Saturday, June 09, 2018

That Book I Never Wrote

“You remember when your momma smacked you cuz you got carried away talking about your best friend you were mad at, and the curtains swung right like there was a breeze, and the pitcher of lemonade fell off the window sill, and all the lemon slices flopped out like dead goldfish, and the wooden floor got dark where it was soaked, and you looked at your mom cuz you didn’t know what you got smacked for, but she was already drying her hands on her apron to check on the food she had on the stove? That’s the summer me and your sister did it and she got pregnant.”

Friday, April 27, 2018

The right spot

“It’s about finding the right spot.” she said, curling up on the tweed couch and almost spilling her drink on the top of her breasts. She pressed her chin down hard and wiped her fingers over her exposed skin to check for a splash, and no doubt would have licked it off her fingers if she found a wet spot.

She looked up and smiled, “oops” as if to flirt that she really wasn’t buzzed, not even a little bit…. just clumsy.

“So you’re leaving on the next thing smoking, huh?” She continued after another sip.

“Not particularly looking forward to it, but it is what it is.” I said.

“And what is that?”

“I don’t know… a chance to get out of here. Do something different.”

“You know what they say about bored people, don’t you?”

I almost rolled my eyes, but knew it was true. I was stuck and had been stuck in this shithole of a mindset for years. For so long I couldn’t remember if it was something that happened gradually or if I had always been this way. Luckily she wasn’t listening to my thoughts.

“You’re not boring are you?” She teased, and I thought she moved her knee ever so slightly, just enough to suggest something from within the shadows between her thighs.

“Depends on what you’re up for,” I said, feeling a little cocky.

“Yeah…” she toyed with me, rubbing her finger around the rim of her glass and calculating something in her head. “I bet.” She finished, and dismissed the subject just as easily as she had suggested it.

I felt like I was left hanging, ready to pounce on something that was withdrawn without warning. I got up, shaking it off, irritated at having been so manipulated.

“Look, I’m out,” I said, finishing my glass and setting it on the table between us. “I still gotta…”

“C’mere.” She said, setting her glass beside mine and rising on her knees.

The fire in me got a breath of fresh air and I gave into it like a little puppy just excited to be there. I walked over to her like a big dummy, heart pounding despite every effort to stay cool. Her hands snaked themselves around my neck and pulled my face down to hers. Our eyes locked and I could tell she was enjoying this, a light dancing in her eyes before she looked at my mouth and covered it with hers. For some reason I had a flashback of licking syrup off my plate after I finished my pancakes. She was delicious.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dream 3.17.17

Just had this crazy dream that, after my wife kissed me goodbye and told me to have a good day (in real life), I got up to turn on the lights but the power was out. In the dream I called after my wife but wasn’t sure whether she had already left the house, because she didn’t answer. I rushed to my daughter's room to look out of the window and saw that my wife was already in her vehicle getting ready to pull off.

I woke up again, from that dream into another dream, where I heard the fuse blow. I got up to turn on the lights and they weren’t working.

I woke up again, still in a dream, though I thought I was awake for real, and felt something in the room with me. I looked up and saw the shadow of my fluffy cat enter the room because I had left the bedroom door open. I got up to close the door and tried to turn on the lights but the power was out. My short haired tabby was in the doorway looking past me at the ceiling where the fan was. But I didn’t get the idea she was looking at the fan, but something else…

I woke up from that dream (and I think for real this time) felt something in the room with me, like a ghost or something, and started praying. I fell back to sleep, and in that in-between state, remember feeling paranoid, like something in the room was watching me and I didn’t want to get out of bed. Instead, I imagined myself getting out of bed and going to check on the circuit breaker. It was dark in the garage and I stumble over a bunch of stuff making my way to where the circuit box was. I flipped the master switch a few times before the power came on. I felt something cold and wet on my hand and looked down to see two ladybugs crawling on my thumb.

I fed the cats on my way back upstairs, got in the bed and went back to sleep. I woke up again and tried to turn on the lights but the power was off. I walked out of the room and was about to go to my daughter’s room to look out of the window when I saw the shadows of my two cats in the dark. But they weren’t making a lot of noise like they usually do. When I tried to figure out why, I noticed something else in the room at my feet… something pale in the dark that the cats were keeping a safe distance from. I jumped up on the wooden chest, startled, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. When they did, I realized there was a seagull walking around in the loft.

I realized this was what was probably in the room when my short haired cat was looking at the ceiling fan. Suddenly the fluffy cat turned into some kind of bird and attacked the seagull, closing her long tweezers-like bill around the seagull’s neck. The short haired cat turned into a duck, a little awkward and clueless. The fluffy one, with the neck of the seagull in her mouth, mumbled that she needed some help. The short hair tried to help but couldn’t get her bill around the seagull’s neck.

The loft was full of junk and turned into a downstairs living room with a wide open door that led to the garage. I opened the door and the fluffy cat dragged the resisting seagull into the garage and lost her grip. The seagull turned into a white eyed Siberian husky pup and it was trying to get past all the junk in the garage to make it back into the house, but I kept redirecting it toward the open garage door. Frustrated, it gave me a depressed look, sad that I was putting it out. Its faced morphed into that of a cute little brown skinned girl and she begged me to let her stay because she had no where to go. I had to explain that I didn’t have the time or resources to take care of her… even though I wanted to. Realizing I wasn’t going to change my mind, she started skulking away into a ditch where the long grasses grew.

That’s when my wife, youngest daughter and one my professors pulled up. When my daughter got out of the car, I pointed her attention to the husky and said, “There’s your dog.” She went to it and I realized they were a good fit. I realized that my daughter might be a dog person. My wife and the professor were trying to understand why the dog was there and to whom it belonged. When I told them that she was a little black girl whose mother had died and had subsequently been taken in by an abusive foster family, and that she had run away, the professor stated decisively that she would be staying with us.

While my daughter hugged and played with the dog, I informed everyone, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I knew of the girl, and that she was prone to trouble in the special education classes I taught. It was then that the girl recognized me as one of the teachers in the school she attended, and explained to me why she was always getting into trouble. It had something to do with a gang of five or six young Czech men who were in the business of providing guns to bad kids in school.

I visualized a meeting taking place, interrupted the exchange, and chased the Czech kids off campus. The professor, a dean at the school, called the police and cautioned me that I may have butted into something that wasn’t going to be so easy to get out of. The police detective that showed up issued the same warning and added that it probably wouldn’t be the last I would see of the Czechs, and that I probably made an unwanted enemy of them for disrupting their business.

We all went to the professor’s office and got on the phone with a lab director at the local university. I’m not sure why but for some reason this person was an integral part of the case. While the professor was on the phone, he argued his point by sharing that he had been in school full time since he was five years old and had earned six degrees in psychology and was, as a matter of course, an expert when it came to understanding human behavior and motives. Apparently he convinced the lab director to meet with us and we took a trip to the university.

The detective seemed on edge when we entered what looked like the medical wing of a detention block. She kept her hand on her holster once we entered the room. The professor, the detective, and I all sat at a table in what appeared to be a commons area. There was an old-fashioned phone receiver on the end of a cord attached to the table through which we communicated with the lab director on the other side of a steel gate.

I’m thinking that one of the Czech suspects used to be a patient at the facility and we were there to gather some intel. I was handed the phone and the lab director explained in long detail the profile of the ringleader. I didn’t take everything in because I was distracted by the gruesome circus of inmates around me. I felt like I was on the island of Dr. Moreau. It was obvious that experiments were being carried out on these societal rejects… horrible experiments. I saw exposed brains, extra appendages, various deformities, and non-complaint subjects confined in smaller cages. The most disturbing thing I saw was a huge woman, with muscles on top of muscles, completely naked, sitting on the other side of the gate facing me, with a penis implant. I almost threw up.

The detective, realizing that she was getting twitchy, excused herself and got up from the table. The professor stepped out as well, needing better reception fir a call coming in on his cell phone, leaving me at the table waiting for the lab director to come back to the phone. He had gone to check on something and so I was left with nothing else to do but take in the sights and sounds of the place. I heard something that sounded like a cross between a growl and a muffled roar and leaned over to see where the sound had come from. When I saw something that looked like a cross between a man and a lion, I blinked a few times, not believing my eyes. Just then the gate opened and a lab attendant, who was noticeably inebriated, walked past me without closing the gate behind him.

As I wondered what kind of stress he had to deal with that required him to dope up while at work, one of the inmates walked over to me and started flirting with the idea of bashing my brains in. Without thinking, I took the phone I was holding and chucked it at him, popping him upside the head. The phone hit the floor and I grabbed the cord it was attached to and started swinging it to carve out some space between us.

He only became more determined to get at me and warded off a couple of hits reaching for me. I kept swinging the phone to keep him at bay while looking for a way out. Other inmates started coming through the open gate and I looked around for the lab attendant who had been in the corner lighting up, but was now leaving the room through a vault-like door. I panicked. Someone caught the phone and I made a break for the only way out of the room. When I got close the lab attendant started closing it. I yelled at him and grabbed at his lab coat through the opening before he could close it all the way. From a stainless steel cart against the wall, the lab attendant grabbed ahold of some kind of medical device and jabbed at me with it. Because he was slow, I managed to take it from him and stab two of the inmates in the chest with it, killing at least one of them, which really riled up all the other inmates.

The director showed up out of nowhere and took the apparatus from me and strained to push the heavy door closed behind us. Eyes wide with fear, he told me we needed to get out now. We ran through the halls looking for an exit and got separated as the building alarm sounded. I burst through a door into a gymnasium where some people were standing around on mats talking. As I ran past the group to get to the door on the other side of the gym, I realized one of them was you. I yelled to you to get out now. You were hesitant, confused, and wanted an explanation.

In my mind I went through the possibilities: taking the time to explain to you why… and getting caught by the escaped inmates; snatching you up but then having to contend with you trying to resist … and getting caught by the escaped inmates; or me just flat out telling you to get out and leaving it up to you to listen or not. I went with the last one.

