Posted tagged ‘MJ Brewer’

Democrats, Republicans, or Americans

November 20, 2015

“That’s how many kids you’re inviting?” Anna’s mom asked, brushing the hair from her eyes and glancing at her daughter. They’d spent the better part of an hour comprising a list of children’s names from her fifth grade class to come to her party. But they still had one spot left to make it an even dozen.

“Yep, ten. But counting me, it’s eleven.”

“We’re paying for twelve at the pizza parlor. Are you sure you don’t want to invite anyone else?” Her mother thinks for a second, and when the light bulb goes off her finger shoots into the air. “I’ve got it. How about that girl Marti who was playing soccer with you that one day? Remember, the one who looks like she should be in seventh grade?”

“She’s supposed to be in eighth.” The anger brews in Anna’s cheeks and her teeth clench. “And she wasn’t playing soccer with me, she was kicking the ball away from me. She always does that because she’s a bully.”

Her mom gives her a squeeze and leans back examining her daughter. “Okay, you don’t need to have an even dozen. Maybe you’ll think of someone from church or from the playgroup. Hey, I know…”

Anna’s mouth twists up and her eyes roll toward the ceiling before she gives her blond shoulder-length hair a shake. “No one.”

“Well, you never can tell. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and think of someone before the weekend.” With a pat on her backside, her mother says, “Let’s get you off to school. We’ve been so busy, I almost made you late.”

Throwing their jackets on, Anna snags her backpack and follows her mother into the garage, slamming the door behind her.

********************************************************

“Mommy, you’ll never guess what happened at school today!” Anna came barreling into the kitchen where her mother slouched over the computer at the table. A stack of envelopes to the side, made out with stamps on the corners. One lone invitation set apart from the others.

“What happened, my little munchkin?” She opens her arms and tugs her little girl up against her, planting a kiss on her forehead.

“I made a new friend today!”

“Really? Just like that?”

“Just like that.” Anna repeated. She set her backpack down on the floor and unzipped the opening, pulling out a picture she’d drawn and holding it up for her mother to take in. There were two little heads, one with yellow straight-lined hair and the other with brown loops for hair. The brown-headed one had big dark eyes contrasting with the blonde’s blue ones. Both of the faces had smiles and a big red heart hovered between their foreheads.

“Oh my goodness!” Her mother stretches her mouth and eyes wide open. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such curly hair. Is this a kid in your class?”

“Yep!” Anna said with pride.

Her mother nods and adds, “Does your friend have a name?”

“Bana.”

“Wow!” Her mother tilts her head, peering at her from the corner of her eye. “I’ve never heard of that name before. Is it a girl?”

“Yes, and she’s so smart.” Her eyes squint hard at her mother. “Doesn’t my picture look like a girl? That’s me.” She indicates the likeness with a jab of her finger and then turns the paper around to scrutinize it.

“I could tell that was you, but sometimes boys can have long hair.” She pulls the edge of the paper down, peeking over the top. “Oh, I didn’t see her eyelashes. Of course, now I can tell it’s a girl. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay.” Her shoulders rise and fall as if preparing for a big announcement. “She sits next to me. And when Mrs. Coates was calling out our names to line up for lunch, she called Bana and then my name.” She giggles. “All the kids laughed at that, even Marti.”

“Why were the kids laughing?”

“Because Mrs. Coates said, ‘Bana, Anna,’ right after each other. That’s pretty funny, right? So we sort of knew right away we were meant to be friends.” The cozy assuredness on Anna’s face gleamed. “At first the other kids acted sort of weird around her, but I told them about all the great things I learned from her in one day. She’s very smart. I think she might be the president some day.”

Her mom laughs and strokes her daughter’s hair. Pressing her forehead against her daughter’s, she said, “Yeah, I think you’ve established you think she’s smart. Is that who you want to address your final invitation to?”

Anna’s head wobbled up and down like the bobble head in the front of her grandpa’s truck. “Yes, please.” She snatched the pen from the table and addressed the letter herself, writing slowly and methodically in ink and then reciting it aloud. “Bana.”

About a month later, Mrs. Coates had to leave the state to care for her sick mother. A substitute surprised Anna with a gruff introduction. She waited outside the classroom for the kids to enter, like Mrs. Coates always did, but she didn’t smile at all or speak. Her arms crossed in front of her, Anna thought she was copying the mean teachers from when her mom was a kid.

