3WW CCXLVIII "Gaze"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are bump, knuckle and transfix. Busy, busy, busy this week, so I tapped out a drabble, 100 words, no more, no less.

Gaze
The dress is tight, neon blue, expensive.

The cane is medical surplus, gray aluminum, battered.

Passengers bump and nudge her and her eyes have the glow of tears, a hint of a storm to come.
It’s not the jostling that’s causing her grief. She scans the passengers, sits transfixed on a face in the crowded car.

He’s older, bent from the years. He carries a cane, too. Dark-skinned, just like her.

She signs, digs a thumb into her eye. Shudders. The tears don’t come.

She grips the cane, turning her knuckles shades of caramel.

He doesn’t return her gaze.

3WW CCXLVI "Suspended In Her Animation"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are gag, maintain and omit.

Suspended in Her Animation

Pinky out, he swirled the wooden stir-stick through the venti paper cup of coffee, where he had deposited two shakes of cinnamon, one of nutmeg, a healthy dollop of half-and-half and two packets of Sugar in the Raw.

This, he thought, cut the bitterness of the beverage and added some nobility; a higherness, without squirts of hazelnut or mocha flavoring, whipping cream or frothed milk (skim or whole). It was best, he figured, to omit any added pretentiousness.

She opted for a tall pumpkin-spice latte, skim, no whip. There was simply no need, she thought, for all those extra calories.

The couch was taken by a overweight bag lady with dyed hair, the color of the last layer of a Bomb Pop popsicle. Blueberry, but more electric, sassy. She wore her hair in a bob, which only helped give scale to the rest of her impressive girth.

She read from a paperback novel and had stationed herself perfectly in the center of the three-cushion couch. Between page turns, she snuck greasy-finger bites of something in Tupperware, cleverly camouflaged within a crochet muffler the color of dried dog turds.

The wingback chairs, although not quite as comfortable as the purple velvet couch, did offer some cover and distance from the hefty, aromatic woman, the direction of which the man was certain he detected (with a slight gag-reflex) the heavy ammonia pungency of cat urine.

They didn’t actually settle into the chairs before she burst into a rapid-fire verbal assault in “that tone” of hers. The one where she gets all excited and the decibel level tends to rise with the pitch, until he has to tell her that he can’t understand a single goddamn thing she’s saying. It all becomes one screaming, high-pitched whine. Like a turbine jet engine.

“Christ, what do you mean you’re sad, get a grip we’re all fucking sad. Just because you’ve had a year – ”

“It’s been more than a year – ”

“Fine, more than a year of setbacks and hardships doesn’t mean you’ve got any more reason to be like this. I mean, seriously. There’s a reason you’re here – ”

“Stuck here – ”

“You’re far from stuck here, mister. And maybe you’re supposed to be here – for Brooke, for whatever – for the time being. I just think there’s something you haven’t done here, karma and all that. Just because it might happen to suck for you right now doesn’t mean you have to be all dramatic about it.”

She drew forward in the chair, crossed her legs and took a draw on her holiday latte, the upsale of which the barista’s secretly high-fived one-another in hushed tones as the couple walked through the cafĂ© toward the lounge.

He blessed this momentary peace and took a draw of his own coffee, which he maintained was just about a perfect combination and concoction of breakfast beverage he’d mixed all week. He felt empowered by its goodness.

“Let me tell you about my friend, Liza, whose got this amazing story.”

“Please don’t.”

“Hush and listen, will you? It’s a good point. You need to hear this.”

She was on a roll. There was no escape. He settled his shoulders into the print fabric of the chair, took another healthy sip of coffee, licked his lips and smiled. He set the cup on the delicate side table, held out his hands, palms up, and gave a single nod.

“OK, so Liza was the person who designed the Phillips building in San Francisco, right? Completely her design, like this whole Earth-friendly, eco, cool-as-shit building, ground-up sprang from her head. Fucking amazing, I’m telling you. She gets it done and everyone’s really impressed and it’s beautiful and she’s happy and proud that she’s done such a thing. And she got laid off. Laid off, as in out of a fucking job.

