The Eames Chair Rant

Creative Nonfiction
Sandra Gail Teichmann


Why he didn’t call me, I asked, suppressing my cough, and why he didn’t answer when I called him. He had, as it were, a cell phone in his pocket wherever he was for god’s sake.

He didn’t have an answer except that he’d been busy at work or at a birthday party for someone or at soccer game or asleep, so I asked him why he didn’t return my calls, to which he said he didn’t know I had called, said I hadn’t left messages until this last one. Well, no, I hadn’t, didn’t think it was necessary since he had that device that tells him who is calling during the ringing and after, to which he said, “Yes, but all the screen said was that an unknown call was coming in.”

Well, maybe so. I do use one of those 10-10-6-something calling formats. Cheaper than a direct dial. Could use my cell phone, and yes, I do have one of those, but really it’s so small, and I don’t think I can hear or talk into it so well; talk, that is, at a normal volume. So those are some of the problems I have talking to my son, mechanical problems all of them I’m sure, which seems most odd in this age of advanced technology. Oh, I know you’re probably thinking that I’m just an old woman past knowing anything and certainly past being of interest. Well, it depends, I’d say, on your perspective. To begin with the question of age, I’ll tell you I’m fifty-seven. And he? He’s twenty-nine. Sort of middle-aged or near it, both of us, seems to me. I’ve got a good twenty years yet to make something of what I’ve got going, and he’s got maybe ten years to get firmly established, which is, of course, not to say that I’m completely satisfied with where I am, or that he has not yet set himself in a direction. I think, though, that time is critical for both of us and is, as much as I hate to admit it, bound up with money, a terrible tension of a diminishing amount of the first, which is necessary for the accumulation of the second. For me it’s critical that I maintain what I have to assure ease and independence unto death, and for Ryan it’s imperative that he begin accumulating a little something and stop living from day to day. To look at this another way, I’d say I seem to have accepted death while he has yet to acknowledge the possibility. So there the two of us are at ages fifty-seven and twenty-nine.

On the question of knowing anything: I’d say I do. I’m a tenured professor. I’m a playwright. I’m a novelist. I’m a poet. I’m an artist. It could be said—has been said—that I know literature, philosophy, color, design, language, good taste, theory, and I know that I know human nature. I also know computer technology, teach graduate and undergraduate courses on-line as well as in the classroom, and no one can say I’m behind the curve in any aspect. I’ve also traveled extensively enough to know enough geography to point out Gijon or Amroth or Iassi or Moncton or Tuxpan or any number of other places on the world map, and I’ve stayed home enough to have grown an exquisite garden: sage, rosemary, iris, gladiolas, wormwood, morning glories, four o’clocks, and daisies.

As to the final question of me being of interest, I’d say I’m vital. I’m healthy, good looking, sexual, spirited, and I’m ever interested in that beyond myself. My last mammogram came back normal, my teeth are white, and my weight is still within the limit of what my height can gracefully carry. To give you a more objective view, a reviewer of one of my recent plays described me as handsome and gracious, my long graying hair loosely drawn up on my head. I enjoy sex with my husband more than once a month, and as for taking a risk, I do that with relish be it for the excitement of winning a stack of chips in roulette, a rubber in bridge, or the satisfaction of seeing one of my plays on the stage even if I have to produce and direct it myself. I have friends, an easy laugh, and I’m the first to laugh at myself, never taking anything too seriously.

So that’s me, all of the above, and I love, love Ryan, baby boy. Love him and want him to have only the best, want him to be happy, and he is. Happy on the telephone, happy in his emails, signing himself boi blue, meaning not sad, but little boy blue, like from the nursery rhymes I read him… little boy blue asleep in the hay… telling me always his hopes and his successes in his architecture career, telling me the latest painting he sold, the colors of it, telling me who was who at his opening in the Chicago Gallery, telling me and telling me: the new loft he was moving into, the view from his ninth floor windows, the market across and just down the street on the weekends. Telling me and asking me too about what Carlos and I are doing, asking, that is, until four weeks ago.

The change began in the middle of summer. Fourth of July weekend it was Carlos and me driving the six-hundred miles to visit Ryan—but because Ryan was having a 4th of July party—stopping short and staying outside of St. Louis in a dumpy small-town Missouri motel. I felt sad, as you might imagine, that we hadn’t been invited to the party. As we ate soggy fried chicken from the grocery store in the motel room sitting on the bed in front of the television, I wanted to be at the party, thought Ryan would have been proud to have had Carlos and me there to mingle with his architect and artist friends, but I didn’t worry, knowing Ryan needed to establish himself and also knowing Carlos and I had only just been to visit Ryan less than two months before. It wasn’t as if we hadn’t seen each other for a long time.

