Sunday, July 26, 2015
The church hadn't changed much, perched over Highway 288 like a Monopoly piece.The white picket fence shone with its annual paint job. Portable gazebos donated by the local funeral home dotted the lawn, protecting the dinner on the grounds. The trays of potato salad and sliced ham protected from stray pine needles.
Memories of Homecoming past rushed forth. Stilted greetings, Praise the Lord's and too much food, all to draw the backsliders to the flock. Mom would give him a pill to keep him from getting sick on the road home to Atlanta before they left. But, the medicine never worked. Mountain twists caused cold sweat to issue out from the edges of his crew cut. Brother would make sure he moved from side to side until he would puke harder than a shook Coke can. The car would stop with two cussing parents holding paper sacks to his mouth and wet paper towels to his head.
That was long ago. After Mom died, Dad didn't want to have anything to do with the church, mountains or in-laws. He was happy just to drink his life away. It didn't take long.
He left Georgia and the South after his memorial, thinking there was nothing left. Skipping from Chicago to New York and then finally to Los Angeles, he managed to do well in the entertainment business. No more drunk misery, pining for a past that didn't exist. Never the lead item in People, but the bills stayed paid. And that was a good thing. He could be in twenty movies and he would never be an actor. Or at least one the paparazzi cared about. That was good thing.
He'd always been spiritual, constantly stopping to reflect on his life and where he was going. Twenty years in L.A. had taught him a couple of things.Controlling all the events in your life just wasn't possible and misery couldn't be wished away. It crept up when he least expected it to. The business had made him feel alone and afraid. Every project teetered on the edge of failing and there was little he could do about it. There was no family to support or to support him. But he plugged on.
Now he was back in the mountains he visited so often in his youth, working as a script consultant for a movie. He had the day off and the director had rented a house on Lake Chatuge for a party not a quarter mile down the road past the church. Driving over the mountain, his stomach was settled. No cold sweat, the road had the worst curves softened. Without even realizing, he made the turn up the steep slope into the parking lot. The sea of permed white curls and stooped shoulders turned in unison. A flicker of recognition came to a set of eyes.
"Ain't you Agnes Hutson's boy?"
"I'm her Grandson, Ma'am" He said smiling."Teeny was my Mom."
"Oh, yeah. That wild one did have a passel of kids. Y'all get in here and eat." The old lady then turned to the crowd. Hey, Y'all. We got a Prodigal here "
"All the Glory to God, Sister Hazel." The Pastor said, handing him a plate of food. "Welcome home, Son."
The other event could wait. He took the food and prayed with gratitude for a new life. He really was home.
Pic Guesses: Morning has broken, Hatchling, New Life (in blog), Sun's daughter, Bird, Tweet,
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Hotter than hell in the Dowager City and Armageddon was about to come from the heavens. The heat off the street was like flames of fire raging at his back. Just another summer, tourists braved the heat shopping on Market St. Everyone else decamped to Cashiers or Asheville. Him? She had made sure he didn’t have the money to leave.
Adjusting his hat, the deluge came as he cleared the door. The Battery was only a few blocks away, which was a blessing in this heat. Small wet patches turned to steam almost as soon as the water hit. The mottled gray towers of Old First Scot’s were glowering down on his sinning ass like one of Satan’s angels. Was this absolution or condemnation? It didn’t matter, the old Calvinists elders wouldn’t be part of this ceremony. She was stuck again, trying to decide between Heaven and Hell. As it was, as it is, as it ever shall be, it seemed.
A group of black kids were singing an old spiritual out of tune, bad doo wop rather than tight harmony. The rain had chased most of the listeners and he was left as the sole audience. There was no hurry. He remembered his busking days and knew these kids were doing their best, however bad it was. Mercifully, the song ended and the older kid did a little patter to get passerby interested.
“Yes, Folks, God is good and he did bless us with a little talent…”
Very little, Bob thought.
“My Brothers and I, we go from corner to corner spreading the Word for all who might want to hear…”
Throwing a couple of coins in the open guitar case, he moved on. Charleston was like other cities he had been in, so many churches and so much sin. Aristocratic rich and unwashed poor struggling to divide the wealth bestowed from above, each using religion as their staff and shield. Hypocrites, all of them. If there had been anything Bob had learned in this life, man at his core was a greedy and lustful. Anything that resembled “Justice” was just envy assuaged and just another skirmish in the war between everyone.
