Three bonded stories.
Have you ever seen the blood dancing in the water: falling down at a slow pace, spreading and drawing the beautiful picture of loss? Being all pressed by the walls of the water, the voice of the blood shouts with a striking power, it sets its own rules and like a queen occupies the transparent kingdom with a red sunset. And no one can deny the beauty of that show even if it carries a terrible story behind the scene.
He was observing that show… he was enjoying, or maybe not… His eyes were unintentionally invited to the VIP spot of the bloody performance – performance whose main characters were dead, probably smiling man, and alive trembling creature. He was not far away. He saw everything. He was a witness, a witness of a crime, of a horrible action, of the performance of his life. And he…
It was a nice morning that day. Happy Johnathan decided to go for a running, let’s call it refresh himself before another busy day. With a special thermo-clothes, music in his head and some weird smile on his face he stepped outside of the house as quietly as he could. Johnathan’s wife was sleeping – he didn’t want to wake her up, she needed rest. Well… they needed rest: she was pregnant.
With the thoughts of her Johnathan was gladly working out in order to stay healthy and support his wife. He loved her and she loved him. It was a happy marriage with all its colors, childishness and responsibilities. They were in love, expecting a desirable outcome of their feelings.
Every second morning, Johnathan was running near the riverbank. That morning was absolutely the same: same feelings, same way, same pace, and the same goal. He was always wearing the headphones, however with the acceptable volume, so he can listen to what’s happening around. It wasn’t that necessary since they’re living in the private house around the forest. There was no one around, except some stranger going on his bike through the wooden bridge to ‘somewhere’ and two or three passing cars. A perfect place for a solitude you would say. And actually, yes… it was.
June, 16th – another day. Mark woke up, took a shower and drank some disgusting filtered coffee. He never liked it, but it kept him running. His wife woke up with him and followed exactly the same procedures. They watched some news, discussed them, laughed at some point, dressed and went to work, however in different ways. They didn’t have kids, however they enjoyed each other as much as they could. Elizabeth, Mark’s wife, was everything to him. It was a mutual and right decision to dedicate their lives to each other, and the years of life proved it to them. If spouses could, they would even work together, however it was not like that and every morning Mark and Elizabeth were going different ways with the loving thoughts about each other. Mark was going by bike to work – he was for the safe environment and it was not that far away. He was passing his neighborhood, short forest track, a bridge in the middle of it were he was seeing only one man running every two days and then in 2-3 miles getting to the city where his work took place. And that morning was the same, however with some small correction.
- Dave, please, do not do that! Please, Dave! Leave me, Dave, it hurts… Please! – she cried in agony.
- Don’t you dare shout, right now. You deserve nothing…
And he let her go. She came half an hour later from her work, just half an hour later. He was jealous and never let her go anywhere without him. Dave was not entirely bad man; he was bringing everything to the family. However, his anger, possessiveness and jealousy were making him do some horrible stuff to his wife. He was transforming into a beast with no other feelings but hate. He was beating Margo very rarely but hard and painful. And the fact that he was doing that was always standing between them. Dave’s wife was patient and loving woman. Somehow, she was trying to manage him; however, it was practically impossible. Margo listened to him all the time, but on the other hand, she was crazily afraid of him because she never knew how it might end up.
June 16th, Margo was preparing lunch for Dave – she had to leave it in his car. Rushing to work Dave without saying the word went to the car. He was still angry because of her “late” coming home. Every day he was going by the road that comes through the forest – much faster way to get to work.
That morning he went the same way. And on the Big-Eye River Str. way, near the Big-Eye River, three lives, three different stories met deciding the fate of each other.
Dave was driving fast. He was still angry. Somehow, he was trying to get back to normal and remember if he didn’t forget anything. At some point, he noticed that there is nothing on the passenger seat (where his lunch was supposed to be staying). It was a catalyst… Dave got angry, furious, and insane because of the ‘stupidity’ of his wife. He tried to look on the back seat: Dave just bent over for a second to take a look and he didn’t manage to see…
He didn’t manage to see running Johnathan, who WAS smiling – he was happy, probably too happy to notice that the car was moving towards his back. And at that moment, Mark was coming closer to the bridge when he heard the noise of the car bumping into something or someone. Mark stopped his bike, Dave stopped his car, Johnathan just stopped… he stopped living.
