Thursday, April 27, 2017

Friday Night (Blogophilia 9.10)

The text comes in just as he comes in the store: "Working until 6." Damn it. He's early and she's late again. You would think he'd get used to it. Or she would quit agreeing to work over. Lord knows what the fuss would be if it were her waiting on him. Might as well get a cup of coffee and pick up a pizza. Won’t be time for much anything else for supper. 
 
As he approached the Starbucks stand, a chubby woman with wild curly hair and stained leggings stood at the counter. Another lost soul needing a shower to occupy his time. She asked repeatedly the difference between a Grande and Venti. Great. Her conversation seemed not so much with the Barista than with herself. Maybe they are sampling over in the cheese department. Better than waiting for this moron finish.
 
As he crossed over the aisle, he stopped to look at a rather large wine display. The manager had a sense of humor, putting "Menage a Trois" next to "Middle Sister". A bottle of "Josh" should be added, just for chuckles. A trashy novel could be written just from the labels. "Winery Row." Josh committing 19 crimes at Toasted Head trying to get Middle Sister away from that awful Mondalvi family, while Ernest and Julio woo...Wait, wasn't that"Falcon Crest"?
 
Nobody would get it. The ladies would look past that display and go "Oh, New Age is on sale. Let's get a that and some Havarti". Boom, the store just got another $25. It was all for the impulse buy, to separate you from the maximum amount of money. The way of the world. At least the world he was used to.
 
Nobody was at the cheese department, so with a sigh, he heads back to Starbucks and woman is gone. The barista's highlights are old and faded, but somehow she still smiled. Venti Pike's was ready and handed over with a knowing wink. He'd been doing this too long. At least the chair is open and the phone has a full charge. Candy crush to the rescue.
 
Somewhere into the second game, a drift of a one way conversation worms into his consciousness. The voice is shaky.
 
"Yes...I've talked to the doctor and he won't extend my prescription...But nobody understands...It's a matter of life and death...Let me have that number and I'll call you back...It's a toll free call?...I hope I have enough time on my phone..." Click.
 
The woman's back is to him. She's strung out. Makes sense.
 
"Yes...I need this for my anxiety...No, you don't understand...I've got..Hold on, I've got another call...This is she...You'll front me four days?...Bless you...How long...See you then...Hello, I'll call you back..." 
 
Softly, she placed the phone on the table and turned toward him. In a squeaky voice, she said:
"Hello. I'm a writer."
 
A small smile ran across his face.
 
"Really? So, am I. Are you published?"
 
Her eyes went toward the floor.
 
"Not in a long time. Back then it was mostly scientific stuff. But I had an accident and with concussion I have constant anxiety. I have to have my meds just to exist."
 
"That's terrible." He said, taking a sip of the cooling cup and not mentioning his eavesdropping. "I suppose you've heard all the thick skull jokes."
 
She frowned at that.
 
"I think I'm paranoid. No. Not that, more complicated. Poetry and rhymes are always running through my head."
 
"That's a good thing, usually."
 
"No, it's not. I'm manipulated. They make me fall down for a thrill I hope they'll prop me up with some more pills. I'm going down to the Pharmacy to see."
 
The tune almost immediately began playing in his head. Funny how a song you haven’t heard in twenty years pops up so readily. With a shrug, he returned to his game, shoulders twitching to the imaginary beat.

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Topic-Toll Free Calling- Barbara Kausteklis
Pic Guesses-Pizza (in blog) paella, hot out of the oven, party, three meat, supreme, cheesy, paddle, dinner,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Circus (Blogophilia 8.10)


Yeah, I thought about a story. Couldn’t really get a good idea.
 
Then I thought about writing about Easter and Holy Week. That had some possibilities, since the statement “He is risen” and copious amounts of incense brings back all the back-slid to prove they are still alive. In their day-to-day lives, Sunday morning church service is not an enormous priority. But either through guilt or fear, they find their way back on Easter. And as a church usher, I have to heard these feral cats here and there in such a way everything works smoothly, while the clergy on the altar run the show. 
 
