These stories are inspired by the 100 Days project film clips of John Timmons’ (corresponding clips are linked below each title) and each is in response to his own daily piece or that of one of the other participants.
Note: only the most current stories are accessible, to secure the text and particularly, the images from being nabbed by and displayed on public sites. If you would like to read some of the stories that are here, simply email me at email@example.com for the password.
Note #2: Days #72 through #96 may have two stories posted, as part of another project called 24/7 hosted by Folded Word which calls for a story a day through the first three weeks of August.
#80 THE EULOGY
“Arnie was a prince among men,” I said. I hoped he was not in fact a serial rapist. I’d known him for three hours and was asked to do the eulogy. If he had no better friends than I, he might indeed have been a rapist.
My friend Rhonda set us up on a blind date. “You’ll love him,” she said. I thought that meant she knew him. He was a friend of a friend of a Facebook friend and Rhonda had never even met him. This is what social networking does; you may have two hundred people you call friends and yet you’ve never met, cannot vouch for nor trust they’d put their real photo up on the internet.
How you date on the internet is first, by location. Zanzibar is too far, Minneapolis is feasible. Second, and this isn’t always true, by gender. Third, and this IS, by Mac or PC. Other than that, the world is open.
Arnie was good-looking, intelligent, and well-dressed.
“He was a special person,” I said to the three people sitting in the back row at the service.
He had picked me up promptly at seven-thirty. He said we’d be going to dinner.
“Arnie was a guy you could always count on,” I said.
Arnie held the door open for me at the restaurant. He’d been courteous when the waiter forgot my dessert.
“He was a true gentleman,” I said. Two people from another wake had wandered in.
We were on our way home. Arnie drove like a maniac. He lost it on a curve and we smashed head-on into a tree. I was hospitalized for just a couple days. Arnie had been killed instantly. His therapy group claimed the body and paid for the final arrangements but nobody showed for the service. I made Rhonda take me when the funeral director manipulated me into saying a few words. Rhonda sat at the back, reading a book. The director led me up to the casket and disappeared. Arnie was laid out in a suit and tie and aside from an odd twist of his jaw that made him look like he’d just told a joke, he looked fine.
“He had a great sense of humor,” I said. Nobody was listening. “He’ll be missed.”
Rhonda dropped me off after the service though she wanted to go see a movie and I told her I was too tired. I lay down on my bed with my shoes on and started to cry.
#80B GREEN LADY CEMETERY
“Do you think you can straighten that out?” she asked. I wanted to please her but the stone must have weighed two hundred pounds.
“I’ll need some help, but it’s possible I suppose.”
“It really would make me feel so much better,” she said. She reached out her empty cup and I poured more hot chocolate in from the thermos. She took a sip. It amazed me to watch the steaming brown liquid go down her throat, thin out as it splashed into her stomach in gulps. She is a slight greenish tone and transparent. How could I not fall in love?
We met on a dare by my best bud Frankie. “The cemetery’s haunted!” he said. “Betcha you’re too scared to go see for yourself.” How could I not prove him wrong?
Friday night, two carloads of kids, a few six-packs, and a ghost. The Green Lady herself. Man, I hadn’t believed it but there she was and everybody was screaming and running for the cars and wheeling out of there faster than lightning. Except me. I was passed out on a plot and came to and saw her kneeling over me. Love at first sight.
“If I can get Frankie to come up with me sometime next week. During the day.”
“He’s still afraid of me?” she asked. I’d never told him about her but I didn’t tell her that.
“She’s a beauty,” Frankie said. He held the stone level and steady with a crowbar while I shoveled dirt underneath.
“You’ve seen her? I mean, aside from that night when you all went running like scared rabbits and left me there drunk and alone?”
“Well, er, no,” he said. “From the pictures.”
“Those aren’t real,” I scoffed. No one has really seen her up close, touched the light wisp of her hand, kissed the cool breeze of her lips, but me. Yes, she’s a beauty. She’s a woman, a real woman–well, not real, but more of a woman than any of the dumb girls I’ve dated from school.
“Almost there,” I said. “Lift it up just a bit so it don’t settle in low.” I shoveled two more loads of dirt, tossed in some stones for form, and tamped it down with the shovel. Together we eased the crowbar out and the tombstone settled in place. “Perfect!” I said.
