Posted tagged ‘Short Story’

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.”

               

               

 

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.

Die, Fly

September 16, 2013

green flyThe apartment window farts a warm waft of air into the room alerting Bernard who struggles at the computer. “Shit,” he says, checking his watch. His fingers move at a hummingbird rate across the keys. A sudden gust rushes in stirring the documents to form a paper ballet that swirls gracefully to the floor.

“Damn it,” he says, rushing to close the window, but not before a fly manages to zip inside. Its sparkling body catches the light as it reflects twinges of green. “Great.” Sarcasm coats Bernard’s voice.

No sooner is he comfortable than the fly flits about his hands, disturbing his rhythm. Bernard swished at the fly and continues to type. It buzzes past his face. “Argh,” he says, slamming his fists down on the desk.

Hanging on the far wall is an old fly swatter. Bernard snatches it searching the room. The vermin lands, tiptoeing across his desk. Grunting, he swats several times but misses, despite knocking a lamp and a stack of books over.

“Too quick for the swatter, eh?” he says. “I got something that will slow you down.”

Holding a small trigger bottle of water, Bernard frowns. “Now I got you,” he says, snarling like a gunfighter at the OK Corral where everything is anything but okay.

The fly zips past him, buzzing its siren as it weaves teasing through the air like a SR-71 bomber. Bernard spins in a circle, saturating everything before managing to nail the fly. It sputters and lights on the ceiling just beyond his reach. It vibrates its saturated wings. Bernard grabs the swatter and leaps at the ceiling. He swings, jumping and batting at the insect until it takes to the air. The fly giggles. It zips past his face in an aerobatics corkscrew, mocking him.

“Time to bring out the big guns,” he says, smirking. Rummaging under the kitchen sink he finds his aerosol Buzz Off. The pest lands on his shoulder whispering obscenities and chuckles. With a swish of his free hand, he sends it swirling through the air into the kitchen.

“I wish I could kill you more than once, you son-of-a-bitch.” The thick spray shoots from the nozzle. It coats the walls, the floor, and the tiny table still holding dirty dishes from lunch in a cloud.

Bernard gasps, fighting for air. The fly perches on the stove’s top in front of him. It washes and licks its hairy little hands, rubbing them together in a sinister fashion.

“Die fly,” Bernard says, gritting his teeth and spraying until the nozzle sputters. He tosses the empty can into the garbage.

The fly claws at its throat standing on its hind legs. Twirling several times, it spits, gasping a final wheeze. It tips backward tumbling beneath the burner, clutching its thorax.

Leaning over the stove, Bernard can see the critter’s tiny legs stirring in the air propelling itself in a useless circle.

“Don’t think you’re getting off that easy,” he says short of breath, reaching up to ignite the burner.

Birth of a Savage Garden

June 19, 2012

Salt Lake City was never like this when he was a kid; people bustling about, practically driving over pedestrians in an effort to escape the TRAX train impeding traffic.   The radio is blasting as Bristol Kirkland’s Jeep moves with the other cars until it comes to an abrupt halt.  The car in front of him has a bumper sticker ironically stating, “The only reason I’m speeding is that I really need to poop”. 

Bristol was born and raised here, watching the quaint town boom into the metropolis it is, and knows the people haven’t finished yet.  The goal seems to be to grow into another New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, and it’s definitely happening.

The only difference seems to be the fault line that plows through the eastern side of the state.  It has always had him alert and prepared, plus the entire scout training he’s had growing up.  But no amount of training could prepare him thoroughly for the future, without the help of a psychic or seer.  Then again, he knows the mystery of the planet is nature and Mother Nature is as unpredictable as any other female expected to make up her mind.

Now that he’s an adult, a week never goes by that he doesn’t shake off the madness with his girlfriend, Scarlet, in exhilarating activities such as biking or hiking somewhere.  They know the mountain ranges like the backs of their hands, keeping track of the seasons and weather patterns in journals.   Being prepared is what Bristol focuses on in everything he does. He has no doubt this is the ultimate key to his survival.

When traffic comes to a halt, Bristol puts his window down and turns the radio off.  Groups of people stop to observe the numerous televisions sets in a shop window.  He listens to try to determine what is going on.  Suddenly someone yells, “We got eight minutes, just eight minutes and twenty seconds!”  A large portion of the crowd takes off running, another stands in disbelief, and a third stands disoriented in awe.

Horns begin to honk and people are chaotically thinning out.  An impatient driver decides not to wait, and goes careening through the crowd of people on the sidewalk, laying on the horn all the way.  Pure insanity.  Nevertheless, other cars follow and the people scatter like a colony of ants in a sudden rainstorm.  Apparently, they’ve all heard the news as well.

As if it will help him escape the chaos, Bristol puts his window up while he draws his own conclusion.  Sitting in relative quietness, aside from the occasional holler, he watches as the people move about him in a slow and unmethodical motion.  Desperation is everywhere. 

Flipping the radio back on, the music is blaring as he abruptly flips the station to the broadcast channel.  The announcer’s voice sounds urgent, “I repeat; we’ve got a little over eight minutes before the earth will be in absolute darkness as you heard Dr. Alan Nesh, one of NASA’s top astronomers, proclaim.  Is it the end of the world? Some would say…”  Bristol changes the channel while he steers his car into a neighborhood; his neighborhood to be more precise, and pulls into his driveway.  According to his watch, and everyone else, he has about five minutes before his world will go through an inevitable change. 

The cell phone feels warm in his hand as he dials his girlfriend Scarlet’s number.  She picks up almost immediately.  “Hey… I know, I know. Settle down and listen. Get your camping gear, flashlight and as many batteries as you can find,” he instructs her, “Just do what I said. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” 

After hanging up, he turns the television on to listen to while he gathers his belongings.  Finding a channel with a live broadcast is difficult, as most channels are producing a recorded announcement. “I hope you’ve all been keeping your food storage up-to-date, because no one knows how long we will be without sunlight,” the man chuckles uneasily on the set, “for some of us darkness might be a good thing.  My wife quit wearing make-up a long time ago.”  The canned laughter dwindles as Bristol hurries to the stairway.

Heading into the basement storage area, Bristol grabs his camping gear.  A curiously large spider scurries out from beneath the backpack and he steps on it, slinging the pack over his shoulder.  His other hand snatches the cooler’s handle and he totes them to the kitchen.  Making his way back upstairs into his bedroom, he grabs his coat, cash out of his top drawer and baseball cap, pulling it onto his head. 

Back in the kitchen, he packs the cooler with chocolate bars, fruit and bottled water.  Then he tugs everything into the garage to grab his emergency food supply consisting of dry goods in mini packets, a large container of jerky, freeze-dried raspberries, powdered eggs, a whole bunch of Ramen Noodles, and canned tuna and chicken.  Peering inside, he ensures he has two can-openers, in case one breaks.