Mark was shocked of the seen accident, however very curious what happens next. He wasn’t visible because of the trees and he was just watching. Mark saw how Dave went out of the car all red and saying something to himself, grabbing his hair and hitting his feet against his car. Dave approached the body, realizing that it was already just a body of some dead man. Really, he didn’t give that much of the thought and pick him up, however trembling from what he was going to do. Dave grabbed Johnathan, barely went down to the river, and just threw his body there. “He’s already dead, what’s the point to get caught because of that?”, - Dave was telling to himself. He just threw Johnathan to the river.
Mark was glued to the ground at that point. It was so close; he could see the killer’s face, the dead person and almost every detail considering bloody art. Yes, it was a performance of his life. And he… he just waited. He was waiting until a crazy stranger would leave, so he didn’t get noticed. Mark did nothing, he didn’t go the police, he didn’t call anyone including his wife, he just waited to be able to go to work. Both man went to the their destinations and only poor Johnathan will never get home alive.
It's a question why Mark did what he did, however he believed that getting involved would be just additional headache for him and his wife. Who needed that, right? Police coming to the house, constant interrogation, and probably spoiling the life of some stranger: what if he had children and no one would be able to take care of them. Mark was trying to calm himself down in every possible way. That story was following him for a while: news about missing man, news about finding him dead in the Big-Eye River, talks, gossips, etc. It was a great burden to carry alone and suffer from feeling of remorse. Nevertheless, life was going on; day by day, slowly but surely, the memories were disappearing, no feelings, no burden - everything was forgotten. Mark was smiling with his wife, going the same way to work, full of energy and happy that everything was so great. He will never know that Johnathan’s wife was raising the child alone, however happy that she has his son, whose name was also Johnathan. She overcame her sorrow and dedicated herself to her son, trying to give the best for him. She will also never know that there was some scared observer, who let everything stay unknown.
Life was going on… And several years passed.
It was another summer day: sunny, hot, noisy from the dancing fountains and with the air tasting like a cotton candy. Mark and Elizabeth went to the park to take a nice walk and just enjoy themselves. Time was passing slowly and every moment reminded a touch of the heaven – they were happy. In the end of the warm, enjoyable Sunday, the couple decided to grab a bite in their special restaurant, where they ordered the same table they have been ordering for 16 years already.
Mark and Elizabeth were coming to the crossing, when his phone rang and he had to engage in the heated discussion with his boss. The traffic light was still red to pass the road. Elizabeth was looking at the restaurant across the street and at some point, a small boy caught her attention looking and smiling at her from there. She was so captured by his energy and pure soul that some maternal feeling started appearing in her heart. “Probably, children ARE the light of life. Maybe, it would be really nice to have a kid”, - the woman was thinking. She was looking at that kid, thinking about the idea of having one, and with her mind and heart full of maternal thoughts, she made two confident, inattentive steps immediately when the traffic light signaled green. It was not her mistake, she didn’t notice. No. It was just some impulsive person who was trying to pass while the yellow light was still on. Well, he did not manage...
Mark, who was watching on the wall of the building behind him and talking with his boss, turned around on the sudden noise to observe another bloody scene. Apparently, it wasn’t that capturing as the previous one he was witnessing several years ago. He didn’t not have time to observe, he wasn’t hiding and staying still. He was desperately trying to help his wife while it was already too late. And you know, she was also smiling – like Johnathan.
It was a mess: people screaming from shock, the police and ambulance sirens were letting know that they are on the way, and Mark was crying, trembling, beating the road with his weak from shock fists, and begging Elizabeth to open her eyes, to live, to stay with him. He didn’t even pay the attention to the pulled over car and the desperate man standing behind him and just watching.
