Games with the mind

I woke, with a start, acknowledging the sensation of rain and small hail pelting my skin. I stood up, while shielding my eyes, only to find dizziness drove me back to my knees. My head was pounding and the surrounding corn stalks seemed to mock me, as I touched the open wound on the back of my head. The downpour of rain mixed with hail and pain was almost too much to endure.

Since I couldn’t stand, I began crawling in the mud. The corn stalks hindered my progress, and I knocked them down as I moved forward. After about twenty yards, I attempted to stand again. This time I succeeded in remaining on my feet, stumbled forward and tripped on a large obstacle in my path. I looked down and saw the mangled body of a young woman lying in the mud. Her long blonde hair was tangled, mud-spattered and her body was twisted in a grotesque position. Large chunks of flesh had been torn from her arms and legs. I bent down and put my finger on her neck, finding no pulse. She wore only torn panties and a mud spattered bra.

I kept moving as the rain intensified, overpowering the hail. As I pushed my way through the cornfield, I saw a large brown object about ten feet in front of me. I made my way to the spot and gasped upon discovering a dead horse. The animal’s legs were broken and twisted to one side. There were bite marks on the legs and a large caliber bullet hole just above its left eye. Continue reading “Games with the mind”

The encounter

Lying in the hospital bed, I still had no control over my nervous system. I felt a twinge in my chest, and I knew something was terribly wrong. My heart began racing wildly. Even though I couldn’t see with my eyes, a dark cloud engulfed my mind as it began floating into the never-ending darkness.

Suddenly, I felt a strange sense of peace and love. I had never felt so comfortable and peaceful in my life. A warm cloud of harmony engulfed me. I felt like I was smiling and floating.

It was then that I first saw it. It was a strange feeling looking at something so brilliant, since my eyes were closed, but it was there and it was warm and welcoming. What I perceived was the brightest light I’ve ever seen in my life. It totally overwhelmed me and penetrated my senses like a piercing dagger of lightning throughout my consciousness. I felt myself being pulled into the light, and it was the most beautiful and calming feeling I’ve ever experienced. I felt as if I was peacefully floating and that all the troubles of the world had been eliminated.

 I opened my eyes or opened my consciousness, which one I really don’t know. Immediately I noticed that I was hovering near the ceiling of the hospital room. I looked down and saw my body lying motionless on the bed. My skin was white, and I looked dead. Continue reading “The encounter”

A drop of water

The dripping faucet is driving Sylvia crazy.

“Marshall,” she says to her husband who is flipping channels on the TV with the remote.  “The faucet is dripping.  Can’t you fix it?”  He nods his head, but does nothing.  It is the kitchen faucet, so she hears it all day, but it seems to her that she also hears it at night: a constant thrum in her head, like a ticking clock. It disturbs her sleep, and she tosses in their bed, heating up, winding the sheet around her legs, sticking her toes out and turning the pillow over so the cool side is against her cheek.

The next evening, she says again, “Marshall, please fix the faucet.” He gets up from the sagging sofa, and she thinks he will get his toolbox, but he is only going to the fruit bowl. She feels her heart hammering in something that reminds her of rage, but she can’t yet acknowledge her anger at him; it is too unfair, she thinks, so she says nothing.

Instead, she complains to her sister Lillian, who nods sagely.  “Think of what it’s like for him.” Continue reading “A drop of water”

Immortality

The flames in George’s hip jumped, entrails devouring the tissue below. He limped to Lora’s bed and stretched his bad leg across it.

“Alright,” he said. “Alright. I’m here.”

“Pop Pop!” Lora said. “I’m on the last level!”

Lora always begged George to watch her play video games. Sometimes, her tone was just perfect.

The screen flashed logos and went black.

Are you ready to make history?” a voice said. “To become immor–

“This’s the loading screen,” Lora said from the floor, legs crossed, neck folded back.

A dial appeared in the corner, counting to one hundred.

George went to his leg. He rubbed it. The pain wasn’t new, nor was its timing — he always chased Lora around during her visits. But he believed sight guarded against the pain’s advance.

An explosion burst. He ducked, folding into his leg. Fire scorched his right side. He shrieked.

“Pop Pop!” Lora said. She laughed her high giggle. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” George said. “I’m fine.”

He rubbed his forehead, air hot through his nose.

Patterson,” the voice said. “Get your ass out there.Continue reading “Immortality”

Solitaire

Helene carefully washed, rinsed and dried her plate, knife, fork, water glass, and the Teflon pan.  An omelet with mushrooms and fines herbes, fava beans, thin-sliced artisan bread from the new bakery made a satisfying meal: appetizing, nutritious, balanced and harming no living creature.

Assuring herself that her kitchen was spotless, she drew an upright chair to the broad living-room table for the evening’s project.  Mixing three decks of cards was a tedious but necessary preliminary, like jointing a chicken in the days when she’d eaten the things.

She took up half the stack and dealt the first rows of the layout: thirteen cards face down, overlapping them with thirteen face up.  A promising start: she moved cards, faced those exposed as a result.

Hobbes’ Patience, it was called, nothing to do with the philosopher-cynic.  ‘Patience’ was what they called Solitaire in England, where The Paragon Compendium of Card Games was published in 1875: a date she remembered because she found the book, tucked into a back stack, on its centenary.  An appropriate name for a game she’d played for decades but never succeeded in completing.  Didn’t the rubric say, ‘Some authorities assert that this Patience is impossible of solution; others only that a man’s lifetime is scarcely long enough.’? Continue reading “Solitaire”

Fifty-dollar bonus

Ted McGillicuddy could give the appearance of teetering when he walked. Even though he was a youngish man, he progressed with his shoulders held far back while his neck craned forward. His arms were forty-five-degree angles, lopsided in motion. McGillicuddy enjoyed taking a lunch break on the days that he worked and in particular, he liked shade. It was a hot and seemingly endless summer in Phoenix, New York. McGillicuddy loved the story of the phoenix rising from the ashes. It gave him hope.

