Craving

Carter bangs the till shut. He taps an order into the touch screen. He takes money from a customer. He counts the dollars, the quarters, the dimes, the nickels, the stinking pennies. He presses the button that shoots the till open. He puts the money into the right slots. He bangs the till shut.

The clinging of coins and rattle of his monitor aren’t satisfying. He’s used to the sound. It rises around him from the other four till workers. It’s the movement of his arm, back and forth, the same feeling he gets when he vacuums his small apartment. It’s the powerful thrust forward that makes something happen. There’s an agency to it that has become better than violence.

He’s tried violence. He boxed at the gym after beating people up in bars didn’t work out well. He did three months in jail that one year, and he never wants to go back. It was a cheap jail, not federal, not one of the places where they invest money for long-term stays. It was a revolving door there, people in and out. There wasn’t any time to make connections, figure out who did favors for who, whether it worked like the movies. He tried to keep his head down, ended up getting the crap beaten out of him anyway. Bruise for bruise, he figured. He started wearing his mother’s old cross necklace when he got out, hoping it would remind him of something. Mostly, he just remembers to feel guilty when he wakes up late on Sunday and realizes that he’s late for work, never mind that he’s missed church too.

There’s a girl now. In front of him. She’s a sweet thing, younger than him, but he always feels like that about any pretty woman, even when she’s his age exactly. He smiles at her. He takes her money. He puts it in the till. He slams it shut. She doesn’t smile back at him. She looks away, swallows, keeps chewing her gum. Carter opens his mouth to ask her name, to tell her his, even though his is written on the name tag on his shirt, but she glances at his mouth, sees the hole where one of his teeth should be and isn’t, and her lips suck in and shuffle sideways on her face in muted disgust. She turns away and walks to the pick-up area to wait for her food. Carter keeps his eyes straight ahead, his lips shut tight.

He craves whiskey and his apartment. He craves a moment alone, without the jingle of commerce and the false music of the mall echoing from beyond the food court. He craves a tooth he lost in a fight that didn’t make him feel better for longer than half an hour. He craves a punching bag. He craves the girl.

Mad Mary [Flash Fiction]

“Either stay, and do as I say, or go.”

I went. Many would have stayed, and been called fools for it. In my small village, I’d seen the same thing happen many a time, and always the women would throw contemptuous glances at their peer who wore long sleeves in summer and tried to spread powder over her face and neck so the bruises wouldn’t show.

And yet, now that I’m alone, walking along the path that leads from the village to the bigger city that lies somewhere by the sea, I wonder who is the real fool. I went because I couldn’t stand him anymore – not his smell, or his heaving, sweaty weight groaning above me, or his fists in my stomach when I burned the crust of the bread. Mother surely didn’t help. She told me to take it and do as my husband said. She thought that I must have been doing something wrong for him to become so angry. I tried to tell her that the devil shown out of his eyes, but she told me I was mad.

So I went. I left everything. There was no one in the village who would help me, for it wasn’t only Mother who thought I was mad. I’d been called Mad Maiden Mary all the way up the aisle, and only when I was good and married in front of God, the Church and everybody did they stop. And then only because I wasn’t a maiden anymore.

It’s my eyes. They’re large, and one is blue while the other is green. The green one used to be blue until an accident that Mother never explains happened when I was just a babe. I gather that something stuck in my eye and changed all the colors around and made it that bright green that throws everyone off. I also talk to myself, but only because there never seems to be anyone else to talk to, and I guess that God made me chatty by nature.

I walk on, my dress growing ragged at the bottom because I keep stepping on it. I don’t know how far the seashore is, and I don’t know what waits for me there. But it has to be better than what I left behind.

On Command

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Lyle was practicing in front of the mirror again. He had on the army uniform costume that he’d worn on Halloween, and he’d stolen the medal out of his mom’s sock drawer. It was draped around his skinny neck, the gold-colored part resting somewhere around the level of his belt. He marched up and down in his room, trying to make his limbs as stiff as possible, and then turned back to the mirror.

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Under different circumstances, the sight of an eight-year old boy wearing a Halloween costume and walking like a robot would have been amusing. But as it was, it made Robby, Lyle’s older brother, throw his backpack violently across the room. It hit Lyle, who went down right in the middle of another salute.

“Shut up, you idiot, mom’ll be home soon!” Robby gave his brother an extra shove and went to the bathroom to shave. He’d been with his girlfriend after school, and she’d told him she didn’t like his itchy stubble. Trying to calm himself, Robby took out the old razor and placed it on the sink. He lathered his face with lotion, and began, with hands still trembling with anger, to scrape the old, thin blade across his cheek. He managed not to nick his right cheek, his upper lip and his chin, and moved on to the left cheek.