After the arrival of the ambulance and police, Mark finally stood up and looked into the eyes of the man who killed his wife. With a fierce look on his face and absolutely no doubts, Mark was ready to start beating that man to the death and he was almost there, when something stopped him, something hurt him that badly in his heart that Mark just stood and was looking into the eyes of a killer - he knew him. He saw him before. He was killer’s observer once. The memories that faded away with the flow of the time came back immediately and transformed into unbearable pain coming from the slightest touch of the air.
Mark was looking into Dave’s eyes trying to silently accuse him in what he’d done. However, the thoughts were coming some different way. It was Mark’s fault. The death of his wife was all on him. It was his karma for hiding the truth. Mark realized that if he did not hide the facts about the Big-Eye River accident, Dave wouldn’t be there, Dave wouldn’t be driving right now, Elizabeth would be alive. Elizabeth would be sitting in the restaurant, smiling and telling her husband about the idea of having kids. And probably they would have ones, or probably not; but they would definitely be together – she would be alive. And Mark will never know that Elizabeth was looking at small Johnathan Junior before her death. And actually, he will never know about those maternal thought of his wife. He will only know that his horrible actions several years ago took a life of the closest person in his life. Whatever it was: fate, karma, punishment, it just came back and hit him in his face. It showed the price of what he did not actually do, and you know it was very expensive. It was priceless.
Magic Duels at Bailey Tweten Elementary
We got into a lot of duels at Bailey Tweten Elementary School. The boys did, at least, the girls wouldn’t touch any scrap of boy-culture so they were spared our gladiatorial codes of honor. Whenever there was a dispute, the participants drew their Magic: The Gathering decks and played a regulation game. 60-cards, one-card subtractive mulligans, selection from sets in standard only. This was all very important to a fifth grader.
We got into fights more often than kids at my old school, and if I had to guess, I’d say it was because everyone was always itching for a duel. Even if you didn’t win, even if your deck was a twenty-five cent collection of rejects from better players, you still always wanted a fight. In fact, I think there was some sort of macho thing for the people who knew they’d be licked from the beginning, staring down their defeat with a smirk and a shuffle of their tattered cards. Maybe it’s for the attention they got when everyone in the area crowded around as the game started (even a few girls at first, before they figured out what was going on). Or maybe it was because, whenever a poor kid with nothing but common trash-cards beat some upper cruster with a copy of the deck that won the Grand Prix, it was the talk of the school. It only happened maybe once a week, which made it an extreme rarity when you consider how many games took place. But there was always some chance it could be you.
I heard that, at first, there was a rule that the conflict had to arise naturally in the elementary school’s social ecosystem. Who had dibs on a certain girl (even though these relationships never went beyond a lot of unverified stories), say, or whether Chris cheated off Tommy on that math test. When this got into “he-said, he-said” territory, whoever won the game won the right to history. To test out how far it would go I played devil’s advocate when Willy was complaining about the cafeteria food in my first week at the school. Inevitably he challenged me to a duel and when I won, not only did he never utter a negative word about the food again, but no one else did either (at least not within my earshot).
I asked around once where the tradition came from. Aside from a few anecdotes that I’ve judged to be myths, the only answer is that it’s just the way that things have always been. That can’t be right, but people believed it so fervently that it became hard to argue with it. After only a few days at that school, it seemed like something like primordial, an instinct so basic that you can’t really think around it. My memories of a school where disputes were solved with yelling and fistfights and tattling felt like fantasy.
The kids who ordinarily wouldn’t be into magic at least needed to have a deck and know the rules on instinct. The ones who would ordinarily be interested became absolute fanatics. Ziggy Tombers would have been obsessed with it at any other school, but at Bailey Tweten Elementary, he was whatever is beyond obsession. He was absorbed by it. If it stopped existing he’d have nothing to do, nothing to think about, nothing printed on his notebooks or t-shirts or backpack. Maybe he’d simply stop existing along with it.
