Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Woman In A Candy Striped Suit

Everyday, on my way home from school, I would walk past the wonderful building that was round and made of glass. It had a fascinating elevator system. It had two elevators, one behind the other. The front went clockwise and the back went counterclockwise. They ran opposite each other, they would go up or would be coming down so that one elevator was going up while the other was coming down. They would meet briefly on the eleventh floor of the building. It took me weeks of walking the block around the building to understand how it worked. I never went into the building, however, finding it disturbing.

One day, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before. A woman, in a candy striped suit was riding the elevator, clockwise. It was a pant suit with red and white candy stripes, and on her head, she wore a bowler, also with candy stripes. Then, everyday, on my walk home, I noticed her. Usually, before, in the morning, I would walk another way to school so I could go to a pastry shop I liked. But now, I walked this way past the building, and there she was, in the morning too, riding the elevator, but in the morning she rode it counterclockwise. This made me very curious. The seemingly obvious had occurred to me, that she was being paid, as some sort of gimmick to advertise this building. I sensed, though, that this wasn't the reason. She would occasionally take out a notebook and write in it as if she were making observations. By now, I was spending a few hours outside this building, in the afternoon, watching her go by. I circled the building and watched her jot her observations. I could see her for the entire twenty-one floors of the building, but at the top she was a speck. One time, even though I was really hungry for supper, I stayed until the building closed at 10pm to watch her exit the building. To make sure, in fact, she did. I wanted to follow her, but was afraid to.

I had a break from school coming up and decided I wanted to participate with her in what I was sure was a performance of some kind. My idea was to ride in the opposite direction to her, a counterpart, if you will. The hardest part of this plan was finding a candy striped suit, and, well, maybe my nervousness. I decided, though, I had to do it, participate. In actuality, the suit was not that hard to find, let's just say, that in my subconscious mind, I had never seen it before, but there was a uniform shop I walked past everyday on my old way to school. Now that I had made my mind up to do it, I decided to walk to school my former way, and when I walked by the uniform shop, there in the window was my uniform, a candy shop uniform. This was the sign I needed, that burst of assuredness. I was getting ready.

My first day, was, as expected very difficult. My body racked with nerves, I entered the clockwise elevator not even sure if she had arrived. If she had, we would then meet in the middle. What would the first time be like? The butterfly wings made broad strokes in my stomach and I had that sudden urge to go to the bathroom. When I reached the middle the doors opened, but already, because I could see through the glass, I knew she was there. She was small, childlike, at the same time, I knew she was older than I by some years. Her eyes fixed on me as I stared nervously at her. Her eyes said. "What are you doing?" The note she handed me said the same.

"I'm your counterpoint." I said to her, sheepishly

She said nothing to me, the doors closed and we were on our way in different directions. I then felt I had done the wrong thing. At least for her it was the wrong thing. At the next meeting she handed me another note.

"This is my experiment."

And at the following she wrote again. "Don't spoil it, mister!"

And the next. "Who do you think you are?"

The next. "Come on! Get Out!"

Then she started threatening me. "You will be escorted out!" and "The law is on the way!"

All of these taunts seemed ridiculous to me and helped my nervousness to go away. She would threaten a curse on me, she even threatened to strike me if I was there again, but of course she never did. The switch in the afternoon was the most difficult when we had to cross each other's threshold. She glared at me, I could feel her anger. Why why why!

At the end of the day when I left the building, I ran around to see if I could catch her, see her reaction, that I had made it through the day, but she was gone. On the second day, there were no notes, just glowering. For the rest of the week, glowering. On the first day of the second week, sometime in the late morning, I saw a slight smile come across her face. It was not there the rest of the day. I wondered if she had a plan to extricate me. The nerves took over again. I was waiting for some kind of thug squad to come and take me away. It never happened. The next day, she gave me another slight smile. By the end of the week, she had smiled at me several times. And at the end of the week, she handed me a note. "You are welcome to stay, but don't interrupt what I'm doing." I was in, and had started my own notebook of observations. From this building, you could see much of the entire city. The city hemmed in by two rivers with a smattering of skyscrapers. The lack of people walking the streets at mid-day was surprising to me. I had always taken it for granted that the streets were full all day, not taking into account that I traveled during the rush hours. The days were long and cumbersome, and difficult to endure once the nervousness was gone. Compared to this, school was a piece of cake, life was a piece of cake. This was not like being alive, but like being trapped in a self imposed cage. As a matter of fact, that this is exactly what it is. It was becoming clearer why she is here, what her experiment is. If she stayed here indefinitely would she begin to feel like it was life, then?

