Saying Goodbye part 2

I took the hint and leaned silently against the door with him. I barely came to his waist as I pushed to hold the door closed. Dad grinned lopsidedly at me. Mom would pound on the door until she got tired, then go into their room and lock the door. Then dad would open my door, and go back to watching TV, or make some crummy sandwich from whatever was in the fridge.

Other times it was mom who ran into the room. She’d lock the door like dad, then push my bed against the door. My bed being the futon mom and dad got for me to lay on. One side smelled like smoke and vomit, making me want to throw up too. If I turned it over, then it smelled moldy. I snuck a blanket into my room and put that on top of the moldy side. I wasn’t moldy then, just damp and moldy smelling.

Mom, toward that last day I saw them, began taking medicine earlier and more often. She needed it, she said, because the management said that the dancers (entertainers, mom said) had to show customers a real good time if they got asked. Mom said she didn’t like it because it made her feel icky all over, and the medicine made the icky not bother her so much.

In crude adult language, mom was supposed to go have sex with men who paid the manager for the privilege. That’s what I found out later. I knew mom felt bad whenever she had to be ‘friendly’. She’d come home, throw her purse and dancer’s bag on the floor, then run into the bathroom and throw up in the toilet.

Dad would get upset that mom was sick. He’d yell that she should stop working that ‘shirthole’ of a place. Mom said he couldn’t get a job, so she had to work there. They would start arguing about everything. I would go to bed, falling asleep to the shouts. I would wake up in the morning and hold my tummy because I knew they were unhappy. It was like the moldy spot on the futon. Mom and dad felt moldy. Dad started taking medicine a lot more too. He would drink until he giggled, then get the needle medicine and stick it in his toe. He bit down on a sock or a pencil because that hurt more.

It was then that the scary man came to the house. Mom and dad looked scared when he showed up. They sent me into my room. He watched me walk all the way to the door. I knew this because I watched him. I looked back over my shoulder all the way. He scared me that I didn’t want to turn my back to him. His eyes reminded me of the monsters dad giggled at when he was drinking. The red eyes scared me more than anything. I kept waking up thinking he was in the room with me. Mom and dad didn’t like that and I had to stand outside until they let me back in after the sun came up.

But, despite all the troubles, I felt loved. My parents paid attention to me. Not always kind and friendly, they sometimes punished me for things I didn’t understand, but they gave me attention all the time. At the age I was, attention was always welcome, even if pain was part of it. Mom and Dad were gods. They fed me, housed me, and, on occasion, actually loved me. It was a place I knew I belonged. The troubles went away after the scary man came.

Saying Goodbye part 1

Discography
Everlast – ‘What it’s like’
Kid Rock – ‘Only God Knows’
Uncle Kracker/Dobie Gray – ‘Drift Away’

Do you know how you’re going to say goodbye to someone? Is it going to be a loving embrace and a soft caress of their cheek before they go to the great beyond? Or, is it going to be heated words and a pistol stuck in their belly as they try to argue, or to plead with you, not to pull the trigger? Or is it simply a call in the night? A quick stop at the mortuary to look at a lump of flesh bloated with formaldehyde, because that’s the law? Or, will you, like me, wonder what happened when they just disappear? Here one day, and gone the next, and no clue where.

I remember, or think I do, the last time I saw Mom and Dad. They’d dropped me off at Uncle Soap’s apartment after packing the beat-up gold Ford Taurus for a camping trip. They often went camping alone at least twice a month, down in the Big Bend National Park. I remember him having on his red and black shirt he’d pulled the sleeves off. Mom always told him that was her favorite shirt of his. She’d wear it around the house sometimes to tease Dad. Not that they were all sweetness and love. More than once I heard them screaming back and forth about all sorts of things. Always it was mostly about drugs.

I didn’t understand then, but I think I do now. They argued the most just before they went camping, and were best together after they got back. As a child, I saw the change, and knew it had something to do with them going camping, but it really didn’t matter. Mom and Dad were happy. They paid attention to me, and bought me things like a new set of shoes, or a cool shirt. It’s funny that I remember the clothes but not their faces. I remember Dad always being skinny, and he had fuzz on his face. I don’t remember if it was a beard or mustache, both, or if he just didn’t shave every day. Mom was like Dad, skinny.