So there we were arriving on the 5th and happy—happy we were to see him, me, of course, but Carlos, too, though he is only a stepfather. Carlos enjoys Ryan, looks forward to being with him as much as I do, but this time Carlos was to play in a chess tournament for the weekend, and I was to spend the whole time alone with Ryan.

That first evening Ryan and I had dinner and a pitcher of sangria at a Spanish restaurant in old town before going back to the loft to talk and relax. Just Ryan and me alone in his loft with a lovely view of the city while he talked about his paintings, his work, and then Illivia. Illivia? Who was this? So he told me she was really nice to him, had even cleaned his oven. Cleaned his oven?

I had to agree that cleaning his oven was nice and that maybe we could invite her to join us for brunch or something the next day. Well, he did invite her for breakfast, and there she was for the rest of the weekend, day and night, in and out of the loft, stuck to us like a price tag, but I sort of liked her, laughed with her, loved her name. She was tall and athletic, full of energy and earnest. I enjoyed the weekend, enjoyed Illivia, that is, until she started telling me what was what about an Eames chair Carlos and I were considering ordering for Ryan.

Sunday evening it was, and I was trying to discuss the chair with Ryan, the value of it with respect to its quality and its reputation as well as the value such an expensive piece would have for Ryan. I mean, I wanted to know if this chair would really be something that would fit into Ryan’s rather transient life style: East Coast five years, LA two years, Vail three years, San Antonio one year, and then St. Louis. In the middle of this, Illivia got involved, took over, informing me that the Eames chair was expensive because of the fine craftsmanship required for such a piece. Can you imagine? This very young woman, maybe twenty-one, telling me why and how this Eames chair could demand such a price? Unheard of, but I didn’t say a thing, nothing, and the next day Carlos and I left before dawn, left Illivia and Ryan, the two of them, wrapped around each other asleep on the futon in front of the television. During the six-hundred mile drive home, I called from my cell phone to place the order for the Eames chair, called not because I had been convinced by Illivia that the craftsmanship was excellent, but because I knew Ryan wanted the chair, coveted it, and if he did, indeed, I thought, he should have it, have anything he really wanted.

When we got home that evening a message was waiting: Ryan wanting to know why we had left before breakfast, left without kissing him good-bye, wanting to know if it were because of Illivia. I called back, and I told Ryan that Carlos and I had had a long way to drive and I had a number of things with my new play to attend to.

Five months later the Eames chair was delivered.

Ryan said it was beautiful, so beautiful that he was afraid of it. I asked him if Illivia were sitting in it. He didn’t answer my question but did tell me he was going to ask Illivia to move in with him, told me he was going to move to a bigger loft, buy this time rather than rent since Illivia would be helping out with the payments. I listened, asked questions about the different lofts he looked at, considered the possibilities over the phone with him, and every time he looked at a new property he would call to discuss it with me, and never forgot to also ask me what Carlos and I were doing. Weeks, months, seemed like years, passed before he called again, called with a turn-of-the-century red brick firehouse in mind. A delightful possibility and location, but expensive considering the renovation necessary. I was sick with fever and bronchitis and not so enthusiastic as usual, but I was rather interested. Carlos and I afterwards even considered making a financial contribution, but the more I thought about the situation Ryan seemed headed for, the more worried I became. The fire station, to be lived in, would need considerable time and money and a live-in girlfriend to share in meeting the monthly mortgage payments. Fine maybe, but the more I thought about the unrealistic aspects and about the money Carlos and I had given Ryan in the past, the thousands and thousands of dollars—money that had always fizzled away like bubbly water—the higher my fever got and the more I coughed and the more I worried about Ryan entering into a business deal that relied largely on the financial contribution he expected from an unknown, i.e., Illivia and her monthly payment.

The question became: who was Illivia, and just how reliable would this monthly payment be? So I called Ryan to ask if he thought it a good idea, all of this, with Illivia—beautiful as her name was—not being exactly known for keeping a job. He told me, as if I were an idiot, “Well, mother, I’ve only known her for six months, so what are you saying?”

