by Bob'n Around
Invisible matters of the mind turned real into the written word.
|Daily SCREAMS!!! win
“It’s your funeral.” Cousin Red threw a haymaker would have spun me into the ground if it connected. There is nothing like a family get-together bring the worst out in kin. Ours especial.
We knowed each other’s secrets better than we knowed our own. Too busy making new ones. I ducked and grabbed Cousin Red below the belt where a squeeze would do the most good.
It raised him onto his toes. I got a fine view of his tonsils. He give up the fight, happy to keep his manhood in place. “You shack’n up with May Bell Turner?” He sneered, trying to do harm with that baseless rumor.
Her being second cousin, half divorced, free and easy made me and most of my interested male kinfolk prey to her advances. “Didn’t see you in the lineup at her backdoor. Must have got in early,” I commented.
He must have read the delight in my eyes. Almost swung a meathouse back behind him in time to keep May Bell, his common law wife from goose’n him loose of his privates.
“They wants you inside to do the ‘praise to glory. Young grandson Elmer done already stole grandpa’s watch outa his coffin.”
I got a move on. “You sure he’s dead, this time?” I pondered with grandma. She sitting proud in her favorite rocker by the smelly corpse.
I got a sharp slap across my mug and a “Speak respect to your elders, sonny. Why gramps chose you to do his eulogy, God alone knows.”
The sound of deer rifle fire celebrated a many gun salute. I peeked out the window to see several fall’n heros had struck each other’s breasts. “Mighty fine send off, grandma,” She harrumph’d. Hard to please.
“They’s already digging up my garden hunting for jars filled with money ain’t there.” She lamented, dabbing a sodden lace hanky to her runny nose.
“Gramps at his best was secretive about those where-abouts. Took me enough whisky to preserve his innards before he told me where he’d planted his private bank.” I realized my mistake soon as I flapped my tongue.
Grandpa rose up out of being dead. A mass of flies left him. The twin barrels of his shotgun pointed at my chest. “We goin’ change places, son. I’ll see to burying you my own self, unless you give me back my coin.”
Gramps hee hawed hisself sick, bust a gut, holding his belly and passed away successfully. “About time,” Amery grinned, grabbing the bottle of hootch in Gramps coffin and vamoosed.
Grandma give me the evil eye. “You ain’t going nowhere without taking me with you.”
She’s pretty lively for being one hundred and two, sharing space, time, lovin and money living on the Riviera. Heard word we was tracked down by our distant relatives, threatening to visit us in our own funerals, who will be joining us real soon.
|Weekly SCREAMS!!! win
To us 'Oldsters', complaining is an art form. Developed through years of experience, trial and tribulations, wronged feelings, terrible mistakes and lately, health conditions... no-one does it more often, nor better with panache.
We have a code amongst us for who holds the prize of being king or queen of the mountain. Those raising an irritated nurse's "Tsk, tsk" bow their heads in shame. Those who qualify for the day's waiting room contest raise a passing, busy doctor's eyebrows half an inch on the head.
All of us acknowledge the winner with a weary groan, ancient wheeze and feeble applause. I've only won once. Being as old as I am, when dressing to take Diana to her medical appointment, I'd but my shoes on the wrong feet. My corns made every step like I was walking a Polynisasn Island fire dance.
Even though it was Diana's time to complain about her aches and pains with professional staff, I was whisked in before she could utter a word. Everyone stopped sharing family nostrums that cured everything but what they had. Nurses and doctors turned into a first class football squad tackling me, and carrying me into one of the tiny closets they call a doctor's office these days.
The fix was as easy as cutting my shoestrings and rearranging my footwear. I got out without having to pay a dime.
There is a legend whispered in post operating rooms of an eight fingered, two thumbed surgeon who loves experimenting on our best aged and most revered winners as a way of revenge and retribution. They come out of anesthesia screaming about sawed off limbs, misplaced or missing organs, and sex changes done without consent. That is, if they come out alive at all.
Some parts have been tracked down by their finger and thumb prints being connected to strangers with no right to them. Cornea transplants with signed waivers cruelly made up, and unable to be contested or sued barely see the light of day. Hospitals have a way of taking care of their own and Doctor Two Thumbs takes every advantage along with pocketing the proceeds of his painful and evil acts.
You know how fishermen love making their catches grow bigger each telling. The boredom of sitting on pins and needles waiting for our turns in waiting rooms made Doctor Two Thumbs a figure like that.
I smelled something fishy going on when they separated Diana and I with some folderall about new Covid19 regulations. They had a specialist in to take a look at her many complaints.
"Complications." A harried nurse explained five hours later. The usual waiting time was only four. I was getting worried sitting there with my fanny growing numb, catching who knew what fatal illness for the coughs and sneezes erupting around me.
I was beginning to feel cold chills and hot flashes when word came back that 'they' wanted to consult with me. "What seems to be the problem?" I asked.
"We'd prefer to talk with you in private. We have some sad news to share." I was hustled beyond locked doors that read 'surgical staff only' and dumped in a freezing empty cubicle.
"Please sign these release forms. The doctor will be in shortly." I sat shivering on the only one metal chair, chewing on a plastic pen while rubbing my eyes at legalese on multiple pages, under a light bulb glaring down overhead.
I'd stabbed myself bloody, fingers shaking with frostbite unable to figure out all the Latin legal and medical terms numbing my brain when the door opened. A man wearing the outer white coat adorned with ribbons of blood entered and said, "Nothing to worry about, your wife is fine. If you've finished signing your name, I'll escort you to her in the emergency ward recovery room."
"What happened? She came in for her monthly review?"
"It is better if the attending physician speak with you." A ghostly smirk answered. "Your cooperation is appreciated. You and Diana will get out of here faster that way."
We passed a line of gurney's with I.D. tabs connected to naked toes along the way. Deeper into the jungle warren of branching hallways we went. Weeping, hand ringing figures sobbed and looked up beseechingly as we passed by.
A scream erupted behind me where sheets draping a newly arrived gurney were lifted. "My God, what have you done to him?" was followed by hysterical laughter. "You stole his nose."
"In, here, please." My guide had hurried up the pace. The door shut blindly with him racing out the opposite side.
It was dark. A single moan issued creepily before me. "Diana?" I prayed they'd put me in the wrong room. I had no idea where I was or how to respond. I'd been left alone.
Slowly my vision adjusted to the gloom. A shadowy figure lay flat on an examination table, restlessly moving as if trying to escape some personal nightmare. "Diana?" I prayed, feeling faint, edging forward. I fumbled my cellphone into my hand, using its dim light to guide me.
A travesty of nature peered back at me. "Yes," a barely remembered voice hissed back. "Get me out of here."
No way was this my wife. A variety of additional limbs, eyes, ears and noses had been attached, ready for harvest. "Before they kill me," the voice squeaked.
The University of Utah is an educational hospital world renowned for its training of future medical experts. It looked like every one of them had practiced on my wife, if this is who it was.