I could write a bit on Tax Day. I’ve been an accountant all my career, and I can always count on two rings for that show, The first week in February and the seven days leading up to April 15. You would think with modern technology the process would be more organized. Nope. The first ring wants their money and they want in now! The second group don’t want to pay the money. But unless they are Donald Trump, they got to pay. File the extension and I’ll see you August 15.
 
Ultimately, the three ring circus that I can’t get rid of is Politics. Yes, that clown car of professional fence-sitters and moral trapeze artists promising the world while stealing your wallet. I, sadly, live in the 6th Congressional District of Georgia. As you may be aware, this is the seat held by Dr. Tom Price, who is now Secretary of Health and Human Services. One less of the old guard is a good thing in my opinion. But it does have consequences. 
 
This open seat has been like a dead gazelle on the Kenyan plains. Jackals, hyenas and other carrion eaters are flooding my email and tying up my phone. The television and social media have been the ringmaster for this dog an pony show. Vote for the Democrat (who only lives part time in Georgia and not even in the District). Vote for the Lady (who has a checkered past on holding office to full term). Vote for this gray haired guy (with the reputation of double dealing on the state level). Not to mention the 15 other candidates. PETA and Humane Society succeeded in shutting down Barnum and Bailey. Why can’t they do an expose on this tragedy? I haven’t had an uninterrupted dinner in weeks. 
 
Well, today is the election. There will probably be a runoff. But for at least a week or two, I might get some peace and quiet. 
 
And then we’ll do it again.

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Pic Guesses: Clown Car (in blog), Smiley, Snowmobile, Wash Me, Cold, Why I don’t live up north.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wind Woman (Blogophilia 7.10)

The afghan hung loosely, knots struggling to maintain. The gale was relentless, drumming branches in time to the Beelzebub's whim. There was no time here. The sun stayed directly above, never relinquishing a grip to the moon. Shadowy and slight, the Wind Woman leaned in, stumbling along narrow trail. All she sees turns to brown as the Sun burns the ground. The Fugitive's path would be his, now and forevermore.
It hadn't always been this way.
But she hadn't always been a woman, either.
She had started as a boy. In fact, she still was. But the parts never worked. She favored thought over strength, beauty over violence. At coming of age, the other men knew they had received something different in him and saw the threat to their warrior ways. Fearing retribution, they brought him to the Shepherd saying: "He isn't from God, but from the Devil himself, return him to the land of Nod." Without another word, The Shepherd tossed the scapegoat into the desert with only the clothes on his back.
As the gate shut, the southbound gale began. Turbulent, and tossing tearing the rags off him.Naked for and era and and age, he bounced from boulder to stone. No stopping to contemplate his fate or allow for repentance. Repentance for what, though? He could not turn back time to know the Sin that had preceded his birth. It had been unknowable, unforgiven and unforgivable. 
Pushing toward the rising sun, the dress and afghan landed on his face, blinding him. Mourning colors and not beautiful, they were sheltering. With a struggle, his head slid into the skirt opening. Cloth fell in place as if tailored for his very soul. The garments spoke to him as he wandered, commiserating with him on his fate. The bodice filled and his cheeks fluffed and flushed. A long mane of black extended behind him, a rudder to his sail and his wandering laid strictly on the narrow path. Man was now a woman by chance.
Now and again, she would meet another wanderer, always men, and they wished for companionship. Always honest with the story, some engaged willingly, feeding on her misery. Others were repelled, cursing their fate. Either way, satisfaction never was to be. But those left full from her wounds would add him to their prayers in hope that Mercy would not be blind.. And she would return the prayer, halfheartedly, knowing it was in vain.
One particularly cold time, a screech could be heard over the din. A large bird was caught in the teeth of the blow. Powerful wings beat to keep the creature level above her She knew. This indeed was the Mercy his companions had spoken of. A pricking began at her neck. The sharp point of the needle that had stitched the afghan stood proud from the collar. As he pulled,fine threads were freed. Knots frayed as the cloak returned to ashes and dust. The wind caught thread, winding and twisting it into a thin rope.
A loop was fashioned with effort. Casting upwards, she caught the bird and it began to lift. Soon, they were above the horrid gale. In due time,she was set in a garden of flowers. The black dress was tattered and the walnut, wind burned skin was death in contrast to the life around her. Overwhelmed, tears flowed like a river to the ground.
A voice called out.
"Welcome home, beloved one. The Sin you were cast out for was not yours, but your ancestor's. The village knew their time was short when you came to them, child of beauty. They did not know beauty and they feared it. The wrath shown you accepted more willingly and lovingly than anyone could expect. You never wished ill for others, only for yourself. For that, you will receive here what you did not there."
Another wanderer landed beside her. He, too, was in weeds. They rose together and as their hands touched, the rags fell off. But there was no shame.They were now the lilies of the field. The wind still blew, but with the soft touch of a woman tending a baby and they brought forth their own sweetness to God’s garden.
The beauty sought...became.
And all was good.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Topic-Dave Coon
Pic guesses: Lillies (in blog) God’s garden (in blog) colorful, life, beauty (in blog), Sweetness, Love,
Note: this is a double dip with a Goodreads short story group, using the word Turbulence as the prompt. It took me a direction I’ve never really gone before.