At any other school he’d be a pariah even in the nerd crowd, but at ours he was nearly a god. A petty god, a wrathful god, the kind of god you only worshiped when you knew he was listening. His parents were loaded enough to indulge his habit, and he rattled off the price tag every time he brought out a new deck. Two hundred dollars, three hundred, the highest he ever claimed to go was five thousand. It was a lie, of course, but you couldn’t call him out on it. If you tried, he’d challenge you to a game, and when he won the lie became truth.
He bent the unspoken rules as far as they would go. “All the money in your wallet is mine,” he’d say, and if you said no, he’d take out his deck and start shuffling. He tried challenging a teacher once, to change a grade on a math test, and seemed genuinely surprised when the teacher laughed him off. No problem, he just challenged some poor sap to sneak into the classroom and doctor the grade book. The first two got caught, but the third one made it.
I hung out with the rest of the boys for maybe the first month at Bailey Tweten Elementary before realizing Magic wasn’t for me. I never got the rules straight, and anyway the whole system of dueling, while fascinating from a distance, was harsh and mean and disgusting when any conversation had good odds of ending in a Magic duel.
So instead I hung around with the girls. Particularly the girls in the enriched classes, the ones who traded fantasy paperbacks and treated homework as a past time. Sometimes I got the shifty feeling of being a gender-traitor, but then I’d see Jeff Flatequel eat a plastic spork because Ziggy beat him in the first three turns, and I’d realize I was doing okay for myself.
I naturally gravitated toward Dorothy Harvith over time. She was a pleasant girl who was intensely moderate in every respect. She liked school but didn’t go overboard on studying. She ran cross country and track without ever getting too competitive. She conducted her relationship with me with that same subdued attitude. We were fond of each other, held hands and chatted on the phone without it ever becoming anything that made your heart race. When my native gender was ruled by obsession, a little moderation was a nice break.
Word got around quick that I was the first kid in our class to have the sort of girlfriend where both partners are willing to admit the relationship whenever you ask them. Most boys in our grade were in the process of transitioning from treating each girl as patient zero for cooties to some unattainable sex object, so I was roundly treated with a mix of envy and disgust. No one likes getting nasty looks in the hallway or getting called a “prissy queer” (which, in context, made no sense at all). But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t shake off until the last day of school.
Teachers had given up on actual education weeks ago, so in Spanish class we just watched The Smurfs 2 with what I think were supposed to be Spanish subtitles, but the teacher put on Hebrew ones instead. All around me, pairs of boys were trying to settle as many feuds as possible before the school year ended, handling the cards so fast you’d think they were doing tricks instead of playing a game. I switched between watching the movie and the game, each with a sort of detached humor, when Ziggy rammed his desk against into. When I got over the shock of his sudden appearance, I looked up to see him shuffling cards.
“Dorothy is my girlfriend,” he said matter-of-factly, beaming at having thought of it. Directly challenging a girl to a magic duel was taboo, of course, but he’d found a way to get a girl through a boy. Genius, really.
I’d stopped bringing a deck to school after I swore off Magic, so I asked around for a spare. I got nothing until Johnny Asp offered to, “Make you one real quick.” I knew well enough to sift through the one he gave me. It was all land or, in layman’s terms, unplayable. I took it anyway. Even with a decent deck, I was doomed to lose.
Ziggy could have finished me off in a minute, but he toyed with me instead, let me see his army grow until his cardstock army flooded his desk and began to advance onto mine. When he finally realized I wouldn’t do a thing but keep drawing and playing useless card after useless card, he attacked with everything and made a big deal about how many times over he’d killed me.
After class he grabbed me by the hair on the back of my head. I’d hit my growth spurt early, while he was still bone-thin and shrimpy, so I could have shaken him off easily. But the rules of Magic were stronger than brute force, and I had no choice but to stumble along as he led me to Dorothy’s locker. She looked somewhere between amused and concerned at the scene. I tried not to meet her eyes.
“You’re my girlfriend now,” Ziggy said, swelling with pride.
“I don’t think I am,” said Dorothy, breaking into that confused giggle that only elementary school girls can do.
“No, I m said Ziggy. “I beat this little turd in Magic.” (He shook the hair he’d grabbed as he said it, and I had no choice but to nod my head along with him). “So you’re my girlfriend now.”
