Raccoon

A Massive Attack song played and Jonathan drove faster and faster down the freeway. It was two in the morning, he was slightly tipsy, and he knew this was a bad idea. But the freeway was empty, so at worst, he thought, he would careen into the concrete divide and kill himself or else he would run over a raccoon. And he had a beef with them anyway. They’d dug into his garbage can so often that he’d realized that the animal control department wasn’t heeding his phone calls. His date – Tanya? Or Tina? – had said that raccoon were adorable.
“Adorable my ass,” Jonathan muttered and hit the steering wheel hard with the palm of his hand. He jumped as a honk sounded. Then he giggled at his own surprise. Then he stifled the giggle and glanced sideways, just to make sure that no one was watching him make such a stupid face. And then he remembered that he was alone, tipsy and driving on the freeway and he quickly brought his eyes to face front again. He had to straighten the car, which was veering into the right-hand lane. When he managed, he felt very proud of himself.
Tanya or Tina had been pretty. They’d danced together for a couple hours but she hadn’t agreed to come over to his apartment. “You’re drunk,” she’d said, frowning. “And I am too. Let’s go to a cafe and sober up.” He’d ask her if she’d agree to come to his apartment after they did that and she laughed very suddenly and said that probably not. Then she’d punched him on the arm, lightly, in a brotherly guyish kind of way that turned him off. So he’d invented a dog that he remembered he had to walk – because it was good to keep a good impression and not to close any doors with rude remarks, and everyone knew that girls liked guys who liked animals.
Jonathan wondered if he should actually get a dog. Then he realized that it would mean two things. First, he would need to walk it, pay for its shots at the vet, and in general stand having it around. Second, it would mean he wouldn’t be able to bring home girls who were allergic to dogs. And what if the girl of his dreams would be allergic to dogs?
Not that he was a romantic. No, he had no false notions of love or tenderness. He knew what he wanted and how to get it. His older brother was married and claimed to be happy, but Jonathan was pretty sure that he was actually miserable.
He wasn’t a complete bastard. He had friends who were girls, and he knew that women were people, too. But he didn’t really think that he wanted to have one around all the time. He’d been in several relationships in his life, but he always got tired of the girls he’d been with and so he’d ended it. His big brother told him that he was an immature man-child. Jonathan took that as a compliment.
He got home without causing an accident. There was a raccoon digging around in the trash can again. He tried to kick it and fell, swearing. So he went inside and tried calling animal control again, forgetting that they weren’t open at three in the morning.

The Man in the Park

The duck waddled across the expanse of green grass until it reached the fountain. Its head was a dark and glossy green that shone in the sunlight. As it slid into the water gracefully, it knew itself to be beautiful.

A man dressed in two pairs of pants, three button-down shirts, a windbreaker and an overcoat stared at the duck hungrily. His hair, some might say, looked like a nest. But the man knew that no nest would be as messy, as greasy, as greasy and limp as his hair was. The man knew that nests were works of art.

Watching the duck ruffled its feathers, the man sank to his knees. He hadn’t eaten in two days, but there was a fair amount of cheap wine in his system and he felt dizzy. He wished he’d saved some of the money he’d gotten from begging at subway stops and bought some seeds or oats to feed the ducks with. He knew that bread wasn’t good for them.

He tried to remember the last time that he’d handled a bird, helped to fix its wing or given it its shots. He couldn’t remember quite how he came to be this way, dressed in everything he owned, with only a few keepsakes stuffed into his pockets from a life he didn’t know how to live anymore.

Lying down on the grass, he shut his eyes and tried to catch a nap before the inevitable policeman would tell him to get up and move on.

Foghorn

Jack stood on the edge of the cliff, his hands clasped firmly around the thin metal rails that were all that separated him from the fifty foot fall down a hard rocky edge into the raging iron-gray sea below. He gazed out, refusing to look down at the turmoil of waves, spray and jagged rock beneath him. In the distance, a small off-white spot was most likely a cruise ship. Jack watched its slow progress along the horizon and wondered what was happening on the massive hotel-boat, if indeed it was a cruise. He thought enviously of the warmed dining rooms with tables spread in white and set with silver, the sumptuous smells that rose from platters of roasted duck, tureens of gravy and baskets of freshly baked bread. He pictured the heated pool on the seventh floor where children would swim, bouncing a beach ball between them, giggling and watching the storm raging outside the porthole set underwater for their enjoyment. Most of all, he yearned for one of the comfy cots piled with blankets in cabins warmed by central heating and pillows changed and plumped once a day by pretty maids.

