Saturday, March 25, 2017
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."
"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.
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.
"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
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.
Topic Kim Herndon
Pic guesses: Let’s dance, Boogie, Get down, Have some fun, Break dancing, HipHop, World dance, Rainbows.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
A dry breeze rolled down from the hills and across the sands. Grit filled his nose and went under the eyelids. Finally, he slowly opened them. The rim of the valley had taken on the pink glow of sunrise. Stiff, he shucked out of his bag. At least he was upwind of the foul lake.
Riding across Arizona, another force began to pull at him. The trip was all cliches. Winslow had already happened. Chloe was the girl in the Flat Bed Ford. He was now flying down a dark, desert highway, cool wind in his hair.
He laughed. Is this how ear worms start? In Kingman he made the decision. Hotel California was not what he was looking for and Joshua Tree was only a little out of his way. The daughter could wait another day. He'd never told her what day he'd be there anyway. After a quick stop for water and food, the van headed south.
US 95 was an proper two lane, like old 66, stretching across the scrub and into the scarlet hills. There were a couple of places he wondered if the van was going to tip, but he persevered and dropped down into the low bowl of the Colorado desert. That ended in the road to the park itself. Spiky trees the park was named for slowly emerged from both sides of the road. Branches raised in supplication to an unknown God, they resembled alien pawns in a celestial chess game. He guessed he was the knight going after an unseen king.
A few miles into the park, an arrow pointed to the left. Without thinking, he turned the van down the dirt track, rooster tails falling behind him. It didn't take long before a clump of green appeared. An oasis? As he got closer, he realized it was exactly that. A larger group of trees lining a watering hole about 25 feet across. It stank of sulfur and salt. The remains of a campsite sat on the the far shore.
He pulled the van over and rubbed his eyes. The sun was almost behind the hills to the southwest, there wasn't much choice, this would be home tonight. Only question was: did he sleep in the van or under the stars? Blue skies had the answer, the stars.
Someone was nice enough to leave a stack of mesquite branches next to the fire ring. They lit easily and the distinct scent rose through the air. He quickly laid out a tarp and his sleeping bag. Then he brought out a small camp stool and set it next to the fire. He'd traveled almost 1800 miles and this was the first night camping. He knew everything on this trip had been for a reason.
He thought of the ex. They had known each other in high school, but they hadn't been sweethearts then. She had been someone everyone was jealous of. A daydream believer and the Homecoming Queen. Always looking for the knight in shining armor. They didn't date until after college when they ran into each other at a party. Physically, they were dynamite. But she never was truly satisfied. She had cheated a couple of times before this last time. And he had took her back, knowing she would get restless again. It had been 14 months since he walked in on her last ride. What had she been looking for?
Was Chloe a measure of revenge? He thought about it as he stared into the silhouette of one of the trees. Two days ago, he was high on the wild Indian communion. Dead sober and still physically spent, he stared into the rubble of lost days. In a way, the whole trip was revenge. Leaning back, the whole of the milky way lay above him in the moonless night. The smelly, drunken encounter was the expulsion of all of the frustration and it was good. Maybe it was what he had been looking for.
Now, he slowly folded his gear and packed it in van. Just before he doused the fire for good, he knelt and prayed gratitude and thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. He prayed also that Chloe would always find the peace he had found here.
One thing he knew. He wasn't never going back East.
Pic Guesses: Oasis (in blog), Shore (in blog) Shasta, Directions, Trek, Placid, Where now?, Narcissus, reflection.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The trip was both as a lark and an escape. Route 66 from Chicago to his Daughter’s house in Santa Monica. At 55, he was at loose ends. In the last year, he caught his wife in bed with some jerk and his company went bankrupt. After everything settled, all he was left with was $20,000 from the house and the van they had used to camp at the lake. So, why not run away? The Ex thought he was nuts, but she never liked any idea that she didn’t think of. There was nothing left to lose. She could just enjoy riding the new brute. He didn't have to be there to watch them blow to pieces.For that reason alone, he was going to take long road and take his own sweet time to get there.
As he drove across the red desert into Flagstaff, he marveled at the last few days.
It had all started at the truck stop on Motel Row Sunday morning. It had been an easy trip to that point. A little storm driving up to Chicago and a flat outside Tulsa. But other than that, nothing but the quiet of his own thoughts and whatever bad country music that popped up on the radio. He had always heard of the tackiness that was Tucumcari and he had all the time in the world.
The steam from the cup fogged his glasses when first he saw her. Probably another lot lizard, he had to admit she was prettier than most. Crude oil colored hair cascaded down her back, held in place by a bright orange scunci. High cheekbones and slightly red tinted skin, indicated she was Native stock. There was a regal manner that reminded him of Cleopatra as she pled her wares to the truck drivers. Maybe he could be King Tut for her tonight.