“It’s true,” I said, still unable to meet her eyes. “I’m really sorry. I’ll get a better deck and learn to really play the game and win you back, I promise.”
She doubled over in high, sweet laughter, holding her stomach and almost collapsing to her knees. Ziggy rushed forward to plug up her giggling mouth with his, and Dorothy slugged him with hardly a glance up from her laughter. She kept it up, only getting louder, as Ziggy collapsed onto the linoleum, clutching his bleeding nose and weeping.
I got him some toilet paper to clog up his nose and told him everything would be all right. Ziggy’s crying and Dorothy’s laughter got softer together, so I was never really sure which one ended first.
Ziggy sort of stopped existed after that. Maybe he had a few good duels over the summer, but in the fall, three neighborhood fifth grade classes elementary schools became one massive sixth grade class at the centralized middle school. Suddenly the world was too big to rule with one stupid game. I found guys I liked hanging around with and Dorothy and I fell into different crowds. It’s only natural, I guess. It probably wouldn’t have hurt much at all if there hadn’t been that one moment on the last day of school that made our courtship seem like something with meaning behind it.
Magic is still around in middle school, but it’s a subculture of marginal nerds. There are as many girls who play it as boys now, though not many of either. I hang around with them sometimes, partly out of an odd nostalgia, but mostly to see if I can spot Ziggy. He’s never there. He still goes to our school, but you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t looking for him. I feel like I should apologize, even though I know I did nothing wrong. The world would’ve moved on no matter what had happened on the last day of fifth grade. Still, it moved on without him, and there’s no way that can’t hurt at least a little bit.
I Have a Cat
I also have litterbox duties and a tolerance for the associated odor.
I also have a few neighbors in my building who have no appreciation for felines or their litterboxes.
This conflict plays itself out on a daily basis with the appearance of an occasional post-it-note reminding me of the smell in my trash or the as-soon-as-the-elevator-door-closes intervention explaining my building should be pet-free.
I can tolerate this pithy behavior.
What I cannot tolerate is the next level of dastardly deeds a few have decided to partake in.
Now, I receive nothing. One of my neighbors has decided to become a porch-pirate and make off with my delivered packages and (apparently) hold them ransom until I change my cat’s litter box and sanitize the entire 4th floor to a NASA/CDC/quarantine cleanroom level 8. If and when I accomplish this feat, I may find my packages released, under their own recognizance, to my care. If I fail, I will find only an opened box, sans contents, near the community dumpster.
It is war on the 4th floor and I have a plan.
Two days ago, I took a recent Amazon box, carefully lined the inside with plastic wrap, and introduced my cat to its new litter box. On day ago, I packaged the contents and printed out a new shipping label (correct dates and address). Before securing the contents, I rigged a small pull-apart firecracker (a firecracker with two small strings attached to the ends) to the inside flap and the bottom of the box. All I had to do was seal the box and place it against my apartment door when I departed for work.
I received a call from the building manager at noon and did not reply.
Soon afterward came a text and an email. I remained indifferent to the sense of urgency.
When I returned home, I learned about the “incident” with the “suspicious package”.
Someone else, who could not resist opening the box inside their apartment, learned about karma.
They also discovered the cost of cleaning their apartment to a NASA/CDC/quarantine cleanroom level 8.
Some boxes include the gift that just keeps on giving.
“Karma’s gonna catch you,” my sister said. Her face was stained with tears, glistening in the dark room; they fell upon the remnants of the light bulb at her feet, nearly invisible. What really stood out to me, though, was her grimace; she looked angry, and she looked frustrated, and she looked so, so sad. “Karma’s gonna track you down and make sure you pay for everything you ever did.” She looked at me with such certainty that I felt a twinge of fear.
Then our mother walked in, smelling of cheap alcohol, and demanded to know why my sister had broken the light, and I laughed and laughed and never got caught.
