Flashy or Plain –Which One Turns You On?

Four kind comments came in to last Friday’s post where I asked for help with a 500 word story I want to send in to a writing contest. The $100 prize would come in handy for the small necessities I’ve been doing without lately.

Utilizing their feedback and that from my sister and my daughter, I replaced the original story with a new revised version. I’ll take that one down in a week or so unless I can come up with a flashier story to submit to the contest. Something tells me that more flash may have a better chance in today’s world. But, of course, I don’t really know.

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Flashy Photo by Re’ Harris

What do you think? If the writing quality is equal, is a flashier story the one you’d rather spend a little time reading? Or do you prefer realism and emotion, a “style” that almost appears not to be one?

PS: Saturday evening, after receiving a certain piece of mail, my focus turned again from the writing I want to do, to the struggles going on in my life. I want to try to keep writing, but composing and revising is difficult for me when the hardness of the world intrudes on my emotions. This post is me trying not to curl up in response, the way I have been. This is me trying to stay out in the world. Regularly adding stories to Words One Hundred is my main target, though. That will add up to both practice and perhaps getting to communicate with friends. It’ll be great if that works out. My best to you all.

One Drop in the Sea of Love

While trying to get back to my writing, I came across this contest at MashStories.com. The prize is $100 (oh how I can use that!) and the rules are few — mainly a 500 word limit, and the use of this quarter’s words within the story: converter, mug, happiness. 

I’ve been a no-show here for quite some time, but if any of the friends I miss so much come across this, and could spare a few minutes to give impressions on what I’ve come up with, I’d be very grateful. Any thoughts at all would help me decide if this is too little, too much or just plain boring. Or if I should choose a new subject and just start over, which has been a prominent theme in my life for quite a while now.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. My love to you all.

One Drop in the Sea of Love

Ivy stood in the farthest corner of the garage from Abner. He was underneath the car removing its catalytic converter, flouting the law, thumbing his nose at the EPA, risking a fine.

“Half the scientists say one thing. Half say something else.” He said that to her with a straight face. “Liberals pretending the world’s dying… If it’s that bad– time to give up anyway. I’m gonna drive a car that works the way its supposed to.” She thought he was behaving like an ass and almost said so, but that felt like giving up on him. She wasn’t ready.

Ivy had emailed links about global warming gleaned from university websites, offered evidence on how the world’s skewed environment already affected their own area, even pleaded for their baby’s lungs to make it more personal, but mountains of misinformation were standing between truth and Abner’s heart. He’d always been strong. Now he’d crossed over to hard, battered by the gulf between their hand-to-mouth reality and the lost luster of his dreams for success. He wasn’t talking things through with her anymore or finding comfort in his family. She sensed herself simmering in the distance between them, too tender and unsteady, as if the best part of her had broken and was setting wrong.

She listened to him under the car, willing away science with a hammer to make himself feel superior, or remind himself of his strength. She braced herself, suppressing her ache, stitching her family together for the moment until she could decide if their happiness was going to be out of the question.

That evening, she made soup. He lingered in the garage, then paced the front porch, hands deep in his pockets, face contorting, head tossing now and then for punctuation as if arguing with himself or working out a problem. Ivy kept a wide berth until dinner was ready.

They sat at the kitchen table. In his high chair, baby Carl nibbled crackers and slurped cooled noodles and carrots Ivy proffered on his little spoon between sips of juice from his mug with the no-spill lid. Abner went on about the merits of movies on television later. When he paused, Ivy realized she’d stopped listening.

After Carl slurped another spoonful of noodles, her eyes met Abner’s, whose gaze fell over his soup bowl. A low, wet, sound clenched in his throat.

She was so used to arguing and contradiction that she stared in silence, anticipating the phantom guilt that often followed.

He sucked air into his lungs, hard, as if pulling something back inside. “I said, I can watch that Hugh Jackman thing. The one you’d like, without blades in his knuckles.”

