I would always find an abandoned object. A dirty toy, a dusty glass, a yellowed photo, an old magazine. People inevitably leave things behind no matter how carefully they pack. But it was these things which still carried a vestige of life to the ripped up rooms, reminding me they had been part of a home until recently. I would spend hours wandering around the empty houses, reconstructing my memories of when people lived there: of their interiors and me in it. Houses of working class people, but that’s what we all were. Small houses, mostly tidy with old-fashioned furniture, some glass decorations, matryoshki, ceramics, artificial flowers, worn hand-made rugs. The houses had preserved the spirit of the time they were built, and of their original owners, now someone’s grandparents. Once in a while, their grandchild would invite me into the shaded rooms or garden.
But it wasn’t only the children. A young woman, Maria, who lived across the street with her parents, liked having me too. Their house was different. Two-storey, with narrow stairs leading to the second floor, where we always sat in a room with huge windows. Maria had some fascinating objects: an old globe, a Russian doll with the size of a small girl, a porcelain box in the shape of a swan full of jewelry: necklaces made of transparent beads imitating precious stones. The sun’s rays would pierce them, make their colours shine, make them magic. Sometimes Maria would turn the globe and put her finger on America. She would whisper: ‘You must learn English and go to the States, a country of freedom.’ I didn’t understand why she would ask me to do that; weren’t we free as well? Leaving this space, her space, of exhilarating light and unusual calm was always difficult. Continue reading “Things left behind”
United Airlines Flight 3560 from Chicago to Tokyo was about to get an unusual stowaway.
No one noticed the tiny white and grey-spotted kitten, who named herself Momo, sneaking through a hole in the airport gate. She wandered near the airport after eating so she could find a place to answer the call of nature.
She relieved herself on some dirt before noticing a strange hard black surface. It seemed similar to the strips the strange metal objects in the city she lived in looked like. But it was in the middle of a field, where did it lead to?
Naturally Momo’s curiosity won out and she jumped onto the runway. Her tiny legs sprinting. She came upon a group of humans riding weird shiny vehicles, pulling mysterious metal boxes with curtains. She looked back and forth at the passing vehicles, several men and women were putting luggage onto the ‘boxes.’ Momo squinted her eyes and got into a pouncing position. With a butt wiggle, she leaped onto one of the moving ‘boxes’ and hit her head on a gym bag. Momo backed away from the pungent egg smell and sat next to a roll-on suitcase. The vehicle stopped and Momo decided to jump out without looking at her surroundings. Continue reading “Momo’s journey”
This was my chance. Since the wave of bad luck with Chantilly Gates Homeowners Association, I really needed the dough. To be banned from building there had been a major downer.
I parked the Corvette in front of my parcel about a half-block from Airline Highway and got out, tucking my linen shirt into the slacks I’d bought in New York previous to the Chantilly Gates debacle. Traffic all of a sudden beat at my ears and all shades of gray smoke stung my nose.
Low-cost would be the word today. And what struggling young family could resist the package: their choice of any lot on the three-acre parcel and a new house to boot. Having paid next to nothing for the land, I’d make out too.
An ancient Isuzu Trooper pulled up and the driver’s door swung open, revealing the rear view of a sturdy fellow who was unstrapping a squealing kid from a car seat. Once he was out, I saw that the guy was not just sturdy. He was borderline fat, both face and gut like pumpkins.
“Chuck and Barb Morgan,” he said as his wife, dressed the same as him in gray and blue-striped shirt, blue shorts, and heavy knee-length socks, approached from the other side.
The guy shifted his kid, the little darling’s mouth dribbling a curdled mess, from one arm to the other and extended his hand. “Excuse the twinsy look. Saturday morning soccer, you know.” Continue reading “Trees and birds”
(The following is an excerpt from a longer piece.)
The Daily News
Man Drowns Attempting to Save 16 Year Old Girl
June 24, 2019
The U.S. Coast Guard Official said Salvatore was at South Beach when the young female dove into the water with a group of friends.
When she began having trouble, a group of people including Salvatore went in to get her…
After my death, our move was swift.
We packed our dust-covered instruments,
wrapped newspaper around our dusty photos,
tucked mom’s wishing stones, smooth and
unblemished into our pockets. Continue reading “Perchance to dream”
The second time was completely different.
“‘Low dosage’ Adam said. ‘Fun’ he said,” Elisha stumbled along the melting hallway. She dropped to her hands and knees and crawled across the floor like a civilian whose city was under siege.
“There they are again!” An ominous cadence came as one big crescendo, cascading behind her in a deranged orchestra.
“Shit, shit, shit,” she whispered. Her blonde locks dangled over her face. Her toes, knees and fingertips dug into the floor, pulling her body forward. She intermittently glanced behind her.
“My bedroom door! Only inches away, my parents won’t know a thing—they can’t hear my thoughts, they can’t hear me!”
She wrapped a reluctant palm around the doorknob and twisted with deliberate mechanical quietude. Slowly, slowly . . .
Elisha pulled the door open just enough for her slender frame to slip through and quickly closed it behind her. She leaned against the door, her head tilted back, chin up and eyes closed. She gasped heavily with heart pumping, exhaled and wiped the tears from beneath her closed, sticky eyes.
She heard an unfamiliar voice reading poetry in a British accent like some History Channel narrator. She opened her eyes, breaking the sticky web over her eyelids. Continue reading “Elisha’s game”
I stare through the window of Amy Tan’s room. Below, an old man watches his white dog running on the beach while in the distance a lighthouse blinks its one eye at me. Decaying tang of salt air wafts indoors. I turn from the shimmer of the ocean and walk down the hall, comforted by the presence of all these authors cradling me. Eerie.