Luckily you left your friends and came with me. We made it outside and I saw my old building janitor who might remind someone of the actor, Idris Elba, and I yelled at him, “Mr. Smith, get out of here!” as we ran up the grassy hill toward the parking lots.

You had your car keys out, pressing the alarm to see where you had parked. To our left the inmates had broken out of the building and were overrunning the grounds like mad zombies, attacking every clueless person they encountered and eating them alive. Your car alarm chirped from the most inconvenient lot, one which necessitated us running back toward the rabid inmates.

They were fast. The one I clocked in the head was coming at us with bloodlust in his eyes. The horde was right behind him and they were close. In desperation, I pushed you ahead of me, not knowing if you were going to make it but determined to at least give you a chance. The inmate crashed into me and we both went down. I think I started crying, wishing I had that claw thingy the director took from me.

We wrestled and I kicked him off of me, scrambled to my feet, and slugged him with your book bag. Just then tires screeched behind me and I turned around, jumped into the car, and you floored it. For some reason I drug another inmate into the car with me and told you it (because it looked like some kind of gel monster) was one of the good ones. Then the alarm woke me up.

Friday, March 03, 2017

A chapter from childhood

After raiding the candy jar tucked back in the corner of that third shelf in the pantry, we broke out of the house like gangbusters, too hot to catch the screen door that slammed behind us waking up Auntie.

I had just made it out of the yard, and was closing the gate behind me when I looked up and saw her standing on the steps with her housecoat open, bra and panties showing; eyes bloodshot from anger and a six pack she murdered.

"Gitcho ass back in here!" she cussed through gritted teeth, and I ain't had no choice. I looked in vain at the backs of the others disappearing round the corner, and sunk down in my shoulders.

"And close that got damned gate!" she spit as I started that long walk up the broken pavement to the house.

"Running in and out this house... I told y'all asses I'se trying ta sleep." She broiled as I flinched, squeezing past her through the screen door. The color on her chipped toenails looked like dried blood.

"Now you can sitcho ass up in here." she said, pointing at the couch. "An if I hear another muthafucka run in and out this house, I'm taking a switch ta all y'all asses." she decreed, flipping her housecoat behind her like a cape, and disappearing into the darkness of her bedroom.

I sat my ass there til the clock sucked all the light out of the room, staring at the knobs on the television I couldn't turn on.

I don't remember falling asleep, but when I woke up, I had slobbered all down the front of my t-shirt. A lamp was on in Auntie's room and she was on the telephone. Through the curtains I could see the street lamps starting to flicker on. I could hear the rest of them through the open window. They were probably sitting on the porch eating candy and cracking jokes.

I leaned forward to look through Auntie's bedroom door... to see if she could see me... to see if she had forgotten about me... to she if she would feel sorry for me and tell me I could go out front with the others. She wasn't thinking about me. I heard her pop and peel back the tab on a can of beer as she laughed and fussed with someone on the other end of the phone line.

I had to go pee, and started rocking on the couch, wondering how long I'd be able to hold it. I knew not to get off that couch without permission.

While I concentrated on holding it in, Auntie startled me, appearing suddenly in her bedroom doorway. "Tellem I said git they asses in here." she said calmly, after taking a puff from her cigarette. "Y'all eat them leftovers in the frigerator, but you mothafuckers bet not touch my sweet potato pie." she pointed her cigarette at me.

I slid off the couch looking scared and made my way to the front door as she took another drag from her cigarette and walked back into her room.

"Yo ass got caught! Haaaaaaaa!" they all laughed when I walked around to the front. They were all gathered on the steps, swatting mosquitoes and breaking off the glowing part of lightning bugs they caught.

I ignored them and looked to see who still might have had some candy left over. Bug was the only one with a sucker in his mouth, so I asked him if he had any candy left.

"I just got this one..." he frowned, mean mugging Yvette. "She made me give all mine to her.

"Boy, shut up! You too young for all that candy anyway!" she yelled at him, breaking her neck the other way to ignore him.

I hated every last one of them. Ain't nobody saved me no candy. My lip started to quiver, but I tightened my jaw so I wouldn't cry. I took a deep breath and let it go slowly. As I let it out, a bright idea filled that space between my ears and I started grinning.

Only person knew what that meant was Yogi, and when he saw it, his eyes got paranoid. When he saw me walk around to the side door, he climbed off the front steps like a sneaky little possum and followed me.

I walked in the house and walked right up to Auntie's bedroom door. She was sitting on the edge of her bed with a beer and cigarette in one hand and the phone in the other. I knew not to interrupt her and just stood there waiting. Yogi didn't dare stand behind me and risk being seen, so he climbed up on the couch and kept quiet.

It dawned on me that Auntie hadn't been talking and I thought it was a long time for her to be listening to someone. Then I realized she wasn't even on the phone. She looked up and asked absently if we had eaten. I took a deep breath and lied.

"Vette and them said they ain't feel like coming in yet..." I said, my face getting hot with fear.

It didn't seem to register at first. She got up slowly and put the phone back on the base and set her beer on her dresser with about three or four other empty cans. Then she opened up her drawer and my face started stretching at the corners of my mouth. She pulled out a belt and slid her feet into her fluffy house shoes before walking past me and out the door.

Yogi sat wide eyed knowing what was about to go down. I could've counted the heartbeats, but I didn't. I just ran to the open window and pressed my ear against the screen. Suddenly all hell broke loose. Screaming and cussing and tumbling and scrambling. In my mind I pictured what it looked like and got giddy.

Served 'em right for not saving me no candy.

Friday, June 16, 2006


The old wall was splattered by a leaking sky. Its brick and weathered velvet soaked sporadically by a fickle wind, the shade of its wetness growing like a malignant cancer across its face, even as each sloppy drop smacked my own, etching the lines of a protective brow into my forehead. My glasses collected every splash as the heat of my breath rose up against my face, fogging up the inside of my lenses.

The carcass too was pelted by the globs of water – its grimace a dry horror, like a splinter lost beneath the skin of a sensitive disposition. I was out jogging when I had come upon it, broken over the edge of the curb, the throw-off of a fleeing spirit. Still swollen with crow’s meat, it startled me, its disturbingly silent whisper begging for my curiosity to come closer and notice it fully. The rain had just let up. It was early evening and the color of heaven was moody.

I bent over the pile of useless fur and noticed the likeness of life still in its feet, as yet unmolested by the scavengers of time. It had once breathed I thought to myself and wondered at its expression torn out of the bones of its broken face. No wonder children had nightmares after visiting the workshop of a taxidermist. The pointy teeth and cracked bone of the jaw were fascinating – their exposure frighteningly familiar.

I felt as if my staring were an act of respect and desecration all at once. Holding my breath long enough, I stood up straight and inhaled the fresh humid air above my head. The leaves in the trees around me sighed relieved in my decision to study the footprint of death no longer.

It was half way across the street, reaching into my pockets while avoiding traffic, when I became alarmed. I lost awareness of my immediate surroundings, trying to recall my morning, before I cleared the street and was shocked by the blare of a horn into jumping clear of an impatient driver. The adrenaline to my heart made me feel like I had forcibly swallowed something whole - adding to my stress as I barely noticed the swish of traffic behind the picture in front of me.

Across the street the skeletons of sleeping trees stood like weary watchmen over a mottled brown carpet of dead leaves. Somewhere along the path I had taken, I had dropped my keys. I could not even begin to imagine where I may have lost them. I stood on the rain soaked sidewalk thinking inwardly, hoping to tap into some remembrance or clue that might lead me in the direction of my abandoned keys.

“You look like you’ve lost something.” a voice startled me from behind. I turned around responsively, just to acknowledge the presence, and nearly broke my neck doing a double-take. Perhaps it was the fit of her jogging suit. It could have been the sincerity of her eyes. I couldn’t help the quick head-to-toe scan I gave her. It was instinctive. She gave me a smile that made me feel typical while she felt the pulse in her wrist. She had been jogging and paused here, keeping her knees up and down, when my imitation of a lost statue begged her curiosity.

“My keys.” I answered. “I hadn’t realized it until I reached the edge of the park and stuffed my hands into my pockets to see if I had any change to buy something to drink from the gas station.” I rambled, fighting to visualize where I may have lost them.

“Good luck.” She said, after giving the park a cursory glance, and was off. I had forgotten momentarily about my keys. Her butt filled out the seat of her sweat pants beautifully.

I felt a tug - a thought to follow her, engaging her in conversation while we both jogged, but was still preoccupied with the question as to whether I should look for my keys or count them forfeit. In the seconds it took to make a decision, I felt I had lost two things.

Suddenly the weather I was trying to enjoy felt a bit too chilly and I just wanted to hurry up and get home, take a hot shower and eat some tomato soup. I could smell the earthy sweet acidity rising in soft plumes from the hot bowl as I thought about it. I could feel the crust of the freshly baked bread, see the butter melting into it and taste the soft pull of my first bite. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my keys, so I grunted disappointingly to myself and opted to get some cider from the Starbucks down the block.

I walked into the store and noticed everyone minding their own business – like spies attempting to blend in. Only the girl behind the counter acknowledged me, in a way that made me wonder if the employees have their own special batch of coffee, off limits to customers, that kept them perky throughout their shifts.

I looked up at the menu and realized I was a rank amateur when it came to ordering coffee – I didn’t know what any of the stuff listed meant and didn’t feel like having any of it explained to me. For all I knew Starbucks was experimenting on the masses, looking for that one combination of ingredients that would have everyone addicted for life. This thought made me frown even as I ordered the best cider I had ever tasted in my life…

It had become windy outside when the door to the store opened again. I watched the papers in the periodical stands just inside the entrance ruffle when she came in. She saw me in mid sip and I almost choked trying to acknowledge her. She came over like an old friend and pulled a chair out for herself at the table where I was sitting. I cleared my throat to keep from coughing and offered a questioning glance. She placed a cupped hand on the table and, removing it, revealed my keys. I was stunned for a good fifteen seconds, studying the mess of metal with a reluctant joy before eventually allowing myself to experience the freedom of relief.