Ivy reached for him, curling her fingers around his, and said, “Okay.”

After dinner and the cleaning up, they put Carl into his playpen with the fluffy blanket and his purple bear. The baby yawned as his parents settled together onto the sofa to watch a romance unfold.

This Thursday in March

I’ve been away too long, lax in communication on my blogs, more than behind in email correspondence. I let important work pile up and haven’t yet answered gentle, inspiring letters that make me smile. (You know who you are, my dear patient friend.) I haven’t been ignoring friends and pressing work in my head, but how would they know? I have to get used to writing things down again, all the thoughts I still have.

I tried to explain in Apology but that expression felt so small afterward.

Still, I keep deciding to ‘talk’, receding afterward into my corner while reeling from the enormity of making a plan, making a sound, being heard. That’s why at this moment my frozen burrito has been in the microwave for more than an hour after the bell pinged. I got a rush of inspiration to do something, then refused to leave my chair until I at least finished this one thing.

HitRECord_outdoors_fraeulein

So here it is: Six or seven years ago, I wrote a few pieces of music in Garageband. Two are actually kind of decent, I think. One, “Luminaire”, has a little synth bit running through it that I played myself. The other is called “This Tuesday in March” and it’s all choices of preset loops, editing, and affects. I just put the songs on Joseph Gordon Leavitt’s site, HitRECord. I like the collaborative nature of the site and the fact that if anything makes money from being there, each contributor earns their portion. My artist friends should check it out and see what they think.

Here are direct links to the songs:  “Luminaire”     “This Tuesday in March”

Whew. My hands are shaking a little, but I got through this. I really don’t want to be a stranger. There’s too much to say.

Love, Ré

My Pink Ribbon

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After my shower I stand

after scrubbing, buffing,
massaging lotion,
dusting powder,
plucking out hairs I don’t want seen,
creating finer lines, a smoother chin

after doing what I could to polish and make fine —
despite the shock of the word obese
spied in my medical record,
despite knowing how the fierce though misguided protection
of the starvation lie my brain sends to mouth
threatens my plans
from health to size eight —
I linger at the mirror after courting precarious beauty,
rueing the false security of sugar, butter and flour,
wearying of all my hungers
while pop culture’s firm admonitions circle me and taunt.

I stand, not wanting to look at my misaligned breasts, but needing to,
knowing I can live with less
and flourish

but wanting more

wanting Angelina Jolie’s means
and self-assurance — or just
a man who wants me the way Angelina’s wants her:
seeing my best first,
loving me through my worst and all my pain.

I stand by myself, calling courage,
angry that I need so much
to simply bend at the waist and look again.

When I’ve bared these breasts to the doctor and his intern’s young eyes
trained on my case to learn as I learn my lessons too,
I speak, but they don’t understand that the subterfuge of the padded bra cup
doesn’t address my fear.
It’s easy to be naked before doctors now —
not easy to say I like to be on top.
Subterfuge only postpones the moment I’m unsure of.
I don’t want to hear them say that if a new lover sees my misshapen breast and recoils,
he isn’t worth my time.
How could they not know how I dread that happening
when that moment is more tender than these …

bending from the waist in my bathroom, naked
hoping magic has occurred,
knowing that if magic was possible
it would have taken away the cancer before surgery mismatched my breasts
leaving the sculpted one to hang shorter,
it’s dimpled scar winking like a more twisted siren’s call
mocking my desire for breasts that look pretty
or at least nondescript,
while I live.

I lived.

Remember that
I tell myself,
spit it at any man who recoils,
spit it at him despite the pain of dismissal.
Attraction and the feel of me in his arms should be enough.

I live

calling up courage
to let the weight of life wash through me and bear me up
as I fumble through it for strength I’ve found and lost before.

