Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Stepford MILF's

When I was ten I climbed an old wooden water tower, my body tingling the whole time.  The higher I went the worse it became, the vibration inside me, a resonance in the blood pressing each red cell. As I made it over the crown the sensation sunk.  My hands felt like they had been covered by thousands of tiny sensitive barbs. It was like a new sense, a super texture. I almost questioned whether things I touched would stick like Velcro. Sweat dewed my palms and I lay on the shake roof warmed like a trivet. This feeling of fear wasn't part of reason, I couldn't communicate with it. My body wanted vibrate away, break frequency and slip magically between invisible curtains of space. This I decided was instinct.  I crawled on my belly to the edge of the roof and hung my head and neck over the lip. In the cistern beneath me a hundred dead sparrows sank drowned while in the corners of joists others made nests, passing like smoke from a single hole on the far side of the tower. I think about it now and can say I was right; nothing would have had me that day, despite instinct. I Ignored it and found glory.  Now in Danny's science room I reached out and pressed the flat of my unfolded buzzing hand over the chalk scrawled schematic as if expecting a subtle heat. The drawing was of me, exploded like a machine shop manual. I smeared off the face as instinct came back.
"Hello Mrs. Gerardi."
Mauve Bench the stood in the science room doorway looking at me with a quizzical glare. Her hair always up, was now down, she'd parted it neatly down the middle and it fell over her shoulders in loose thick skeins.
"Hello, Mauve. I was wondering what... " I paused the spit rising in my mouth. It wouldn't
matter what lie I had come up with the thing in front of me was no longer Mauve Bench. She walked over to her desk and sat on the edge. I stepped around the back, leaning against the first in a row of small desks. The name carved on the into the Formica finish was Tucker Spatz.
"Janice you know well enough there's no school on Saturday. You were a kid right?" Mauve said in a sweet transplanted Carolina accent.
"We had an appointment."
"Oh, sure." Mauve said her hand gliding down the side of her desk.
"I wanted to talk about Danny. I'm afraid we're going to be leaving. Today. He's not fitting in and I don't necessarily love the place. We're moving back to the city. Today. Connecticut's nice but it's not working out." I was pleading, I knew I was. Trying to connect with the heart of a machine or the crusted soul of the wizard behind it; however he'd linked himself in. Just let me leave Tucker I wanted to say but couldn't find faith in myself to do it in case I'd been wrong even as the proof was right in front of me. The schematic, I was the next one. A woman which looked like me with my name. The perfect mother. I darted my eye's to the faceless representation.
"We'll give you to a new boy." I heard Mauve say before the flash and then the darkness.

And there was Danny's face above me, a living history of his father, like a composite of photos seen through a singularity. In my son's face was Jon's life. His smile as a teen, his cancer, his hair swirled and spiked at the crown as I stood with him in our wedding. Was this how recognition was done in the afterlife?  Can we see ourselves and our parents in the faces of our children?  Generations superimposed.  Do we recognize outselves?  He moved away and out of focus like a kite lifting from the ground as second person, a ghost of long hair in water took his side.  When I woke up again he was gone.  Dusk was setting; the class room was empty except for a television wheeled in on a two level metal cart.  The acronym S.H.A.V. was stenciled on the  side of each in scratched white spray paint.  On the screen a spliced closed circuit video, a woman in bed shot from the ceiling her face hidden in the broken signal lines scrawling horizontally through the signal.  The room on the television is light, a small boy in black soccer shoes sits in the corner, only his legs are shown.  A dog crosses the screen and lays at the foot of the bed, shot in black and white I can still tell it's the Richardson's spaniel.  There's a three count before the boy gets up, walks over to the bed, the dog raises and lowers its head.  The screen shakes allowing for a few frames a view of what's outside of the normal screen, details of the room never normally noticed like what's hidden behind a painting's frame.  Then it freezes with the nameless boy approaching the bed, the woman, lethargic and warm.  The screen holds the the image and blinks back to the beginning and the seemingly static room.  Then, all over again: woman on bed, dog enters, boy gets up, image shakes, destructs.  I watched it a half a dozen times more before I'm sure that the woman on the screen is me, looks like me, and for certain goes by my name.  The schematic designed by Tucker Spatz: android, gynoid, robot.  There are replicants of all of Stepford's hot mommies.  The cycle repeats the screen shakes and in the corner I see him smiling in the shadow, nearly faceless I can still see it's him.  Danny's smiling a popular boy at last.  

A footstep in the hallway and the classroom door opens.  The room shutters as I spread through the night, fracturing into particles, being pulled into a central flame like the wick of a candle.  I'm deep into the sky the sky before I can see the flame clearly and travel farther still before I can see into its heart where a still crouching figure waits with an open mouth.

Tanya Donnely walked down Stepford's main street.  A new mom in a new town.  Jack Donnely carried in his hand a melting ice cream which slowly but surely would turn the thin sugar cone to sweetened cardboard.  Free cones for new Stepfordians she'd been told.  She'd be happy here if the good nature of the ice cream parlor carried any regularity and everyone was as welcoming as the beautiful woman she'd met there, capable and sweet, who took as much of a liking to Jack as her own son had, insisting that Danny and he would become terrific friends.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bucket List 2