“I ran across these on the path.” She smiled. “I started to leave them in case you were looking for them, but something told me to pick them up.” Her eyes looked so friendly and the cider was so good, I almost fell in love with her for about two seconds.

“I’m glad you did!” I rushed to say, thinking I had let too much silence fill in between us while considering my emotional reaction to her finding my keys.

“I couldn’t be sure they were yours, but a little voice inside me told me that they were and that I’d bump into you when I finished my run.”

“Let me get you something to drink.” I offered quickly, afraid she’d get up and leave since she had returned my keys.

“I don’t drink coffee.” She refused politely and looked as if she were about to stand.

“I don’t either.” I cut her off, taking the lid off my cider and giving her a whiff of it, almost spilling it but catching my frantic energy before it instigated an accident.

“That smells good, but…” she resisted.

“Please. It’s the least I can do. You’ve saved me a trip clear across town with no money in my pockets.”

She considered my proposition and gave in. “Okay, one of those.” She smiled nodding at my cup.

I almost tripped out of my chair trying to get to the counter, which she found funny enough to burst out laughing. When I turned to her while waiting for her cider, she was looking straight at me, her face kind and full of curious thoughts. Enamored by her attractiveness, I sighed involuntarily, which she noticed.

“Careful, it’s hot.” I warned her, handing her the paper cup. She took it with both hands, her fingers softly brushing mine in the exchange. Her touch started my heart racing and the words fell out of my mouth like a pile of shoes stuffed behind a closet door...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Put that punk in the ring!

"Put that punk in the ring!" Someone shouted.
The crowd wouldn't listen. No hands could reach him. The crowd just surged over and past him, moving like a wave in the middle of the ocean. I don't know that anybody knew where he actually was. All I know is that the crowd was hot and was slow to disburse. When the rage was finally replaced with curiosity, and the numbers began to dwindle, they all moved back away from the mass of pulp that had been under their feet. There in the middle of the intersection, like a piece of bubblegum on the asphalt, lay the president, some of him stuck on the bottom of people's shoes.

Friday, June 02, 2006


I was to take their pictures. The heavy door shut behind me and the cords in my neck stiffened. I held my camera with both hands, smelling the wrongness of the place. The air was stale and the cement floor was clammy beneath the soles of my shoes. I wanted to hold my breath for fear of inhaling some airborne virus, and controlled my breathing through my nose, afraid to open my mouth. I could hear the whimpering coming from a corner of the room and instinctively knew there were a bunch of them huddled together in fear. A hand shoved my shoulder and I put the camera up to my face. They had outfitted it with a special lens that could take night vision pictures in that eerie green glow that illuminates the pupils of the eyes. When I looked through the lens, I was horrified.

"What the fuck...!" I gasped, almost throwing up. The camera would have broken to pieces on the floor had it not been strapped around my neck.

"Take the pictures." a low, dry voice behind me ordered, as I heard the clicking of a hammer cock.

I fidgeted with my handling of the camera, fighting the urge to regurgitate the contents of an empty stomach, and began taking shots without looking, the shutter mechanically echoing in the cold room.

"Enough." the voice said, a strong hand on my shoulder. I lowered the camera and almost choked. The door opened behind me and I was led back outside the room, down the long dimly lit corridor and up the stairs to daylight.

Once I had a taste of air, one of the guys lighting a cigarette took a look at me and smirked. A chain and lock were replaced on the steel door behind me and I closed my eyes, dreading the thought of how long they had been down there.

"Winston!" I heard with a clarity that smacked me back into the present.

I opened my eyes and saw Mr. Newsome stepping out of his limousine with a Hollywood smile and scary, bright eyes.

"Winston, you look absolutely peaked!" Mr. Newsome said, sounding shocked and concerned. He barely nodded to a henchman who quickly produced a bottle of water from the car and presented it to me. I took it without looking at his face and unscrewed the top.

Mr. Newsome watched me quietly while I drank half the bottle and replaced the top.

"Horrible things happen in the city, Winston." Mr. Newsome said, his tone changing from one full of vitality to one of warning - dark and threatening. "I hope you never forget that."

I saw the evil in his eyes and handed him the camera.

"Just the film." he said paternally.

The camera whirred as it rewound the roll, and my head felt like it was stuffed with warm cotton as I waited for it to stop. When it finished, the immediate silence was enough to make me cry out. I didn't though. I popped open the case and handed Mr. Newsome the roll of film. He turned back to the car but, before entering, turned back toward me and studied my face for a moment or two.

"This," he said, considering the roll of film and then looking back at me, "is so that I know that you know."

After Mr. Newsome's limousine had driven away, his henchmen waited patiently for me to walk out of the alley and return to my life. As soon as I turned the corner, I choked up all the water in my stomach, straining painfully with each heave, thinking about the faces I saw.


"Hey, Winston!" Gabbie called as soon as I came through the door, approaching me with the layout book. "I need a replacement for 17." he said, flipping the pages to show me how close he was to completion. He went heavy on the morning after shave and I winced as he grumbled that Vicki had cancelled.

"Didja go through the book?" I asked, setting my keys down and looking through the mail I had picked out of the box downstairs.

"Everybody wants to be a fucking actress all of a sudden!" he vented. "Nobody has time for a fucking roll of film."

"Did you call Claudia?" I asked, opening up a letter from Vaughan & Wagner.

"I don't have Claudia's number!" Gabbie stammered.

"Hold on a sec." I shushed him as I unfolded the letter and read it.

"If I don't get this done by Saturday, they're gonna go with someone else!" Gabbie went on. "I don't know about you, but I can't afford to lose this contract. I've got bills, Winston!"

"So do I, Gabbie. So do I." I said, stuffing the letter back into its envelope and walking reflectively to the kitchen to get some juice. Gabbie went on ranting and raving while I poured a glass of tomato juice and picked up the phone off the counter, dialing numbers as I took a swallow or two.

"Claudia, please." I asked calmly over Gabbie's tirade and, while I waited, set the glass down on the countertop so that I could shush Gabbie.

"How's my girl!" I smiled, winking at Gabbie.


Other than the rhythmically abbreviated hmms, an occasional slobbering sound, and the steady whisper of the fan in the window, the apartment was quiet.

It was that quiet that made the sound of the keys in the door so startling to Mark - almost seizing his heartbeat right then and there.

"Baby?" Gabbie called, closing the door behind him and setting his hat on the chair with the coat draped over it. He stood up straight and went pale, no breath coming from his mouth. The fire started in his cheeks and then another in the pit of his stomach. He turned toward the bedroom slowly, his feet feeling like concrete blocks as he started toward the door.

Before he made it halfway, she appeared in the door with shame smeared across her face. Her hair was messed up and she was bare foot. Underneath her blouse, her bra was missing. His heart crumbled and the pieces fell into a hot black cauldron of boiling tar. When he caught the whisper of a figure behind her, the flash blinded him.


"Gabriel! Stop it!" her scream peeled into his head as he watched his fists drop like sledge hammers into the face underneath him. Slowly, the rest of the room became visible, and he could feel her pulling desperately at him.

"Gabriel! Stop!!" she yelled at the top of her lungs, tearing the lining out of them.

He leaned back, drenched with sweat, hands bloodied, staring at the face beneath him and trying to make it out. She fell to the floor behind him, exhausted and sobbing woefully. He looked halfway between the face beneath him and hers, into the air in front of the wall with a picture of him wearing a clown's make-up.

"What's going on, baby?" he asked, as if just waking from a dream.


"Whoa! Wait a minute! Slow down! I can't understand what you're saying, Annie!" I said, trying to make out what she was saying.

All I could make out was that Gabbie was in trouble and that she was scared for her life before she hung up the phone.

I snatched my keys off the countertop and hustled on over to Gabbie's place. When I got there, I didn't see Annie's car, but did see that Gabbie's was parked in its usual spot. Somebody was coming out of the building as I reached the door, so I just went on up. When I got to Gabbie's apartment, I noticed the door was slightly ajar.

"Gabbie?" I called, walking through the front door and closing it behind me. I caught view of him in the bedroom on the floor and, when I walked in, almost went into shock. I recognized Mark by the tattoo on his forearm of the Lone Ranger. His face had been mashed in and Gabbie's knuckles were caked with blood and stuff.

I walked back to the front door and locked it and then returned to the bedroom.

"Gabbie!" I called to him, kind of figuring out that he had walked in on Mark and Annie, and staying by the doorway. "Gabbie! Say something, man!"

"I just wanted to take pictures of women, Winston. Nude women. Pictures of their bodies and faces, posed up real nice. Artistic. You know." he mumbled through tears.

"I never cheated on Annie." he continued. "I know we talked about the girls and what it would be like and how beautiful their bodies were and all, but I never cheated on Annie!" he stammered.

"I know that, Gabbie." I assured him. "I know that."

He looked up at me like a puppy that just peed on the kitchen floor and knows he shouldn't have done it.

"Fuck, Winston! Look what I did!" he sobbed, showing me Mark's death mask.

"Fuck him, man." I said, trying to get Gabbie rational enough to get control of the situation. "Fuck him!"

Gabbie got up awkwardly, his leg having probably fallen asleep, and sat in the chair on the opposite side of the room.

"We gotta call Newsome." I said, hating myself for saying the name, but knowing that he was the only one who could make the situation right.

Before I had even got his name out, Gabbie was dialing the number.


"Here's the thing, Mark," Mr. Wagner said, leaning forward in his chair from behind his desk and extinguishing his cigar in the crystal ashtray that sat precariously close to the edge closest to where Mark sat.

"Gabriel's got some good stuff and you've got squat." he spoke candidly, tossing the blue folder in the middle of the desk and studying Mark's expression.

Mark bit his tongue.

"Mr. Vaughan and myself aren't looking for smut. We're looking for artistry." he continued. "I don't really care for hardcore... leaves nothing to the imagination... nothing inspiring about hardcore, Mark."

Mark attempted to reach for the folder and Mr. Wagner held it from him.

"You don't have what we're looking for." Mr. Wagner said sternly, and then let Mark collect his folder.

"Well, thank you for taking the time to look it over." Mark excused himself, rising from the brick red leather chair he sat in and walking to the door, just as Mr. Wagner paged his secretary.