The knuckles of his hands were white with pressure when he finally looked down at them. He focused solely on them, ignoring the flashes of dark blue and gray beneath that were blurry and inviting at the edges of his eyes. Slowly, deliberately, he forced his palms to loosen their grip. It took a full minute to pry them loose, but when he did, he turned the usually-white palms towards him and saw that the itching he’d been feeling was due to the rusting flecks that came loose from the rail. It’s rusty, it’s no good, it’s not even a real rail, not really, he thought, words tumbling themselves into a panic so that it seemed as if neon lights lit up his mind with NO GOOD and RUSTY and NOT REAL.

As if the sea were a magnet and his eyes were metallic orbs; as if the sea was a hypnotist and Jack a willing supplicant; as if the sea was a naked woman and Jack was fourteen again, he had to look. He fought the urge and closed his eyes, but they snapped open again, and he watched, mouth stretched wide in a silent scream. The water looked like a violent creature, surging and jumping to reach him but never succeeding. The distance between Jack and his nemesis grew and shrank, his eyes playing tricks on him so that one moment the cliff seemed to rise into the clouds and the next sank like Atlantis into the beckoning ocean.

Pressure fell on Jack’s shoulders. A body, warmer and less wet than his, clung to him. “Come inside, Jack,” a voice murmured. “Stop torturing yourself and come inside. The foghorn’s been going all morning and soon you won’t be able to see your way home.” Jack nodded mutely, his eyes still fixed. A finger turned his chin away, until finally his eyes, strain as they would, couldn’t find the water. He realized suddenly how very drenched and cold he was, how foggy his surroundings were. He realized that the rain was pounding him less because a bent umbrella was being held over his head by a woman. Her eyes crinkled in a smile that was impossible to see because her face was wrapped almost entirely in a hand-knitted scarf.

Jack took a deep, shaky breath and bravely smiled back. He allowed her to take his hand and lead him away from the edge of the cliff.

Prettier Than You’d Think

Death sat in the shadows, and waited. She felt very stereotypical, as if she were playing by the rules. She hated conforming. But it was a hot day, and underneath the trees on the damp earth was the coolest place she could sit. As much as she didn’t like being as expected, she also didn’t think it was very attractive to see Death sweating profusely from her upper lip. So she waited, and watched.

A mother and child walked on the sidewalk in front of her. The mother didn’t look at her, because while one hand was holding onto the child tightly, the other was holding a cellphone almost as tightly and she was talking into it earnestly. It sounded like the producer was willing to change the shoot to February, but only if they could make sure that there would be a minimum of rainy days. Death snorted. So this woman thought she could control the weather? Ridiculous. The child, now, the child looked brighter than its mother. Death wasn’t sure if the little puffy thing with curly black hair was a boy or a girl, but either way, the child was looking straight at her with curiosity. Death considered anyone who was smart enough to look her in the eyes to be intelligent.

Death was a little bit of a snob. She couldn’t, of course, discriminate, not really, but she much preferred needing to deal with smart people who didn’t grovel, beg, whine or bribe her. Not that any of it would work, of course,  but that didn’t matter – so many people tried it anyway. Death had relented buy once in her time, and it had ended horribly. She’d received an official warning for it and everything, and she could’ve been sacked, but she managed to explain the circumstances (the bosses were such suckers for true love stories) and got pardoned. She couldn’t afford another mistake, though, which was why she was waiting in this spot well ahead of time.

Technically, her name was Death, Agent #900,345. But nobody needed to know that there were so many of them around – each person received the true and only Death, as far as they were concerned. So Death waited for her man, wondering what he would look like and whether he would be one she’d like.

A man walked in front of her now. He carried a briefcase, and his glasses were just geeky enough to be considered fashionable. He was in his late twenties, with light brown hair that was streaked back with some sort of hair product. He had a roundish face, stubble-free and still boyish, and his lanky frame made his for-the-office clothing seem just a little big on him. Death sniffed, once, and could tell he was the one. As he fell onto the sidewalk, suddenly, without ceremony, grace or aplomb, Death rose to meet him.