"Gah," I uttered, swallowing vomit burning its way down my throat as a four fingered hand and one thumb curled over one of my shoulders. Each finger was attached in the wrong place and the thumb lay where the little finger should be, pointing right instead of left.
"I've scheduled the next series of operations you signed her up for. She is quite the remarkable lady, a real trooper. Thanks for agreeing to share a kidney, one lung and grafts of skin. Your blood type is a complete Match."
"Sure thing, doc." I croaked. Give me a moment alone with her?"
Doctor Two Thumbs rubbed his mismatched fingers, thumbs and hands together, nodded and left. I managed to stuff one of my socks in Diana's mouth, taped it with gauze and white tape in place to keep her quiet. A passing foreign looking intern's white coat looked more bloody after I donned it than it had before. He now stabbed with surgical knives left in Diana's recovery room.
One wheel on her gurney squeaked and wobbled as I pushed her out her door. There were colored tiles in every hue leading this and that way. I chose a sickly looking yellow one to follow.
Eventually it led to an underground garage opening where hearses were parked in somber long black rows. Somewhere behind me speakers were sounding with alarm calls. "Almost home free."
I slid Diana off her gurney into the back of one, after checking and making sure the keys were in the ignition. We never returned home, but hide out in 24 hour emergency rooms, steal jello and other delights from left over hospital trays and look like we belong in any pre-surgery room in America, wherever we are.
Diana has gotten used to her new disguise as a human monster. We don't worry about her being recognized. She doesn't even recognize herself. She acts quite honored, winning the day's complaint contest wherever our bodies rest. She may look like a monster, but she is my monster with her heart in the right place.
No-one quite believes her tale of what she went through with Doctor Two Thumbs or even that he truly exists. Reality is a fragile thing for us oldsters and not easily accepted when the worst of it must be faced when brought into full view.
|2nd place win. 628 Word entry into the February "Verfabula: A Creative Nonfiction Contest"
Bryce Canyon National Park is a temple of pink rock spires. Summer employment for college students like me offered pay for anticipated pleasure. I walked underneath the ladder in the doorway of the gift shop hoping bad luck would not follow.
“Hello. Hand me that hammer, will you?” Phyllis leaned down, our hands touching. Brown eyes and curly mop of hair adorned a willowy figure. A charge of electricity sent a shock through us both.
“You sure are. I won’t give you any static about that,” she laughed. Our first meeting yielded constant others while working and getting to know each other.
“Want to go for a walk on the rim tonight? Full moon should be beautiful.” The other employees had paired up together for the summer. It made it easier for us to fall into the same pattern.
“Sure.” There wasn’t much else to do than make our own entertainment. The rim overlooked a sweep of coral pink cliffs and bounty of carved spires. My best friend and his new fiancee wanted to be shown around by me as their guide.
The romantic double date evening turned cringe worthy. Slurpy, noisy kissy faces destroyed the silence behind Phyllis and I, making us both feel embarrassed. Our relationship was to the point of our holding hands.
I’d never had a girl so interested in me. She seemed to memorize every word I said. I didn’t realize I was her first boyfriend. She was practicing on me, testing my reaction to what worked. I was totally smitten.
I wanted to show her what a real kiss should be, a gentle quiet caress of lips and hearts joining together. When I dropped her off at her girls dorm, I asked her if it would be all right. “I’ve never been kissed before,” she closed her starlit eyes.
I whispered her name as our lips met in the silence of a heartbeat filled with love and longing. “Goodnight,” I said my goodbye.
Phyllis said she felt nothing until halfway up her stairs. Suddenly faint, feeling feverish, she swooned. “Wow. So this is what it is like.” She had to pull herself the rest of the way up the staircase by holding onto the bannister. The next morning, after she threw up and fever hadn’t gone away, the nurse said she had the flu.
So much for anticipation. Walking under that ladder had done its evil work. It had come back to haunt me. I was truly shocked when I heard she was sick. Flowers followed, along with get well wishes, for the next three days until she surfaced again, looking wane and wary of my greeting.
It was nearing the end of our summer employment. All that work getting to know Phyllis ended in a shy shaking of hands and promises to stay in touch. Every other couple traded hugs and addresses. “I’m sorry how things worked out.” I slipped a note with my college address on it into the palm of her hand. “I really like you.” Love was only a word away.
“May I have yours?” I offered a pen and piece of paper. “What can it hurt? We’ll be far enough apart you should stay healthy enough.”
Her face broke into a smile and laughter. “Why not.”
All I needed was that hint of continued friendship. Letters between Utah and Rhode Island grew into long lasting phone calls culminating in a Christmas visit with families. We traded hugs and kisses of our own. Neither one of us got sick of them.
There was a new shocking electrical chemistry between us. The following summer, after our June wedding, the tall steeple spires of Bryce Canyon welcomed us back in a delayed honeymoon. Every expectation had been more than met.
|“God’s truth. Rich Jews have a space laser spitting fire, causing California forest fires.” Alice Parker’s eyes rolled wildly in her head.
"Sweet." Her husband, Tom Parker, swilled another long swallow from the bottle glinting in the rural Utah moonlight instead of answering yeah or neigh. When his wife got wound up it was the safest thing he could do to get foggy brained and lie low.
He’d last gotten this pleasantly inebriated over her insistence that the deep state had an international child porno ring used to abduct, torture and drink human blood as part of a satanic cult.” “So, sweet.” His tongue felt furry. All that nonsense over Alice's sister's kids mistaking an after school pickup ride in an over packed little league bus that had taken them for a ride.
Alice had organized this witch hunt with a group of like minded friends. Torches were lit, pitchforks out and emotions high pitched enough to be deadly. It was going to be a long night. Tom, fortified by his whisky, tried one last time to dissuade the mob from their hazy plan to take over the county seat.
“Lord almighty,” He shouted, “You see that? Chemtrails from jets overhead spilling deadly chemical and biological agents down on us. We got to vamoose.” The cloudy fantails of passing aircraft happened often enough, that part was likely to be true anytime night or day.
Tom clutched his throat, gurgled, threw up his hands and pointed heavenward. The thunder of low passing jet engines grew louder. Windows began to vibrate. Alice screamed, heaved her bloated body into Tom’s arms and fainted.
“They got her,” neighbor Harry Morgan swore. “We’re next. Everyone to the bomb shelter.” He led the way. Purchasing and converting an old missile silo to protect his family from the end of days was something he was proud of.
The makeshift quarters inside became crowded as fish in a barrel. A few trampled souls lay groaning on the ground leading towards it. It was further hazy evidence to the band barricading themselves inside that they were under direct attack.
Tom watched the huge nuclear attack shielded doors roll closed. “Good. I hate MRE packaged military leftover food. Have at it. Poison your innards likely as not.” He more or less rolled, heaved and shoved Alice into the back of their van.