I live,
wanting to sing it to myself now
soft,
a personal hymn I can hold tight
or choose to share
like the sight of me now
— sculpted for future’s sake, not art’s —
without courage or comfort,
but inching my way to those far planes.

The Wait

photo by Ré Harris

photo by Ré Harris

Waiting for life’s next chapter can be exciting, whether you’ve been laying groundwork with a tingle of anticipation or letting things fall into place as they will, like leaves in autumn. That sort of waiting and often the Birthday or Christmas kind, holds a sweetness for me or an umami thrill that has glided me over bits of the road that have shaken my chassis and blurred the scenery for a bit. Sometimes the very idea that the future isn’t written in stone has helped me over times when I’ve been broken on rough road and can’t see much of anything.

I’ve had an immense capacity for waiting, even in dark moments. But darkness intensifies what seems like patience in me, turning it into a grotesque version of anticipation that irritates and provokes like fingernails on a chalkboard, and hurts like lost love.

When the waiting is very dark I’ve sometimes written about it here. Often my capacity for patience and ability to see that light can follow dark has made it seem that I’m saying something different than I am. My poetry especially often says things to people that I hadn’t intended. I’m working on accepting that and on getting better at saying whatever it is I think I want to get out in my writing. Today I’m going to try for bluntness.

Before Thanksgiving, I needed to redo a mammogram. Soon after, I had to schedule a needle biopsy. The earliest date they could give me was December 28th. Waiting for that sort of thing through the time of year I take to heart and usually enjoy at least half of the time, made me feel like I was receding, like I didn’t belong. I took some solace in knitting simple pieces for family with soft yarn, and making cocoa butter/shea butter bars and basking for a while in hopes that the pieces would come out right and be welcome. Mostly my world grated on me. After my post referring to Lincoln, I found it hard to write anything and hard to escape.

The biopsy showed cancer. Monday I go to see a surgeon, knowing that early detection is a gift of sorts. I know this because I had an even earlier detection on the opposite side over twenty years ago. No chemo, no radiation. This time there’s talk of radiation, but I know from years of paying attention and reading and medical shows on TV, that I need to wait for the surgeon to get a look inside and see exactly what’s going on. I know about margins and things. I remember understanding the doctors when my mother went through ovarian cancer even when other family members needed clarification on certain points. I feel pretty confident about my outcome because of all the things I know already.

My N.P. was surprised I didn’t have questions. I won’t have answerable questions until I’m presented with real choices before or after the surgeon has a look. When I get to Monday’s appointment I will want to talk about anesthesia, because the local I had for that first biopsy so long ago wore off in the middle of the surgery. The idea of the smell of cautery in an operating room (which I hadn’t thought of) would have made me sick to my stomach before that. After it, not even the nurse’s rushing to stand behind me, massaging my temples and speaking to me softly as I cried, can soften the memory of the smell and the feel of it.

I hate waiting. I suppose I’ll seem patient while I do it for however long it takes to know that I’m done with treatment and things look good again. However I might look, I don’t anticipate feeling patient.

I have information. I have a good understanding of ‘doctor speak’. I’m immensely grateful for the healthcare republicans think I shouldn’t have if I can’t pay for it myself. I’m grateful for family and friends.

I try to be a grateful person, but I’m not good with hearing how strong I am. (And I’m so sorry now if I’ve pissed anyone off in the past by telling them that during their dark times.) Although I’m grateful for my strength, I’m pissed off that it doesn’t look or feel like what it is when I’m using it. Maybe I’m just pissed off period. I understand that people have gone through and will go through worse times than this one is for me. But whether I get my regular writing mojo back tomorrow or much later, I’m interested now in getting in touch with my inner pissed-off chick who’d rather scream about this, whether anyone wants to hear it or not.

I wrote a short poem on Words One Hundred about how some of Christmas Day went for me (a very nice time for the most part) even though the undercurrent bleeds through even when you’re having a good day. I’ve been trying to begin a post about how to make the cocoa butter moisturizing bars because I remembered to take a picture, but I don’t know when I’ll get that up.

