back of the head. He then lets go of the gun and falls forward. Mia stood there in disbelief in what she had done.
Amadeus points the gun at him and is about to shoot.
“Stop, don’t do this, we can just get out of here,” said Mia.
Amadeus stopped pointing his gun towards the man and then remembered the laughing. He remembered that the only reason they were put in this situation was because of Mr.Williams. He looked up and saw the stream of blood on the wall leading up to a balcony. Amadeus then walked towards the balcony with the gun in hand.
“Amadeus, no,” said Mia.
Amadeus walked up to the balcony to see the man that has brought him years of pain.
“Look at you, a piece of human garbage,” said Amadeus as he pointed his gun at Mr. Williams.
“You don’t have to do this, I can give you whatever you want,” said Williams. He picked up his hands pleading for his life.
“Whatever I want, I want my life back!” screamed Amadeus. “I want a life where you're not in it.” He raised his weapon and he could see the terror coming from his voice as well as the scared look in his eye.
A shot could be heard behind Amadeus. The bullet had reached its destination.
Williams lifeless body fell to the ground near the edge of the balcony.
His anger shifted to confusion, then he turned around.
Mia was holding a handgun. Mia looked at the dead body and turned to Amadeus.
“This shouldn’t be your burden to bear,” said Mia.
Amadeus saw the light in her eyes leave her as they darken.
The blood from the body dripped down into the river that went under the club. The red fluid seeped into the water, turning it into a sea of crimson.
Ke’Shaun McCray is a young African American writer from East St. Louis, Illinois, who is currently seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing at Full Sail University in Florida. McCray is a lover and scholar of history and horror. His favorite book is John Greene’s Looking for Alaska, his favorite television show is Game of Thrones, and his favorite movie is The Notebook. This is his first published work. If you want more from this author, please follow him on Twitter @mccray_ke.
Ghost at A Funeral
We walked into a familiar church. Everything was still the same. The old creaky wood floors. The long cushioned benches that lined either side of the carpeted aisle. The raised dais at the front of the room that harbored the pastor’s podium. We stood in the back near the entrance.
“I know this place. My mom started bringing me and my sister here after the divorce. We weren’t much of a churchgoing family before then, but I guess coming to this place made her feel less alone. I stopped coming after a while and my sister soon after. Mom kept coming though.”
“What are we doing here?” I said.
He said nothing. Instead, he nodded his head to a flock of people filing into the church. They were all dressed in mournful black and had faces full of grief. Wait I recognize these people. Aunt Linda, cousin Todd, my friends from college, Maddy — my ex-girlfriend. What is she doing here?
Strolling in last was my mom, dad, and sister, teary-eyed and dressed in black like all the others. I called out to them, but no one even flinched. They kept on to their seats.
“What’s going on? Why can’t they hear me? Why did no one tell me about the funeral?”
The strange man wasn’t saying anything, in fact, he was gone now. Where’d he go?
My mind raced with a million convoluted thoughts, but I figured he was gone now, so it must be over. I walked over and sat in the front row next to my sister. I hadn’t seen her since she left for college last year. She looked different, older more adult than I remembered. So did mom and pop next to her. Their age was starting to show. Mom had one long gray streak in her otherwise jet black hair and dad’s goatee was blotched with specks of gray.
“Hey Pops, it’s good to see you and mom in the same room together again,” I whispered so only they could hear me. But nothing. No reaction. Only blank stares at the pastor who spoke at the podium.
I cuffed my sister’s hand, which was rested in her lap and said, “It's been a while, hasn’t it. How have you been?” Again no reply.
Just then, everyone stood as the pastor concluded the eulogy and walked off stage. Two ushers wheeled in a casket and another one brought in a big picture of the deceased and situated it on a stand for the entire room to see. Alright, so which one of my alcoholic uncles drunk themselves to death this time?
My heart sank to my stomach when I saw that the picture was of me. What the hell is this? “Mom, Dad, what’s going on?”
Still no reply. Only tears streamed down their faces and my sister let out a sorrowful wail once they opened up the coffin. “Its okay. I'm fine. I’m right here,” I said in hopes of calming them down, yet somehow I knew that I was a ghost to them.
I ran to the casket to see for myself and there I was, dead. My lips were purple and the life had drained from my face and hands. “No! No! No!” were the only words I could mutter as I stumbled back from my corpse.
“Sorry you had to find out like this,” a devilish voice said from behind me. I turned to see the strange man standing there.
“What the fuck is this?” I didn’t know what was going on but I had a feeling that he was behind it.
“Well, we’re at your funeral of course.”
“What funeral? I'm not dead.” I insisted.
“Is that not your body lying there in that coffin? Are we not in your old family church? Are the disheartened people in this room not your family?”
“Yes, b-but h-how?”
“How did you die or how are we here?”
“Both I guess.”
He pulled a piece of rolled-up parchment from his arm sleeve and read, “CAUSE OF DEATH: Alcohol poisoning.” He rolled the parchment back up and placed it within his sleeve. “As for how we are here. Take a guess.”
Alcohol poisoning, really? “Umm...Are we ghosts?” I said.
“Correct. Well, half correct. You are a ghost. I am something else.” His voice trailed off.
“What are you?” I asked.
“Do you want to get your life back?” he said, blatantly ignoring my question.
“W-What do you mean?”
“I can restore your life if you like. For a price, of course, but a worthy gamble some might say.”
“How would you do that?”
“Do we have a deal or not?”
I laughed. “This is all a dream. I’m not really dead, am I? It’s all just some elaborate way of my subconscious trying to tell me to slow down on the alcohol. Alright, I hear you loud and clear, now wake up!”