Anna sat tall in her chair and waited for Bana.

The bell rang and Bana wasn’t in her seat. But as soon as the substitute rubbed her name “Mrs. Evans” on the board, Bana popped through the door.

“Bana!” Anna called out, waving her arm in the air as if she hadn’t seen her for a week. “Hurry and come—“

“Excuse me,” the teacher interrupted saying. “The bell has rung. Class is in session, and all eyes should be on me.” Her glare shot out at Anna. “1-2-3, eyes on me. Have you heard that before?”

“1-2, eyes on you!” the class chimed in, and Anna sank into her chair. Bana slowly settled into her own seat. For a moment, Mrs. Evans smirked.

“Do you have an excuse for being tardy?” Mrs. Evans spit out the question.

“Yes, my dad had problems getting the car started this morning and—“

The teacher sighed heavily, exaggerating with slumped shoulders. “That isn’t what I meant,” she said, “Do you have a piece of paper from the office with a signed statement explaining why you’re interrupting the class?” The teacher’s corners of her mouth drooped even lower. “Even now you’re taking up twenty-two kids’ learning time by being tardy. Understand?”

“Yes.”

“Mrs. Evans.” The teacher reminded her.

“Excuse me?”

“My name is Mrs. Evans. When you address an adult, you should say her name. ‘Yes, Mrs. Evans’.”

A peculiar silence sucked all the positive energy from the classroom. Anna could only hear her heart beating. Not a kid moved.

“Yes, Mrs. Evans. I’ll get a note from the office.” Bana’s head was down. Anna noticed her fingers twisted in front of her indicating discomfort.

Mrs. Evans playfully lunged at Bana, nearly causing her to fall back as she staggered into her desk. “Go then.” She whispered. “And hurry back. You have five minutes, but don’t run. No running allowed in the halls.”

Bana stole a glance at Anna over her shoulder before shuffling toward the door. “You’d better go faster than that. You only have four minutes left,” Mrs. Evans said, chuckling afterwards.

The door closed, and the classroom remained shocked while Mrs. Evans strolled to the board and picked up a yardstick lying across the top. With a whacking noise, she brought it down several times in the palm of her hand. “One thing I will make exceedingly clear to this classroom is that while your teacher—whatever her name is—is gone, everyone of you will follow my rules as if I was your original teacher.” Her eyes shift and land on Jaxyn, who scrunches down in his seat, eyes averted. “No exceptions. Is that clear?”

The entire class nodded their heads and a few voices muttered their approval. “Good. Let’s start then.” Her head craned up to the wall beside the door. “Uh oh, I believe we’ll have to make…”

The classroom door popped open and Bana rushes in, handing a slip of paper to the substitute teacher. The teacher pulls the note arm’s length away and squints her eyes to make out the words. “There’s no date on this note,” she said. “Where’s the date?”

Bewildered, the class watched in morbid silence as the teacher crumpled up the note and threw it into the garbage can stationed by the desk. “Never mind, I’ve wasted enough time trying to coerce you into cooperating. Go sit down.” Her long thin finger pointed at the lone chair to the side of the room, under the light switch, segregated from the rest of the class.

“But her chair is right here beside me.” Anna let the words spill before stopping herself, and her arm jolted out indicating the empty desk.

The teacher took long deliberate strides in front of the blond and bent down. She leaned over and whispered, her breath forced the blond locks lying against Anna’s jaw to bow in as she spoke. “Without implications, I believe I was quite clear with my demonstration in substantiating that I make the rules. I’m the queen of the classroom and you, my dear, are the serving drones who should consider themselves lucky. By the time your teacher returns, she won’t know what hit her.”

Pulling back and straightening up, she smiles a raw and treacherous grin, as if the earth of a graveyard were opening wide to swallow the headstones it had housed for so long. “Understand?” Her head swayed a bit as a punctuation mark at the end, but nobody moved an eyelash.

­­The lesson droned on as Mrs. Evans snapped the book shut, uncrossing her thin cricket-like legs and slid off the desk. Shifting the notebook toward her, she flipped it open to the roll. “Gabrielle, tell me what the author meant when he wrote about the sound of a scorpion.”