To say I was a bad person would be wrong. I simply learned how to play karma like a fiddle, exacting it on everyone but myself. My mother spent all her time out, so I spent all her money on whatever I pleased. My sister tried to take her place, so I made sure she took the blame for anything I did. The cycle only ended when my mother stopped coming back. Some would call that karma, but for me it was simply inevitable.
My sister sat me down. She was older now. I was older too, old enough for her to justify making me leave. We both knew that wouldn’t happen; despite everything, she still held some sort of love for me, being the only family she had left.
“Did you do that?” she said, her voice tense. She pointed at the television. It screamed back at us. TERRY MILLER KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT, shouted the local news. BROTHER GRIEVES. SQUIRRELS LIVING IN ATTICS: PROBLEMS OR PETS? MORE AT SEVEN.
“I think there’s a squirrel living in our attic,” I told her. Karma, of course; I had let the squirrel in. My sister didn’t take care of the house well enough; the ceiling sagged, and the lights always flickered.
“Did you do that?” she pleaded again. My sister was white-faced, terrified. “Did you kill him?”
Terry Miller and his brother walked into the auto-shop I worked in. The owner was in the back, fixing the light he believed had broken on its own. I watched Terry as he dragged his brother throughout the shop. He had dated my sister once. Finally, he came to me, forcing his brother to explain how the scratch on his car appeared. I remember my sister bringing him home. His brother looked miserable. She had looked miserable, too, and told me never to go near him. I told Terry I’d fix his car myself.
No one could claim I had no sense of empathy, nor a lack of love for my sister. I was only making sure retribution was paid. “Karma caught him,” I told her, and the next day she was gone. Karma for loving him, I suppose, or karma for ever thinking she could take care of us all.
Karma could never catch me, I always claimed. So I can’t explain what caused me to wake up to the sound of glass breaking, of footsteps racing upstairs. I turned on the lights just in time to see Terry Miller’s brother come storming into my rotting room, drunk and angry with tears staining his face. He waved his gun around wildly before finally settling on me, standing frozen before him in fear. The only sound louder than my heartbeat was the squirrel's feet scampering above us.
“Karma’s gonna catch you,” he said. He grinned. “And I play karma like a fiddle.” I put my hands up in a gesture of peace, searching for the words to calm him down--
And then the lights went off, and he laughed and laughed until I couldn’t hear him anymore.
You work on commission, right?
She laughed as she said it to me, the Estee Lauder saleswoman at Macy’s, perhaps out of embarrassment or to lighten the weight of such an ugly word she didn’t mean to say out loud. She had just told me what great arms I had. Pleased at the recognition of my efforts (since I work out every day), I said, thank you so much, smiling, not expecting that the next thing out of her mouth would be bitch. Thinking about it later, I wondered if some women have that thought in their interior monologue as they pay compliments to the unsuspecting and gullible, Love your dress (bitch), that hair cut looks great on you (bitch), did you lose weight? You look great! (bitch).
I didn’t react in kind to the insult. I was just a little disappointed at the insincerity. A little shocked at the rudeness. I tittered as if amused at her forthrightness, replaced the make-up I had been planning to buy and walked over to the Lancôme counter to make my purchase.
Girls are meant to be seen, not heard
girls are meant to be seen, not heard;
it was a lesson she had to learn
guess you were built for comfort, not speed
curves slow you down in the race to succeed
men are all dogs, they go after bones
giggle and jiggle and you’ll be alone.
Mom, I feel fat.
We should talk about that.
I would like to talk now but I’m running late
You look really nice, have you been losing weight?
Mrs. Smith, I’m a nurse on her rounds,
your sallow daughter weighs eighty pounds
How can that be, she looked fine to me.
Let me talk to her please.
She says she’d like to talk now but she’s running late
She says girls are meant to be seen, not heard.