He stood there, looking down at himself. “What happened?” he asked as she neared him. And then, “You’re prettier than I thought you’d be.”

“You’ve been thinking about me? I’m flattered,” Death smiled at him and took his arm. She led him a little way away, and together they watched as people rushed towards his body, tried to revive him, pinched and moved and pushed him this way and that, screamed and called 911. Time seemed to speed forwards, and he was pronounced dead, his cellphone and ID found, and the medics called the first numbers there.

“They won’t find anyone real there, you know,” the dead man said.

“Oh?” Death asked.

“Yeah, I was kind of a corporate spy. My work cellphone had lots of fake people on it, in case the bosses got suspicious of me. My real phone’s at home.”

“Cool. Never had a corporate spy before,” Death said. She turned him so he faced her. “So.”

“So… what now?” the dead man asked.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you find out?” she answered. She gave him a slight shove in the chest. He looked at her, smiled, and laughed.

“You’re really much prettier than I thought you’d be,” the dead man said, before his image, still shadowing his body, disappeared.

Death spoke to the empty air where he’d been. “You’re not so bad looking yourself,” she said, and then looked at her schedule. Time to move on to the next one.

Blackout

“Ouch!”

“Oh!”

“Who’s that?”

“Taylor? It’s me, it’s Petunia!”

“Pet – d’you know what’s going on?”

“No, listen, I think there’s been a power-outage.”

“…Duh.”

“I mean – I think it’s not just the building! I looked outside and everything’s black, it’s creepy.”

“Well, want to come back to my place? I can find some candles or something.”

“Taylor, come on, is now really the time to hit on me?”

“What better time? It’s dark, there’s a sense of danger in the air, you’re all helpless…”

“Shut up!”

“It’s too easy to get you mad. And that hurt, by the way. How did you even manage to find my shins?”

“I’m gifted.”

“Okay, I can hear you rolling your eyes. Geez. Anyway, seriously, come to my place – I won’t hit on you! – and we’ll try to figure out what’s going on.”

“Fine, fine.”

“Alrighty, here we go. Just try to sit there – yeah, that’s the couch, right there – and I’ll be back in a second.”

“Don’t you have a flashlight?”

“Huh? I can’t hear you, just a second, I’m in the closet!”

“I said, don’t you have a flashlight?”

“Yeah, but no batteries, ’cause I’m an idiot. Here we go. Good thing I smoke, right? I’ve got about a thousand lighters floating around here.”

“You should tell your doctor that next time he tries to give you another nicotine patch: ‘No, no, it’s good I smoke, really, because if I didn’t, I’d never have lighters around!'”

“Seriously, you’re the most sarcastic woman I’ve ever met.”

“Thank you – I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“So why were you in the hall without a flashlight yourself? Or a phone, for that matter. I just went out to the fusebox – I thought it was just my place that lost power.”

“Oh, um… well, to tell the truth, I kind of locked myself out of my place.”

“You what?

“Yeah, yeah, you can stop laughing now, it’s not that funny! You know how I got that new door-handle last week that makes it so you can’t open it from the outside without a key? Kind of worked against me tonight. I thought it was just my place that was out of power, too, and I went outside and I forgot to take my keys with me… Oh, shut up, will you?”

“Sorry, sorry, it’s just- that’s hilarious. Miss Excuse-Me-But-I-Think-A-Hundred-Bucks-Are-Worth-Extra-Safety uses her new safety against herself.”

“Shut up, Taylor. Geez. Seriously, can you just try to figure out what’s going on?”

“Sure, sure, I’ll see if my phone is still online…”

“Good, you do that. Okay, I’ve seen your apartment before, so I know that that’s new.”

“Um, Pet?”

“I mean, what deranged girlfriend gave you that thing? It’s hideous! I mean, come on, a fake antelope head? How tacky can you get, boy?”

“Petunia?”

“Huh? What? What’s wrong?”

“I’m not… quite sure. The network on my phone’s working, but the news is saying some really strange things…”

“Okay, now you’re freaking me out.”

“Um – there’s some sort of death-threat on Google News. It says ‘The Magliorandi are a peaceful race, but have expressed in no uncertain terms that they will destroy our planet if the human race will put up a fight.'”