The class snickered. No one answered, even though her eyes pierced through Gabe’s face like a laser through a piece of tissue paper. “Don’t you know the answer? Weren’t you listening to a word I said?”

“Yes, ma’am.” His green eyes dulled and he shrinked in his chair.

“Then why don’t you answer me?” Mrs. Evans hovered over Gabe the way bad news hovers over an envelope from the IRS.

Frightened beyond words, Gabe whispers something inaudible.

“What did you say?”

“My name is Gabriel, but my friends call me Gabe.” He winces and his eyes shift away for a second. “Not Gabrielle, ma’am.”

Brock Turner leaps from his desk with his finger extended forward pointing at the front of Gabe’s pants. “He peed his pants. OMG, he freakin’ peed right there on the floor. Pathetic!”

The class bursts in mixed reactions, some of them sneer in revulsion while others cringe in angst, as if the situation happened to them. Mrs. Evans’ body straightens tall and she sniffs the air. With lowered glowering lids, her chin lifted and she said, “You, Gabriel, piddled your britches as a scorned puppy, refusing to be housebroken. I simply don’t know what to do with you.”

Gabe’s lower lip quivers and he ducks his head in shame.

“You need to leave him alone,” Bana said, rising from her desk and pounding it with her little fists. “You’re a bully and you’ve probably always been a bully, even in school. You probably have to be a substitute because no one else wants you.”

The entire class stared at Bana with their mouths hanging down to their chests in complete and utter awe. “Just who do you think you are?” The teacher spat at her, bending over to plant her hands firmly on the desk in front of Bana.

“My name is Bana Baz, and I come from a country where we were beaten and slain for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the right time. My mother and baby brother were shot in front of my father and me. I still remember everyone screaming and running away. Everyone but me. I knelt down beside my mother, her mouth opened, but no words came out. Still, I knew she pleading for me to save my brother, but he was dead too. I started to cry. My father scooped me into his arms and dived into a shelter, saving my life. That was before we came here to the Land of the Free. The land where everyone pulls together. Not just Republican or Democratic, but humanity as a whole. The country of God. The country of love.”

For a brief moment, Mrs. Evans stood in silence, gaining her composure and preparing for her own mass destruction. “So, you are a refugee? I should have known by the way you behave so defiantly. A troublemaker…”

A pencil flew across the room and bounced off the rude teacher’s shoulder. Before Anna could determine what was happening, the majority of the class scooted out of their seats approaching the front of the room like a junior mob.

The teacher took a couple of steps back. “Get in your seats right now,” she said, although the curtness was missing. There was a sense of uneasiness surrounding what she said as her fingers clawed the air, reaching behind her for the jacket draped on the back of her chair. Curling her fingers around the coat she gave it a yank, removing it easily, and staggered toward the door. “You are a group of ungrateful curs,” she said before Marti lunged at her, giving her a shove and slamming the door closed behind her.

Standing alone in the classroom amongst the chairs, Gabriel’s head hung low and tears dripped from his eyes. “Don’t worry. You can call your mom and have her bring you some clean pants,” Anna said to him, draping an arm around his shoulders and giving them a hearty squeeze.

“It’s not that as much as what my father said this morning at the breakfast table. He said the refugees coming into our country were going to ruin it.” His tear-stained cheeks reflected the fluorescent lights from above. “But Bana is a refugee, and I think she may help save the country by reminding us who we are.”

Bana stood with a smile and threw an arm around Anna’s shoulders. “With Bana-Anna in this country, we can do anything.”

 

 

Japetoneda, (Jan. 2, 2009) God Bless America – American Flag with M4A1 Rifle and Dollar sign, Flickr

 

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The Locket

December 19, 2013

            Image

The old woman is massaging a heart-shaped silver locket between her fingers as the nurse stands behind her combing her long silver mane with an antique brush. “And my Jasmine is every mother’s dream, you know?” the elder says in her soft voice. Pushing a small button on the side, she pops the locket open. A photo of a young woman with large blue eyes, lips curled up in a secretive smile, peers out.

            The nurse stops combing and places her hand on the older woman’s shoulder. “I remember how excited you were at Christmas, Beverly. I can recall the two of you like little girls, braiding each others hair and giggling.” Beverly separates it into three silky sections, overlaying one side across the other into a singular braid.

