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Archive for November, 2015

Under the Full Moon


In a three room apartment above a camera store specializing in vintage film camera sales and repairs, Timofei jiggles the file cabinet drawer. Locked. He uses the small crowbar that had popped the front door lock. He bursts open the file cabinet drawer. Small metal fragments bounce and clang off the hardwood floor.

“Wait! The keys. On the desk. You don’t need to…,” Wiz says, nodding toward the desk and the ring of keys, from the chair in which he is seated, bound.

“Shut up!”, Vasily says, slapping Wiz hard with the back of a surgical-gloved hand which prevents leaving finger prints. Spittle flies from Wiz’s mouth.

Timofei looks at the ring of keys, at Vasily who says nothing but smiles maliciously, and pops another drawer. And another. And another.

“I told you it’s not here. Michael has it,” Wiz says with a mouth full of mush. Jaw swollen to chipmunk proportions.

“And we said to shut up,” says The Mustache from the far corner of the room, without looking around, as he tears open boxes and clears shelves. Cameras and parts fly across the room. Vasily hits Wiz again, harder, on the opposite jaw. Wiz whimpers. Tears in his eyes.

###

The Mustache stands beside Wiz, Timofei and Vasily (who never talks), holding a Canon AE-1, debris strewn behind him. Click, click. click goes the shutter but there is no film in the camera. He lets the camera drop from his hand, the 50mm lens cracks when it hits the floor. “There’s nothing here,” The Mustache says. Wiz wants to, but dares not, say, “I told you so.”

“Hey! Look what I find,” shouts Timofei, digging through the file cabinet. “The little kike’s personal stash.” He rakes keys and papers from the desk and lays down four 8X10 color photos.

“A rump ranger. A tail gunner. Our boy is a peter puffer,” The Mustache says with a smirk, detectable despite the enormous bush obscuring his mouth. He pats Wiz on the shoulder.

“You want we to ride you hard before we kill you?” asks Timofei slapping the crowbar against his palm.

“Like the big buck in the picture?” adds The Mustache, “Is this your boyfriend Wiz?” The Mustache holds one of the glossies for display. “Untie him and bend him over the desk.”

Palms on desk, pants and underwear pulled down to his ankles, Wiz sobs. The thugs play with their belt buckles. Pretending. Wiz trembles. Urine trickles down his left leg.

“Now we know why they call you Wiz,” The Mustache jokes. The other men guffaw. “Let’s get out of here. One peep out of you, you little pervert, and we’ll come back and finish the job. We’ll shove this crowbar so far up your ass… Are you listening?” Wiz nods, his forehead nearly touching the desktop.

Timofei steps forward and whacks Wiz’s ass with the crowbar. A red welt appears instantly on snow-white cheeks.

“We’ll be back, sweetheart,” The Mustache says, pinching Wiz’s bruised jaw, Wiz winces but does not cry out. The thugs laugh and jostle one another and collectively blow Wiz kisses. They exit.

Alone in the makeshift office of his small apartment above Wiz’s Camera Shop, Bernie Wizniewski, Proprietor, stands frozen at his desk, tears blotting the pictures of men engaged in unnatural acts. The trickle of urine has become a torrent.

Pissing and bawling and quivering in his soaked shoes.

###

After Wiz collects and cleans himself, he sits with ice in a sandwich bag applied to the most damaged of his two jaws. His tongue nudging a sore, wobbly molar. The taste of iron.

“I’d like to kill Michael,” he is thinking, “for putting me in this situation.” First of all everybody told Michael to keep his hands off Lori’s little girl Cinda. Twenty years old or so but everybody still thinks of Cinda as a little girl because she has the mind of one. And Michael, so much older but, with no better judgement. You could talk Cinda into anything. It was shot with an old Super-8 camera that Michael and borrowed from Wiz. Wiz developed the film and transferred it to disk. It is shocking. Barely 10 minutes but more than enough to excite you or turn your stomach depending on your disposition.

According to Michael, only the three of them, Wiz, Cinda and himself, have first hand experience with the movie but its existence has, somehow, become well rumored. Surely Michael isn’t stupid enough to have bragged about it. Actually, Wiz wouldn’t put it past Cinda to talk. She’s the kind of girl who might take pride in such a thing. Such a very dangerous thing.

The political operatives want it for the damage it can do to Lori’s campaign, the mob for the blackmail money it can generate. Money and politics, two things as unseemly as what is on the disk. Nobody will believe there is only one copy, per Michael’s instructions. Well, two if you count the original film that is also in Michael’s possession. Wiz could have surreptitiously made himself a copy but it does not exactly cater to his tastes and he thought that not having a copy was better for his health. Now he’s not sure.