His next step was hazy in his mind. Go home and sleep it off? One explosive fart from Alice’s behind made him gag. He donned a mask over his mouth and nose, going against prevailing mob norms, settling it firmly in place. Eyes tearing up, he fumbled his way to his driver’s seat, inhaled and put his pedal to the metal. “Don’t mind if I do. A kidnapping is about to take place. Space aliens abducting my wife.”
Tom had his alibi sort of set up. A certain farmer’s daughter in Peoch, Utah had him pegged as the original Elvis, tired of fame and glory, who had never actually died. She was a bird-like creature who could jump his old rooster bones like Alice had never dreamed of.
“Where are we?” Alice echoed from the back of the van. “What happened? Tom? Are you there?”
“We got to do something, sweetheart. (The mysterious) ‘They’ tried to kill you. Barely got you away alive. ‘They’ replaced you as leader with a double just like they did to the president’s wife, Melania Trump.” Tom took his foot off the gas. He’d had to think quick. “It’s the ‘Illuminati’. You are part of their grassroots plan to take over and secretly become the New World Order.”
Thrilled at the prospect of having been promoted in importance, Alice rolled her way to the van’s shotgun seat. “Where we headed? To Denver and the underground city beneath it which serves as their headquarters? It is time to reveal them for who they are.”
“We’ll have to watch out for trained Zionist eagles wearing tracking devices. Have to lay low. I’m sneaking you into a safe house out in the middle of the Utah desert. Up front it works as a polygamist church group compound. You’ll have to act as if you are one of the men’s multiple wives.” Tom’s furry tongue had loosened up.
“What are you going to do, Tom?” She asked as her husband spun to a stop in a whirlwind of dust.
“No time for questions. Climb on out. Wait. A farmer will be along in a short time to pick you up. He’s secretly a top ‘Proud Boy’s’ leader so he’ll act innocent and deny knowing you or anything about you. Got it?”
Alice’s lips trembled with fervor. Her eyes glazed over with patriotism along with some wonder about what it would be like being a member of some man’s harem. Tom hadn’t been too active in the sex department lately. She could use a man who knew what he was doing. “All right. Sure sounds mysterious, Tom. I’ll be alright until you get back.”
The flying saucer hovering over the van directly on top of Tom was no surprise to Alice. “Good luck, Tom.” She waved as her husband was sucked out of the van’s driver window and up beamed into the saucer’s bottom.
News of Alice’s band of supporters suffocating in their silo never reached her. To this day she thinks they are waiting inside, ready to launch a missile at her command. “How do I look?”
Alice toned up her body when picked up by a lost band of right wing extremists on a survival training class in the Utah hinterlands. She’s now running for the office of Utah governor on the promise to join Texas in succeeding from the union and resist the claim that Bill Gates used the COVID vaccine to inject microchip trackers.
Tom found the alien women needing human sperm to produce offspring surprisingly willing to meet his every wish and want. Tuned in to the news, he was happy to direct them into making a little mischief to keep things interesting.
“Texas needs a lesson. Use the adapted space laser to create climate change and another week of below zero temperatures, deaths, mayhem and carnage.” Tom’s new world order with him in charge would begin by putting the U.S. government subterfuge at fault.
Mass insurrections were planned to spontaneously occur world wide. Tom would appear as God's anointed apostle and prophet with extra-terrestrail backing. He'd be in power in no time at all.
|Daily SCREAMS!!! win
Oh happy day. Won’t you come out to play. I’m Zitz, a most wonderful friend. I’ll be yours to the living end. Strangers when we met, stranger still and stranger yet. Oh, the things that we shall see, together, you and me.
No regrets to leave behind, you’re my buddy most divine. I will pluck away every sorrow and pain. Heaven, I’ll help you claim, or hell, if you wish. I am no wet fish.
Go ahead, let it all out. Anger is good for you, there is no doubt. Roar and spit, gnash your teeth a bit, have a fit.
Call me what you will. I’m no wilting lilly, willy nilly. I’m the real deal. My, my how you do squeal. With this rope around your neck pulled tight, we’ll fix that in a jiffy and a little more might. Tug, tug. You look better in purple and blue. Here, I’ll get a mirror and show you, that’s what I’ll do.
Rage, rage, life is all a rage when you look at it right. See, you are already learning what’s worth a fight. How you struggle against your ducktape bounds. Jerk and dance your chair around. I love having such a good time. I’ve never met anyone before so divine.
What? If I love it so, then why not do me? Leave you alone, set you free? Spoil sport. I leave the best to the last just for you. Here’s what I’m going to do.
Rip your clothes off with these scissors, snip, snip, oops, sorry mister. Caught a little flesh. So angry now, you are. Just a test. We want to see just how hot under the collar you can get.
A hot branding iron, smoking, searing, leaving its mark. Sizzling, cooking your tender parts. My, my how you howl and roar. I wonder what’s next. Let’s see what I have in store.
Spit in my face? Such a disgrace. On what other friend can you depend. I cannot be replaced.
Hang in there, Get angrier still. I am counting on you to give me a thrill. If you stop, give up and calm down, I’ll have to bury you alive underground.
Tsk, tsk, did I make you cry? Did I hear a sob and sigh? You are beginning to anger me. What I did before to you was only a tease. Buck up, my best friend. I’ll turn you into a die hard, on that you can depend.
Mad, mad am I? Crazy? It’s not me whose fingernails get pulled with no reason why. It was you who let me in with that sly fatuous grin. I wiped it off your face. Boiling hot anger fits better in place.
I can stay here quite a while, sticking lit cigarettes searing, tattooing, left over skin I have not yet defiled. Don’t be faint with your praise, curse, demean, I thought I heard it all, I’m aghast, simply amazed.
I didn’t know you had it in you. See, we’ve both learned a lot about what anger shows. Let’s try out this vice on your toes. You and I alone are in the know. Sadly, it is about time for me to go. I fear you already went, your life blood well spent, thank you for such a good show.
I’m Zitz, I’m on my way, to find another unhappy angry soul released today. Let’s not delay. You are out there for your every regret to slay. Come, come do let me in. It is time to make complete strangers even stranger intimate friends.
Look what your anger has won. It is right on the tip of your tongue. Before I tear and rip it out from your throat, there's a little time left for me to gloat. Oh, we are going to have such fun, you won't believe it, your eyes will pop out before we are done.
Knock, knock, do let me in. I'm Zitz, wearing such a happy grin. Go ahead, try knocking it off, let our adventure begin.
|2652 Word entry into February's "The Whatever Contest" Prompt: Write a "Fatal Attraction" type story (referencing the 1987 movie) or something equally twisted with a very disturbed partner in the relationship."
So, I am a romantic. The lure of scent, tantalizing curve, glint of eye and I am lost in a stranger’s silent imaginary embrace.
It is how I met Jeannie, the model of perfection all women wish they could be. Too soon, all others wishing to become more than friends revealed a crooked tooth, a skin blemish, or personality quirk tarnishing their act.