I usually came to see her on Thursday nights but I couldn’t wait. When I got there I was in for a shock. There she was, admiring the tombstone. And there was Frankie, handing her a coke.
#79 FOLLOWING BREADCRUMBS
He picked at the last crumb he found with his fingernails scraping the sidewalk. He licked it off his finger and chewed sixteen times. He was still hungry.
Up ahead he heard a soft cooing. He tiptoed to the corner and with his back flat against the brick wall, waited for his breathing to calm into a slow in and out. When he felt his heart pace down to the tick of a second, and the blood no longer drum in his ears, he edged himself away from the wall, planted his feet, and with his hands pushed himself far enough out to peek around the corner.
There it was! The pigeon! Buying a new loaf of Italian bread!
He listened for the soft rustle of gray feathers. The pigeon took a few steps. Joe watched the strut, the jerk of the head, then slipped around the corner and tensely waited. His fingers curled into a ball like the sun. Uncurled into wings in anticipation. The pigeon was on the move. From a safe distance away, Joe Tremble, once a professor of languages, followed the pigeon, picking up crumbs left in a trail.
#79B THE BALLOON
Angela kept the balloon hidden under her bed. At night, in the dark glow of the Strawberry Shortcake nightlight, she’d drag it out and run her fingers over the sharp edges of things. Things that she’d dreamed of and wanted and shoved inside so that, when she was ready to leave, she’d have everything all in one place. She kept it under her bed not only to hide it but because the weight of the bed kept it down. It would be horrid if the balloon took off without her.
She’d blown it up over a year ago. Got the idea from a book that she read. They’d used a sack from potatoes, but the balloon seemed more giving, able to hold all her ideas and wants. It’d been part of her birthday party and the first wish she put into it came in the wisp of smoking candles on her cake.
It was no trouble at all as Angela found out that dream ponies, unlike real ones, don’t eat and don’t need to run. So next, she put in a dog. A Scottish Terrier, a black one, her favorite kind. The two animals got along well.
There were skirts much too short, and nail polish in flamboyant colors with metallic sparkles inside. There were high heels and fur jackets and of course, eventually boys. And a car. A Jeep Cherokee since it kept the boy happy and quiet at night.
And then she was ready to go.
She listened. From the dark outside of her room, there was silence. By the glow of the nightlight she pulled out the balloon. She tugged and tugged, as it had gotten quite large, until she had all of it sitting in front of her.
She was surprised that the balloon did not rise to the ceiling. Not even a little. It sprawled like an obese drunken man on the floor. Angela realized it was too full, too heavy, to even drag down the stairs and out the front door. She pulled out the pony, kissed him goodbye and heard him clomp clomping away. Then she pulled out the boy, since boys could be found anywhere she decided to go. Typical, he turned and ran out of the room and was gone.
The balloon was much lighter now, but by the time she got it out on the lawn she could see that it still wouldn’t fly. One by one, she took out wishes. The car, the clothes, the roses, the friends.
She blew into the balloon, held it up, tied it with a string when she felt the wind pick it up and bounce it down to the street. Inside was a rattle, a thin little something she couldn’t imagine she wanted. After several hours of running the balloon behind like a kite, Angela gave up and dragged it back up to her room. Before she crawled back in bed, she let all the air out and reached inside the balloon and found the last thing she’d left inside.
In the glow of the Strawberry Shortcake nightlight, Angela stared at the half-burnt birthday cake candle.
#78 WAITING FOR THE FLIGHT
It was at the airport while I was waiting for my flight to Boise. I remember thinking it was strange that a toucan would be taking a plane. I thought that maybe they weren’t long-distance birds, like hummingbirds or eagles. That’s why they were exported from South America, or Africa or wherever they came from, up north. Maybe he was going home, or traveled a lot and got the hang of negotiating airports; quite an accomplishment I’d say.
“Are you done with the sports page?” he asked politely. Stranger still. A toucan that followed sports?
“Sure,” I said. I folded and handed the section to him. I was curious. His wingspan didn’t look all that wide. He surprised me. Tip to tip it must have been a yard or more. So much for that, I thought.
My plane was late. I was early. I finished the paper and took up people-watching.
“So how about them Yankees?” he said.
I’m not really into sports, but I recognized it as polite, waiting-and-bored conversation.