#blogophilia #wind #lLillies 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lake (Blogophilia 6.10)

It had been a wonderful day. The weather was cool, but it didn't keep him out of the canoe. Paddling around the little lake was a tradition with him. There were always neat stuff to see. The girls went with him this time, both of them giggling as Jimmy adjusted the float vests. As he was tightening Emily's, she asked why she had to wear it. Jimmy said he'd throw her out of the boat if she cut up and it help her swim to shore. She giggled at that. 
 
Kathy took the front oar and Emily sat on the gunwale bar. At a hundred feet off shore, Jimmy swung to boat around so everyone could wave back at Karl and Aunt B. Along the way they found an abandoned boat covered with vines, which really fascinated Emily. 
 
She called it Moses Moat after what she had learned in Sunday School the week before. She really did have her mother's imagination. 
 
Everyone jumped when the fish broke the surface going after a fly. Emily asked if she could jump out and see if the vest worked. Mommy said "sure". It only took about fifteen seconds before the cold got her screaming. After a quick laugh, they pulled her back in, wrapping her in a beach towel they had brought and let her drip dry in the sun. 
 
Ol' Sol was now drawing hard against the trees on the opposite shore. Jimmy sat at the table and waited for Kathy and Aunt B to finish cleaning up from dinner. The vegan casserole actually tasted like beef. B mentioned instead of tofu, she was using some kind of textured nut protein and kale and it made all the difference. It didn’t matter really. They were so hungry, they could have eaten raw tofu. 
 
They would need to leave soon. A cool breeze made small ripples along the shore. The breeze and beer made him happy. Maybe Karl was right. He should save up his money and buy a place like this. A spot of refuge in this horrid world.
 
Like a cat claiming its territory, the child climbed in his lap. Still in her swimsuit she smelled of the lake, smudges of dark mud streaked her face and arms. Her hair was frizzy and wild from the day on the water and her skin was almost the color of her hair. Dark rimmed eyes wide with wonder smiled at him. Settling in she took a nibble from a rice cracker in her hand, then fed the rest to Jimmy. 
 
"Daddy?" 
 
"Hmm?"
 
"It sure was nice for Uncle Karl and Aunt B to let us come here."
 
"Yes, it was. Did you remember to thank them?"
 
"Yeah." The little face scrunched up. "Aunt B caught me and gave me a kiss, yuck."
 
The giggle couldn’t be suppressed. 
 
"About as much fun as the Tofu Treat she had for desert, huh?
 
The face turned even more sour. Turning towards Daddy, she wound her hands around his neck and whispered:
 
"Uncle Karl saved me with those jelly beans. He called them carob...but I think they were really chocolate."
 
Then laughing, she turned back and cuddled along his left arm.
 
"Do we hav'ta go home?"
 
Jimmy kissed the top of the sweaty little head. 
 
"'Fraid so. I got to go to work in the morning."
 
