Burden

When the ambulance sirens sounded, I turned over and put the pillow over my head. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention, but I was scared I knew where they were coming from and the guilt was eating me up.

He said he would kill her. But he said it every day. Still, I probably should have told someone about how his eyes seemed to have fire in them when he said it this time. But who’d believe me, huh? Everyone here is threatening to murder someone. We’re all angry, all the time, and can you blame us? Living on less than minimum wage salaries, half of us not even knowing English real well, needing to raise our children in a place where they can see people shooting up on ever corner – wouldn’t you be angry?

I paid attention in school, though. I knew that talking a bit nicer would get me places. And that makes me angry also, because we all understand each other here, so why can’t the world try to understand us too? Why can’t they start talking like us, huh? Anyway, that doesn’t matter right not. That’s not the story I’m telling.

The story I’m trying to tell is about how those sirens woke me up and how I thought I knew that what he kept threatening had finally happened. But I didn’t know what to do about it. Someone had already called 911, right? So the cops would show up in a bit, and I wasn’t going to go talk to them and squeal right there in the open where everyone could see. Nah, people who do that end up dead all too quick. But I did need to know if what I thought was happening was actually happening.

I pulled on my sweats and a sweatshirt and checked to see that TJ was still sleeping on the couch. He’s my brother. The kids were asleep, too, and I knew that if one of them started crying, TJ would get up and go take care of them. He was good about that sort of thing. He liked being a good uncle to them when he remembered that there were things to life other than booze. Poor guy.

My face looked nasty without the makeup that I use to keep it fresh, but it was night and no one would see me. So I went downstairs, and walked to where I heard the sirens coming from. Just as I started though, they must have gotten to where they were going because they shut up. My heart was beating so quick that I can’t describe it. I knew where to walk even without the sound.

There were plenty of people outside of the apartment building. This area’s never empty, even at night. Some people live only after the sun goes to nap. Sure enough, I saw the medics sitting around and smoking, and I knew what that meant. That meant that they were waiting on the cops now, that there was someone dead in there and not dead cause of nice old age. Nah, there’d been a murder here.

I didn’t go too close. I didn’t want anybody to remember me. I wanted to wait for the cops in the shadows and tell them that I knew who did it. But I sure wasn’t going to tell them that I could have stopped it. That was my own burden to bear.

Socio [Short Piece]

You know that it’s wrong.

Trouble is, you don’t understand why this is the case. It’s not that you don’t know right from wrong. You do. They taught you all that, and you parroted it back to them like the obedient child you were. Are. You’re not so far from being a child, really, when you think about it. The thrill is still there, and you feel the same now as you did when you did it for the first time, when you were only five years old.

They said you were cured when they let you out. As far as you’re concerned, there was nothing to cure, but you played along. You’re still playing along now. But you give yourself moments, moments of delicious abandon, of freedom, of allowing yourself to be who you were meant to be. It’s the only way you can act like all the others. If you didn’t give yourself the respite from the constant hustle and bustle of normality, you don’t think you’d be alive right now.

So it’s wrong to do as you do. So what? People do “wrong” every day, don’t they? Even the most stand-up citizens sometimes fudge their tax-returns or ignore the phone when their old mother calls. The world is full of hypocrites, and you’re just one more.

The only thing that sometimes worries you is what will happen if you’re caught. You’re careful, of course. You’re probably the best. Usually, they look like suicides or accidents. And you don’t have a pattern, a ritual. At least, not one that they can discern. You never leave traces of your private ceremonies, and none of the ones you leave to be found seem to have anything in common, on the surface. You’re safe, so far. But what if they catch you one day?

Will you be able to fake remorse? Insanity? Will you be able to be free again? You don’t know, and that is the only fear this great wide world holds for you.

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.