“Yeah, it looks like they’re doing okay this year,” I said.
“You have folks in Boise?” he asked.
“No. No, it’s a business trip,” I said.
“Really? Me too.”
Now that I was speaking with him directly, I could see a laptop by his side–not full size of course. It might have been what they call a netbook. I try to keep up on technology but it’s not easy.
“You from New York?” he asked.
“No. Well sort of. Jersey.” He didn’t have an accent, so I asked him the same.
“Delaware,” he told me. That’s probably why I couldn’t place him. “Hey, I was just about to get myself a soda–would you like one?”
“Oh sure, thanks. Pepsi, if they have it,” I said, “or any kind of coke.”
I was surprised at how easily he opened the can with his bill. He seemed nice. He told me about his family and showed me pictures of his kids. I was reaching for my wallet to show him mine when he clutched his chest, made an awkward sound, and started turning pale. His eyes stared in huge circles, he slumped down on the couch. I realized he was having a heart attack.
I called for help and attempted CPR. You never know when you’ll need it and I was glad my wife had insisted I take the training when the kids were born. Unfortunately, I couldn’t save him.
They called my flight just as the medics were wheeling him away. I was shook. I sat down and tried to relax as the plane prepared for takeoff. What made it worse was that the seat next to me was empty.
#78B TREE OF LIFE PATTERN
It had been ridiculous; he was right I suppose. A white couch had not been a practical purchase. He always held that couch against me. Smirked with every little-boy jelly stain I tried to hide with pillows. I’d try every cleaning solution that I’d see advertised. Lady Macbeth with sponges soaked in brain cell-reducing fluids. Red wine turned blue. Melted Hershey bar came out yellow.
Recovered. Many times. I stare at it now and wonder why I couldn’t have done the same with myself. Perhaps I might have weathered time and marriage better if I’d donned a slipcover and started fresh. The final Tree of Life design might have picked me up. Or the one with bold pink and blood red roses that hid the spills within the petals. I remember the ice cream our youngest licked right off the cone. Chocolate landed on the stems and darkened clustered leaves. The strawberry slid across a rose. Vanilla soaked into the beige background. I had been amazed at the luck.
I peel back the fabric layers like shucking corn. The last two times I’d reupholstered it myself. It was still expensive. Uncovering the Christmas when he hadn’t gotten anything for me. Said we were grownups and he thought replacing the windows was enough. I said of course. There’s the cigarette burn that was the final straw. He didn’t even bother telling me when it happened.
The decorator told me that the rough thick fabric and the pattern was perfect for an active family. I hated it. In summer it would pepper my bare thighs with its nubby texture. The boys would point and laugh. He would shake his head; another bad decision, it said.
Three layers in I reach the original white–discolored into cream. I cut off all the excess material from other years. Pull out tacks and threads. The couch is not as badly soiled as I remembered. I wonder why I had it recovered so soon. There is a small ringed mark on the right-hand cushion. I remember we were still considered newlyweds. I remember the night.
I undress completely, lay down on the couch. I close my eyes. My mind wanders to happier times. My fingers play with time.
#77 SPACE COLONY
There were adjustments to be made. Nothing they told us in classrooms was exactly the same in space. But we were ambitious, eager and wide-eyed with freedom and ideas. We were an extension of Earth. New Age Adams and Eves.
Thirteen of the women got pregnant the immediately. Ten of the babies aborted themselves, unable to withstand the impact of the difference in external environment. We kept trying, selecting men as if they were stud horses, by their fertility. They all were intelligent, handsome and strong.
After eleven months, we’d each suffered several miscarriages. It got so we no longer cried. I alone carried a pregnancy to six months, the longest. I alone went through an actual birth but too early, or as we know now, too late. The baby was shriveled and dead.
After two years they stopped sending replacements. They know what we know, that time is all scrambled up here. Wheelchairs they’ve sent us, dietetic food, and pills, but no doctor in his right mind will come.
It’s been nearly three years and I’m weary. There is only one other left with me now. His hair, like mine, is silver and long. We sleep curled into each other, holding onto the months that will pass in the night.
(First Publishing Rights to “Space Colony” belong to 25/250 September 2010)
#77B THE BACK-FORWARD MOVEMENT OF TIME
He kissed his wife and children hello and went to his office and started right in on the 2015 sales reports. From them he projected the estimated income and costs to come up with an estimated P&L statement for 2005. It was all based on knowns which were in turn based on probabilities.
