Snowed Under

January 23, 2011 by

It seemed like a brilliant idea.  The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became that this was, truly, the best plan she had ever conceived of.  It would be totally plausible.  No one would suspect anything other than a tragic accident.  The only possible suspicion might concern her two dogs.  Would anyone wonder why she brought them over her sister’s?  Not likely.  Her sister disapproved of her living arrangements, and was smugly compassionate at the story she left–the storm would make her building lose power, and her two rescued chihuahuas would be cold.  Besides, her nieces loved dressing them up and cuddling them like ugly, fanged babies.  She actually was doing her sister a favor by bringing them over.

She waited until the flakes were so thick in the air it was hard to see the neighboring buildings.  Just walking to the bodega, she repeated as she slipped into white pants, a white t-shirt and sneakers.  She conceded to a  pair of gloves–she wanted to die, not get frostbite.  When the road was indistinguishable from the curb, she went out.  The snow was the heavy, packing kind, perfect for her plan.  She would hate to shovel this.  The plows came through fast with this type of snow, to better throw it far up onto the walks.  She glanced up when she crossed under the streetlight, enjoying the illusion of snowflakes appearing right before her.  Tiny raindrops sparkled her cheeks along with the gentle touch of flakes, many, many flakes.  The conditions were perfect.  She took up a position on the far side of a telephone pole and waited.

She heard the plow as soon as a growling dissonance that gradually drowned out all other sounds except her pounding heart.  Not too close to the pole, it would protect her.  Don’t step out too soon, he’d see her and possibly swerve.  She’d met a few plow drivers; they took their jobs seriously, and were rarely reckless.  Above all, she had to make this look like an accident.

When she thought the plow was too close to avoid her, she stepped out, hunched her back, and gasped as the weight of the snow plume slammed into her.  She was thrown forward, face first into a pile of garbage cans that were also knocked over.  She had figured to be knocked unconscious if not killed instantly; hypothermia was a peaceful way to die.  The pile slid beneath her as her weight disturbed the cans.  Covers shifted, came off, and with them, her.  As she struggled for stillness, they instead bore her away from the road, down the hill from the curb to the back of the apartment building.

She careened faster past the lot, barely missing the corner of the building, a light pole, and a pick-up truck’s open tailgate.  That would have been nasty; she shuddered.  The aluminum lids were slick from the rain that had frozen on them; her slalom course took her through the block in record time, to the park.

As a park it was a dismal excuse for refuge in a dank, dying city, but the snow turned it into a secret pocket of wonder.  The snowflakes glistened across the expanse of open field, transformed from its typical mud and garbage-strewn appearance.  The water in the tiny pond had frozen over, and she could see where children had been skating or sliding across it.  The benches, the bushes, the rocks, all had become shadow-shapes of white.  As she slid to a stop near a walkway, she took inventory of herself.  No bumps, bruises, nothing painful as if broken.  Her heart pounded between her ribs, dancing with adrenaline and fear.  And thrill.  And joy.

She picked up the garbage can lid, wiped the snow off her pants, left the grin on her face.  She climbed back up the hill, so she could slide back down it again.

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Sisters

October 27, 2009 by

My sister counted out the m&m’s and I just know she always gave herself a few more than she gave me. Particularly the red ones, which we licked and used to paint our lips like grown up women.  She was halfway between the world of ladies and little kids like me so maybe I can’t blame her for taking advantage of her position. Maybe–though I don’t think so–maybe I would have done the same thing to Felicia had she lived.

Audrey was eleven, I was seven, and Felicia was almost two that summer. We didn’t share candy with Felicia because my mother said she could choke on it and die. We didn’t care, it meant more for us and besides, she got lots of special treatment that we didn’t get because she was the baby so we figured it all evened out. Even in Audrey’s lopsided version of fair it worked out all right for everyone.

That summer, that Saturday when my mother went to the corner for eggs and left us alone with my dad for half an hour was when Felicia fell out the bedroom window and broke her skull on the sidewalk below. The worst part was probably the fact that my mother found her out there before any of us even knew she was missing. We lived on the second floor and our bedroom faced the street though Felicia’s crib was against an inside wall. Audrey’s bed and mine were on each side of a window. Later they figured that Felicia climbed up on Audrey’s bed and tried to reach the window and her weight pushed the screen out along with her. We never  heard Felicia but my mother’s screams still bounce through my brain sometimes.

My father was never the same after that, or maybe he was the same but was drunk all the time instead of just Friday nights. My mother wasn’t nice to him at all and I think she blamed him for Felicia’s death or on his drinking or maybe for both. Audrey and I never talked about it except when it came up a few weeks ago, decades after it happened and with my parents both dead. We were talking about the kids and how they were all in colleges or married and anyway, all scattered across the U.S. We complained to each other about the rare visits from them all and worried that we’d never get to really know our grandchildren. We showed each other the latest pictures we’d downloaded onto our laptops and I pointed out Greta, our oldest boy Rob’s little girl who looked just like I remembered Felicia.