The Battles Within
Like most bad things, it started as a lark. Andre and Tucker had stolen the car on a dare and driven it up to Hick's Lake to show everyone. It was Andre's idea to steal it, of course. Tuck was always just a follower. It only figured that Tuck's older sister Tabitha would happen to be there. Tabitha, the smartest, hottest girl in their school. Tabitha who looked down her nose at Andre Moncada. Tabitha, that snobby bitch who thought she was too good for someone like Andre. Tabitha up here with her college boyfriend "Ellis", flaunting him around like he was somebody just because he was older, and because he went to some military college in Virginia. Hell, maybe Tabitha was too good for him, but she damned sure didn't have to act like it, did she? Anyways, Andre knew what he would do to Tabitha if he ever found himself alone with her. She would get hers.
It was a race back to town. The plan was to get the car back before anyone noticed it was missing, but now they had to beat Tabitha and Ellis back as well. She would surely tell Tuck's old man, but it wouldn't really matter so long as the car was back where it belonged when Mr. Alderman investigated. He would not call the cops on his own son if no one was the wiser. As far as the race went Andre and Tucker were well out in the lead, but they could see the headlights from Ellis' car gaining ground fast. Andre hit the gas. The Mercury's big V-8 hurtled the car forward.
Andre was thrown the furthest. He was also the only one conscious. He was lying thirty feet from the Mercury. Andre's body had suffered multiple fatal injuries, but none were instantaneous. His neck felt abnormally large, making breathing difficult. He was afraid to move it and had not yet tried, and so was not sure if he could. He did know that his arms would not work, altough he was not sure why. He did not relate their failure to his neck. There was a strange crawling sensation on his skin, like bugs, which was the reason he had attempted to move his arms, so that he could brush the crawling away, but his arms were pinned somehow, or trapped, and would not respond to his demands.
Andre listened as Tabitha and Ellis searched through the wooded night. The calls, the cries, and the blind thrashings through the blackness and the brush came to him clearly. He wanted to call out, but could not make it happen no matter how he tried. He plainly heard Tabitha call for Tuck even as his own plea for help faded soundlessly into the folds of his mind. Her voice sounded as though she was close enough to reach out and touch, but it passed on. He was almost glad that it did. He did not want her to be the one to find him. He did not want her to see him weak.
The itchy feeling was spreading. In some places it was replaced by a burning pain, sharp and electric at first, so that he would have gasped had he been able. Behind the sharp, electric pain was a numbness which hardened his skin like a growing blanket of ice. Was this what death felt like?
He needed to move. He needed to get up. He did not want to die. He would have to try his neck. He summoned his will and his strength. Nothing, not even the searing pain he half expected. For the first time it dawned on Andre that his neck might be broken. Panic ensued. Once more his head filled with cries and pleas that could not escape from his broken body so that he wondered if maybe he was dead already? But then, just as that thought came, he did feel something, something known, something that was not pain, something so physical and so normal that it was calming. Andre plainly felt a teardrop leave his eye and roll down his cheek. He was alive!
Andre Moncada was a loner. He had no known father, a disinterested mother, and no siblings. There had been no family members to watch him grow up, or to care for him. There had been no God in his world to seek comfort from. Andre knew no Easter Bunny, nor Tooth Fairy. Trouble was common in his life, sometimes sought out, sometimes not, but it was never feared. Andre had known few kindnesses, and had offered fewer, but the teardrop steeled him. If it was time to die he would do it like the man he wished to be, like the men he admired... the hard men, the strong men. Dying was something meant to do alone, your own personl struggle, just as living was.
The crawling-stinging was up to his neck. Soon it would be up to his head, and his face. That would be a bitch. Andre did not know what it was, but his feeling was that it was something terrible, something to be suffered with disdain, something that carried death. Whatever "it" might be, he determined to show it just who Andre Moncada was.
Andre closed his eyes. He found that he could actually see better that way. A light seemed to burn from behind his closed lids, a light that flowed strangely with colors and shapes, but when he opened them he saw only a darkness that left him longing again for the light and the colors. The light behind his eyelids showed him things, welcomed things, forgotten memories and forgotten dreams. He welcomed the light, letting it into his sanctuary, feeling it's warmth. The crawling-stinging was on his lips now, trying to get in, but he would not let it. He pressed them tight, and then his eyelids. It was safe in here. He would not let the crawling-stinging in. Funny, he had always believed the struggle with death would be physical... blows, blades, or guns maybe, but he knew now that the real fight with death was here in this dark corner of your mind that is your last retreat, the place where you finally have your back to the wall and where you must choose to fight, or to succumb.
