It’s basically my brain vomiting through my fingertips. Bring a poncho. Splash zone…
|I’m the kind of guy we all look at and unintentionally describe as “Oh, bless his heart”…|
Slamming his bony hip against the metal of the Gremlin door, Grayson cursed while the casserole dish he clutched against himself shifted weight. He bit his bottom lip as he grappled with the dish. He regained control, but as his head wrenched toward the other cars parked on the gravel driveway, the lid slid off and shattered on the harsh rocks. Grayson sighed.
Kyle wasn’t here yet, but there weren’t many cars. The gross heat was firing down from the sun, and Grayson’s skin was pushing sweat from the pores. The tepid breeze was only a tease across his face as leaves of the large oaks slapped together. The mockingbird screeched their litanies of calls, the eternal symphony of the Oklahoman summer while grasshoppers launched into the safety of higher grass: organic missiles threatening to bombard whoever might get in the way.
The thirty-nine-year-old calculated his steps, balancing on the gravel before the front walkway. The wooden door was open, but the glass one was locked. He peered inside and knuckled the doorbell. After a few seconds, a silhouette appeared and neared the barrier, the weak, metal knob twisting, and then the door was open, and here was a woman he did not recognize. The cold, humid air from the air conditioner pricked his face, the perfect temperature for a morgue.
“Grayson?” the woman asked, her silicone-pumped cheeks somehow rising above her ears as she smiled. She smudged the glass with her fingerprints as she pushed the door open, maintaining a natural balance while holding her glass of red wine. “How are you? I’m Kyle’s best friend, Mitzi. Oh, no!” she said when she saw the remains of the casserole lid. “It looks like you had an accident. Well, come on in, don’t just stand there gettin’ sweaty! Kyle texted about twenty minutes ago, said he’d be late gettin’ here. Come in, honey, the kitchen is jut through there.” She waved to the rear of the house with her wine-hand, the alcohol sloshing too close to the brim of the glass.
He pushed through the entry, a tight fit considering Mitzi’s awkward and new breasts, and he waited for her to close the door before moving in front of him to lead the way.
“Make yourself at home!” Mitzi said, a command commonly offered to guests in Oklahoma. “This is the livin’ room! Don’t mind the mess, the boys’ve been over. And this is the kitchen.” She snatched the bowl from him, his arms limp and uncontrollable.
“I didn’t realize that was so heavy,” he said. He shook his wrists. “I’m Grayson, and it’s nice to meet you.” He scanned the kitchen, a cozy space with room for no more than two people at a time. The counters were clean though cluttered with two-liter bottles of soda, and it smelled like a mama’s kitchen. Mitzi buzzed around, placing the lasagna Grayson brought on the stove.
“Can I get you a drink? There’s beer, but the kids done got the vodka out by ten this morning.”
“It was after eleven, mama!” a male voice said from beyond the kitchen. Grayson stepped back and looked to his right. Through the doorway, he peered into another room, a second living room more worn than the one before the kitchen. On an over-stuffed green couch was a larger kid, maybe even a younger man with brown, messy hair, a month past needing a haircut. He was playing some game system, the wireless controller gripped in his white-tipped fingers.
“Bobby Don, it was not!” Mitzi said back to him. Her voice cut through the air, an abrasive shrill, and Grayson’s eyebrows scrunched together as his eye twitched. He rubbed his face, checking to make sure the other two were too engaged in their conversation to notice his expression. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. There was one missed notification, a reminder of his doctor’s appointment the next day. He clamped his mouth, his teeth sawing into themselves, working against each other.
“Mama, Tyler just walked by the window!” Bobby Don said.
“God, what does he want?” Mitzi said she placed Grayson’s dish onto the stove.
“Hey, hey, Mama Mitzi!” Tyler said as he opened the backdoor. He spotted Mitzi and smiled, and then he looked around the room and paused when his eyes stopped at Grayson’s.
“Tyler, this is Kyle’s boyfriend,” Mitzi said. “Grayson, this is Tyler, the boyfriend of my daughter Darlenna.”