Approaching the park, he paused to admire the taffy colored houses. Designed to maximize the sea breeze and minimize the draconian tax structure, they were built by descendants of second sons and carpetbaggers who thought themselves aristocracy. Men admired and famous in their own time, now faded into history like the all the other dead. It really didn’t matter who you were or how much you had, dead was dead. That was the joke of life.
Just as quickly as it started, the rain ended. It was maybe 90 degrees, rather than the 102 when it started. But a good breeze had picked up off the water, cooling his neck and shoulders as he sauntered the edged sidewalk. A local fencing club was practicing. White clad warriors playing back and forth amongst the trees. Just like her. Back and forth, no side really winning. Always worrying about which one had the upper hand today. It had been eighteen months, only calling when she needed money or a shoulder to cry on.
So, which one will it be?
She sat posed like a painting on the wall at lands end, a ghost searching for the lover who would not return. There needed to be an easel, sketching the endless sea for eternity. But that wasn’t the task here. Stepping off the walk, he cleared his throat.
Turning slightly, she nodded at his existence. The blond bangs hiding her eyes, hiding her second self.
“Glad you came. I would have understood if you hadn’t.”
No slurring, that was a good thing. Crossing back over Murray, they sat on a bench overlooking the harbor, two feet of clear space between them. A light sprinkle was obscuring the view of the harbor.
“You look good. Staying sober?”
She kept her gaze toward the breakers. “For the most part. It’s a day to day thing.”
“Yeah.” And they fell silent.
The scarlet tint of her bare shoulders contrasted with her off white camisole. The slight scent of blood mixed with Chanel reach his nose. Tenderness rose unwanted from his gut and towards his head. Life was a circle again. Would they go around? He wasn’t really sure.
“Your lust has returned.”She said watching the water.
“Lust, love, what’s the difference?”
“One makes you want to kiss the sunlight, the other makes you sing to the sky.”
“And you don’t want to do either?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Tears formed at the corners of her eyes as she turned to face him. “You are a good, patient man and I’m a lowlife slut. You know I’ve been turning tricks to keep the house, right?”
More excuses. The pain began to form at Bob’s temples.
“When I moved out to Isle of Palms after the divorce, I thought I could just party thoughts of us away. Grind them into dust. But the thoughts of you and your feelings for me stayed. I have to say at my lowest points, they were comforting.”
“Is being a confessor priest all I am good for?”
“No. I…” She turned back toward the water. “Never mind. All I wanted was to see if I could be comfortable with you and I can’t.”
“I…don’t know. Everything is just so confused. Every man I’m with reminds me of you, their moans and twitches. I want it to go away. Sometimes, I think the only way for me is to die.”
He tears were flowing harder than the rain. She got up to leave. Bob gently put his arms around her waist and pulled her back.
“Sweetie, I’m here.” He softly whispered. “Let’s kiss the sky together.”
Pic-Colleen Keller Breuning.
Pic Guesses: Breakers (in blog), endless sea (in blog), water (in blog), beach, surf, Sunny afternoon, Frolicking, Skinny dip.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
A lone cow stood placidly at the fence as the end of the day came. Smacking cud competed with the bullfrogs for the dominate sound. Bitter timothy hay mixed with sweet alfalfa, the mass shifted from front to back in her mouth. Every few minutes a bit of it would pass down her gullet and then back. In a repetitive motion that was controlled only by instinct she would dip her head to the ground for replacement. This was the way of her world.
It was much quieter in the pasture tonight. The old Farmer had a get-together last night. Twangy sounds came from the farmhouse, high pitched voices that made her nervous. The men seemed to like them though, hooting and hollering. Sweet smells came from the shed where they laid up the dead pigs. One of them must be getting burnt for some reason.
The men then laid up this huge ruckus. They brought out the fire spitting sticks and were taking turns pointing them at various things set up on an old oak stump. One would go boom and a shiny thing would fly like it was being pulled by a rope. One of them put a watermelon on and it spattered its fruit all over. That was so wasteful, she thought. Maybe she should go clean that up. But she wasn’t going anywhere near those noise makers.
As it got darker, they started making flame and putting it to some long thingamabobs. Some of them would snap and pop like the long sticks and everyone would scream and laugh. There were others that would jump in the sky. They would arc over the pasture and boom, to great approval. The horses galloped and reared at each noise. A bay mare about ran over her trying to get away, screaming something about they should be forever banned. The cow didn’t mind though. She had figured if she just stayed where she was, they wouldn’t hurt her.