“Instead of moping around in her apartment, unwashed hair and walking around in just a T-shirt and panties, she decides what she really wants is to move to New York. She’s grown up, all her life in the Bay Area and now she’s really sick of it. Sick of the fog and the weather and the fucking dicks at Phillips who just dumped her on her ass. New York is where she wants to be, she’ll do anything to get there – and does. She sends resumes, she makes phone calls, emails, posts her resume all over the place, all to get to New York, she’s so obsessed about it. For a year she tries. She’s using the last little bit of her severance, because all she wants to do is be in New York, but nothing is happening.”

“Uh-huh.”

“So she’s in a Fair Trade juice bar in Berkeley and there’s a Brazilian window washer out front – he’s this Spanish God – and she goes out and gives him her card. Just up and gives him her card, with her number on it. Just because. Fuck it, gives him the card, tells him to call. Well, mister, that one moment of boldness just about changed her whole freaking life.

“Now she’s the lead architect of all the Fair Trades – and get this, she’d doing it from New York. And she’s dating this totally hot Spanish God, Rolando, and she’s living the dream. A fucking amazing dream where she has it all. She’s got her dream job. She’s got her dream man. She fucking has it all, because she was patient and waited and didn’t get discouraged or anything.”

“And this has something to do with my situation how?”

“Have you not been listening? Jeez, you have to be patient! Listen up! You’ll get there and it’ll be amazing and brilliant and you’ll be so happy that you can’t even stand it!”

His coffee had grown cold. And his head had begun to throb, temple to temple in dull ripples of pain. His pressed his hands into fists and rubbed the underside of his nose with an index finger and stared at her intently. He sighed, and from beneath the fists, proclaimed:

“I’ll give it a little more time.”

3WW CCXLV, "Executive Washroom"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are grip, prefer and thread.

Executive Washroom

“Jesus, Stafford, get a fucking grip.”

It came out like a plea, or maybe a prayer. High and tinny. And it echoed. Get a grip. Loud and clear.

The echo was caused by the now-floor-to-ceiling marble panels and solid, dark-wood stall doors, which also went to the floor and ended eight feet up. A little bathroom design detail ushered in when a senior partner went trolling for action next to an impressionable young intern, who was considerably unimpressed when the senior partner’s left shoe, a buttery brown loafer that retailed in the $500 range (per pair), came invading his personal space and the old man’s suave and deep baritone whispered, “Cock, honey?”

The intern, something of a homophobe and unabashedly well-connected, had reported the incident – and the closeted queen in hand-tailored wool suits – to the company president, his uncle.

The senior partner went on an extended vacation, claiming “undue stress due to market volatility,” the washroom was closed, remodeled and re-opened in three business days and the intern got an office, not a corner office, mind you, but it did have window. 

The thread running though all of this, Stafford mused, was his new role in all this recent upheaval. Sure, Mr. Senior Partner had played grab-ass with him a few times, and twice in a crowded elevator the queen initiated his swashbuckler impersonation – his erection poking Stafford in the thigh for 64 uncomfortable floors. But it wasn’t like he’d been deflowered or anything.

Stafford put up with it because the senior partner once had pull, and Stafford had unwittingly hooked his wagon to the putz when he was first hired, a mistake he truly regretted, but lived with, just the same.

“I mean, have you seen the job market lately?” Stafford whispered. This time, just an echoed plea.

No, Stafford preferred his shitty job, and thus his now-stalled station in life, to an ever-rotating series of couches in the city, wearing out welcomes while trying to catch on somewhere else, even though he knew the rumors were already out there, all unfounded, but damaging none-the-less.

Better to have your ass grabbed than couch surf. It was a motto he lived by, but never once uttered aloud.

The intern, fresh off one serious victory, decided that Senior Queen and Stafford had been a bit too chummy and set about to get another queer ousted.

“Hey, fag,” the intern injected one day at the urinals, a sneering whisper. “Even try and look at my junk and I’ll get you fired, too.”

The attacks had escalated, and then the rumors started. Stafford could now clear out not only the executive washroom, but the men’s locker room at the company’s ground-floor fitness center.

Stafford, well, he had had enough.

