Tag Archives: prose

The Last Word

Today was Marguerite’s 37th birthday.  She celebrated it alone at the Friar Rose cafe as she’d done each of the last six years.  Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” was playing over the speakers when she paid for her almond latte and blueberry muffin.  It was fitting, bittersweet to hear her first love’s young adult anthem at that moment.  It was ten years ago to the day, New Year’s Eve, that Marguerite had asked Catalina to marry her at the cafe — Catalina said no.

The law was on their side, their families were supportive, their friends ecstatic, but Catalina had never been one for meeting externally suggested expectations.  If Marguerite had waited one more day, Catalina would have proposed.  This contrary characteristic initially attracted Marguerite to her.  Catalina’s family thought she would go to university and study chemistry; instead, Catalina went to university and majored in comparative religion.

Marguerite spent most of her life surrounded by unwavering rule-followers no matter the irrationality of the rules.  Catalina was a blast of fresh air and water in comparison.  Over time, though, the insistence on going her own way turned into an unwillingness to empathize, to take one for the duo, and just irrational as the followers of old.

Marguerite drank from the mug of latte as she acknowledged fully to herself that Catalina’s refusal was probably for the better.  At that very instant, a customer approached her and asked if he could join her for a few minutes.

“It won’t be long, and I realize this is strange,” the man began. “But, do you see those people over there trying not to look obvious with their cameras and phones?”

Marguerite nodded and realized why this man had asked to sit with her. “You’re Patterson Chen…your fans want to know if it was you in that car the police found in the ravine and you still won’t confirm or deny.”

Patterson nodded.

Marguerite told him he could stay as long as he wished, confessing that she was more of a hockey and college football kind of gal so she wouldn’t be making small talk about America’s national pastime.  Patterson didn’t mind at all, he rather liked sitting quietly with someone who didn’t want anything from him.

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Adjacent Topic: Campfire Interlude

The man’s rifle leaned against the side of the china cabinet.  It was a family heirloom (not his family, but that of the homeowners) that survived two world wars, an ideological dictatorship and incompetent shipping methods. After all these years, wrapped and unwrapped, hoisted and positioned, it began to smell like every family member who housed it and took on the countenance of an old woman.  Creased door frames, drooping circular knobs, and lavender-hued streaks appeared in the wood.

The man had put his rifle not in a closet or underneath a bed, rather he placed it against the cabinet because it belonged next to something as old as he was starting to feel.  He’d partially died several years ago, and it took a curious girl with an untamed spirit to help him fully die, so that he wouldn’t have to be trapped in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  The rifle was an icon of that old world, the one he’d left after submerging into the vastness of death.

In his new incarnation, he didn’t need a rifle for the pen was his tool of choice now.  He discovered he could bring things to life and into being with the written word.  He’d made a football team win in the final minutes of the fourth quarter because he had scribbled on a bar napkin, “just get another touchdown and keep your defense in the game.”  They got another touchdown.  He wondered what he could do with more time, paper, and pens.  Did different color inks bring about different results?  What if he used erasable ink?

What would happen if he drew and wrote?  Could he make the curious girl with an appetite for flesh appear if he drew her?  It’d been two years since he last saw her in his previous life…or half-life.  As each day passed, his memories of her shifted into dreams.  He found himself sketching argyle patterns whenever he wasn’t experimenting with conjuring exotic animals, food dishes, or sports scores.

The man thought he saw the girl one day when he was gazing at the window display of a furniture store.  He was looking for a new hammock for his back porch, something he could erect between two pillars for a more comfortable view of the night sky.  Standing grew tiring too quickly.  The man noticed the reflection of a girl with dark brown hair and wild eyes.  She was watching him too, but before he could turn to speak to her, she had gone.

The man left the furniture store in search of an art supplies shop.  He also needed a six pack of root beer.

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This entry is inspired by characters from The Campfire Tales and the preseason game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cleveland Browns.  Falcons won 24 to 13.  Good times.

Two-Minute Dimness

Timmie had the ball secure between the crook of his arm and his side.  Lennie passed the ball to him at the thirty yard line.  Timmie was fewer than ten yards away from the end zone and dodged quite remarkably four defensive linebackers before he was tackled by a fifth.  He was three yards from the end zone.  Though he didn’t remember the moment of impact, Timmie saw it before it happened.  He had cleared number 93 and was about to hop over one of his own teammates when number 97 barreled into his peripheral vision.

Timmie was down and had lost possession of the ball.  He couldn’t feel his knees or his toes.  He could smell the quarterback above his head (cloves and nutmeg, a distinct aroma) and hear one of the assistant coaches shouting towards the sidelines.  Timmie opened his eyes, expecting to see officials, players from his team and the opposing team, and, of course, the multitude of stadiums lights shining down upon him.

But, when Timmie opened his eyes, he saw none of those things.  Instead of sweaty men and bright lights, he saw a chino-uniformed female and dim, red lights.  He was still down, lying down, but rather than astroturf, he was on a table.  Timmie tried to turn his head from side to side but a mere inch in either direction sent waves of pain through his neck and the base of his skull.  Even breathing deeply was uncomfortable.  At least he could feel his knees and toes.

The woman walked over to the table and approached Timmie’s feet.  She took her hands out from her coat pockets and placed them on his ankles.  Timmie let out a yelp.

“Sorry,” the woman said.  “I know my hands are cold.”

Timmie tried to sit up; he could not.  Two wide straps, one near his thighs and the other around his elbows, kept him from doing much more than a half-assed crunch.  Timmie shut his eyes tight and concentrated on the football field.  He must’ve suffered a concussion and any minute he’d be back on the turf.