But there is one person who wants it more than anyone else, more than the mob, more than Lori’s political opponents, more than Lori herself. Cinda’s uncle Lars. Tic.  

###

Tic crawled along the jungle floor through puddles of water as warm and viscous as the piss and blood running down his thigh. Rifle cradled in his arms like a newborn he inched to and propped his elbows up on a corpse as inconsequential as a log. He’d stopped smelling the stench of death long ago. 

He took aim at the Gook sharply silhouetted against the bright full moon. The Gook turned as Tic squeezed off a single shot, ripping off the better portion of the face. 

In real life or rather real death, the Gook collapses immediately but in the nightmare he walks toward Tic. Concave hamburger face. A featureless, mobile, mocking, animated corpse.

Bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat, eyes wide with horror. The pillowcase and sheet are damp. Tic’s heart races wildly. He reaches for the rifle that isn’t there.

A recurring nightmare that never loses its effect like a movie you watch over and over even though you know how it ends.

Tic’s squadron was pinned, relentlessly shelled. The blast to the forward guard blew a soldier into two distinct halves. The trunk, arms and head lay a few feet from the hips and legs, the right foot twitching in a final death spasm. Corpse eyes alert and confused seemed to stare at his disconnected bottom half.

Can you be dead before you know it? Is Tic among the living dead? These are questions he asks himself.

In the days of execution by guillotine, the executioner would grasp the executed’s severed head by the hair, lifting it from the basket to stare into still alive eyes. The executioner’s face would be the dead’s last sight.What does a decapitated head think and feel at the final moment? Sorrow? Remorse? Hatred? Mere resignation? Confusion like the onset of a stroke? Does it see the faces of loved ones? All of these imagined emotions and experiences seem as tepid as jungle water, Tic thinks. There must be more to it. There has to be.

Tic quits the bed in sweaty boxer shorts and sleeveless t-shirt. In the bathroom he drinks a full glass of water poured as cold as it will pour. In his hand the pills from the medicine cabinet that calm the anxiety, stop the nightmares, prevent the hallucinations but render him numb. Uncomfortably numb. He puts the bottle back on the shelf behind the hinged mirror. Splashes his face with water. Dresses in jeans and boots and the leather jacket with the star shaped studs. He leaves the cabin and rides off on his Harley. It is 3:12 a.m.

###

The service road off to the right of the highway is gated. The lock has been broken for months. Teenagers enter through the gate, up the rise, into the edge of the forest to drink, smoke weed and fuck. A section of the public nature preserve has been sold off to private logging interests. The government says it’s a budget balancing necessity. Timber harvesting will begin in a few months. The locals are not happy.

Tic rides the Harley to the top of the mount. Pulls it around a big fir tree that will someday soon be coffee tables or bar stools. He looks down the slope opposite the highway. Through the trees and brush he can see the bright light in the parking area behind Michael’s house. Cinda’s Toyota isn’t there but that doesn’t mean she isn’t.

Tic had turned off the Harley lights when he entered the access road. He had a flashlight in the saddlebag but left it there, carefully scaling down the hillside under the bright light of the moon. He pauses when he reaches the railroad tracks. Looks down the tracks in the direction where the train will arrive in an hour or so. The freight train schedule is not precise. The route was on the verge of being decommissioned until the timber company came along and promised it new life.

Tic must be careful. Up the road, just a bit, lives a police-woman who knows him well and who wouldn’t at all care for, or be surprised by, his house calling and interrogation methods.

He is armed with only a Bowie hunting knife that he has with him always. Tic uses the Bowie to deftly spring the back door lock.

Tic finds Michael asleep in bed. Alone. A wave of relief washes over him.

In less than an hour Tic is scaling the rise back to the Harley with a video disk in his jacket pocket. The wind is treating the trees rudely. Clouds shun the moon. It has begun to rain. A storm is on the rise.

###

Jeanine was awakened by the train’s commotion. Trumpeting like an angry, wounded elephant. Something is wrong. Despite the early hour and grim weather it is her duty to investigate. She rouses Spence who now understands the downside of falling in love with an officer of the law.

The gale turns their umbrella inside out. They abandon it and struggle forward, unprotected, for a considerable distance, to the scene of the accident. They find a distraught train engineer and Jeanine’s neighbor, Michael… sliced cleanly in half at the pelvis by steel on steel. Detective Dexter and other officials will soon arrive.