At noon the bell rang and he joined his coworkers for recess. Jimmy McNair brought a slingshot and delighted in targeting Brandy Alessio on the ass with a Goober. No one reported this to his boss.
John Bradley stayed a bit earlier than usual. He wanted to finish at least the 2004 year end. Then he’d start on the next year of 2003 in the morning. It seemed the best thing to do. He punched out and left as the sun rose. He drove home, said goodbye to his parents, and went straight to his room.
Yesterday, in the morning, John Bradley woke up early. He rushed wildly and caught the last bus. He made it to his first class just as the sun set and the snow flakes rose from the ground.
#76 BECAUSE, SO, AND IF
The sun broke through the trees like a beacon. Joey decided he’d ride his bike to Manny’s house taking Pasture Road. The night’s rain had gathered into random puddles so the road–more a path that led into a copse of trees, a short burst of forest, and out into a back road that met Main–was no longer muddy.
Saturdays his parents slept late. Joey made his own breakfast of cornflakes and milk. He eyed the bananas and cut a half into slices on the top. He remembered to rinse out the bowl because cornflakes hardened to blobs that his mother cursed and scraped off with a fingernail. He ate the other half of the banana and wondered if, since it was really early, he should press the start button on the coffeemaker. If he did, it might be on for hours before they got up. But if he didn’t his father would be grumpy all day; so he did.
Joey’s bike was a silver-flaked cherry that sparkled as it flew and it was faster than anyone else’s. But it was very early. He wasn’t sure Manny was up and ready to go. So he took the longer way through the small patch of woods and pedaled easy and slow. The morning air smelled freshly washed with rain. The pines mixed with the mossy scent of earth. Joey set a slow sail pace and smiled at the cool breeze on his skin. His dark longish hair swept clean off his face. He felt good; the day was just beginning.
Up ahead a car was pulled a bit off the road. He’d seen cars here before, but usually in the evenings. Teenagers liked this spot for some reason he didn’t understand. Then he remembered the hunters. So very few deer wandered through here but there were some occasional hunters. He turned his wheel to maneuver around it and yet avoid a water-filled rut. The car reflected in the puddle. It was a deep cobalt blue that in the streams of sunlight through the trees, looked almost purple.
At home his parents poured their coffee. His mother waited by the toaster to butter English muffins. His father complained the coffee was too strong. They didn’t yet know that Joey was dead.
Most people didn’t even realize that the opportunity was there. Genevieve only knew about it because her mirror told her. Then she waited and watched for signs every day. Except in winter; the mirror said it wouldn’t come in winter. Too cold.
Genevieve was nineteen and magazine-spec lovely. She had the porcelain skin of fine china, rainbow-blue eyes, auburn hair set afire by the sun, and a lean strong dancer’s body. Her mirror agreed that she was really quite perfect. “Oh pooh!” she answered. She knew that humility would be important too, though self-assurance was her much stronger virtue.
She had no doubt she would be accepted. All she worried about was being there at the right time and what to wear. She didn’t tell her mother that she’d be going but did tell Cynthia, her best friend.
“What do you think they eat there?” asked Cynthia. Food was a vital factor in Cynthia’s major life decisions.
“Probably strawberries and sweet cream,” Genevieve said.
“You should come with me,” said Genevieve. “It would be so much better if you were there.”
Cynthia thought about it. She knew Genevieve was just a little bit anxious–not about being selected but rather the possibility that people prettier than her would be there too. Cynthia knew she gave her self-confidence. That was why they were friends.
It happened one bright July morning, just as the sun fought its way through the trees. The sky swirled and the leaves sparkled like crystal. Genevieve watched in awe from her room then realized she’d have to hurry. She dressed, put on her makeup, arranged and sprayed her hair. She ran out to greet the sun.
There was a long line of people ahead of her. “Damn,” she said sweetly though nobody even turned around. She wished Cynthia was there with her, though of course, Cynthia wouldn’t likely be chosen. The line moved quickly and soon she stood at the threshold.
It was just a huge circle of sunlight so bright that she tried not to squint. Squinting not only hid her lovely blue eyes, it really made a mess of her smile.