He opened his eyes after counting to 50.  He was still in the dim, red-lit room, still strapped to a table.  Timmie’s breathing quickened as he watched her come closer to his head.  She looked like she hadn’t eaten in days.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said.  “I can’t let you leave.”

The woman pressed a black button on a column just behind the table.  Moments later, a door beyond Timmie’s line of sight clanked open and three hooded figures entered.  The tallest one was holding an ax.  The one with the broadest shoulders was holding a pail.  The one with glow-in-the-dark glasses was holding a length of rope.

Timmie clenched his fists, shut his eyes again, and tried to remember exactly when 97 tackled him.  But all he could see in his mind was a woman towering above him, dim, red light, and hands tying rope around his ankles.
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The above story is loosely inspired on real events as related to me.

The Last Homecoming

The driver was twelve minutes early just like my assistant had predicted. I stood on the balcony that overlooked the driveway and tried to tie the blue tie my assistant had laid out for me to wear. Every year it gets harder to do the simplest things like tying a tie, knotting shoelaces, cutting steak, and even writing. My assistant can tell my condition has worsened even though I haven’t mentioned a decline in dexterity. She’s neither a doctor nor a rehabilitation specialist, yet, she knows my fingers have to fight much harder to do the things that most people can do without thinking, that I used to do without thinking.

I didn’t want any more people knowing about my struggles.  I didn’t want to have to do any more explaining.  I wasn’t ashamed or afraid of my body’s deterioration; I was just so tired.  I was tired of the knee-jerk concerned reactions.  The faces of sympathetic but unempathetic intentions was wearing me out and I didn’t want to keep up a polite air.

As I contemplated giving up on the tie, I heard my assistant knock on the door.  I turned, waved her in, and held up the tie as she entered.

“You need some help with that?” she asked.

“Apparently so.”

She took the tie and in just a few swift motions, the blue was around my neck.  It hung proudly against the pale blue of my shirt.

“How many more homecomings do I have to go to?”

My assistant stepped back.  “You’re booked for the next five years.”

I retrieved my suit jacket from the chair by the balcony, slipped it on and patted the pockets for my wallet, keys, and phone.

“You don’t look too thrilled.”

And I wasn’t.  It had been twenty years since I’d graduated from high school. Captain of the football team, co-editor of the school newspaper, honor roll student, homecoming king, and president of the debate team.  I did what I needed so I could leave and not come back again.  I wasn’t counting on playing football in college or in the NFL.  I wanted to own a newspaper and publish stories that would change the way people thought and lived.  Who knew the internet would push me into a career in pushing people to the ground?

“You’re the best thing that came out of that town and nobody will let you forget it,” my assistant reminded me. “Now, shall we go?”

I followed her out of the room, down the hall and outside to the awaiting car.  The driver stepped out to greet us.  He shook my hand and opened the back doors before returning to the driver’s seat.

My assistant plowed through emails, texts and put her phone on silent.

“I’m here for you tonight,” she said.  “The rest of the world can wait until tomorrow.”

“My school may expect me to turn up every year for homecoming, but are you sure you aren’t assuring them I will be there just so you can ignore everyone else for one night?”

My assistant remained quiet until we arrived at the school twenty minutes later.  After paying the driver in cash and checking my tie, she patted me on my right forearm.

“You have realistic demands even if I have to convince you to see them through.  Everyone else expects total obedience in exchange for my sanity.  Wouldn’t you stick with you too?”

I couldn’t argue with her reasoning.

~!~

The above scenario came to me as I was drinking a latte and eating gluten-free banana nut bread.
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The Lost Tapes from Little League

Maxine didn’t like to gloat or tell jokes or stuff marshmallows into her mouth until she couldn’t talk.  She wasn’t like the rest of us.  She liked to sit by herself during meals and whenever we had to wait for the bus to take us to away games, she sat always behind the bus driver and in such a way that she couldn’t see herself in the rear-view mirror.

I was only on the team for three years and wasn’t around before she joined the team, so I don’t know what it was like, what was different.  I mean, she got her own hotel room and the coach’s wife always stayed with her, but I don’t get what the big deal was about a girl playing little league.  She didn’t want to play softball — she wanted to pitch like the boys.

What I miss most about Maxine was her laughter.  Her favorite movie was Horse Feathers and kept telling me to watch it.  I used to think it was because she wanted to be right about something other than the best way to strike out a batter when the sun is starting to shine in his eyes.  Now, I know it was more than being right.  She wanted to have something to share with someone, something other than baseball she could talk about with someone.  She picked me to be that someone.  I wish I hadn’t waited all these years to get around to watching Horse Feathers.  I would’ve liked it as a thirteen year-old.  And now, I’ll never know what kinds of conversations we could’ve had about the movie or anything else.

I remember that last game like it was last week, even though it happened more than a decade ago.  We’d just lost by one point to a team in Arkansas, you should have seen the coach’s face.  Maxine thought it was her fault.  She could’ve struck out that last kid.  Like she does at the end of every away game, she went onto the bus before the rest of us.  We liked to mess around the vending machines and dare each other to stick our hands up the release door.  We were about to get on the bus when a tractor trailer slammed into it.

Maxine didn’t like to gloat or tell jokes or stuff marshmallows into her mouth until she couldn’t talk.  She wasn’t like the rest of us.  We had to grow older and become tax-payers, general contributing members of society.  She had to die thinking that she could’ve struck out that last kid and helped us win the game.  To this day I don’t know who is the luckier one.

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Nothing specific inspired this post.  The name “Maxine” came to me and the rest slid out; on the subject of Little League, here’s a neat read about eighteen girls who have played Little League Baseball.