As soon as that thought passed, the people at the table laughed and they got up. Not enough time for business, he guessed. The men headed outside toward their rigs and she walked down the aisle. Eye contact was made and she sat the chair across from him.
"Buy me a cup of coffee?"
He couldn't fault her salesmanship, and the price of admission was cheap. Her name was Chloe and time passed with her whiskey tinged voice. Most girls like her asked for a date and he usually refused. She wasn't in a hurry for a transaction, though. She was looking for something else, a ride to Gallup. Why not? 300 empty miles between here and there. The conversation would make a nice diversion. Calling for the check, he paid and they left.
The first thing he noticed when she got in was her scent, a mixture of tequila, tobacco and weed. He scanned her face closer. The smile was nice, so he knew she did smoke harder stuff. Age could be anywhere from a hard 18 or a much kinder 30, there really was no telling. As he started the van, their final destination was apparent. They pulled onto the highway and left the ticky-tacky tourist stuff in the rear view mirror.
The stark, windswept landscape had an eerie glow in the high noon sun. Random tumbleweeds blew front to back past them in the headwind. But none of it was noticed as the conversation continued.
Chloe had grown up on the Hopi reservation. Her mother was a Navajo, though and she had been looked down upon by the rest of village. Half-breed was they called her. But the truth was most of the tribal elders weren’t pure bloods. They all had white ancestors that took brides in the war. It didn't matter anyway, all of them were dirt poor, living in crappy trailers or hogans.
She left for Oklahoma after her mother died to be with a Cherokee man she’d met. He seemed so tall and dignified. It wasn’t until after she got to Tulsa she found he was a drunk like the rest of them. While she was there, she began working with a shaman who took a liking to her. Once a week he taught her old ways of the Eastern tribes. Spirit healing was what he had called it. It was more like wild sex and it wasn’t long before the Cherokee caught them and beat her up. She left that night with just the clothes on her back, never looking back.
She had drifted slowly back west. Stayed a bit in Amarillo, working in convenience stores. Between real jobs, she would use her spirit skills to turn tricks. But she didn't like it too much. Most men were drunk, selfish louts who wanted the spirit to only go their way. But she did have one or two she enjoyed. Anyway, one of her mother's sisters had died and left her a trailer and she needed to get back to Gallup before some meth head trashed it.
"And so a free spirited Indian Princess could have instead?" He quipped.
She laughed and put her hand on his thigh.
"And you, my Knight, will have my healing spirit along for the ride."
Smiling, they were silent as they drove through Albuquerque. Traffic was still light and they passed quickly through. The desert on the western side of the state was slightly different, redder, drier and more forbidding. The scene reminded him of a trip he had taken with his family to England. Dad had some distant cousin in Cornwall and they had traveled through the Bodmin Moor. He had been fascinated. Random rock formations sticking out like some ancient God playing jacks in the sand and the rumor of some horrible beast lurking behind them, waiting to devour the unwary. He’d heard of gila monsters and jackalopes. Were they vicious? Uneasiness set in. Without a word, Chloe set her hand again on his thigh and his spirit relaxed and they went on.
It was almost sunset as they pulled into Gallup. Without saying a word, he pulled into a truck stop on the outskirts of town. The needle was on E and so were their stomachs. Gas, food, pits and snacks later, they climbed back in.
He didn't blink an eye when she said to turn on to 666, The Devil’s Highway. He had heard of it. Oh, why not. He'd been in hell already. Could this be worse? It turned out Chloe’s place was only a few miles north of town, on a small track overlooking the highway. It looked like an old tin can from a distance, all color bleached off the corroded aluminum skin. The windows were opaque with dust and time. But they were solid and the shanty turned out to be a good shelter from the desert heat. It looked like a discard from a better era, when someone had hope for healing in the low hills. Or maybe it was used it as an escape from real life. Both had happened here.
Pulling in, they quickly unloaded their things and closed the door. A low stool sat under the front window. Next to the kitchen area a table and two chairs sat waiting. No other furniture was in the room. Chloe reached into her pack and pulled out a cotton blanket and spread it on the floor. She beckoned him to sit with her. As he did, she released her mane from its bridle and shook out across her shoulders.
Energy could be felt radiating from the walls and floor. She became the priestess of the spirit. Her hand disappeared again into the pack and came out with a paten and chalice holding a communion of tequila and peyote. With this, she sanctified him. Time disappeared. A voice from outside the room commanded a kiss.Compliance was mandatory, Soon, laughter screams, and ears came for for all the sin their lives and only they could hear their prayers. Forgiveness filled his mind. As they shared, his ex, his thieving boss, and his pain all fell away. Only this slender woman mattered in this moment.