“Nice to meet you,” Grayson said as he took the younger man’s hand in his own. A curious grip still sent electricity up Grayson’s arm, the hair standing as stiff as needles poking into his skin. He searched Tyler’s dark, brown eyes, and as he pulled his hand away, he glanced around, but nobody noticed his reality slowed down for a moment. Tyler returned the stare, his brows pushing down toward his nose. His mouth was open, a sliver of teeth framed by pink lips.
“What do you want?” Mitzi asked. She captured Tyler in her sights, and she crossed her arms as her own eyebrows went further up on her head than Grayson realized could be done by any human. “I ain’t goin’ to git more vodka, Tyler. The damn store is closed today.”
“No, that’s not-“
“There’s tequila down in your freezer, I know for a fact!” Mitzi said. “I went down to git some deer steaks the other night, and don’t think I didn’t see y’all’s stash. Quit drinkin’ all my alcohol when you got your own. I’m not gonna tell y’all again.”
“Damn, Ma, can I not get through the door without you yellin’ at me?” Tyler asked. “I’m not here for alcohol or anything like that at all. Dar-dar wants to know if you have a couple of Xanax left so she can come be social.”
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Mitzi said, turning to the counter and retrieving her purse. After she shuffled around for a few minutes, and after the two men in the kitchen side-eyed each other, Mitzi succeeded in finding her bottle. She opened it, took a couple of the pills, and placed them in Tyler’s hand. “She’s gotta stop this.” She made eye contact with Tyler, and Grayson shifted, stepped back from the tension.
“I’ll tell her,” Tyler said as he moved to the door. He placed his hand on the handle, then turned back to look at Grayson before leaving.
“Every time he calls me some form of ‘mom’, I just wanna take my cake beater to his taint at full blast,” Mitzi said as she shook her head.
“Tyler left the house!” from the other room.
“No crap, Bobby Don!” Mitzi said. She looked at Grayson while shaking her head. “I swear, that boy is about as helpful as balls on a bullfrog. Anyway, that was Tyler. He and Dar live in the ground level of the house.”
“This isn’t the ground level?”
“Oh, no. Come here, honey,” Mitzi said as she waved Grayson over to the back windows.
He was looking down over their pool surrounded by concrete, banana trees placed every few feet on the other side. A wooden fence separated the yard from the expanse of green grass growing just beyond. There were horses munching at their leisure, picking the sweeter grasses near the dirt. Dotting the landscape nearby were machines and tools for horse-training, like a walker to which a horse could be attached to train it how to be led. A small pond reflecting the sun into his eyes just to the left of the stables was surrounded by a few of the equines, bending down to slake their thirst.
And down by the pool, Grayson watched Tyler walking the concrete, a tall cup with a straw in his hand. Shirtless with only baggy shorts and a pair of flip-flops, Tyler sauntered to one of the sunning chairs, his calves flexing as he dug his toes in for balance. He sat his drink down, his bicep moving like silk, then plopped onto the plastic seat. He lounged on the chair and spread his legs wide with his head facing the window, and Grayson moved away from the clear glass.
“This is a nice house,” Grayson said as he turned into the kitchen. “So, did Kyle say when he’d be here?”
“Oh, yeah,” Mitzi said as she walked back to the counter and filled her glass with red wine. “He said he’d be about half an hour late. I dunno. Something about inventory needin’ to get done. That little punk took a bottle of wine. Damn it, Tyler!”
“I feel like you don’t really care for Tyler,” Grayson said.
“I really don’t,” Mitzi said, gulping her wine and pouring another glass. “He’s a tool. All he does is sit around with my daughter wasting my time and spending my money. He ain’t had a job since I’ve known him. The boy is as worthless as tits on a grasshopper.”
“I don’t think grasshoppers have-“
“Grab something to drink. We’re gonna go down to the pool and talk real loud. Maybe it’ll run that little tampon away from my pool.” She waited while Grayson reached into the fridge and grabbed a soda. When finished, she led the way out the door and across the porch. As they walked down the stairs, Mitzi’s boisterous and abrasive voice asked Grayson about his job.
“I’ve been teaching the juniors English for two years now,” he said as they sat in chairs across the pool from Tyler. Grayson sat on the side of the chair facing Mitzi.