I want to be an artist who throws color at the canvas and only cares that it’s right, not that it’s pretty. I want to write whatever the fuck I want, if only the words would come to me. I don’t want to write about the cancer, but if I think I need to, I will. It’s a part of life; it deserves ink. Mostly I just want to be free to be angry and not hear how positive thinking and glitter ponies will make the road easier. (‘Glitter pony’ being my euphemism for “there’s always light at the end of the tunnel” and “remember God never gives you more than you can handle”, etc.) I’ve got positive thinking covered. My friends know that.

My stuffed bunny is threadbare (yes I sleep with one — want to make something of it?) But if anyone tosses me a glitter pony (and isn’t too young to know better), they better be sure to duck so it won’t hurt when I toss it at their head. I’m thinking of retiring the bunny my daughter gave me so long ago and replacing it with a squooshy brown bear or another rabbit, brown and lifelike, to be soft and warm with me under the winter covers. I deserve that.

And one of those tiny key lime cheesecakes from the Magnolia Bakery that recently went up to seven dollars (that I could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.) I’m trying to talk myself out of getting only one or the other for this month’s splurge. Because I deserve that, too, despite water bills and taxes and everything else that doesn’t stop coming just because I’m having a hard time.

I’m grateful that we haven’t had much snow here this winter, the streets and sidewalks are clear, and I’m sure-footed as I make my rounds.

I told you I had positive thinking covered.

Now it’s time to roar before the quiet and the waiting allow too much of the dark in. Because there is dark, and I don’t think positive thinking means I should pretend I don’t feel it.

Nightmare

US Postage Issue: Abraham_Lincoln_Airmail_1960...

Lately I’ve been watching a series on PBS about Abraham and Mary Lincoln. I found the beginning two parts of it to be very interesting, fulfilling my interest in history and my desire to understand people and their motivations. But soon enough I became uncomfortable, as I always do, when faced with people’s strange feelings and reactions to “otherness,” in this case African-American life and the “legal” practice of slavery.

Today, during parts three and four, I nearly changed the channel as comprehension eluded me, or came into focus so sharp that it hurt to see. The story below came up in me — a flailing response to the pain of political ridiculousness, I’m sure — but it took me away from the sharpness far enough to sit at my keyboard and try again to make it understood, because the conversation is far from over. 

Nightmare

The president arrived at his office, closed the door and headed for the stack of papers on his desk. Upon hearing the sound of breathing across the room, he found an unfamiliar man there staring at him. “How did you get in here?”

The stranger removed his hat with one hand and said, “That does not matter at this point.” Before the president could call out for help, the man spoke again. “Your son has been taken.”

“Taken …?”

“Your son has been sold.” The stranger watched the president’s face express shock and the downward trajectory of his heart.

“You are mad,” the president huffed through trembling lips.

“No. I am sane and pragmatic, as are you and surely the other men entrusted with running this country.” He gripped his hat in front of him with both hands, waiting for his statement to sink into the steel trap of the statesman’s mind. “And your youngest is gone now. I doubt that you will ever see him again. I have sold him in such a way as to render your power and finances of little help to you, though I do suspect that if you try very hard, you may eventually find the boy, especially if our side wins the war.”

The president straightened his back with determination to contain his fear. He began to compose a rebuttal to counter this new enemy and make him see reason. “You cannot possibly succeed in this horrible exercise to tear apart my home. If not me, think of my wife. How could the boy’s mother be expected to bear this?”

The stranger turned to the velvet back of the chair nearest him and lightly stroked the fabric as the turn of his mouth registered a mild amusement, his eyes a glazing of anger. “Indeed,” he said with formidable calm.

The president pressed his side against the desk just enough to keep himself from sinking. “This is kidnapping. Surely you know that you will be prosecuted.”

