Monthly Archives: August 2013

Time

The quiet settled in, really set in, to the point where you could hear it for the first time since they left.

Devlin eased himself back into his chair and closed his eyes. The visits were growing fewer and farther between. He noticed it mostly after his Marie passed. It was partly the time and the sense of sadness he was sure, but also because everyone was getting older and working to control the things in their own lives that often steer people far away to places unknown.

Wrapped in the quiet, he played his favorite moments of the long weekend over in his head, creating memories like photographs he hoped he could recall later, their faces, their smiles, their laughter.  Not just the images, but the warmth as well. He drew a deep breath and smiled.

The laughter was good, so were the hugs, but the laughter was like medicine, especially from the small ones.

He didn’t want a pall of sadness to settle over their visits, so he tried his best to compensate for Marie’s absence, though he was admittedly lost in the kitchen.

He looked over at that last family portrait, the one where Dex insisted in using his “TV smile,” and Alex, who at the time insisted on being called, “Jayne” because it was more grown up.  They never had another one done. They talked about it, but it never happened. He studied the faces, the eyes. He missed them already.

Where does the time go?

Smoke

Mert smelled smoke. Not a strong smell as much as a hint, a whiff. And not the acrid smell of something that shouldn’t be burning, something amiss. Rather, it was a transporting scent that triggered a mental postcard of people camping and laughing, of cooking s’mores and perhaps a few singing around the burning centerpiece of a communal gathering.

Someone somewhere was sitting down to an ice-cold beer, ready to dig into something his doctor told him he probably should cut back on, but figured he deserved after the day he had.

Someone somewhere was holding a hand and saying nothing while watching the wind play in the leaves.

Someone somewhere was laughing so hard they were finding it hard to breathe.

He seemed to hate the notion that someone somewhere might be having more fun than him…any fun in fact while he was stuck doing this. Still, he let the images and thoughts linger.

He pulled the truck to a stop and slid the door open. Even with the sun dropping, it was hotter than he liked it and the gush of heat slapped him like a big wet towel. The weatherman on WFRX labeled the day a “scorcher.” All Mert knew was that it was hot and if it was a hundred degrees it might as well be 200 degrees for all he could do about it.

He grabbed his tools from the back, slid the back door shut and headed to the door, wiping the droplet of sweat that was forming on the tip of his nose away with his sleeve.

Another hint of smoke, made him pause. This time it carried with it the image of grilled cheeseburgers and icy blender drinks.

Once at the front step, he rang the doorbell causing a whir of commotion inside; dogs barking, kids running and yelling, and a mom trying to hold the chaos at bay. Tracing the barely audible footsteps, he counted the seconds off until the deadbolt clicked and the door swung open.

“Mom” stood there before him, hair up and sweating, and waving a paper plate before her face with a ferocity that said if she didn’t get some relief quickly, she was probably going to kill someone. Not literally of course, but she meant business.

“Finally,” she said in a tone which was part relief and part pent up frustration. “Let’s get to it! Do you have any idea how horrible it is to have your air-conditioning crap out on one of the hottest days of the year?”

The images of camping, and cheeseburgers, and beer evaporated in a puff.

Voices

The post accident recovery seemed to go smoothly. Sure, it took time. But with time, Cliff was able to regain all of his cognitive abilities, his blurred vision cleared, pretty much as the doctors said it would, and even the limp was going away.

In fact, because the ordeal cost him a few pounds and gained him some much need sleep over the past few months, Cliff could admit that he might feel better now than he had before the crash.

The only exception was the music.

His speech was fine. His hearing was fine. All was well in his world now until he listened to music. Not all music, mind you. Orchestral, or anything instrumental was fine. But when it came to lyrics, there was some disconnect, some quasi-organic algorithmic bio flaw in this thinking that prevented him from hearing or understanding all the words as they were intended. He forgot how the doctors described it, and it really didn’t matter because they didn’t have a name for it anyway.

