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CHANCE MEETING

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , on March 3, 2013 by kimmy

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After I plied her with a few cocktails, she was less reticent.  “I remember when I first saw him,” said she, looking at the surf. “It was the autumn of my senior year in high school.  He and his bandmates were setting up equipment in the auditorium”

“It felt odd having strangers in our private stomping grounds.  The theater department was where I spent most of my days.  It helped defray the unbearable drama at home.   If I wasn’t rehearsing, I was hanging out in the fire escape, smoking and commiserating with fellow refugees.

“But that day was different, as many were that particular year.  The end of my high school tour of duty was coming and I really didn’t know what awaited me afterward.  Or what I wanted, for that matter.

“So it was fitting that he appear that afternoon, like a portend of things to come, smelling of strange foreign places and trailing an energy that made my scalp tingle.  I was, as usual, killing time and lung cells in the fire escape away from the prying eyes of the department head, when the door swung open and he walked in.  I jumped, thinking I’d been busted and jumped again when I realized it was him.

“I couldn’t speak to him.  I couldn’t be my normal glib self.  Nor could I look him in the eye.  It was too dangerous, more so for me, because I was afraid of my own reaction if I dared.  In a seconds-long exchange, I recognized him.  I was certain I knew him before, but couldn’t remember from where.

“Of course, I didn’t understand any of this until years later, but in that moment I only felt awkward and desperate to conceal the shouting in my head which I was sure he could hear.  He tried to catch my eye, which I refused to meet, and to engage me in small talk.  I pretended not to hear, but he wasn’t dissuaded.  After several rebuffs, he asked me point-blank why I answered every question with a question.

“What could I say?  It wasn’t as if I could tell him that I felt clawed from within, as if something beyond my control was struggling to be freed.  It was enticing and terrifying, like a really fine rollercoaster, one with a resonant voice that reminded me of the drone of a bagpipe echoing over the moor.

“Maybe it was the romantic in me.  Maybe I had reread Brontë novels one too many times.  But I was curiously torn between wanting to lock myself in a dimly lit room with him, and wanting to get as far away as possible from him.  But since I was only seventeen and the former wasn’t an option, I left before embarrassing myself any further.

“I tried not to think about him during the months that followed, but it was difficult.  A door had opened and I couldn’t close it again, no matter how I tried.  The pursuits which contented me before seemed tedious.  I lost patience with the status quo and began to think in real terms of what my future as an adult might look like.  I realized that prior to our chance meeting, I hadn’t really planned anything and the oversight disturbed me.  My friends and family acted as if nothing had changed.  As much as I wanted to find fault and project my woes onto them, I couldn’t.  The sudden wake-up call had been for me, not them.

“It was during the weeks of these deep reflections that I met him again.  His band was playing at the senior prom and I had grudgingly agreed to go with my then-boyfriend who had, not surprisingly, become unbearably predictable in the interim.  I saw my mysterious friend from across the room and knew I was in serious trouble.  I tried to shrink from view and limit my dancing, but he knew I was there.  During a break, he approached me from behind and took my arm.  His fingers burned my skin.

“’Don’t I know you?’ he asked.

“I turned to him, but looked at the floor.  The heat was clawing at me again.  I nodded briefly and hurried away.  Some acknowledgments require more than assent.  They burn you alive.”

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JIMMY THE WONDERSTUD

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by kimmy

leisure-suits (2)

It was after work on a Friday.  I had a ticket to a play and was savoring a martini before curtain when I heard an angry woman vent behind me.

“Wonder is right,” she sniffed.  “It’s a wonder he hasn’t been killed by a jealous husband.”

I turned in the direction of her voice.  Across the crowded room was a fifty-something man dressed in work clothes and boots.  He had a smile like a shark.

“If you only knew how many women he’s slept with, you’d be disgusted… or amazed.”