He kept turning the plastic bottle in his hands, making sure the cap was screwed on tight, even though it was empty. He had his trousers pulled down to mid-thigh, even though the stalls were impervious to any sort of view. Stafford thought it best to keep up appearances.

He had been waiting there for 20 minutes now, and his thighs where asleep where his ass contacted the porcelain, but yet he waited. Patiently.

Soon, the washroom would be filled with the kind of chaos you can only dream up at 3 a.m., after a vodka bender with your best friend, who was something of an amateur chemical engineer and malcontent hippy anarchist.

Since, up until a half-hour ago, the plastic bottle had contained 6 ounces of liquid PCP and the pulverized remnants of 80, 100mg doses of Viagra, suspended in solution.

Stafford had dumped the whole lot into the water cooler in the main conference room, and just before everyone had gathered to celebrate the intern’s ascension to permanent employment, overseeing Senior Queen’s accounts – and his underlings, too.

OneWord, "Beloved"

Sixty seconds and a cloud of words. That's OneWord, a writers' prompt that has helped me focus my writing.

Today's word? "Beloved."

He offered a toast to his beloved, but she sat there, silent. He raised his glass again, a vintage Bordeaux, and still she did not respond.
He hung his head. His clothes were in tatter. Long, yellowed fingernails scraped across the table, leaving clean tracks in the dust. He called for her to answer his calls for love.
She remained silent.
Slumped as she was in the chair, long dead and decayed.

Meme, On Writing

I’ve been tagged by Tony Noland, and East Coast writer and author of “Blood Picnic & Other Stories,” with a meme.

And that prompt is, “What does writing mean to you?”

If I were to say writing is an escape, I would be lying. Profusely.

When I begin to string words together, it’s like a first breath, the first time you’re aware of the blood rushing through your body when it’s all quiet and you can hear the flow through your ears. Whether that string was started as a scribbled idea in a notebook in the dark at 3 a.m. or from a writer’s prompt site, there’s that first rush of adrenaline, when you don’t know exactly where the words will take you (or the reader).

Sometimes, these words take me to a place that’s dark and disturbing. Sometimes (but not too often), they go someplace light and hopeful.

But always, the words begin to build and then there’s a terminus and you’ve got a short piece of fiction. You read it over. You choose better words. You fiddle with facts and add whimsy. Paint it a little darker here. Throw in a laugh.

Writing challenges me like no other thing in my life. Used to be, my greatest fear was losing an appendage, like a hand or a leg. Then I watched as my father went through a surgery the amputated his right foot, mid-calf. Doctors fitted him with a prosthetic leg and told him to stand up and walk. To their disbelief, he did just that.

I can now survive a prosthesis, because of the strength of my father’s resolve.

But waking up one day and not knowing how to string words together, well now that scares me right down to my soul.

Writing allows me to look at the world a certain way and report back on it to others. It’s the storytelling that most excites me. It’s like trying to paint a picture with words, so people who read know exactly what they’re looking at, without the benefit of the visual, the rod-and-cone sensation of the eyes.

I write because I have to; there’s really nothing out there, no other job, that has captured my attention, my heart, like stringing words together. I do it for me (writers are a selfish, self-centered lot), but I do it because it feels so natural.

So me.

It is never easy. There are frustrations and self-doubt and some self-loathing, too. But you continue to do it, because it’s just like breathing.

And writing takes you to anywhere you dare go.


3WW CCXLIV, "Rapture"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are alter, fond and tranquil. Something short, and not so sweet.

Rapture
That he had been in-utero during the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed to taint Tony Breslauer’s future life as something of a worrywart and a fine purveyor of  the macabre.

Not in a convention sense, however. No, Breslauer was tranquil as a Hindu cow on the outside, like he always had been. This included an idyllic childhood where he successfully learned to ride a bike without a fall, was elected eighth-grade class president (nobody else ran against him) and attending his senior prom with one of the junior class’ most popular your ladies, Jill Gallagher (he even managed to get to second base, fully holding Gallagher’s tiny A-cup breasts in both his palms like a man offering fruit to a crowd).