Sometimes it was every other word. Sometimes it was every third, fourth or fifth word. There didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to it and despite more testing, the doctors were stumped. They said it might be a frequency thing. It might be altered brain waves or patterns. But no matter the condition or cause, they agreed that as long as he wasn’t suffering any ill effects from the phenomenon, he was still considered fully recovered.

Cliff was not as convinced, for while the doctors said he was fine and that the condition might very well pass with time like his limp, music was changing for him.

If the condition were regular or something that could be easily recreated, it might be easier to write off, but it wasn’t. The music now held different messages for Cliff. It spoke to him in different ways.

Where others might hear songs of love and adoration, the glories of summer or the wonders of the moon, he received…different messages…darker ones. Strands of broken lyrics reached out to him from everywhere.

The average person probably doesn’t realize how much music they might encounter in a day, in even a short stroll. Cliff was well aware…now. Songs weren’t just songs anymore. They were messages, like voices, but from where and why? More importantly, how could he make them stop?

Trigger

As he passed the cafeteria on his way to his next morning meeting, Miller caught a whiff of tomato soup and was instantly transported back to the days of his youth.

Tomato soup was at the top of the menu the day he ended up in principal Murphey’s office for the epic explosion that resulted from a single bad idea, an ill-timed execution of that idea, vast over-reactions everyone and then some and the unfortunate, and untimely demise of Mrs. Krenner’s 5th grade class mascots, the hamsters Jenny and Crouton. May they rest in peace.

He worked to block a lot of that day from his memory and after all this time some of the details were starting to get hazy, but the smell of that tomato soup brought it all crashing back.

He remembered the way he was escorted to Mrs. Murphey’s office surrounded by four of Kirkdale Elementary’s larger teachers as if he were enemy number one. He seems to recall they were all armed with yardsticks.

They had to pass the kitchen on the way, and he recalls time slowing up for a moment as they walked by the door. His brief sideways glance allowed him to catch a glimpse of the secret inner workings of the school lunchroom.

Two women were emptying large cans of tomato soup into what seemed like an enormous vat. The woman directing the activity, whom he will forever remember as Olga – even if that was not her name – stirred the cauldron with a gigantic spoon, slowly and deliberately. He remembered her catching his gaze between the orders she barked out to her minions and it was a stare he felt deep in his chest as if a cold hand was squeezing his heart.

Photo Bomb

Biggs passed the photograph back to Chance, “I’m sorry. For the tenth time, I don’t see him, and you’re starting to freak me out.”

Chance snatched the photo from Biggs and held it in front of his face peering at it, into it, as much as he dare, for to him is was clear as day.  The trip out to Billing’s Pass was one of the best days ever. In the photo, as he remembered taking it, were his three best friends in the world, Biggs, Toad and Captain Don.

The three stood by the sign that labeled the site of the falling water as Ellinger Falls. Captain Don was holding out his hands to the sign channeling Vanna White. For the first dozen times he looked at it, the image seemed fairly normal and mostly like he remembered it, but after that, a face, no – the likeness of a whole person began to appear as if it were some time delayed photo bomb coming to life.

It was a man whose face was pale with dark eyes, or at least there were dark circles under his eyes. He was taller than the three of them, and yet he looked hunched over as if he was standing on a rock or something behind them and was forced to bend in to avoid having his head cut off by the frame. The grinning face was wedged between Toad and Captain Don while hands had formed on their shoulders as if he was just one of the gang, one big happy family.

“You have to see it,” Chance urged holding out the image to Biggs again. “He’s right there!”

“Sorry man,” Biggs said waving away the image. “I see what I see, or don’t see.” He got up and moved into the kitchen.

Chance looked at the image again, but again…it changed. As he looked at it, watched it, the image began to shift in his hands. It wasn’t the gradual sort of, hey I don’t remember that being there before kind of change. This time there was real movement.