“So you’ve kept the same job for two years? And you’re making a difference in the world? Tyler! Tyler! Are you hearin’ this? Some people can get a job and keep it longer than a week!”
“I see what you’re doin’, Ma,” Tyler answered. He slighted his head one degree, a display declaring he was listening. “I’m goin’ after the holiday to look for a job.” He pulled one leg up, his baggy shorts crating a cavern of temptation.Tyler wouldn’t have his junk out in front of his mother-in-law, but, just in case, Grayson turned his head more toward Mitzi as he ignored the man across the water. In the silence as Mitzi glared at Tyler, the sounds of grasshoppers and cicadas echoed through the trees. The heat was thick as it strong-armed Grayson’s lungs, his chest heaving in gulps.
“How long have you and Darlene been mooching off me as a unit now?” Mitzi asked.
“We’ve been together for almost two years,” Tyler said. His mouth parted more when he spoke, a smile playing with his pink lips as he exposed a picket-fence of white teeth just behind them. He curled his toes and stretched his leg out. His body lifted from the chair, muscles tensing as sweat glistened on his tan skin. Fine, black hair clung to his body as they exposed the path of sweat-trails, moisture bursting onto his skin before sliding down either side of his barely-protruding belly. The waistband of his shorts were a different shade of green than the rest of the material, saturated by the sweat. He arched, his body tight as he groaned his pleasure. As his body relaxed, there was a smirk replacing the innocent and playful smile.
Grayson jerked his head back to Mitzi as a desperate heat splotched into his cheeks, a fire untouched by even the sun on this miserable day.
|Alexis Rose: “What’s your favorite season?”
Moira Rose: “…awards.”
”Are "The Quills" Important?”
No matter how we feel about awards season, we instantly think of glitz in glamour and ornate celebrations. The trophies themselves are a nice addition to any collection, I’d imagine. WDC is gearing up for the awards known as "The Quills" . Though I’ve only been on this site for just over a year, I was unable to escape the feeling of excitement for those I’d met who were nominated last year. It’s fun to see those rewarded for their talents, and the live show made it that much more fun. I don’t care who you are, there’s something fun about hearing your name recognized for the talent you’d lived for the last year. Again, I’d imagine. But do The Quills mean anything for real?
As writers, we work hard to understand the more abstract way to implement literary devices that give a story its depth and relatability, devices such as sleight-of-hand, misdirection, building suspense and foreshadowing. When he handle that kind of power, we make a promise to the reader they will have a satisfying experience, and maybe they’ll even put the book down as a more enlightened person. We build trust as the reader stops analyzing the surface of the story in order to see a bigger picture. But most importantly, the writer’s voice and message endure with confidence. Awards validate that credibility; they substantiate we know what we’re doing. However, by its fallible nature, awards aren’t always bestowed upon the best piece, and there are a lot of pieces that will never win nor receive the recognition they deserve, bringing us to the next point of importance.
The attention and credibility bring into question the definition of “merit” and what standards are set by your definition. If you’ve ever researched what “literary merit” is, you’ve found every answer, including non-answers, and each standard seems to be a variation of the one before it. Points on which most seem to agree include sustainability of plot, character development, the greater message of the piece, and the contribution it adds to the spirit of the time in which it was written. In the world of writing, it seems as if this is what we work for, to be a voice important to our world.
The importance of awards shape the state of the craft and its future. As we decide what merit means, we take a step back to see writing relative to its entirety while we push the art one step further. The more we analyze where we’ve been and where we are, we predict and have an idea where we’re heading. This is what the reigning species will be studying in a thousand years, the greater singular voice comprised of many voices, experiences, and hours labored.