###

Tic places the video disk on the kitchen table. He’ll deal with it later. Rumor has it there were several men involved. Another rumor says a large dog is the star of the show. Tic will not watch his Niece’s defilement. He has seen all that and more, live and in person, in a place far, far away where he was sent against his will and greeted without welcome.

He takes one of the numbing pills from the medicine cabinet hoping for sleep away from combat. Later he will go to The Lemon Grass, in the alley near The Delirious Dissident Bookstore, to see his beloved Kim-Ly. He will talk to her in her native language while he eats his favorite noodle dish. He will tip her extravagantly which she finally accepts after much patience and prodding. She keeps the money in an ornate box in her room upstairs where she lives with her family. He will tell her that he will soon take her away from all the corruption and violence and depravity. And after the months patience and prodding, she will smile.

But will not laugh.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Reunion with Pookie


They would pass in the hallway or in the cafeteria. She would smile, acknowledging him without actually looking his way. Furtive. Holding secrets of which he could only guess. After she had passed she would slow her gait ever so slightly knowing that he had turned and stood rock-still to follow her movement. He would watch her walk the way certain women walk, not exactly wiggling but undulating, like a body of water. A tiny but unfathomable ocean.

They found themselves together on a Committee charged with formulating a minor policy. Empowerment it was called. Participative management. Throw the dogs a bone. The farce mattered not to Audrey or Duncan, what mattered was the opportunity to look at each other for more than a few seconds on official company time. Sanctioned desire. They couldn’t keep their eyes from one another.

It was Audrey who first asked him to lunch. Not to the company cafeteria but to Baci, the Italian cafe down the street, where they could grab a table in the corner and begin their negotiations. Still a topic of gossip but away from the blue, flickering, unflattering glare of fluorescent office lights. Duncan wasn’t generally meek and retiring in the face of a pretty woman but the sight of Audrey left him dumbstruck, in a state of sensory overload, stopped up with unspoken and unspeakable words.

He had courted her during the Committee meetings with eloquent logic served up obliquely like a racquetball champion playing a corner, bouncing the messages off the Committee Team Leader. Audrey would return his volley with complementary, supportive statements and her devastating furtive smile.

Lunches were fruitful even though Baci had quadrupled Duncan’s daily lunch budget. Duncan refused to allow Audrey to pay her share. They went to the movies where they sat stiffly in the glow and watched each other out of the corner of their eyes. They were careful in the beginning, fearing they might break something fragile. Then dinner with the Pedroncellis, Audrey’s parents and her younger sister Anna who was perhaps prettier than Audrey but much less interesting. The family lived in the Italian section of the old, Near-North neighborhood. Her mother served salad and an enormous bowl of spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread and Chianti. Duncan’s appetite brought him to the edge of impropriety. He had to take deep breaths. Study the faces of the small dark family. Allow them to catch up. Audrey and Duncan sat next to one another and she boldly squeezed his thigh with her small hand hidden under the table after he had said something witty. It sent a flutter through his groin. A caged bird was fighting confinement in his pants. After dinner the family settled into the living room with the television but Audrey wanted to take a walk in the cold December air where she kissed Duncan under a lamppost. Illuminated specks of snow floating in the air like stage props. He sucked in the warmth of her wet mouth while the frigid tip of her nose pressed against his cheek.

A few nights after the family dinner, he found himself at Audrey’s apartment near campus where she attended acting classes. Audrey shared the space with another young student who had conveniently excused herself for the evening. After a meal of take-out Chinese they grappled on the sofa and though Duncan managed to undress Audrey from the waist down he was not allowed to penetrate her since he had neglected to purchase a condom. She was without protection, a situation that Duncan had not considered conceivable. As an alternative, he spread her thin legs wide and with her cheeks on the edge of the sofa, drank as deeply as he could from his knees, feeling her convulsions. Looking up to find her eyes glazed and seeping. She whimpered and thread her fingers through his hair in a manner so frantic that it made him wonder.

###

It was these two moments, the wet kiss in the cold under the lamppost and young Audrey’s orgasmic tears while he took his pleasure between her legs, that seized his mind as he read her words over and over and over. Many, many years later.

###

The email on the social media site weeks ago, had read, “Audrey Miller wants to be friends with you.” Audrey Miller. Miller. He didn’t know an Audrey Miller. He had moved on to the dozens of other emails in his inbox.

###

This new communication comes through his business website in the comments section.