The only thing that amazed me at the moment was how any woman could have found him appealing.   He was engrossed in conversation with a petite middle-aged blonde with big tits and a beer gut.  The blonde giggled like a teen before taking a swig from a bottle of Bud.

“You only say that because he dumped you.”

“Whaddya mean?  I dumped him, remember?”

“Oh, so you admit to having a fling with him…”

“Well… uh..,”

I heard the slurp of cocktails behind me.  As nonchalantly as I could, I peeped over my own martini to witness the argument.  Two equally frumpy women stared each other down from both ends of the hors d’oeuvres table.  I looked away.  The cheese puffs could wait.

Another perfectly good evening ruined by Jimmy the Wonderstud.  It seemed he was making the rounds that autumn, sending the area housewives into frenzies with his prowess and their husbands into murderous rages.

“… I thought as much!  You don’t want to end up like Tammy, do you?  Her husband is still in Lake County lockup because he can’t make bail.”

“Mike doesn’t know anything about it.”

“He will, if Jimmy posts another sex tape on youtube.”

“I never let Jimmy video us!”

“Yeah, right… just like all the others.”

I tried not to picture the slob across the room in flagrante delicto, but morbid images of shark’s teeth and stretchmarks kept popping up.  I signaled the waitress for another drink.

James “Jimmy” Von Der Stude was a local celebrity, equal parts Lothario and slacker, with a reputation forged during the early days of disco when he cut quite the figure on the dance floor in his leisure suits and an even bigger one off the floor when he was out of them.  A product of strict Dutch upbringing, he rebelled against his parents and partook of all the excess that era offered, including time in federal prison on drug charges.  None of which seemed to dim his appeal with the opposite sex, who allegedly supported him and his nefarious activities for decades.

“You sound a little bitter.  Jealous?”

“Me?  Of course not!  I’m not the one giving him money.”

“Who said I gave him money?”

“All those ATM receipts, that’s who!”

In spite of his notoriety, I had never seen him firsthand until that night. My girlfriends who had had encounters with him would swoon with the memory, but I never believed their tales.  Disco boys seldom made good lovers. But even if their exaggerations were true, it was difficult to reconcile today’s disheveled man with the smooth operator of days past.  I watched him as he steadied the blonde’s drunken swaying and plucked a hotel keycard from her hand.  The shark would be feeding tonight.

“And so what?  After the pleasure he gave me last night, I’d be willing to give him my last nickel!”

“You better ante up more than that if you want to get the jump on Bernice!  She just left with him.”

With that, the ladies watched as Jimmy exited with his evening meal.  I heard the sharp clink of glass as their drinks hit the table and they squared off again.

“If you hadn’t distracted me, I’d be going home with him right now!”

“As if he’d have you…again!  That man never comes back for seconds.”

I paid my bill and left.  I saw a skinny college student waiting near the will-call window and handed him my ticket.   Watching a play now seemed redundant.  I had enough drama for the night.

SHE-DEMON

Posted in fiction, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by kimmy

He hadn’t known him long, but liked his wry sense of humor.  It helped lessen the otherwise suffocating atmosphere at work and made the time confined within the white cubicles more bearable.  It was over their shared wall that he first heard the suggestion that changed his life.

“Why don’t we have a few beers after work?”

They stopped at a local tavern later that afternoon.  A grizzled man was playing the piano accompanied by a sultry vocalist dressed in red.  She seemed out-of-place, like a cabaret singer from the 1960s stuck in a college dive.  It didn’t hinder her performance however, and by evening’s end, he was enchanted.

“You like her?” slurred his buddy.  “I could hook you up, you know…”

After her last set, she joined them at the bar and he knew, despite the beer fog, he was on dangerous ground.  She had a wide, little girl smile and smelled like cinnamon.   His pal lurched to his feet and kissed her directly on the lips.

“My friend here wants to meet you, babygirl…”  He squeezed her for a moment before offering his chair.  “I think he likes you.”

She sat down and looked up at her admirer.  “Is that so?”  Her voice was like a bell.