Outside of the microcosm of WDC, The Quills might not manifest your dreams, won’t land that perfect deal or agent, but the importance of these awards, even for those who stay “nominees”, the importance of the awards cannot be dismissed. Everyone involved is contributing to the zeitgeist and shaping where the future of the craft. To be the descendants of greats such as Whitman and Wilde, to be the ones massaging our art to define it…what an exciting time to be contributors to our genre and to celebrate every member in the writing community!
|"I hope this story is good. I want this story to be good. Days of working...is that a lot? Not so much? Ugh...oh, okay...wait, it's not so bad. Is this...is this the best thing I've ever written? Holy cow! This is really good! Seriously! Nobody will ever come close to touching this piece, it will celebrated throughout...oh...wait, that's amateur. And that sentence doesn't even make sense, it's just a bunch of random words. Did I take sleep meds and then write 'zoinks Kit-Kat soap-oil nursing cholesterol'? Ugh...I should've just transcribed this directly to a roll of toilet paper. I don't know what ever made me think I was a writer, I can't even...okay, see, that line? That's pretty okay, though. And if I move this around, I can just make this phrase a word, and that works even better. Ooooh! And that's a good word...I didn't know I used that word...This is really pretty decently okay-ish. I can definitely work on this and make it better. Ugh, I hope this story is good. I want this story to be good. Days of working...is that a lot? Not so much?"
Repeat until exhausted, especially after it's posted.
| I’d left the bar after having a drink created by the new bartender, needing to escape humanity as I was discovering the deeper and more disgusting cynic within myself. I was headed to my car when I realized I should call someone to come and get me, an Uber maybe. I dug into my pocket, mindful of my avoidance of social media, but the phone I’d use to call a taxi was still in the bar. I dropped my head. My body was tired, and I didn’t want to go back inside.
I flung the door open and walked to the bar, stood in the corner so as not to disturb anyone. The new bartender was refilling an order, but in the time it took me to walk out and back in, Andre, owner of the pub, showed up. He was moving back and forth behind the bartender, and when he looked up, he nodded that he’d be with me in just a few minutes. I could wait.
I turned and looked at the room, but nobody was looking back. Usually there were eyes on whomever had walked in, but nobody paid me any mind. I guess it was because I had just exited. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Even when I waved and nodded, though, nobody made eye contact longer than momentary, fleeting and empty validation for…what, exactly?
The cynicism flowed through me, charging me like an iPhone. What made me think anything had to do with me in the first place? And what did I care? I had only come back in for my phone.
The bartender finished up his order before Andre completed his task, and I thought he’d come running over. Instead, he leaned back, crossed his arm, and chatted with Andre.
“Yello,” I said. No response. I waved my hand at him, but there was nothing.
“I’m coming!” Andre said, and he was there before I could respond. “What do you need?”
“I left my phone in here,” I said. “I’ve only been gone for about three minutes. It has to be here.”
“Nope,” Andre said. “Nobody turned in a phone.”
“Well, they wouldn’t be turning it in. It should still be…right here…somewhere….maybe I knocked it off back there by accident?”
Andre bit his lip and bent down beyond my view, looking for my phone. While he searched, I turned back to patrons, back to those who were drinking their day away, but there was nobody there. The lights were out. I turned back to the bar, but there was nobody there, either. I spun around, but there were no lights on in the bar. The only lighting was from the streetlamps outside. I put my hand on the bar and recoiled at the feeling of the rough, charred wood. The mirror behind the bar, filmy and cracked showed the reflection of the pathetic remains, ribs of building where people once existed.
But my reflection…mine wasn’t there.
Did I die here?
| Lilli had gone home for the day, and I didn’t know who the new bartender was. Fyn departed, saying she had to go edit some works and destroy some dreams, and Annette had work from school, leaving me to my thoughts on this odd week. I had encountered Snoop Dogg through maybe a vision, and then a sock monkey threatened my soul if I didn’t give the thing bananas, and then a group of us found out about our kinda-friend, Teddy, who had claimed to have seen and been bailed out from jail by his deceased children. The week of Halloween had not been disappointing.
“May I have a drink? I asked the bartender. When he asked my choice, I shrugged my shoulders. After a couple of minutes, he produced a dark blue liquid in a martini glass. “Is this a martini?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders.
I downed the drink, a concoction tasting of cotton-candy and vanilla with bitter undertones. After my body shook without my consent, I felt great for a moment. I looked around the room. Nothing untoward as of yet. Maybe this evening would go unlike the previous ones, maybe it would be a good night.