“What would that change? Would you expect his return through our present system of law? You should understand better than anyone how much law is about the moment. All that follows from it stems from those notions and provisions already in place. Even if one does aspire to some semblance of fair treatment for all, changing things is difficult. Is not tending to the whole more important, making human sacrifice necessary?”

“H-human sacrifice? What are you talking about? Are we barbarians?”

“That is a question I have wanted to ask you, sir. Are we barbarians?”

The president’s voice was hushed. “Of course not.” His thoughts flew past him as he contemplated his plight. He had trouble holding onto any one of them long enough to argue sense to the stranger who was breaking him in two. “Listen to me,” he said, “I can see that something is on your mind. Let us discuss your points like men — leave my child out of this. Return my son and let us speak to your concerns.”

“The country as a whole has done nothing but speak to my concerns during these last bloody years. What good has that done for decency and freedom?”

“But my son …”

“Perhaps it is time to think about more important things than your son.”

“You are mad. We are talking about an innocent child here! How can you be so callous?”

“Callous?” The stranger cocked his head as he contemplated the word. “You think my selling your son into slavery is callous? This is something you believe?”

“Wait … how can you say you’ve sold my child into slavery? He is not …” The president’s voice grew silent as if something thick and cold fell over him, muffling his body as it folded in on itself and sank into a chair in front of his desk.

The stranger watched, the glaze in his eyes glinting strong in the lamplight. “You are answering your own questions now, I see. This is all I could hope for. In the years that have passed until now, reason has been too much. Step by step, it has been taken out of the equation because it gets in the way. There seem to be things that those who lead find more important.

“Reason got in my way, too. I preferred to talk and write and appeal to human virtues as if all people had them. I thought those virtues were only dormant and waiting for the right progression of words from a caring soul to bring them to light and move them into the realm of deeds. I thought that until yesterday. Then I decided to ignore reason, too. I fear for tomorrow.”

Soft sobs rose from deep inside the president, becoming rattled retching sounds that filled the space between him and the stranger who lamented, “I have hoped for it, and hope for it still, but I do not see reason on the horizon.”

The Strange One About Kitty

Photo by Ré Harris

 

It’s said that cats don’t communicate to each other verbally. They meow to us because they notice how we talk to them and what happens when we focus on them that way. Cats find that interesting or advantageous things follow after we speak to them: a treat, a meal, a gentle scratch someplace they can’t reach. They learn to meow to us to ask for what they want or to participate in what we do, and we bask in their desire to fit into our lives, comforted by their hard-won attention.

Kitty will ask for a bowl of food or that I get off the computer and let her sit in my lap. She’ll mew through the window to greet me when I come home, or to show concern when steam precedes me out the bathroom door after a shower. She entreats me through the bedroom door when she thinks I’ve overslept and need to come out and feed her, maybe play. Our conversations then go back and forth, her voice rising and falling on syllables that vary, saying things I’m sure I can follow. I answer, calming her if it’s much too early, or assuring her that I’m on my way and only need a moment or two to dress.

But there are times, an increasing number of times, when Kitty stands or sits in a hallway or a corner of a room, looking up and meowing in an earnest, sometimes agitated voice. As I watch her from a far room or close vantage point I’ve crept to without her notice, she engages something I can’t see. Not a bird teasing her through a window — she chirps at those. Not a bug or insect crawling up a wall so slow that she could bat it down — she doesn’t meow before doing that.

I’ve watched Kitty speak to something that reminds her enough of a human that she wants to talk to it, asking or demanding something I’m powerless to understand, perhaps responding to a provocation I’m unable to hear. At those times, I wonder what that something is. When those moments pass, I work hard to forget the feeling that something shocking is at play, something I don’t want to know.

Avoidance may be the wrong way to go according to Stephen King stories or the kind of movies that glut the market at Halloween, but it’s the best I can do without being privy to the plot.

I wish I really did understand Kitty’s language. I think.