He took a swig from his bottle before answering.  Maybe his new-found friend was more of a dick than he thought.  He shrugged it off and changed the subject.  Compliments were easier to manage.

“Why, thank you, sir,” she said, a little more coyly than he expected.  “I didn’t think anybody was paying attention to my set list.”

They exchanged opinions about composers and old standards.  She was more intelligent than he’d hoped.  And before the night was over, he secretly planned a return engagement, one that didn’t include his mouthy friend.

“I saw the way you looked at her, bro,” said he, the very next morning.  “You know, I think the two of you would be perfect together.”

He slurped his coffee.  “No, I mean it.  She’s like my little sister and I want to see her happy.  Better you than that douchebag she’s with…”

With that, he sketched a brief synopsis of her life.  Married at eighteen, she was saddled with two worthless children and a dysfunctional husband who spent most of their marriage in rehab and on the dole.  She had a couple of stints as a back-up singer for national acts, but couldn’t spend any time on the road because of the demands of her family.    Eventually she gave up her dream and settled for local shows that paid enough to keep her home out of foreclosure.

The more he heard, the more anxious his inner white knight became.  Rescuing past damsels in distress had not ended well for him, but he itched for the chance to try again.  Besides, he was bored and needed a project.  He agreed to meet privately with her.

Naturally, she was everything and more than he had dreamed: Sensual, articulate, with just a hint of long-suffering that made her irresistible.  Coffee dates were followed by long phone conversations that dragged into the night, complete with sighs and confessions.  Even more exciting were those illicit moments of being alone together, her languid and warm in his arms, wondering if her silk promises would ever manifest.

He often thought about ending the affair.  He tried on several occasions, but was always met with her resolve.

“Don’t break my heart,” she begged.  “Don’t crush me underfoot like a grape.”

So he stayed, hoping rather than believing she’d keep her word and leave her husband.  He even saw the wretched man once or twice, a faded shadowlike man nursing a line of empty shot glasses at the local sports bar, and wondered what would possess her to stay with such a creature.  He listened to her stories of neglect and abuse, each one more horrifying than the next, until his ire rose and he longed to smite her foes.  Even those who resided under her roof.

One morning at work, the phone rang and he knew it was her.  He needed no caller i.d. to warn him that the voice on the other end called with bad news.  He could have scripted it for her:  I’m sorry.  It’s over.  I’m staying with my husband.  I owe it to him.  Goodbye.

He hung up the phone and stared into space.  Another botched quest for the hand of Dulcinea. He should have known better.  This princess preferred the dragon.

The office mail clerk rolled by, dumping a sheaf of envelopes before him.  He opened each one slowly with a silver opener, cutting through the paper like a knife across his throat and poured their white contents across his desk in a heap.

“What the hell are you doing?”

He looked up absently into the face of his cubicle cell-mate peering over the wall.

“What’s with you trying to meddle and bust up her marriage?” he whispered angrily.   “Why you do me like that, bro?  She’s family! She’s got kids and an old man at home who really loves her!”  He looked at him with contempt before sliding behind the wall.  “You’re the douche now….”

He sighed.  It seemed all would-be heroes become villains in the end, so he sold his condo and transferred to San Diego with the hope that his bad luck wouldn’t follow.  The sunny climate suited him and so did the office.  One promotion followed the other until he became regional manager and started travelling.

One trip brought him full circle, back to his hometown and smack into a storm of gossip and suspicion.  He learned that in the months following his transfer, he had garnered an unsavory name as a player and homewrecker.   Calls to old friends and acquaintances went unanswered.  Even his old office drinking buddy avoided him.  He was treated as a visitor and nothing more, as if his previous life never existed.

It was only during the flight home that he realized how he had been outmaneuvered.  Only the ruthless sacrifice others for gain. He smiled sadly to himself, recalling false promises made in the dark. It wasn’t enough that he was misled; he must be assigned the fault as well.