Looking, the small hand pointed off to where the sun had disappeared behind the trees.


"Oooh. Look at the sky. It's turning pink."
 
"The sun is going to bed and that's how it turns out the lights."
 
"Ohhh."
 
An upturned crescent moon peeked over the dam to the right. Jimmy pointed at it.
 
"See the moon, Emily? It's coming up to rule the night."
 
"And keep us safe, Daddy?"
 
"Yes, Honey."
 
Breathing slowed in the silence. With a yawn came a question.
 
"Daddy, do you believe in wishes?"
 
"Maybe." Jimmy smiled. "Do you have a wish?"
 
"Yes."
 
"There's the first star."
 
The verse was recited in a whisper.
 
"I wish, I may. I wish, I might. I wish my wish come true tonight."
 
The little eyes closed as the last words came out. He stood up as Kathy came down from the house with a fresh beer. Somebody had said there was only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. Looking at his wife, then his sleeping daughter, he had to agree. Kathy kissed the peaceful little snorer.
 
"Someone had too much fun today."
 
"Yep." Jimmy smiled. "She's ready to pour in to the car seat."
 
"Let me have her and you can pack up. We have to go back to the real world.”

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Whoops, forgot the guesses.
Pic guesses Table (in blog) Refuge (in blog) paradise, table for two, waterfront, quiet time, mosquitoes,

Friday, March 31, 2017

Too Much Bota (Blogophilia 5.10)

So the topic is “On the Road Again?”
Kind of a tough one, since I just did a road trip story.
But, that means I’ll have to use chance operations.
Maybe my mind will get enriched.
Like noticing the pic for this week
Is the perfect finish to a romantic weekend.
Wine with a shower.
Good loofah action there.
Drinking a cup while drinking each other’s cup.
Maybe I should find an old Olds 98.
A boat anchor
With a bench in the back big enough for two
Run it down to Miami
And get it stuck in the Daytona strand
While a cute blonde looks on.
She’s sympathetic
And she has a box of Bota
For when quantity means more
Than quality.
Steamy scents in bedroom
And bathroom
Until all
Ends in a tangle
Of limbs.

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Pic Guesses-Steamy (in blog), Drink from each other’s cups (in blog), Steamy scents (in blog), Loofah action, Relaxing, End of the day, Bed and Breakfast, Alone

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Paul


Yeah, he'd skipped last period. It wasn't like he wasn't going to pass History. He'd aced all the tests and reading was done for the semester. Only thing left was the Lit term paper due Friday and he’d be done. Time until summer marked in long, boring hours in little square cells. Newbie idiots wasting time with irrelevant questions. Buzzing drones putting him to sleep. Water torture would be better. Time to go to the woods and chill.

The far gym door was the only one that didn't have a camera on it. A security hole found when Quinn the Quarterback pushed him out of it into the rain. After a little begging, Carly,this fat girl with a crush had let him back in, with Coach Woody none the wiser. They ended up kissing in the cafeteria later. Too bad her Dad didn’t let her date.

Grabbing a ball, he’d shoot hoops in sequence until he could slip out the back, Jack. Jericho High School might be run like a prison, but some inmates knew how to bust out. The route went across the baseball field to the gap in the left field corner. On the other side was the trailhead. The path went down into a pine thicket then left into laurel thick enough to hide anyone. His place was hundred yards further, an old lean-to some hobo built years before. It had a chair and a small bookshelf filled with sci-fi picked up from yard sales. Paul would occasionally play his phone. But the quiet of the woods was drew him there.. No stuck up rich kids making fun of his black shirts and long hair.

It all went away when he saw the leg, the foot hanging on the creek bank. The smell was horrible. Paul didn't ever remember calling 911, just the cops showed up and hustled him back the ball field. Random questions from different officers. One pulled him aside and gave him a pat down. No cuffs, but they did put him in one an unmarked car where a lady asked a few more questions. A man in a suit, who appeared to be the lady’s boss came up and said we needed to go to the office for a statement. But before they did, they called Mom. He begged them not to. But the cops said she had to be there because he was a minor.