They asked several questions, something Genevieve had not expected, but she answered as best as she could. She started to worry, almost started to sweat, but they finally waved her through.
The police searched for days, her parents were frantic, Cynthia told all that she knew; Genevieve had entered a “Miss Sunrise” contest and Cynthia now felt that she should have gone too.
“Touch it,” he whispered. She looked at it. She couldn’t. It stared back at her and grew in her mind like a party balloon. It even started to pulse.
“It won’t bite you,” he said. He reached for her hand. She pulled it away. Why wouldn’t he just drop it?
She made it through the evening intact. Avoiding it as best as she could but it drew her eyes in like flypaper and her wings flapped wildly in fear. At home, undressed, safe and alone in her bed she rolled and wept with the image. It crept into all the nice memories she made herself think of, birthdays and parties and people she loved. It stained them all like spilled wine. Even in dreams it appeared as Godzilla stalking the high-rises of Tokyo. It developed long pinprick-sharp teeth, a tail that swiped buildings to dust, a network of scales, and it roared.
She knew it was silly to focus on one physical aspect, no more than a detail, of an otherwise really great guy. She wearied of arguments for and against, to do or to not, fought with sabers shining with knowledge and guilt. For two weeks she eluded his phone calls. Eventually it arose to a head.
“Why are you breaking up with me?” he asked, the hurt dripping through.
But he wouldn’t. “Is it the mole on my nose?”
#75B OVER SIGHT
Before birth Henry had set a pattern of indecisive behavior. His mother was rushed into the hospital a month early as he tested boundaries, changed his mind and shimmied back. When he finally did come, it took him nearly twenty-four hours to navigate his way.
“Henry, are we getting a new refrigerator or not?” asked Helen.
“Yes, of course,” he said. He tried to focus on the printouts he’d taken off the web, matching them up with the handouts he’d gotten from the five stores where they’d shopped. He tried to narrow down the twenty he’d narrowed it down to, but they spread out of reach of each other, and he couldn’t seem to compare all the same features at the same time. He’d work well into the night until his eyes were red and twitching.
“Henry, let’s just go out and get one. I don’t care anymore about color or price. I don’t even care about size. The iceblock is melting,” she said.
He bought three software programs to tame facts and figures because he couldn’t decide which one was best. He transferred pertinent data to a spreadsheet, labeling columns and rows and filling in each cell. He searched for that one little detail that would catch his attention, make up his mind. He studied it night after night never noticing that he grabbed a beer out of a new Maytag double-door that had been delivered two weeks prior.
One night in his sleep, Henry mumbled, “Maytag.” Helen was pleased.
#74 A MAN SITTING DOWN
An old man sat every day in the courtyard shelling nuts and feeding them to the pigeons. I passed by and nodded the first time I saw him and he nodded back in reply. Barely perceptible, a quick little dip of his head.
He was there regardless of weather, merely held up an umbrella in rain. He’d be settled before I left in the morning, still sitting when I got home at night. It was only on weekdays however; on weekends he was mysteriously gone. So I had no way to watch him, to see if he went inside somewhere for meals, or just shared the peanuts he fed to the birds.
One windy cold autumn day I left work early, feeling a bad cold coming on. The old man was there, bundled in black wool, a lap robe spread over his knees. I nodded. He nodded. I hurried inside.
I don’t know how long that I slept but awoke feeling better but hungry. There was not one can or dried mix of soup in the cabinets. Not an egg or fresh bread to be found. I looked out the window and it appeared that the wind had died down, the late afternoon sun streaming slanted and warm. I thought a quick walk to the market might be in order.
“Hello,” I said as I passed him and he answered, “hello.”
“Are you hungry?” he asked. It was an odd question, after nearly a year of no conversation at all.
I came closer to where he sat. He looked so much older than I thought he might be. His skin was pale and translucent, his eyes a watery blue. He did not look up at me, yet did not appear to be aware of the pigeons that clustered at his feet. One busily pecked at his shoe.
“I was just going to the market,” I said. “Can I bring you back something?” I guessed that it was his way of begging, perhaps. The few neighbors I knew didn’t see him or know of anyone in the building that fit my description.
“Here,” he said. I looked at the bowl of soup in his hand. I saw the steam blow lazily in barely a breeze. I started to protest but he showed me that he had another bowl for himself. I took it and he pointed to the chair by his side that I’d never noticed before.