            “My Jazzy,” Beverly says, her eyes linger at the window pane watching what nature holds on the other side. “The only reason my hair isn’t short like most women my age is all because of my Jasmine you know.”

            “No, I didn’t know that.” She continues to braid to the end as she listens.

            “Oh yes.” The woman smiles, folding her hands in her lap before she continues, “I was older than most women when I had Jasmine. The doctors all said I’d never bear children, but they were wrong.” She shakes her finger in the air as if scolding a doctor now. “Yes sir, they were wrong. I got pregnant just before her daddy was called to war. Of course I didn’t find out until he was gone, and then it was too late. And being a single mother back then was hard, you know.”  

            Beverly shifts in her chair to capture her listener’s face before rotating back around, waiting for the final touches.

            The nurse finishes up the braid and wraps it around her head in a wreath, cinching it with a few bobby pins and spritzing it with spray. “You look lovely,” she says to her client.

            “Her father liked long hair, you know. He used to laugh and call me Rapunzel. I remember how he would wrap himself up in it before we went to sleep at night, like a little boy with his blankie.”

Beverly’s eyes fill with tears and the gold locket slides back and forth on the chain between her withered fingers, making a zing-zing sound. The thin smiling lips quiver and she emits a tiny choking gasp.

            The nurse pulls a folding metal chair around in front of the old woman and takes the aged hands into her own. The plain, unembellished silver wedding band loosely encircles her ring finger. She waited patiently for the next part to follow.

            “Every night I’d comb it and cry until one night I couldn’t stand it anymore and cut it off to here,” she said, indicating a length with her fingers, like scissors, just below her jaw. “I guess part of it was the mood swings from the pregnancy, but I never did grow it back, until…”

            The nurse takes the old woman’s wrinkled hands, “Go on, Beverly. Tell me all about your precious baby.”

            “When I saw the beautiful curly blond locks around her face, it seemed a shame to cut them off, maybe a sin of some kind, so I didn’t. It grew clear to her waist.” She giggles and covers her mouth to cough, reaching for a tissue the nurse hands to her. “Just like mine used to be. One day, I guess she was about ten, she asked me if I could grow mine out so we could be twins. It was the darn-hootinest thing you ever did see–her telling people we were twins.” Beverly pauses and catches her breath, whispering the rest. “Jazzy was such a lovely little girl and then she grew up!” Beverly chuckles again, punctuating it with a cough that continues until she is blue in the face, with the tissue pressing hard against her mouth.

            “Beverly, are you okay, hun?” the nurse asks. She stands to get a plastic cup of cold water from the cooler by the wall and holds it out to her.

            Beverly put the cup to her lips and swallows before she pulls it away again. “She’s about due now, isn’t she?”

            “Who?”

            “Well, Jasmine of course,” Beverly smiles. “That is why you did my hair for me, remember?” Beverly straightens the locket and fixes her collar, giving it a pat. Her sad expression is replaced with a joyous adventure seeking face.

            “Of course I remember.” She holds her watch up to take a look. “She should be here anytime, I guess.”

            “Wonderful, just wonderful dear.” Beverly’s vision is not broken, nor her grin faltering. “Would you be a dear and direct her in here when she comes? I made some gingerbread and apple cider.”

            Stroking the old woman on the back with her hand, she reassures her. “I’ll do that Beverly.”

            “Thank you, dear.”

            The nurse stands and moves toward the doorway behind the woman where another nurse is entering and pushing her purse into a locker. “She’s talking about Jasmine coming to visit for Christmas again,” she tells the new nurse as she plucks her purse from inside another locker, slinging it over her shoulder.

            “The poor woman,” the new arrival says, “It’s getting to be more frequent.”

            “I’m glad I’m not the one to break her heart this time. It’s the worst part of my shift, watching her cry.” She steals a glance at Beverly as she watches out the window and then bows her head, leaving the room.

            “Beverly,” the new nurse taps the old woman gently on the shoulder.

            “Oh,” she says, startled a bit, “I thought you were my Jasmine. She’s every mother’s dream, you know.”

            “Yes, what a lovely girl.”

            “The only reason my hair is long is because Jasmine wants to be twins.  Will you help me fix it so when she comes I can look presentable?”

            “It’s already up, Beverly, and you look perfect.”

