It is a worrisome tension in the chest that is caused by a bill that must be remitted late or a letter from someone important that has not arrived as hoped for. Sometimes it is an awaited test result or a call that never comes. Everyone experiences angst of the soul, the mental mismanagement of the not yet materialized – whether it be good, bad or somehow tied to a hopelessly desired pending outcome. While this feeling has become my normal state, I’m surprised I’m still alive. We care for my octogenarian in-laws, and I suspect that they shall outlive me.
I jumped out a window.
I followed Emily into the bedroom. She opened a window, took her bible from the night stand and told me she wasn’t feeling well.
I remained awake watching Emily. My heart broke as she smiled at me one last time.
Ellen , and her husband George arrived. Ellen weeping kept calling out,” Grand ma !”.
George phoned a funeral home and after assuring Ellen that everything was taken care of he looked at me.
“I’ll take the dog to the pound,” George said.
I jumped out the window and ran away, into the woods .
I miss my Emily.
This was not the best day Allan had ever had. He’d been up half the night resolving a reconciliation issue in Australia, and he was tired. Definitely not in the mood for Ms. Quackenbouche. It wasn’t her real name, but it certainly described her. And here she was, standing at his desk, quacking away, her tiny body nearly airborne with agitation.
“I can’t believe it! They wrote the software, and they don’t understand it!”she yelled. Chris glanced over at The Editor, envying that she, at least, could visibly wince. He would have to content himself with that bit of empathy.
Ray and Tom eyed each other above their poker hands. It was the last game of the final match, with a huge trip and money at stake.
“Two cards,” Ray stated, replacing some in his hand. His expression revealed nothing.
“Three cards,” Tom said. Internally, he jumped for joy when he saw his hand.
The betting finished with thousands of dollars, the highest amount yet. Tom showed his straight flush, smiling. But his jaw dropped when Ray revealed his royal flush.
They shook hands, Ray collecting his money. “I’ll send a postcard from Pluto,” Ray promised. Tom sat motionless, stunned.
My mother told me to turn over a new leaf and stop being such a slob. My daughter told me that the car jerks when I put on the brakes. My niece told me that someone had popped her cherry. My counseling professor told me that I was the most evasive person he had ever met. My ex-best friend told me that I was a cynic. My son told me that when he was 11 years old, he would drive my car around the neighborhood in the middle of the night. My husband told me that I can’t take criticism.
The humidity was not her friend – at least not when it came to her hair. The warm, damp atmosphere had created a halo of frizz around her head. She looked as if she’d stuck a finger in an electrical socket.
“Ooh,” her manager winced. “Bad hair day?”
She nodded. “You bet. I’m not really rocking the curls at the moment.”
Trouble was, she was booked in for a shampoo ad. The product in question was meant to give you thick, glossy locks.
She sighed, and passed her phone across to her manager.
“Better call Becky with the good hair.”
Beth’s Olympic hexathlon medal chances hung in the balance. Four disciplines had gone well: hoovering, cooking, clothes-washing, a PB in bed-making. Ironing, though, was her weakness. The Russians could iron shirts in four minutes – doping rumours were rife. She’d need a sensational performance to stay in touch.
Seven disastrous minutes later, she was wiping tears from her eyes. Trouble with collars had set her back to seventh place overall. Her faint hopes depended on an outstanding school run.
Beth woke up sweating: her alarm read 5.15 a.m.. Turning over, she tried to sleep, knowing it would all start again in just 90 minutes.
“He broke in and robbed us, Detective, and shot Jerry.”
The poker players were interrogated for several hours about the murder and robbery and then allowed to leave.
“Wow, Clyde, pretty scary card game. I guess now you’ll never have to pay back all that money you owed Jerry.”
“That’s what I was counting on.”
“You mean you set this up? How?”
“Internet. The payment was all the money on the table.”
“How’d he know who to kill?”
“I stacked the deck. Told him to look at the hands the players were holding.”
“What was Jerry holding?”
“Aces and eights.”*
*Aces and eights are known as The Dead Man’s Hand because those were the cards held by James Butler Hickok (better known as "Wild Bill" Hickok) when he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall on August 2, 1876
The hope is that your voice can come up from the pit louder than the whisper of the thoughts that brought you down there.
"Follow my voice,” she'll say.
I’ll answer, "Follow you anywhere."
It'll look like a silent film, and I'll hold a bottle of liquor—written on the side: “XXX.”