I had almost given up hope. It wasn’t through lack of supposed opportunity. I enjoy female company, the intimacy of two minds and bodies meeting as one. Each episode and previous encounter offered some form of a piece that fit the puzzled wish entrenched within my soul.
A few came close. Isn’t it strange how a woman is able to blur imperfection with overpowering ease at first acquaintance? That tantalizing fact led me through quite some adventures ending in heartache on both our parts.
The worst wouldn’t let go of what we’d found together. I’ve been stalked by the very best, had to move, change identities, changed careers as easily as clothes. I’ve even ended up in seclusion as a guest at a monastery, a farm where elderly priests made and sold honey in a place, believe me, called Eden, Utah.
Rambling acres of woodlands filled with bird calls, hay fields attracting deer and the march of sunrises into dusk loaned me a sense of calm acceptance that I was never meant to find true love.
Reflections on its false, fake strivings of alternatives hunting to trap my hope and fancied desire were alarmingly distant from praise. After weeks turning into months as season blended with season I was offered a lay position to do errands, fill in for farm workers sick or who quit, and attend to selling honey and jams at the monastery store.
The youngest priest, Brother Jon Svanty, was seventy. All were past the burning flame of passion that sometimes awoke me in my bed at night. I began to dream of my perfect mate. During my days, I brought the illusion of her into my thoughts to keep me company, fleshed her out with a silky auburn ponytail, sleek curve of neck and hair tumbling over the wink of a flirtatious eye.
“Who are you talking to?” It was another lay volunteer, staring at me curiously. “What are you looking at?”
I turned from the store window, regaining my senses. “I thought I saw someone I know out there.”
We were between customers. People from near and far liked the rural dirt road journey to the monastery and the sweet taste of the honey and bottled preserves for sale. My companion for the day opened the store door, gazed outside to an empty parking lot. “You’re seeing things. “Maybe you’ve been staying here too long. I know some women newly divorced, looking for a night out without commitments. Why don’t I set something up?” He closed the door, regarding me with some sign of compassion in his arched eyebrows and with pity in his eyes.
“Sure,” I said. My tone was listless, so dull it brought forth a yawn.
“You must be psychic. A car is driving up, new strangers soon to be friends. Wow. Look at that beauty, human flesh carved out of the image of Venus. That pony tail bobbing around is already excited to explore possibilities.”
With a leering grin on his face, the door was reopened in invitation. A flourish and bow offered entry. The doe eyes that met my own widened. The tip of a coral pink tongue wet the edge of opening lips. “Hello.” a southern accent caressed the air. “I’ve heard so much about this place. May I look around?”
Her eyes fastened on me, appraising me from head to toe, pausing, and working up again. “My name is Bell.”
A stir, an echo of interest faded on hearing her name. The first blush of perfection cracked into a thousand pieces as her driving companion stepped up behind. “My name is Jeannie. We’re vacationing down in the valley with friends.”
The shadowed figure stepped inside, revealing herself to my haunted imagination. Jeannie’s hand fluttered up to her neck, stroking a gasp from between ruby red lips. “Do I know you?”
The fire in my eyes flamed within her own. “The name is familiar,” I answered. The figure was not. This was a blond bombshell set off too early to do its intended damage. I turned away to dust clean shelves. Whispers followed me around my task which I ignored.
“What’s wrong with him?” The blonde asked no-one.
“He’s a resident, keeps to himself. Don’t bother with him. I’m a part time guide in these parts. Some great wildlife to see if you know where to look for it. Best time is dusk or dawn. Interested?”
Bell took charge of the arrangements, giving me a last speculative glance. “Promising. We’d like to see what you’ve got. Bring him along if you want to. We can double up.”
My gaze went back to the window where a shadow passed the sun. “Look what you are missing.” My male Casanova came over to stare out with me. The young ladies departed in a shower of dust. “I’ll pick you up at dusk. Wear something besides those tired out jeans and old sweatshirt. Want to make an impression if you are going to score.”
Fake love had stalked me, bubbled up and sipped from my dormant sensual hunger. I nodded, licked my lips, tasting the remembrance of those just seen. “Sure, but I got a date with someone else.”
The guy looked so crestfallen he seemed to melt inside himself. “You got to be crazy, passing up something like that. They practically jumped on their own into your pants. Cancel the date, buddy. Please. They are letting me along for the ride. You get to choose either one. This is a sure thing.”
“No. Thanks, anyway. My date is special.” The shadow out the window hovered, whispered the leaves of the Willow next to the store. Maybe I’d go for a walk later. Figure out why I couldn’t let go of my unease. How long would it take for me to let the coals die. How lucky my elderly priests were not to be stalked by such desire.
“Well, at least think about it. If it is a matter of money or not having a decent car, clothes, anything? Here’s my number. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll check in with you, early. We’re meeting up here.” The fire was there, transferred to the blush in his cheeks. He wasn’t taking no.
“Sure.” What was I going to do about my life and my impossible dream? My body threatened to replace my Jeannie with its own base want and undisguised need. It wouldn’t let me go, stalking me, when I least expected it.
“Good. I want to go get ready. O.K. if I leave early? You can lock up?”
“Sure.” It was the only word that could escape my mouth. The weeping willow outside caressed the air with its long leafy branches blinding sparks of sunlight and shadow. I rubbed my eyes closed, the dream like image of my Jeannie appeared in ghostly half formed images dancing with themselves.
“You, O.K.?” Brother Jon Svanty closed the door the other volunteer had left open. “Got some sad news. You look haunted by some of your own. Bet it is woman trouble. We can talk about it, if you want.”
“You saw those last customers, I suppose.” I offered with a rueful smile. “Brought up some feelings I don’t want. How did you handle them all your years?”
“Stuck them in a mental box and closed it long ago. I admit, they got out a time or two. What works is seeing them for the false god they are and replacing that image with the real one.”
A withered hand rested in comfort on one of mine. “Talking, praying helps to see him more clearly, all dressed in his white robe and shining in pure perfection. A wave of peace and comfort falls over me offering a strength I alone do not possess.”
He waited for me to respond, both of us looking out the store window, seeing different things. “Faith is a wonderful treasure for those who believe, son. Give it a try.”
“I will. Maybe if I stay here long enough . . . “ I turned from my sober reflection in the window of a man cursed with a seemingly impossible task.
Brother Jon Svanty, patted my hand before departing. He nodded and took in a deep breath. “My sad news won’t make yours feel any lighter, I’m afraid.”
The silence grew brooding between us. Usually it was a friend. Not now. His sigh turned into a storm of emotional words. “They’re closing down the monastery and store. Selling it off to a promoter. We’re too old to keep it up any longer, being sent off to other places to retire in. They’re using the money to pay off lawyers suing the church for the sins we did not commit.”
“Means I won’t be staying here.” I felt cold inside. My solace from living here wrenched and pulled at my heart. “How long?”