“Thank you,” I said as I sat. And that’s really the last thing I remember.
#74B A GIRL AND A GUITAR
It was an old wives’ tale said her mother but who listened to mothers? All her friends said it was real and they teased her because she was the only one who heard nothing.
“Shit,” she said, though (and because!) no one was there to hear her. “It’s just a dumb old guitar somebody left laying around. It’s not magic.” She reached out and touched it–something everyone warned you were never to do. At its base it stood a bit apart from the tree, but its neck was grown into it; layers of years sinking it deeper and deeper into its bark, like fingers reaching for frets.
She noticed the strings were still tautly drawn and was surprised that they hadn’t rusted away. “Hmmph. High grade stainless, I guess,” she said and wondered why she felt the need to speak aloud. A shiver ran through her and that bothered her more than the tales of the guitar being haunted or cursed.
“Stupid!” she said and turned just as a note strummed and hung like a thread from her shoulder. She turned back and stared but of course, a note can’t be seen, especially after it’s gone.
Debra was an exceptionally level-headed girl. It often put her at a disadvantage with her friends. Even in classrooms, though she was usually right, her teachers would sigh at her obvious lack of imagination.
Again, she touched the guitar, strummed its strings to prove that the wind had played it, yet it made absolutely no sound. This naturally intrigued her for even though she might not tend to create a fantastical story around it, there was still a scientific something here to be learned.
Debra got down on her hands and knees. The guitar strummed its approval. She looked up the neck to the tuners, followed the strings down to its bridge. To her, all looked normal. Then she looked deep into its hole. That’s where she found its heart, its memory, its tunes that it played when it was young and free. And when she squinted and looked even harder, the mystery was solved. She grinned at her discovery. Inside was a five-piece band and they smiled up at her, waved, and they played.
#73 THE ISLAND
It sits as if its own country apart from the New Hampshire shore. An island, small but dense with a lush variation of trees that climb a hill to its center where a cabin perches on its peak. It has acted as Treasure Island, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and it’s seen Jack Sparrow in battle with Hector Barbossa. It is an island of imagination, an unlimited chameleon of mystery and charm beyond its seasonal changes.
It has known love, felt the warm skin of lovers against its cool evening grass. It has known song and laughter and the smell of marshmallows roasting on sticks in a campfire. It has tasted good beer and bad, spilled from overturned cans in the excitement of man in a tug of war with a fish. It has tasted teenagers’ cheap wine and the soft protests of girls that fade into murmurs of pleasure.
One year it saw July fireworks and it gaped in awe at the flashes of color and its trees shook with the booming sound. And one year it felt the pain of a carelessly thrown cigarette that blackened and skeletoned its shore. It wept and took two years to recover.
The water has lapped at its feet, caressed its rocks and turned them into smooth polished stones. It is old and yet constantly growing. It dresses in white for the winter. And wears colors as bold as a gypsy in fall. It grows green in springtime in shady response to the full summer sun. And in late nights when all else is sleeping, candlelight may burn in the windows of the small cabin at its heart where a woman sits writing its life.
#73B THE LAKE
Lake Okeewoegee in upstate New York took my virginity when I was sixteen. I was swimming to the raft that floated halfway across its width when it punched a watery force between my legs and drew blood. It still makes me shiver to think of it.
We’d spent summers there for as many years as I can remember. I learned how to swim, how to fish, how to thread a hook through a squiggly worm to catch the large trout that swam like shadows near shore. I learned how to fast-paddle a kayak and I learned about sex on the lake.
The water was warmer than usual that summer. It caressed my body with a satiny softness like no boy ever had. I’d float on my back, feeling its thousands of fingers stroking my neck, my back, the thighs and calves of my legs. It sang in a splish-splash whispering song against shorelines. It lulled me to sleep at night and greeted me with whitecaps laughing and bubbles that sparkled like the mica that pebbled its bed.
The seduction was brilliant. It played with the ties on my bathing suit top, unloosened them, left them floating like seaweed behind me. Then its tide tugged at the bows on the bathing suit bottom. One side, then the other; it floated away. Naked, I rolled over and swam long lazy strokes further out, towards the raft. No one else was around in the early, early morning glisten of sun sneaking through mist.