Silas (2)

Mr. Suit’s name turned out to be Thomas Smith. Silas assumed the name was fake, but didn’t mind much. In this business, he knew, privacy was essential. Part of the reason he was so successful at what he did was that he understood this simple fact and acted on it. It had been twenty years or more since anyone had seen Silas’s real face, and he intended on keeping it that way.
The face Thomas Smith saw that day was a pock-marked wreck; cheeks hollow, eyes a muddy brown, a crooked nose and a gash of a mouth, obviously scarred. Smith didn’t seem at all disturbed by this face, which annoyed Silas a little. He liked making people uncomfortable. It was another reason he was so successful – people didn’t want to spend more time with him than they absolutely needed to, so they wouldn’t try to socialize or bribe or judge him. Instead, they simply gave him the facts of the matter.
Smith looked at Silas, and then turned his head around, first to one side and then the other, taking in the empty tables and the dirty street. Then he did something that surprised Silas. He swiveled his body around and looked up at the dingy building above Mick’s Burgers & Beer, obviously checking to see if anyone was looking out of a window. Silas hid his surprise behind a stony face once more, and waited patiently.
“It’s like this, Magician,” Smith began. “I heard about you from a lady friend who used to be… well, shall we say, not in the best of situations. She says that you’re known among the South-dwellers.”
Silas nodded, and broke in rather wickedly “South-dwellers, eh? ‘Round here we call ourselves Southies. As you would know from your lady friend.”
“Yes, well,” Smith didn’t seem offended in the least. “The official term is still South-dwellers, Magician. Also, if my information is correct – which I am sure it is – you haven’t been a Southie, as you say, forever.”
Now Silas took notice. This man, this Mr. Smith, knew more than he was letting on. He knew more than any corporate stiff had a right to know. Mayhap he was simply rich enough to get tongues a-wagging, but then again maybe he he’d hired someone to find out about Silas, and the thought that he might have missed someone lurking around here made him very uncomfortable.
“I’m the Magician,” Silas said coolly, refusing to show he was unnerved. “I’ve been lots of places in my lifetime, Mr. Smith.”
“Indeed.”
“You gonna tell me what the job is or shall I leave you in peace to enjoy a burger and a pint, Mr. Smith?” Silas was desperate to get the job, sign the contract and get away from this suit.
“It’s very simple. The company I work for has placed a spy in a rival company. This spy is now an-” he hesitated, but then continued. “an inconvenience. We need him taken care of.”
“Right,” Silas smirked. “Taken care of. Understood, Mr. Smith. Tell me when and where I find him. And you’ll have to sign this.” He took a crumpled contract from his jeans pocket. “Fill it in, as much as you can, and sign right down there.”
Mr. Smith seemed, finally, slightly discomfited, but he did as he was told, filling in the short form while explaining to Silas where and when the spy could be found. He agreed to the fee Silas demanded without haggling. He returned the contract to Silas, who scanned it quickly as the man rose from the table.
“Just a minute, Mr. Smith,” he took hold of the suit’s arm, firmly grasping it so that he caught skin and sinew, not only the expensive shirt fabric. He tightened his grip as he continued. “You didn’t sign right at the end here, like I asked you to. I asked nicely, didn’t I, Mr. Smith? Can’t do a job without you signing the contract.”
Mr. Smith stared blankly at Silas, then back at the contract. Finally, he reached back to his pen, which he’d put in his shirt pocket. Slowly, ever so slowly, he signed the name “Thomas H. Smith” on the dotted line.
Silas looked at Mr. Smith’s face and saw the surprise and alarm in the suit’s eyes as he felt a jolt, like an electric surge, go up his arm. Silas smiled grimly, his jagged mouth tightening into a hard line.
“They call me Magician for lots of reasons, Thomas H. Smith. You remember that.”