"Anyone else, Martha?" Mark heard Mr. Wagner say before leaving the office.


Standing on the corner waiting for the walk sign, Mark started to look over the photographs in the blue folder he carried and then changed his mind. He took a deep breath and started to walk just as a limousine turned the corner, startling him.

Recognizing the car, he remained in place, swallowing hard as the other pedestrians mumbled and cursed and walked around the front of the car as it blocked the walkway.

The rear window let down and whomever was inside waited patiently for Mark to come over. When he did, the door was opened and he got in. The limousine pulled off and the window was raised.

"I would consider this a coincidence if it weren't for the fact that I've been looking for you Mark." Mr. Newsome said.

"I've been trying, Mr. Newsome. I swear to God I have. That's why its been so hard to get in touch with me." Mark looked plaintively.

Mr. Newsome just smiled.

"I know what I owe you, Mr. Newsome, and I have every intention of paying it back..."

"I know that, Mark." Mr. Newsome said benevolently, nodding for the driver to pull the limousine over.

The door unlocked automatically and Mark sighed anxiously, made nervous by the calm smile on Mr. Newsome's face, and hesitantly opened the door. As soon as he closed it, the limousine pulled off, leaving him sweating bullets, wondering about his dilemma.


"Winston! You're a lifesaver!" Gabbie shouted into the phone. "Claudia did fantastic! Some of the best pictures I've ever done!" he beamed, looking over the photos and then over his shoulder. "I mean, this girl is sizzling!" he whispered in a hushed voice.

"Who is that, baby?" Annie asked, coming into the room drying her hair.

"Winston." Gabbie mouthed, with his hand over the phone. "Uh, huh." he uttered, returning to his conversation. "Absolutely! We can meet at the Red Dog in say... half an hour? Great!"

"Don't you guys ever get enough of each other?" Annie asked, returning to the room to get dressed.

Gabbie dismissed her comment and set the phone down to follow her into the bedroom. She was standing naked in front of the bureau, looking for some panties when he walked up behind her and placed his hands on her hips.

"You smell good." he whispered in her ear.

She leaned into his voice and then gently brushed him off.

"So how long do you two plan to be out this afternoon?" she asked, pulling out a bra and putting it on.

"We're just going to have a few drinks is all." Gabbie said.

"I've heard that before." she smiled and kissed him on the cheek as she walked past him to the bedside table to get something out of the drawer.

"You wanna have dinner with me tonight?" Gabbie asked, admiring her form in her underthings.

She looked over her shoulder at him as she put on her earrings to see if he was being serious.

"What time?" she asked, curious.

"Seven or eightish." Gabbie proffered.

"Can we go anywhere I want?" she pressed.

"Anywhere." Gabbie assured her with a dreamy smile.

"You're the best!" she said, walking up to him and taking a kiss from him.


"And thank you, Mr. Wagner. Goodbye." I said and ended the call just as Gabbie walked into the Red Dog. I waved at him to get his attention and he walked over with his face beaming.

"Fifty large!" Gabbie whispered loudly, sitting across from me and playfully punching me in the shoulder. "Can you believe it?!"

"I just got off the phone with Wagner... so yeah... I believe it." I smiled.

"I'm taking Annie out to dinner tonight. Her choice." Gabbie shared, looking around for a cocktail waitress, then impatiently rising from his seat. "What are you drinking?"

"A Bloody Mary." I said, nodding at my pulp stained empty glass.


She was waiting for the knock at the door and rushed to it as soon as she heard it, peeking through the spy hole and opening the door quickly with a smile on her face.

She grabbed his face and kissed him passionately as he came through the door and closed it behind him, grabbing her ass as they leaned back against the door. The blue folder he carried dropped to the floor and he pulled her skirt up, squeezing her buttocks as he kissed her neck.

"I can't believe how hot you make me." she gasped, removing his coat and throwing it over the chair before reaching for his pants zipper.

He stopped her. "Wait a minute." he said sternly. "Business first."

"I think the deposit into the account was made today." she said, biting her lip and reaching for his zipper while he held her hands back.

"You think?" he asked, leaning down to look into her eyes.

"Its there." she breathed and kissed him again. He leaned back after a moment.

"So when can I see it?" he asked impatiently.

"I'll go to the bank tomorrow to make the withdrawal." she told him, "You won't have to worry about Newsome anymore." she continued, trying to get at his shirt buttons. He let her arms go and her hands went busily at his shirt. As soon as she got it open she pressed her lips against his chest, trembling with anticipation.


"So I had one shot of her coming out of the dark, like a panther out of the forest. Its beautiful." Gabbie explained, setting his drink down and leaning toward me.

"Then..." he continued, looking like a volcano about to explode." And this is the best one! Okay. She's on her knees with her tits hanging, right? With a blind fold on and her head dropped. The shadows were from a single light bulb about forty feet above her and the floor and walls were draped with the black curtains."

"You did this at the studio?" I asked, accepting my drink in mid air from the cocktail waitress and thanking her in lipsync.

"No, no, no." Gabbie said, taking a sip from his drink. "I used Hiram's spot. His is the only place I have access to that would have let me pull off what I was trying to pull off." Gabbie sat the drink down and looked at me. I could see the gears working.

"You gotta see the finished product, Winston." He insisted. "I was so excited, I forgot to bring the proof." He sighed.

"I can see it later…" I began.

"No. No." He thought. "Look. You have plans for dinner?" he asked.

"No, Gabbie." I protested. "You told Annie..."

"We can all celebrate!" Gabbie insisted, "Don’t be ridiculous!" he said, standing up and finishing his drink. "I’ll see you at seven!" he said, walking away from the table. "And answer your phone!"

I shook my head chuckling and watched him leave the Red Dog.


"He wants to speak with you." Gabbie said, extending the phone to me with a trembling hand.

My heart felt like a block of concrete in my chest and my hands started sweating. I took a deep breath and took the phone from Gabbie.

"I’m here." I said.

"But are you rich, Winston?" Mr. Newsome asked. "My time is very expensive. Now what seems to be the problem?"

- FIN May 05, 2004

A Beautiful Day

It's like falling into weightlessness to wake softly into consciousness. Your ears and then your sense of touch tug at the rest of you. Then that yawn comes, tearing you completely away from sleep.

Oh, and there's nothing beating that morning air, fresh and clean, gently intruding, washing your face and caressing your nakedness. I sleep nude when I can and this morning was one such day.

The breeze tickled my nose a bit and I waited to see if I would sneeze. Nothing coming, I rubbed the itch away and yawned again.

My ears drank the crisp whistling melodies of birds fluttering playfully and singing to one another outside my window.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the heavenly glow of the new day sliced in strips through my wooden blinds, catching faerie's dust in its shafts of light which striped my stuccoed wall.

The same light breeze that washed my face, occasionally pushed gently through my blinds causing the wooden strips to make a rickety sound against the window sill when the breeze fell back through the window screen. I studied the window's rhythm, inhaling and exhaling into my room.

I yawned again to welcome the day - a long one that stretched my face painfully as I inhaled the refreshingly cool air. Throwing the sheets aside I sat up on the side of my bed and felt my mind bombarded with a million possibilities and things to do for the day. Shaking free of their nuisance, I hopped up and went to the washroom to, among other things, wash the sleep from my eyes.

The alarm clock was nagging when I turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. Noon already? I asked myself, but remembered I set it half an hour fast to save some more of the day for myself. Its ridiculous, when I think about it, but it works for me.

Can't do morning without music, so I searched for a station that was going to give me that extra "kick." While discriminating, I looked at my calendar and noticed my note about a barbecue. Sounds like a plan, I thought to myself. Picking up the phone, I dialed the number I had written down and searched my drawers for something to wear.

"Hello?" A woman's voice, feminine, pleasant and full of life, but unfamiliar, answered. The accent was missing.

"May I speak with Magalie?" I asked, wondering if I had dialed the correct number.

"Just a moment," she said and set down the phone on a table or something to call for Magalie.

I found some shorts and a shirt to wear but couldn't figure out where I had put all my clean socks as I waited for Magalie to come to the phone.

"Ah-lo?" A rich and familiar Haitian accent greeted me.

"Good morning!" I answered, truly glad to hear her voice, "Its Rico."

"Rico!" she exclaimed sounding happily surprised. "Are you coming to the barbecue?" the energy in her voice, when she was in good spirits, was always addictive. To tell the truth, I loved the way she said my name when I called. She spoils my ego, and when I need it stroked, she's my "go to" person.

"That's what I'm calling about. What time did you want me there?" I asked just as I found my laundry bag full of clean socks next to my sandals I was about to opt for. I sat on my bed, poured out all the socks and looked for matches.

We went back and forth about what time I should be there relative to everyone else. I had forgotten I promised her I would barbecue some of the meat and tried to gently scold her for not calling to remind me. Truth is I suffer from selective amnesia and if its not important enough for you to remind me, its not important enough for me to remember... especially if its for you. I mean, who forgets stuff they're interested in?

So after confirming that everything I needed to fulfill my end of the bargain would be there when I arrived, and double checking my list of things I needed to pick up on the way, I apologized for forgetting.

"Thank you, Rico." she said over a honking horn. "They're about to leave me... can you be there in thirty minutes?"

"Maybe earlier." I smiled to myself, picturing Magalie under pressure." See you then."

"Thanks!" she said quickly and hung up her phone.

All the stuff I needed to bring I already had, most of it seasoning specialties. I got it all together and decided to ride my bike to the beach. Once I brought the Schwinn out into the afternoon air, I was happy with my decision to ride. It was a beautiful day.

There were some kids across the street playing softball on the school lawn, and some others lighting fire crackers in a tree. As I climbed on my bike, I saw another kid run out of his house and across the street without looking. As I shook my head, he turned around and I looked back to his door and saw his black poodle jump off the porch. The little boy called to it and the dog took off for the boy as I saw the car coming. The screech of the tires, the hit and tumbling beneath the chassis... made my soul cringe. The dog crawled free and finished his last thought - to get to his little boy. Leaping into the boy's arms, the little black poodle went lifeless.