Beverly’s eyes open wide and her mouth moves as if she will speak, but then she closes it again. “Oh, so it is.” Her hands reach up and feel the braid wrapping around her head. “Jasmine likes it like this.”

            Beverly watches dreamily through the window. “I just love Christmas. Don’t you?” she says.

            “Yes,” the nurse says, “I think everyone loves Christmas.”

            Crossing the room, the nurse reaches up to close the blinds before Beverly sees the Fourth of July fireworks. When she turns back, the old woman is motionless, crumpled in her chair. The locket cradled delicately in her palm lying in her lap. Jasmine beams up from inside, smiling at her mother.

The Crossing Guard

November 13, 2013

and she was cross.

and she was cross.


Every morning Veronica wakes up early and pours herself a cup of coffee. She makes twice as much this morning for her big day. For the past seven years, everything has been the same, everything but the depth of the wrinkles and the gray in her hair. She’s also a bit heavier, but everything else is unchanged.

Ryan bursts into the kitchen, his trumpet tucked under his arm. “You got my–?” he asks, but stops short when the waft of oatmeal reaches his nostrils and he pauses to inhale.

His little sister Liberty runs up behind him, giving him a nudge and grabbing her sugar toast from the table. Pulling the crust off and pushing it aside, she pushes her face in the center and takes a bite, leaving greasy sugar on the tip of her nose.

The kids pack their things in the car. Ryan clicks on the radio from the passenger seat. His imaginary drum set pops out and his arms and head are moving synchronously. “Tell him to turn it down,” Liberty says cupping her ears with a crinkled face. “It’s too loud.”

“We do this every day, you guys.” Veronica turns the radio down halfway and instructs Liberty to put her seatbelt on without looking. It’s off every day as they pull out of the driveway.

The kids each lean over to press a kiss on Veronica’s cheek before climbing out of the car, waving, and running up to the school.

When they’re safely inside, Veronica takes a deep breath and exhales, her hands gripping the wheel until her knuckles turn white. She checks the traffic to make sure the entry on the road is clear and pulls out. At the end of the block, orange cones are set up at the crosswalk. On the corner is her daily nemesis, the crossing guard.

This crossing guard isn’t an excited and happy one like the one on the other side of the block; this one is a life form that shouldn’t be out without a full moon. As if they share an epiphany, her head turns and her eyes narrow, piercing a direct ray through the windshield to Veronica’s eyes. Veronica squints under the pressure, but forces her eyes open even wider and glares back.

Time stands still, as if the women are at opposite ends of the street outside a gunslinger’s saloon. They size each other up, hands hovering over their weapons until one makes her move.

Veronica checks the street and then pulls up to turn. A fat hand clutching the handle of a stop sign shoots out in front of her car. A smirk crosses the guard’s pudgy face above her bright yellow vest. Dishwater blond hair dangles in a ragged mess over her collar. A boy walking toward the corner is still minutes away as the guard waddles to the middle of the street, eyeing Veronica’s car, daring her.

When Veronica guns the engine, frothing at the mouth, the child stops for a second and looks at her, in a quandary. But the driver smiles and motions with her hand to cross.

When the child is safe on the other side, the crossing guard yells at him to have a good day with her cigarette-choked voice. Her stop sign waves madly in the air. With a victorious grin, she pivots toward Veronica and remains between the white lines with the matching cone behind her, as if somehow in a bulletproof shelter.

Veronica slightly lifts off the clutch and punches her accelerator to the floor. The squeal of the tires accompany a plume of smoke behind the car. The vehicle lurches forward.

The horror on the crossing guards face is a carnival funhouse entrance. The car slides around the corner, missing her by the width of a gnat’s wing. The sign spins free, up in the air, while the guard stumbles falling to the other side of the road. Her thick body collapses over a fire hydrant like a lifebuoy in the middle of the ocean.

Veronica smiles and peers at her victim in the rearview mirror while she drives away. Today will be different.

Mr. President

November 6, 2013
Presidential parade of impressive people.

Presidential parade of impressive people.

The weather is unforgiving as Serena steps on the curb, dodging the spray of water from oncoming traffic. She opens her cherry flavored lip balm and swipes it across her chapped lips.

                An elderly man in a gray corduroy coat steps off the curb to the slick crosswalk. His feet fly out from under him, throwing him into the air with peril and dumping him to the wet asphalt. The grocery bag’s contents scatter across the street as he struggles to his knees.