Everything fits snugly into the back of his Jeep as he opens the garage door.  As the door rolls up, he can hear the neighborhood going crazy as if it is a henhouse upset by a fox, and they appear as much.  Children are crying, women are trying to guarantee they have everything, and the men are yelling at everyone to hurry up.  It’s amazing at how everything has changed in only a few minutes.   However, as he notices these changes, the light evaporates as instantly as someone closing the refrigerator door.  For a split second, silence envelopes the world until the birth of a savage garden arrives.

Blood-curdling screams ring out as he turns his headlights on to witness his neighbor’s attack by a couple of men.  Her face, etched into his mind, searches for help as hespeeds away striving to save his own girlfriend.  Time is of the essence and he knows that every second counts if they are going to escape safely.  In his mind, or perhaps in reality, he can hear his neighbor shriek again, but this time it stops suddenly in midair.  Suddenly thoughts of Scarlet needing his help drown out any sounds he hears as he speeds up in the chaos.  Tunnel vision takes over and the remainder of the journey is a blur.

Pulling into the driveway, Bristol sees the beam of a flashlight come bounding out the front door.  Scarlet’s duffle bag and backpack over one shoulder, holding the flashlight in one hand; and Maximus attached at the end of a leash.  He should have known she was going to bring him, even though they really couldn’t spare the room in the restrained area of the vehicle.  Her duffle bag and backpack are small in comparison to the size of the dog food bag she totes under one arm.  Despite the extenuating circumstances, he finds himself smiling.

“All ready?” he calls to her, flashing his light at her so she can see where she is going as he climbs out to help.  The Border Collie makes seeing where she’s going a difficult task, but with Bristol’s help, she manages to get into the passenger seat.  The dog jumps into the back, on top of their belongings.  The driver’s door pops open and a man begins to climb in as Bristol clutches his shoulder with one hand and hits him with the flashlight with the other.  He quickly knocks him to the ground. 

Maximus begins to lunge at the stranger and Scarlet lends a restraining hand, “Stay.”  Bristol steps over the man, granting him a kick him to his gut before he climbs in and slams the door.

“Now are we ready?” he asks.  Maximus barks and the Jeep starts up, squealing out of the driveway as they take off.  They can see the lights bouncing around as people are fighting amongst themselves.  He wonders if they’ll ever be back.  If so, the neighborhood will most definitely be different.

Zipping along the back roads, he is heading for the freeway when he recognizes the traffic stopping at the bottom of the entrance ramp.  The Jeep slows to a stop when a man jumps from his vehicle ahead of them.  In the array of headlights, he pulls a gun from his waistband.  He walks to a vehicle stopped in front of him and aims his gun.  He begins to fire while shouts and yelping ensue, similar to that of an out-of-control dog pound.  The gunman systematically follows up the line of cars, one after another, until someone returns the favor with a perfect shot to the head.  His body flies back to the car behind him and he crumples to the ground.

 There is nothing to say at this point, only securing their safety as much as possible, as Bristol makes a U-turn.  The situation is becoming even more dire as he drives against traffic down the outer edge of the ramp.  Scarlet leans over, as the tires hit the main road, and puts an old Sammy Hagar song playing, Three Lock Box in the stereo.

The Jeep rumbles along the Wasatch Front, coming up the River’s Edge resorts and east toward Bristol’s cabin, tucked away from the rest of civilization.   When his father died and left him the property, he kept it for the purpose of childhood memories, but never thought the purpose would be to hide from civilization.  With the insanity he’s been seeing, he’s relieved that it is so far away from populated areas.

The scene welcoming him gives him an immediate sense of security as he drives into the clearing off a familiar dirt road.  Bumping through the trees, he drives up to a two-story cabin.  Definitely not something the Hiltons would live in, but it is all his and paid for.  A wave of relief swathes him as the headlights shine on the front door and he cuts the engine to hear the sweet sound of nothing. 

“Here we are,” he breathes, “We’ll be safe here until this crazy crap blows over.”

“How long do you think it will take,” Scarlet asks with concern burning the back of her throat, “days, weeks, or months?”

“That isn’t my department,” he jokes, climbing out to begin to grab some gear, “I work in the science field, not disasters.  And this is a disaster.” 

“Fair enough,” Scarlet gets out and takes Maximus with her.  She grabs his dog food and kicks the door closed.  It takes several trips for the two of them to completely unload the vehicle, but when they are finished, they know they can finally relax.

When everything is empty and they have the kerosene lamps burning, a fire going and hot coffee, the mood is more than surreal.  It’s inviting.  “If I didn’t know better,” Bristol teases as he drapes his arm around her shoulders, “I’d think this was some scatterbrained idea to get me alone.”

“Maybe it is!” she laughs as she cuddles up and plants a long and inviting kiss on his mouth.

The scratching noise awakens Maximus who scrambles from his spot at the foot of the bed.  His hard nails tap across the floor as he trots down the wooden stairs.  The clattering stirs Scarlet awake as she sits up in bed and listens for any disturbance, hoping he hears the wind stirring tree branches against the window.  Those thoughts dash away as she hears her dog growl and begin to bark in an alerting manner.

A scuffle ensues, by the sounds of it, and she can hear thrashing noises of disrupted furniture, a couple of lamps crashing and a few thuds.  “Bristol!   Bristol,” she whispers as quietly as she can while maintaining urgency for his attention.

“What?” he stirs, rolling over toward her, but then she can feel him sit up when he hears the commotion.  The dog continues to snarl and rumble until he unexpectedly becomes silent.   The eerie and turbulent hush physically creep up the stairway toward their bedroom doorway. 

Within a fraction of a second, Scarlet can hear the nightstand slide open beside the bed before Bristol jumps from the bed and hustles behind the door.  A slow creaking reveals the door opening on its hinges.  Scarlet is finally relieved that Bristol hasn’t oiled them, despite her constant nagging. 

The pitch darkness doesn’t allow her to feel comfort in knowing that Bristol is behind the door, so she flips on her flashlight to shine its beam directly into the eyes of the perpetrator.  Startled, he screams and throws his arm up in front of his eyes, dropping his flashlight.   Bristol knocks his hands away from his face and pepper sprays him.  The perpetrator falls to the floor, wailing as Bristol begins to violently kick him until he stops fighting and ceases to move. 

A second intruder enters and Bristol turns to clock him in the jaw with his elbow, and then turns to spray him as well.  The man tumbles over his friend’s body and clambers to the floor where Scarlet shines the light on him and screams.  When he raises his head, Scarlet can see this one must have been the one that Maximus attacked moments earlier.  He has open wounds on his face where blood is dripping and if he could see his own face, he would be screaming too.  Baring his teeth, he lunges from the floor toward Scarlet.  The flashlight in Bristol’s hand crashes down on the back of her head and back several times.  When the man rolls away from Scarlet, Bristol sprays the cuts on his face with the pepper spray. 

The noise of his screaming is deafening as the man runs about the room, crashing into the walls until a shattering of glass his heard.  The flashlights in unison reveal the delinquent has fallen through the bedroom window as the country-made curtains flutter in the cool, dark air.