The book cluttered work room of Carter Chambers was a self imposed cell cut in half by a single long metal rack half covered in flaking paint. Carter had spent the last three month's here wasting away the little time he had left on the completion of his list. He was surrounded by artifacts: a manuscript, a model plane, a single round trip ticket to Japan. His growing pain and nausea had married obsession with torture. The result was a hotly focused anger on one man and a separation from the love and grace in dying he'd had only months earlier. It was a cold early Thursday. The day before Carter had pushed out the hospice which had followed him from the cancer ward and placed a call late to Edward Cole, a man he hadn't seen since a betrayal set in marriage to Debra, Carter's last and stolen love. Now in the remaining hours of the night he'd slowly cataloged the books surrounding him, books he'd never read. One by one he erased there names from the large white dry erase board which hung over his desk removing them from his Bucket List as if he'd never heard of them and had never longed to read them. Each vanished title reduced his thoughts to a singularity and when it was over he sat slouched on the backless motor parts stool he'd bought in the late eighties, his profile and shadow like a propped up doll with a fallen chest. On the dry erase board a last item remained. Edward would come. He'd have to. A final requirement before death, it weighed as heavy as the gun he kept in his pocket. Carter entered a sleep unlike any he'd experienced before, absolute and dark, the blackness was a eternal slow and cold. The cancer had moved from his prostate into his soul.
Edward's misgiving about seeing his long suffering friend were strong. Carter's heartbreak had seemed to squelch the few defences his body had left making him weaker while Edward's cancer had gone into remission, a miracle he believed brought by Debra the traveling nurse he'd fallen for in Marrakech. In a speech he rehearsed during the drive between DC and Fredrick, Edward explained in fluctuating frustration and understanding his love for Debra, refusing to apologize for the actions Carter had called "the kisses of a Judas". Debra would not allow herself in the middle. She had admired the strength of both ailing men but had made her choice. Edward's Florence Nightingale; she quickly dismissed Carter entirely broken her connection and walked away. She was of course accustomed to leaving the sick, or rather the sick leaving her, but Edward had felt his one time friend needed him. In the first phone call in month's there was a hollowness to his voice and an unwillingness to talk, only a sentence "It's complete." Edward knew Carter was dying. At five the next morning he packed up the convertible (Number twenty three: Travel route 101 in an Old's 88) and set out.
The small house was empty. Edward entered through the unlocked front door called knocked and feared his friend dead and unresponsive without neighbors Carter would have died alone. The kitchen and living room faced south. Light filtered through unseen currents of dust, Edward felt the ghosts already establishing their hold on the house. He walked to the window which looked out on the drive way and his car which approached the side of the garage. The heavy drivers side door hung open. By the time Edward made it outside carter was standing by the Old's a knowing smile traveled slow across his face.
"You have to keep these things closed and locked Ed. This may be the country but we have teenagers too." Carter said with his hand on the open wing of the convertible. With a heavy push he shut the door. The action seemed to take more out of him than he expected; his shoulders rolled slightly. "I finished that dingy I was working on. Number seventy one."
Edward knew they were supposed to have built the dingy together it. It was the precursor to number seventy four: catch a shark. In his own way Carter was apologizing, sharing the remaining time with a once unlikely friend. The call was not a lament but a late night plea for tenderness. "Lets see it." Edward said. "I can still help you with your list. It would mean something to me. Actually it'd be a little selfish."
They entered the garage. Edward enrapt in the future, Carter obsessed with the past. An ancient web gossamer and grey blew apart as Carter slammed the door behind them. In front of Edward the dust covered ribs of a two man dingy lay like a long fallen soldier.
"Carter." Edward began but the first shot split through his side just above his belt. The pain like a wire noose pulled through his abdomen. He fell sideways landing on the wound. Blood soaking quick into the dry earth floor. He rolled onto his knees, grabbing onto the rusted metal rack for support. The shot had caused Carter to nearly fall, his shoulders rolled and he straightened himself with one hand against the wall. Edward's hand pressed onto the ground. Dust, wood chips and metal filings bit into his palm. "There's not a lot of things I feel like doing with you. I figured when you ran away with Debra our deal was off but you know what Ed?" Carter raise the gun again, pressing the barrel against Ed's heart. "You're the last item." He cocked the hammer.
For a second Carter closed his eyes, looking every bit like a struck child. He wondered about the gun, why after all the time he'd carried it the metal stayed cool in his hand and then nothing again. Edward saw the change, the last bit of substance leave his old friends now hollow eyes. He scooped a palm full of workshop earth. Kicked up dust was falling through the morning sun like snow. "Carter", he said "that's not on my Bucket List!"
In a smooth sidearm cross he threw the dirt and shavings into Carter's open eyes, while at the same time lunging and pinning the weak man's arms against his chest while knocking him backwards against a wooden work bench. Carter screamed and thrashed, the hand with the gun slammed against the bench firing a round. Ed figured he'd broken Carter's back, he pulled back and pressed him harder a second time. Still screaming Carter and Ed fell to the ground. With the little strength he could find Carter locked his arms around Ed's side and squeezed. Ed felt the bullet in his side cut deeper into the muscle, his thumbs found Carter's eyes sockets. He pressed until he felt bone and the eyes had emptied, turning their warm thin jelly out. Carter's lock broke. Ed crawled to the gun and slowly struggled to stand. A faint copper taste lined his mouth, he felt his lip for blood uncertain of at what point he was hit. Carter's last few breaths began. A chocking machine sound, a death rattle and a rich laugh combined. That old Carter laugh. The laugh from the list. "What's funny." Ed said, but Carter couldn't hear or see him any longer. Then the laugh stopped. Ed turned around. The dry erase board was smudged with perfect black thumb prints and streaks of blue and red where dirty rags had been used to wipe of the marker. Carter's list was now complete. The final item uncrossed was written in block print. Have eyes gouged out by Ed.

The author of the Bucket List 2 would like to thank the following people:
Mike Gibbons, Jeremy Willis
Let us all live everyday from the list.