Using the prop, I'll attempt to dig towards the sound of her voice.
She’d tell me, "We're not magnificent, you know?”
"I know,” I’ll say. “But I thought we were."
The earth will stain my knuckles black.
I’ll drink with exaggerated movements, just like a silent actor—undercranked.
My piano teacher says I’m his most advanced pupil. Such lavish praise feeds my egotism—I feel lightheaded whenever I think of it. My fingertips on those ivory keys—how I soar, transcend, mold my mundane existence into eternal form—yet I’m not so intoxicated I’ve lost the necessary discipline. And besides spirits, ladies seek to distract me from my higher purpose. I’ve made a commitment to music from which there’s no retreat. Never again will dissipation lure me from my vocation. But I ramble. Let me sign off. I hope to hear from you soon.
I write you on the sly since Mitchell wouldn’t approve. Your progress with the piano staggers me. I’m very happy for you. I recall when you were limited to plunking out painful arpeggios on pianos of dubious merit.
To change the subject, I’ve been feeling unfeminine lately due to a perceived change in the attitudes of those around me. The one time I felt truly feminine was when dancing years ago in a discotheque—a stranger touched my waist on the way to the dance floor and my dress collapsed far in, revealing a deep curve.
I tripped and fell on the cement. Something had to give from a hit that hard, and it wasn’t going to be the sidewalk. My right dominant hand was fractured, and more specifically, two of my carpal bones. So now, my injured hand fumbles along encumbered by its fiberglass cast prison making beds, picking up everyone’s messes and attempting to pencil on eyebrows that look like mismatched McDonalds’ arches. It is not pretty. Six long weeks must be endured until I get the full use of my hand back. Is it possible that I was meant to become fully ambidextrous?
The biopsies made Sheri’s mind rage. From all the jabbing and sticking, she had little bumps of scar tissue all around her hyoid bone where (if she were a guy) her Adam’s apple would be -- but still no diagnosis. This time they were going to do a core-sample biopsy. She felt like a slab of concrete or an archeological dig. They gave her laughing gas that made her fly around without the plane. Then there was the usual 10-day wait and finally the truth: It was cancer. What she would have given for another week of ignorance.
I can judge this only by looking that them, but I think you almost certainly have the most kissable lips I have ever seen. They look soft and your bottom one hangs out from below the top one slightly in a way that is so graceful and delicate that it fills me with an immense desire to kiss it—and bite it a little. They are always of the correct moisture too; they are never dry nor too wet. They seem to have that perfect amount which makes them look radiant and healthy. Desperately, I want to kiss your lips.
I remember well... your mum Kathy and me, we decided to hitch-hike across the States... we didn’t have much back then but we laughed... we were happy and in love.
We only had enough to buy cigarettes, and great pies from a shop called Wagners... still remember them... hitch-hiking was hard, though... took days to get from Saginaw to Pittsburgh... had to take Greyhound for the last part... we tried guessing what the other passengers did... somebody was a spy...
The other thing was all the cars on the Turnpike, even then... nothing changes...
If only Kathy were still around...
“Sadie, you never tweet!” Zelda said, red strands bobbing.
Sadie smiled slightly. “True – I don’t,” she said.
“Why not?” Zelda said, speeding up her speedwalking just a touch.
Sadie exhaled hard. “It just doesn’t occur to me,” she said. “I’ll tweet if I see an article I like.”
“You really should tweet more,” Zelda pressed.
“Too much brainwork,” Sadie said “When I take a break, I don’t want to think – I want to cool out. So I go to Facebook and see if someone’s online for a chat.”
Sadie huffed, catching her breath. Zelda was really pushing the pace today.
Alice was tediously trying to finish the conclusion to her novel. The story was solid, generally speaking, but lacked a compelling final section. She'd been working for hours, but couldn't nail it.
Then, it hit her. Furiously, she pounded the keyboard, and marveled at her masterpiece. She stroked her cat in her lap with joy.
The cat let out a huge yawn and stretched its paws, inadvertently hitting the keyboard. Alice's masterful conclusion vanished. Her eyes bugging, she screamed bloody murder.
Terrified, the cat hightailed it out of the room. Coincidental disappearance? Alice doubted it. Sighing, she returned to writing.
Beth woke up and looked at the dresser’s feet. The mattress lay on the floor. She nudged Buzzy.