When they didn’t go camping, Dad stayed home nights with me while Mom went to work. She’d always dress up in baggy pants and a shirt, and carry lots of bright, flashy clothes that fit in a little carry bag to work. Dad would stay awake with me until I got tired, then I’d get tucked into bed on the couch at the far end of the trailer. I’d fall asleep listening to Dad watch television. Every so often, before I passed out, I’d watch him give himself a shot of ‘medicine’ in between his toes. I know he was shooting up now, but then I knew he was always more happy afterwards, so it seemed a good thing to me. I knew something was off, most four-year-olds can sense things. We’re not yet aware enough of how to lie to ourselves and avoid uncomfortable truths. Denial and delusion aren’t something that’s learned right away.

Mom dressed all the time in old clothes and dark colors. When we went out to the store, it was usually in the very early morning. Mom always told me that it was best, because there weren’t many people around and it made shopping easier. Looking back, I think it was because at those hours, hardly anyone she had met at her ‘job’ would be around. She table-danced, or stripped, whichever describes it best for you. Mom hated it, and came home crying a lot.

That would make Dad unhappy and those were when the biggest fights happened. About her job. About the money she brought home because dad couldn’t work. About him not working. They always fought. They didn’t pay much attention to me then. I learned to hide in my room when their voices started to get an edge. It meant that things were going to get broken, and a lot of slapping and throwing. It was better in my bedroom.

As I look at the memory of it, that room was my refuge. The one place I had some little privacy of my own. It wasn’t sacrosanct. Both mom and dad would come in to wake me up, or yell at some accident, or even hide from one another, either in play, or, you know. The not-fun-not-play stuff like fighting or yelling or crying. Dad did it a little more than mom. He’d charge in and slam the door, then lean against it. Mom would pound a few times, then go quiet. Dad watched me as he leaned on the door. He’d hold his first finger to his lips and go ‘shhhh’.

Redleg – part 2

A rumpled green t-shirt was next. he pulled it over his head, then stuck his arms through the sleeves. He looked down at the car-toon on the front. It was a coffin with a raised back, with two large tires on the rear and two small ones up front. The cab was black except for two yellow eyes and a toothy smile from inside the cab. A cigar clamped between the teeth, and the words ‘Coughin’ Coffin’ were spelled out in smoke behind it. Standing up, he clumped awkardly to the small storage drawers that served as his dresser. Next to it were his ankle-high sneakers.

The black Converse were made of canvas, so they wore a little better around the fake foot, with just enough cushion to make walking feel like semi-natural. He laced up the sneakers, grabbed the belt off the top of the left stack of drawers, then finished sliding it through the loops. He finished up by grabbing the pack of cigarillos off the top right set, and sliding one out of the top. He grabbed the lighter, and lit the brown tube of tobacco. That first inhale centered him, and got him ready to face the day. He slid the pack in his back pocket, the lighter in the front left, and plucked his wallet off the drawer and shoved it into the left rear pocket. Another long inhale and exhale soothed the nicotine jitters and he was ready for breakfast.

Archie clumped into the cramped kitchen, and threw a pair of toaster strudels in the toaster. He grabbed them when they popped up, juggling them from hand to hand as he grabbed his keys, hat, and cane before walking out the door. He locked it, then carefully trundled down the steps to the security door, and out onto the sidewalk bounding Bleeker street.

There was a crisp taste of Autumn in the air, one that penetrated the exhaust fumes and damp, musty smog of the city. It spoke of the wilds, open meadows and dense old growth trees that blotted out the sun even on a cloudless day. Baton Rouge was hardly ever this pleasant. Usually it was a sweaty, muggy day that bred mosquitoes. Their constant whine near his ears had him waving his hands from the first moment out the door, to the last moment in line to get a bowl of soup or stew at the local homeless kitchen. He often stayed after hours to help clean up, just to avoid those ravenous bloodsuckers before heading back to his small rathole apartment.