Some of the boomy things looked like flowers against the moon. Were they tasty? As much as she could lift her head, she couldn’t reach them. They would rise and flower, rotate, twinkle and lose shape, dropping slowly back toward the ground. A light gray one would follow a dark one. A yellow one suddenly turned pink. This went on long after the sun went down. Finally, quiet came and everyone filed back to the house. Fun was over.
Bedding down, a dream came. She was in the pasture where the long, low building where the cows go in but never come out. It had been a while since she had been turned out here and a strange feeling began to come over her. The bull said everyone went there. But even he didn’t know what happened after you went in, but it apparently was the end. Was it time to go in there?
No, it wasn’t her time. She knew it.
The Farmer approached with the looped rope. Turning away from him, she trotted toward the fence, mooing loudly. The bull would be proud to see the brown and white flash, not worrying about the barbed wire or anything else. As she was running her tail rose, a soft pie came out.
The Farmer’s boot landed square in the muck. Then the strangest thing happened. A large boom was followed by liquefaction of the ground behind her. What was in her feed last night? The Farmer sailed high in the air, followed by a pink dish and a blue spoon. sailing over the moon. The ground sank, taking the low slaughterhouse with it. Evening’s empire had returned into sand. The dream had reached its destination.
The round eyes blinked, pools of mud set in concrete. Yellow sun was visible through the trees past the far fence. Nothing had happened. Nothing had changed. With a bit of a struggle, her feet were regained and she lolled back to the fence. The sound of smacking cud competed with the hay baler as the new day began.
Two Dylan lyrics used: 1)They're forever banned (from "Blowing in the Wind") and Evening's empire returned into sand (from Mr. Tambourine Man).
Pic guesses: Over the moon (in blog), Moonstruck, Midsummer night's dream, Lunar dance, Howling, Stand by me.
Sunday, July 5, 2015
"The enemy of society is the middle class."
Said the father.
"But the enemy of life is middle age."
Said the son.
As the BMW cruises through toward the tarmac.
They had been at odds for a long time. Whatever the father demanded, he did the opposite out of spite. As they approached the airbase, Pvt. Charles Wilborn Jr. was taking his last shots at his old man. The brooding C-5 was to lift him from falsity. Away from the vegetarian draft dodger that had sired him. Away from the manicured lawn and preppy, phony school mates. This was his rebellion. And if he didn't come back, so be it. It was better than sitting around being jealous of the neighbors and wondering if the software release was successful. Jealousy is a disease of the weak. He was going to prove he was strong.
"I can still stop this."
"Fuck you and your money. I'm not your fortunate son."
Exiting the car, he salutes the Lieutenant and lugged the duffel to his place in line.
His life started now.
Pic Guesses: Sweetness, covered dish, summer treat, wedding,
Friday, July 3, 2015
The rain finally stopped. Several stray droplets land on the ragged man as he straightens the tail on his shirt. It’s another day in paradise. Geez, what a night. Asshole pissed all over his sign, so sidewalk cruising is out. The shelter kicked Mark out when he plowed the bastard’s fat face into the wall afterward. He couldn’t blame them. Rules are rules, you know. He snagged a cup of coffee as he left, so it wasn’t a complete loss. And he was still sober.
Story of his life. Get a scheme set up working the saps willing to throw a dollar and some jerk screws it up for you.
The pole sounds like an alarm as the purse lands next to his head. A woman is screaming to prepare for his funeral. A bunny haired black girl sat on the wall watching. Maybe her daughter? She was the only sane one.
Crazy lady said Jesus wasn’t going to save the world, it was too far gone. That was a twist. Preachers mention repentance was the way out, but not this one. A bored cop materializes and tells everyone to move it. Mark obliges. No sense starting the day in jail. Especially since the sun has decided to show up.
At the corner, an older woman had her head back of a rusted VW Bus that looked like a refugee from Woodstock. The woman’s flowing graying hair and flowered dress reminded him of an old hippie mother back he knew back in California. This should be a good score. Staying on the sidewalk, he calls out.
The round, serene face turned towards him.
“This old thing is being a pain this morning. It decided to quit while I was going to the store. One of these days, I am just going to have to retire her.”