“We’ve been told to leave by the end of the month. Not many belongings. Won’t take us long. They are looking for a caretaker. We suggested it be you. They don’t want anyone attached to the place. I’m sorry. I can suggest another monastery if you aren’t ready to face things outside.”
They were all thankful for me blending in with their lifestyle of simplicity and dedication to something higher than self. We hadn’t talked much about why I was there, what I wanted, or my future. Each day was enough unto itself. “I’ll think about it. Thanks.”
The dust storm raising a rooster tale was a convertible. The blond stood up as it came to a stop. “Hey there. Moose called so we picked him up. You ready?”
I was just locking up. I’d been asked to start packing things up. Dusk blended the golden hour of light across the land. The car spit gravel as it stopped, nudging up to the willow tree. Tendrils of branches wept down causing the girls hands to brush them away from their faces. “Uh. Can’t make it.”
Moose jeered, “Why I didn’t call. Knew you’d say no. They thought they could turn your head.”
“We can party here. Let’s get out.”
I was saved by Brother Jon Svanty, stepping out from behind the store. “Not tonight, sisters. Store’s closed. So will our gate be when you leave.”
The rooster tail dust cloud rose higher going out than it had coming in. “Sin stalked you pretty close. Felt an impression to check on you, Ethen Allen. Glad I did.” He motioned me towards the gate, handed me the key to the lock and turned to go. “Can’t run from it son. Faith is the answer if there is one. Give it a try before sin won’t let you go.”
The convertible waited outside the gate, motor racing then quieting into a rhythm of ‘come-and-get-me’, if you can. The blonde curled her skin tight t-shirt over her head, wiggled her breasts, nipples taut and pouty. “Last chance.”
“I hope so,” I smiled and waved them off, hiding the smoldering embers flickering hot desire racing through my veins. It took several times to force the lock in place. The permanently closed sign was easier to wire onto the gate.
Now, if only my feelings were so easily handled. “Faith.” The word sounded like a curse I expelled. Dusk faded, littering the sky with stars. I walked, eyes blurred with silent tears.
The monastery rose with my approach. I wasn’t ready to go in. A brush of clean cool air awoke the Weeping Willow. I paused, slid down against its trunk, using its strength to hold me sitting up. “Faith in what?”
When I closed my eyes, wiping them dry, a vision of an angel appeared inside my head. “Jeannie.” Dressed in pure white and glowing with perfect health, her ponytail danced and beckoned me.
The wind in the Willow faded into a whisper. “You make me feel real.” Jeannie winked and said. “Open your eyes.”
The tree creaked and groaned. Its branches bobbed up and down touching the ground, making a natural curtain. There was Jeannie opening the whispering leaves, beckoning me to her. “I’ve missed you, my dreamy Ethen Allen.”
Her eyes glittered with the stars. The shadows embracing the space around her faded. She glided towards me with perfect grace. “I am yours. You are mine. We were meant to be.”
As her steps grew closer, Jeannie slid her robe down her body, letting it fall behind her. “No. You are not dreaming. Have a little faith. You made me. I came to you. Believe in us. I am here.”
“I don’t care if you are only my imagination.” I struggled to my feet, yearning to embrace this new reality causing my heart wanting to beat its way out of my chest.
I closed my eyes as she moved into my arms, a silky warmth lighting my nerves on fire. My tongue searched her lips, whispering her name. “Jeannie. At last.”
I didn’t go to my room that night. Awake or asleep, Jeannie lay with me in a world of making we alone knew. Love making blended with hours of soul surrender exploring and learning the most intimate details of who we were and are. “I love you completely, Ethen Allen. You are the best part of who I am.”
The first taste of each other overwhelmed me with an expectation we could not be more. Each moment added momentum to the realization I could not live without her, now that I had found her. “You are mine. I am yours.”
“I thought I lost you.” Brother Jon Svanty surveyed the mashed down grass next to the Willow. “I guess I did. Who was she? I’ll have to ask you to leave. This is hallowed ground. Which one was it, the blonde?”
The priest was mad, face flushed, fists clenched, “Get up. Get out.”
“Jeannie?” I said.
“Where’s she hiding? I’ll whip you if you don’t take her away at once. You hear me?” A pocket knife flashed into his hand. I stared as he cut a willow branch off, making it snap like a snake. The end bit my cheek. I rose, looked around me for my Jeannie. She had concealed herself, nowhere to be found.
“Jeannie? Where are you? We’ve got to leave.” This time the snap of the whip left a welt on my arm. Two more left a bloody cross weeping on my forehead. The other priests were coming out of the monastery to see what the noise was all about.
“He blasphemed,” Brother Jon Svanty was weeping, sobbing. He dropped his Willow whip. “I said move. Get your things. Go. I can’t stand the sight of you. You turned the end of our monastery into such a farce.”
He clutched his heart, groaned and fell to his knees, “The she devil stalked and owns you.”
It was obvious he was having a stroke. I was pushed aside, made invisible with the concern the other priests felt for Brother Jon Svanty, who lay gasping and dying on the ground I had so recently made my own.
Jeannie appeared out of nowhere, touched my arm, kissed the blood upon my forehead making it her own. “Come, while they cannot see you.” The willow tree caught a light breeze whispering an echo of her words into a long drawn out sigh.
“Where will we go?”
“Into a dream, if nowhere else,” Jeannie teased, innocent of guile.
I allowed her to grasp my hand and lead me into the golden dawn. I had met and been conquered by my fatal attraction. We are perfect together existing in our own private world.
Until death do we part.
|One thing Jerry Adams knew was when someone was lying. It was an instinct he’d always possessed. You learn early when you are different. Get treated like a misfit and wapped over the head with it when you're but a child, guess what? You’d hide the offense as well as you could.
Jerry Adams soon kept the knowledge to himself. He breathed better that way. No startled grunts of abused grown up anger with hands trying to pull your tongue from your throat. No widened eyed looks of feminine dismay followed by one’s ears being twisted or worse.
Those were the grown-up responses to his calling untruths out. Kids just beat him up or left any friendship squandered behind. Left to his own devices and a cruelly state of non gratis pariah, Jerry Adams learned to keep his mouth shut, though he had to bite his tongue a lot.
Truth has a way of wanting to be told by those few who recognize the rareness of it.
It made him strange bedfellows with other outcasts. His knee jerk position of trying to eat his own tongue when hearing a common courtesy, such as “I’m well. You look good, yourself,” isolated him from anyone else.
His parents farmed him out to a military academy to get away from the side effects of being near him. “That boy of yours, will be the death of you, if you can’t control him,” was whispered as a threat. Within the first year, he’d been cast out of the third such establishment and was left on his own.
Ace Parker, liar extraordinaire, and proud of it, was the street dweller who took the desolate waif under his wing. “Seen you, I did, looking bewildered and all. Hard not to, with your kind of blunt talent. I kin make use of you, I can.”