                Dropping her lip balm, Serena makes a mad dash for him, despite the continuous stream of impatient vehicles with blaring horns. Dragging him to safety, she is unable to save his mutilated groceries as they rupture beneath the constant stream of cars.

                “You saved me,” the old man says between gasping breaths, “I must do something to repay your kindness. What do you need more than anything?”

                **************************************** 

                The townspeople gather in flocks chanting and cheering with upturned faces toward the flag hanging boldly behind the microphone. The president gives a final savior’s smile before a wave of his hand signals he’s finished. Approaching the front of the stage, he descends the stairs into the crowd of people waiting below. Mothers with babies, the elderly, and reporters alike stretch their hands out for their brush with greatness.

                The president reaches his hand out and claps it with an elderly man, his eyes locking with the man in the gray corduroy coat. The thin lips pressing hard below his hook-shaped nose and burrowing black eyes connect with the president. The other arm of the gray corduroy coat extends to the side clutching the hand of a beaten down woman with sad eyes. An electric current welds their four hands together in a single band before the woman shakes her head with surprising vigor.

                “Quite the handshake, sir,” she says, removing her hand and wiping it on her pathetic poncho before returning her stare confused. “Wait a second!”

                But the president and the man in the gray corduroy coat are nowhere in sight.

                The president shakes no more hands as he hurries to the black limousine waiting for him with the door hanging open, his chauffeur at the steed. “Mr. President,” the chauffeur says, addressing him as he closes the door and moves around to get into his own seat. The car speeds away with a frantic woman chasing it in the rearview mirror, her gingham poncho flailing with her arms.

                “Everything okay, Mr. President?” the chauffeur asks into the rearview mirror.

                “Everything is perfect,” the president says as he slides the divider up between them. His vice president rests his eyes on his comrade’s face with suspicion. The president smiles and pulls cherry flavored lip balm out of his pocket. Licking his lips, he rolls it over before rubbing them together. “I’m ready to finally do some good for this country.”

               

               

 

Remember Bloody Mary

October 20, 2013
Unless you plan on dying, don't call on Bloody Mary. She doesn't bake cookies.

Unless you plan on dying, don’t call on Bloody Mary. She doesn’t bake cookies.

“Too bad he changed his mind. You are sizzling, girl,” Whitney says to her friend, checking out her fairy costume. “His loss, right?” 

Taking a tissue from her friend, Veronica wipes her eyes and sinks back into the couch. “I gave up a killer babysitting job this weekend that would have paid $300 to go to that stupid party.”  

Veronica blows her nose and wads the tissue up in her hand, laughing hysterically. 

“What’s so damned funny?” Whitney asks. 

“I’m sorry, this is a sad moment and I should be crying, but it’s hard when the Queen of Darkness is playing pity-party for me. It isn’t natural, you know?” She giggles and Whitney joins in, giving her a hug and pulling her dark hood up. 

“You’re not natural. Okay, I’m cancelling my date with Justin and hanging with you,” Whitney says with an upbeat snap to her voice. “It’ll be more fun anyway.”  

Whitney tosses her hood back, calls her date and turns back to her friend, “Let’s play that game we used to play as kids. Remember ‘Bloody Mary’?” 

“Yeah, but I didn’t like it much.” 

“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” Whitney says rushing upstairs with her friend in tow to the bathroom. She closes the door. 

“Cool, you even have candles,” Whitney says as she collects them from the sides of the tub and pulls a lighter out of her purse. 

“Why do you have a lighter? You don’t smoke, do you?” But Veronica’s question meets with a let’s not get into that now expression. Instead, Whitney lights the candles. Holding one in front of her, she stares transfixed into the mirror hitting the lights. Veronica’s holding a candle of her own.

“Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary…,” they say in unison, growing louder, thirteen times before blowing out the candles and waiting. A piercing screech echoes and a blood-curdling scream reverberates off the porcelain and glass. Veronica flips the lights on. She is alone. A shuffling downstairs demands her attention.  

“Whitney?” she says, leaving the bathroom. “Whitney?” The fairy moves to the stairs with caution and sees a cloaked figure in the dim lights by the door. “Is that you?” 