My body shook once more, and warmth spread all over my body, a cloud of self-righteousness holding me tight. My jaw clenched, and there was sweat on my forehead. I wanted to speak, to ask if this was normal, but I was afraid of how I would sound.
“Is it good?” the bartender asked.
I forced my lips together, pressing them so no words would come out. I didn’t know what I would say or how I would say it, but something was happening to my body with a speed I didn’t like. I’d drank lightly for years, and there was no way I was already drunk.
“I asked you how it was?” the bartended said as he pointed his forehead to the empty glass. “I call it ‘The Cynic Special’.”
“Honestly,” I said before I could realize it, “it’s not great, it’s not horrible, but I don’t know how you’d make it better.”
Oh, God! There it was! Cynicism! I was turning into a cynic!
“Oh yeah?” the bartender asked, a crook of a smile begining at the corner of his mouth. “What about the troops?”
“Don’t get me started on the troops. Ugh. Whether we got out back then or we get out now, we’re still in a well of financial dependence.” I clapped my hand to my mouth. I wanted to tell the bartender I wasn’t like this. I wanted to convey that I was a decent person, but I was afraid of what might come out next. I started to panic, so I slipped him 50,000 GPs and left the building. I would need to find a book and stay away from social media. That’s when the horror began.
| “Did y’all hear about Teddy?” Lilli asked as she wiped down the bar. I’d been helping to close Andre’s a couple of times earlier in the week, and it was nice to sit on the other side with the patrons. The sun was setting outside, and there were a few people sitting in tonight, more than the rest of the week. There were currently a couple of us huddled around where Lilli was drying glasses.
“Teddy? What happened to Teddy?” Fyn asked. Her eyebrow was arched, but there was no concern in her tone. None of us had much concern for Teddy as he brought the energy of the room down to his level, a miserable cloud of rain personified. He hadn’t been in the bar for a few days now, so we sat, ready to chomp down any bit of gossip Lilli could provide.
“Well, you know he was in here on Monday,” she said. “I guess he drank a little more than he’s used to, so when he jumped ont he bus to get home, he had a reaction.”
“A reaction? What kind of reaction?” I asked.
“He swears he saw his kids, the girl and the twin boys,” Lilli whispered as her eyes swept the scenery behind us for anyone who might be listening. “He thought they were out trick or treating.”
“How would he know it was them?” Fyn asked as she shifted her weight on her stool. She held her cup up to her mouth and slurped her coffee. She shut the book in front of her, Leaves of Grass. “Weren’t they in costume? Didn’t they have masks on?”
“He said that they had make-up on, like, uh, face-paint to look scary,” Lilli said.
“May I get another Redbull?” I asked as I placed 35,000 GPs on the bar. She gathered them up and handed me a cold can of caffiene.
“Anyway, he got off the bus at the next stop. When he walked back to where he’d seen them, he couldn’t find them. He assumed they had gone on to the next house. So he walks back up to the stop again, and the next bus picks him up.” She refilled Fyn’s coffee. “On the way to his stop, he sees the kids walking down the sidewalk.”
“Wait,” Annette said from the side, “are we talking about Angry Teddy?”
“Yeah,” I said. “The one who always leaves the toilet seat up in the bathroom, and then complains because there’s a mess on the floor.”
“Anyway,” Lilli said, “I guess he freaked out on the bus when the driver wouldn’t stop. He flipped out and cut two of the seats up before urinating all over the back window. The police showed up and took him to jail.”
“Sounds like too much drinking,” Fyn said as she sighed into her cup.
“I’d swear that, too, but even the cops testify three trick or treaters bailed him out.”
“So?” Annette asked.
“His kids were killed thirty years ago in a fire,” Lilli whispered.
| Andre's was the local pub where writers of the community could hang out together, to converse about experiences and debate literary devices, and though I didn't want to, Lilli asked that I close the bar up. After closing and locking up the previous might. I lacked the enthusiasm when I was certain I'd envisioned Snoop Dogg emerging from the restroom in a cloud of…mist. Unexcited about what might be dropped upon me by fates unknown, I walked into the bar at eight that night. A shorter shift could justify my fear, my devotion fraught with fright.