Silas

Silas was crouching in the alleyway, hidden deep in the shadows. The streetlight that stood at the far end of the alley was flickering on and off, accompanied by a buzzing sound; it was driving Silas mad. He shifted his weight a little, careful not to disturb the loose stones in the corner between the sidewalk and the building he was leaning against. His boots made a slight scuffing sound as he moved, and he froze. The last thing he wanted was to be heard.
It seemed like he’d been there for hours, and upon reflection, Silas decided he probably had. The stars in the sky were definitely in a different position now than when he’d taken up his post. At the very least, he decided, he must have been in the alley for three hours. The thought didn’t comfort him. This was supposed to have been a quick job, easy money, child’s play. But something had gone wrong, or else he’d simply received faulty information.
Two days before, Silas had been sitting in, for lack of a better work, his office. It was the place where he took on jobs, at any rate. His so-called office consisted of a grimy table at Mick’s Burgers & Beer, a popular hangout for bikers and shady businessmen. Silas had his very own table, courtesy of Mick himself. Mick had been his most appreciative client by far, and Silas still got free burgers and greasy fries whenever he wanted them – which wasn’t very often. Silas liked to eat well, and usually ate at Mick’s only when his cash was running low. Lately, this had happened more than usual, and it made Silas very cranky.
Two days ago, Silas had dipped his last French-fry into an oozing paper cup of ketchup, grimacing. He chewed it slowly, and washed it down with his dark brown stout. He wiped his hands slowly and methodically on his already stained paper napkin and threw it into the trash-can behind him. He’d perfected this throw over many a long-afternoon, and never missed anymore.
He took another sip of his beer when he realized someone was standing off to his right, staring at him. He looked over and saw a tall man, his limbs long and gangly, wearing grey slacks and a white shirt. He held a briefcase in one long arm and had a Cashmere sweater tucked under the other. His hair was dark brown and slicked back from his forehead, a couple strands jumping loose and sticking up comically. Silas took the man in and discarded him. This was obviously some lost corporate drone, or perhaps he wasn’t so lost and was simply looking to avail himself of the services of Madame Etoile’s Entertainment Parlor, the whorehouse that had for time out of mind sat across from Mick’s.
The man in the slacks, however, didn’t even glance over at the pink neon sign for Madame’s. Instead, he walked over to Silas’s table and sat down across from him. Silas gave him a stony look.
“You lost?” he grunted.
“No,” said the man softly. “I’m here to hire you, Magician.”
“Well, well,” Silas smiled slowly, “I’m all ears then, Mr. Suit.”

Three Dreams

One

I am at a wedding. I’m positive that it’s some sort of traditional Scottish wedding. I dance in circles, kicking my legs in and out in a pattern which seems correct, but as I’m doing this I’m sure that I really don’t have any clue what I’m doing and I hope that no one will notice the fact that I’m completely faking whatever the dance is supposed to be. Two people are doing the same thing beside me, but they seem to really know the dance. I end my circle by slowing down, almost to slow motion, and then with the thought of making a dramatic exit, I leap into the sky. I’m shooting up, when suddenly some thing, some sort of beast, whizzes past me, almost biting my head off. I wake up in terror.

Two

I am in the lobby of a restaurant. Leonardo DeCaprio is there, as is Angelina Jolie. They are lying back in beach chairs and are completely still, like wax statues. I go up to the restaurant, and the waiters are all standing around, leaning against the walls. I talk to them, and I come to understand that there’s a problem with the boss – that he’s stopping business or some such. I get a mental image, like a vision, of a dark room with something prowling around it, commanding the restaurant’s boss. A sense of dread pours over me, and I feel that the boss isn’t the ultimate boss in this place – that he’s being manipulated by this beast, this evil thing. I want to get out. I go back down to the lobby, where two girls are now chattering about the famous actors there. They’re speaking in Hebrew, so I can understand them, but Leo and Angelina can’t. The girls try to tell me how they met – something to do with their eighteenth birthdays. I smile, I nod, I wonder why they’re telling me this when I have no clue who they are, and I quickly exit the restaurant.

I am now out on the street and it’s dark, dusk. I turn right, and walk down the street. The sidewalk and street are separated by fences enclosing dirt, as if the gardens are blocked off for planting. I walk down further, and at the end of this semi-enclosed walkway, I see a mattress. A man is lying on it, upper half naked, asleep. Next to his bare back – for he is lying on his stomach with his face averted to me – I see what appears to be a hole in the mattress. In the hole, I see a woman’s face. I get an overpowering feeling that she is dead. I walk past quickly, but just as I turn the corner, I feel a tug at my unbound hair – the man is hauling me back, and I know in my bones that he will butcher me and stuff me inside that mattress along with the others. I wake up in terror.

Three

I am out camping with my friends. There is a bonfire going, and one of my girlfriends tries to heat water over it in a Styrofoam cup. I want to yell out at her that it will burn, but I don’t, as I’m distracted by a bread basket that is being passed around by my friends. I take a piece of bread and eat it, suddenly realizing that I’d eaten a McDonald’s dinner earlier and thinking that I’ve eaten too much and that I don’t want two dinners. I wake up in terror, and then smile at the silliness of this last dream.