Hi Dunner,

This is Pookie. Remember me? We worked together at Consolidated. I tried to friend you. How you’re doing?

Pookie (Audrey Pedroncelli-Miller)

 He responds, using their pet names, though he knows not what to say.

Hi Pookie,

Remember you? Are you kidding?

Dunner

 

Duncan learns that Pookie has been divorced for over a decade, has an adult son working as an Engineer (she attaches a picture of a handsome young man with a complexion the color of coffee with cream). Pookie is between jobs, has recently had her house foreclosed and is living in a studio apartment in a small mid-western city. This information bursts forth, all at once, like water through a breached dam. Not a plea for help, that wouldn’t be Pookie’s style he knows, but rather like filings from a reporter at a disaster scene. Her picture shows an attractive, smiling woman in her middle forties without a sign of her current distress. He tries to assemble the jagged and incongruent pieces into a cohesive whole. She appears to be aging well and he wonders how she will react to his photo. Safely dry docked though he is, he knows he exhibits the rubbed-away effects of life’s constant friction.

He tells Pookie that he and Marsha are amicably divorced and leaves it at that, thinking the less he says about Marsha the better. The same Marsha who was astraddle Duncan and riding him hard to the finish line on that fateful Sunday afternoon when Pookie burst through the door.

A young man with more sense would have chosen a different fate. Would have married the beautiful young Audrey, procreated with her. Lived happily ever after. When Duncan met Pookie he was still frantically sowing wild oats, each field looking more fertile than the last though he had no appetite for the actual harvest. Within weeks of the betrayal Pookie had taken up with another man, a black man, the Manager of the Fulfillment Department at Consolidated. Though all of the fault lay within his sphere he was disgusted enough not to fight to win her back. Within a year Pookie was married. Duncan was transferred out of state, Marsha followed him and their respective destinies unfolded like the inevitable change of seasons.

###

Duncan sits where he can watch the airport concourse. The monitor say Flight 507 is on time. Duncan studies his watch and orders another beer. He needs to steel his nerves. In his best suit and tie instead of his usual sport coat and Dockers.

He has finished his second beer. Figures he shouldn’t have another, though he wants one. He had seen but dismissed the bleached blonde, dragging the black bag on wheels. Short and dumpy, not exactly obese but heavier than her frame should carry, wearing a cheap polyester two-piece outfit (flower print blouse and clashing striped skirt) a size too small. Audrey had easily picked Duncan out of the lineup at the airport bar. She sits down heavily beside him. He looks into her soft brown eyes and kisses the perfect lips as offered. It is Audrey all right, the same light in her eyes, the same delicate wrists. Audrey is in there, but in costume, like the amateur actress Duncan watched with pride in the community theater productions. She was good, said people who should know, and pretty enough to play the lead. She had a strong voice, lithe figure and expressive face but her ambition never measured up to her talent. Duncan hadn’t exactly bolstered her self confidence with his humiliating shenanigans.

Looking at the Audrey of today, Duncan sees her mother cradling the giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

“I need a drink,” Audrey says.

Duncan orders beers and watches Audrey drink lustily, studies her gut bulging over the waistline of her skirt, the dark roots of her hair at the part. Her chipped fingernail polish. She had to remember how much he hates nail polish. Conversation lags after the initial pleasantries and he repeats in his mind, it’s only for a few days.

As they walk to his car, Duncan chivalrously dragging her bag behind him, she asks, “Do you mind if I smoke during the drive?”

“I’d rather you didn’t,” he says. They stand outside the car in the glaring sun while she sucks hard on a menthol light.

He settles her into the guest room.

Audrey takes a shower while Duncan tries to distract himself with paperwork brought home from the office.

They share a bottle of wine in the kitchen, Audrey out-drinking him by a wide margin. Duncan is relieved that the alcohol is making the conversation easier. He feels reconnected to the bright, funny girl he once knew. They go to dinner at a Mexican restaurant nearby, where they have chips and salsa and chicken fajitas and margaritas they don’t need. When they get home Duncan pulls vinyl records out of a milk crate. Plays their favorite old songs while Audrey silently weeps. He can’t help but think that this act of nostalgia has a touch of cruelty.

They drink more, talk about the old days, cry together and go to bed together. Duncan puts his face between Audrey’s thighs, closes his eyes. Tries not to think about the past, where she has been and what she has done and with whom. He doesn’t look up, knowing that if there are tears they are of a different nature this time.