Scarlet clamors to the light switch and flips it on to see a bloodied knife, which was undeniably intended to be her fate.  She releases a breath of liberation as Bristol runs over to her and pulls her close while she sobs with relief. 

After Scarlet gathers herself together, she agrees to stay put until Bristol can take an inventory of the situation and pull the stranger’s body out of the bedroom.  The thudding on the stairwell does little to appease her fears.  She sits nervously on the bed waiting for Bristol to return.  Her cell phone sits on the bureau and she snaps it up to call the police.  The phone service is available and her phone is charged, but there is no answer at the 911 station. 

The sound of dragging weight, doors banging, and footsteps sound in the quiet night above the sinister hush.  “Ugh, damn!” Bristol scowls as he lurches over the body of his girlfriend’s dog, Maximus, hitting the floor on all fours. 

Afraid of luring wild animals to the property, or more would-be thieves and killers, he pulls the bodies into the trees toward the cliff.  Using all his strength, he pushes them over the edge, one at a time.  This feat takes a long time because without any light, whatsoever, stepping too quickly could happen once too often.  He’s grateful he is so familiar with this territory and feels as if he could complete this task blindfolded.

Bristol wipes his nose with his arm.  He props himself up on his thighs with his hands and takes in a couple of deep breaths.  Spent, he doesn’t feel as if he has any oomph left at all for anything but sleep. 

Returning to the cabin, he enters to the safety of a lighted room.  He latches the door, stopping to wonder if he had done so earlier.  He decides to leave Maximus and the mess here until morning.  At least the men are gone.  He’s exhausted and certain he’ll be up way before Scarlet to get rid of it then.  Nevertheless, he needs to ensure he has his gun ready from now on. 

Bristol looks across the room to the gun cabinet.  He opens the kitchen drawer to remove the keys from their nestled spot in the back.  The gun cabinet is one his father’s friend had constructed many years before.  The front of the oak cabinet resembles any other found in a sporting goods store, but the hidden drawer at the base of the cabinet holds a few “extra” handguns and ammunition. 

Although Scarlet feels as if she is strong, and she is for a female, Bristol feels uneasy about giving her a gun that could cause her harm, so he picks up a 350 caliber, loads it and stuffs it into his waistband.  Next to that gun, he finds a 22 pistol he deems appropriate for Scarlet.  Briefly, his memory takes him to the first time he had ever fired a gun, and this was what his father referred to as “the instructor.”  The bullets are sitting in the back of the drawer and he shoves a few into the gun.  He fills his pockets with more ammo and heads back upstairs. 

“It’s okay, Scarlet,” he announces to ensure her security, “It’s only me so you can chilax, baby.  It’s over.”

The room is quiet as he approaches, the flashlight in his hand, and he sees the door is partially closed.  A strange numbness lingers in the air, causing him to pause.  He listens and doesn’t hear anything, which doesn’t signify anything as Scarlet is probably shaking like a leaf in anticipation of his return.

“Scarlet?” he listens closely as he gently pushes the door open with his foot.  The door swings open, bounces and returns.  His vision skims across the blood-covered bed where his girlfriend is lying on her back.  Her dark hair splays down the side as her head dangles off the edge of the bed, eyes wide open as she stares through him.  The presence of another person nearby strikes him as he spins to see a face glowering down at him.

The rest happens slowly and surreal as his contender emerges.  His face is also sporting some signs of earlier turbulence with an animal, probably Maximus.  But none of that matters now as he feels a poke and something sharp glide out from between his ribs.  The sound of the knife sliding against the bone is unmistakable as he feels it go back in.  Blood is bubbling up his throat and out his mouth, rupturing from his lips.  The flashlight tumbles from his hand, and he raises the pistol to shoot his assailant’s throat.  Bristol feels is pop, but doesn’t see it happen for his world goes just as dark as his surroundings have been for the past sixteen hours.

A warm kiss on his lips awakens him as his eyes flutter open to see Scarlet leaning over him, her hair tied back is in a bandanna and she has on cut-off shorts and a tank top. The sun is brightly shining through the windows.  She crosses the room to push it open, allowing the singing birds to join in the day’s celebration.  “I’ve made you breakfast as a lure to get your butt in gear, Mr. Kirkland,” she croons, twirling about the cabin’s bedroom in her sing-song voice.  “C’mon, let’s go soldier!”

Bristol pulls himself up in the bed and runs his hands through his sweaty hair, “Did we have anything to drink last night?”

Her head flings back, showing her smooth neckline and the floating heart necklace he gave her for her birthday as she laughs heartily.  “No alcohol, if that’s what you mean,” she says, “but I believe you were intoxicated with love, if you felt anything like I did.” 

Opening his bureau, she removes a pair of his boxers, a simple shirt, shorts and socks, tossing them onto the bed before disappearing down the stairs.  Her voice is melodic as she hums loudly and he realizes he can smell freshly brewed coffee, eggs and bacon. 

After he finishes getting dressed, he energetically scopes out the stairway and floorboards, searching for damages but not finding any.  The radio sitting on the counter is playing old rock and roll as she sings along, jumping when she hears him talk.  “Where is Maximus?” he inquires as he enters the kitchen to watch her. 

Scarlet laughs, “Maximus is with my sister, where we always leave him when we come up here.”  Her voice lowers, “You said you can’t stand him watching us.  When we tried closing him out of the room he howled the whole time, remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” he agrees, turning to see her putting water into the pans she is no longer using.  Bristol crosses the room and wraps his arms around her waist, giving her a gentle squeeze.  Leaving the water running, she turns to him and puts her wet hands around his neck giggling.  He chuckles a bit himself as droplets of water trickle down his back, wetting his shirt.

The radio is playing “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” by Savage Garden and the couple begins to sway to the music, kissing deeply.  Partially through the song the music ceases playing and the emergency alert system begins blaring loudly, causing the couple to stop abruptly.  They rotate toward the radio, as if lips were going to move on the speaker, addressing them.

“We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast,” the recording states, “to bring you this emergency message.”  Afterwards the speaker is the regularly scheduled deejay, Justin Case, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am required to relay a message from the president of the United States.  NASA has reported a large hole in the ozone layer growing at an increasingly rapid pace.  We have been instructed to prepare immediately…”

The Reflection of Delaney Weis

June 13, 2012

“The jerk had nothing to say to me, he just sat there like an idiot,” Delaney pours out over her beer, between sobs as the bartender patiently listens.

“Considering you walked in on him and the other woman was still there, what’s there to say?” he offers his candid words to her, knowing she won’t hear him.  “He’d already made an ass of himself,” he shrugs, “What could he possibly say?”

A woman rushes in and taps Delaney on the shoulder before taking the stool next to her at the bar, “Sorry, I rushed here as soon as I could but that meeting dragged on and on!  You know how long-winded Spartan can be.”