What?! Let me see that!”

“…”

You idiot!!!!

“I can’t believe I had you going again! You’re just so easy, I can’t believe it! Ow! Ow, okay, no need to punch me so hard! I was just kidding!”

“You had me trying to decide between chocolate and pasta for my last meal, you jerk!”

“Pasta? I mean, seriously, pasta? That’s a lame last meal.”

“You know who’s lame? You are.”

“Nice, nice, I see you turn into a six-year old when you’re scared.”

“As opposed to you, who’s a six-year old all the time. Jerk.”

“Fine, but you’ve got to admit that aliens landing on earth is way more interesting than ‘Power should be restored in several hours, and all residents are asked to stay inside while work-crews will be on the streets, rectifying the mass power-line failure.'”

“You’re still a jerk.”

“Fine, fine, fine. But seriously, pasta? As a last meal? Pasta?!”

“Why, what would you have then? Jerk?”

“I don’t know – maybe a really expensive steak with fancy sauce stuff. Or some tiny gourmet French dish or something like that.”

“See, I would totally want to go with someone I just know I love. Like chocolate. Or pasta.”

“Yeah, but if it’s your last meal, shouldn’t you milk it for all it’s worth?”

“You’re such a- a- I don’t even know what. If it was my last meal on earth I wouldn’t care about trying to use anybody, I’d just want to eat something I like.”

“Oh, well, okay then, Miss Holier-Than-Thou.”

“Geez, Taylor, seriously, will you shut up?”

“I’m offering you hospitality and all you’re doing is abusing me! Is that any way to treat a man?”

“Yes.”

“Fair enough. Want a game of Scrabble?”

“Sure, might as well do something useful while I wait – like kicking your butt.”

“Uh-huh. We’ll see about that.”

“Fifty bucks say I beat you?”

“You’re on.”

Man and Wolf

There’s a full moon tonight.
It’s a werewolf moon.
It means that things are changing,
They’ll come to get you soon.
**
The man becomes the beast.
The violence is exposed.
Do you have some sympathy?
He’ll say it’s not what he chose.
**
The moon hides behind the clouds,
She’s playing hide and seek.
The man is howling in the woods,
The werewolf tries to speak.
**
The werewolf’s nature is its own,
Survival, eat and mate.
The man has passions, anger, guilt,
He thinks he has a fate.
**
The werewolf curls up quietly,
His pack is fast asleep.
The man is climbing up the trees,
Or digging six-foot deep.
**
The moon rises full again.
The werewolf’s gone afar.
But man has stayed right where he was,
His heart like stone, like tar.

“Watch the Leather”

I have no memory of when I wrote this song, but I think it was sometimes during my earlier teenage years. I happened upon it tonight and it struck me as rather creepy and gloomy, which is odd since I truly don’t have any clue as to what prompted me into writing it in the first place… And now, without further ado, some lyrics from my (apparently) dark teenage years:

In her mind, a shining knight
of blue blood and court days.
She's stealing kisses in the night,
Slowly feeling her new way.

Listen closely at the window
Of a lover's engined hideout.
Not sweet nothings will you hear,
Just a grunt and then he'll cry out:
"Hey, watch the leather"




Romantic girl, this ain't your world,
Sonnets dead and gone,
Rosy girl, this a thorn filled world,
Survival's for the strong.


Lewis Carrol’s Birthday

According to a writing prompt I found online, today is Mr. Carrol’s birthday. The writing prompt suggested that I write about my favorite character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I thought that this was a marvelous idea, especially because during my semester at school, I had to read it for a project which I won’t, alas, be doing.

I bought myself a beautiful copy of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It has all the original illustrations in it, as well as a beautiful, colorful cover. I felt immense joy at carrying the book around and just thumbing through its pages. A book’s physical presence can be so helpful to the experience of reading it. This is why I don’t want a Kindle or a Nook or any of the other electronic readers. I’m straying off topic, so let’s get back to little Alice.

I think my favorite character in Adventures, apart from Alice herself, is little Bill, the lizard. Poor old Bill is always the one who gets picked on throughout the book – first he’s forced to approach Alice in her gigantic form and receives a kick for his troubles; next, mischievous Alice steals his pencil and he keeps writing with his fingers without making any marks on the page, to his great perplexity.