Then it hit and I caught my breath with its impact. I surrendered to its experience and rode the waves that consistently lapped at my skin. It was exhilarating and though I’ll never forget that first time, it got better each summer thereafter.
I decided to live there year round. Though I skated in winter, we shared the days waiting for spring. Late last summer, as the mornings chilled the lake with its breath, our bodies merged for the last time that season. I grew through the cold winter days with a warmth that the lake left inside me.
We named her Naida, and she loves to splash in the water that kisses and tickles her toes.
#72 THE JESTER AND THE MOB
“This way!” he said, his bells jangling and points bobbing; well he looked so ridiculous that a crowd gathered around.
“Dance!” they taunted. “Show us handsprings and incredible leaps!”
He wanted to save them from the horrible end he could see looming. “You must follow,” he said, but he couldn’t explain to them why. A man threw a coin. Another threw a tomato that came splat! at his chest and bled like his heart down the bright stripes and stars of his shirt. The jester was silent. He looked at the people that held him tight in their circle. Some scowled, some sneered. He picked up his flute and he played.
As he played a slow dance, his feet pranced in rhythm, a few simple steps that took him around and around. He blew out a melody faster and high-stepped with such grace that the people were soon moving along. A few mimicked his dancing and followed like children behind him. They were laughing and humming and did not notice the rumbling that began deep underground.
The jester entertained them, made them believe for the moment, made them forget who he was. They followed, all fun and frolic, a break from reality, a faith in a hole in the world they’d come to take for granted
Led by the jester the line wriggled through town. There was singing and laughing and skipping along in step through the streets. No one noticed that they had come right up to the walls, the jester about to dance through.
Sirens blared, horns blew, loudspeakers warned them against leaving. The King (himself once a jester) came on and told them it was he that was making the ground heave and moan. That there was nothing to do but go home and enjoy it. The people all stopped and stared in confusion.
The jester turned one way, the people another and that’s the end of the story.
The tide was struggling to come in, a wave at a time in a slow rolling splash on the shore. The salt water would grab at the sand, lose its grip, pull away with a handful of sparkling grains, even as it left some behind as it slid through its fingers. It was a constant. Something it would try twice a day every day for the rest of its life.
I walked on the edge, a tightrope that swayed between ocean and land. Now and then stopping to poke at a shell that glimmered like oil wet in the sun. I stopped and looked out at the water, wanting it to call to me, wanting a reason to turn and immerse myself, blend with it, my body to melt like an ice cube in the giant glass of the ocean.
I kept walking. I was dejected and emotionally wrung out like a sponge but I couldn’t spring back. The end of love happens like that.
I soon noticed footprints, a man’s I would guess by the size, the long second toe pointing the way. I followed them, side by side for a while.
Looking backward I was pleased by how the story had changed into one of companionship, a man and a woman. They were young, around the age I was when I met you. They are very much in love–the footprints closing in, nearly touching in playful abandon.
I imagine they are older, and see small footprints following theirs in the sand. I hadn’t noticed them before, and then, as suddenly as they had appeared they are gone. Then the man walks on alone once again. I turn around to bring back the love story I’d written in my mind on the shore, but the sand is completely washed clean.
#71 THE PUDDLE
I drink in the rain, it widens my mouth to catch it. I grow bigger, more powerful with each drop that I sip.
A mean little boy stamps his foot in my soul. I want to eat him alive. His mother pulls him away from my yawning grasp just as my tongue laps at his ankle.
A pretty young woman steps over me, avoids me, as if she is too aware of my nature. She is wearing a white slip and black panties.
It is growing dark and the crowd has thinned out. I sparkle in streetlights, my lure of the night. Footsteps come from a faraway place down the block. They slide and scuff with a pattern of sound I have become too familiar with hearing. A friend? They all are.
They come close and closer. A tip of an old bent-down hat. A face slack and unknowing. He stumbles on the flat, unguarded curb of the sidewalk. He falls with a splash and his face lands in my reach. His eyes are closed but he noisily breaths the same irregular beat of his steps. He lays there unmoving, mumbling. His hand still holds tight to a broken green bottle wrapped in a ripped brown paper bag. The wine blends with his blood and runs red through my teeth.
I am hungry. I swallow him whole.
(First publication rights to The Puddle belong to Used Furniture Review)