Delaney’s face plants in the beer stein, leaving nothing exposed but her forehead and red scraggly hair, hanging dankly to her shoulders.  “What can I get you?” the bartender asks as he does a million times a day, and sounds as much.

Samantha points to the beer in Delaney’s fist as the bartender nods and gets to work filling a mug.  “Tell me what’s going on,” she urges her to recant the horrible details, but this time to someone who isn’t dishing out idol talk.

The final swig goes down smooth and cold as Delaney shudders in response, “There isn’t much to say other than I just walked in on my husband screwing some other bitch.  Right in my own bed!  Where am I going to sleep now?  Certainly not with Brian!”  Her shoulders begin to shake uncontrollably as she breaks down sobbing as if her world is crashing in around her. 

The bartender sets the mug down in front of Samantha and she takes an appreciative swallow.  “That’s good, thanks,” her attention goes back to her girlfriend who is staring at the counter like a zombie.  No expression on her face, which Samantha has come to realize is a sign of shock; the reality isn’t really soaking in all the way yet.

“What can I do?” she offers as she sets her hand on her friend’s back, playing with the locks of wet hair, “And how did you get wet?”

Setting her beer on the counter for the first time since Samantha showed up, she begins to laugh, but it cut short by coughing and choking.  Beer sprays over the counter and onto the bowl of pretzels sitting nearby.  “Are you okay?” the bartender asks, grabbing a towel to wipe the beer off the counter.   The women look at him and he quickly removes the pretzels and goes to the other end.

“I got wet when he followed me outside and we started talking,” she begins.

“Talking?”

“Yes, just before I pushed him,” her voice gets quiet before she finishes, “and he shoved me back– into the pool.”

Not being able to prevent herself from laughing hysterically, Samantha throws her arm around her friend’s shoulders, “Let’s go to my place.  We’ve got to get you into something that won’t give you pneumonia.”

 

The street is bustling with people when Delaney stops suddenly.  “Are you okay?” her eyes are directed across the street.  Propped up against a dilapidated building is a sign that reads Mystical Tarot and Palm.

 “Let’s try that,” without awaiting a response, Delaney’s crossing the street.  A car honks at her and she receives the finger as she continues her journey unfazed.  Samantha jogs after her arriving breathless.

“Are you kidding?” she breathes, “Please tell me you’re kidding!”  The wind blows her dark hair across her face as she catches her breath.

“What have I got to lose?” Delaney can’t help but laugh as she smoothes her hair with her hands before opening the old door, paint peeling around the glass windows and a squeak that could shatter a dog’s eardrums.  Cobwebs float past them as they enter the shop.  Red and black cotton cloth drape across the walls with stickpins at the top. 

“Did I ever tell you your taste is awful?” Samantha nudges her, whispering.

“No,” the giggled reply returns, “Maybe my bad taste is what’s wrong with me.  A real friend would say something.”

“I’m just teasing you,” Samantha exclaims, “You know my world revolves around your needs and whims!”  Both women are laughing when the curtains at the back open and an old woman appears.  A dark lacey shawl embraces her shoulders and her curly black hair tucks behind her ears, exposing her dangling gold earrings. 

“She’s a hundred years if she’s a day,” Samantha whispers, “at least you look better than she does.  That’s a bright side.” 

Embarrassed, Delaney gives her a little shove as if to quiet her, but the woman doesn’t seem to hear.  As she emerges from the shadows, her appearance is even older, but her voice is smooth and sweet.  “Why do you come here today?” she asks, peering into each of the middle-aged women’s eyes.

But Delaney doesn’t know why she is here.  Perhaps to hear that the dirty secret she’s uncovered is not true.  Her shoulders sink and so does her gaze, right to the floor.  At this response, the old woman holds out her hand and says, “Come with me and let us see what we can do for the pain.”  The hallway behind the curtain is long and has a variety of articles stacked against the shelves from books, to trinkets, and even voodoo dolls.

Stephanie pauses to take in the effects as she gingerly reaches out to touch one of the dolls.  Without turning to acknowledge her, the woman warns, “Be careful back there.”  The guilt overcomes her as she drops her hands to her sides and does a double step to catch up. 

The room they stop in is dark blue and bare, other than a small table in the middle with one chair on one side and two on the other.  “Please, have a seat,” she croons to them as she sits herself, adjusting her skirt around her legs.

“I don’t know if we can afford this, really,” Stephanie starts up, “We don’t even know how much it is.”

Raven’s eyes peer at her from across the table, wise, old and untrusting, “The cost is $25 for half an hour.”

“Can you squeeze it into a half-hour?” Stephanie teases her friend who replies, “I only have one question. And that is, is my husband ever coming back to me?”

The gypsy’s eyes become dark caverns on each side of her long, straight nose and her mouth tightens into a line.  “No, he will never be yours.  Only a fool tries to control another, when she can only control herself.”

The silence is deafening as Delaney stares at her hands in her lap. They nervously wrinkle up a tissue she has taken out of her purse.  “It’s because I’m old and ugly now, isn’t it?”The emotions are too strong as she finally breaks down and blubbers like a baby.  “I’m useless!” she wails pathetically, not sounding at all as the mature woman she is supposed to be.

“No,” her friend rests her arm across her shoulders, “You’re just too good for him, that’s all.”

“That is what we always say when we don’t fit the bill, isn’t it?” the old woman contributes, receiving admonishing glances from both before muttering, “I just say it how I see it, that’s all.”

“This obviously isn’t a good time to be here,” Samantha says, spinning toward the door, “C’mon Del, we’ll come back after we get you cleaned up.  That’ll make you feel better anyway.”  With that, she heads through the doorway out of the room and into the store.

“Wait,” the old woman sings handing Delaney a petite hand mirror.  Delaney holds it up and admires the bone-cut flowers and the ebony finish as she twists it around to see the face.  Black streaks of mascara stream down her cheeks over her splotchy make-up.  She looks utterly disgusting.

“Thanks, I needed that,” the sarcasm drips from her lips as she tries to hand it back, “Besides, I couldn’t afford it anyway.”

“This is not a mirror of what is, but a mirror of what can be,” the woman begins to hum and pulls an envelope from her pocket, handing it to her.  “The instructions are here, but you must read them privately,” she motions with her hands, “All of this is private.  Understand?”

“I’m not so sure I do,” she begins but is cut off by Samantha calling her name from the other room.

“Go,” she repeats, “Go be jaw-dropping and eye-popping now.”

Without looking back, Delaney hustles to join her friend as she nears the door to exit.

“She is too weird for me,” Samantha tosses over her shoulder as she leads the way out of the store, “Let’s get out of here.”

“Yeah, let’s get out of here,” she quickly tucks the mirror into her purse she’s been hiding casually beside her leg.

 

The drive is quiet before Samantha reaches over to turn the radio on, hoping the music will at least pad the tension, when suddenly Delaney shouts, “Oh my God, that’s her!”  Her eyes are glued to a woman entering a corporate center in business attire, she’s speaking on the phone and laughing.  “Let me out here.”

“What?  You can’t be serious!”