The hands on the boy’s shoulders grew longer. The fingers seemed to wither into what looked like claws and the grip seemed to increase with the finger tips drawing into points like claws that began to dig into the boy’s flesh. A small trickle of blood dripped from Captain Don’s shoulder as he stood there smiling with his hands reaching out to the sign. Ellinger Falls. Captain Don didn’t seem to notice or care.

The skin on the face drew taught to render a bonier appearance and the simple, sly grin grew wider and wider until it sat disproportionately and nearly all-consuming on the face. The lips pulled back incapable of maintaining their hold over the emerging fence of teeth behind them. The teeth were jagged and broken in spots, yet also pointed and sharp as if they were filed into dangerously sharp points.

Chance watched silently as the strange image of the man began to sway as if he were held back from him, trapped in place by the images of the boys before him, his friends. It pulled and weaved looking for a means of escape. Finding none, he stopped to find Chance’s gaze and held it. The clawed fingertips dug deeper into the soft shoulders they perched upon.

Chance’s arms quivered with a cool ripple of bumps as the hair stood on end.

If it were even possible, the thing’s grin grew wider. The rows of dangerous teeth opened, yet remained loosely connected by thin quivering strands of saliva and what looked like what might be blood.

As the dark eyes held his gaze, Chance was helpless to look away. Behind him, as the mouth of the thing in the image moved, a soft, gravel-filled whisper rose up from what sounded like just behind him. A hot light ‘breath’ brushed against his ear that carried with it the stench of garbage and rot.

“You’re mine!”

Lists

Like a kid stuck in math class who looks longingly out the window at the playground swings, Jaxon stared at is paints, his canvas, his brushes.

His ‘to-do’ list was a hundred miles long, but his ‘want to-do’ list was vastly shorter. It seemed the safety and care of the entire world stood on the success of his completing the to-do list. What did he stand to gain from working his want to-do list?

The to-do list was self-perpetuating. Items seemed to appear on the list in bunches like rabbits in springtime.

His want to-do list remained short, manageable, contained, and yet just as seemingly impossible to conquer.

At the end of the day, he would look at both lists only to find that despite what he felt might be progress, was actually very small and insignificant steps toward accomplishing anything. Tomorrow, the lists would lay in wait for him. He would start with the to-do list and try to get as much done on that as quickly as possible with the hope of getting to the want to-do list, but already, he knew how that would go. 

Slow Learner

It was hot, too hot.

And he knew that even before he put it in his mouth. It was burning his fingers, so clearly the next obvious step to avoid damage to his fingers was to get it in his mouth, which was the ultimate part of the plan to begin with.

He had all the time in the world. There was no reason for him not to wait for it all to cool down to something easy to handle and easy to consume. The only rationale was that there was no rationale. He had to get this hot molten thing in his mouth right now for fear that it might vanish, or that the flavor might evaporate or that someone will see him eating this thing while it was clearly too hot. The need was primal.

Now, there was nothing but hot consuming his mouth. Burning, not flavor and the roof of his mouth would punish him for days for doing such a stupid thing. Even the mouth knew it was too hot, but the mouth has never had the strength to fight the hands, especially when the fingers are in jeopardy.

Saliva rushed to the rescue filling any space not taken up by what the brain could only surmise was lava. It seeped a bit from his lips.

“HOT, HOT, HOT,” the brain screamed, “WARNING!”

He tried to push the glob to his teeth, but his tongue protested, “HOT!”

He stood there, sucking in air and feverishly waiving his hands in an effort to cool the thing, end the pain, and minimize the potential damage.

There was only one choice left. He tossed his head back moving the thing to the back of his teeth where he chewed maniacally, sucking in cooling air as fast as he could and hoping by breaking it down quickly and cooling it at the same time, the horrible ‘hot’ would go away.

He swallowed.

As if determined never to give up, the evil glob of hot fought for life all the way down, burning everything it could touch, before it ultimately vanished into the stomach.

He grabbed his glass and chugged it down, not even remembering what it was. The cooler liquid did little in the moment to provide relief and seemed to instead, highlight each spot the hot glob touched in its battle for survival. Each spot a tiny reminder of his silly and fruitless behavior.