###

As a man who primarily eats in restaurants, Duncan is aware of the paucity of his refrigerator and pantry. A few eggs, butter, milk past its prime, cottage cheese, Tabasco, Italian dressing, a jar of sauerkraut, left over split pea soup that should already have found its way down the disposal, cereal, cans of beans and Campbell’s soup. A disappointing meal in any possible combination.

They go to the grocery store. Push a cart down each and every aisle. Duncan tells Audrey to load up with whatever she wants which turns out to include soft drinks, Cheez-its, toll-house cookies, orange Hostess cream filled cupcakes and other figure warping indulgences.

After they get home and put the groceries away, Audrey offers to clean up the condo in exchange for his largesse even though the place is tidy enough and his cleaning lady will be in tomorrow. Duncan follows her from room to room trying to help rather than merely observe. While she changes the bed, Duncan dusts the bedroom table that holds a television, a clock radio and a small cedar box that he reacts to as if it materialized for the first time at this very moment. He opens the box holding his wedding ring, which he hadn’t known how to, or had the courage to, dispose of, an expired passport, cufflinks, two pair of ear-rings and a bracelet abandoned by Marsha and a Rolex watch she had given him on their first anniversary. Duncan never much cared for the ostentatious watch. It was heavy and dominant. Duncan goes to the kitchen and takes a sandwich bag from a drawer. He places the wedding ring, earrings and bracelet in the zip lock bag. He feels the heft of the Rolex in his palm.

“That’s a nice watch. Why don’t you wear it?” Audrey asks.

“It’s complicated.”

“You don’t know how to work it?”

“A different kind of complicated.”

Duncan places the Rolex back in the box.

“I’ll be back in a bit,” he says.

“Where are you going?”

“To run an errand. I won’t be long.”

Duncan takes the baggie to West Side Pawn where he knows the guy well enough to get a fair price. He returns with a little over $400. Letting go of more of Marsha felt good. He hands Audrey the money knowing she needs it desperately. She had confessed to borrowing the airfare from a friend. and arriving virtually penniless. As a loan, he says, until she’s back on her feet. She sits crying on the edge of the bed holding the money in her fingers with the chipped nail polish.

Duncan’s stomach roils at the pathetic sight.

###

After a day of working late, Duncan returns home to find Audrey on the sofa, dressed only in panties and bra, watching a reality television show. Tired and frustrated, he snaps at her.

“How can you watch that crap?”

“I like it.”

“How can you like it? It’s stupid.”

“Why? Because you don’t like it? I’m supposed to like everything you like? Why aren’t you supposed to like everything I like? How come it only goes one way?”

Duncan has no response. As soon as he goes to the kitchen to scrounge dinner, Audrey changes the channel.

She says she isn’t hungry but eats anyway.

###

The next day they talk and drink in his condo after a meal Audrey has prepared featuring an over cooked pork tenderloin, under cooked potatoes and mushy brussel sprouts. They drink beer and shots of Jameson whiskey as they come to terms with who they are, where they have been and where the hell they are now.

“I hated you, you know,” she says.

“I know and you had a right. Have you come to punish me?”

“I’m too busy punishing myself.”

“For what?”

“My failure, I guess. Failing further is punishment for my past failure.”

“Failure at what?”

“Not being good enough. Not good enough as an actress. Not good enough for my parents. Not good enough for you. Not good enough for Martin. You should have gone for Anna. She was the prettier one.”

“I thought about it. You know how I was then.”

“I know. And so did Anna. And thanks for the honesty. Why didn’t you do it?”

“Because I loved you. During that brief period we had together. You and your cold nose under the lamppost.”

Audrey smiles but says, “You loved me so much that you decided to fuck Marsha in front of me.”

“That wasn’t intentional. I shouldn’t have given you a key.”

“You would have fucked her key or no key. Without the key I just wouldn’t have known. You think that’s better?”Audrey stares at him, her face pinched.

“Yes.” Duncan laughs at his own honesty. “Had you not known everything might have turned out quite differently. More as I had intended.”

“What you intended isn’t relevant.”

“Fucking Marsha and loving you had nothing to do with one another. They were completely unrelated issues.”

“But you couldn’t apply the same moral code to me, could you?”

“You mean him? Are you talking about him?”

“Martin. The black man. The handsome, successful black man. I knew it would drive you crazy. That’s why I did it. That didn’t turn out as intended either.”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought you might change. React in a different way. That we could try again but while I was waiting for you I fell in love with him. He was a good man. A good husband. But I ended up driving him away.”