He couldn’t really say if his college education laid the groundwork for the awakening, what he termed his “altered state,” where he could finally see life for what it truly was – a twisted, burning car wreck in agonizingly slow motion. But that’s where he first practiced his art, which is what he called it, and everything went so very fine and he didn’t get caught and so many got hurt.

It was therapeutic. It was a calling.

Breslauer was fond of saying - and only to himself in the dark, the sheets pulled tight against his chin in balled-up fists – that the time was ripe to speed up the ruin and bring about something of a rapture.

Not The Rapture, of course, that was for the true believers and he was pretty sure he’d be one of the wicked left behind to burn for their sins anyway.

No, Tony Breslauer wished for a euphoric state of blood-red murder, screams, the look of horror screwed onto every face in every corner of the world.

Oh, he was doing his part. Not everyday, of course, that’s how you get caught doing the sort of nefarious things he was known to accomplish.

No, Tony Breslauer hunted selectively, within his own demographic: Single, white, successful, fearful.

“Business is so very good,” Breslauer said, flipping the plastic visor down on the motorcycle helmet he wore as he commenced to run a hacksaw through this middle-aged-man’s ankle bones.

3WW CCXLIII, "Killer Sex"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are erratic, luminous and omen.

Killer Sex

He watches faint light and shadows from passing traffic crawl across the ceiling in the dark, his night vision cut each time she takes a new drag on her cigarette, its smoldering end blossoming, luminous.

Her head rests on his shoulder, right on the bone, and his arm has gone numb to the fingers. The discomfort gives Mark Travers something else to think about, other than the ragged little hole just below the ribs, where the .25-caliber bullet went through and lodged somewhere, probably the liver, he thinks.

Danielle DeMente’s breath comes and goes in erratic gulps. He listens to the cadence and she seems to be winding down. He can’t see it, not from this angle, but his fountain pen is lodged between her ribs and he’s pretty sure he’s perforated Danielle’s pericardium.

Mark coughs once, twice and winces through the pain. Danielle repositions herself back into his shoulder, sighs between puffs.

He should have seen this moment coming. The argument was over nothing, really, the usual stuff. Mark didn’t listen to her and that made Danielle feel small somehow. Mark countered, like he always did, throwing back into Danielle’s face the infidelity, even if it was a year ago, and not much of an affair. She’d kissed a guy at the bar on a bet, a bet Mark had made with her, and he still wasn’t over it.

Their lovemaking began with trading slaps to the face, progresses, ripped clothing, crescendo, orgasm(s), now this. Waiting out the inevitable in the dark.

Looking back, Mark sees it as an omen, the slaps. The sex took on a frenetic energy that he can’t remember it ever taking. Danielle becomes a beast, rough, pulling hair and pinching his nipples. She bucks against him, straddles him, takes  him brusquely by both hand and shoves him into her.

Mark feeds off her, grabbing her rough by her auburn hair, taking great handfuls of curls and bends her face to the bed, flipping Danielle over and taking her from behind, knowing its her least favorite position. From this angle, he sticks a thumb where she least expects it and she howls, animalistic.

Danielle fights, kicks and Mark falls backward onto the bed. She jumps off, turns his slick chrome-and-leather desk chair around and points. Mark gets up pushes her back with both hands to her shoulders and sits. Danielle hits him, a punch that splits his lip. Though the searing pain, he feels her thighs begin to slide damp against his. She rises, falls onto him like she’s falling on a sword.

Mark hears the shot and before he can react he’s consumed with waves of his orgasm. He’s still feeling bursts of pleasure when his fingers touch his Mont Blanc. He wraps his hand around it and plunges the silver tip into Danielle’s chest.

She drops the gun and takes handfuls of his hair and brings her face close into his. He watches her cum, watches greedily in the reflection of her tear-streaked eyes.

Everything becomes quiet, except for their ragged breath. Mark gets up from the chair and Danielle laces her fingers together around his neck and they rise together and thus fall back onto bed. He slides his way up and puts his head on a pillow. She takes up her place on his shoulder and lights a cigarette.

“Once in a lifetime,” Danielle says in a whisper, her head turning ever so slightly to the left. A final wet breath escapes.

“Funny,” Mark says to the ceiling. “That’s exactly what I was going to say.”