The interview itself was easy. Who are you? Tell me about your day? Why were you in the woods, et cetera... Paul answered mechanically. He didn't mention his spot, though. Just that he was walking through the woods. They asked if he knew the deceased.Not really and it was the truth. His name was Barry, but he’d never said his last name. Once or twice, he had panhandled Paul. Mom said he was drug dealer and he should stay away from him.

What he didn’t say was Barry had stumbled into the shelter last week with a six pack. As they split the beers, he talked. Confessed was more like it. Mom was right: Barry had been to prison. A buddy of his asked him for a ride, which turned into a robbery. Wrong place at the wrong time was how he’d put it. Did three years and here he was. He didn’t say where and Paul figured it wasn't smart to ask. Too much information lead to judging happened and Paul got judged too much already.

The interview was winding down when Paul remembered something. He'd walked up to the 7-11 after school Wednesday to get a drink. Barry was talking to an old lady in the parking lot, next to this ancient VW bus. They asked if he could describe her. He hadn't paid much attention, but the van looked like something from a Hippie archive, gross green and covered with flowers. The woman had long curly gray hair done up like a bird’s nest and wore a flower dress that hung down past her knees. It wasn't like they were shouting, but the conversation looked kind of serious. Barry waved and went back to talking. It was the last time he had seen Barry alive.

It was almost 11 when they left the station. The car ride home was quiet, but Paul could tell Mom was going to blow, which is what happened as soon as they got home. He turned over his phone for skipping class. That was fair. But she kept going on about how he was going to end up a worthless drunk like Barry and his Dad. Time to leave.

"I told you not to go back in those woods!"

Those were the last words before the door slammed behind Paul. Mom meant well. But she sure wasn't helping. He pulled the hoodie close to ward off the chill air. Barry had been a weird dude, sure. You weren’t supposed to die out in open and alone. But, when you don’t have family, I guess that happens. At least Dad, for all his faults, had me. Even Mom stayed there to the end.

The night air was cool and helped his mind slow down. And as it did, the questions started. The lady detective said he’d been dead a couple of days. But how about before, a blanket or something? It wasn't like he could have stopped him drinking. Paul thought back on his Dad. Dad was still more or less functioning up to the end, but always with a pint of vodka in him. The threats of death when Mom would pour his bottle in the toilet. And the car trips. How they didn't die in crash amazed him. He would go to work, put in his hours, come home and drink night away.

Barry and Dad were similar in another way. They were generally were calm people. You could tell them they were on fire, Dad would shrug his shoulders, Barry just stared.

Was Barry Dad's ghost? He felt a sudden chill. Maybe he'd been haunted all this time and never realized it. But it didn't make any sense, though. Barry didn't look like Dad. With a shrug of his shoulders, he walked on. He looked up and was stopped dead in his tracks.

The old lady’s vomit rocket was parked not fifty feet in front of him, flashers on and engine cover raised. A time machine glowing in the moonlight. She was sitting beside it, flowing curls dangling over her stocky shoulders and crying. Her body shuddered on each breath.

The hairs on the back of Paul's neck rose. He thought about crossing to the other side of the street, but instead, a pull like a chain drew him in. The scent of patchouli mixed with some really bad weed invaded his nose. A bird like voice floated in the air, repeating something over and over.

"I didn't mean to do it. I thought it had been his time."

The words escaped Paul before his brain engaged.

"What did you say?"

The old hag jumped like she had been shocked. She quickly got to her feet.

"None of your...oh, sorry." She gained her composure. "Just an old friend of mine passed last night and I...well, I wish I had been there."

Barry?

"Yes." The hazel eyes widened. "Did you know him?"

"Sort of." Paul shrugged. "He'd stumbled into my place in the woods a few weeks ago. He was pretty drunk and I let him stay under my shelter until he sobered up."

The broad face became placid. She leaned into him.

“You gave him comfort?”

Comfort? What was she talking about?

“I guess. All I did was sit there. He talked until he passed out.”

The woman smiled.

"Since you are here, can you give me a hand?"