“I am not kidding,” and her hand on the door handle says she’s very serious as the door pops open before the car even stops.  Running as fast as she can, she falls in behind the woman and walks briskly, following her inside.  A few minutes later, she reappears, smugly beaming as she lifts her sunglasses up to wink at her friend before climbing into the car.

“What was that about?” confusion is evident as her friend pulls away from the curb.

“Nothing,” she tries to straighten her hair with her fingers, “I just wanted to see where she works, that’s all.”

 

When they arrive at Samantha’s apartment, she gives the rundown, “Okay, you can stay here as long as you want, so never feel rushed, okay?”  The door opens and the lights come on as Delaney breathes a sigh of relief.  Tossing the keys they jingle as they bounce across the counter and Samantha heads to the bedroom.  “I’ll get you some clothes to change into and you can go ahead and use the shower, but I don’t need to tell you that.”

When the bedroom door closes, Delaney moves out to the balcony to have a glimpse of the city.  The cars move smoothly below and the airplanes are just as smooth overhead, while the birds make up the middle.  Her girlfriend comes out of the bedroom in a pair of scrubs and a tunic, and hands her a pair as well, “Figured we’ll be in for the rest of the night, so got you some comfy clothes.”

“Thanks,” she takes the clothes and heads into the bathroom.  With the door closed behind her, she sets her purse on the counter and removes her clothes.  Her purse is open and she sees the envelope the strange woman gave her sticking out of the top.  The envelope feels cool to the touch as she removes it and peels it open, taking the paper out and unfolding it.

It’s a notice stating that the rightful owner of the mirror is the one in possession of it and that no one else is ever to attempt the use of it–the consequences will be deadly.  Whatever that means, Delaney thinks as she smiles, a mirror threatening death.   She continues as she quietly reads the rest of the note;

                Whereupon the first light hits following a cleansing

                The mirror reflects a whole new you whose life is n’er ending.

                Use the mirror sparingly to make a blossom flaunt

                To be too young and beautiful will only come to haunt.

Not knowing what that could possibly mean, she glimpses at herself briefly in the ebony mirror and sees a Delaney from about a decade ago.  But the bathroom mirror reflects the tear-stained face of a desperate woman as she sighs and climbs into the shower, wishing she could repeat the trick mirror’s revelation.  It isn’t long before she exits the shower feeling rejuvenated.

The terry cloth wrap smells fresh and clean, allowing her to feel revitalized.  Delaney puts on the scrubs and she wipes the mirror off with a towel, hoping her face appears as fresh as she feels. 

“You okay in there?” Samantha raps at the bathroom door, and it pops open, “Wanted to make sure you don’t need—” The sentence stops mid-air, just as her jaw does for even shaking her head and blinking her eyes doesn’t change what she’s witnessing.  “My God, you look great!” she exclaims.

“Do I?” cocking her head in sarcastic disbelief, she feels mischievous.  “Can I borrow your car tomorrow?”

“My car?” she asks and is given an awkward silence to which she counters, “Of course, but why can’t you use yours?”

“You can use mine, if you want to,” Delaney offers, “I won’t be that long and I’ll make sure to fill your gas tank before I bring it back.”  She pauses before adding, “Free tank of gas!”

“Okay,” she gives in, “I’m sure I don’t want to know what you’re doing, but it doesn’t have anything to do with Brian, does it?” 

“Brian?” she smirks, “Why would I want to see that jerk?”

 

The following day with Samantha gone to work, Delaney steps into the restroom, looks into the little mirror and takes an invigorating shower.  She imagines she’ll look better when she gets out, but she is stunned at how breathtakingly stunning she is.  From the original forty that she was yesterday, she looks to be in her late twenties now. 

Arriving at Kauffman and Law, the office she visited the day before, she strolls in wearing a classy outfit from her friend’s closet. “Hello,” she approaches the receptionist, “I’m looking for Kitty Allen, is she here?”

“Um, you mean Katrina Allen?” is the response, “Can I tell her who is calling?”

“Of course,” she casually tosses her hair back over her shoulder, “Dee-Dee.  She’ll know who I am.”

The receptionist picks up the phone and announces who is calling and after a moment, “I’ll send her right in.”   Setting the phone down in its cradle she smiles, “You can go into that door on the right.”

Clearing her throat, she pauses as she approaches the door and then enters.  “Hello, Ms. Allen,” she greets her target with a widespread grin.

 

 

 

 

“How did your day go?” Samantha asks as she sets her purse down on the end table and heads into the kitchen.  There’s a clattering of dishes as she unloads the dishwasher.

“Oh, it was okay…” and her cell phone interrupts before she rummages through her purse to grab it.  Glancing at it for a second, she says, “Excuse me,” and moves out to the balcony closing the door. 

After a few moments, she returns and cheerfully grins, “I have a date!”

“A date?  Are you crazy?” Samantha stares hard at Delaney as she rushes past her into the bedroom to grab an outfit before slipping into the bathroom.  Shortly after, Samantha hears the water come on and Delaney mumbling and laughing.  Straining with her ear against the door, she cannot determine what she is able to pick up, so she decides to make dinner for one.

When the door opens and the steam comes rolling out, Samantha is indulging in her movie and doesn’t remove her eyes from the screen.  Her bowl of macaroni in hand she asks, “Leaving?”

“Yes, I’ll be back before you know it,” and the waft of perfume follows her out the door in the brief moment it takes her to disappear.

 

The black Mustang pulls to the side of the road, half a block from her house and she walks to her house, her keys in hand.  She wants to be prepared to unlock the door as soon as she gets there.  There on the couch is her husband, Brian, sitting with a fire going and a glass of wine in his hand.  There’s a glass on the table half-full of wine as well and the house is remarkably clean.  Rare, considering she hasn’t been home for a couple of days.

“Hello, Brian,” she announces herself from the doorway positioned behind the couch he’s sitting on.

“What are you doing here?” he asks, irritably without giving her the courtesy of a glance, “I told you I have plans this evening when I called you, specifically telling you not to come home.”

“She isn’t coming,” she laughs, rounding the couch to position herself in front of him, “Well, she won’t be here either.”

“What do you mean?” he lifts his eyes from the wine and allows them to land on her, “And what the hell happened to you?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” she pauses, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, “Do you like?”

 It seems like it’s been forever since she’s felt as young and vibrant as she does now, with her twenty-year-old body that she rotates around for him to get a better look.  It’s apparent he’s definitely interested as he watches and his eyes scan up and down on her firm buttocks, high and tight breasts and sculpted waistline.  “You think I’m jaw-dropping and eye-popping, don’t you?”

Without a moment to spare, he sets the wine glass down and stands to rise above her.  Delaney grins with the feeling of just winning Prom Queen until she realizes he’s passing her and approaching the front door.  “Are we going out?” hope glazes her words as they fall from her full lips and she licks them for extra effect.