The days melted together like overheated plastic. All the stimuli were depressingly, and comfortingly, unchanging. He could set a watch to them. This sense of familiarity gave him comfort in his meaningless life. He could stumble through the day, without surprises, without changes that so upset his sense of stability.

Sadly, this would be the last stable day in his new life. Causality, and chance had rolled boxcars for Archie, and he was going to start a whole new life in a whole new world that he never imagined. One of magic, of terror, of hope. The last he would find most upsetting. There is a comfort not having hope. It’s not ever going to get better, and won’t ever change. Hope makes a person believe in the future, in a world that actually cared about what happened to people. Archie didn’t want hope.

He grimaced as he took his first shot of cheap gin, just to wake up, he told himself not very convincingly. 

Redleg part 1

Archer ‘Archie’ Gunnison woke that morning to the strident buzzing of his watch. The cicada-like screech jolted him from sleep and his hands flailed about, seeking the offending noisemaker. His right hand finally caught up with his left and pressed the delay button, giving him a ten minute window to wake up and turn the alarm off for the day. Archie sat up in bed, letting the beige comforter droop into a pile on his lap. The dark blue curtains over the small bedroom window were closed, but the sharp, crisp air of autumn swirled through the open window, ruffling the cloth, and letting peeks of gray morning flit across the bed. He yawned, then stretched his arms and good leg for a moment, enjoying the sensation of muscles waking up. He turned in place, dropping the right leg over the edge, then leaned down and picked up his prosthetic left leg.

The leg was a marvel of engineering, fitted with self adjusting spring tensioners that adjusted to the weight he put on it. The covering for the prosthesis was something else again. Bright, fire-engine red painted scales covered it, like some monstrous creature from the Red Lagoon. There was no way to ignore it, which was the reason Archie had it decorated. No one would mistake it, or him, for anyone else. Archie gazed at the leg as he rubbed the stump of his left thigh. He’d been a marine. Hoooah, boy, all the way. He was proud of his service, proud of his buddies, and proud, maybe a little envious of the ones who made it home in one piece. He left part of himself in a Hummer after an IED had blown it ten feet up, and eighteen feet to the right through three and a half revolutions before crunching back to earth. He didn’t remember any of it. The medications he took kept him from screaming in his sleep and stopped the sudden flashbacks that occurred when he got stressed.

Others kept the red-hot phantom pains at bay. There was no telling when they’d strike. The pain seemed to happen most when he tried to do something like dodging an obstacle without thinking. His leg would seize up and drop him screaming to the ground. He’d learned to think about the prosthesis before trying to do anything sudden. But the pain still caught him unawares. Finishing pulling the leg on, he strapped it in place, then bent over again to pull the blue jeans from the floor. He slid them over his prosthesis first, then his real leg.

Can you spot the perspective?

I’ve started a story.  Can you identify the perspective that it is being written from?

 

“Mo-om! Hurry up! I got to get to the corner for the bus!” The girl scampered past the walnut-stained oak table and chairs as her mother turned from the refrigerator, and held out a brown paper bag to the child. The girl, her chocolate brown hair done in a pair of pigtails, held by bright orange glass beads and leather ties, skipped towards the door, then turned her pale, freckled face back to the olive-skinned woman in the kitchen. “I’ll see you after school!”

The screen door banged open, the rusty spring giving a groaning tweak as it stretched, then a lower groan as it contracted, slamming the screen back in place. A fly buzzed past the table, landing on one of the matching chairs surrounding it. The chair was armless, resting on four crudely cut legs, that had been squared and joined to the front leg by a cross piece of stained oak. Both sets of legs and crosspieces were then joined by a third crosspiece, joining the two other slats together, forming an ‘H’ between the legs. The front legs were cut flat at near knee-high level to allow the seat to be attached, while the back legs rose, and were joined by two curved slats to create a skeleton backrest. The fly chose the top slat to perch upon as it surveyed the space near it for danger.

The pale, flower-patterned linoleum floor was of no interest to the fly. It had followed the scent of raw meat, flying through the small, seconds available opening just as the daughter had run out. It’s eggs needed protein. The meat scent it followed would supply the new generation. It hovered, then landed on the back of the chair, to rest and re-orient. The woman, clad in blue jeans and a pale yellow blouse, walked past the chair and into another room, startling the fly into flight, then, as it found the scent once more, buzzed over to the counter by the stove.