Being cold, hungry and destitute, young Jerry Adams recognized the truth in what the man was saying. It was the first time he’d felt valued in his entire life. “Yes, sir. How, sir?”
“Go ahead. Just be yourself. Let it loose, kid. Then watch me perform my magic.” Ace Parker was a conman to the root. Where Jerry Adams was the first (and perhaps last) of his kind with his particular talent, Ace was his equal in the opposite direction. He could lie the paint off a barn, turn truth on its head and make a believer out of anyone he met. At least long enough to score.
It was the aftermath of when that ‘someone’ caught up with him that earned Ace Parker his own share of wrath. One bum leg, a patch worn over an eye, and the permanent streaks of the lash on his striped back were justice’s proof of that.
With trepidation, Jerry Adams allowed himself to be pushed in position within bragging rights of a set of outdoor restaurant tables. Ace Parker sat across from him in the next chair, a broad, happy sneer on his face. “I’ll order. You look like you haven’t eaten well in too long.”
A feast was spread before them along with a sheaf of green backs fluttering on display. That truth won Jerry Adams as a convert to Ace Parker like nothing else could. The con man disguised his uneasiness at conning the boy with truth by digging into the repaste. There was a lie behind the truth of his words far deeper than the lad could detect.
In truth, Ace Parker was a user. It was enough to let truth become an unsuspected and unspoken lie. He was that glib, inside and out. “Listen to that banker, bragging about his last stock market killing.”
Ace Parker waited for Jerry Adams to swallow his last mouthful. “Go over and do your thing, kid. I’ll protect you. He deserves what he’s going to get.”
Both got up at the same time, chairs shifting to make way through the woven path leading to the bankers table. “Pardon me, sir. I couldn’t help overhearing,” Ace Parker nudged the lad at his side.
“You lied.” Jerry Adams blurted, unable to swallow anything but the truth. “You didn’t make all that money betting your own money, you bet your firms. Doubled and lost it all.”
“Kid doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You can prove him wrong, can’t you?” Ace Parker swung his mouth in on the act. “Recognized you, first thing, from where we were sitting.”
Ace Parker swung a chair around to join the new table and startled occupants, spinning his comforting lies so sure, fast, and accurate they spun a web around the glazed faces they met. The spider had caught his fly and the next meal of many to come.
The other men at the table began nodding. The victim dabbed beads of sweat from his brow, gulped his adams apple down his throat and sat stunned as a bug wrapped up in the cocoon Ace Parker wove around him. “I have an investment opportunity you might be interested in.” He finished with that accolade and a slip of paper he scrawled his black mail demand upon.
That too, was a lie. Ace Parker willingly paid off the ransom of debt for the banker to obtain inside information and compliance for his next act. The trade was easily bought.
Fleecing others because of their own basest desires was a truth Jerry Adams learned quickly.
There are levels of lies embedded in a deeper truth. The fact became a fascination for the young boy. It loaned him a balance that led to self pride. As long as he kept his focus on wells that run deep, that pure water was easy to swallow, allowing the effluvia of lies floating on the surface go.
The ways of God are mysterious and often misunderstood. Ace Parker and Jerry Adams were unlikely angels. Their present and future fortune was so vast fishing the sea of want, greed and misguided action, the pair never went too far.
The reaction of being found out and getting away with it, if paying it forward were part of the bargain, changed the lives of many a poor desperate fool. Redeemed ruined lives became a pyramid scheme Ace Parker and Jerry Adams still rule over, as one lie catches another and the truth of it is revealed.
Fortunes are made and lost by less auspicious means, but not so well. Jerry Adams can twist the heart right out of a man’s chest with a few simple truths. Ace Parker can put it back again, less shriveled and wrung out than it was.
The surgery happens so fast and with so much dexterity, it cannot be denied. Stunned with their own being found culprit and in their remorse and wanton need, the victims go reeling off as if spanked by God himself.
They are willing to pay any price to heal bruised feelings and hide their disgrace to prevent becoming outcasts. Ace Parker and Jerry Adams, knowing too well how outcasts feel, reap the reward
|I bounced around private prisons a good deal in my career. The real money was only made by upper management who rarely entered such lowly realms as those of criminals who got caught. For guards, such as myself, we had to be creative, making fortunes of our own.
The snake pits of the system offered the best opportunity for that sort of thing. Armour was that sort of place, so spoiled and rotten even snakes couldn’t stand it. Monsters could. Sadists, perverts and social misfits played their games of chance with the lives of inmates who couldn’t be much worse.
By the time I ended up there, I had a rep as an enforcer. Unusual for that role, when interrogating a prisoner I play it tender, soft and easy, the only ‘good guy’ among my ruthless bunch. Results oriented as much as any of my kind. It paid off.
Unlucky corrupt political rivals hauled in before escaping with their millions tended to wheel and deal with me. If they didn’t, and a roll of the dice got them anyone else, torture and death was offered instead.
The inmates called the black curtain hung across the torture chamber doorway the veil of the jail. It had a kind of rhyme to it. Humor has the darkest resting places. Pass through the veil and you will never be seen again. It was for processing. If you were lucky in bargaining for your life, those willing to buy you, if coming from high enough places bought your body and soul.
I don’t mind any means of extracting information as long as it gets results. Doing torture for fun and recreation, I leave to the monsters who feed on it. The worst was Eddie Bower.
We’d tested wills. If left to my own devices I usually won out. When we paired up, he was brutal and conniving enough to tear whatever was useful out of a prisoner, offering them death as a reward for putting them out of their misery.
When Madeline Bower stepped past the veil, stripped of everything but her pride, there was an instant hush of silence. She was a journalist, an activist, and daughter of a man with independent means. It was the magic combination that guaranteed she’d end up here.
The look in her eyes judged Eddie Bower and me as the same monstrous thing. I nodded to the little man who ushered everyone out but himself, me and Madeline Bower.
The screams were particularly vibrant echoing out of this chamber of horrors. They went on for an extended amount of time before results were ill gotten.
I hadn’t lifted a finger. I had done one thing right, exchanging victim for torturer. Eddie Bower had given up how to get all of his treasure. Madeline Bower’s wronged past and present opportunity met the challenge.
Eddie was so much lifeless unrecognisable meat. I carried Madeline Bower out like baggage to our future together, independently rich and grateful to be free.
|The local pastor’s backyard bunted up next to the church graveyard. The good reverend Paul Thomas looked visibly shaken. “No-one told me my place was haunted.”
The comment raised the eyebrows of Emmet Till, lay preacher from the next parish. “Didn’t ask, did ya?” He took the fly spattered old church record of births, deaths and weddings, brushed off ancient dust and flipped crisp yellowed pages back a century. “Here? This where you marked it?”
“That’s the last entry. Goes back to Indian times when Utah was a territory and Father Escalante come up from Mexico exploring. See. There? Letter on parchment wedged in that crease.”
