Saturday, March 31, 2018

Olie at Lunch


Part 2

       “Do you know what it’s like to have your whole life change in one stinkin’ night?"  She asked me this after she had taken three enormous bite of her “Bird Sandwich.”
I thought back to the night my own father was killed in a fire, started while as a boy, I tried to rescue my mother from that same man’s vile and violent abuse.  Yeah, I thought, one night can fuck it all up or fix it, depending on where you go next.  I had done both.  My mind traveled in time, and in between my next two breaths I became a boy again, in the dark, a step and a breath away from changing everything in his life.


***

        His mom, Alicia, licked at the barrel of the weapon.  It tasted as foul as the man holding it.  
        She darted her eyes around the room.  She was looking for a way to escape.  She knew it would have to be fast.  Escape would only come after the quickest decision of her life.  She looked toward the door to see if her path was clear.  Alicia saw her son.  He was bathed in the weak yellow light. His eyes were closed tightly, and his mouth was shaping soundless words, a prayer, she hoped.  She could not let Robbie see her son.  That would complicate things way too much.  To her left she saw the can.  It was a simple spray can, filled with furniture polish.  She had dusted earlier in the day.  Robbie had insisted.  She thought she might be able to blind him long enough to allow her to run out.  She looked at Kirby.  His eyes were still closed.  Her husband stood before her, his eyes seemed glazed.  They seemed to reflect light from a source Alicia could not find.  Those glazed eyes would make a nice target.
       “You know, Baby, this is as good for me as fuckin’ you any other way.  I think I’ll have me a smoke.  Fuckin’ you was always the best thing about, uh, fuckin’ you!”  He laughed to himself.  It was certainly not a happy laugh.  He pulled a cigarette from out of his breast pocket.  It was so much less menacing in his mouth than the pistol Alicia had to lick.  He reached into the pocket of his black, torn, greasy  jeans, and got his lighter out.  He had just filled it earlier that day.  He fumbled with the lighter for a second, and in the very long second that followed.
         Soundlessly, the flame burst from the little silver case.  The fire was too tall and nearly singed Robbie’s eyebrows.  In his surprise, he dropped the gun.  It fell from Alicia’s mouth and dropped to the floor.  She reached for, and got the aerosol can then sprayed.  Robbie never saw it coming.  She had only meant to blind him and run, but there were greater forces at work.  The spray ignited.  A great plume of flame burst forth, enveloping the man’s face.  No tiny feeding spark here, this flame was a rabid animal. Robbie’s hair and skin caught fire.  He started to burn. 
          Alicia saw Kirby burst into the room at full speed.  He slammed himself into the back of his father.  There was no recognition.  Kirby still had his eyes closed.  He reached for his mother’s hand and pulled her off of the couch and Robbie fell to the floor.  His head smacked on an end table.  Blood spilled from the new cut on his scalp, but it was unseen blood.  Robbie’s head was in full flame.  Kirby, with his eyes still tightly pressed together, pulled his mother from the room, and out into the night.  Robbie pounded his hand to his head, trying to extinguish the flames.  He left eye still worked.  Through that eye and the fire, he saw Big Jim Meaner, his own version of a devil, standing a few steps away.
         “Help me?”  Robbie asked.
         “No thanks.  We had a deal.”
         “You did come for my soul.”
         “Nah, you gave that up a long time ago.  You wanted to see fear in the eyes of your wife, and you did.  True, hard fear.  I just wanted to watch you burn, and I am.” 
         Kirby opened his eyes in time to see the flash of flame light up the inside of his home.  Neighbors were fleeing the building, answering Alicia’s calls and cries.  Kirby stepped away with a disbelieving gaze.  How had this happened?  His father was in there.  Alicia’s cries were clear about that.  No one made any heroic attempts, not even the firemen.  Half of the building burned to the ground.  Robbie had burned with it.  They found little, but enough, a gun, and a story.  Alicia all but accused her son of murder, but the police considered it a rescue.  Kirby had no memory of any of it.  Those memories came much later in his life.  He stepped away a bit further.  His mother was wearing a green vinyl jacket someone had given her.  Her hair and face betrayed a new dementia.  Kirby stepped further away.  If anyone had been closer, they would have heard the soft crack.  Ordinarily, the sound of a spirit being broken is nearly inaudible, but this time, that sound was louder than most.  There were no tears.  There was no hope.  Kirby had been told that he had killed a man that was his father.  He could not deny it.  He had no memory of the act. Alicia had said he came in as crazed as his own father had been.  Kirby had felt the crazed rage, but at this point, Kirby felt nothing.  He was closing doors, and running.  
        He was in full sprint too.  Gone was the peace he had felt with The Brookside Club.  Kirby now had the peace that only a numbed spirit can give.  Protected, sheltered, immune, but most simply, alone.  Death seemed everywhere.  Death seemed close.   Alone seemed good, even painless.  Kirby stepped even further away from the fire trucks, the lights, the disaster.  He stepped away from himself.  The future had started that night, and Kirby Rounds did not give a good shit about it.  All of the flames were eventually extinguished, and all Kirby had was a single white feather in his hand, and the comfort that it offered.