Audrey got restless, said she had to get some things done and had better be going. It was after I washed out the glasses and emptied the nuts from the little crystal bowl back into the tin that I noticed all the filberts had been picked out.

Well, whaddaya know?

October 9, 2009 by

It started with just the one box.  Really.  “Click only the people you know.”  Well, I’m in business.  I know a lot of people.  There’s Jenny, who lives down the street; Mel, the guy I get gas from; Stacey who runs the florist department at the grocery; and on, and on.

After ten minutes the list took up three pages.  I started to think about the word KNOW, about what it was really looking for from me.  All I wanted to do was send out some damn holiday cards, not even about Christmas, just a sentiment about the season and good will.  But I know so many people.  This was going to take all day.

The people had people they knew, and so there was a peripheral knowing creeping into the list.  Jenny’s husband Frank knew Steve the fireman, who coached the little league team my son was on.  So I knew him, too.

When the list reached a thousand I started to panic.  Even at ten cents a card this was getting out of hand.  I started to qualify this Knowing.  Hat size?  Shoe size?  Nice and simple.   If I didn’t know that about someone, I cut them from the list.

Taking people off was even better than putting them on.  Randomly I hacked away half of my town in under five minutes.  Joy!  A few well-timed cards, sent entirely by computer, and I’d ensure my business for the next year.

I paused on my mother’s name.  She didn’t wear a hat.  I have no idea what her shoe size is.  Off she went, followed by my aunt, my brother in LA, my sister in Oregon.

The last name on the list was mine.  With a shock I realized I had forgotten my shoe size.  Should I check?  That would be cheating.  But I was the last name on the list, other than the golf pro whose name I couldn’t remember.  But I knew he wore tens because I always stared at his feet when I had lessons, and the heels were emblazoned with the number like cheap bowling shoes.  You think the pro would have gotten better quality.

I looked at the clock, then back at the screen.  I probably saved a hundred trees by not ordering cards for all these people.  I don’t really know any of them.

The Joker

October 7, 2009 by

Everyone laughed when John told jokes. Some people just have the knack, you know? At the company picnic he went on for hours. People were sore from laughing and some finally reluctantly walked away because they hadn’t had a chance to eat any of the grilled burgers and dogs and completely missed out on the raw clams.

Three weeks after the picnic they were still recalling the best lines as they stood at the coffeemaker, grinning at each other as they passed in the halls, emailing friends and family who hadn’t had the opportunity to hear John tell these gems in person. By then John had already been circulating a whole new bunch of jokes and they laughed at these in fresh delight.

And then suddenly one Monday they heard John was dead. A heart attack on Saturday. He was home watching the ball game on TV and zap, just like that, he was gone.

At the wake his coworkers slowly filed by John in his casket. He had a slight smile on his face like he was about to deliver the punchline. The women all cried, the men all shook their heads in shock. If John, robustly healthy and life-loving and only fifty-two could die in the blink of an eye then they felt they were living on overtime. Worse, it would be somberly quiet without John and his arsenal of humor that could chop through the most boring and the most stressful of days. After the service they clustered in small groups, unwilling to leave and let go. They never spoke in such dismally hushed voices before. Overcast grey light sieved through the windows.

From the kitchen came a shriek that rattled the candles in the center of the buffet table. The crowd, momentarily startled into suspension, moved as one in a rush toward the source.

“And the priest said to the rabbi, …” John’s wife paused, holding that perfect three-second timing, then “But there aren’t 70,000 virgins in heaven!”

Cityscene

September 20, 2009 by

Slowly they roll along sandy-strewn walks,

urban burros laden with packs of street finds:

hulking bags filled with aluminum,

plastic, and glass.  Their gold transmuted to nickels,

each one a find and a fortune;

successful prospector.  The

gait of a cowboy, the steed an old cart.

The dreams are the same as the seekers of old.

Gerald and The FBI

September 20, 2009 by

The problem was that old adage of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was not unusual for Gerald, he’d been there many times before. What made it different and much more serious was that he had mumbled, “all dead,” within earshot of an FBI agent crossing paths near the elevators on a White House visitors tour. Within minutes he was lifted off his feet by strong arms that floated him across the red plush carpet, down the stone steps and into a long black limousine that sped away down Pennsylvania Avenue towards jail.

Gerald had never been in trouble, managing to stumble through, over, and just out of reach of situations he obliviously never realized were there. His calm demeanor was out of the knowledge that he’d done nothing wrong. The FBI found his attitude cocky. Gerald asked repeatedly why he had been whisked away; the FBI found that to be obnoxiously rude. You can see why it wasn’t going to be a simple matter to clear up. When he finally answered most of their questions with some measure of respect they could feel comfortable about, they brought up the overheard “all dead.”

“Who were you referring to?” they asked.

‘No one,” he answered.

“Mr. Carroll, you were clearly heard by one of our agents saying, ‘all dead.’ You can understand our concern. We take this as a possible threat to the safety of the public or of our President.”

“I said that?” Gerald tried to think through his fluster back to the moment he was seized. “Ahah!” he said. “Batteries. My camera batteries were all dead. That’s what I said.”

