Monday, March 21, 2016

Crumble

I can't eat
Can't focus

Words die in my throat
Strangled cries escape

I watch the shadows on the wall

Is this death?
A cruel joke?

I can't think
Can't function

Can't find any comfort at all

Just a broken gasp
That sounds like

I love you.


*I wrote this a few years ago. Doesn't reflect my current state. Lol. Thank God! But I left it sitting in my drafts, too raw to publish. Much easier now that it's more memory than fact. I like it though. Another twist in the road, stitch in fabric of my being. Have to respect where you come from, right? If you ever hope to go where you want... ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Passenger

He's got grungy, crusty, too-long pants that drag on the ground behind him. Holes in his shirt and blackened nails jutting from gnarled fingers. Arthritis set in, the doc says. Happens to a man of his years and circumstance. Shoulders hunch and a gleaming bald scalp distract from cloudy eyes. It's been a year or more since he shaved. But the damn beard grows in odd patches. At best he looks a mess, at worse, a serial killer.

The bus is late today. Not that it matters. He's got no money to buy a ticket. So he sits and waits. The custodian hates him. She shakes her head and asks the ticket agent if she can boot him, for the fifth time today. They think he's deaf. But he's not. The old ears work just fine, the mind, too. That's the joy of watching your body twist up and crumble. The outside looks like hell, but the inside stays pristine.

The custodian grumbles as her mop bucket clambers across the tile.

Not much traffic today.

A little girl with a hula-hoop. A distracted lawyer. A phone obsessed mother. And the sun baking them all. He should've rode his bike off the Grand Canyon the day he realized he couldn't grip the bars and ride it anymore. Had he known he'd be stinking up a bus bench all these years later--he would’ve.

The hula-hoop crashes to the floor. A loud sandy sound. The girl starts up again. She's not very good, but determined.

A cool breeze offers momentary relief from the bitch-ass sun. The lawyer squints into the sky. Checks his watch. The lawyer's too important to be waiting here. The old man smirks. DUI?

There's a loud rumble in the distance. A ghost come calling. An Indian Chief rolls up with a specter revving its engine. The old man sits up straighter, more alive than he's been in years. The specter stares at him, gives a nod. The old man works his way over to the phantom on unsteady legs. "Quite a bike you've got there." A shadow grin follows. He's just a kid, the old man thinks. The kid seems pleased, "Wanna ride Old Man?"

The old man lights up, then remembers his hands. He looks down and frowns. The kid sees it, but remains undeterred. "Just hold onto me. You'll be alright." With a bit of a struggle the old man climbs on the back of the bike. "It's been a long time, Son." His heart so close to bursting. The kid chuckles, "Well, then let’s get to it, Old Man."

And then it was the long, black road snaking onward. The wind rolling over aged shoulders and gnarled hands. It was the sun rising high, paying respect. The bus bench a footnote in time and the horizon the future before him.

The custodian shook her head in disdain. She couldn't stand hobos. "Mister." She poked him, "Mister, wake up! You've soiled yourself." The ticket agent came over. "What's the problem Wanda?" The custodian rolled her eyes. "He messed himself and I can't wake him up." The ticket agent leaned forward, looking at the old man for the first time. Something inside her flickered, some memory long forgotten. She looked again. "Dad?" 

She hadn't seen her father in years. He'd gone off to "be free" her mother said. But this old man looked so much like him. It couldn't be...could it? She tried again, "Da--er--Sir? Sir wake up." Nothing. She leaned back on her heels. "I think he's gone, Wanda. Better call someone to collect him." Hesitantly, she reached into his pocket, looking for some identification. She found it. Looking with shaking hands. Carl Davis on an expired driver's license. And a faded picture of a little girl with lopsided pigtails. Tears streamed down her face. How many times had he come and sat on this bench? She couldn't remember. Almost every day?

Wanda shuffled her feet impatiently, "Why you crying? You know him?" The ticket agent cleared her throat and blinked. "No, not really. But he seemed like a harmless old guy. Too bad he died alone." She put his identification back in his wallet. "Better call someone, Wanda." And she went back to her ticket window, the faded picture tucked safely in her hand.






Monday, March 14, 2016

The Gift

The house was smaller than I'd pictured. It sat shabby, quaint with broad dirty white planks butted up against rusty red brick. The shutters pressed snugly along the windows as if to protect them from curious eyes. I hovered on the porch. Staring at the peeled paint as if it were a masterpiece.

I could turn away. Be across town before anyone knew I'd made this trek. It wasn't as if I were expected...or even invited. But it was a long trip to give in to cold feet.

Raised fist. Sweaty brow. Don't let the fear show.

"What are you doing here?"

I opened my eyes, fist still suspended awkwardly in the air. Scan his face. Is it welcoming? Filled with rejection? Why is he so hard to read?

He stared at me with hard blue eyes. White hair framed his face. Darker gray whiskers sprouted wildly from his chin. Time had kissed him roughly, but the boyish glint lingered in the corners of his mouth. Welcoming then.

I grinned broadly, "Gonna leave me on your doorstep, Mister?" He looked over his shoulder and my pulse raced. "I can come back later if this is a bad time?" Please, please don't turn me away... He smiled slowly. I've thrown him for a loop, but he was catching up at record speed. He was always so damn smart. He turned on his heel, leaving me to trail behind.

The room was dark and sparsely decorated. "What  can I do for you, Pet?" The pang was instant. Familiar, raw, yet so long lost. Was it his voice? The use of my old nickname? I cleared my throat. "I brought you something." I reached inside my coat and pulled the wiggly thing out. A tiny puppy with long floppy ears raised his nose to lick my cheek and I smiled. One more snuggle. One last stroke of his ear. I handed him over. "He doesn't have a name yet. I knew you'd think of something amazing."

The puppy nipped at his fingers. Long, tapered fingers that scratched at the puppy's soft fur absently. "I don't want a dog," he frowned. I grinned at him and sat down on the arm of his couch. "Sure ya do. He's a sweetheart and he'll keep you outta trouble."  I shrugged. "Everyone wants a dog."

He set the puppy down and went to fetch a bowl of water. I heard him shuffling in the kitchen. "I really don't want a dog," he called. "You know that. So why bring him?" I waited till he returned with the water. Then smiled kindly, "What we want and what we need are very different things. You need a hobby. He needs a home. Win, win."

He eyed me skeptically, "So this is the only reason you came. To bring me an unwanted dog?" My smile wavered for a second. No. Yes. I have no idea.  "I  just wanted to say hi. See how you were fairing. And then I crossed paths with this little guy and figured it was fate." The puppy went on a room sniffing adventure. Perhaps I should've brought a toy for him.

He looked at me again with those intense eyes. The distance in them daunting. And deserved.

The puppy toddled up and gnawed on his pant leg. He scooped him up with strong hands. "What can you be after there mongrel?" The puppy panted. Licked him and panted some more. I fished a slip of paper from my pocket and set it on the end table. "This is the hotel I'm staying at if you want to reach me." I stood and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. He smelled like wine and bacon and soap. "I'll leave you two to get acquainted."  I paused with my hand on the doorknob. Ask me to stay...ask me. He said nothing as I pulled the door open. I looked at him once more. Taking in his glorious face and the randy puppy pawing to get down. "It was good to see you, Jimmy. Really good."

Crisp, cool air and brightly colored leaves swept across the sidewalk. I walked away briskly humming, "Englishman in New York."