It amazed Emmet Till how God made things fall together at the time when they were needed. “Even back then. First sign of foreigners and natives sick and die. A whole village buried in unhallowed ground right in your backyard. Let’s take a look see.”
In the light of day, everything looked normal until Pastor Thomas’ left foot nudged a shaded piece of rust colored ground under the arched limbs of an old Cottonwood tree. “Dried. When it first appeared, it was blood.”
Brother Till nodded, biting his lip, “The Lord moves in mysterious ways. Thought it might be kids playing tricks, maybe? Or some hobo burying animal dinner remains. Chicken he stole?”
“Didn’t come to mind. Not with what happened the night before. The red mist turning the moon the color of blood. The moaning wind becoming wordless rising and falling chants.” The good pastor fingered the cross hanging from his neck. “I prayed. Things turned normal towards morning twilight.”
“Inspired to read church records back to the beginning of time. Found out about the sickness.” They’d talked about it over before Till came over. Mysteries weren’t usually so detailed as this. It intrigued him. “Why, you think it is changing now?” Till knelt down, fingers brushing through the soil, coming up wet. A bubble of blood burped at him.
“Not anybody willing to talk about before I come. Nothing different since I did. Can’t be me, can it?”
“Got any Injun in you?”
So that was it. Till saw the look in Thomas’ dark eyes flash and turn darker still. “Figures. They calling out to their own. Let’s take a walk.”
Till led the way towards the holy graveyard of church members going back to before the edifice had been built. They passed more modern stone monuments into the oldest part where dead grass and broken, forgotten, time worn stones lay fractured and half buried. “Looking for any common names in your document, there. Might as well help, long as you’re standing loose as a goose.”
Their slow path led them further into history where the first pioneer settlers lay to rest. Spanish surnames could barely be distinguished from shallow etched stone. “Looky here.” Till knelt. “Fresh blood.”
“Meant to tell you I connected a few dots. Later church records show another tribe come to get baptised caught small pox or flu. Don’t matter what. Heaven took them quick.”
“Before they belonged to the church? Buried in unhallowed ground in your backyard, of a surety.” A creepy tingle of chills crawled up Till’s spine, raising hair along the way. “My ancestors come from this stock of well meant missionaries. I’m bound to this earth through several generations.”
The two religious stalwarts examined each other with new interest, one pure white the other a good part redskin if all be told. “Both sides want something. You think they’s crying out for blood?” Till asked.
“Been fomenting a long time, if that’s so,” Thomas mused, stroking his chin. “Likely we’ll know soon. You willing to stay the night?”
Till continued kneeling in prayer without answering. Thomas joined in.
Hours later, when they rose, the ground before them had dried into the look of copper. “Almost looks like it was trying to scrawl a word.” Thomas remarked. “Plague?”
“Maybe. Letters kind of shaky. Your subconscious talking to you or is it an answer to prayer? A warning.” Till kicked dirt over the crawling raised outline of letters if you looked at them right.
Dinner was simple fare, soup, bread, water. Neither man felt hungry. They used the occasion as a familiar habit to comfort their souls. Till spent the time until dark by writing up observations. Thomas stared at the rising moon waiting for the red mist. “I detect figures in it. Come look.”
The two joined thoughtful gazes at the backyard facing window. “Maybe ‘cause you’re Injun. I don’t see nothing but fog.” Till said gruffly. He had his bible in hand, lips began moving chanting chapter and verse in a monotone devoid of emotion.
“I’m going out there,” Thomas said. “Hear that wind? Like the night before. They’re trying to talk to me.”
He was gone like a ghost before Till could stop him. The swirling mist swallowed up Thomas. The wind stopped. “Do I go or stay?” There was no answer which meant it was up to him. Till stayed, waiting, listening until his teeth were on edge and he could wait no longer.
James appeared out of nowhere as Till opened the back door. Streaks of blood wept from his face like war paint. He seemed barely able to carry himself erect. The two leaned and walked each other back inside. “Here. Take some water.” Till said, At a shake of Thomas’ head, he used some of it to dab the thick drying lines of blood from the man’s face.
It gave Thomas the time needed to gather himself together. “There is another side, brother. The veil was lifted. Spirits live among us a breath apart from the world we know.”
“What they want? They say? You understand them?” Some things you just had to believe on faith alone. One look at Thomas and Till had to accept or lose everything he believed in.
“Say, we got to go to the church cemetary where your people lie. Do it now before daylight.”
“Well, come on then. Time to wake the dead. Don’t forget your bible. May need it to bury them again.”
It was cold as sin, quiet as death. The moon was a hollow yellow eye peering down at them, guiding the way. Till took a nervous look behind. The red mist calmed down, settled closer to the ground, hovering, painting the grass brown and green into blood red. “It’s following us,” he said.
“Never mind. It will stop at the boundary of the church graveyard.”
“How did you know?”
There was no answer. They made their way a little faster, this second time to the oldest section, feet familiar with the winding path. “You hear that?” Till asked.
“Two winds talking, stirring things up. One here. One back there.” Thomas pointed back the way they’d come.
“Rising a dust cloud over my ancestor’s tombstones.” Dry gray fog churned the dry dirt, tore at the dead grass. Till’s eyes widened. “Shadow men. You see them? Stay here. They want me.”
When he came back, the fog followed clutching Till’s feet as he walked along the ground. “Blood turned to wine, our Savior’s sacrifice.”
“What, you’re saying it’s us?”
“You’re Injun’s didn’t say the equivalent? They didn’t talk their religion to you?”
“Talked about stopping the new plague. I told them it was too late. Covid19 is already here. Told them thanks, there was nothing they could do.”
Thomas shook his head. “Got too much white in you. You weren’t listening.” He took Till’s elbow, guiding him towards the backyard. “Same problem happened over in China bringing on Covid. Toaist and Buddhists, two cultures opposed to each other, making themselves sick. Before that the same with the Black Plague being brought by the trade routes of mingling Muslims and Christians.”
The two stood at the border where red mist met gray fog. “Last chance. The next disease going to be the last. God about ready to wipe us out and start over.”
“What are we supposed to do?” Thomas heard the moaning wind start up again from the backyard.
“Lay down. Join hands. Breathe deep. Maybe our faith and offering will be enough, like Christ’s was. Give mankind another chance.”
“We’re no God like he was, is.” Till sighed. Tired. Feeling the burden of an imperfect man trying to live perfection.
“Our choice. I can’t do it alone. You coming with me?” Thomas knelt in prayer, settled at length on the ground. He felt Till’s hand join his as the mists joined each other.
“Odd,” said the graveyard caretaker. “Wonder what took them. Look peaceful enough.”
Thomas’ housekeeper come looking, nodded. “He loved this place. Probably prefer being buried right where he lay, at the edge of his backyard.”
“I’ll make the arrangements. Till got some relatives my side.”
The church council wanted the manner of death hushed up to prevent whispers of a mutual suicide pact from finding the possible light of day.