***

But that was years ago.  The kind of night that everything changes. Yeah I knew of those things.  I looked at the young woman before me. She sat placidly between bites.  I could almost hear her heart beating, she had a story to tell and I started to wonder how we had come together, here in this spot, as she readied herself to spill her tale.
        I looked at Olie and quietly said, “ Tell me, Olie,”
She looked at me.  Tears filled her eyes to the rims, ready to burst, but not quite yet.  She was beautiful.  Her eyes were vivid and sharp.  She had pulled her hair from the pony tail, hair that now framed her features.  She looked softer, more vulnerable that she had on the sidewalk.  She took another bit of a breath, swallowed some Troy City coffee, and finally took a deep breath.  It was time for Olie to tell a part of her tale.  I took a bite of my own bird sandwich, and listened as she let it go.


Parts of the above tayle were first told in the novel Turnstiles by C.R. Boucher


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ali Awakened

Hydelands a Taylespun Blog 

     In college she was stunning.  She was the real deal.  Her long dark hair framed her face like a princess.  Her skin was smooth and creamy.  She tanned up in the summer, but just slightly, never overdone, never too dark.  She had long, thin fingers that held the charcoal stick with finesse.  Her figure studies were usually one of the top three or four in her classes, consistently, not occasionally.  She seemed on track to have a fine career illustrating novel covers or children’s books.  She had the potential to be more than special. 
     As we have all learned, potential and a five might get you a coffee and a small sandwich, but that’s about it. It was her smile that opened doors, but that smile had opened the wrong one.  Antone had been beyond the doorway.  Antone was his given name, Colossus is what most of his pals called him.  “Call me Col,” he had told her that first day.
     Ali sat on the stretcher at St. Anne’s Hospital, the one near the park in the south end, remembered how she felt that first day, seeing him fill that door frame.  The sheer bulk of him that had earned him his nick-name was impressive.  His voice smooth and familiar.  Col held out his hand, she smiled as he took hers, planted a delicate kiss on the back, and lit a new light in her life.  Her heart raced.  Her eyes dried up and the sweat in her palms made them almost slippery. Before too many sunsets had passed they had become an impressive couple.
      The noise in the ER became more sustained and clearer as the drugs wore off.  She had been in a fog, nearly out, maybe for good.  Col had carried her in.  He had slung her over his shoulder as he pulled her from the White Ford pick up he maneuvered around the city.  He didn’t rush, didn’t think that was necessary.  He did in fact keep his cool.
      The giant man remained calm as he told the triage nurse she had swallowed whatever had been in both of the bottles he handed to her.  “She has been down lately, but I never expected this.” He told her, with a slight waver to his voice.  “Don’t let her die on me,” he said. Catching the two words. “Not yet,” before they came out.  He was calm.  Too calm, the nurse thought.
     Ali watched the conversation from her diminishing fog.  She recognized the smile on her husband’s face.  It was the same as that first night, bringing the light.  The clenching fist at his side might be mistaken for nervous energy, but she saw it for what it was, and that fist brought the dark.  
     Where there is light, there is always dark.  
     She had not seen the darkness herself until nearly a year after their wedding.   She didn’t see what a powerful weapon it was until a few months after that.  It was nearly two years after their wedding before he had actually hit her and another year before he hit her again.  How many times had she said as a young girl, that she would never be a battered woman.  She would walk away. She would… la dee and then  da…  All bullshit.  At first Ali had felt responsible for the darkness, then scared and now just plain terrified.
     Those pills should have been her escape.  The only path to walking away had become the bottom of a bottle of mild tranquilizers and “a little something to help you sleep through the night.”  
     She watched her husband smooth talk the triage nurse, or at least try to.  That nurse looked wiser than most.  It was in her eyes.  Even at this distance and through her diminishing fog, she could hear his voice changing as he more desperately built the case of falsehoods and bullshit.