Andre's was the local pub where writers of the community could hang out together, to converse about experiences and debate literary devices, and though I didn't want to, Lilli asked that I close the bar up. After closing and locking up the previous might. I lacked the enthusiasm when I was certain I'd envisioned Snoop Dogg emerging from the restroom in a cloud of…mist. Unexcited about what might be dropped upon me by fates unknown, I walked into the bar at eight that night. A shorter shift could justify my fear, my devotion fraught with fright.
I walked into the bar expecting the worst, but there was Lilli behind the bar, smiling and wiping down the counters as she tended to the few people in on Tuesday night. When she smiled, my fear drained, and I was ready to get through this evening, familiar confidence oozing back in. I walked through the door for the employees, and as I walked behind the length of the bar, I dropped my things off at the end where we kept our personal things like man-purses, Redbull, and coffee. I turned to greet the manager, to ask how her day had gone, but there on the end of the bar, facing the two of us, was the sock monkey.
The bar was decorated for Halloween. There were ghosts hanging on wires from the ceiling, and here and there were pumkins carved in the likeness of literary characters such as Pennywise and Pazuzu and Miss Havisham, the scariest of the scary. There was a mechanical Frankenstein, complete with eyes that lit up as it did a little jig to “Monster Mash”. Candles were added for spooky ambience, but none of these crept like ice into the depths of my soul as did the sock monkey.
It was vintage, someone’s chacki that had traveled through time and around the world, and, for some reason, Lilli kept putting it back out after I’d put it away. The fear was irrational, like a phobia, and the intelligent side of myself could easily reason there was nothing of which to be afraid. But it was inherently creepy, and the irrational voice screaming in my heart prevailed. Maybe it was the stringy hair, or it could have been the saftey pins across the patented red mouth, but I’d hidden the gross relic many times in the instances I’d been here to hang out. But when Lilli was present, she had this gift of ingesting so much coffee and then breaking the barriers of time, of motion, and she could move like electricity. It just made sense to believe she kept bringing Sockey back out, and I was certain she was doing it with clear and delightfully malicious intent.
“Just so you know,” I said to her, “I’m hiding that monkey as soon as you leave.”
“That’s fine,” she responded. “It kinda creeps me out. Hey, I gotta go. I’m already ten minutes late.”
“Oh, yeah! Tell your granddaughter good job with the play!”
“Will do,” she said as she dropped her towel and snatched her purse. “Hey, if Snoop Dogg shows up tonight, will you get his recipe for Christmas cookies?”
“Go!” I said to her as she crossed the door and left the building.
I walked over to the monkey and removed it from the bar, shoving it into one of the shelves underneath. Looking around, I had a feeling it would be an easy night. There were a couple of regulars chatting away in a booth as Connie Francis played on the jukebox. Lilli had already taken care of the cleaning, so there didn’t seem to be much to do. I grabbed the bleach bottle and a towel, then walked out to wipe the tables down, even if they didn’t need it. Something to do.
I stopped as I went beyond the employee door, the sock monkey sitting on top of a napkin dispenser on the booth furthest from everyone except me. I stared at it, my forehead cramping as I shoved my eyebrows down, and then I looked around, glancing to see if the others noticed anything odd. And then I realized the explanation had to be Lilli was messing with me, that she had placed it here on her way out.
Except…I forced it away after Lilli left.
“Nope,” I whispered as I took it from the table. I squeezed it, could feel the pressure from my fingers on my fingers through the material as I threw it in the trash. Nobody would miss it.
In the few hours I had left to work, none of my fears manifested. Nobody came in with a gun, there were no beligerent customers, and nothing burned down. When my responsibility, I welcomed nights like this. With the building locked up tight, I walked to my car. The air was thick, but it smelled fresh in the tickling autumnal breeze. The streetlight buzzed with a thick hum, and then it was silent as the world around me was hurled into the night. I don’t remember if I stopped or kept walking, but it didn’t take too long for the light to burst back into existence, the droning of electricity returning, as well.