The smell was overpowering and the fly dropped onto the surface, using it’s feet to hunt for nourishment. Disappointingly, there was nothing but the scent, and no food for it’s impatient eggs to hatch upon. Its attempt to exit the direction it came in was stymied by a harsh grate it was too large to fit through.

Saying Goodbye (A short story) – J Dark – post 2


Mom dressed all the time in old clothes and dark colors. When we went out to the store, it was usually in the very early morning. Mom always told me that it was best, because there weren’t many people around and it made shopping easier. Looking back, I think it was because at those hours, hardly anyone she had met at her ‘job’ would be around. She table-danced, or stripped, whichever describes it best for you. Mom hated it, and came home crying a lot. That would make Dad unhappy and those were when the biggest fights happened. About her job. About the money she brought home because dad couldn’t work. About him not working. They always fought. They didn’t pay much attention to me then. I learned to hide in my room when their voices started to get an edge. It meant that things were going to get broken, and a lot of slapping and throwing. It was better in my bedroom.

As I look at the memory of it, that room was my refuge. The one place I had some little privacy of my own. It wasn’t sacrosanct. Both mom and dad would come in to wake me up, or yell at some accident, or even hide from one another, either in play, or, you know. The not-fun-not-play stuff like fighting or yelling or crying. Dad did it a little more than mom. He’d charge in and slam the door, then lean against it. Mom would pound a few times, then go quiet. Dad watched me as he leaned on the door. He’d hold his first finger to his lips and go ‘shhhh’.

Saying Goodbye ( a short story ) – J Dark – part 1

Do you know how you’re going to say goodbye to someone? Is it going to be a loving embrace and a soft caress of their cheek before they go to the great beyond? Or, is it going to be heated words and a pistol stuck in their belly as they try to argue, or to plead with you, not to pull the trigger? Or is it simply a call in the night? A quick stop at the mortuary to look at a lump of flesh bloated with formaldehyde, because that’s the law? Or, will you, like me, wonder what happened when they just disappear? Here one day, and gone the next, and no clue where.

I remember, or think I do, the last time I saw Mom and Dad. They’d dropped me off at Uncle Soap’s apartment after packing the beat-up gold Ford Taurus for a camping trip. They often went camping alone at least twice a month, down in the Big Bend National Park. I remember him having on his red and black shirt he’d pulled the sleeves off. Mom always told him that was her favorite shirt of his. She’d wear it around the house sometimes to tease Dad. Not that they were all sweetness and love. More than once I heard them screaming back and forth about all sorts of things. Always it was mostly about drugs.

I didn’t understand then, but I think I do now. They argued the most just before they went camping, and were best together after they got back. As a child, I saw the change, and knew it had something to do with them going camping, but it really didn’t matter. Mom and Dad were happy. They paid attention to me, and bought me things like a new set of shoes, or a cool shirt. It’s funny that I remember the clothes but not their faces. I remember Dad always being skinny, and he had fuzz on his face. I don’t remember if it was a beard or mustache, both, or if he just didn’t shave every day. Mom was like Dad, skinny.

When they didn’t go camping, Dad stayed home nights with me while Mom went to work. She’d always dress up in baggy pants and a shirt, and carry lots of bright, flashy clothes that fit in a little carry bag to work. Dad would stay awake with me until I got tired, then I’d get tucked into bed on the couch at the far end of the trailer. I’d fall asleep listening to Dad watch television. Every so often, before I passed out, I’d watch him give himself a shot of ‘medicine’ in between his toes. I know he was shooting up now, but then I knew he was always more happy afterwards, so it seemed a good thing to me. I knew something was off, most four-year-olds can sense things. We’re not yet aware enough of how to lie to ourselves and avoid uncomfortable truths. Denial and delusion aren’t something that’s learned right away.