“Pookie, why did you come here?”

“For the show.”

Too much alcohol washes the conversation away, Audrey wants to have sex but Duncan says he can’t on account of he’s too drunk. A harmless lie, he reasons. Audrey takes a shower before bed. Duncan has a fancy shower without a tub. Shower-head as big as a dinner plate. It sprays water in your chosen configuration. Audrey likes the pulsating setting.

He hears her fall. Finds her on the shower floor with her legs splayed, head bowed as if in prayer. Like she decided this was the perfect time and place to take a nap. She has vomited and the chunks clog the little holes in the drain. The water is quickly rising. Duncan finds himself on his hands and knees, fully dressed, pummeled by the pulsating rain storm, trying to mash the puke chunks down the drain as Audrey awakens, crying. The smell brings up Duncan’s own bitter bile. He adds his own pork, potatoes and brussel sprouts to the stew.

###

Two days before Audrey is to leave. Duncan must fly to Milwaukee to solve a problem, in person, with a client. He apologizes to Audrey for cutting into their time together but, frankly, he is relieved. She will drive him to the airport and leave the car for him the next day when boards her own flight.

###

Duncan doesn’t find the car in the agreed upon place. Pookie’s cell phone is out of service. Exasperated, he hails a cab.

His car is not at the condo. Just as he decides to alert the authorities, he hears the garage door open. He greets a tipsy Audrey. The Audi has a big crease along the driver’s side.

“It wasn’t my fault,” she says.

“You weren’t cited?”

“Are you crazy? Call the cops and risk a D.U.I.?”

“So, you hit and ran?”

“No one was hurt.”

“Why are you still here?”

“Changed my flight.”

“Why?”

“There is nothing to go back to”, she says.

Duncan is furious. He lets Audrey have it with both barrels. Her irresponsible behavior. Her slovenliness. His overall disgust. During the tirade Audrey is silent. They pass a bottle of Scotch back and forth in an oddly civilized ritual during his monologue.

When the bottle and Duncan are almost empty Pookie steps toward him. Slaps him as hard as she can. Stunned and red-cheeked, Duncan can only stare at her in disbelief. She hits him again, this time with a closed fist. Duncan wraps his arms around her in self defense as she squirms and bucks. They fall to the floor.

Their mouths meet. Disparate passions meld. What has happened, now and in the past, has happened and nothing can be done about it. What remains is love long suppressed, given up for dead. Now unleashed by acts of violence, verbal and physical.

During their sexual release, a sex of wild self abandonment, Duncan understands that he still loves Pookie despite what she, and he, has become.

It doesn’t matter. When he rises from his sleep, she is gone.

###

Audrey’s departure leaves Duncan in a state between remorse and relief. She has abandoned her cheap clothes, travel bag, cigarettes, dead cell phone and a theatre magazine in the guest room. And a little more than $400 in cash.

Duncan tries to contact Pookie but his emails kick back. Her phone number is disconnected. he never had a postal address. She has disappeared without a trace.

A week passes. He donates her belongings, except for the theatre magazine, to the local Goodwill store. He puts the magazine on the coffee table.

###

Duncan regretted losing interest in the theatre after he and Pookie parted. The magazine on the coffee table is a recent edition. He flips through it absently as he sips Scotch after a long and unproductive day. An interview catches his eye.

Interviewer: With me today is Audrey Miller. Welcome to Stage Left Audrey.

Audrey: Thanks Susan. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Interviewer: We haven’t talked since Typographical Terror. Did you enjoy the role of Amanda?

Audrey: Very much so. Murder mysteries are fun in and of themselves but especially so when the hard boiled detective is cast as a woman. 

Interviewer: Let’s talk about The Wanderer, set to open in the spring. April 4th, I believe, at The Imperial.

Audrey: That’s correct.

Interviewer: A middle aged woman, Norma, is cut adrift by a series of tragic events. Norma is a chain-smoking, overweight alcoholic. She doesn’t see a viable future so she tries to lock onto something from her past to keep her afloat. That something is a long ago failed relationship. A lost love. She can’t resuscitate the romance but learns enough about herself in the process to begin again. What about the part appealed to you?

Audrey: I could relate to it. As you grow older you realize that you’re like a fossil. “laughter” Time wears the fragile, soft part of you away but replaces it with other, harder substances. Also the challenge appealed to me. It’s a very challenging role for a woman who is used to playing romantic leads. I’m a little frightened if you must know but I have to adapt to what’s being offered to me these days.