He sighed.

He was sweating a little.

He looked over at the pan.

Maybe now it has all cooled down enough for another try.

Rage

The rage swelled up inside him, pressing heavily against the worn and rusty latch where he kept it. To say it was in his mind was wrong. The rage dwelled in the dark shadows and recesses near his soul, but when triggered, the mind was its playground.

He had mere seconds for rational thought as the feeble latch, grown weaker from years of valiant service, held admirably. Decision time and the question was simple. Do I suppress the rage or release it?

Suppression meant calling upon some form of energy cavalry to rise up and quell the insidious rage, a force that generates instant thoughts of perspective and common sense into the brain to combat the swell. Are you really getting this mad over this?  It’s an unexpected bill. It’s a spilled bowl of taco dip. It’s just not that big a deal.

To release? To release meant working the latch just enough to undercut its integrity and allow the rage to do the dirty work. It meant setting free the full on raw emotion of all things wrong and unfair. Yes, it’s taco dip, but that’s just one thing, the camel’s straw, the tip of the ice burg of all things wrong and dysfunctional in this world from the second that bowl tumbled from the refrigerator and on and back to when his bike was stolen when he was nine and a half years old.

The rage was primal, raw, irrational, immature, greedy and…exquisite.

The rage always came with consequences, something to fix, an apology to make. But those moments, drenched in pure human emotion, writhing and contorted by unadulterated anger and fearless of self or other of exhaustion and tears, could be cleansing. It could be a welcome release, a way to drain the tank of frustration and woe that might give the latch a chance to fight another day.

He looked down at the dip that had splashed across his sock covered foot, the floor and started a short climb up the cabinet wall next to him. His foot surrounded by broken glass.

Thud

There was a loud thud, followed by silence.

Chince looked up from his book and gave the room a quick once over. Nothing drew his attention. He was alone in the room. Everything was as it was before the thud, but at the moment everything seemed just a touch quieter. He froze for a moment wondering if everything was all right or if he should investigate. Chester had been up in the attic for nearly an hour. It was a warm day, but it was always warmer in the attic.

Chince listened to the quiet, squinting a bit as if that would make him hear better.

A sudden scraping noise cut the silence followed by another profound thud. Then, an exuberant exclamation of the name of our lord and savior and the wish that he condemn all things to Hell rose into the air from above him.

Chince sat a bit longer. If Chester needed help, he would ask right? He closed his book and laid it softly on the end table. He listened to the returned quiet, squinting and moving his eyes back and forth a bit like a cartoon spy.

“Dammit to Hell!” came another roar from above.

Chince looked up. “Are you all right?” he called out.

Silence.

He sat up a bit and inched to the edge of his chair. “Chester?”

“WHAT?!” Chester’s voice, muffled a bit by the layers of the house, rained down upon him dripping with frustration. Another thud rang out to which Chester responded with an even more frustrated, “DAMMIT!”

“ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?” Chince called up to the ceiling.

Silence again.

THUD!

“CRAP!”

“Chester?”

“Wha…”

THUD

“SHI…

THUD

“I’M FINE!”

Relief

Ezra plunged his head down.  After the initial roar of the water and ice settled, the sounds of their voices, of their laughter, faded into the soft rattle of the ice cubes tapping against the walls of the steel sink.

The water was bracing, yet refreshing. He closed his eyes and held himself there as he worked to push everything from his head. It was too much.

A very faint, soft ringing rose up into his head as the body started to react to the time it had gone without a fresh breath. His hands gripped the edge of the sink for a bit of stability. He forced his head down to where his forehead rested gently on the sink floor. Another cold tap of relief greeted him when his skin touched the metal.

He thought about pulling out, taking another breath and plunging back in again, but he didn’t want to break this string of relief. In the water, there was nothing but the water. Outside of the water, at the point where the water now lapped against his neck, the world lay ready to pounce, to kick him again when he was down.