With a nice cool hummus and cucumber wrap, McGillicuddy leaned against a wall of brick, red and gold from summer sun. But he fell through the bricks. He landed and managed to save the wrap as he stood inside the vault of the Phoenix Bank and Trust. In shock and hunger he grabbed a fist full of wrapped and unwrapped $50 bills and stuffed them into the pocket of his baggie trousers. More concerned about getting out, McGillicuddy turned and tried to leave through the same wall but could not. Panic came on fast and he squeezed the wrap too tight. Ted talked to himself. It was easy to hear his heart in the enclosed and silent space. Continue reading “Fifty-dollar bonus”

The lodger

Covid-19.  Cast upon the shoals of an abrupt divorce and the sudden loss of gainful employment during the great pandemic, I found myself self-sheltering in an extended stay motel, no less named the American InTown Suites, perched on the northern swale Colorado Springs right where Interstate-25 delves deep into the city.  Situated at acute angles where Fleming meets Packer Avenues, isolated from all the other buildings in the scattered commercial Center of the city, the not quite contemporary white-washed brick edifice held two hundred or so souls that might have passed for a small ocean cruiser if it just had a hull.  It was my personal ark.  Here on the high plains of the United States, where the buffalo are now extinct, and all the other interesting creatures that god committed to the earth shoved aside by sheep, cow, or horse, Noah couldn’t manage to round up a menagerie of all animals, nor would the deluge come.  But of the creatures it did collect were nearly as interesting and and no less as exotic.

Arriving nearly a month before the pandemic reached the coasts, I’d just been expunged from the ranch-style house amid the barren shale and constricting scrub in Fountain, south of the Springs on the Great Empty of eastern Colorado.  After my job was terminated when the economy tanked, I hung on under increasingly shrill and stinging comments from my wife culminating one night of sturm and drang` telling me she was entangled in an affair with a construction contractor.  Though I’d seen the end of the marriage coming from a long way off, the knowledge of the affair was a shock and stung like a towel-snap in the locker room.  So began the darkness.  I gathered myself up In American InTown Suites as I looked for employment, any kind of employment. Continue reading “The lodger”

Letter for the last humans

I remember being happy not so long ago, when I was poor. But then, everybody was poor.

I was in the army with the thirty-fourth company stationed in the orbit of Europa. Our base was in such a bad shape that it could barely hold it together, and Jupiter’s gravitational pull wasn’t doing us any favours either.

There were constant blackouts, and life support had to be shifted from one room to another to keep the hull from cracking. Supplies were late, the equipment was obsolete, and we had no spare parts. On top of that, we had to go through rigorous training every day just like in any other boot camp.

When the heat was out, the cold would creep into the deepest parts of the station and we had to keep the water bottles in our pockets so they wouldn’t freeze. Marcus made a small burner out of some old flanges and we started to make a fire in our sleeping quarter. Each night, one of us would stay awake to keep the fire lit so the others could sleep. The next day the rest of the squad would carry that person through every stage of the drill so the sergeant wouldn’t blow a gasket.

However, the sergeant wasn’t too bad, he understood the situation and cut the training by half. We actually bonded for a while over some tea. Continue reading “Letter for the last humans”

Bob Dylan cuts my hair and sings

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work in progress.)

How Bob Dylan came to cut my hair during the Pandemic could be a book in itself. I had to imagine the following prologue in order to make this dream recollection work. It is true I once was a VISTA volunteer in St. Paul, Minnesota. In mid summer I was in charge of taking inner city kids for a weeklong visit to the nearby farms. Yes, they have lots of mosquitoes in the land of a thousand lakes. And yes, the rest of this “recollection” is purely out of my head in this 6:30 AM hour.

After the police murder of George Floyd, the Minnesota Tourism Department was on the chopping block. This was right after the state fair was cancelled for the Pandemic, and like other fairs, their planning shifted to 2021. But a newbie in the Minnesota Tourism Department wondered if the state fair could be quickly put back on since things had improved in June. Being new and lacking political savvy, he further asked, “Couldn’t we revive interest in coming to Minnesota if we headlined with one of our Favorite Sons, Bob Dylan?” Dylan had been grown up in the iron range hills of Hibbings, Minnesota. The newbie was laughed out of the building and asked not to return. But before he left, he accessed the state database to find Dylan’s current address and write the troubadour an impassioned plea. Continue reading “Bob Dylan cuts my hair and sings”

May I go to the ball?

As they sat in the large armchairs, facing each other in the drawing room of their Berkeley Square home, Victoria felt determined to keep pursuing her most vital request. In her purple dress, with her red hair scraped up high, she sat forward, and with a purposeful look said “You can’t treat me like Cinderella father. Deborah was only seventeen when she had her Coming Out Ball, which was followed by a fabulous Season. If mother were still alive, she wouldn’t make such a fuss” Sitting back, with the blackness of his attire matching his mood, he sighed and shook his head.

“The annual Debutante Ball! Debutante. It’s French. It means a female beginner. It signifies entry to the marriage market” he stated sardonically. She sat further forward, with her hands clasped.

“It’s entry to the London Season, which I really can’t miss. I’m already eighteen. I’d have to wait another year. I’ll be left on the shelf and become a spinster, if I don’t come out this year. Grandmama was a titled lady, so I belong” she said, trying to sound assertive.

He sat forward and gave her a look of incredulity. “Belong!” he replied with a scowl. Continue reading “May I go to the ball?”