Monday, January 21, 2013

Athena- snippet

        Somehow being without him hadn’t made the world stop as she’d secretly suspected it might. Certainly the view out the window seemed dimmer, the sun and sky lacked luster, but the world carried on, dragging her along however unwillingly. Nearly every other day someone or other was phoning to chat or showing up, they said, because there was a new show or a restaurant they wanted to try or for no discernible reason at all. Keeping her busy. When they would leave, a hard smile would cross her lips as she thought how proud they must be of themselves to be saving her.
        Then she would go to bed. In the dark, the still, the quiet, the bed felt gaping and cold. She snatched at the sheets, crumpled them in her fists, buried her head in the crevice between mattress and pillows, tossed, turned, ached with a nameless hollow pain. All day she waited, longing to be senseless, slumbering, curled and hiding- alone. She knew it was childish and self-indulgent. She felt entitled to it and disgusted by it. It turned out she wasn’t at all who she had thought she was, no independent Athena.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yet Another Snippet

I need to put my hands somewhere, she thought, and looking at him added, so I won’t keep reaching out for you. For in the throng, her fingers intermittently fumbled through air for some tangible piece of him- the cusp of his jacket, the solid flesh of his warm, pulsing hand- to reassure herself she hadn’t been abandoned.

She was disappointed by her cowardice. She’d been so certain he made her stronger.

A couple walked between them, widening the divide and her stomach fell. She felt she was on the verge of a panic attack, could sense the hollow dread unfurling in her chest, and knew it was her own fault. Every choice she had made with regard to him was a mistake. She wondered where her rational mind had gone.

Fretfully she happened to look up and in a gap of mingling forms, he caught her eye. Caught it, held her gaze, transmitted calm and possibly pride in her direction. “Smile” he mouthed.

She beamed, her muddied vision beginning to clear.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gimme Fiction: Snippet- Comfort

He rapped lightly, already turning the knob, made his way through the semi-darkness through the familiar room. Adrift in the queen-sized bed, curled on her side her form shook and trembled. She was beyond conversation, the covers crumpled in the ferocity of her hysterical grip, one corner of the coverlet stuffed between her teeth to muffle the sobs. He thought of calling out, even opened his lips to speak. Below his gaze she gasped as if drowning.

Not knowing what else to do he laid down alongside her. He moved in close and felt her sink her back gratefully against his chest though the deluge continued. He put his arm around her, protecting the breakdown. Warm tears sprinkled his hand. He pressed his mouth to her head. Her hair smelled of citrus and soap.

She cried for a long while, sometimes with curses and anger, sometimes with hushed mourning. Throughout, he held on and kept quiet. He worried that words would wound her more. When it seemed she was winding down he brushed his knuckles against her clammy cheek. She stopped breathing then and held her breath longer than he thought she should have been able to and then as suddenly expelled the compressed air and with it the tension in her shoulders. She went limp against him- worn out, body and soul.

He gathered the liberated linens, unfurled them and pulled them up over her. From the corners of her eyes, through long dark lashes she warily watched him. He separated a few teary strands of hair from her face, hooked them behind her ear. Her eyelids fluttered and fell. Again he laid with her wrapping himself around her as much as he dared. Her hand rose to rest gently on his forearm. He kissed the edge of her shoulder before dropping his head to the pillow.

In the dark he listened for her breathing to calm, strained to tell if she was crying again or resting. He imagined he could make out the sound of her eyelashes gently scratching against her skin, flickering as she dreamed. What did she dream of? What monsters visited her in sleep- what joys, if any? He couldn’t recall if he had ever seen her smile and mean it.

She was decimated, this thing in his arms, stripped of peace, love, sanity- fragile yet tenacious. Put in her place, he wasn’t sure he could fight the savage darkness that seemed to be always reaching for her. His thumb glided along the path from her clavicle to the cleft of her bosom. She stirred and in sleep her breath whispered his name.

“I‘m here,” he whispered in return.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

What is this thing? This heart. This ugly, pulsing mass of muscle, all muddy pink and flowing blue with blood. Twitching beneath the skin in cacophonous rhythms to say: breathe, think, fear, love, die.
It aches, this heart- at once hollow and full to drowning, a single shard of hope or loss enough to bring down the machinery.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gimme Fiction: Safety Glass

“At least it was a clean cut,” he said to himself, leisurely scanning the space before him. Shards of broken glass crunched beneath his scuffed black loafers as he transferred his weight from one swollen foot to the other. He held his left hand out before him, palm downward while with the right he pinched at his nose, unsuccessfully stifling the mucous within.

The pollen seemed to get thicker every year and with each passing year it overstayed its welcome by a few more weeks, languidly drifting here and there, feigning the motions of departure but staying on through the already uncomfortable summer months. He could have sworn that only a few years before, once spring had eased its way into summer he had been able to breathe simply and without thought or aggravation, but no more. Maybe he was just idealizing the past. He sniggered at himself. “Been watching way too many daytime talk shows to come up with a phrase like that, pal.”

Beyond the edge of his well-worn shoes, partially mixed with the sprinkles of silvery glass, spatters of blood had welled up in glistening puddles. He stared intently at the blobs, willing them to rumble with unseen life, to converge into a mass of extraterrestrial ooze; but they lay dormant, thinning and drying by the minute, the liquid crimson scabbing to crispy black.

He heard sirens in the distance and though of T.V. cops, quick-witted and hard-boiled with finely manicured fingertips slapping the cuffs on some stereotype hoodlum. They showed the muck on television- the filth and newspaper raggedness of two-room slums- but you could never smell it. That always bugged the hell out of him. It was always helpful to know what a place smelled like.