He reclined his seat and gazed at the clouds passing by his port window.  There would be no more quests in his future, for he had finally learned that not all fair maidens play fairly.

HENRY AND THE ANGEL OF DEATH

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2012 by kimmy

When he arrived at the office that morning, there was a customer waiting in his cubicle.  Unusual, considering it was only six-thirty and he had just unlocked the door, but he was used to routine and didn’t even question it.  Instead he apologized because the coffee wasn’t ready.

“I’m not here for coffee, Henry,” said the customer, who didn’t bother to look up when Henry entered and hastily shoved his briefcase and lunchbag under the desk.  “I’ve come to discuss another matter.”

Henry shuffled through the mounds of paper and retrieved his laptop.  He wished he had been better prepared for his first customer of the day, but when he typed in the password for his schedule, the entire day’s caseload was absent.

“You won’t find it,” said the customer.

“Find what?”  The question was cheerful, but mechanical, his usual response when caught off-guard and scrambling for answers.  “I’ll be with you in a jiffy, just as soon as I access your file.”

“I don’t have a file.”

Henry cursed silently.  It seemed his endless lot in life that the morons in the front office habitually assigned him new cases with missing paperwork.

“They didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?”  He wondered how long he could stall for time without appearing the complete idiot.  “I’m sure I have your name and intake forms, sir; I just need to click onto the right screen.”

“My name won’t appear there or anyplace designed by mortal hands.”

Henry looked up and took in his customer’s appearance with a glance before resuming his attempts to login.  Just his luck… a goth.  And probably one who had just left a nightclub, judging by the bags under his eyes.   He made a mental note to add a rider to the medical coverage.

“So, what type of life insurance were you interested in, whole or term?  We have competitive pricing for either,” said Henry.  He slid a few brochures across the table.

“I’m not interested in the preservation of life.  Only in its taking.”

All these emo goth kids were the same, thought Henry.  Always grieving their lives with their black clothes and pale faces.  At least this one didn’t have a nose ring.

“We take it, too, sir,” he said briskly, “our business, that is.  Very seriously.”

The customer slowly rose from his seat with a rustle of black crepe.  “Good.  Then it’s time for you to come with me.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we need to process your application here in the office.    If you need something off-site, I can put in a request for a field agent.  They’ll be happy to accompany you.”

Henry picked up the phone and punched in a few numbers.   No answer.  Those layabouts in the field department rarely showed up before nine.

“That won’t be necessary, Henry.”

“Great!  Then if you don’t mind, please fill out these forms in triplicate and we’ll get started.”  Henry assembled a stack of papers before him, pushing the gilt framed picture of his wife and daughter to the side.  The photograph was missing.

“Make sure you note all your sources of income,” said Henry, already plotting his revenge against the pranksters in marketing.  Swiping his family portrait was really low and required immediate retaliation.

“I have no need of material wealth.”

Henry added a second stack.  “Then you’ll need to list your assets.”

“I have but one but it has separated many an owner from theirs.”  The black-robed customer drew a scythe from the folds of his cloak.

Henry wondered how he managed to smuggle it through security.  The metal detectors must be offline again.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t insure farm equipment.  Have you tried Countrywide?”

“Aye, Henry.  It’s been tried both city and country-wide, but it stops here today.”

He eyed it carefully.  The metal gleamed like silver.  “Maybe we could pass it off as a piece of art.  Has it been appraised?”

“Only by those who stand in Judgment.”

“If they’re experts in the field, their opinion might lend some credibility.  Do you think they’d be willing to write up an appraisal?”

“Willing, perhaps, but now unable.”

“Understood,” said Henry, nodding sympathetically.  Maybe this goth wasn’t so bad.  It seemed he had as little cooperation from his staff as Henry, who was beginning to wonder if anyone from his team was going to show up.  Even the street traffic was strangely quiet for a weekday morning.

He shivered a bit and returned to task.  “Okay, if you’ll just fill these out, Mr…. uh, I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch your name.”