 

Suicide

I wrote this story in 1979. Before this one, my stories were stuck in a genteel loop of trying to find my voice in the ‘longing for love’ and ‘love lost’ stories that rolled off my pen, stories that incorporated the tearjerker side of the underlying otherness and pain I felt every day into the kind of stories I’d been exposed to that I thought were special because they’d been published in popular magazines.

I was the oldest ‘kid’ in my household and I didn’t have friends — definitely none to help me expand my oeuvre. I had an acquaintance who I thought was a friend at the time, who didn’t really understand me, but she wasn’t drawn to art the way I was. We didn’t explore galleries or offbeat places together and I didn’t explore those places much on my own. But I listened to a lot of radio and ran out and bought Elvis Costello’s album “Armed Forces” because it did something to me. I loved Neil Young and understood the breadth of emotion he wrote about, but Costello woke me up to how different words could be while still expressing things I understood deeply. I loved the old school rat pack feel of his pinched vocals, his melodies juxtoposed with the lyrics and way the music sounded, and I loved going to the dictionary or encyclopedia to understand the words and phrases he used that had gone over my head. Mostly I reveled in the otherness in his work that made me feel like I did belong on earth after all.

One day I sat down to write something different from the stories I’d written that I’d come to hate. In the blank that took over my mind (which felt as blank as the paper) I got restless and scared that I’d been chosen by a nebulous something to do a thing I had no skill at. I sat for a long time before I challenged myself with this: What would Elvis Costello write?

Of course he couldn’t have written this. He wasn’t me. And of course I couldn’t know that he might have written this sort of thing. The point is that with one idea, I thought differently about my writing and the stories I’d lived that already made up my life and I thought differently about what my words could do. Other writers will understand what I mean. No one else needs to ‘get’ that part. With a little editing after rediscovering that story this week (much less than I would have thought after having learned so much this year) this is the story I wrote from the prompt that changed my writing life:

Suicide

by Ré Harris

The city is never dark, he thought. Too many lights everywhere, staring in your face, assaulting you even through the windows of your own place. People are too scared, afraid of their own shadows — weaklings running through the streets like rabbits, squealing at the slightest sound. Why don’t they stay home, he thought. When the sun goes down all the little rabbits should stay at home in their little holes, nibbling cabbage and sleeping in the far corners, with one eye open.

He was angry. The world didn’t suit him and he had long before cultivated an attitude of perfect apathy toward everyone and everything except his own butt, but now everything inside him was shaking. He had feelings again that ran in more directions than he could name — all of them negative.

He tapped his cigarette with his thumb, letting ashes fall over the bed. Then he turned on his side and kicked her, a calculated move intended to wake her up and (although it fell short of this objective) to knock her to the floor. She shrieked and extended a foot quick to keep herself from falling. As she sat up in bed, that one long bare leg holding her steady, she shook her head, willing wakefulness into the remnants of a dream. She stared at him, seeming to hold her head in place with the back of her hand beneath her chin, the blandness in her expression unique to those who hold tight to sleep for as long as they can — two eyes, a nose, and a pair of lips saying nothing at all except ‘let me go back’, but he was smiling.

“Let’s go again,” he said, slapping at the knee she left curled around the sheet.

Incredulity crossed her face. “What is it with you lately? You crazy for me all of a sudden?” She yawned. “Or just crazy?”

He smiled broader. “Of course I am,” he grunted, stretching his arms out as if reaching farther than he ever had, making a show of reaching out to nothing and pulling nothing around him like an overcoat. He dropped ashes onto the floor and turned back to the lights. “But you knew that didn’t you?”

She rubbed one of her eyes and tilted her head back and forth like a ball between her shoulders. He grabbed at her with one hand, but she darted out of his reach. “I’m going home,” she said.

She slipped out from under the sheet and stood for a moment blinking before walking across the room to where she’d left her clothes on the floor.