“Maybe I could help?” Mark sets the hook.
“It needs to get out of the street before the tow trucks come. I don’t have the cash to bail her out.”
Stepping up to the engine bay, he spots the loose wire. on the greasy generator With a twist tie pulled from his pocket, it is reconnected and the faded relic to is brought to life, spitting pale smoke out the exhaust. Squealing with delight, she kisses then unshaven cheek.
“Thank you so much, I didn’t know what to do.” Looking in her purse, she frowns. “I don’t have any money with me, but could I give you a ride?”
“I don’t really have any place to go.” Mark looked down at his scuffed shoes.
“How about my house?” She giggled “It’s a very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard. I’ll fix you dinner and you won’t have to hustle today. By the way, my name is Kari Summers.”
“Mark.” With a smile, he shakes the offered hand and walked up to the side of the car.
“Come on, we haven’t got all day!” She opened the passenger side door for him.
Pushing the accumulated papers on the floorboard between the seats, he perches on the cracked vinyl. As they pull off the curb, he spots the small amethyst heart set in silver dangling from a delicate chain hanging from the mirror. Touching it, the sounds and smells of the shelter appeared and just as quickly, disappeared. The amulet warmed Mark’s hand and he struggled to control the tears that came out of nowhere.
“Interesting piece.” He yelled over the engine. “Where did you get it?”
“I found it in a pawn shop in New Orleans.” Kari shouted as she shifted gears. “There was something magical about it, like it had a destiny and a past. I like stuff like that, so I bought it.”
Mark’s voice filled with sadness. “I knew a girl who had one like it.”
“Really?” Looking at the scruffy figure. “Sounds like a story to hear over dinner.”
They fell silent. The van pulled up to an older structure in a neighborhood that had seen better days. Two ginger cats rushed into the bushes as the car stops. They eye the scruffy intruder warily. Just past the house, the street dead ended at a rail yard. Selecting a key from the ring on her purse, she jiggled the door open. It opened on a small room smelling of reefer and desperation. The living room was cramped with faded gray walls. A pack of Camels and a small Bible sat on a table next to a torn leather sofa. A recliner covered with cat hair sat on the wall opposite the windows. He’s seen worse crash pads.
“You can stay here tonight. I don’t bite.” She grinned and brushed her hair back. She pointed down the hall towards the bathroom. “I bet you’d enjoy a hot shower. Washcloths are on the shelf and there should be enough soap. Just set your clothes outside the door and I’ll take care of them. Take your time”.
Thanking her, he noticed the photographs of long dead relatives as they looked solemnly down from their perches. He wasn’t much for pictures and most of his relatives would like to forget he existed anyway. Clicking on the light, he stepped into the Spartan bathroom.
As his rags drifted to the floor, he wondered, who is the angel? Stepping in to the warm stream, he feels his sins begin to slough off. Tears and water were inseparable as they swirled around the drain. Everyone else had left him broken and broken hearted. Or he bailed when things got to hot, sneaking away to avoid the results of his actions. God had finally heard his prayers, but he knew there would be a price.
She knocked on the door and exchanged the worn clothes for a robe. When finished, he came back to a sandwich and a cup of tea on the sofa. Taking a bite, he leans back. It didn’t matter how many drugs he did or whose shelter he was hiding out in, the past always returned.Shaking, he wonders what happened to her and had anyone found out.
Sleep overtakes him. Young girls and old women switch places in his as they float above him. The rich dark form and scent of long ago fill his nose.Eyes like toasted almonds smiling and laughing. Soft finger tips on his shoulders, he reaches out only to awaken with his hands touching Kari’s wrinkled geisha face. He pulls back and sputters an apology. She waves it off .
"I’ve been grabbed by much worse looking guys that you. In fact, you're kind of cute. Sit up and let’s talk” Wearing an azure kimono with honeysuckle pattern, she pours Riesling in to a small cup. The smell of gardenias relaxes him .
“So, where are you from?" Kari settles on the sofa. Taking a sip from the cup, Mark leans back.
"Army Brat. I was born at Fort Hood and was an only child. We never stayed in one place more than a year or so, went to eight grammar schools and three high schools. Germany for a while. Dad died in Korea in a training accident when we were stationed in California. My mom died the day she was notified, staying drunk from that point on. She crashed into a semi on the PCH about a year later. I was 16.