Without a response, she descends the stairs. As she draws near, it isn’t Whitney at all, but Justin, her friend’s cancelled date. “Trick or treat, bitch,” he says, his voice cracking, as his hands whisk a hatchet from beneath his cape. 

“No,” she manages to say before the blade divides her eyes vertically in a spray of red across the wall. Her body convulses and crumples to the floor–a muddled mess of blood and mutilated brains. He shakes his head back and forth hard, confused. Prying his hatchet out of her head with a sharp jolt, he dashes out the door. 

“Why didn’t you look in the shower?” Whitney says, laughing as she emerges at the top of the stairs, her mangled friend lying askew at the bottom. “Bloody Mary. Oh my God!”

Red

October 13, 2013
Not all Reds ride the same.

Not all Reds ride the same.

The damp night air clings to her cotton shirt, pushing her nipples through the thin fabric, as she climbs into her Camaro. Her long damp legs exit her leather skirt to squeak against the seats as she puts it in gear. The license plate reads “Red,” disappearing with the roar of the engine, over the rise in the road.

The rainwater kicks up around the tires as the trickles start. She turns the corner with precision, splashing a dark figure walking with a grocery sack in tow. He flashes her one finger shy of a peace sign, but she’s concentrating on her destination scribbled on a piece of paper set on her passenger seat.

“101 Woods Road,” she says. “After this I’m fucking going to bed.”

She gives her boss a call before she faces the now hard-hitting rain and climbs out of the car. Ducking her head, she sprints to the shelter of the porch, her long auburn hair losing some of the curl as it clings to her slender neck.

The rain is pounding down like a hammer on nails when she rings the bell, but gets no answer. She rings it several consecutive times as the rain continues in deafening torrents on the porch’s cover. Thumping on the door one more time, it swings open with a spine-tingling screech.

The quiet of the house accentuates shadows stretching up the walls, greatly exaggerated when the lightning strikes outside. “Hello?” she says, but the only answer is the rain banging on the windowpanes like victims trying to escape a fire.

“Hello, dear,” an old woman says, calling from a room down the hall.

Red nears the entrance and warily peeks inside. “Sorry, I was looking for Hugh.”

“Hugh went out, but he’ll be back any time. Can you come and keep me company until he returns?” the old woman says. Her cough is full of coarse gravel and her swallowing echoes in the dark.

Entering the room, Red detects a strong odor of black licorice. Lightening shoots in daggers across the walls. The old woman’s eyes flash red above the blanket that she pulls up over her face.

Doing a double take Red stares. “What big eyes you have,” she says, nearing the bed and with squinted eyes.

“All the better to see you with, my dear.” The old woman cocks her head this way and that on the pillow like a curious pigeon.

“Oh, and what big ears you have.” Red draws closer with the window to her back. The shadows continue their violent dance around the room.

Red leans in toward the woman, cupping her ear toward the faint gurgles of the woman attempting to speak.

“The better to hear you with my dear,” the woman says again, pulling the blanket away from her mouth.

Red shrinks back against the window as lightening flashes again. “Oh my, what huge teeth you have!”

“The better to eat you with my dear,” the old woman flashes a toothy grin jolting up tall in bed, a disgusting and vile scene with drool exiting her lips. The thunder bursts outside, rattling the windows. Red screams.

The bedroom door slams open wide and a dripping wet man comes inside. He gives Red a curious glance. “Grandma, lie down. I got your soda so you can take your medicine and get some sleep.”

He pulls lemonade out of his saturated grocery sack, opens it, and hands it to the decrepit old hag.

With the slurping and slobbering woman content, Hugh takes Red by the hand, leading her down the hall. “Ow, ooooooow,” he howls.

Watch of the Gargoyle

September 24, 2013


I told myself I wasn’t ever doing this again, yet here I am walking home at quarter to midnight, down the long and dark city streets alone. The shadows loom overhead, almost caressing, perhaps teasing me as if they know something I don’t. Still, I’m fine with my ignorance and home isn’t that far away. Only two more blocks until the shortcut in the chain link fence, allowing access to the other side. Where I am is the city–on the other side of the field is where real civilization starts.