He stared at her as she sorted through her things. The neon light flooding through the window, shone on her skin, giving it a luster that made her appear luminous, like an angel. At first that vision made him laugh. She was anything but an angel, yet standing there bathed in that blue-white light …

He found the thought unsettling. He decided he had never liked her, never cared what she felt or what she wanted. From his view, the only reason she drew breath was to take care of him, do his bidding and take care of all those unsavory little chores that were far beneath him.

He put his cigarette out in the ashtray instead of on the nightstand he’d pitted with scores of circular and oval shaped burns through the veneer down to the pale wood base. She had turned toward him as she shimmied into the lace-trimmed thong she’d worn for him, that she knew he hadn’t noticed and never would. She watched his expression cycle through spoiled, sneering little boy to something serious she hadn’t seen from him before. Her thin blouse was in her hands as she watched him come toward her, slow, deliberate, without humor — puerile, twisted or otherwise.

He said, “You’re not going anywhere. You’re not through,” the near whisper of his voice belying the command and the look on his face that struck her as strange. She thought it odd, but was still reacting to the kick. He’d kept her awake for hours that day after knowing she’d had a long night before, so she was trying to slip the blouse over her head when he came at her, punching her in the face and pushing her over the chair. He watched her fall to the floor on the other side of it, listened to the thud of her hip on the bare wood. For all his demanding, grabbing and little kicks, he had never hurt her that way. She knew to be afraid then, that she would have to get away from him or be devoured by his runaway sense of self, overblown now into an unrecognizable version of the man she’d never really known, but had been drawn to like insects around light bulbs.

She crawled across the floor as fast as she could toward the door, but he stepped in her path. “No,” he said. “You’re not leaving.”

He punched her again, pulled her up by her hair and tossed her on the bed. She rolled over the side and tried to crawl under it.

She attempted to yell, but her voice cracked as she felt her jaw swell. “Stop it … what are you … why are you doing this …”

He ran around the bed and pulled her out from under it with one of her legs. She swung at him and kicked and tried to dig her fingernails into his angry face, but he was much taller and heavier than she, and in his crazed, violent state could do her more harm than she could do to him without a weapon. She fought him anyway, flailing and jabbing, accumulating battle scars and inflicting as many as she could until he slammed her against the nightstand on the side of the bed he slept on when she was there. She closed her eyes tight while anticipating another blow, and remembered something from the week before while waiting for him to hit her again.

*****

“See this?” he said to her, loading the gun, then holding it in his hand and pointing it at various objects in the small dark room tinged with the neon he hated. “Loaded and ready.”

She tried to stifle a giggle. “For what?”

He dropped the hand with the gun to his side and turned to face her long-legged body sprawled sideways across the easy chair. He barked at her, “What the hell are you laughing at?”

“Everybody’s scared of you already, so what d’you need a gun for?”

He lifted it until it pointed straight at her face. She stiffened and he began to sneer.

“Come on … stop that,” she said. “I mean, hey, come on …” She sat up in the chair. “You know, everyone else thinks I’m crazy, putting up with you. You know? But, like, aside from getting paid on time, I really like you.” She looked into his eyes and tried to ignore the gun. “I don’t think you’re as different from everybody else as you want us to believe. I think you got real deep feelings. Lot’s of ’em. So come on … you’re okay with me. Why do you want to play with me like that?”

He came a step closer, pointing the gun so deliberately at her that she got angry. “You want me to be scared? Okay, I’m scared. Put that goddamned thing down and stop it, okay? Shit.”

He lowered his arm with a triumphant smile, walked over to the nightstand, opened the drawer slow and placed the gun inside. He watched her watching him as he closed the drawer, and as she wiped sweat off her neck, she couldn’t help wondering what the whole scene had been about. If there was anything she was sure of about him, it was that he always knew what his twisted doings were about. He didn’t care if he made sense to anyone else. In his own head, in his version of reality, his actions were fully thought out and sensible.