Interviewer: You’re known for taking great pains to get into character. Obsessively so, I’m to believe. What are you doing to become Norma?

Audrey: First of all I’m not a chain-smoker or an alcoholic but I can fake those things. I’m also not fat so I’m working hard to put on weight. It’s not as easy as letting your hair grow. On stage it’s hard to fake being over-weight. There are no good special effects. Besides, I think to think like a fat woman you need to live in a fat woman’s body.

Interviewer: Audrey, I’m afraid you’re a purist. “laughter” You don’t look particularly chubby. You’re running out of time to fatten up. Are you going to make it?

Audrey: Of course I will. I just worry about taking the weight back off after the run of the play. I might get used to milk shakes and Twinkies. “laughter” Harder than even the weight is adopting the attitude. How to be convincingly angry and bitter and lost. But I know I have it in me. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Sack o’ Words


“Seventy five cents? Last week you paid a dollar a pound”, Nate said to the grease-ball at the gun metal desk whose chair squeaked as he rolled forward, closer to the desk to look at the compu-tablet. Nate was talking to greasy Carl but staring at the machine to the side with flickering lights and display screen on top.

“Seventy five cents for a pound of words now. Supply and demand. Too much supply. Not enough demand”, Carl said.

“But these are good words. These are hand picked words.”

“A word is a word. It’s a commodity.”

“Excuse me”, said a man nudging Nate aside and heading for the machine. “Hello, Carl”, he said as he dumped words into the word-hopper.

“Hello, Ben”, Carl said as the display screen noted the weight and payout. Carl handed Ben the cash.

After Ben left, Nate said, “Hey! That was a lot more than seventy five cents a pound.”

“Lies. Ben sells lies. They’re worth a lot more. Americans can’t get enough lies.”

“Then my words are lies”, Nate responded.

“Put them in the machine. The machine will know. I think you’re lying. Hey! You’re catching on.”

“Excuse me.” A young woman squeezed by Nate and headed to the machine. Her perfect skin glistened with sweat. Her cotton sundress gathered at her ass. Her crack sucked at the fabric. There was a dark patch of damp material at her lower back.

Nate and Greasy Carl watched her sublime, moist back undulate, sway and bob through the room, throttling back for effect knowing she was being watched, and out the door. Then they surfaced, knowing they had drifted too far from shore.

“Carl, that was a lot more than seventy five cents a pound too”, Nate said.

“But did you see those words?”

“Were those lies too?”

“No but did you see the presentation? How they were packaged? They were even scented. Yours are in a burlap sack.”

“I thought all words were commodities, that words were words.”

“I lied.”

Nate sighed. Carl’s chair squeaked.

“You could sell them overseas. Words are worth a lot more in Europe and Asia, for example”, Carl said with a hint of compassion.

“They’d be spoiled by the time they got there even if I could afford to ship them in the first place. Besides, they’re the wrong flavor.”

“Have it your way. Sell or don’t sell. We’re just wasting words. Words are cheap but they’re not free. I’ve got work to do.”

Nate dumped the burlap sack into the word-hopper. He said at the display screen in a defeated voice, “That’s not seventy five cents a pound.”

“Sixty five cents. Price just fell.” Carl turned the compu-tablet so Nate could read the charts and graphs tracking the word exchange.

Nate took his money and walked out into the glaring light. Searing heat. Everything – buildings, people – looked bleached. He felt the hot pavement through the thin soles of his shoes. Saw cardboard in a trash can. Tore off a piece approximately the size of the inside of his loafer to patch the hole in his sole.

“That’s my cardboard!” yelled an approaching man dressed in rags.

“Well. It’s my cardboard now motherfucker”, said Nate having taken all he could take.

“Chill dude. We’ll share.”

Nate threw the rest of the cardboard into the trash along with the empty burlap sack and walked away. After a few steps he thought twice about the burlap but saw, upon turning, that the bum had already taken the burlap and the cardboard.

A little farther was a hot dog vendor. A shiny metal cart with a blue umbrella. Nate bought a hot dog and a Coca Cola. The hot dog smelled like death. The Coke tasted like lies.

Around the corner, in shade cast by a building, sat a blind man. Back against the wall. His cane had been stolen. Coins in a cup grasped securely. He dared not let the cup loose. Anything out of sight was lost. From his perspective, everything was out of sight.

Nate dropped the rest of his money, seventy five cents, into the cup. Blind man shook the cup. A toothless smile.

Nate had a thought. He was going to the bridge. The Bridge of Sighs. A guy wrote a song about it once. Hopefully, he got paid.