The other children and the boys parents had rushed to the boy by now. The driver's face was truly remorseful. Me? I just cussed the little bastard for being so stupid and rode off with tears of anger and sorrow in my eyes.

With the sun on my face and the wind in my ears, I prayed that little black dog into heaven, still sad thinking about the day it would never see. No more tomorrows.

The sun, blue sky and other distractions, called me back from my mourning spirit. Really it was this lady wearing something close to nothing, and wearing it well.

Some asshole busted a bunch of bottles on the bike path, which pissed me off more because I wasn't paying attention until I was all up in it. Had to be a little bastard like that kid with the dog, I thought to myself. Some spoiled little brat ain't had his ass beat like it was supposed to be coming up. Talking ain't for kids. You talk to adults. You beat kids so that when they become adults, you can talk to them.

Me and the fellas got into this round robin about how we were going to raise our kids. Everybody started off talking about the shit they hated about what their parents did. We had that bitch session all of fifteen minutes til we got down to brass tacks. Fact of the matter is, if our parents hadn't kicked our asses, we'd probably be locked up, dead, or on our way to one or the other. A little ass-whippin never harmed nobody. Matter of fact, it made you better, if it was done with any kind of love, you know, extension cords, ironing cords, broomsticks, shoes, fists, and so on.

Just as I was reflecting on it, I saw some momma wearing her child's ass out for playing near the barbecue grill. That's what I'm talking about. That is love.

When I got to the spot, there were already about fifteen people in the group and I was well received by them all. I parked my bike against a tree and joined Magalie who was at a table beside the grill laying out meat on the foil.

Sliced onions, cut lemons, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes were already prepped for kabobs. "You dressed the part." I remarked, referring to Magalie's apron and cooking mitts.

"You didn't take long." she smiled, comfortably leaning back for a kiss on the cheek.

"Almost was run over a couple of times though." I told her, sanitizing my hands in a stainless steel bowl of bleach water.

"Don't say that." she chastened as David walked up and I began seasoning some of the meat.

"What's up, Rico?" Dave greeted me as we bumped elbows.

"Whatcha burnin'?" he asked looking at the grill.

"Nothin yet but you know I got to make sure your burger's well done." I smiled, "You like yours seasoned hot, right?" I joked, reaching for the lighter fluid.

"As long as you allow me the priviledge of making your burger." Dave shot back getting a laugh out of Magalie.

"Dude, I wouldn't trust my food with anybody else..." I laughed. "You feel like heating up the grill?"

"Where's the charcoal?" Dave asked quickly, eyes gleaming with delight. Magalie and I nearly fell out laughing, and stepped away from the grill when Dave picked up the bag of charcoal Magalie pointed to.

"Oh no..." I heard someone say as Dave poured the briquettes. All of a sudden it seemed like everyone's eyes were on Dave as he poured the lighter fluid.

"Save some for next time..." someone joked, causing a riot of laughter.

Dave ignored the peanut gallery and surveyed the table. "Matches..." he said, and Magalie gave him a box from the pocket of her apron.

Magalie looked at me with a nervous smile and we stepped further back from the grill as David lit a match.

"Careful, dude." I said, not wanting to have to go through the stress of putting him out if he did catch fire.

He shot me a look of irate tolerance before dropping the match.

The flames jumped straight up and roared for a second or two before calming into a carefully structured pyramid of charcoal.

"That's what I'm talking about!" I approved as Dave exuded smugness.

The music was loud, the people were loud and everyone was enjoying themselves under the shade of the palm trees.

After throwing a second tray of meat on the grill, I found an empty hammock, climbed in and watched a fat fluffy cloud float by.

As the scent of the barbecue began to tease my salivary glands, I closed my eyes and began daydreaming. The sound of the waves slapping the rocks relaxed me even more - but suddenly I felt the sensation that I was falling out of my hammock.

Panicking, I opened my eyes, clutching the edges of the hammock. My whole body had tensed up preparing to flip onto the ground, when I realized it was only a false sensation brought on by my state of relaxation and my sensitivity to a sudden breeze.

Of course I looked around to see if anyone had noticed my jumpiness, and was immediately embarrassed seeing a very attractive woman sitting beside one of the trees my hammock was attached to. She looked at me when I saw her and smiled at me in a way that let me know she saw me jump.

"It felt like I was falling out." I offered.

She nodded her head with an amused look on her face and took a sip from her iced tea.

She was wearing a bikini top and shorts and she had the body to fill them. But what attracted me to her was her face. It was smooth and beautiful.

I sat up, remembering the meat on the grill, and saw that the crowd had grown to about thirty people. There were a couple of card tables in play, a volleyball game underway, and some good conversation going on.

"What's your name?" I asked on my way to the grill.

"Mariette." she replied.

"You're Magalie's cousin?" I asked.

"Yes, I am." she answered, standing up and dusting the sand from the seat of her shorts.

"I need to check on this meat. Don't go anywhere?" I asked.

"Okay." she agreed and climbed into the hammock. I smiled as an afterthought and attended the grill.

Opening the top after checking the vents, I was pleasantly overwhelmed with the savory aroma of the barbecued meat. I removed some chicken breasts which had a wonderful color and were obviously juicy. I also took off some legs which stuck to the grill a little bit.

"Who's your lady friend?" Keyth asked from over my shoulder.

"What's up?!" I exclaimed in surprise, almost dropping a chicken breast as I tried to put down the tongs so I could give him a hug.

"Where the heck have you been?" I asked reaching out to him.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" he doubled back, raising his beer like a shield.

"You get barbecue juice on this shirt and you're buying it!" he laughed.

"Whatcha been up to?" I asked, giving him a hug anyway.

"Shit." he replied. "Magalie called me earlier this week and told me about this little shin-dig you guys were throwing. I didn't have any appointments so here I am." he explained and promptly took a sip from his bottle.

"You still drinking that stuff?" I asked, looking at the bottle.

Suddenly he went into commercial mode and held the bottle up to his face. "This is a Molsen Golden."

"And those are Wicked Ales." I said, pointing to a cooler that was tucked out of sight.

"Always hiding the good shit." he complained, walking over and flipping the lid to take a peek.

"Um... your girl?" he asked again, perusing the variety in the cooler.

"Magalie's cousin. And don't get any ideas. You take your hazel-eyed ass over there and she'll forget my name." I laughed.

"The spoils of war." he joked. "I'm here with Christine."

"Christine? I aint never met no Christine." I reflected, looking around as I prepared the next tray of meat for the grill.

"That's cause if she saw your curly-locked ass, she'd forget my name!" he joked. "She's over there tongue kissing that big dude."

"Right." I shook my head smiling and put on the tray of meat: burgers and polishes. "Don't leave before I meet her. I'm gonna cozy up with Mariette for a few."

"Mariette?" Keyth asked with a furled brow.

"Here comes the bullshit." I anticipated.

"Ain't that a puppet?" he asked.

"Thats a marionette you fuck." I laughed.

"Language! Language!" Magalie snuck up on us.

"This is my last tray..." I remarked as Magalie and Keyth hugged.

"Thank you, Rico." she said, looking over the meat that was done.

"Looks good. Keyth, do you..." she started, but Keyth anticipated what she was going to ask of him and had slipped away amongst the crowd.

"Where'd he go?" she asked.

"Same place I'm about to go." I answered, "To enjoy myself." I put down the tongs, replaced the cover to the grill, set the vents and kissed Magalie on the forhead before taking my leave.

She sighed and scanned the crowd for the next grill man.

"I'm back." I whispered, walking up to the hammock and wiping my hands clean with a wet towel.

"You snooze, you lose." A guy's voice came from the swinging bed. I frowned up immediately and was stuck in my tracks.

Suddenly an ice cold glass touched my shoulder.

"I went and got you a cooler." the sweetest voice came from behind me.

I took the cooler and turned into Mariette. Face to face, I was struck by her simple beauty and thrilled that she was taller than my chest.

"Thanx." I said, "Where did you get a glass?" I asked, noticing the beads of water roll down the sides of hers as the sun sparkled in the ice cubes.

"I brought it from the house as we left out." she answered.

"And now you're stuck with it for the rest of the day." I critcized.

"I don't have a problem keeping up with things." she smiled.

A cool breeze came and went as the day became hotter and Mariette and I talked about everything and nothing. Occasionally I would take a look over in the direction of the grill to make sure Magalie wasn't stressing. It looked like she had gotten David to take over so I felt it was okay for Mariette and I to take a walk on the beach.

She had on sandals but I had on tennis shoes, so I took mine off so as not to get any sand in them. The sand was burning my feet so I hopped to where it was wet and cool. Mariette laughed and joined me and we watched the sailboats which seemed to be sitting on the horizon. Little kids were building sandcastles and throwing sea water on one another - one of 'em almost got me and I came really close to burying the little urchin in the sand.

When we got to the rocks, I brushed off a clean spot and we sat down and watched the sea gulls snatch fish out of the water - something I had never seen before.

"Those are albatross." Mariette corrected me.

"Albatross, seagulls... what's the difference?" I asked defensively.

She ignored me and threw a small rock into the water.

"What's the stuff on the beach that looks like slime?" I asked, remembering that we had passed a few while walking.

"Jellyfish." she told me.

"Ever been stung by one?" I continued with my twenty-one questions.

"No, but I remember a little boy almost dying back in Haiti, when he swam into a few Man o' War." she remembered.

"Manna who?" I asked.

"Jellyfish." she said sarcastically.

The ice cream man came slowly riding by chiming his bells and I stopped him. His prices were ridiculous but I really wanted some ice cream, so I dished out my hard earned money and came back with two strawberry shortcakes, which cost me three dollars.

Mariette laughed when I shared my irritation with her about feeling ripped off.

She suggested we go out on the pier where the fishermen were, so that we could watch some water-skiers do stunts off a ramp. The salt air distracted my interest in their watery acrobatics and took away from the flavor of the ice cream so we walked back to the barbecue, where we chanced upon an open card table.