The cars are sparse, only interrupting every so often with bright headlights and the sound of rain splashing the tires, up into the wheel wells. The cars disappear as stealthily as they approach. I hardly notice because the next building is my favorite in a love-hate way; it’s an old cathedral. Unsure of its construction, I only know it’s probably the oldest building in the city. Never having been inside, I always imagine the beautiful glass of rainbow colors reflecting the sunlight during the daylight hours as it shines down on worshipping parishioners. The reason I’ve never gone to see for myself is I can’t stand the glass of my vivid imagination shattering into a million little pieces. Besides the beauty of the glass dulls to the mystery of the gargoyles perched on the ancient edifice as they glower down off the corners. Who knows what stories they would tell if only they could speak?

The doglike figures lean over, lips pulled back threatening with sharp teeth. Taught wings are eager to spread and ride the wind on a second’s notice. Their soulless pupils glare down piercing the dank night air. Watchful eyes observe thousands of people, as they guard their domain through the night.

A menacing stillness sweeps over the tall building in a cloak of anticipation, sweeping kind memories into the closet and locking the door. The leaves stop twirling, the rain subsides, and the wind settles as it dawns on me how truly alone I am. The only sound I can hear is my feet shuffling on the pock-marked sidewalks and my rasping breath. Tiny bellows of steam escape my throat in rhythm with my steps. It feels later than it is when the midnight bell tolls.

Gong Gong

A devious-looking gargoyle on the nearest edge captures my attention. For a second, it appears to stealthily watch, a cat preparing to catch an unsuspecting butterfly.

Gong Gong

“Don’t you fucking move!” a hand shoots out striking the front of my shoulders. The stranger jerks me toward him and drags me in reverse, my feet shuffling to keep from falling. I fight him, wiggling the best I can and his baseball cap topples from his head on the sidewalk.
“I warned you,” he shouts, pulling my chin up with his elbow clamping my throat.

The back of one shoe catches on the step and pulls from my foot as I try to scream. Although the shouts are reverberating through my head, nothing escapes my frozen lips and I hear the last sound I may ever hear–

Gong Gong The bell tolls.

We stop in the shadows against the cathedral wall. His coarse hands tighten around my throat, milking the last bit of air from my lungs, the last gasp of his filthy sweat inundating my nostrils. The cool night air chills me producing a tingling in my legs, as they grow limp.

I’m dying.

I didn’t fight hard enough, and tomorrow morning little Catholic kids on their way to school will find my body in a crumpled heap against the door. The thought sickens me as my world continues to surrender to obscurity. My bowels churn and my esophagus reminds me of the medium-well cooked steak I’d eaten earlier.

An ear-shattering whoosh echoes through the night’s misty drizzle as my body tumbles to the wide steps. Pitch-blackness envelops the night, choking out anything that would normally gleam. The blurring shape of the man stands threatening a mammoth bat-like creature. Amidst a heart-stopping shriek, the air fills with eerie gongs drowning out the screeches of the battling entities. A man grunting as he jabs and spins, and the creature’s low rumbling growl.

Violence ensues as the man’s blade flashes through the night, slicing through shadows, but striking nothing. I hear a shriek of pain and his hefty body thuds on the ground. I find the strength to stand, thinking I will run. The nerves in my legs are frozen solid in fear and refuse to allow me to flee.

All exertion stops. Silence ensues with one tall, ominous shadow remaining. The bottomless eyes manage to flash before it turns away. Tall and life draining, it waits, unmoving. A gesture so deliberate I can see it’s the gargoyle. A new energy fills my body and I turn away, staggering like a drunk toward the sidewalk. Glancing back at the scene, the signs of a struggle are gone except for the remaining baseball cap, mashed and rolling across the lawn.
A large gust of wind picks up the hat, spinning it into the distance until it fades away. My eyes shift up the gray stone building to the markers at the top. I witness one of the gargoyles’ posts is void of its master, offsetting the structure.

Gong Gong the bell rings its final peal–midnight.

A dark cloud closing in with a calm flapping noise takes its spot on the corner of the building. The wings are so wide they smother the moon and most stars in the sky. Its claws dig into the gutter lining the rooftop, omitting the screech of a delivery truck’s brakes. Its wings pose angled behind it, sitting steadfast to ensure no sins can occur on its watch. After all, that’s what gargoyles do best.

Video: Jackson, K (2013, August 23)

Reverend Alan Birss, minister at Paisley Abbey, said most of the gargoyles were replaced during a refurbishment in the early 1990s. He thinks that one of the stonemasons must have been having a bit of fun.