Shutting his mouth tight, he pressed the tip of his tongue against the roof of his mouth and attempted a sort of suction to pull the mucous from his nose and down through the back of this throat. After a few frustrating tries he gave up, wishing he’d left well enough alone. Now, a phantom formation of phlegm gurgled in his esophagus and he longed for a bottle of soda to clear it out.

Shifting his agitated stance from standing to squatting, he reached out and picked up one of the more sizeable pieces of glass. The edge of the shard was tipped with blood and the dagger feel of the thing in his palm sent a jolt of squeamish electricity to the middle of his vertebrae. It shook him.

“What the hell is a ‘blue-blood’ anyway?” he asked himself as his mind wandered to fight off the inner chill. “Never in my life have I seen blue blood. They say oxygen turns it red, but well, how do they know? Can’t see it without it getting exposed to oxygen, now can they?”

“Concentrate, buddy-boy. Concentrate.” Creakily he resumed his standing position and looked straight ahead. Brown eyes stared back at him. They’d lost their interest, the unblinking eyes, and the whites of them had gone pearly- no, better say milky. Pearly implies hardness and that wouldn’t be right for those eyes. You knew those eyes were made from tissue, malleable and squishy.

He hadn’t meant to think ‘squishy’. In truth, he’d tried not to think it, but it came anyway and then he had images of late night ‘B’ pictures, low in budget but high in laughable gore. Somehow in real life, gore wasn’t nearly so entertaining.

A flutter of a breeze dislodged a section of yellow hair and sent it scampering across the face to which the brown eye belonged. A torn empty paper cup clip-clopped across the ground beside it. Still the eyes did not blink.

Scratching at the wrinkles embedded in his forehead, he moved forward to circle the woman. Running shoes sheltered her feet and black sweat pants had protected her knees from road rash as he body had crashed to the ground. Perhaps a foot away her sinister waxen looking features were posed in a heart-wrenching yelp of terror.

Coming up close to the severed head he bent once more, leaning in to the bloody opening from which, he imagined, her trachea might have whistled had the breeze grown stronger. “At least it was a clean cut,” he said again, this time aloud.

“Christ almighty! What a way to go,” came a boisterous addendum from a member of the crowd gathered on the too green lawns of the suburban street.

Barely hiding a snarl of contempt for the speaker, he rose a final time, staggering slightly in the effort. As he did, he looked up the street where a few yards away the white truck, Safety Auto Glass lacquered to its side, sat like its driver, simpering and small in the wake of the accident.

He shook his head, sniffled and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Funny thing, the glass coming dislodged and flying backwards like that at just the right speed and at just the right angle,” he thought to himself as he meandered up the street away from the shiny vans of the newshounds.

Without needing to turn around he knew that the body was now swarmed with photographers and forensics kids; and probably a good many bugs, too, some invisible and others merely microscopic. He winced at the vision popping up in his mind and turned for a final scan of the scene.

He sighed heavily, the realization almost more than he could bear. She’d seen it coming.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gimme Fiction: Snippet- Sunshine

I never could break the habit of rising with the sun. A hint of daylight and I’m like a sunflower, at attention and looking toward the horizon. There’s a quiet then, a dearth of human activity that I postulate didn’t exist a century ago. People used to need the dawn for motivation; now they need Starbucks or a breakfast burrito.

I can almost believe in the demise of civilization at 7:00 am on a Saturday morning- the streets and strip malls as vacant as an apocalyptic movie set. The world is eerie, vivid, static without the underlying buzz of voices and motors, the soft rubber tread of an overpriced sneaker on the concrete sidewalk. It gives me the heebie-jeebies. As alone as I like to be, a Saturday morning in a city suburb is taking solitude a few steps too far. Maybe it’s a leftover unease from watching Time Enough At Last as a child, but I feel better knowing the others are out there, even if they aren’t invited to knock on my door.

Do I have a point? I can’t seem to recall just now. I may only ramble a while but you’ll have to follow along if you want to know where I was intending on finishing.

Did I mention the “shudders”? No, not “shutters”- shudders. You know, the intrinsic quivering as your mind tells your body something’s amiss. The shudders are a sort of a faint blue with purple in the middle. For me it always starts in the shoulders. They set in about six months ago, a few days before the crash. I didn’t have much concert with them before that. Ferocity takes the lead over fear after you’ve been alone a certain amount of time. I suppose that’d be what the psychs call a defense mechanism.

I don’t need them, but they come.

My mother, she loved flowers- especially black-eyed susans. They looked like her. Her halo wasn’t gold though, more pearlescent. People gravitated to her, told her things, expected her to help them. They liked to make her laugh. I don’t think they even knew why. I’ve never met anyone else who appeared so untainted. I saw her drunk once- was that an adventure! What’s strange is that even melancholy couldn’t dim her radiance. It came from her soul, I think and couldn’t be quashed by mortal trials. It takes sunshine to breed shadows.

The morning was quiet, as I said. Normal, the sky a mild slate with a stretched cotton ball look to the clouds. As I recall, the air was a trifle brisk in accordance with the season. I can’t remember any particular scent. A prairie dog with his black beady eyes was staring from a burrow edging the groundcover.

There wasn’t a rumble or even a tremble. There was nothing. Nothing and then this heat- like getting in your car after it’s been sitting in a parking lot for a couple of hours in August- only this was world-sized. Stifling and comforting at the same time. That’s why it didn’t worry me, to begin with.

It was only later when the heat lasted but the sun died, that I started wonder. All those beautiful flowers wilting, their areolas folding in on themselves like they were hiding from what was to come.