If nothing else in this world, Andre Moncada was a fighter.
Ellis had the flashlight. He was the first to find Andre. The faded beam grasped hold of the younger man lying helpless in the dark and it clung to him while Ellis made his way toward Andre's body. When he had at last managed his way through the brush and the dead falls Ellis shone the light on the boy's face and recoiled in horror. The young man must have been thrown onto an ant hill, as his face was alive with their crawling. Ellis, certain that the body was dead, gasped when it's mouth and eyes opened, sucking for air, and seeking the light. The ants crawled into and from the opened mouth and eyes. Ellis McGregor felt the first true horror of his life and flinched from it. He backed away, away from the ants, and away from the boy, his stream of light still locked onto his struggling face. The spot-lighted face was breathing sharp, hard, quick breaths and still the ants crawled. Ellis McGregor had dreams of being a soldier, a hero, but his first venture upon the battlefield of Life and Death left him wanting. Ellis finally turned away and ran for the road, having no idea what he could do to help the young man, his fear leaving him unwilling to try.
Luck can be a lady
The Night can be young
Faith only has to be at least as big as a mustard seed
Karma can be... a bitch.
Feet can be light
Days can be long
Sometimes conversation is heavy and,
Karma is a bitch
Kisses have a taste
colors hold a mood
activities, frangances, and flavors are seasonal
Karma is a bitch
Sometimes I am lucky
Most days I feel young
I love bright colors, sarcastic comments and saying no but,
Karma is a bitch
His stare rests heavy on my bottom lip
then tumbles to my chest.
I cross my arms high and tight,
my right hand gripping the bony point of my shoulder.
A white knuckled embrace.
I regret every smile.
‘I’m leaving,’ said Nathan to his wife.
‘Oh,’ said Ash. ‘Where to, love?’
The children had long gone to sleep and it was just the two of them in the kitchen. Ash inspected a dinner plate before stacking it on the rack beside the sink.
Nathan cradled a coffee mug between his palms. ‘I’m leaving you. Do you understand?’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Have you taken your insulin? You ate a lot this evening.’
‘Yes, I have! That’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.’ Nathan tried another approach. ‘I want a divorce.’
‘You said that,’ said Ash scrubbing at a pot.
‘It doesn’t need to be difficult,’ he interrupted. Nathan had started to sweat, heart pounding as it fought to stamp down a rush of adrenaline. ‘This has been coming for a while now so you can’t be surprised. Don’t worry, I’ve thought it out. You can keep the kids. I’ll see them on weekends.’
Receiving no reaction, Nathan sagged into himself. Despite his worries and late night musings, it was going surprisingly well. Perhaps, as Sarah had suggested after a quick go at it in the back of his car, the feeling was mutual. Their relationship had been on the rocks for years and now that he’d found someone else there was little reason to keep pretending.
‘I’m not worried, love’ said Ash turning to give her husband a smile.
‘Well, good.’ Nathan drained the last dregs of his coffee. ‘I’ll sleep on the couch for now. We can sort out who gets what later. You should probably see that you get a lawyer.’
‘If you say so.’ Ash turned to face her husband and frowned. She raised a damp hand to feel at his forehead. ‘You don’t look so well, love.’
Nathan gave a sigh and looked at her sadly. ‘I’m tired. I think I’ll have a lie down.’
‘Alright. I don’t mind if you take the bed,’ said Ash. ‘I’ll sleep in the Mandy’s bed tonight. It’ll be a sleep over of sorts.’
‘Really?’ asked Nathan. ‘You’re taking this well. I’m proud of you.’
Mumbling a goodnight, Nathan stumbled his way upstairs. Ash watched him go. Turning back to the dishes, she ran her hands along the bottom of the sink to feel if she’d missed something. One by one, she pulled out the last few items and left them to dry beside the rest. A fork, a water bottle lid and an empty vial of insulin.