I glanced around, skeptical that things were okay. I’ve read too many books, seen too many movies, and I know how horror works when one lets down defenses. My keys were leaving cuts I wouldn’t discover for hours afterwards, slashes in my index finger as I prepared myself to use the keys for…what? To provide inconvenient cuts to a demon sock monkey? I laughed at myself, at this situation.
I approached the car, opened the door, and dropped into the seat. Something wasn’t right. It didn’t feel comfortable in the vehicle. I raised up and pulled the monkey out from under me.
I tossed it through the window, then shook my hands as if dusting away curses that might have attatched themselves to my life. I don’t need that. I have three spoiled cats; I don’t need any more possession in my life, no more demons. Unease crawled up into me, and I put the car in drive and launched away from the premise. I can remember wondering what had just happened, the rain sprinkling down on the windshield. By time I pulled into my driveway, it’d started to shower, cold water on a now chilly night. I got out of the car and raced into the house, still looking around for that stupid toy. Now that there was time and distance between me and the homeless toy, it seemed silly to be afraid of it.
I considered just drying off, but a shower would be better, so I stripped and turned the hot water on, tinkering around with things beside the sink until the shower was warm enough. I stepped into the water, and when I shut the door, I could hear a symphony of meows as my pets, one by one, made their way into the bathroom. I finished my shower and dried off, and then I opened the shower door. When I reached down to pet one of the kitties, Peppermint, when she reared up and hissed at me, scratching at my hand. All of the felines were in here, all of them screaming. Even as I stepped into my sleep-pants, they seemed purturbed, anxious.
I walked them through the house, through each room to ensure them nothing was out of place. Or maybe it was to remind myself, but as we came into the kitchen, I flipped the light on. I walked over to the pantry, and the cats hissed, growling under their normal tones. There was a noise coming from the smaller room, a crunching just behind the door. I cocked my head, but I couldn’t place what the sound could have been. I held my breath and reached for the doorknob.
It was there, the sock monkey, and it was rummaging through the bags of chips, moving them and tossing them to the floor. It turned its head, a slow, tense swivel as I watched in terror, watched as its eyes burned with the darkest flames, illuminating the pantry in orange. It opened its mouth, and before I could react, it uttered its question at me.
“What,” it asked with the voice of demons, “does a stitch have to do to get a banana around this dump?”
| Afraid of what could go wrong when asked to close down the bar for the first time, tears begged to form as I locked the door. With the last patron gone and not much else to do besides basic clean-up, I turned back to the bar and snatched a towel and the spray bottle of bleach, and then I started wiping down the tables. Andre's, a bar for writers looking for equally-yolked conversation, isn't difficult to clean, and with no mishaps through the might, all I wanted to do was clean the place up and get myself out of there. Any place, even Andre's, can be creepy when empty.
I only had a couple of tables left, was working my way to the darkest corner of the room when the overhead music came on. the Muzak version of "Gin and Juice", a Snoop Doggy Dogg song from the early nineties. My brow was cool and damp, and I was aware of the weight my bones upheld, aware of the energy the room now supported. I swiveled, pivoting on my own terror with bleach bottle raised in defense. No matter what was coming to pull me to the fiery depths, it would, after I was done, be clean enough to eat from.
But there was nothing there, no fangs, no claws...nothing.
I inhaled and giggled at my own silly cowardice before returning to my work. I remember spraying my towel with cleaner, and I bent to wipe down the table, and that's when things became hazy.
No, really. I spun around when the organic fog was gliding across the floor, dancing around Chair legs and across the booths. I followed it, exploring where it was coming from when the door to the men's bathroom burst open. Light emanated from behind a figure, an eerie green glow lighting up the restroom. The back-lit monster. complete with horns as it puffed out an ominous s'moke, moved forward, nearing me too quickly.
I ran, but I couldn't get around one of the chairs, my legs twisting with the wooden ones as flipped myself and tossed the chair, my face scraping the textured tile. I was on the floor, reaching until I hurt for anything I could use to save my life.
A giant hand clapped my back, a startling but not uncomfortable feeling as I work to understand.
"Ease up, lil homie!" Snoop Dogg said, his smile revealing his teeth. "I was just using the toshizzle, my man. I'm on my way back to da bus."