“I said, WAKE UP!” I tried helplessly to wake myself up, opening and closing my eyes, but nothing worked. The strange man was still here and I was still a ghost at my own funeral.
“Are you done? This isn’t a dream and I’m not your subconscious,” he said.
“Then who are you?”
“Do we have a deal?”
“Deal? What deal?”
“I will bring you back to life. If you do me a favor.”
“You’ll know when the time comes.”
I looked around the room. It was a packed house. I didn’t know all of these people cared about me. I haven’t seen most of them in years, due to one fallout or another. But they were here now, at my funeral. That must count for something. I have never seen my parents this defeated. They lost their son, and my sister lost a brother. I can’t do this to them.
“I need an answer. Do we have a deal?”
I took one more look at my dead body and decided. “Yes,” I answered, “we have a deal.”
“Good,” he said, as a demonic smile crossed his face. He turned and made his way towards the exit.
I stopped him right before he made it to the door. “Wait, you haven’t told me who you are. What’s your name?”
He paused and looked over his shoulder. He gave me a wink, raising a maroon spindly hand — revealing black claws — and then, he snapped.
The snowfall blanketed the world outside of the windows. A wall of white for as far as the eye could see. Luckily for me, the local watering hole had some decent heating. As I sat at the bar eyeing up my glass as if the answers to all of my problems lied within its amber depths, I pondered the actions that led me here. I mean, look at me. It was Christmas Eve, and I was sitting alone at the bar. I guess I figured it was better than seeing that look on my wife’s face again. That look she always gave me when she found out I’d lost everything. Gambling’s a bitch man, but hey maybe if I was only better at it I wouldn’t be in this situation.
As I was lost in thought, I heard someone playing on the piano. A beautiful sound resonated through the room, bouncing off the walls and filling the room with its alluring tone. In all the years I had frequented this bar, I had never seen that old hunk of junk do anything more than collect dust in the back of the room. I didn’t even know it could make a sound like that. The sound was vaguely familiar to me as well. I'd heard this song before. I turned to catch a glimpse at this mysterious pianist who had taken to playing such a run-down instrument. What I saw threw me a bit. An old man, had to be mid to late seventies, his fingers dancing across the keys as if they had a mind of their own.
As I staggered over towards that worn-down piano, a smile found its way to my face. As I sat down across from the old man and watched as he played, I couldn’t help but wonder why the old man was here of all places on Christmas Eve. An old man as talented as this should be off entertaining his grandchildren rather than a bunch of drunken bums.
“Old man, you don’t have anywhere better to be on Christmas Eve than entertaining a bunch of drunks?”
“Haha, suppose not,” the old man spoke. His voice was strained, as if his throat was full of sand. “The wife always used to tell me I always found my way to a piano wherever I went,” he added, his eyes taking on a wretched quality,“Guess she was right, though she always was.”
The old man told me that some fifty years ago he was an aspiring pianist. He traveled all across the world to play music for whoever would listen. He told me that his only regret was that he had to leave behind his newly-wed wife for months on end to pursue his dream. It was a hard life, and he could feel himself drifting away from the love of his life the more time he spent away from home. So he decided that he needed to do something about it.
He planned a trip back home for Christmas, against the behest of his manager, to see his wife after months of being apart. He didn’t care what his manager said, Christmas of all days is a day to be spent with the ones you love. As he was loading his car and preparing for the cross-country drive back home, he received a call from his hometown hospital. His wife has been in a terrible accident. She had been hit by a drunk driver and was in critical condition.
He was in shock, though eventually, as the reality of the situation set in for him, he got in his car and rushed home. Driving for 41 straight hours until, after an excruciating drive, he pulled into the hospital parking lot and rushed to his wife’s room. He arrived to see her hooked into every kind of machine imaginable. He approached her, not wanting to believe what he was seeing. His wife opened her eyes and beckoned him to come closer. The man leaned in as his wife spoke into his ear.
“Sing for me,” she whispered, he voice weak and fading.
“I...I’m so sorr…,” the old man tried, his voice failing him. His wife looked him in the eyes and smiled the brightest, widest smile the man had ever seen in his life.
“Sing for me,” she commanded. And the man did as he was told. He sang for her. He sang and sang. For hours upon hours he sang with everything that he had. Until his vocal cords bled and his voice grew horse he sang for her. He sang for her until she closed her eyes for the last time and died in his arms. And even after, he continued to sing as it was the only thing that keep the tears at bay.
As the old man’s story grew close to its end, I sat listening on as the tears welled up in my eyes. I wanted to say something, anything, that could convey the sorrow I felt for his troubles, but words failed me. For the English language, in all of its complexity and depth of meaning, did not possess words that could convey the sorrow through which this old man had to go. I tried to speak but the old man interrupted me.
“Young man, you don’t have anywhere better to be on Christmas Eve than entertaining the stories of an old man?” he spoke, a warm smile forming on his face.
With that, I stood from my seat, grabbed my coat and headed out into the snow. As the sun began to rise, signaling the beginning of Christmas, the old man’s message hit me. Life was far too short to let my inner demons keep me from being with the people I love. Who really knows how much time you’ll have? With that, I began my trek home through the snow. Hoping I would get back before they started opening the presents.
Nate Viramontes has been writing for 3 years, with a bachelors in creative writing being received in may of this year. He has work for a year as a writer at mutilmediamouth.com as well as this being his second published worked. He hopes to land a job as a TV writer after he graduated having already written a few ready to be read full length sit com scripts as well.