“I’m not, but you are,” and with a single motion he opens the door and pauses before going out and quickly closing it behind him.  This sudden change in venue perplexes Delaney as she stops to listen for an indication of what could be happening.  

The voices she hears pique her curiosity and she stumbles to the window to see who his guest of honor with bad timing is.  Sure enough, it’s his stupid little Kitty Kat, the big-shot executive at thirty-something.  Straining she can hear the kitty becoming upset because he’s actually turning her away, but he doesn’t give her a reason, he just says he’ll call her.  Perhaps he is considering kissing up after all, she supposes with a devious chuckle.  Let the games begin!  And her suspicions seem reality as Kitty stomps back to her car, licking her wounds before backing out of the driveway.  Delaney is relieved she parked down the street, but has no idea where she got the notion.

Quickly, she bounces onto the couch as the front door opens and Brian comes back into the room.  “That seems to have gone well, don’t you think?” she giggles, patting the couch next to her for him to sit down.

“You need to leave,” sternly he stands with his hands on his hips, “I’ve got some sorting to do.”

“Sorting?” sarcastic disbelief enters her voice, “What type of sorting, you spineless worm?  It’s obvious, isn’t it?  I’m the one you married and as far as the body goes…”  Her hand smoothes down her leg, emphasizing it before she giggles.  “There should be no contest, Brian.  It’s a no-brainer, dear.”

“You aren’t getting any bonus points for the crap you’re pulling now, I suggest you get your purse and get out before I lose my cool and toss you out.”

Delaney snatches her purse off the floor and strides to the door, casually, even though the static is thick enough to stop a big rig at freeway speeds.  The smile never falters as she turns to face him at the door, “You know you want me, Brian. Both of us do.  Besides, this is my house too and I guarantee if I walk out that door tonight, you aren’t going to have a place to entertain your girlfriends.” 

Reaching past her, he seizes the doorknob and as he begins to turn the handle, she grabs him and begins to kiss him.  At first, he allows her to kiss him before she reaches down and begins to tug at his zipper.  This agitates him as he struggles pushing her away.  “Delaney, you have changed and I don’t like it.”

A cloud moves in to hover above her head, eyes flashing as she firmly jerks her knee up as hard as she can.  Grasping his crotch, he doubles over.  As his head comes down, her knee comes up and nails him in the nose, causing blood to explode from his face as he topples over backwards.  Before she realizes what she is doing, Delaney loses control.  She pushes her body down on his dazed body and straddles his shoulders, laying into him.  Even when he loses consciousness, she continues.

 

“Hey, how did it go?” Samantha asks as she hears the door open from the kitchen.

“It went,” Delaney’s voice drones in a non-emotional tone.

The dish in her hands drops, crashing to the floor in a million pieces as she circles around to see her friend.  Delaney is standing with messy hair, a bloody face and red-spotted clothes.  “Oh my God,” she blurts out, “Are you okay?”  The distance between them seems larger than it is as she runs over to give her friend a hug, but she doesn’t see her friend’s wry sneer.

“I’m okay,” Delaney informs her with the same passion as before.  Samantha moves into the kitchen to gather paper towels in bundles.  She turns on the water and drenchesthem before returning to aid her friend.  Delaney sits motionless, gaping at the sliding door that leads to the balcony.

The blood comes off quite easily, except for the clothing that needs to be thrown away.  “You probably should hop into the shower for the rest,” she suggests, “Will you be okay?”

“Yes,” she replies, “I will be back in a second to tell you what happened.”  The guest remains in the restroom for the next half hour.  When she returns to the living room, she is very fresh and of course, appearing as young adult.

“Wow,” Samantha responds with astonishment, “What is going on with you?”

“Whatever can you mean?” her shock seems to have worn off and sarcastic humor replaces it.  “Could you be talking about the new and improved Delaney?”

“You don’t look like a forty-something anymore, but someone who can’t see an R-rated movie without a parent’s permission.”

“Oh that!” she rotates to give her friend a clear impression of focus, “It’s a surprise!”

“Go sit down and I’ll get us something cool to drink,” Samantha instructs her as she returns to the fridge to grab a couple of beers.  But then she glances at her friend and exchanges them for bottled lemonade.

“Okay, what is it?” she takes the cap off and takes a swig, “How are you doing it and what happened today?  Was it some bizarre party or something?”

The silence is what one would hear in the middle of a desert with the warm air beating down and the wind turned down low.  “He’s dead.”

The bottle barely makes it out of her mouth as Samantha chokes a bit before wiping it with her hand. “Who?  How? What are you talking about?”

“Brian.  He’s dead,” she takes a drink and swallows for several gulps before lowering her bottle.  “I killed him.”

“You what?” in resounding disbelief, her eyes open wide in horror as she watches her friend raise the bottle again.  “Why?”

“An urge,” her head cocks a bit, “Although I’m not really sure why I had the urge.”

Samantha rises from the couch, unsure of whom she’s dealing with or if there is room for discussion.  “I think you need to leave now.”  She walks toward the hallway.

“Why?  We’re friends, aren’t we?”

“I love you, or at least the old Delaney I’ve grown up with, but it’s only been a few days since I’ve seen her and I don’t know who you are.  I think this breakup must have set you back somehow.”  Backing toward her bedroom door, she goes inside and says, “You need to leave now because I can’t help you anymore.”  The door closes and a voice seeps through it, “You need to leave, Delaney, please.”

After a few moments of thought, Delaney sets her lemonade bottle down and rises to walk down the hall.  Hesitating for a moment, she knocks and says, “I need to tell you something.  It’s a secret, but have to tell someone.  It’s about getting younger.  And it’s why Brian’s dead.  If you can’t help me, no one can help me.  You’re the only one I have right now, Sam.”

The door creeps open and Samantha slowly emerges, following to the couch before sitting a safe distance away.  Her instincts are alert as she searches the room for anything she can use as defense, until Delaney takes a mirror out of her purse.  “The old lady we talked to the other day gave this to me so I could be young again,” she holds it out, but when Samantha goes to take it she pulls it away again.  “I’m sorry, I can’t let you hold it or something bad will happen.”

“Something bad will happen?” she repeats, chuckling uneasily, “Hasn’t something bad already happened?”

“Yes, that’s why I need your help,” she replaces the mirror in her purse, and zips it securely, “I don’t know what to do with it.”

“What comes to mind for me is starting at the beginning by taking the mirror back,” she offers, “Perhaps if she truly is magic, she can undo what has been done, right?”

Delaney’s mouth twists to one side and her eyes look up to the ceiling, “You mean bring Brian back like I never killed him?”

“Yes,” she smiles, feeling reassurance, “And then change you back too, so your thinking is clear again.”

“You mean change me back the way I was, all old and everything?”

“There is a price to pay for our wisdom, right?” a grin spreads across her face as she scoots closer to Delaney, taking her hand in her own.

“I suppose you’re right.  Let’s go!” Delaney pulls her hand away and stands up.

 

The car is moving at a reasonably good pace when Delaney announces she’s not feeling well. “Can you pull over for a second, please?” she asks.  “I feel nauseous.”