Half way through the third week tragedy struck. My older sister had suffered an overdose of heroin in a public restaurant, downtown. She was rushed to the hospital where she slipped into a coma. I looked at her lifeless body for hours. There were only the machines and the faint breathing the machines assisted with. My sister was smart. She seemed different to me from most people. She was always kind, but very aware of everything around her. Sometimes so aware that she seemed to know too much, and that made her, to some people around her, appear mean or snobbish, and she was neither. I knew that she snorted heroin. I didn't judge her. She did it without our parents knowing and she wasn't a thieving kind of junky. She just used it to get by. I knew, lately, that she was depressed, the way she spoke to me in sonorous tones. I didn't think I needed to help her though. She really wasn't sad,
I thought, just seemed to be growing up. I couldn't cry for her. I visited her everyday, until she died. My parents were very sad, they cried, but I couldn't cry.

I went back to school to finish out the semester. Everything was blah. I kept to myself and finished my work. Now, every day, I walked home the other way, not passing the glass building. I wondered if she would be there if ever I returned. I saw my experiment there as self indulgent. I was not meant to be there. Wasn't it her experiment? When school was out, I began to feel differently. I had an urge to return. A week later, the urge was too strong and I returned as I formerly was, a spectator. She was still there. At some point I knew she knew I was there. She gave me an ever so subtle acknowledgment. I stayed an hour.

The next day, I showed up in my candy striped suit. The nerves were back. Would she give me a note, would she talk to me? When we met in the middle she handed me a note.

"Where did you go?" The expression on her face was anger. She was actually mad. Not like when she was taunting. This was not teasing, this was real anger.

"My sister died." I said. My voice was empty.

"I'm sorry." She said, an involuntary tear rolled down her cheek. She didn't know my sister. She didn't know that we were close, that she cared for me, took care of me, that she had been my secret sharer, that she never judged me, that my intelligence came from her. My sister was gone and I felt like there was no one else, except, maybe this small woman, in front of me now, in her candy striped suit. We rode the elevators for the rest of the day, she handed me no notes, smiled at me once or twice, said nothing more. At the end of the day she met me on her side of the building. She reached up and kissed me on the cheek. I walked home , alone, crying.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

He Who Loved Christmas

There was a boy who loved Christmas very much. He loved it so much that he fancied himself a Who living in his own Whoville. Unfortunately he was surrounded by Grinches. His mother would get a bad case of the hives that would reach its itchy apex on Christmas day as everyone opened their presents. His father pretended to like Christmas, but his imitation smile was always going crooked, haywire. His older brother slept through opening presents and would get his presents at night time and take them to his room to open them there.

This boy's name was Fredrick and he loved Christmas more than he liked his family. In his minds eye the day was very different. Upon waking, a pigeon flew to his little bed, a green velvet ribbon around it's neck. The bird carried a map to the land of elves hidden in a locket. Though he had met the elves around many a corner, and leaping in the way they do in forests and dells behind his house, he had never been invited to their land. Soon he would see their great hall with festive trimmings and a feast of nectars. His heart was like a field full of galloping horses.

Fredrick saw the bird fly out the window, and then in a flash of light his room was no longer a room but a nest of moss and snowflake butterflies and joy. He looked around him and saw lots of tiny little men looking at him, but there was one man who looked different then the rest. He was a fat little man no more than a foot and a half tall. Fredrick knew instantly who he was. He was Santa, his beard was white as snow and went down past his toes.
Santa saw Fredrick's curious look and smiled.
"Oh I bet you re surprised my beard is so long, it does cause trouble some times. With tripping and such." said Santa
"Its not your beard I just thought you were taller!"