Paul was hesitant. There was something creepy about this woman. But the alternative was back home to Mom and her screaming.

"Sure. What do you need?"

"Have you ever worked on an old car?"

"No. My mom doesn't drive and she sold ours when my Dad died."

"That's O.K." A wicked grinned cracked across the face. "I could tell you had a loss. I saw it when you waved at Barry. Probably not one of my clients', though."

It was Paul's turn to stare wide eyed.

"Clients?"

It was all she could to keep from laughing.

"I guess you deserve an explanation. The wrinkled hand grabbed his and shook it..” My name is Kari, Kari Summers. By day I design and sell jewelry, mostly at craft shows and such. But at night...let's just say I help those who...are transitioning."

This description didn’t help Paul's mind at all.

"Transitioning?"

"From this plane to the next.Those who might be having..."

A sense of rage started deep in his center.

"You help them die?"

"Oh, not actively, Young Man." Kari quickly said. "I know it sounds like I smother them or something, but no. There are folks, broken and lonely ones, who find themselves alone when their time comes. I help them along."

She pulled a travel mug out of the van and took a drink.

"When I was a young girl, I sat with my Grandmother when she passed. My mother couldn't do it. When she was in the room, Grandma would get fidgety and restless. But when I came in and held her hand, she became as calm as a pond. A force put our hands together over her heart. It slowed and stopped. As the last breath came, she smiled in relief and ecstasy."

She offered the mug to him. He shook his head. Putting it back in the cup holder, she continued.

"Mom began calling me Death Angel. Didn’t like it at first. I thought it was creepy, as you probably do. But as I got older, I realized the gift. Over the years, I have helped many take those final steps over the bridge. And this is where your friend comes in. Barry had come to me, begging for money. At the first look, I knew his time was short. But I wasn't sure if he realized how short."

A lightning bolt flashed behind Kari. Paul wanted to leave, but it was like his shoes were nailed to the pavement.

"I decided to stay in town to see if I was needed. Later that night, I was walking in the woods where they found him. He came behind me and grabbed around my neck. He attempted to...have his way with me." Tears came to the old woman's eyes. " I touched his heart and...it stopped."

Paul sunk to the ground as the thunder rolled. Barry was as bad as Mom said. The tears came and he wailed. Kari read his mind.

"Oh, no, Honey." Placing her hands around his shaking shoulders. "I have no hate for Barry. He thought I was vulnerable, but he misread who I was. Yes, I would have lead him over the bridge with a kiss and a hug. It’s the happiest way to go. Instead, he made the choice to crash over the rail."

Paul slowly found his voice.

"You said it wasn't his time."

"No. It was supposed to be tonight. And now, because of what happened, he is between the worlds."

"Any way to get him back?"

"Not from this world, I'm afraid." Kari smiled. "You did him a favor by speaking to him. Your voice will accompany him wherever he goes through the ether."

She closed the engine bay of the van.

"Oh, one other thing. Your Dad was at peace with the universe when he died. So are you."

The hug was unexpected. She slipped her hands under his shirt as she kissed him deeply. The heart turned cold and the taste of bitter almonds filled his mouth. Silently, the shell lay down at her feet, smiling.

“Enjoy your trip.”

Friday, March 24, 2017

Santa Monica Boulevard (Blogophilia 4.10)

Sweat beaded along the wrinkled brow as he hosed off the muck. The temperature gauge on the side of the building read 113."Lo, though I walk the valley of death, I shall fear no evil", wasn't it how it went? It had been so long since he'd with those hypocrites, he wasn't sure anymore. There was something about comfort, nourishment and guidance. 
 
Nothing was comfortable. Dragging a damp cloth along his graying stubble, he thought of all the things he had been told wrong. Fornication was evil. Chloe showed him it was enlightening. Up really was down. It made him think God was Darth Vader altering the deal. Maybe he should pray it doesn't get altered further. He might get crushed in the aftermath.
 