Without a word, Samantha pulls to the side of the road and Delaney high-tails it over the embankment.  Her friend watches her disappear into a thicket of trees at the base.  The radio is a nice deterrent to the day’s events as she turns it up to sing along with the upbeat tunes.  Several songs later, she realizes she is still alone and her friend is nowhere around.  Flipping the button to lower the windows, she leans across the car and yells out the window, “Delaney!  C’mon, let’s go!” 

The woods are quiet and the only sound is the cars passing by them on occasion until Samantha puts the windows up, turns the car off, and tucks the keys in her pocket to search for her friend.  “Delaney,” she continues to holler for her, “Delaney, come on!”  The trees swallow her up, leaving her car abandoned–for now.

 

The drive back to the apartment is a short one with the radio blaring and the windows down.  Delaney adjusts the mirrors as she drives down the road and the seat suits her height.  She takes the elevator up to the floor of the apartment and inserts her late girlfriend’s key, admitting herself inside.  She’s as giddy as a schoolgirl, but her thoughts are not as innocent. Making her way inside to safety from the eyes of the world, she hums.

The lights come on to reveal the contents of the apartment and for the first time, she sees the lamps and knick-knacks positioned around the living room.  Not just sees them with her eyes, but also really notices them in detail.  The lampshade’s intricately detailed trim of gold resembling a mountain range and the post is shapely, like a young woman’s body.  The energy running through her body is extreme as she holds up her hands to look at them clearly defining each crack and wrinkle, each cuticle and hangnail.

The small crevice and every minute detail of hair follicles seep into her eyes while she rolls them over to see the palms.  The red blood is drying now and turning a crusty dark brown she notes.  What she needs is to take a shower and rid herself of the stink and grime of the past hour.

The bathroom mirror reveals a girl, no longer a sexy and attractive woman full of estrogen, but a young high school girl, preparing for womanhood.  Her hair streams down her back, to her waistline in riveting reddish-gold streaks, shining as bright as a new penny.  Her eyes are bright green and huge, like a cat waiting to pounce on a mouse, and her smile is warm as it invites someone to educate her. 

The closet has a plethora of clothes for her to wear, sexy and inviting, but too large to fit her tiny body.  Her attention settles on a T-shirt and a skirt with an elastic waist.   Not the sharpest attire, she notes, but they will keep her from being naked.   Tying the shirt up in a knot above her navel, she decides it at least looks better that way.

When she closes the closet door, she sees something that makes her heart skip a beat.  On Samantha’s dresser is a conglomeration of photographs in a variety of frames.  Delaney strolls over to take in the details of each one and sees Sam’s mom and dad smiling at the camera with the ocean behind them as they stand on their boat.  But then she sees one of Samantha and her, arm in arm on their wine tasting tour in California last year.  Another one of the two of them together at last year’s marathon.  That was a trial, she remembers as she smiles. Her memory kicks in, flooding her with more memories of her and her friend, her and Brian, and her family as she grows up.   Shaking her head, to dismiss the joyful laughter of her friend, she tips over onto the bed, but it will not go away.

The laughter continues to get louder as she begins to scream, holding her ears and standing to fall into walls running down the hallway.  She searches for her purse, holding her ears even tighter and screaming to drown out the noise.   She knows what is necessary to stop the madness.

 

The police officers arrive outside the apartment’s door, “Is this the place?”  The other officer looks at the notepad in his hand and nods, before knocking.

They pause and the first one says, “I don’t hear anything.”  They knock again and command the door open by the people inside, but this receives no response.  Drawing his gun, the second one motions the other to stand back and prepares to kick the door.

“Hold on,” the first officer tells him and reaches over to try the knob.  Surprisingly the door swings easily open on its hinges to a quietly abandoned room.  Nothing is out of place in the living room and the kitchen is clean.  They do their routine check throughout the place and finally the first officer calls to his partner, “Jepson, come here quick!”

When the second officer arrives he cannot move, much less talk, as he drops his gun to his side with knees so weak he fears he will collapse.  On the bed is a body in a T-shirt with a knot at the waistline, and a skirt wrapping around two wrinkly legs resembling dehydrated jerky.  Her face shows two empty eye sockets and a gaping chasm where her mouth should be.  The nose is barely there and the arms are just as lacking of moisture, resembling cold French fries from yesterday.  One officer squints to see the long gray hair sticking out from under the decomposing body like discarded straw.

“What do you make of this?”  the first officer asks as he bends over to pick up a shard of glass from the floor among many splinters.  A rounded handle is nearby, black and shiny with pieces of bone scattered among the carpet strands.

“I’m not sure what to make of it, but we’ll have a heck of a time identifying the body with fingerprints.”

 

Fat-Free

June 6, 2012

“Teeny,” born with the name Tina, was born premature and is anything but small as she lies on her bed.  She’s  totally indulging in yet another paperback romance, and living vicariously through someone else’s imagination.  The picture is vivid when she closes her eyes to see the handsome and daring young man eager to win her love.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring. 

The phone startles her back into reality as she pushes up with her thick arm to roll off the bed with a thud.  Taking a deep breath, she exhales before she shuffles through her bedroom to the kitchen table where her cell phone is waiting, blinking, and nagging to get an answer.

“Hello?” she breathes heavily into the phone, wiping sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.  But there is no answer and the identification flashes a number with which she is unfamiliar.  She sighs and sets it down, “Probably a wrong number anyways.”

The kitchen is clean and there is no sign of food, except for the cookie jar sitting back on the counter by the stove.  Ignoring the jar with the little elves tauntingly hanging off the lid, she briskly waddles into the living room. 

The remote, in the side pocket of her recliner, feels comfortable in her hand.  It’s as if the manufacturing company had her in mind when they made it.  All of the buttons are easy to press and brightly colored, just like jellybeans.  Laughing, she turns the television on and sits down, wiggling her buttocks between the arms of the chair until she settles firmly in the seat. 

Teeny likes to think of herself as an imaginative and resourceful dreamer, both in personality and action.  But for each dream, Teeny knows there’s a price.  Her price is undoubtedly her weight.  No matter what she’s drawing, writing, or even thinking, her body’s pastime is eating.  It’s no wonder she can’t get a real man of her own.  Instead, she needs to borrow one from a cheesy novel.

Sighing yet again, she inhales and begins to choke.  Choke?  Coughing as hard as she can, until her face is a crimson red, a piece of chewed red licorice shoots out of her throat and lands in a lump on the linoleum.  “Holy cheese,” she’s not in her living room with the remote in her hand anymore, but in the kitchen. 

The elves are lying on the counter and the cookie jar that was full is now empty.  The tell-tale signs of cookies sprinkled over the countertops, are the only clue.  “Bad, Teeny,” she shouts, “Bad, bad, bad.”  The disgust ravages her mind as she returns to the easy chair ready for the one-eyed monster to entertain her. 