“Nor will you.  It’s known only to the Most High.”

“Did I mention there’s a mandatory drug screening?”

Henry had had enough.  So much for the goth junkie wasting his time.  He shoved the paperwork into an oversized envelope and rattled off mailing instructions.  “… or you can use our website and submit the applications online.  Thanks so much for stopping in, Mister… uh, do stop in again if we can be of service.”  He rose from the desk.  “Allow me to see you out.”

The black-clad figure glided silently at his side and waited patiently when Henry tripped and fell over the corpse near the door.  Samantha, the part-time receptionist was dead.  Her blue eyes were cloudy and unfocused.

“What the…?”  Henry recoiled from the body and scrambled to his feet only to fall again, this time over the bodies of the girls from marketing.  They were heaped like trash in the corridor.

He staggered down the hall, stepping over one lifeless body after another.  Some were draped over cubicle walls.  Others slumped in chairs.  Bodies were strewn down the staircase and into the street.   They were in cars, buses, babystrollers and café tables.  All dead.

Sudden comprehension hit him as quickly as the nausea and he dropped to his knees, retching up his breakfast and gut terror for his family.

“They’re dead, too, Henry, as dead as those you see.  I’ve collected all but you.”

His eyes snapped up, waiting for the blade, but then turned slowly downward.  Tears mingled with the bile on his cheek and he wiped them with a sleeve.  His little girl… did he remember to kiss her goodbye that morning?  His wife, friends, family… all gone.  What was the point in living anymore?

“Strike me down, Reaper, or whatever you are,” said Henry quietly.  “I’m ready.”

“Ah, that I won’t do.”

“What do you mean no?  You said I’m the last to go, so take me!”

“I cannot.”

“You’re just going to leave me here?

“So it seems.”

To be left alone with this horror was worse than death.  Henry snatched up the scythe and plunged its sharp end into his belly, waiting for the blood and pain to sweep him away.

Nothing happened.

He looked down at his shirt, but it was pristine, as crisp as when he took it from the closet.  The scythe lay at his feet, the blade clean and shining.

“As I said, it will not be done.”   The dark one picked up his weapon and slipped it into his robe.  “That which has never lived cannot be killed.”

IGNITION

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , on January 21, 2012 by kimmy
 
 
 
Fire that rages without consuming its host
Stinging each nerve until sleep is impossible
And judgment crumbles into gray ash,
It burns me now.
And no matter how fast I run
The flames are faster.
They lick at my skin and crawl
Up my legs
Melting muscle off bone
And desire away from reason
Until there’s nothing left
But pulsation
That won’t stop thumping inside my ears
And between the stems that failed
To carry me away
From the danger in your eyes
And the poison on your lips.
Now I can’t move
For your hand reached for mine,
Your fingers laced between,
And the ember once forgotten
Gathered strength and
Smothered my resolve.
 
 
 

LONE TREE ENTRANCE

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by kimmy

It was the big tree that caught my eye.  Sitting in the middle of nowhere, easy to spot on the flat prairie, but in full leaf like an invitation.

So I accepted.

I turned off the county road and drove the rutted lane to the top of the rise, turned off the engine and surveyed my domain:  Corn on the left, soybeans on the right and a huge sky above them both.

I sat down, resting against the trunk and looked up into the green canopy.  How many others had done the same?  Or did they pass it by, hurrying down the road without a second thought.

It was during this reverie that I heard it for the first time.  Funny how I hadn’t noticed it before.  Humming.  And it seemed to be coming from the tree.

I jumped, thinking a beehive nearby, but closer inspection revealed none.  I circled the tree more slowly, alert to any change in the sound’s strange timbre and found myself reaching toward old graffiti cut into the bark:

                                                “H.D.   1887”

No sooner had my finger traced the last number when the ground gave way and I dropped into a brick-lined tunnel that angled downward and shot me a good 500 yards from where I had stood.  I rolled to a stop in front of a wooden door, painted red like a barn.