“You were carrying a camera?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Where’s the camera, Mr. Carroll?”

“I think I dropped it when your men grabbed me. Or else it’s in your car. I don’t remember exactly when I didn’t have it.”

“Are you telling us you had a camera and now you do not have that camera?”

“Uh, yeah.”

The men went over to a corner and whispered. One man went out and came back in after a few minutes. They asked Gerald more questions about his job, his interests, and why he was taking the tour. Gerald asked for a coke.

“Would you mean a cola, a soda?”

“Uh, well yeah. Of course.” The two men looked at each other and back at Gerald. “Ginger ale is okay. Or iced tea,” he said. One of them left the room and came back with a root beer soda. He was also holding a camera.

“You found it!”

“Is this your camera Mr. Carroll?”

“Yes. That’s it. See, I told you and if you’ll try to take a picture, you’ll find that the batteries are dead. All dead, like I said.” Gerald took a long sip of the root beer though he hated it. He was terribly thirsty and was just happy that this had finally all been cleared up. He was also getting tired. He looked up at the two men expectantly.

“Mr. Carroll, are you aware you cannot bring a camera into the White House?”

Fall

September 12, 2009 by

Autumn blew through him with dry leaves that caught in his tangle of hair. He looked like an angry god come down from Mt. Olympus to do battle with mankind. He scowled his way down the sidewalk keeping away from people and people away from him. He was an astronaut down on his luck. He was an engineer replaced by computer. He was the husband who only produced female offspring. He was everyman.

When he arrived at his destination he waited while two others in line withdrew money. He stepped up and punched numbers into the machine and pulled out two ten dollar bills. This was his allowance for the week. A block down the street later he was beaten and robbed. The man cleaned himself up at the Y and ate evening meals at soup kitchens that week.

The following Monday he made the walk uptown to the bank. He grumbled and muttered to himself as he walked and the crowd parted in a wide swath and closed a few feet behind him. He nervously looked around him as he approached the machine and looked around him again before punching in the numbers. He pulled the two tens out and stuck them deep into his pocket. Then he continued uptown.

Downtown, the man waited for the man to come back from the bank. After several hours he gave up and went home where his daughter was dying. He sat down next to her on the riverbank, put his head down and he cried.

The following Monday the man who went to the bank for his twenty dollars went to the bank. By the river, the police zipped two bodies into black bags.

Counting on Numbers

September 11, 2009 by

It was one hundred and seventy three steps to the delicatessen if you were counting the stairs. It was three hundred sixty one to the church, just up to the inner doors of the foyer which is as far as Adele counted since she wasn’t always sure of getting to the same pew. Everything was counted, every step taken, every bite of food, every minute spent waiting or watching or going. It all had to count, don’t you see?

“There’s crazy Delly!” came the high pitched squeal of a child. Adele turned and glared. A group of children shrank into a tighter circle, then dissipated, disappeared into the brick walls that guarded the streets. Adele smiled and continued on home. It was the fifty-ninth time a child had made fun of her. This year.

She fed Shasta first. The grey striped tiger wound itself around her feet until she set his dish down on the mat. She stroked him as he ate, feeling the soft purring through his back, her bones tingling to the vibrations of the cat. She wondered if that’s what sex felt like. She imagined it was, as two creatures communicated through touch. She straightened up and turned on the oven, opened the freezer and took out a boxed dinner. She opened it and emptied out a salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, corn and a square of apple cobbler into a pan and put that in the oven. The phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Adele Tomlinson?”

“Yes, who’s calling?”

“Adele, how’d you like to win a hundred thousand dollars?” The voice was exuberant, strong, and Adele thought, honest.

“How?” she asked.

She listened and answered his questions, gave him the information he needed. At one point he put her on hold and she counted to twenty-four. Then he came back on and gave her a name and a number to call to confirm that the money had been transferred from her account to the new one that already held the one hundred thousand dollars she’d won. “Yes, thank you, thank you,” she said. “Good  night to you, too.”

Adele got her dinner out of the oven and as she ate, with a pencil and paper and calculator, counted the rate her $122,463.00  would grow at an average interest rate of five percent per annum.

An Apple a Day

September 8, 2009 by

On the way to school they grabbed his lunch and threw it in the road, then stood back to watch.  A truck flattened the bag, steam-rolled the baloney sandwich flat as paper, but the apple escaped and rolled across the lane.  A car coming the other way clipped it with the edge of its tire.  The apple flew into the air, impacted the windshield of the vehicle behind the truck, and the driver jerked the wheel instinctively.

The car hopped the curb, crawled over the hydrant, and landed on the pack of lunch thieving bullies.

The little boy’s tears mingled with hydrant rain.  He pulled the apple off the windshield, brushed off the sparkles of glass flecks, and ate it on the way to school.

In the Beginning

August 29, 2009 by

Coming hard off the heels of the 100 Days Project and finding no new writing prospects in view, this space is created for all those stories which had no home… until now.

Be it a poem, a picture, a perspective, or a phantasm of neuronal extracurricular activity,  enjoy works from myself and others here.

All creators welcomed; contact cymem for entry.