Maybe a miracle would happen.
|Weekly SCREAMS!!! win
I like to read. I love the way a good book is a trap in plain sight, the way it captures and holds me spellbound between its covers. Being a copy editor of a major publishing firm I wade through a lot of waste before finding one that hooks me like that.
This one started out so good I couldn’t put it down. Being about quitting time, I did the unthinkable. I hid the manuscript under my shirt against my chest and carried it home. I felt guilty as hell, kept sweating, wondering if it was excitement or stress at doing something that could lose me my job. Can you believe it? I fought with myself, agonizing, clenching hands into fists, hitting my thighs without turning back.
Where I live isn’t much more than a half empty box. Most of what furniture there is consists of stacks of books. Boxes within boxes weighted down with hard bounds inside make up a table and chairs, end tables too. A mattress on the floor. The walls covered with boxes turned sideways and stacked together, make up bookshelves furnishing the rest of my bachelor nest.
Dinner could wait. I was hungry for getting lost in the book. Chapter one’s setting and buildup was perfect. The author’s characters born in chapter two came to life without pause. I slipped the bookmark away as I settled myself leaning against my apartment’s closed front door. The heading announcing Chapter three had its own page.
I am not a cursing man. The foulest words in my native tongue spit off my tongue. The next page and pages after were blank, except for being numbered. A teaser? I’d have to wait until morning. No. This was the weekend. Monday looked terrifyingly distant in the future for contacting the author. Only his name was provided. Face sheets, resume and any attached letters were filed for secretarial staff for followup after we editors got done determining the fate of what we read.
I felt like throwing up. I grabbed the single bottle of vermouth left over from the holidays and got deadly drunk instead. Talk about a hangover. I didn’t open my eyes until the next afternoon. The manuscript sat neatly near my face.
The cover page for Chapter three lay turned over. The blank page following it was not empty. I thought I was losing my mind. The shock knocked the hangover right out of my head. I stared, stunned, rubbing my eyes. My mouth began forming the words written in neat and tidy paragraphs flowing, you guessed it, from one page to another. Trapped again, reality became what I was reading.
How I wanted to stay there, in that artificially created perfection. When I hit the cover page for Chapter four, I was so enthralled that my heart gave out inside me when more blank pages followed. I couldn’t breath. I fainted. Me. A twenty-eight year old, six foot tall, one-eighty pound freak of nature who had never been sick before in my life.
When I came too, the first thing I did was examine the manuscript. A pattern had been established. Chapter four was completed while I lay unconscious beside the book. I knew it wasn’t me doing some kind of crazy ghost writing thing while I lay dead to the world. I could never write like this.
Unable to stop myself, I read to the end of the chapter, pausing only fleetingly before turning a few empty pages after the header of the next chapter. Rifling the white unfilled sheets to the last one I found a reassuring sense of closure. It was still the number one thousand, four hundred and eight-eight. That hadn’t changed.
How I wanted to force myself to take fitful naps and awaken to read more. It didn’t seem to matter how the book was writing itself. The thought surfaced, that perhaps the ghost writer was really the author having died and come back to finish his opus. I didn’t have time to consider. Nothing else mattered but reading the book.
I ignored my phone ringing, stayed silent like I wasn’t home during knocks at my door. I think I must have read the first visible chapters over and over until I had each word memorized. Jealousy entered my heart at the thought of sharing what was happening to me with anyone else. Trapped, yes, but so willingly. The book was mine. I owned it as much as it did me. Or so I thought.
Through the end of the weekend, I made it through a few other feverishly owned chapters as I fitfully slept and awoke. My usual diet of junk food takeout either ordered or purchased at one of the nearby fast food joints had been discarded. The same happened to my personal care.
If I wasn’t reading a new chapter, I found myself reading the old aloud, mouth caressing the words on my lips making love to them. The author was a master of almost poetic sensitivity, better than Ray Bradbury’s best. He put ‘Dandelion Wine’, my previous favorite, to shame.
By Sunday night, I grew tired of hearing my phone ring. Weekend promises to friends for get-to-gethers lay broken without thought of being repaired. I left a message on my answering service saying I was sick and my doctor wanted me to have complete bed rest. I’d get hold of people when things smoothed out. That took care of that. Work could take care of itself.
Personal crisis averted, I was about half way through, greedy for what lay ahead. The plot thickened with twists and turns better than a roller coaster ride. Clues appeared in view like signposts heralding an apocalyptic end unless a miracle happened.
My brain began doing one ‘what if’ after another, hunting for a satisfying resolution. The trap was closing in on me. With any other book, by now, I would have turned to the last page to find it out. There was some kind of twist I could see coming. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it might be.
So close. So nervous. So worn out. Unable to sleep. Half dazed. Unable to see, my blood shot eyes were haunted by the sight of blank pages, waiting, my trembling lips urging them to fill up with words.
The last chapter. Oh, blessed be. Time, which seemed to have stood still, began to move again. My hands trembled on the pages so. My mouth so dry, my tongue stuck to the top of my mouth. Where before I had read aloud to treasure the sound and sight of each word, now only my mind dutifully followed each one.
No. How? No. Not again. It wasn’t my eyes torturing me. It was my very fingertips, attempting to turn each page. They no longer worked well enough to do so. Sobbing. Crying deep breaths in and out, forcing myself to calm down.
All I had to do was rest. Close my eyes. Sleep, awaken and the miracle of being able to finish the book would be mine.
My eyelids fluttered against my inner command. I heard, unbelieving, what my hands did next.
A ripping sound. Made while attempting to return each of the last pages back to the manuscript.
Was that screeching noise coming from me? Labored, shallow breathing in and out, rocking myself into a frenzy of disbelief.
There. The last few pages uncurled, facing me on my lap. I watched, eyes blurred, shocked vision restored.
The words were fading from where the paper was torn. I read as fast as I could, these split sentences with lost punctuation and missing words spilling off the pages. I groaned. I howled. I could not read fast enough.
The wounds I had caused in the manuscript were lethal. A previous chapter, then more in turn, scattered by my rocking back and forth, stared blankly back at me.
I lost my mind. It lays trapped on blank pages. I am as blank inside as they. No-one believes me. My therapist bade me vent and write my own version of what happened down. They say it is all in my head. Over work. There is no record of my receiving a manuscript nor is there a missing one.
I’ve tried writing the book from memory. The words are not the same. I can’t make them not my own.
When they made me an outpatient, gave me my medicine, and took me back to my rooms, the first thing I noticed was my books were gone. I needed a fresh start, they said.
I’ve left my apartment. It no longer feels like home. I wandered homeless, sold my meds for food. I still love books, though it is too much torture to buy one or check one out of the library. I can’t. They took away my card. I sit there just to be close to them.
Before me, I make sure the one thousand, four hundred and eighty-eight blank pages of paper are neatly stacked with their number on each one. Tired. I rest my eyes before opening them, waiting for words to appear.