When they were spent, the ghost of his mother appeared before them. They were still as she blessed Chloe for her service, that she should only find happiness from this point forward. They both fell into a deep sleep.
The sun now posed like a phoenix across the ravine, turning the valley from indigo to a soft tan. The black patchy snake of road outside slipped further up into the hills, but no traveler would notice it. It looked like a scene ripped from a Road Runner cartoon.
The temperature began to rise inside along with the sun. A single ray of light fell on his naked body, snoring contently on the colorful blanket on the floor. Across the room his clothes lay neatly on a small stool along with a few of hers. Scraps of their debaucheries were scattered about, along with those of the ghosts who had left as their business was settled.
Head pounding, he slowly sat up. Man, this place is dark. Grabbing his pants, he couldn't help but think: What day was it? Feeling down, his hand felt the phone and smiled. At least she wasn't a thief. Laying on the table, he finished dressing. He pressed the power button.
The screen came to life. Wednesday. Wow. Looking out the dusty window, he saw her dressed in a long t-shirt, drinking a cup of coffee. The black hair was still free and blowing out behind her like a mare's mane. The rickety door slammed shut in the wind as he came out to join her. She stood and kissed him.
"You need to go now."
"Yes." He stood quietly, taking in the harsh beauty before him. "Do you need another ride?"
A wicked grin came across her face and she gave him another kiss.
"Great Spirit was more than good to me, and to you. While it is tempting to stay with the moment, it passes and so will we. See your daughter and teach her the Spirit will be with her and all of your descendants. You are a good man. Now, go."
And without another word, he climbed into the van and drove back down the butte into town.
Pic guesses: Cleopatra (in blog), Princess (in blog), King Tut (in blog), Asp, Waiting, Lover, Regal, hieroglyphics.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
First love or first crush?
Mistake one for the other.
Was it just play?
Have fun, enjoy the game.
From the inevitable outcome.
Of your first true love.
Circle goes around
Pic guesses: Help Desk, I.T., On hold, Wired, Hit any key, Over my head, Hacker, Geek Squad, Cable Guy
Sunday, February 26, 2017
The face in the mirror wasn’t too bad for such a quick turnaround. And the outfit was clean, professional and covered the tattoos. Her spiky hair brushed out nicely for once and it was tossed up in a neat blonde bun. A quick check showed only the slightest pink and green streaks. Party Kelly had been put away and replaced with a professional, responsible young woman, ready to take on any and all public relations nightmares.
This was the first real job interview in a while, six months at least. Yeah, she’d heard all about the slow economy and whatnot. Everyone thought she was doomed to wait tables the rest of her life. After all, it was all she had done since high school.
It was time to prove them wrong.
The job offer was weird, though. And how it came was weirder. The old man wandering in before closing last night. Balding, with grey fringe, he seemed OK for an old guy. There was a twinkle in his eye. Maybe Santa on his day off? At least he wasn’t a drunk. Suchita had finished her side work and offered to take him. But the man had requested her to wait on him. The coffee only order made things easier. Oh, there were a couple of lame flirting attempts. Kelly just laughed. He might be a sweet old man, but no way she was going home with him. She wasn’t that dumb, or that lonely.
But the voice! She could listen to it all night. Morgan Freeman mixed with vodka. It thrilled her to her core.Since he was the only customer left, there was plenty of time to talk
His name was Luke. He had traveled far and wide Stories of Europe and Asia took her mind to all sorts of places. Never married, though. Said women would just have tied him down, although he hinted at more that few hot nights. . All this said with a wink and a smile. Kelly spoke of her family and the lack of opportunities in the small town and her loser boyfriend. Her contribution to the conversation made her depressed. But Luke smiled and that made her feel better.
The last hour flew. Last call came and the old man handed Kelly a piece of paper. Said a friend of his had a job needing her expertise and she should be their at 9:00 AM. He turned at went out the door as Kelly’s widened green eyes stared as he disappeared into the night..
Expertise? What expertise? She was the friendly waitress with the rainbow spikes and gap-tooth smile. The only thing she had done since high school really was party, and she had the scars to prove it. But she did admit she had a way with her customers. They were better than her family toward her. Always asking how she was doing and tipping her well.
Without thinking, she looked at the paper. DQ Communications, 666 Dominion Street. Odd, no phone number was included. The street name wasn’t familiar. Must be in the fancy part of town. What if she got lost? She did have the GPS Daddy gave her. It will get her there. She hustled to finish up. Got to get some sleep if she was ever going to escape this place.