In hers, he paid her when he was supposed to, tossed her extra for food when she was hungry, and never asked where it all went. He never bugged her about other johns and hadn’t put a lasting mark on her, even when he was rough. In her mind, that was a version of love that got her through the day and brought her back when she wasn’t on the clock. Once he put the gun in the drawer, she wanted to smack him, but she was fine so she forgot about it.

*****

She opened her eyes now and reached up to the drawer above her head. She expected another blow as she fumbled for the pistol, but when it was in her hands, she pointed it at arm’s length toward his chest. “I’ll kill you,” she spat out at him. “I’ll do it.”

He’d been close enough to knock it out of her hand before she could focus, but he stared at her, taking heavy breaths, his heart pounding as though he was sick and close to sinking down with something like fever. He eyed her, but the rage she’d seen had dissipated. He took a step toward her, but there was no malice in the movement. If not for the beating, she would have accepted him into her arms, but she was bruised, maybe cracked, her shoulders scratched and aching, face bleeding. She could no longer take her chances with this strange man. Being hurt that way wasn’t what she expected from him and she couldn’t take the time to figure out what she’d done.

“I know it’s loaded,” she said. “I remember from when you were playing with it. So don’t come near me. I’ll shoot you.”

“Yeah?” he said.

“I’m not playing  … I’ll do it.”

“So do it,” he said, soft like when he wanted her to do something she didn’t think she had time for, like when he wanted her to rub his back for an hour or suck his toes.

She began to cry from the confusion, and he came toward her, head cocked, elbow raised in the air, fingers clenched into a fist and angling down at her.

She shot him in the chest, but he didn’t seem to feel it. He was almost knocked over by the bullet’s force, but his fist was still hovering over her so she shot him again as his figure blurred behind her tears. She was sure he would kill her because he had become invincible, shot twice in the chest (through the heart, she was sure) but still standing. She blinked and waited for him to move, but he didn’t.

She slid across the floor, around him to her clothes, dropping the gun and gathering most of her things in a sloppy scoop as she barreled toward the door. He didn’t try to catch her. He dropped his fist and stood where he was, waiting for her to leave. She had served her purpose and he no longer had any use for her. He listened for the door to slam, then went to the window and looked out at the street ablaze with a thousand lights. He sneered at the sight and sank down to the floor.

At least half the neighborhood had heard the shots, he thought to himself, but no one would come. Chances are no one would even call the cops. They would just run and hide and pray they wouldn’t be next. He’d be long gone before anyone discovered him.

In a few minutes, he felt the two burning holes in his body, looked down and touched the blood running out of his chest faster than he thought it would. Then he closed his eyes, leaned his head back against the wall, and waited for death.

Questions, New Stuff, Old Stuff

I’ve had an awfully restless day and should’ve done so many other things, but staying on track has been hard for various reasons.

While trying to focus, my wandering mind and eyes fell in love with a new theme, then figured out how to change the unfortunate address of my first blog so I could put the theme to use. By changing that blog’s address, I can get some use out of it and stop grimacing every time I spy the unusable title on that drop-down menu on the dashboard.

The idea of that blog being something besides a placeholder pointing here or to Words One Hundred, consumed me like wanting chocolate and being told I couldn’t have any, until I tinkered with it and decided to gather a certain kind of work there so I can access it easier and enjoy the new scenery.

No one has to visit there but me, but then I wondered, would anyone want to?

Flower & pot

Photo by Vijay Sonar via Flickr

Hence the question and the poll. You can tell me the truth. Why would I want anything less?

As a thank you for voting, I offer one of my favorite songs from the sixties to listen to as you peruse the answers and maybe leave a comment. I know I’ve needed a summertime love-in these past few days. After watching a documentary about The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, my favorite show so many years ago, I’m feeling as nostalgic as a person can who doesn’t really want to go back. Maybe you’ll find this one soothing too.