“I’m awake, Beth.”
“Buzz, why do you think we’re still together?”
“I’ll tell you why.”
“Because we’re both losers.”
“Oh, that’s really sweet, Buzz.”
“The truth hurts, doesn’t it?”
“I’m not playing this game anymore.”
Buzzy watched her push herself up and walk to the chair. She pulled on her t-shirt, jeans, and sandals. She looked great, but he didn’t care anymore. He heard her moving down the hall to the bathroom. He was hoping she’d make the first move.
“And I said to him, well, y’know…”
No. I don’t know. That’s why you’re telling me. Angie stifled her irritation. Louise was her oldest friend, but she abused that friendship with frequent phone calls, where she moaned about her husband.
Angie hated the phrase “you know”. Louise’s sentences could contain at least three “you knows”. Slow your speech down, she wanted to yell. Think about what you’re saying!
Alternatively, Louise could ask after Angie. How are you? How’s your day been? Did that chap you like come into the café today, and did he smile at you?
She never did.
“Just live for today. Life’s too short. Enjoy every day as if it were your last. Eat, drink, and be merry …”
Arlene sighed and wondered if her neighbor ever ran out of trite expressions.
“You’re spending too much time at home. When are you going back to work?”
“When I’m feeling a little stronger, Mrs. K.”
The following week, Mrs. Kline and her advice were back. This time, Arlene’s sister, Jean, answered the door.
“Just here to buck up your sister.”
“You’re too late. She’s gone.”
“Where’d she go?”
“Hopefully, to heaven. It was cancer. She died this morning.”
After weeks of precise planning and casing the joint, they were ready. Each aged 91, nobody would suspect them.
After making their way rapidly to their target, they filled their pockets with free pencils and measuring tapes. Then greed got the better of them. Heading for the exit, Annika saw a Knippe, couldn’t resist the temptation, and insisted Henrik smuggle it out. They moved unchallenged through the checkout and outside into the evening air – they had made it!
Suddenly from behind, came a voice: the security guard.
“Excuse me, sir, why is there a coat-stand sticking out of your coat?”
She awoke to the hangover of new motherhood. This tiny parcel on her chest weighed as heavily as her guilt at falling asleep on the sofa. As if still joined to her, he sensed her wakefulness and stirred. With circling fingers, she smoothed the black hair on his marshmallow temple. His milky breath stole her senses. Through the patio doors and beyond the wild garden, a flashlight blinked on and off. She focused her gritty eyes on the language of the light. He clutched her finger and settled to sleep as she translated its message.
“Mom we forgot Kitty in your closet”. I said.
“We’ll return tomorrow once it beats them all”. Mom responded.
I was so excited! That August 1974 morning, Turkish airplanes were flying over the sky of Cyprus bombing the city of Famagusta.
What a game!
I was five.
Today, the only return path is my mother’s wrinkles; an ironic game of life, of perseverance.
My father is working endlessly to forget.
I guess my son gave the answer!
“Dad, grandma shouldn’t have locked it in her closet. Your kite could fly in the sky and beat them all”.
She was a bit of an airhead, sometimes with embarrassing consequences, like the time she was walking along and saw someone she knew and was getting ready to say hello, when her mind flipped to the word ‘yes’favoured by locals, and what came out of her mouth was “Yellow.” She was mortified, and a few days later doubly so, when she was walking along singing an old Beatles song in her head, when a man she knew approached and she said, “I love you.” The man walked on bemused, while she stood there wishing the ground would swallow her up.
After flirting at work they met for lunch. Friday night at dinner they rambled on about the job and the people who worked there. They ended up at her place and performed as many deeds as two people can reasonably undertake and accomplish. But neither felt the intimacy that arises after a willing sharing of personal details—neither felt a mutual future existed. No, they failed to talk about things that mattered—stories of their lives—best and worst of their biographies; how they interpreted the events they’d encountered; their family dramas—those things that meant they’d become special friends.
Big rain came the day she left. I woke to it clattering on the corrugated roof, and saw that she had gone. It split us down the middle, this departure, and for one half moon a stranger took up residence in our home, drowning out the tight silence at the dinner table, as we struggled to down
sad mouthfuls of food, and punctuating our meagre dreams with a white fury of water. It was a time of noise and fitfulness, simple things became hard, like swallowing and sleeping with this persistent alien thunder at the dry banquet of our grief.