She had left home the week after graduation. The note said she couldn't take the Trumpe L'oeil of the "marriage". Phoniness was the hallmark of those 20 years. The mask of civility on the outside, deceit and mutual loathing in. Yet, the girl had her own phoniness. Ex found a picture of her kissing a girl naked. He had known her orientation but kept the confidence. The girl's name was never spoken between them again. Homosexuality was an abomination to be shunned. The dish cut his face when he brought up her adultery. 
 
The final drive was uneventful. Desert gave way to irrigated fields and golf courses, then to 80 miles of city leading to the beach. No freeway, though. There was nothing to learn from the concrete. Sure, it took longer. Time was all he had now. Redlands, Fontana and San Bernadino slipped silently into the rear view. It was hard to tell which was which. In Azusa, the rain stopped along with the traffic.
As he waited, he noticed the palm and eucalyptus trees placed tastefully outside each fast food joint, office and car lot. A scene so much different than the open scrub lands of the last thousand miles. All happening with the turn of natures kaleidoscope. Mid sized hills and mountains lined the valley creating a tunnel, no a funnel, to deliver him to the sea. 
 
Was her hair still blonde and long? He wondered. The phone call had come a few days after the divorce became final. She was working at an upscale lingerie shop facing the beach and she wanted to see him. In his typical passive-aggressive way, he'd said sure, but never committed to any time line. The job disappeared the next week. The Universe had spoken.
 
The cars eventually cleared. Like a horse heading for the barn, the van plowed though the unfamiliar traffic like it had always lived there. Dodger Stadium came on the right and a game was just starting. Maybe he could stop. It had always been on his bucket list. The van kept going as if it knew there would be time enough to get that.
 
Stopping for gas at Santa Monica and Sunset, the thought of driving those fancy hills floated by. It only lasted a minute, though. He was ready to see his rocking little girl. The street wasn't flashy. One and two story strips nestled against the sidewalk. The standard mix of car washes and bars. Parking always in the back. He should have picked up some Buds to go with the song. Didn't matter though. It was all background noise, really to go with the endless run of buildings. 
 
Hollywood morphed into Beverly Hills and the monotony continued. The cars cutting him off were nicer, but the middle fingers looked the same. A Chili Peppers song came on the radio, giving him a headache. Weren't they all in the end? He turned off the noise. Passing the 405 bridge, Route 66 ended. A mix of anticipation and dread rose out of the tar pit of his mind. He turned right at the light.
Ocean Avenue looked like all the tourist streets. The stucco exteriors were mostly off white, with an occasional pale pink or orange. Boutiques for the rich alternated with tacky t-shirt pavilions. A few high rise apartment buildings here and there. Beach bums of varying sobriety sunned openly on the sidewalks. Shapely girls jogging in fluorescent spandex, busts flying and pony tails constricted by ball caps. It could have been a T.V. show. 
 
Beyond the street and down the cliff was the beach itself, surprisingly not crowded given the weather. The place he was looking for was just past Arizona. Pulling into a gated lot in the next block, he took the ticket and locked up. The lay low on the southwest horizon. The sky had just the slightest hint of pink. A slight breeze came off the water, cooling the parking lot and drying the sweat from his face. Had she eaten?
 
The mannequin at the door was dressed like Betty Page. The set was made of leather, rather than lace. In the hand was a riding crop. Was that really what she was into? The door jammed a little as he opened it, announcing his entry with a loud rattle. His daughter suppressed a scream when she saw him. The one other customer, a tiny black woman with a tiger patterned scarf weaved through her dreadlocks, paid for her undies and left. 
 
The changes were amazing. The head was shaved bald, with a small tattoo of a spider at the crown. A rhinestone horseshoe twinkled on her upper lip, with several other piercings scattered along the face. Faded roses lined the left arm, while a lightning bolt peeked from the right. Her personal map of experience for everyone to see. Being in view made it more honest than his. She would always have that advantage. 
 
The hug went on forever. Touching replaced all the years they had missed. 
 
But she was still his little girl. And this girl rocked his world like no other.
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Pic guesses: Let’s dance, Boogie, Get down, Have some fun, Break dancing, HipHop, World dance, Rainbows.