Mariette and I sat down as partners against David and some guy named Lewis. Dave and I were usually partners when the game was cards, and knowing him as a card player I was nervous about Mariette's ability to play with me. Actually I was worried about snapping if it turned out she didn't have any skills and Dave started talking shit.

We lost the first hand by card's fate which had me second guessing my participation in the game. I hate losing.

Surprisingly, Mariette and I won the next two hands through skillful playing. A couple of times I caught various looks pasted on Dave's very expressive face; from actually being impressed with the flow of the game to irritation over bad plays.

The glow of inevitable victory began to shine on my face.

Dave is a sore loser also and was somewhat discouraged until the fourth hand. I could tell by his gloating and my sorry looking hand that he was holding power in his cards. The desperate expression on my partners face didn't help my disposition. Dave and Lewis ran a Boston, collecting all the books, every single last one of them.

Dave flexed like he was King Xerxes and gave me that very pleased with himself look as if questioning whether I wanted to continue after such a thrashing.

Gloating irritates me so when the next and final hand was dealt, I kept a boring expression and shouted inside. The tension was high and I loved every second of it from the time Mariette won the bid, to every complimentary card I played in her favor.

We won the game having the best three out of five hands. David was pissed but congratulated my partner anyway as I laughed.

After the game Mariette and I walked to her car and drove further up the beach where we parked under a palm tree.

"That was a beautiful game." I complimented her. "You just don't know how pleased I am."

"I got the feeling you and David have played together before." she commented.

"As partners practically all the time." I told her, "But its good to play against a partner once in a while... keeps you sharp; especially when you're as good as we are."

"That's arrogant." she observed.

"Its the truth." I corrected her.

"I enjoyed the game." she said.

"You play well." I smiled as she touched my hand with hers. Our fingers became interwoven, and when her stare fell to my lips, we kissed.

At first it was slow and gradually grew more passionate. Her hands held me tightly, as I held her, as the heat affected both of us.

Then, gasping for air, we sat back, just looking at each other as the sun filtered through the fronds of the palm tree and the breeze caressed us with its cool, fresh flavor.

"I want to see you tonight." Mariette said, leaning in for another soft kiss.

"I'd like that." I said, obliging her.

We exchanged numbers and drove back to the barbecue. The crowd was nearly gone, including Keyth and Christine. He probably figured I had other things on my mind than meeting his date. I helped clean the grill and collect the garbage before going home.

Before I left, Magalie pulled me to the side.

"So how do you like her?" she asked, an eager smile on her face.

"She's great." I smiled, "We've got a date tonight."

"Now wasn't this a beautiful day?" she said very motherly.

"A beautiful day..." I repeated and felt the sun on my back: a light and warm touch.

Haunting in an Open Moon

Ka-clackity clack… ka-clackity clack… ka-clackity clack… ka-clackity clack…

He paced his breathing, like he had done back in high school when he practiced with the cross-country team, with the distant sound of the train on the tracks somewhere off in the darkness. His lungs had opened up and the air felt thinner filling up his chest. Each breath wheezed faintly as he inhaled, and in the back of his mind he feared catching pneumonia as his entire body absorbed the pounding taken by his knee and ankle joints.

"Don’t get tired…" he motivated himself, keeping the rhythm of the train on the tracks with his breathing, rushing through the pussy willows, the toes of his shoes digging into the cold moist earth as he ran toward the hill just under the low bright swollen moon. Moths and other tiny insects smacked his face as he swished through the field, trying not to think about the snakes, frogs and night-crawlers he undoubtedly trampled as he pushed himself harder and faster to get there.

The midnight air whistled past his ears as he rushed through the tall grasses, his bare arms already itching from the whipping they took from the smack of sticker-bugs and dry stalks. Suddenly he stepped lower, startled by a dip in the ground. He stumbled forward, his shoe flipping off, and screwed up his face as a burst of adrenaline tried desperately to keep him from falling.

The terror of losing control over his momentum seized his breath, and by the time he regained his balance, his chest was on fire with the stress of it all. The air blew gently over the sweat clinging to his forehead, which was overheated and throbbing with a dull uncomfortable pressure. Electric prickles attacked his entire body with freezing pin points of shock as he reeled his mind back from the idea of almost finding himself prostrate in the grass.

He focused on the hill to establish how close he was and turned around to look for his shoe in the path he had cut behind him, eyes wide to let in as much light as he could. He had to hurry, though. The moon was full, illuminating the whole field, and the wolves loved a full moon.

"Don’t wish ‘em, don’t wish ‘em, don’t wish ‘em…." he chanted in his head, eyes darting desperately from side to side of the path he slashed in the grass. Finding his shoe, he frantically slipped it back on and turned to start toward the barn again, but stopped suddenly to re-tie it. He couldn’t afford losing the time if it came off again. Just as he tied the knot, he bolted off like a track star, through the grasses, pushing himself harder and faster to make up for the time he had lost.

Suddenly he broke into a clearing, which interrupted his concentration. He stuttered, caught off guard by this unexpected and puzzling bewilderment. He looked around and wondered if he was standing in a crop circle. Everything was flattened to the ground in the clearing. He turned to survey the perimeter of the clearing and, as he moved forward, a chill went up his back. He looked up into the clear jet-black sky at the stars that shone like city lights and watched for one to move. The sound of the train chug-a-chugging in the distance kept him from feeling too alone. He listened over his breathing and could still hear the crickets. That was good. He looked back at the hill and clenched his jaws, pushing himself forward again through the pussy willows.

He was almost there… to the top of the hill just under the moon, when the silhouette of a wolf appeared there. It just walked up and stood there, looking out onto the field. He froze, his heart shrinking into a cold rock, and his eyes widening with fear. He was too late! He wanted so bad for this to be a dream and felt his chest aching as every heart beat felt like a sledgehammer trying to bang a hole out of him. He stood there in the stiff grass and looked as if one might look upon a mirage, hoping the wolf would go away. Instead, two others walked onto the hill, their silhouettes menacing and ready. He knew they were hunting. He knew how big they were and how vicious they were. He wished he could burrow into the earth to hide… there was nowhere else to go.

He knew that just over the hill was the barn, but he had started too late and now he was in danger of becoming a midnight meal for a small pack of very large wolves. As he tried to collect his senses, the wolves descended into the shadow of the hill and moved into the tall grass. His heart stopped and he stood there, fear bleeding inside of him, covered his throat with his hands and shut his eyes, prayers rising like severed spirits from his terrified soul…

A full moon hovered silently above the grass, bright as a stark naked light bulb. A mile away the night train sounded its haunting whistle, which blended into the sound of the prairie winds. A dead tree offered itself as a sentry post for a great fat hoot owl, who watched through one aperture every stirring in the field. Night’s umbrella was black as pitch and sprinkled with crushed diamonds except where ghostly wisps of frozen air streaked the sky.

Mice and other small creatures darted through the grasses along tiny worn paths to favorite feeding grounds, stopping suddenly to feel the air with their whiskers, wary of the shadow of death that spreads its wings every night. Black armored beetles adventured for dunghills and carcasses of small dead rodents. The first frost was weeks away but all creatures were already preparing for the coming winter.

Somewhere in the tall dry grasses a man’s grunts could be heard, along with a hacking sound, the slicing thud of sharp steel finding fresh bone, slightly muffled by the sound of the wind. A blood and dirt soiled bag lay in the trampled grass at his feet. Strangely, a black crow called out of the darkness and lighted in the dead tree, stirring the owl, whose head seemed to sink lower into its fat body at the intrusion.

A wind blew around the tree rustling the brown downy feathers of the owl and the knife black feathers of the crow and the leaves that had fallen and dried in the grass at the base of the tree.

The chill in the air raised hairs on the powerful forearms of the man who chopped away at the body with an old rusty machete. His hands began to sting and itch, cold and sore from holding the machete so tight. Across the distance, in the only house that stood in the field, a warm yellow light came on in an upstairs window, and a dog barked, splitting the air with a sharp echo that curiously seemed in harmony with the crickets' song.

"Max thinks them wolves is out there again, John." She said, standing in her white sleeping gown, looking out of the window at the dead tree in the field.

Behind her, wrapped up in the blankets trying to keep warm, John didn’t budge, "Come back to bed, Lucy. It’s cold."

"They can’t get in the barn, can they?" she asked, worried about the safety of the dog.

"I locked it before I came in. Now come on back to bed. You done took all your warmth with you." He pleaded.

She turned away from the window and walked barefoot across the wooden floor to the closet. Opening the door, she reached up on the shelf in the dark and emerged with a heavy quilt and walked back to the bed. Unfolding it, the scent of lemon and garden flowers gently perfumed the room, and she shook it open to spread over the bed. When it settled, she lifted the covers to slide up behind her husband. He shivered when she lifted the blankets and then scooted back when she was snuggled up behind him.

"That’s better." He mumbled with a smile on his face as he settled back to sleep.

"Goodnight, John." She said lovingly, wrapping her arms around him.

"Goodnight, Lu." He breathed, just as a wolf howled in the distance.

He looked up from what now looked like a badly hacked stump of butchers meat, sweat pouring off his forehead and down his face making his collar sticky against his neck, as his breath condensed in the air in front of his face. It was getting colder and he worried that he could catch pneumonia working so hard out on a night like this. He wiped his forehead with the back of his blood soaked hand and sniffed his runny nose as he tried to figure out how far that howl was from where he stood.

A moment later another howl sounded, very close to him. He tightened his grip around the machete and looked around for movement in the moonlit grass. They could smell the blood, he thought to himself. He should have just stripped the body and left it in the field for the scavengers to get in the first place.

He wiped his free blood stained hand on his pants leg and backed away slowly through the grass away from the body, wielding the machete guardedly. He’d come back for the scraps and rags tomorrow night, he thought to himself. They could have it tonight. In the back of his mind he also wondered how their eating human flesh would change their aggressiveness. He had to get back to the stream and wash the scent of death off of him, pneumonia or not. If he didn’t he was sure to be dead before sunrise.