A scream seemed to tear the house into pieces. In the bathroom, Robby cursed as the razor blade cut into his cheek and blood started to seep out of the thin slice. It mixed with the shaving lotion until the lower half of his cheek looked like a marshmallow. Rinsing himself off, Robby got a wad of toilet-paper and held it to his cut as he opened the bathroom door with a crash. A horrible scene met his eyes.

Lyle was face down on the floor, his mother leaning over him. She had the ribbon the medal hung on in one thin, wasted hand, and she was pulling at it, hard. It was still around Lyle’s neck.

“Mom!” Robby dashed forwards, and forced his mother’s hand to let go. He heaved her backwards, away from Lyle, pushing her until she was leaning against the far wall. Her eyes looked dead, and she made no move to go back to strangling her son, so Robby left her and bent over Lyle, turning him over. He was breathing – crying, choking on his mucus and tears, but breathing nonetheless. He huddled in Robby’s embrace, hiding from their mother. Flashing a look of scorn towards her, Robby picked him up and carried him to their tiny, shared room. He took the medal off of him, got him out of the costume and put him in bed. He drew the covers over him and tucked them snug. Lyle was already asleep when he left the room, curled up into a ball.

“How could you, Mom?” Robby faced his mother, who still hadn’t moved from where he’d pushed her. He held the medal forth. “This is what you want? This stupid piece of tin and some gold paint? Take it! Here, take it!” He threw the medal at her feet. Her eyes moved towards it, and she finally moved, kneeling down to pick it up. She looked at it lying in her hand, caressed it, and then held it closely to her breast. Raising her eyes, she gave Robby a withering glare. He didn’t budge, didn’t say a word.

“You never – do you hear me, son? You never talk about your father’s memory that way again.”

She rushed into her bedroom, closing and locking the door, before Robby could scream at her that his father was dead, that he died in a stupid war, that the medal didn’t really mean anything, that his father’s memory lay nowhere near the stupid thing. He slumped against the wall. It was too much, suddenly. It was all too much. His mother had never gone this far before. And Lyle – Lyle was just like her! Why did her need to steal that thing out of her drawer every other day?

Trembling, forgetting about the tissue that was still stuck to his face, Robby went down the hall to where the phone rested on a small table – his father had managed to get a great bargain on it at the flea market, Robby remembered that day… Without dwelling too long, though, he picked up the phone and dialed.

“Aunt Jenny? It’s Rob. Robby. My mom – she – Lyle – I just… We need help.”

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.


Beast

Surrounded by mirrors
You cannot escape.
You surround yourself.
Stare and gape
Wide eyed
At the truths you uncover.

Screaming at yourself,
Hitting,
Scratching,
Biting,
Self-loathing,
Covered in blood.
You pause and see yourself-
An animal.
A primitive being
Unable to control itself.

Rage, anger, hurt,
All forgotten
In the shock of discovery.

Through it all,
A small light in the corner of your mind.
It leads you back into yourself.
It makes you believe that perhaps,
Just perhaps,
The mirrors deceive you.
Someone loves you.

Wuthering Heights

It’s a classic. Lots of people have read it. It’s right up there with Jane Eyre and anything by Jane Austin. I hadn’t read it before, and when I was looking through the bookshelves at home, I decided to pick it up and try it. Ever since I got home for my break, I’ve been reading a new book every couple of days, spending half my days reading and swallowing up page after page. I’m beginning to feel like a hermit, but then there’s something so nice in escaping completely and utterly into the worlds of other people.

So I decided to read Wuthering Heights. The copy I picked off our shelf was beautiful – a small, green, hardback copy in terrific condition and with that special type that seems to dominate older library books. I began reading, excited that I’d finally get to know this Mr. Heathcliff that everyone who talks about the book is always swooning about. I assumed he’d be something like Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester; gruff and unfriendly, but ultimately the possessor of a romantic and loving heart.

In this, as in everything else I’d heard about the book, I was sorely mistaken. Heathcliff is horrible. Why is he romanticized? True, the life he led wasn’t particularly a good one, but then his mean and vengeful spirit was entirely his own, in my opinion. The whole book was so vastly different from what I imagined it to be – I thought it would be more like a Jane Austin novel, but instead I found it to be disturbing, full of  menacing and frightening characters, violent and truly distressing.

This is the first time I truly felt that I’d judged a book by it’s cover. Must remember not to do that again in a hurry.