Exactly. What was I saying? Six months, and she’s just now got a job of training waitresses at a high-end chain just opening in St. Louis. Other jobs she didn’t keep, and then she couldn’t find anything else it seems. I’m not saying she got fired. She just hadn’t been keeping a job, and her parents had been paying the rent for her downtown apartment.

“Well, you don’t know,” he said, but I did know. I knew all too well that she’d not yet graduated with a B.A. Ryan had told me she needed yet just one course, and had also told me Illivia had no real skills, but he said, “It’s all right because she’s young and just like me when I was that age.” It was then that I told him Illivia was unreliable, and I started coughing and had to hang up. And it’s since then that he never calls and will seldom answer my phone calls, and it’s since then I can’t seem to get rid of this cough, though I tell Ryan when I do get through to him that what I said was not a rejection of Illivia, tell him I like Illivia and so does Carlos. Carlos thinks she has a good eye for photography. I think she’s fun to be around, wouldn’t mind hanging out with her for maybe another weekend. So all this isn’t about rejecting Illivia; rather it’s that I have serious concern about Ryan’s financial obligations and the possibility of his losing everything including the Eames chair.

And then it was that he reminded me that he has nothing but debt, thousands and thousand of dollars of debt, and I wanted to agree with him, but I couldn’t seem to stop coughing.

pencil

I have been widely published and have authored the following books: Slow Mud, Woman of the Plains, and Killing Daddy, all available from Amazon.com. I am also a playwright and have had a number of my plays staged. E-mail: STeich0613[at]aol.com.

Two Ears

Creative Nonfiction
Heather Petrich


The man sitting in front of me on the El has two different ears. Though it’s hard to see, with his head turned just so, both of them at once. I shift in my seat to get a better look. Yes, they are really quite different from one another. The right ear comes further away from his head, as if straining to hear something important coming at him from that direction.

I’ve never noticed anyone with two different ears before. And I know something about ears, especially ears-in-pairs, after sitting behind my dad during the years he drove me to school with him, staring at the back of his head, cursing the large, equal ears that earned him the nickname “wing nut” from his junior high school students—which made me “baby wing nut” or “wing nut junior” by association, not by ears.

But this man’s ears are not the large, sturdy type. They are both smallish, cute-as-a-button ears with the gentle, fleshy edges of canned mushrooms. The odd one is flatter in back, where the regular one, the left, has a crevice back there. I reach up to feel own ears; there are crevices on the back of both. The lack of crevice on the man’s right ear is part of what makes it seem like it is reaching forward.

His light brown hair is cropped close and neat, revealing the ears. He is balding at the crown and looking closer I see that his hair is quite thin over the whole top of his head. I guess that he’s in his early thirties because there’s no gray. The clothes he wears—boxy gray woolen jacket with a matching fleece scarf—gives him an air of young conservatism. Everything about him, down to his crisp pleated khakis, is neat-as-a-pin. Except for the stray ear.

The ear is pinkish now, I notice, while the other has the same fleshy color as the rest of his skin, almost waxen in its smoothness. I imagine that the stray ear blushes under my scrutiny; its flatter shape and position closer to the window allows the morning light to pass through, causing it to glow slightly.

With his standard khakis, firm black shoes and black computer bag, he could be any young, hair-thinning consultant on his way to work in the city. Except for the ear. Lucky he has that. Maybe it will get him noticed, like my dad.

pencil

Heather Petrich is a writer, artist and art therapy graduate student living in Chicago with her husband who has enviously small ears like two perfect seashells. She enjoys observing people—and writing about them—on the El. E-mail: heather_petrich[at]ameritech.net.

The Wedding

Fiction
Mike Carlson


I turned the rental into a parking lot littered with potholes. I missed three but caught the fourth. The car bottomed out, driving my head into the roof. The visor of my dress cover slid over my eyes, while the rim of the mammoth white hat bent my ears double. I slammed on the brakes.

“This is not improving my mood in the slightest,” I said to Alison.

“It’ll be over in an hour,” my wife replied. “Now let’s pry you out of that hat.”

“It’s a cover. You must use the correct military terminology,” I said.

“Yes, sir, mister-cover-wearing-handsome-man, sir!” She pried the hat off my ears, then snapped a mock salute.

I eased the Toyota into a spot next to the limo. “Remind me. What am I doing at the Church of the Sainted Pothole in Calgary, Canada?” I asked, shifting into park.

“You’re providing the muscle for my-brother-the-missionary’s wedding,” she said.

“That’s why I’m in this blue monkey suit with the impossibly high collar and the medals jingling on my front?”