- June 3, 2003

Home Is Where the Heart Is

She cringed under the intensity of his fury, raising her arms to protect her face if he should go over the edge. Her eyes watered from the chaos that now seemed to rule her world. He caught himself, ashamed, and swung anyway, catching her on top of the head. She bolted to the kitchen, resolute that she would not go through this again. He chased after her, half-afraid of what was on her mind, half- seething with anger. Had he the faculties to think about the situation, he would have realized that he wasn't angry at her, really. But he had already snapped and wanted to vent on someone, anyone, even the person he professed to love more than anything or anybody.

He stopped suddenly, the fire in his eyes letting up enough for him to catch the gleam in her hand. The point pricked the skin of his abdomen behind his sweat soaked shirt. His mind cleared for a moment and he realized that she might have stabbed him had he not stopped. The fury returned and he slapped her across her face with his forearm, knocking her across the kitchen and into the wall beside the refrigerator where she sat like a rag doll. A deep sorrow jumped out of him, but he was out of control. He walked over to her with heavy feet, cursing and frothing, and began kicking her in her thighs as he yelled something at her about the knife.

Tears streamed down his face as he watched what he was doing and couldn't stop himself. He knew she wouldn't forgive him this time, and he hated her for it, and cried hard as he began to see the bruises appear.

At first the pain was unbearable, and then she went numb all over. The pain in her legs was gone. She could see them jump from his kicks, but she couldn't feel a thing. She couldn't hear him either. It was weird seeing him rant and rave soundlessly. There was an eerie electric silence plugging up her ears. She felt herself wearing an evil smile and just looked at him. He was going to hurt behind this, she promised herself.

He wanted to die, but was afraid to. He would have fallen to his knees in front of her but the knife was too close. He saw her stare and went cold inside. The heat of anger was suddenly replaced with the icicles of guilt and sorrow. His insides were destroyed. He crumpled and fell back against the wall away from her, tears wetting his whole face and saliva webbing his mouth. "Why me?!" was the question that burned out of his soul.

When the police arrived, he wished he had ran away. They treated him like a rabid dog, breaking him down to the kitchen floor and cracking three teeth in his jaw. They stuck their boots in his neck and pressed their guns to the back of his head. One even asked her if she wanted him dead. She was sitting on the couch with the medics and a police officer when they dragged him out of the house.

She watched them carry him away, and she couldn't help but wonder what he was. She didn't recognize him. She wondered if he was a wild animal or a criminal who had broken into her house. The police officer was writing something down and the red lights of the ambulance were flashing through the front room window. Her legs began to hurt, and her stomach, and face...

They cracked his head against the door putting him in the back seat of the squad car, and the blood felt like water pouring out of his head. Everything was confusion and he tried to speak and got a night stick in the throat. He passed out in between the nightmares and pain and begged her to forgive him.

Her mom was on the phone the policeman was holding, but she walked past his outstretched arm, wanting to breath, wanting to get outside and into the open air. She wondered where he was, forgetting what he had done. There were too many lights, and strangers, and noise. Where was he? She wanted to go to bed.

He woke up inside the nightmare. They were pulling off his pants and kicking him in the head. He thought his head felt spongy and passed out again.

Her best friend came into the room before she could get out of the door. They struggled and she fell, her legs weak and hurting. Everyone called her and she began crying uncontrollably. Go away! she tried to say through her sobs, but they put their arms around her and held her still.

He woke up again and felt sick, throwing up dark water over himself, coughing. He couldn't see who was around him, the figures were blurred and hazy. He could hear a hollow, far away laughter, and feel an excruciating pain somewhere - he couldn't tell where. His head felt like it was detached from his body, and he couldn't find his hands.

She wanted out of this hell night. Time was dragging, she didn't know where he was, nobody was listening to her. She felt the rage coming. They were walking through her house, going through her kitchen and living room, using her phone, the clock was ticking very loudly.

A policeman was on the phone talking too loud. She zoomed in like radar. She got up like a zombie, riding on his words, floating toward him. The rage began to cut.

"He's dead?!" the policeman blurted out, looking around to see who heard. His gun was gone. The first shot froze everybody until the phone hit the floor. But even before they could react, she squeezed the trigger again, and again, and again, and again, and again, click, click, click...

The medic wet his pants, frozen with fear until she reached for another gun. He ran out of the house and into the amBANG!!!

Shedwood & Clarissa

...the doorbuzzer ripped Shedwood out of his dream so abruptly that he bumped his head against the wall waking up. He held his breath, feeling the pressure in his ears whisper a rhythm synonymous with his heartbeat, hoping the terrible sound of the buzzer was from inside his shattered dream. The scratching scream sounded again and Shedwood looked up from his pillow, drool collected in the right corner of his mouth, to look at the floating red numbers of his digital clock. He cussed inside his head when he saw that it wasn’t even eleven o’clock yet, but decided to get out of bed anyway just in case it was his dad ‘just dropping by.’

"I know iz some dummass cant read the names on the damn buzzers." Shedwood said to himself, irritably wondering if it might also be some Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was Saturday. He rolled outta the bed and dragged himself to the front room to look out the window, hoping it wasn’t for him. The sun was already warmin up the polished wooden floor when he pulled back the canvas blind and looked through the window, squinting through the sunlight, up and down the street for a car that looked familiar to him. The buzzer screamed again and Shedwood wrestled the window up with a screech to stick his head out and see who it was.

"Who is it?!" he shouted down on top of somebody’s head. They looked up and he woke up, recognizing the familiar face of his friend Clarissa partly shaded underneath one of her straw hats.

"I know you ain’t got nobody up there!" she shouted up, acting, with her hands on her hips to give herself an attitude, and her head broke back to see who she was talking to.

Shedwood’s face beamed like the sun that was already near the top of the sky, shaking his head in amusement.

"Hold on a sec." he shouted down and disappeared through the window, almost catching his ear as it closed shut. He was thrilled that she was visiting him, but was pissed that she hadn’t called cuz he hadn’t been to the bathroom yet to brush his teeth or wash up or anything. He sighed and went back in the bedroom to find some shorts to put on.

He skipped down the stairs barefoot on his tip toes and opened the door for Clarissa.

"Tell that heifer she better get out faster next time!" she continued the act.

"I gotta go wash up. Third floor." Shedwood said smiling, rushing back upstairs to his apartment.

By the time Clarissa made it up to the third floor, Shedwood was already brushing his teeth and out of breath. He heard her close the door behind her and lock it, then walk past the bathroom into the living room.

"I’ll be out in a sec." Shedwood called out to her with a mouthful of toothpaste.

"Take all the time you need!"

"You bein funny?"

"Do I sound like I’m joking?" she said in a very serious voice.

"Right." Shedwood dismissed the subject.

When Shedwood made it out of the bathroom and stepped into the livingroom, Clarissa was sitting on the couch with one leg tucked under the other, looking through the pages of one of his photo albums.

"You’re just a freak, huh?" she said, "How come I’m not in here?"

"Which album you lookin at?" Shedwood asked, frowning cuz he knew he had some pictures of her from the time he threw a Christmas party or something one year. She ignored answering him because he was coming over anyway, and when he saw which album she was looking through, he looked surprised.

"I don’t see me..." she played.

"You know damn well I ain’t got no pictures of you like that."

"Why not?" she asked, looking up at him from the page she was on, with a mischievous look on her face.

"Somebody’s in a peculiarly feisty mood this morning." he noted out loud.

"Why not?" she repeated herself, and he felt himself against the ropes.

"You serious?" he asked, his forehead wrinkled as he tried to guage where she was coming from.

"Why not? These are some very artistic shots. This one is really nice." she complimented, pointing out a picture.

"Well thanks, but shit, it aint like I be callin people an askin them to pose. Most of them girls are models or freaky or somethin."

"I’d like to take some pictures like this." she said.

"With me? I mean, you want me to take them?" Shedwood asked.

"Yeah!" she smiled, looking at the pages, "These are really nice!"

"Its not as easy as it looks, now. Most of those girls are models." Shedwood explained.

"She’s not." Clarissa said, pointing out one of Shedwood’s ex-girlfriends, "and I know this girl isn’t with her ugly ass. I mean her body looks nice and everything but her face is through."

Shedwood sighed.

"I wanna do it." she insisted.

" When?" Shedwood asked in an embarrassed laugh.

"Whenever you’ve got time. I’m free for the next two weeks."

"What made you come by?" genuinely curious but also trying to get off the immediate subject.

"I hadn’t talked to you in a while and wanted to see how you were doing. Plus I’m on vacation and I thought that maybe we could have lunch or something today."

"I haven’t even eaten breakfast yet."

"We can have brunch."

"They don’t serve brunch on Saturdays."

"I’d offer to cook if it wasn’t such a beautiful day outside. Put on some clothes and come on. You don’t have anything planned for today, do you?"

"If I did, I just changed my plans." Shedwood beamed.

Clarissa smiled affectionately and went back to looking through the photo album while Shedwood walked down the hall to his bedroom to find something to wear.

"It’s gonna be ninety degrees today. You better go put on some shorts!" Clarissa checked him when he walked back into the living room wearing some jeans, gym shoes, and a button-up long sleeve cotton shirt.

"I aint got no sandals..." Shedwood explained.

"And...?" Clarissa waited, not getting it.

"And I don’t like wearing gymshoes with shorts." Shedwood continued rather weakly.

"Are you ashamed of your legs or something? Did you get in an accident since the last time we talked?" she fished.

"No!" Shedwood defended himself.

"Then quit being wierd and go put on some shorts. It’ll be hot enough without looking at you and burning up."

"I’ll take that as a compliment." he said sarcastically.

The telephone rang and the answering machine picked up. It was one of Shedwood’s ex’s. His most recent to be exact. She wanted to know, among other things, if she had left any clothes over because she was missing some things. The sound of her voice made him cringe and suddenly feel stifled. He was glad Clarissa had come by and that he was getting out of the house. He had been out of the sunlight for three days now - a symptom of the depression that always followed a breakup. He had to be careful not to repeat the same mistake he had already made twice - falling for somebody while on the rebound. He’d have to be more careful. Clarissa would keep him out of trouble - she always used to.