Maybe I should have turned around and crawled back through the tunnel.  Maybe I should have asked myself how I could see the color of the door without any ambient light.  Maybe I should have wondered why anyone would build such a structure.  I should have done any of these, but I didn’t.  I just couldn’t resist taking a peek behind the door.

So I looked.

Clearly I wasn’t devoured by monsters because I lived to tell my tale.  But what I saw… and what I did once I stepped across the threshold, I’m not at liberty to discuss.  What I can tell you is this:  If you drive the isolated stretch on County Road 9 and spot the lone tree, ignore its invitation.

AN UNSCHEDULED REWRITE

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2011 by kimmy

She winds her hands in his hair, long argent strands curling around her fingers .  The smell of tobacco and mint drifts from his lips.  What are you thinking about, he asks.  Don’t you know?   Strange how the sea cannot fathom the heart.

“CUT!!”  The director threw the script to the floor.  “What kind of dreck is this?” he bellowed.  “Get me the screenwriter!” 

His assistant scuttled to the door, making frantic motions with his arm until a slumped shouldered woman with tired eyes appeared and lowered it to his side.

“You called for me, Chief?”  She shuffled across the soundstage and pulled a battered laptop from her satchel.

“You call this passion?” he said, kicking the script her way.  “How can I make the audience pant when you don’t give me any heat?  Jesse!!” 

The assistant crept out from behind him.  “Gimme one of your Vicodin; I got a migraine”.  He swiped the pill from the assistant’s trembling hand, and washed it down with the last dregs of coffee in his mug. 

“Listen up, people, we got 6 hours to pull this together or we don’t make deadline!  And you two…” he said, glaring at the actors on the set bed, “at least try to look like you’re interested.  You’re actors for chrissakes…”

The writer raised the lid and began typing…

She rakes her fingers through his hair, long silken hanks that brush her face and curtain them off from the rest of the world.  She inhales deeply before looking into his eyes, searching for meaning within still tidal pools.  What are you thinking about, he whispers.  How much I love you.

“CUT!!!  No, no, NO!!  Not rom-com cornball bullshit!”

Again the script flew through the air and the hapless assistant scuttled to find the writer.  “If I had a bigger budget, I could have hired someone with talent, who knows what I want!  But, noooo… I’m stuck with a literature geek from Hyde Park! JESSE!!”

Jesse sprinted to his side. “Get on the phone and track down that writer from Vivid.”

“But, sir,” squeaked Jesse, iPhone in hand, “he writes porn.”  

“I don’t care if he’s a goddamn porn writer, at least he can write heat!!” The director leaned back into his chair and mumbled under his breath. “… two SAG nominations and now this… If that woman doesn’t torpedo my career, I don’t know what will.”

The writer stepped forward from the group standing paralyzed off-set.  They watched silently as she padded up to the director and opened her computer. 

“You sent for me, Chief?”

He turned with some effort to face her.   “Did I or did I not tell you that this is not a film for women?” asked he through clenched teeth.  “I don’t care about the psyche of this character, or any like her.  This is a man’s film.  It’s not even important that she thinks at all, only that she’s ready to go.  Got it?”

“Got it, Chief.”  

The director dismissed her with a wave and called for a twenty minute break.  The set was immediately abandoned as cast and crew fled outside to smoke and worry.   The writer sat quietly in the silence, recollecting her memories and tapping them onto the keyboard…

She twines her fingers through his hair, still damp from the shower.  He’ll need another one before she sends him home, damper still with sweat and longing.    What are you thinking about, he growls. There’s an off-shore storm roiling in his eyes.  How much I want you.

“Cut!  Print!”  The director’s shoulders sagged, but there was a trace of smile across his thin lips.  “There!” he said contentedly.   “Now was that so hard to do?

The writer shrugged and closed her computer.  Harder than you’ll ever know.