For this moment, for as long as he could hold his breath, he was safe, sober, alone, awake and in some sort of sense, home.

Icon

Tobias clicked through pages and pages of old photos of Marilyn Monroe.

He couldn’t say for sure if he ‘liked’ her or the photos, or even that he ‘enjoyed’ looking at them, at least not the way others seemed to look at them. It was probably more accurate to say he was drawn to them as an odd curiosity.

Yes, she seemed to be a naturally beautiful woman, a representative of what may seem like an antiquated definition of beauty, rooted in a time where beauty was less prone to artificial maintenance and enhancement.

And he was not a fan per se. He couldn’t recall one of her movies that he may have watched end to end. He didn’t read much about her or follow the random tidbits of information that may pop up about her in the news. The anniversary of her death is likely the most common, along with persistent lore and rumor. He didn’t discuss her or defend her. He just looked.

His intentions were not voyeuristic or base. He didn’t study her form or seek fuel for fantasy. Rather, it was her face that drew him to her.

Her time was different from his, so the information he had access to, the fragmented bits and pieces that he pulled together formed a persona in his head of a sort of sad soul. It was harder to see in movies, because people who are directed represented more of that direction than of their own self, but the photos…

Her eyes drew him in. Matched with her smile, he moved from image to image seeing the joy and the history of the moment, and yet, if he looked closely, there lie a tinge of sadness, perhaps a touch of loneliness behind the glitz and the glamour.

Yes, it could be his own thoughts and ideas projected onto those moments that may taint them to some degree, but while Marilyn offered some of the most compelling examples, he saw it in other places too. Faces tell stories. Smiles hide pain. Glances betray joy.  He’d seen it a thousand times, his grandmother, his sister, the Marquet family photo of 1993.

That was the gift of photos. Even that which we try to hide, and hide well, can be captured, and even if only a hint of it is caught and frozen it can reveal the truth of ourselves.

Claimed

Billy pulled the bag from the freezer. As he looked down, his brow furrowed.

“What the hell,” he muttered to himself while inspecting the bag further.  He yelled out, “Jason?”

“What?” Jason bumbled down the stairs to the kitchen where Billy stood with a puzzled look plastered on his face and a bag of frozen hot dogs in his hands. “Those are mine.”

“Yeah,” I gathered Billy said. “Am I seeing these right? Do they all say, ‘Exclusive Property of Jason Schwartzman’ on them?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Each one individually?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?” Billy asked.

“They’re mine.”

“I get that. It’s clearly indicated on each and every hot dog that they’re yours. How did you do that?”

“With a Sharpie®. I started with a plain one, but then I switched to the fine point. That made it much easier?”

“Why?”

“Duh, the fine point is not as thick, so the letters look better.”

“Why did you use a Sharpie® at all?”

“Well, I figured they would work best, they‘re permanent and non-toxic.”

“No. Why did you feel the need to write on the hot dogs at all?”

“They’re mine.”

“Right, fine. They’re yours. I’ll get to that in a second, but wouldn’t it have been easier just to write on the bag?”

“Well…I didn’t want you to get confused.”

“What, in case some hot dogs I might have somewhere decide to infiltrate your bag somehow and we can’t tell them apart?”

“You don’t eat hot dogs.”

“Which makes this even more bizarre.”

“But yet, here you are in the kitchen hold my bag of hot dogs.”

“Do you really think I wanted to eat your hot dogs? I was looking for something else. I saw these and I clearly remember thinking, ‘What the hell?’”

“I don’t see how it’s so bizarre. You write your name on stuff so I don’t get confused. You have a carton of eggs in there you marked as yours.”

“Right, but you have your eggs and I didn’t go through and mark each one the “Exclusive Property of William Jennings Cooper.’”

“Of course, not.”

“You see my point then?”

“Yeah, you prefer ‘Billy.’”

Photo

He stared at it for a long time.