Saying Good-bye

Good-bye is a word we use a lot.  When it’s going away for a couple weeks, or leaving to go home from visiting parents or children, good-bye is the one word everyone uses.  But, what if, it is the last thing you are able to say to a loved one?  How does it change in meaning?  How do you resolve those words in yourself after uttering them, knowing that the one you’re talking to, will hear them as your last communication?  It’s a deep gut-wrenching reality that everything in this universe is finite, that everything will, at some point, cease.  ‘Saying Good-bye’ is a look at this shift from existence to history.

Skid Style part 3

Stumbling over a generator cable, he caught his balance, then was in the clear once again, until a few docks later when the process repeated. Four minutes and a good deal of dodging later, Charlie came to the north end of the dockyard. This was where the burglaries had happened. Skid slowed to a stop. The docks here were thinner than the south end, and older. The wooden planking was grey from weathering. The planks had cement poured next to them, building the dock area outwards to hold the larger loading equipment. The warehouses abutted the edge of the docks. Their wood and red brick walls and single story construction seemed to Skid like huge turtles that came ashore and died in place.

The break-in happened on the dock side of the northernmost building. The yellow police tape on the front door and huge loading dock next to it was a big clue. Charlie took a long look at the building as the sun baked the asphalt and concrete. And the air carried the smell of salt water and decaying fish to his nostrils. He looked towards the docks, which was no help. The last two piers had no ships, and no workers around to talk to. He turned to look back south. The nearest potential witness was about a hundred yards away, and there were a couple hundred servicing a pair of freighters. He could see the cranes on the pier moving large pallets of crates. The grey, blue, and yellow forklifts picked up smaller pallets off the large pallet, and like ants in a line, rolled back towards the warehouses to drop off their cargo.

He turned back towards the south. The sunlight glinting off the forklifts scuttling back and forth was mesmerizing. He blinked, then sighed, “What do I do now?”

Night settled down over the dockyard. While the sounds of traffic had slowly dissipated, the cacophony of the cranes and workers was still at full roar, and carried faintly to Skid, who had moved to the end of the old, weather-worn pier to watch for thieves coming back to break into the warehouse. They gotta return to the scene of the crime. This place is too easy not to pick over. Skid crossed his fingers, hoping he was right. All those comics and mysteries he loved so much said that bad guys always came back for more. I just have to wait, and I’ll catch them red-handed. He settled in for a night of watching, only to find out the rule every other cop has been on a stakeout figured out. The crooks will never appear when you’re awake or ready, if they show at all. This was Skid’s new experience. He kept himself awake by running down to the first active dock, then back again to the end of the old pier, with the predictable results of letting people know he was around.

It was eleven thirty at night when a heavyset figure drove up in a dark car. The vehivles lights were out as it purred to a stop next to the warehouse. This has got to be it! Skid thought excitedly. It was just like the comics. The crooks came back for more! He didn’t wait, but dashed up to the car, shouting “Freeze! You’re under arrest!” The car’s floodlight mounted on the right side of the car came on immediately and spun to illuminate him.

Skid blinked in the light as a voice said, “Jesus Christ! What the hell are you doing, kid! Trying ta give me a heart attack?!” The voice was familiar somehow. He decided to ignore it and confront them like the hero he was supposed to be. He ran quickly to the driver-side door, and gave it a hard yank. The interior light came on to illuminate the gate guard, sitting in the driver seat. Her face was pale in the glare of the harsh mercury lighting from the parking lot lamps. Skid felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment.

“>Uh, sorry. I didn’t think…I just didn’t think.” The stammered apology seemed to calm the guard, who managed a thin smile. She shifted in her seat. The door clicked as she pulled the inner lever and opened it, shifting her heavyset bulk out the door and into the muggy night air.

“I understand. It’s no big deal. I scared myself on my first evening doing guard work.” She paused a moment, then took a breath as she seemed to gather her thoughts. “It was six years ago I got hired. I’d just gotten out of college with a degree in Biology, only to find no one wanted a biologist without a masters, or a doctorate. I jumped on the job. The lead out here gave me the route to drive, what to check, and where to stamp the clock to prove I covered my route.”