     “She fell before I could catch her.  I was walking her outside, trying to keep her awake and she just fell hard, right into a tree trunk.  Was gonna call 911, but thought I could get here quicker.  Don’t know what I would do with out her.”  Ali heard it all.  It was a well rehearsed package of bullshit.  He turned away from the nurse and walked through the managed chaos of the ER and came beside her.  He squeezed her broken arm.  Two places they had said.
     He had come into the bedroom right after she had swallowed the pills.  There weren’t enough, she was sort of sure, but at least, she thought it would get her into the system.  Someone would recognize her plight.  There might even be help.  She swallowed what she had with a quarter glass of Madeira.  He had come home too soon.  He walked into the bedroom, saw the empty vials and drew all the right conclusions.  She was just beginning to fade.  The lights were dimming, sound becoming unimportant.  She could see he was shouting, but heard nothing more than a whisper.  It felt pretty good.  He couldn’t reach her in here.  She allowed herself to fall deeper.  
     Colossus stepped up to the bed she was lying in, and gently took her hand, like the first time she thought.  I made him sad.  He picked her hand up and kissed it gently, then pulled it toward the night stand.  With her wrist resting on the small table that held the lamp and her Echo he took a long deep breath.  He pressed her arm tightly against the wood.
     "This will keep you awake, you stupid bitch.”
     He raised his other hand, already fisted and brought it down onto her extended forearm.  It snapped, yes, in two places.  She snapped awake, as she had again while he applied discreet pressure to the Nautilus Shell shaped bruising halfway between her wrist and elbow.  He had her attention.  Completely.  The nurse in the background seemed so unaware and in a different world.  The telephone at the side of her head had her full attention as she nodded it and turned away.
     "Honey, “ he said quietly, “you with me?”
     She slowly nodded.  Tears in the rims of her reddened eyes. One long drip followed the contours of her pale cheek toward he clenched jaw line.
     "I need to leave, something’s come up.”  He had a knowing sense the triage nurse saw through his bullshit.  Her eyes gave her away,  Her smile seemed just too phony, Her voice too gentle.  It was as if she were trying too hard to match his calm.
     "So, listen well, my once beautiful wife.  You say nothing.  I am going to visit your dear sister and her impotent husband.  We will wait for word of your recovery together.  You don’t get to die until I tell you you can die.  I will in fact help you to die when the time is right.  That won’t be for awhile sweetheart.  First you will watch as your family dies, one at a time.  Your impotent brother in-law sports writer first.  That way your sister suffers a bit with you, then her, and then, that sweet little niece of ours, Suzie.  Yeah, she reminds me of you.  How you must have been as a girl.  So sweet, so pretty.  So trusting.  So say anything and she is first. It is all in your hands.  Wake up, Ali.  Don’t fuck this up.  Their lives are in your hands now.  All of them.”
     The tears overflowed.  She could no longer keep them to herself.  How she wished she had taken more or stronger pills.  She never considered her choices to stay with him.  She understood on some level she had given him control of her life.  Now it seemed her’s was no longer enough.  Her family.  She began to sob.  Her heart and soul felt gone to her.
     Colossus said nothing more.  He released his grip.  Winked at her, smiled a sarcastic smirk, and turned away.  She watched every step as he blended into the crowd of  chaos.  She barely took a breath.  She felt the coolness of the soft grip on her good arm.  She turned to see the triage nurse standing beside her.
     "Honey, you are going to be okay.  I know what he did to you. I have seen that type bruise before.  Comes from the side of a man’s fist when he brings it down like a  hammer.  And his bullshit stories would not have convinced an nursing student.  Find your strength.  I have called the police, and you have a story to tell.”
     She looked at the nurse.  Those gentle eyes never broke focus.  Ali found comfort in that powerful gaze.
     "My family,” Ali started,  “he has threatened them.”
     "I’ve called your sister.  Her number was listed as your emergency contact.  Your family is on the way.  Tell them what you have held secret for so long.  I think you will be surprised to learn what they know.  Make today day one sweetie.  It is time to walk away from that beast and move on.”
     Ali laid in the gurney, her heart pounding, reaching for the strength she needed.
     Ali still simply wondered if she had it, if she could so it.
     Without warning, Suzy came to her side and started planting kisses on her aunts pale cheek.  Ali closed her eyes and accepted the pure, clean love those sweet kisses contained.