There before him, his likeness stood frozen for all eternity in a pose that indicated a pinnacle moment, but one he could scarcely remember. It was obviously a clear enough moment for the one who posted it and important enough to them to make them raise it of from the deep-sea of all things past and forgotten to shine under the new light of the modern future.

Was that even him, he wondered.

He didn’t feel he looked like that anymore. He probably didn’t think like that anymore and if he did, he hoped his thinking, and his behavior was a bit more refined.

And what was his obligation to this resurgence of the past? Did he need to explain it? Embrace it? Support it? Deny it? Was there a need to defend this person and these actions – whatever they were? Or was the better choice to ignore it as if it had never come up. Was it really so big a deal as even this amount of consideration?

Still here stared.

That younger face was foreign to him. Those settings, that time seemed connected to him, sort of, but by a very, very thin thread, and so distant that it might have been easy to deny that was him and to make a strong case in support of that. A doppelganger perhaps.
He spent a long time looking at the face, the eyes. Where did that boy go?

Was he a better person now? Did he do enough of the right things between that time and now? And when the current version of himself is forced to recall this time, will he be able to look back on this time and think well of the time that passed? Did he progress? Did he grow? Did he take care of his people? Did he learn enough and do enough to be well prepared to leave the world a tiny bit better than he found it?

An open letter to Mark Burnett

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to Mark Burnett –

Dear mark Burnett:

I don’t know you. Chances are I never will.  I understand you are the reason the show ‘Survivor’ exists. Good for you. I enjoyed watching the first season, but after that, it just got all “same old, same old,” me.

Last night, I had a dream where I was climbing a mountain. At the top of the mountain, you sat in a giant golden chair with bright light all around you making it appear as if you were glowing in regal splendor. There was a line of people waiting to see you. It was Free Idea Thursday. One day of every week, you allowed the little people of the planet a chance to have an audience with you to share their ideas and thoughts about your programs.

You had all the people whose ideas you like carried away on chariots, while the ones you didn’t found themselves mysteriously flung from the mountain by an invisible force.  Screaming.

As with all dreams, the moment it was my turn and I began to speak, while shielding my eyes from your glory…I woke up.

So, because I believe I was destined for your magical chariot ride, here is my idea.

Scandalous Survivor.

Taste that for a moment before you fling me from the mountain.

You gather up all the people who are currently embroiled in scandal and controversy and let them fight for their survival in the very harshest of conditions. These people seem to be skilled liars, keen manipulators, deeply motivated by self-preservation, self-promotion, ego, cash and power. I’d be shocked if their hubris would allow them to decline.

I can sense your interest. Ponder the wonder of possibility as I share with you some thoughts about the cast.

  • Anthony Weiner – too obvious?
  • Eliot Spitzer
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Bob Filner
  • Dick Cheney
  • David Rivera
  • Laura Richardson
  • Tom Delay
  • Maybe that guy who was leading BP at the time of that giant oil spill just to mix it up

The list is virtually endless.

I’ll leave you now and I’ll let you stew on that one for a bit. I’m sure it won’t take long for you to imagine the possibilities. Your skill at bringing the wondrously dysfunctional to our TV screens will certainly help you mold this nugget of inspiration into ratings gold.

Be well. Eat lots of fruit. Oh, and I do enjoy Shark Tank.

– Java

Loneliness

She awoke in the morning,
from a night of restless dreams,
where a faceless body screams out – you’re alive!

Then she stares at the mirror,
taking stock of body aches,
rubbing at the circles near her eyes.

And she welcomes the coffee,
something warm to fill her up,
once his hand but now this cup, oh why?

She retrieves the paper,
looking out into the sky,
wishing for another day to say goodbye.

When she clears the table,
the reporter on TV,
says another normal day has gone by.

And the light turns to darkness,
she runs her fingers through her hair,
one more hand of solitaire, oh my.

As she steps to the bedroom,
She says a silent solemn prayer,
to any angels who may care – oh please!

Stop this endless cycle.
All my work down here is done.
Take me home to the other part of me.