"Uh, I feel I'd regret this later if I didn't ask, but-"
"What's on your mindizzle?"
"What's the secret of life?" I asked.
He smiled." Whatever you do, baby, drop it like it's hot while sippin' on gin and juice."
I wanted to laugh until he blew away like smoke. I later asked to see the surveillance video from the bar, but there was nothing but old-fashioned tv snow.
For "Andre The Blog Monkey's Banana Bar" by Brother Nature , 496 wds.
|"30-Day Blogging Challenge ON HIATUS" by Fivesixer prompt:
Everyone seems to be pretty health conscious in today's world. What health tips have worked for you. If you can't think of any, or are like me and haven't pursued any, what would you like to do to improve your health?
Ohhh…yeah, about that…my lungs are shot. At thirty-eight years old, they told me my lungs were that of a 65-year old man. That’s been a few years ago. There’s not anything I can do to help that at this point. I’m staring down the end as hard as it’s staring at me. All I can do while learning to die is learn to live. That’s not too difficult.
Physical health is kinda moot, but emotional health, mental health…these are now just as important if not a little more. I might struggle some days, but I can guarantee you won’t see me mired down for too long. I don’t have time for that. Especially when the Muse is wearing spurs.
I’ve come to understand in the last few weeks that I’ve been hard on myself, excessively mean. And while I feel like I deserve it, I know I really don’t, nor do I have time for that, either. In trying to comprehend this, though, I’ve also seen how much happier life is through the lenses of appreciation, in learning how to ease up off myself. I just want to live happy within myself, for myself, and because of myself. And it’s not that I don’t need others to help and support me on some days, but it’s easier to learn to hug your own inner peace every once in a while, to remember our power, not our weakness; our progress, not our failing; who we are, not how others peg us.
Life isn’t always so happy, but it’s not as difficult once we realize how we speak to ourselves. My physical health is done for, but my life, what I can see just over the horizon still has so much good coming. And writing saved me. Thank you, WDC, for giving a place for all of us to find ourselves, to learn how to like who we are. I think that’s all I could really ask for. And to see you guys doing the same, it’s an honor. I love it.
|"30-Day Blogging Challenge ON HIATUS" by Fivesixer prompt:
A practice I can begin to help me let go of negative emotions and return to a state of peace is…
…realize where I”m headed in my mind, to try and deour the mood with music and writing and reading. Especially since finding this site, since realizing the tools and pieces are all there for me to put together, I’ve been opened to understanding the situation as it is. It’s become easier to step aside from the feelings to understand how to work with my abilities to control where I’m headed. And after to speaking with someone on this site about inner peace, I’ve realized I just keep leaving the door open on that so it’s ineffectual.
I’m finding myself, though, discovering hills only to find new valleys, and I’m certain we all are. But I’m experiencing me, and I’m learning how to take things in and let them stew around before I respond…I understand now how angry I’ve been to myself for…you know, being human…but with the understanding comes the obligation to change what hasn’t been working.
It’s okay to be serious about the things I do, but it’s not always that serious. It doesn’t have to be. There’s still so much joy and magic left in the world, and I think all one has to do to find it is be receptive to the idea. Self-reliance is probably the most important to me, in that I want to be able to amuse myself and keep myself in the world I deserve. That sounds crazy when I read it back, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I’ve lived a lot of life in forty years, and I don’t have a whole lot longer left on this planet because of genetics and general deterioration. I’m not being dramatic…just an x-rayed fact. And I don’t want to waste any more time feeling bad about my life, oppressing myself with judgments and by focusing on failures.
Maybe I should call my blog “Rhymer’s Therapist” at this point.
I don’t know if it works the same for everyone else or if I just sound too close to gibberish, and I don’t think I’m fixated on that answer. I want to know I’m not alone, that maybe someone else has gone down a path similar to this, but I know I’m okay. I’m where I’m supposed to be, and things feel right. Even if the path hasn’t been the same, I know y’all are out there, and I’ve learned so much about myself because of y’all.
Finding you guys is helping me find myself. And I’m digging that.