Fredrick's mother was still down in the kitchen. In fact, she's always in the kitchen drinking "fuzzy navels" with an unlit cigarette in her mouth. Sometimes she'll slip out onto the porch and smoke her cigarette and then come back to her own nest, the kitchen. She's presently pondering the fascination people have with that little fucker called Santa Claus. Where does he come from? She wonders. She remembers that there is an image she once saw of a German village where a short man with a beard too long to walk with brought gifts house to house like a doctor in the plague times looking for the sick.

The laundry hamper looked full.

She noticed it wiggle and jiggle.Putting her hand to her head she set down her drink and looked again. With a gust of force a little man popped out. A carved pipe he was smoking emitted enormous billowing clouds of cedar scented smoke that sent her swooning to the floor where she swayed on all fours until collapsing flat. Enormous roots and the knotty trunk of trees were taking over her formica kitchen.From what was formerly the kitchen sink a wild waterfall was pouring into a stream that danced around the foot of the kitchen table.

She saw her empty glass that once held her fuzzy navel and filled it with the crisp flowing water. The little man pulled out a glass of his own held it up to cheers and said who is the little fucker now? She was humored at the thought of Santa using that language and held up her glass and said cheers. As she took a sip of the magical Santa water she was overwhelmed with Christmas spirit, years of Christmas hatred melted away. She ran upstairs to find Fredrick who was already awake sitting up in bed, she went over, hugged him and said Merry Christmas!

It was one of many of the Best Christmases ever!

penned by BD, Alta, Emory & myself

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fever Gauge

"Oh-ow! That fuckin bitch! She didn't have to hit me so hard"

Touching her welts, standing at the screen door with it's melted patterns of sun dance, her face slightly bruised, she looked out on what's s'posed to be a front yard. Front yard, my ass, a few dog eared weeds. Her dress slacks, grimy, with lipstick traces, curtain cover her scrawny legs. She scratches her welts.

"I remember it being different. She used to be sweet to me. Now look at her! She's fat and ugly and mean! But when I was little she was more sweet to me, always bringin home gifts. Y'know she used to work....I can't help it if I like boys. Maybe I like 'em too much...she said I was filth...lickin on the devil's tongue....but look at her...she's a sex fiend..coke whore bitch!"

"That fat bitch waddles through the kitchen. Her boobs hang, sag and bobble on her thighs. The misery shows through her asthma...weezin trumpet of a mouth. She used to be pretty..always chunky...but pretty, still...since she got laid off from the Safeway and now not being able to work, she grew big and mean lookin.....'

"There was another time when she had boyfriends who didn't trash on her. Sometimes they'd help pay our rent and bring us gifts. Now she'll chug the Popov and give her fat pussy to any truck driver from the South, religious or not...stop in at the fuckin World's Largest Truck Stop where she carries on her pussy charades. She takes me there. I play video games on monster machines and make believe drag race cars while my mom makes the bucks... fattest whore at the truck stop. She'll go off with some mulleted hick, leavin me in pervsville. I'll watch her climb up in the cab of some truck with some piece of truck trash. Half the time he has to pull her in. I watch her through the neon windows, fat with her cigarette danglin. She'll come out of there all undone, squashed like a snotted hanky. Men come to her but I got to leave the boys alone..I can't have no boys."

"Lionel is out there on his huffy, now. He's taunting me to come out. I can't though. She's in there somewhere, hackin away. I won't...I don't wanna, but i do. I don't care if she hits me...I'm gonna cut that flabby whore with my knife. His eyes are so big. What-a beautiful kid. I know he wants to have me somewhere beyond the garage. He once stuck his hand up my shirt. My boobs are small, but he seemed to like 'em ok. I took a beating for it..well not for it...but for kissing and having the smell on me...on my shirt. I held it in front of me and closed my eyes, then I felt a jerk on my trainer. She knew it then and she knows it now. He keeps grinnin... bastard..I'll get him. She'll give me a beating, hypocrite, she probably wants him too. I dream of him taking me somewhere, away. Maybe he'd murder me in that shed out in the woods."