Flight From Hell

I am now officially back in the Holy Land, and hopefully in the next few days I will be resuming my normal updating pattern. I will also update those interested parties in which school I will end up going to in the fall and also I hope to go over my travel journal and write about the various amusing things that happened during my insane trip. Right now, though, I feel a great urge to explain just what sort of horror was vested upon my mother and I on our Delta flight home. You might actually have heard or will hear about this as a small item on the news today.

Our flight left NY late. Ok. Happens. Whatevs. I can deal.

An hour in, there is a slight commotion up front. Flight attendants are dashing up and down the aisles. Plane starts to descend and what looks like liquid is streaming out of the engines on the wings. None of the crew is telling the passengers anything besides to stay in our seats with our seat-belts fastened.

We’re finally told, after some major panic going on inside my rather too broad imagination, that we’re landing in about five minutes due to a “situation” with a passenger. A few minutes later, as an afterthought, we’re told that nothing is wrong with the plane and we can stay calm. Thanks. NOW you’re telling us.

We land. Somewhere. No one’s said what city we’re in. We all believe that a passenger is ill, has had a heart attack, a major allergic reaction, something life threatening. I stop a passing flight attendant and discover that this is not the case. It is some sort of security concern. Some sort of dangerous and destructive behavior. The flight attendant, who seems almost more panicked than the passengers, goes on to say that it is a very big deal.

Once again, fear becomes rampant – terrorist attack! Hijackers! Criminal group! Maybe there are accomplices on the plane! The FBI are involved! Rumors run rampant.

Eventually, and this is about an hour after landing, the co-pilot comes out and we get some real information: a passenger had gotten up from the back of the plane, had walked to the front and to the cockpit door and had begun banging on it, trying to guess the code to get in and punching at the number pad. He was wrestled to the ground by five passengers and was tied up and calmed down. The regulations in this sort of situation dictate that the plane make an emergency landing, which it did. The passenger was taken off in handcuffs, his luggage and handbags were removed, and the local and federal police became involved.

After another two hours or more, it is determined that the man was simply unhinged and having an anxiety attack. He is not connected to any criminal or terrorist groups. All is well, all is safe. A new flight plan is made, the plane is refueled, and we finally are able to head out once more. I must stress, though, that for a while there we were warned that we might all need to get off the plane and there was some indication that there would be an investigation. Apparently the FBI actually was involved, and thus was able to check in their databases that this disruptive passenger was acting alone as they say.

You’d think that once the whole thing was sorted out and we were able to be on our way again, all would be fine and dandy. Ah, if only. It seemed, however, that the fates were determined that my mother and I have the absolute worst travel experience of our lives to date.

During the first part of the flight, and the wait on the ground as well, there was a woman and a man behind us who had been talking non-stop. They were strangers and were having a nice airplane chat. That’s fine. What is NOT fine is that they were doing so in extremely loud voices. Once the flight had resumed, the man was exchanged for some reason with a different one, and again the woman chatted him up. She seemed determined to have as many partners in her bed that night as possible. Or something.

Basically, for the rest of the flight – ten hours and forty-five minutes, in case you were wondering – these two conversed in extremely loud, obnoxious, piercing voices, not even attempting at keeping their conversation private. Thus, I know that She has an Austrian boyfriend. I know He has problems with his girlfriends. I know which movies He and She like. I know that He and She were hitting on each other for half the duration of their in-flight-conversation. I know that She has four really good friends and I know that He wants to travel to South America. I know more about He and She than I know about half my friends. Oh yes, She was also kicking my seat for most of the flight.

So if you hear about an incident on a Delta flight, then know that I was there. And know also that the only thing preventing a second “incident” [namely, me murdering the He and She behind me] was that I really didn’t want the plane to be diverted yet again.

Mistress Murder

Tick tock, tick tock,
Went the big red clock.
Tick tock, tick tock,
Went her heels on the dock.

Hush now, everyone,
Mistress Murder’s on the run,
Careful there, little ones,
If she sees you then you’re done.

Mistress Murder, eyes so red,
A thousand deaths upon her head.
On their souls she surely fed,
Bodies filled with bullets of lead.

They locked her up and sealed her tight,
But then she vanished in the night,
Leaving guards there dead of fright,
Mistress Murder’s out, alright!

Now Mistress Murder’s left the town,
But surely she’ll be back around.
Tonight though we will sleep so sound,
We’ve run her out, she’s gone to ground!