A night in the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. Every room is dedicated to an author and yes, tonight I will lie with Amy Tan, others with Shakespeare, Jules Verne or Rowling in the Gryffindor room, or for the kids at heart, Dr. Seuss. As I check in, the cat Shelley curls on a chair, warming in the sun. “She’s a sun-catcher cat. Wherever the sun is, she catches it,” the innkeeper states.
“Unlike the poor author.” The smell of musty volumes permeates, reminding me I’m in a familiar haunt. “I hear this old place either comforts you or spits you out.”
“Correct. You’ll either love it or hate it.”
I hear light sobbing. No one there. Mere literary sniffles, I assure myself. “Do you have Wi-Fi?”
“No internet, phones or TV. But at night there’s the creak of old bards’ footsteps in the hall, ocean crashing on the beach and we serve mulled wine in the library. Will that do?” Continue reading “A sun-catcher’s tears”
In the Lotus Position, her visage on the cover of this month’s hospital throwaway magazine greets them. She is young; she is lithe; she is quite attractive. The magazine is another idea pressed upon The Sisters of Charity by the PR agency they invoked when St. Ann’s became a Level II Trauma Center, the only hospital of that rank on the Western Slope of Colorado. Now the hospital was truly a medical center to be contended with by the hospitals on the other side of the state, those along the Front Range. Dr. McBride, the woman in the photo, practices Yoga when she isn’t performing neurology, specializing in seizure disorders. She will be his attending physician while he is in the hospital, with its new ten-story addition that cost ten million dollars, with a floor procured specifically to neurology patients. And that is what he is, a neurology patient. It is Saturday and the emergency department is busy.
Only that Wednesday, while he puttered around simple one-bedroom house he’d retired to on the slopes of the Grand Mesa, Chase Covington suddenly collapsed to the floor suffering a generalized epileptic fit that lasted at most a couple of minutes. He was conscious throughout the seizure; he was conscious of searing pain as his muscles tensed and contracted. He feels as though he has been hit by a bolt of lightning. During the seizure, he has lost control of his nervous and musculoskeletal systems, his jaw clenching so much that later they’d discover he fractured his jaw. When the seizure releases him, he is entirely exhausted. Crawling off to bed – where he sleeps for ten hours – he forgets to let his rescue mutt out for before he retires. He is alone. He has no one to tell. Continue reading “The lotus position”
Sonorous, loud, long, deep, fart-like, if a fart were three dimensional and spectrum-wide. I need to change that damn ringtone. The name on the caller ID is Ed English. He pumps the septic tanks in the mobile home park that I own in central New York.
“I was in the park this week.”
“Oh, yeah. JB told me.”
JB is the maintenance guy at that park. He manages the park, along with a woman named Dee Dee. Dee Dee handles money and people. JB handles things. I do what I can, but I live down-state, and I can not be in two places at once.
I have never met Ed in person. I imagine him to be sixty-five or seventy, white, five eight to five ten, short, graying hair, a little heavy-set, with a creased face and Dickies work pants. But he could look nothing like that and still look right. Like a triangle that is neither equilateral nor isosceles nor right nor any other specific type of triangle, but that is still a plane figure enclosed by three straight lines. He looks however a guy who pumps shit for a living looks. He has a reputation for hard work, reliability, and honesty. I have never heard him crack a joke or speak ill of anyone. Continue reading “Sheplerville”
On a late autumn weekend, Jake rode his fire-engine-red, 1984 Honda Nighthawk to the Berkshires for a getaway and to enjoy a rugby match. He had a perfect moon as escort along the Saw Mill to 684, to 84, to route 8, and to country route 8. The pull off of route 23 onto the compact dirt road was an ease for the 750CCs. The Nighthawk had a robust sound out in the country.
Finally at rest, outside in the immense glow of full moonlight and bright stars, at last, peace from the city. The engine cooled. Stepping away from the light of the fullest of moons, hidden in case anyone was around, Jake was enjoying a cold beer and a phat J. Reefereshment. But no one was around. The perimeter was empty of vehicles and humans. Quiet. But the quiet and peace of night was violently, instantly ripped to shreds with the most horrific of screams, like a waveform of nightmare lightning. Frozen. His heart raced as the scream of death blasted the air.
Fast thoughts, “How do I get from this hideaway to the safe lockable indoors? A cool walk across the yard with a confident strut? I could clear my throat boldly, like I don’t give a shit. Yes, I’ll do all that.”
He rose from the nylon webbed lounge chair in the dark, beer bottle and snuffed spliff in hand, and started out upon his casual, cocky stroll. Within two seconds Jake was sprinting. Inside the house and not soon enough, he closed and locked the doors. Continue reading “Enjhomar”
I shivered in my thin grey coat and pulled it close around me. Was it the nippy air or the penetrating gaze of the man who stared at me across the table? I was being interviewed for a house officer’s job. But he hardly asked me any questions. His finely shaped hand casually caressed his beard as he continued to stare at me. My discomfiture made him smile.
“Those white blotches in his beard!” I thought, “How very becoming, like a little boy who has spilled porridge down his chin.”
“You’ll do,” he said at last, “Can you begin work tomorrow?”
He wasn’t a popular figure in the hospital. Housemen trembled at his foot fall and nurses scurried away. His temper tantrums were the talk of the Unit.
“A difficult man,” they said, “Stay clear.”
I fell to watching him closely, this demon who put the fear of God into those around him. Even his patients held him in awe.
“If he weren’t such a good surgeon, we’d go elsewhere,” they said, “The man isn’t human at all. He’s got no feelings.”
I was his houseman and therefore had no choice but to spend many hours in close proximity to him. I was silent most of the time and spoke only when addressed. In his presence I felt clumsy and completely inadequate. Continue reading “Beloved forever”