"How’s this?" he asked, showcasing some linen shorts.

"Look at those sexy hairy legs. Come over here and let me touch ‘em!" she said setting the photo album down.

"Why you tryin to make me blush."

"Cuz you lookin good and you know it!"

"Awright, awright, chill out wit dat. You know my head aint on straight."

"We could fix that..." she flirted.

"Quit it, Clare." Shedwood said firmly.

"Was it something I said?" she smiled sarcastically, "Today is the day you’re gonna get over your heart troubles, baby. You’re hanging out with me and the sun is shining; and what the sun can’t cure, I’ll take care of..."

She stood up and set the photo album down on the couch.

"Are you ready to leave?"

"Yeah, let me get my keys."

She walked in front of him to the door and stopped suddenly, causing Shedwood to run into her. He knew she was smiling even though he couldn’t see her face.

"Hurry up, I’m getting hot up here." she said.

Something about the way her hair smelled made Shedwood want to bite the side of her neck from behind, and slide his hands around her waist and up the front of her blouse, and bend her over the...

He stopped fantasizing, awakened by the sound of his own breathing. She turned and looked at him like he had a problem and then softened her expression,

"Get the keys and come on." she urged him.

Clarissa had always been one of the sexiest girls Shedwood had ever met and the fact that they were friends sometimes drove him crazy.

He hadn’t noticed it before but when he got in her car and she was putting on her seat belt, he saw that she wasn’t wearing a bra and that the way she wore her shirt kind of said that she didn’t care if any one knew. He wondered if it was intentional, got horny, and felt like a pervert for thinking about it. Maybe she was just more liberated than most girls, he told himself. Maybe she was an exhibitionist. She was like one of those models in a magazine that is always intimating something sexy. He wondered if it was a call for attention though he couldn’t imagine Clare starving for any attention, as many boyfriends as she’s had. But that kind of thinking, that psycho-analysis, put their relationship in danger once, a long time ago, so he ignored it. He loved the sexual tension in their relationship though he would swear it was only one sided. He never really thought of himself as being attractive in her eyes.

After a long lunch of pasta, seafood and soup and salad, the two did some window shopping in the neighborhood and even picked up a thing or two. Even though he really didn’t have the money to spend, he went half on a jade hair comb for her. It was a fashionable piece of art that had caught her eye in one of the stores they went into. He realized that whenever he hung out with Clare, he wished he were a millionaire - it would take one to afford her tastes. And while he thoroughly enjoyed her company, the realization that he didn’t have what it would take to keep her tainted each occasion with a drop of sadness.

When the two had come out of the store, both carrying her bags, the sun had gone down and Clarissa was disappointed that they had missed viewing it off the lake. They went by her place to drop off her bags and then went to Shedwood’s.

When they got upstairs to his apartment, Shedwood checked the answering machine and got his schedule of things to do written down for the next day. While he was doing that and sorting through his mail, Clarissa made use of the bathroom and then disappeared into the bedroom. When Shedwood came through the door, she was standing in the closet, with her back to him, sliding her arms through the sleeves of one of his tee shirts.

"Aint nobody tell you to go ramblin through my stuff."

"You have some boxer shorts?"

"You are a trip." he said as she looked through his drawers and found a pair of his favorite silk boxers with a pattern of Marylin Monroe sucking on a lolly-pop.

"These are cute." she commented, picking up a towel and walking to the door. "Are you coming?"


"To take a shower with me."

He watched her face closely with one eyebrow arched, to see if she would crack. She didn’t. He opened his mouth to say something but only looked stupid for a second or two.

"Hope the water’s hot." she said, walking past him and down the hallway to the bathroom.

He looked after her until she closed the bathroom door shut. For a moment he couldn’t bring his thoughts together and just stood in the doorway of his bedroom in a daze. Eventually he tackled the idea that a very close and incredibly attractive friend of his was in the shower waiting for him. What was he going to do? He felt like Adam after Eve had given him some fruit. Half his mind was telling him to handle the situation like she was just another girl, while the other was draining his libido. Too many questions crowded his head and he felt like vegetating on the bed until sunrise.

"Mind if I spend the night?" she asked, walking into the room with his tee shirt and boxers on.

"No." he said, feeling weird.

"Why are you frowning?"

"Am I?"

"Yes..." she said, focusing on his eyes.

He could only shrug his shoulders.

"You have some lotion?"

He walked over to his dresser and handed her a bottle.

"Could you put some on my back for me?"

He was yelling inside, terrified by his loss of control. He felt his feet off the ground, his head was stuffed and his arms were heavy; insecurities he hadn’t known for years came rushing in on him. He wanted to die.

"Woody..." she smiled.

He felt himself losing it.

"You’re gonna hurt the shit outta me if you don’t stop..." he mumbled, a little choked up.

"What was that?" she asked, concern starting to etch itself on her face.

He tried to say something and a big fat tear dropped from his eye and splashed on her forearm. Her smile completely disappeared and she put her arms around him. Tears streamed from his eyes as he trembled, scared and fighting back his feelings. Embarrassed and overwrought, Shedwood fell to his knees crying with his hands covering his head.

"I can’t handle this." he broke down.

"What, baby?" she asked, hurt in her voice.

"I love you too much and I’m scared." he said, calming his voice.

"Woody, look at me. I’m right here in front of you. I don’t know what tomorrow’ll be like and you don’t either. I’ve been hiding it as much as you have, but I don’t want to anymore. Not now. Not tonight. I want to know what its like to be with you. Look at me..." she said, touching his face.

He closed his eyes tighter, ashamed by his tears and afraid of her seeing into him.

"You gotta go."


"Please, Clarissa. I already feel like a fool. I’m sorry." he said, struggling with his pride and humility to get off the floor. She walked out of the bedroom and into the livingroom and sat on the couch in the dark.

After what seemed like half an hour of sitting on the edge of the bed, regaining his composure, Shedwood got up and walked out of the bedroom to see where Clarissa was. He peeked into the bathroom, walking by it and called her name in a whisper because the lights were off. Listening to the darkness, he looked into the living room and saw her silhouette against the dim light from the window. He knelt in front of her and held her hand.

"I’m sorry, Clare. I don’t want you to go. Its just that..."

"No. It’s okay, I’ll go." she said, cutting him off and wiping her face with her free hand.

"No. I..." he insisted.

"I’m gonna go." she interrupted him, starting to get up from the couch.

"Wait a minute, Clare. Sit down. Please."

Something made him reach out to her, to touch his fingers to her face, though he couldn’t see in the dark, and gently caress her cheek. It was wet with tears.

"I’ve had you on a pedestal throughout most of our relationship, Clare, and once you set someone so high, its kinda hard to think... that you’re worthy... to..."

"What?!" she said angrily through tears.

"What do you want me to do?! How you gonna get mad at me cuz I love you so much? So much that you intimidate me - that I’m scared to be who I am; afraid there’s nothing about me that’s good enough for you..."


"You want me to explain it?" he laughed nervously, his throat sore from uncried tears.

"Why do you want me to leave?"

This is getting silly, Shedwood thought to himself.

"There’s nothing in the world I want more right now than for you to stay."

He sat on the couch next to her and the two of them hugged each other until the sun rose again.

Clarissa woke up first and slid from under Shedwood’s arms and went to the bathroom. As she brushed her teeth using his toothbrush, she wondered if she should just leave and knew if she did things would be back as they were before and they could go on playing the game they had played for years now. She thought to herself that if she left, she wouldn’t have to feel the sadness of that love she wants to share with him; that love that brings bittersweet moments. She sighed and gargled. When she looked up from the facebowl, Shedwood was standing in the bathroom doorway.

They looked at each other for a few seconds that seemed like a lifetime and then she lifted the tee shirt over her head, standing in front of him half naked. She watched his eyes nervously and saw their surprise and desire. He was around her, his arms strong and loving, lifting her from the floor and cradling her. She caressed his face as she kissed him and could not help but feel a little unconfortable with the idea of what she wanted to happen. He too felt that twinge of hesitation, and suddenly he felt his arms get weak. He threw her on the bed to keep from dropping her on the floor which brought a shout of surprise and then laughter from Clarissa’s mouth.

"You were gonna drop me." she laughed in disbelief, pulling the sheets over her. Her words sounded so good to him, not because of what they said, but that he was suffocating in what was a vacuum of silence.

"You gained some weight." he forced a laugh, knowing a smile would have hurt.

"Come here." she called to him, arms outstretched.

He climbed onto the bed and felt the tension melting away.

"I’ve been terrible towards you."

He started to interupt but she shushed him with a finger over his lips.

"Listen closely, Woody. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up. I feel like there’s an angel in the room with us and I just feel so... open." she sat back against the headboard and crossed her legs ‘Injin style.’ "I’ve been afraid to open up to you because of how much you mean to me. You’ve been a lot of things to me and lately I’ve begun to realize that choices we both have made as a consequence of our having to live our lives haven’t done much to strengthen our relationship. We don’t talk as much as we used to, don’t write as much as we... as you used to. I miss your poems and your feelings. I miss you. And I know if I don’t take a chance now, I may never have this chance again. I love you very much, as a friend and so much more. I don’t know how realistic it is that we might have a future together, our lifesyles are still very different; but I do know that I want to feel that magic I always see behind your eyes, and I want you to have a part of me to keep..."

Before she could finish, his mouth covered hers, and even though his lips trembled, it wasn’t fear or nervousness. He had written in a poem to her that he desperately longed to taste the warm honey of her kisses and touch her soul with the delicate whisper of his spirit. For the first time in his life he married with all his heart, mind, and soul and drank deeply the waters of her passion. And visions filled her head - of springtime and flowers, oceans and seashells, and all sorts of colors of happiness.

And when they tired, the sun was going down again and they cuddled in each other’s arms, knowing the other as a totally new person yet still the same somehow. And Shedwood found in her warmth something he never wanted to lose - a smile he had never seen her wear before - like that of an abused child resting safely in a most sublime state of peace. And Clarissa cried herself to sleep quietly, because she had never known love to feel so good.

- December 12, 1995