Categories: Uncategorized

Cars


A friend of mine and I somehow got on the topic of cars we have owned. I’m not a car guy now but I was when I was coming of age in rural Ohio where access to an automobile meant freedom.

I learned to drive in the fields on a farm truck with a bad clutch. My first car was a hand-me-down from my older sister, a 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 that burned so much oil I carried quarts around in the back seat. When I fired it up I held my breath until the cloud of blue smoke that enveloped me drifted away. My first “real” car was a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible. Convertibles are chick magnets for high schoolers. The car was old but in mint condition. I totaled it twice. I should explain. The first total was a “technical” total by the insurance company meaning that the car wasn’t destroyed but the cost of repair was roughly equal to the car’s value. So I bought it from the insurance company as a scrap and fixed it up.

The first total happened on two lane route 35 heading east. I was getting a blow job from my then girl friend. No one had told me blow jobs can be a little distracting for the driver. Realizing I was going to plow into the rear end of the car ahead I put the Galaxie into the ditch (rather than into the opposing lane). C. (my girlfriend) slid off my lap and under the dashboard taking out my 8 track player and either the Black Sabbath or Grank Funk Railroad tape we were playing (I can’t remember which). Romantic music is, of course, necessary for the perfect blow job. We were skipping school so there was all kinds of hell to pay. At least I had escaped with my dick attached.

The second total wasn’t nearly as interesting. Route 50 east of Chillicothe undulates in the hilly terrain. We would pick up speed and launch our cars over the rises, losing contact with the pavement briefly. It was exhilarating until I launched the car off the road and into a field. Not the one I learned to drive in. Because of these and more adventures and misadventures I would say that the Galaxie was my favorite, car but not the best, car I have owned.

After the second total, my car ownership privileges dried up for a while and I was stuck with limited use of my dad’s second car (he always had two), a 1972 Buick Park Avenue. The Park Avenue was a big, lumbering beast that had wonderfully ample front and back seats suitable for all sorts of recreation. It was like driving a sofa. Try parallel parking a 70’s Park Avenue. The car had ridiculously heavy doors. Once when picking up a date and, like a gentleman, handling the tombstone sized door for the young lady, I slammed her ankle in it. We spent the evening back in her parent’s house watching t.v. while her mother glared at me and the icepack on J.’s ankle.

The best car was the one I had in college. A 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS. Jet Black with a huge screaming V8. Not the most practical car for the Ohio State Campus. Fully restored it would be worth somewhere around $50,000 today.

My worst car was one of my early favorites. A 1970 Audi 100 that drove and rode like a dream but nearly bankrupted me. It needed a valve job at 50,000 miles and it continued to be in the repair of the month club until I unloaded it on some poor fool. I suspect that the mileage had been rolled back by the shady dealer I bought it from.

Most reliable car award goes to my 1979 Volvo 240. The odometer stopped working just short of 350,000 miles. I drove it for another year afterward. In second place was my 1965 V.W. Bug. It was so rusted it had no heat and if I grasped the mother-of-pearl steering wheel and wiggled my butt I could move the driver’s seat. Driving to work in the rain, through a big puddle, one day I was drenched from the waist down. The only time it failed to start was when I discovered the battery hanging by a single cable through the floor under the back seat. It had a six volt battery. I blew the lights all around by offering a jump start. I had bought the car for $250. I sold it for parts three years later for parts for…$350.

My subsequent rides have been mostly a series of Toyotas and Volvos. Reliable but uninspiring. I have long lost my car fetish but I’m faced with the need to buy one in the near future. Cars are, frankly, an expensive pain in the ass for a city dweller but unless you live in Manhattan or a city with excellent public transit (Cincinnati doesn’t qualify yet) a near necessity.

I don’t want a new car. I don’t even want a modern car. I don’t want a car that is essentially a computer on wheels. I want affordable vintage. Something not so precious and rare that I can’t treat it like…a car. I don’t care about power windows or power anything. I don’t really even care about air conditioning. I’ve been making a list of desirable cars. All would be prohibitively priced if in mint, restored condition but I don’t mind a little rust or tears in the upholstery.

1966 to 1972 V.W. Bug

1984 V.W. GTI

1972 BMW 2002 Tii

70’s era Toyota Land Cruiser

Early 80’s Mercedes 300D

Or a 1965 Ford Galaxy 500 convertible with an 8 track deck. Black Sabbath tape. And a blow job. While parked.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized