the visitor

An opening in the woods on the side of the road. He knew it well. Perhaps he owed the bartender his thanks: the abrupt ending to his lonely adventure toward numbness afforded him the opportunity to take a literal walk down memory lane. How long had it been since he’d gone down this path?

Even the mice silenced themselves in seeming respect for the visitor now walking through their territory. In the stillness and the quiet. In the unsettling stillness and the oppressive silence. A voice punctured the darkness.

“I heard you came to town.”

Suddenly she was beside, matching his pace step for step. “I thought I might find you here.”

A deep sigh. “How long have you been following me?”

“Not following. Just waiting. What happened to your face?”

“The sidewalk got in my way. What are you doing here?”

“I told you, waiting for you, baby. Where are you staying?”

“Twin Oaks. But don’t get any ideas, I’m leaving right after the funeral.”

“Come on, let me come back with you… and then I’ll go to the funeral with you in the morning. People might talk if they see you there alone, Richard.”

“People might talk if they see you at your own funeral, Jess.”

She grabbed his hand. “Are you gonna let me come back to your motel or not?”

 

[word count:  224]


Loosely continued from:

small townsmall town, part 2closing time

illusions

As the chemicals hit, the pictures came into focus:

He would meet her on the beach, just as the sun set. In a flood of passion, they would make love, there on the sand. And when he woke up in the morning, he wouldn’t sneak away. This would be the one, this would finally be the one.

And as they merged their lives, her belly would swell with the proof of their love. The child would be strong, and have his jawline and his eyes. He and his son would have a catch in the summer, where he would explain to him the facts of life and his son would look at him and say, “Thank you, Dad.”

And as his son grew into a man, he would visit them weekly to share tales of his exploits. And then he and his wife would kiss their son and send him back into the world, and then make love again celebrating all of the joys that life had afforded them.

And as the applause tapered off, his son would say from the podium, “I owe all of this to my parents, who sacrificed so much and taught me what real love is and how to live my life to the fullest.” And a tear would fall from his wife’s nose as she turned to him and said, “This is all because of you, you have made my life complete.”

He closed his eyes.

 

[word count:  242]

generational music in a cafe

It’s tearin up my heart when I’m with you. Turn up the volume. Mouth the words. Don’t sing it out loud. Don’t let them know. There’s a little stuffed pig up on the ledge, it’s wearing bluejeans and a pink shirt. My daughter would play with that. Did they put it up there hoping someone would see it and chuckle?

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother. Turn the volume up. You had to listen this to this quietly when you were a kid. Bad language. There was an episode of Clarissa Explains It All where Sam had climbed up to Clarissa’s bedroom and he was protesting something and he chanted “hell no, I won’t go” and I wasn’t allowed to watch Clarissa Explains It All anymore.

Don’t sing it out loud. Resist. Just mouth the words.

Last time that we had this conversation I decided we should be friends. Turn up the volume. The boy barista is flirting relentlessly with the girl barista. It’s spring. Let them slip it in while they can. All too soon life takes over and there’s no time to slip it in anymore. Would they even know who the Spice Girls are? Jamiroquai performed at the 1997 MTV VMAs. Would that sentence even make sense to them? I’ll give you everything on this I swear just promise you’ll always be there.

There she goes again racing through my brain. On the back of the bus, an overnight trip for school. Roman Holiday was playing on closed circuit tvs, and she kissed me. No tongue. The other girls giggled. Turn down the volume. I don’t like this one.

You’ve already won me over in spite of me and don’t be surprised if I fall head over feet. My sister had to explain what it meant when Alanis sang “would she go down on you in a theater.” I noticed a gray hair in my beard this morning. My wife said it’s sexy.

Say my name if no one is around you say baby I love you. At the back of the cafe the Boomer can’t conceal his eyes traveling lower as he admires the ample assets of the high schooler standing in front him. I was always a bigger fan of Kelly than I was of Beyonce. Just mouth the words. Don’t sing out loud.

The girl barista perfects her selfie face. The boy barista adjusts his crotch. The Boomer returns to his book. The high schooler puts on sunglasses. I turn the volume up.

Step One

I don’t know if I can ever thank you enough.

It felt too informal, awkward. Something that’s said at the end of a eulogy. We hadn’t talked since the day before he was fired. Six weeks before graduation.

I don’t know if I can express how thankful I am to you. You changed my life, and I am a better man because of you.

The mouse hovered over the Post button.

Mrs Culfer had the duty of telling us that he was no longer going to be our teacher. We were offered no explanation, we were told not to contact him. Standard practice, applied to those deemed dangerous by the administration. It could have meant anything. When sin is subjective, it’s hard to ever know.

I opened the private messaging app.

I don’t know if I can express how thankful I am to you, Josh. You changed my life, and I am a better man because of you. I ran into Lisa at Starbucks last week, and we spent the better part of an hour reminiscing about all of those lunch periods we spent in your office.

I highlighted his name, and typed Mr Godrell in its place. After all these years, it’s still uncomfortable to call him by his first name, even though he wasn’t much older than we were. At seventeen years old, anything after college is lumped into that generic “adult” category. Once I hit thirty, I realized that I still felt like a child. There’s no way that he was older than thirty.

Twenty-nine was a scary year in my life. Young, depressed, daily phone calls from debt collectors were my only connection to the world outside my marriage. I could not recognize my face in pictures. Pieces of my soul that I had worked hard and long to eradicate asserted themselves.

I went to the cabinet and pulled out a plain piece of 8.5×11, an envelope, and a pen.

Mr Godrell —

A few years ago, my wife and I left the fold to find our own way. We lost our safety net, our social circle, our careers, and found ourselves with nothing. I never got to explain myself to the people in my life who deserved an explanation. The pain of starting over was unreal. Is this how it was for you?

I hope you’re well, and I hope that someday soon we can reconnect.

–Harvey

I placed my pen on the desk, folded the makeshift stationary, sealed the envelope. I didn’t have his address.

I navigated to his page.

Fifteen years later, you’re still teaching me lessons. Thank you.

Post.


This piece was first published June 9, 2017 by Poppy Road Review.

hyperbole

“Extraordinary!”

Did he even see the work he’s reviewing?

“Flawless!”

The seams show, yet these ass kissers won’t acknowledge, hoping to sway me with flattery.

“A triumph!”

I ache for honesty, I crave perspective, I long to be taught and tutored.

“Unbelievable! Completely unexpected!”

I followed every formula available, relied on tropes and cliches in lieu of creativity. Trashed my integrity for a quick buck.

“A failure in every way.”

Well, you don’t have to be such a dick about it.

 

[word count:  83]

the burrito of god

“I was getting lunch and thought you might like something too.”

From the doorway, she extended the foiled-wrapped delicacy in my direction.

“You like carnitas, right?”

I sat dumbstruck. Her form was silhouetted against the fluorescent lights in the office hallway. I had spent a lot of time looking at that form, but the law of platonic congeniality forbade entertaining thoughts of that nature too long.

I reached out. My fingers glanced the aluminum. REVELATION. FIRE FROM HEAVEN. LIGHTNING. Everything else faded into obscurity as she came into sharp focus

She smiled.

I started to write the next chapter.

 

[word count: 99]