“I finished school in Merced and then worked on cars, VW’s mostly. That’s how I knew where to look for the problem on the bus. That generator wire works loose quite often and it just needs to be tightened up. Anyway, I did pretty well for a while and had a good time.”
“Boredom and a DUI sent me to Vegas. Bright lights and all that. I found a job in a small shop out by the Air Base. I met a girl in one the smaller casinos, soft blond hair and a body that wouldn’t quit. She was a dealer and made pretty good money. We moved in together and had a daughter. Things seemed to be working pretty well."
Grabbing a cigarette out the pack on the table, Kari handed it to him with an ashtray. He lit it and continued
"I started drinking pretty heavy and she didn’t like it. Can’t blame her really. One night, I got really lit after work and came home to find her in our bed with this black guy. I freaked out and started swinging. Screams and blood everywhere. I got hit a couple of times. The scar on my face is where he got me with a knife he had. It wasn't pretty."
Kari nodded. "Your daughter?"
"Don't know if she was in the apartment or not. I just hit the road, never turning on the news to see if they were alive or dead.”
He took a slow drag. A smoke crown ringed the still damp head.
“I drifted east. Denver. Oklahoma City. I landed in St. Louis for awhile, working construction. The guys I worked with never asked questions, so I never told them any lies. Started smoking meth, I found I could go several days straight on it without problems except when I needed to sleep. Then I would be a handful. Got arrested a couple of times, but I guess there never was a warrant from Vegas. At least nothing they ever found.”
“The construction work ran out and winter there sucks, so I went down to New Orleans and worked at an oil refinery. It was a good gig, so I cut down on the meth. Only needed to smoke for a swing shift. Things were beginning to settle down when Katrina came and I got chased down to Houma to ride it out. I …met a girl there.”
Stubbing the smoke out in silence, tears began to form around the creased eyes. Gulping down his wine, he refilled the plastic chalice. Angel Confessor sipped hers.
“What did she look like?”
With a cough, he found his voice again.
“Keisha was a black girl. Maybe 14 by the way she acted, but she was big on top. Short cropped hair and almond eyes. She wore the heart on a silver chain dangling in her cleavage. She was too young, but I flirted anyway, always bragging on how the purple glowed off her skin. She would give me a hug. The sweet sound was something that was always in short supply in the shelter.”
He took another sip.
“She had been separated from her family during the evacuation, so I kind of played guardian. We would spend the day playing cards and talking about boys she knew. There were a couple of girlfriends she would go off with, but she would always come back. There were a lot of scared and scary people there. We were battlefield companions, sort of. She told me she felt safe with me.”
“When the other hurricane came, we were in the shelter. It sounded like God himself was smiting us, the rain and lightning. There was a little weed and we smoked to calm down. She shifted close to me as it got louder and my hand ended up under her shirt. She… pulled away.”
Stopping again, the thin chest heaved it's distress. The Dark Angel slipped her arms around him, kissing the damp face. Pouring the last of the wine, she presented communion.
“Go on, Honey. You need to get it out. The memory is poisoning your soul.”
Mark looked up into the Angel’s face. Would it be benediction or punishment? Resisting was futile. The memory was too strong and it flowed from his lips like a flood.
“I pulled her back against me. Shirt and bra lifted, leaving the small copper nipples. My hand brushed them. She bucked a little and turned to face me. Suddenly, there was no resistance. The Heart was offered. I kissed those breasts and smelled the unwashed skin. The medallion glowed like it was another person joining us, filling with joy as it dipped on and off of my chest. It didn’t last long. The flower was mine and the Heart was satisfied. Laying against each other, we slept like children. The next morning she brought me breakfast and we made love again.”
“Later that afternoon an uncle found her while she was hanging with her friends. I saw the reunion from across the room. There was happiness and I didn’t want to interrupt. I couldn’t see the Heart. I don’t know if she ever let on what had happened, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. I snuck on to an evacuation bus and ended up here. “
Silence filled the room. The silver heart was glowing on the table beside them.With a sigh, she donned the medallion and brought him to her soft bosom. She looked the stained, shamed face. There was no sin to forgive, just Keisha’s grateful spirit to impart. Rocking him like a child, the breathing slowed. First the left, then the right eye blinked out and Mark was still. He had gone home.
Pic guesses-Death Angel, Confessor (in blog). Danse Morte, Final lover. Ride's here, The end, Not afraid., We all get here.