In Through the Looking Glass, I’d like to say that my favorite characters are the kittens – but that’s just because I cannot for the life of me resist kittens. In truth, though, I suppose my favorite character is that of the clumsy knight. The knight is said to be Lewis Carrol himself, in all his chivalrous silliness, and the way he’s described is so very touching. It’s as if Lewis Carrol wants so badly to be a white knight for little Alice, but knows that he is much too bumbling and awkward to be of any help.

[Note: I know there’s lots of controversy about Lewis Carrol and Alice, but as far as this post is concerned, I’m treating it as the innocence it’s portrayed to be by Lewis Carrol himself.]

Two

“It’s  a long story,” he said, frowning slightly, before smiling again. His hair was brown, his face thin, and his expression let nothing away. His smile was utterly disarming, and he didn’t seem to be feeling a thing except the usual cheerfulness he displayed to the world. He had his work spread out in front of him, the usual scientific jargon he was so into, and he slid his eyes back to it easily and went right back to studying. His shirt, bearing the logo of his workplace, was tight, as all his clothes usually were. He was attractive, there was no doubt about it, and his cheerfulness was like a sun, drawing unsuspecting people to him and making them think, naively, that everything was alright with him. Everything was always alright with him.

The girl, clutching her book, wasn’t so naive. She had her guesses, and she voiced them in a cheerful tone to match his own. He laughed, brushing them away, and went back to studying. She took note, though, of the slight glint of panic in his eyes.

____

“It’s a long story,” he said. His hair was black, his face thin but muscular, and his expression was fraught with pain. His eyes glinted with unshed tears, but they never leaked out, not once. He laughed at himself, laughed at his emotions. “It’s a long story,” he repeated, but he went into detail. Not much detail, but enough for the girl, clutching her book again, to understand. Her heart beat within her breast, pounding with emotion for both of them. She could see his pain, and suspected the other’s pain even if he wouldn’t voice it. She hugged him, murmuring “Aw, honey,” and made sure to let him know that she felt for him. It wasn’t easy, she couldn’t imagine it would ever be easy for the two of them.

____

Alone in her room, with headphones in her ears, she thought about them. She wanted to help, somehow, for some reason. Maybe it was only that her own experience was so much happier than theirs. Maybe it was that she knew what it was to trust someone implicitly and she wanted them to feel it too. Maybe it was just the fact that she was so far away from her love that she needed to see others flourish as she couldn’t in her current situation. Maybe it was, quite simply, that she wanted to befriend them both. They were too pleasant to give up, and she wanted to find a place for herself. She had always done this – reached out instinctively to others, lent herself as a support to those who needed it. It was one of her joys.

With music throbbing in her ears, she noticed the lyrics suddenly. “This night has only just begun. If there’s discretion that you’ve not abandoned, now’s the time.” Fitting, she thought, and closed her eyes and listened hard until the next song came on.

Silas (3)

Footsteps sounded from around the corner. Silas became even more still than he’d been before. His breathing made no sound and his limbs were poised for movement. He hoped the footsteps indicated that the job was almost over. He was tired and hungry and extremely annoyed at Mr. Smith for giving him faulty information.
The sound of footsteps grew louder, and the man who was walking began to whistle cheerily. Silas, hidden in the shadows, waited patiently until the man walked passed the alleyway where he was crouched. He caught a glimpse of a rather short, stocky man, suit coat flung casually over his shoulder, expensive watch gleaming in the lamplight. This was him, indeed.
Silas rose from his crouch and began walking behind the man, matching his footsteps to his so as to mask the sound. His boots were, of course, almost completely silent anyway, but there was no point in taking chances. The streets he and the man walked through were deserted, it being very late at night – late enough to be considered very early in the morning. They walked down one street and then another. The man never looked back and kept up his merry whistle and his brisk stride. After about ten minutes, the man walked up to a fancy skyscraper, obviously housing luxury apartments, and began to push the buttons on the coded lock to the front door.
Silas stood now to his side, about twenty steps away. He was hidden in the shadows once more. Everything was in readiness. He put the small tube he was holding in his hand to his lips and blew.
The man stood stock still for a moment, and then crumpled to the ground. Silas was already at the end of the street.