The sun was in her eyes while she looked for the address. Traffic seemed really light for a morning rush hour.
"Turn left. Your destination is 100 yards on the right..."
The voice on the GPS always reminded her of fingernails on a chalkboard. She only used it in times like these, where getting there important. To Kelly, getting lost was part of the fun of traveling. How else would you find new places? Waiting for the light, she looked at her destination
Grey glass looming high over the street. 666 Dominion Street was an impressive place. Must be twenty stories or more. A small sign at the curb noted the existence of DQ Communications. Parking the car, she took one last look in the mirror. No smudges, nothing between her teeth, nothing that indicated she was just another girl with broken dreams. Taking a deep breath, she opened the car door and walked confidently into the building.
The lobby was impressive, paneled in brushed metal and wood. A reception desk was centered in front of two elevator. The red coated woman smiled in recognition and handed her a visitors badge..
“Kelly, right? We have been expecting you. Please take the car to your right.”
Unlike most elevators, this one only had a scan pad. Passing the badge her hand over pad caused the doors to snick open, showing a mirrored interior. A feeling of unease came over her as she stepped in. Soft, relaxing music played as the doors closed. The elevator began descending. Descending? The friend’s office was in the basement? The car come to a halt.
The doors reopened showing a stark white room with a small desk in the center. There were chairs on each side. Luke's disembodied voice called out.
"Good Morning, Kelly. So glad you could make it. Please have a seat and I'll will be out shortly."
Her apprehension grew as she stepped out. Where had the voice come from? No speakers were visible anywhere. This had to be a mistake. Turning back to the elevator, the doors were gone, replaced with another blank white wall. Holding out her hand, it was cold to the touch.
"Don't worry, Kelly. There has been no mistake. Please. Sit down."
As she turned back, there was Luke. He was now dressed in a black suit with a contrasting red vest.
"I'm so glad you could make it. It isn't often I get pretty ladies here."
Kelly's eyes widened.
“An explanation is order. While I did introduce myself as Luke last night, my full name is Lucifer J. Beezelbub. I am the founder and CEO of Devil's Quill Communications. We use the initials DQ to fly under the radar, so to speak."
Noticing the fear on her face, he tried to calm her.
"It's not what you think, Dear. You haven't gone to Hell. That is only for the really bad ones that fail the evaluation. No, we are under contract with The Maker to run quality control on those whose time has come."
Curiosity overcame fear.
"My time has come? You mean I’ve... Wouldn't I have known something about that?"
"Not likely. Not many people know it, but everyone comes out of Maker Industries with an expiration date tattooed underneath the hairline on the back of the neck. Even when you put your hair up, like you have it now, it usually stays hidden. The only ones I have ever known to find it are chemotherapy patients and even then their rarely recognize the date. Since you are here, let me show you yours."
He shuffled around a drawer in his desk and brought out a two piece hairdressing mirror. Putting it up to Kelly's head, she could clearly see yesterday's date underneath mousy brown roots. She began to cry. Lucifer put his arm around her shoulder and whispered in her ear.
"We almost missed you. Now let's get your evaluation started."
The medical examiner wheeled the body out of the restaurant. In the corner, the detective handed Suchita a tissue. Nodding appreciation, she blew her nose and took a deep breath.
"It was so sudden, Lieutenant. Kelly was sitting there talking to this old guy when she just collapsed." Dabbing her eyes. "Like she had been touched, or something."
"What did this old guy look like?"
"Nothing special. Older than you, maybe 65. White with a grey beard. He had on this red cardigan sweater that looked like Hell, but other than that, I can't remember. He was gone even before we called 911."
Monday, February 20, 2017
Congrats to Martien Ecrits and all of us in making ten years of writing.
Like we do at the beginning of every years, we introduce ourselves. My name is Christopher Mitchell, also known by my internet handle Another Government Employee, or A.G.E.. Several years ago, I was this guy: http://anothergovernmentemployee.blogspot.com/...
I have since left government employment (by mutual consent) and now spend my time consulting on pension and payroll issues and writing nonsense as a hobby.
I started with Blogophilia in the middle of the 2nd season at the invitation of Spidey John (may he rest eternal). I had been a member of a couple of other groups (the Treehouse, Group Blogging Experience) and I began lurking around the crazy Martian’s shop. A MySpace invite later, I came in. My Space died and we moved over to Facebook and here we are.
I am primarily a prose writer, but do run Free Verse from time to time. There are few topics I won’t write on. If something offends you? Well, sorry about that. Go find a cat video to watch.
Think you have what it takes to write with us? What are you waiting for? We tend to be kind in our feedback.
Looking forward to another exciting season.
Oh, and if you are interested in my archives, most of them can be found at