Pushing the buttons, the screen pops on displaying a sultry woman’s lips wrapping around a piece of chocolate from her fingertips.  “Mm,” the woman is obviously under the spell of the smooth and silky candy as it melts in her mouth.  Teeny wipes the spittle from her chin and picks up a handful of M&Ms from the oversized bowl in her lap before popping them in, handfuls at a time.  Without removing her eyes from the screen, she takes a large swig of soda from an oversized cup.  “Where did this come…?” Teeny’s puzzled voice drops off. 

This is too much, she thinks, and something has to give because I don’t even notice until the food is gone.  That’s compulsive, and she remembers that from the diet club she attended over a year ago.  She worked her butt off, and worked out a lot too, dropping nearly a hundred pounds.  What does she have to show for it?  “This huge, repulsive body that no man would ever consider making love to,” she answers her own question aloud. 

Forcing herself up from the chair to take the empty bowl into the kitchen, she stops in her tracks as her jaw drops open, but not for food this time.  There are empty potato chip bags, microwave popcorn wrappers, candy bar packaging, and empty soda cans inundating the countertop.

Frantic and panicky, she trips, catching herself on the counter.   Her head swoons as she changes direction trying to regain her steadiness.  The restroom is at the end of the hall and she doesn’t feel like she’ll make it in time.  Nevertheless, she lunges toward the sea-green carpet-covered toilet.  Normally the bathroom is inviting, as it entices one to sit and stay for a while, but not right now.  Now it’s inviting her to kneel pathetically onto its matching sea-green rug and beg for forgiveness.

Throwing the lid open, she’s barely able to lean before a bright pink liquid comes shooting from the back of her throat into the toilet.  The pressure is so intense; her throat cannot possibly hold the pressure as her nasal cavity opens up to expel the excess.  She feels like an infinite fountain, as the vomiting seems to have no end in sight.

“Teeny,” a woman shouts leaning over the bed, giving her a shake, “Teeny, wake up!”

Not hearing from her sister Teeny for nearly a month, Sara became more than curious.  Despite calling at least ten times, she got no answer.  Out of sheer terror, she brought herself to drive across three states to check on her sister herself.  With the front door unlocked and Teeny’s car in the driveway, Sara became even more frantic.  No one would answer when she knocked and rang the doorbell, so she finally let herself.  The lights were off and there was no sign of anyone, but the feeling was uneasy.

Calling and searching, she found the house immaculately clean until she entered the bedroom where Teeny lay at 67 lbs. on top of the bedspread.  Out of her gaping mouth she whispers, “No thanks, I couldn’t eat another bite.”

The Eyes Have It

May 30, 2012

The dress fits a bit more snug than her intention as Cindy leaves the restroom for the umpteenth time, having used yet another safety pin to reattach the seam in her dress.  The work Christmas party is the only occasion she has an excuse to get dressed up, but she refuses to spend more money on clothes when she’s made the stand-up commitment to lose weight.  Only fools spend money on something they can only use once.

As she makes her way through the tables squeezing between them and hoping she doesn’t mash anyone’s face into their plates, she shimmies her hips carefully.  Weightwatchers is kind with their support and delicious food, but she knows she won’t be getting support from them tonight.  Besides, so far she’s managed to lose nearly five pounds this week alone.  The elephantine body that started at 365 is down to a melting 220 and do or die, she’ll get the guy if it kills her.

“The guy” this referral eludes to is Joe Lildich, the top executive of the office who can make any woman swoon just by walking within the three-foot space around her. The first time she saw him, she had just shoved a Twinkie into her mouth by the vending machine and accidentally swallowed without chewing when she inhaled his cologne.  The process was embarrassing, to say the least, having Dave Yates do the Heimlich to her when he was only half her weight.  Although he never did say anything to her, he walked somewhat hunched over the next few days, but that was what convinced her to change.

The chairs were too small for her body, not that she couldn’t sit in them, but once she did she had no idea how she was going to get up again without pulling the table on top of her.  Embarrassing moments is not at the top of her list of “things to do” tonight, so she stands casually by the wall.  Staring at Joe, she wonders what it will take to get him to notice her when she loses a bit more weight, but these thoughts are cut short when the lights dim down and the slide projector lights up.  While everyone else is ceasing to speak, she hurries over to the buffet table and grabs a handful of bite-sized éclairs, rolling them into a napkin and cautiously folding them into her purse for later.  When she gets home, she’ll be restricted to carrots and water but these will be a great way to relieve tension, if necessary.  Besides, she bargains with herself, she’ll probably feel so guilty she’ll throw them away when she gets home.

The slideshow reveals the awards and kudos of everyone on the team, and then the song “Had a Bad Day” begins playing.  Photographs of all sorts of awkward moments of the staff urge laughter from the unsuspecting and half-drunk audience.  Joe is taking it in and chuckling with the girls sitting around him as he imitates the victims’ faces of the camera.  That is when the most horrifying picture of all displays in front of everyone, Cindy getting the Heimlich from Dave.  You wouldn’t know who it is squeezing her from any angle, because all that is visible is tiny little arms struggling to meet in the front.  In the photo, her eyes are humongous and her face is nearly purple as she fights for air around that damned Twinkie.  Frozen in her tracks, out of her peripheral vision, she can see Joe leaning back in his seat and puffing out his cheeks as far as he can before his entire table busts a gut.

Lightheaded and unthinking, Cindy grabs a couple of handfuls more of the tiny éclairs, leaving only after cramming them into her purse.  Most of the people are still watching the presentation as she pushes her way past the ones who aren’t and makes her way to the hallway, tears streaking her freshly applied makeup down her face.  A few sparse people give her a peculiar once-over and she wonders if they’ve seen her photo as well as she pushes the restroom door open, seeking refuge.

The stall is narrow, and she didn’t realize how narrow before when she entered, as it somehow seems to have shrunk.  She finds herself barely able to turn around and close the stall door as she has a seat and cries until there are no more tears.  It seems hours have passed when she stands and opens the narrow door to escape and sees the long mirror above the sink with her portly body and tiny head sitting on top.  The makeup she had spent hours applying is a total mess and she begins dabbing her face with a tissue when it finally happens; POP!   Cindy felt relief as one of the pins pops open and releases a tiny bit of her exorbitant waistline. 

Slowly, so very slowly, her hand creeps to her handbag and removes an éclair, as she watches herself in the mirror taking a bite.  Before she has a chance to taste it, it no longer exists, so she drops one into her mouth whole.  She never removes her eyes from her reflection.  The next time, she takes three and crams them into her mouth and then more, without even swallowing what’s already occupying it.

 

Two women are going on about how Joe Lildich is the life of the party when they push the door open to the facility and stumble inside.  The first woman trips and falls on the floor as she realizes she’s tripped over a huge leg.  Around the corner they see the most outrageous and gruesome site they’ve seen in a while as hunched against the wall is Cindy Adams, covered in chocolate, her dress tearing apart at the seams, and a smile permanently etched onto her lifeless face.