Her eyes lit up with the remembered first night. “One thing that they forgot to tell me was that pier eight was a twenty-four hour pickup for priority loads. I drove past the gate, and found it open. At night, all the gates are supposed to be locked. This one was wide open and a pickup was sitting just inside. People were scurrying around flashing lights at the crates, then loading them onto the pickup. There were seven of them and just me with a mag lite and walkie talkie.”

“I called it in quietly, and you know what my lead said?” She chuckled. “He said ‘go check it out, rookie. Oh, and don’t get shot’, which didn’t help my paranoia at all. I walked in and announced myself, at which point there were a couple of screams. The guys dropped the small crate they were moving and seven flashlight swiveled onto me. ‘Jesus ma’am! What the hell are you giving us a heart attack for!? We called it in and I’ve got the papers for the pick up right here.”

I could hear frigging laughing coming over the walkie. I’d been so tense I’d held the transmit button on. My lead had set me up.” She chuckled again, then turned what was supposed to be a stern face at Skid, but her smile ruined the whole stern thing. He found himself grinning at the story. “So, did you get him back?”, he asked her. The guard, whose name was ‘Menendez’ according to her name badge just above her left chest pocket, smiled, and shook her head. “No, it doesn’t work that way. Though, I do seem to remember someone replace his sugar packets with salt once.” Skid chuckled, then looked around the parking lot again. “Is this you trying to tell me that I’m wasting my time?”

Skid Style – 2nd post

He turned off Belcher, then slowed and turned on Collier. The street ran north and fronted the warehouses that stored good from the ships being serviced at the docks. The pace on the docks and warehouses was frantic. It looked to Charlie like an ant nest that had been kicked open. Cranes were moving cargo off the freighters in large pallets. Another freighter was sliding containers down a ramp to waiting eighteen wheel tractor-trailer flatbeds. The line of trucks stretched over a quarter mile by his estimate.

He looked back forward just in time to avoid drifting into the curb at forty miles and hour. He over-corrected and moved into the oncoming lane. He grunted as he planted his foot and shifted back into the proper lane. I gotta pay more attention. I can handle a wipeout, but not an oncoming car. Where is the turnoff to the dockyard? Charlie’s thought was answered a moment later as the road ended at a ‘T’ intersection. He slowed then slewed right, skidding on the loose gravel, then straightened out, slowing to avoid a tumble, and approached the gate. The gate was a railroad crossing re-purposed to be a traffic control. It was currently down as the gate guard was checking the papers on a white and blue UPS truck.

The outbound lane had a tractor trailer slowly moving forward to leave the docks. At his speed he’d bee there before the truck could clear the gate, and with four others behind it, there was no way to use the oncoming lane to bypass the guard. ‘Skid’ slowed as he approached the gate, raising his hand to his pullover mask to make certain it was still in place. The heavyset gate guard stopped talking as the bright red and blue stocky superhero trotted up to the gate.

Whatta ya want, uh, kid? I’m kinda busy here”, the guard said with a surprisingly soft voice. ‘Skid’ took a moment to realize that the guard was a woman. He could feel himself blush as he tried to sound authoritative.

Sorry, ma’am. I’d heard that some stuff was stolen last night. I came by to look the, uh, scene over and see if there is something that, umm, would help find the crooks.” He tried to puff his chest out, and got the mental image of a cartoon mouse trying to look tough while facing a cat. The man the guard was talking to had also turned to look over at ‘Skid’, then turned back the guard with a small chuckle, making Charlie blush even redder.

I suppose I could let you look around. Heck, seeing you prowling might make them guys with sticky fingers decide not to try anything if a costume’s poking around.” She pressed a button, raising the gate, then waved her clipboard at ‘Skid’. “G’wan through. Place that got hit’s on the north side up there.” ‘Skid’ nodded, then trotted around the van, accelerating back to a somewhat leisurely thirty miles and hour. He slowed again as he dodged a swarm of fork lifts moving pallets of crates and boxes to the white concrete warehouse to his left. The traffic was incessant, with two men shouting orders to the stream of men, and equipment coming from a docked freighter. The noise was near deafening as ‘Skid’ dodged swiftly, and awkwardly between the moving vehicles and people.