“You are correct, sir.”

“And why we spent the last two nights sleeping in airports because of some hurricane blowing up the East Coast, delaying every flight in its path?” I continued.

“In the Chinese culture, family is worth any sacrifice, even spinal injuries caused by airport benches,” she said. “I think Confucius said that.”

“Confucius my ass,” I said. “You’re about as traditionally Chinese as a fortune cookie.”

“So I’m a banana-yellow on the outside and white on the inside,” she said. “But I believe you like bananas.”

She managed to crawl over the parking brake and wrap her arms around me, nestling her head against my chest. Her light dusting of Chanel made my nose twitch. I closed my eyes and waited.

The doctors told me about the flashbacks—how smell, the strongest of the five senses, would almost always open the doors to dark memories. Sudden physical exertion was another common cause, they said, especially lifting a heavy weight.

I prayed for a mental picture of a meadow or a mountain vista, something natural and pure. The hole appeared instead. Dark. Mud-filled. Lance Corporal Johnson snored next to me, his rumbles muffled by the gas mask.

Alone and on watch, with the squad asleep around me, I would leave my right hand on the grip and trigger while my left would snake inside my flak jacket and grasp her perfumed letters. Every night, for seven sleepless months, I risked Saddam’s gas and my sergeant’s wrath by breaking the seal on my mask for the scent of her.

*

The trip to Canada had begun with a phone call.

“Mike? It’s Tom! I’m finally getting married!”

Who the hell was Tom, and what time was it?

“Hello?” I muttered, freeing my legs from the bedsheets.

“It’s Tom! Sorry the connection is so bad—I’m calling from Peru!”

Synapses clicked. Tom equaled my wife’s brother, a missionary who was currently helping lepers or worse in South America.

“Tom!” I said with all the false enthusiasm I could muster. “What’s this about a wedding?”

“It’s at the end of the month! In Calgary! She’s Irish! And wonderful! Do you think you can make it?”

“Uh, well, I’ll have to ask Alison. She’s at work right now,” I said.

“I called her already! She said it’s a go! She said she’ll look into tickets over lunch!”

In addition to always speaking in annoyingly perky exclamations, Tom had the ability to get exactly what he wanted by sidestepping all possible objections.

“Well, that’s great, Tom. Terrific,” I said.

“Isn’t it! I need a favor!”

“What?” I dreaded the answer.

“Nicole—that’s my fiancée, she lives in Calgary—has this old boyfriend who’s been threatening her. He calls all the time. Could you come in your uniform and sort of stand around the church and look out for him? Stop him from disrupting the service? He somehow got her parents’ phone number, and they told him all the details. I guess he pretended he was invited or something. Oh, the money’s run out. Talk to Alison—she’s got all the info. ‘Bye!”

Dial tone.

I flopped back onto the bed. I was on convalescent leave. I was supposed to avoid confrontations. I spent my time in a drug-induced sleep, or reading until the headaches got too bad, or drinking decaf at the Starbucks and watching the civilians. Now, thanks to the inherent machinations of the Lim family, I’d ended up as the bouncer at my brother-in-law’s wedding.

*

The pastor was a moon-faced, genial guy who suffered from verbal diarrhea: “We are gathered here today, in this beautiful church, on this gorgeous day, to pay homage to God and His will—that magnificent power that has brought Tom, who looks so absolutely resplendent, and Nicole, a vision in white, to our church to be united in the sacred rite of holy, holy matrimony, in the sight of all of you, the congregation, by the power vested in me, Pastor Will, and the might of the words in this, the Good Book, which holds the key to the everlasting happiness of not just Tom and Nicole, but everyone seated in front of me here today.”

I was standing at parade rest in the back of the church, passing the time by watching the pastor’s face get redder and redder as he tried to shoehorn more and more words into each sentence without taking extra breaths. His longest stretch without inhaling was 215 seconds.

The ex had not made an appearance. I’d stood out front, shaking hands, my eyes roving, until the last guest had taken a seat. Then I’d staked out the door.

“Pssst!”

I turned to see Walter, the other usher, gesturing frantically. I slipped through and joined him in the entry hall.

“Can you help me lift that?” he hissed, pointing down the stairs that led to the front doors of the church.

The cake sat at the bottom of the stairs, resplendent on an ornate and enormous silver cart that looked to weigh at least 60 pounds.

“What the hell is that thing? A tank?” I whispered.

“Nicole’s family brought it. Some sort of heirloom. It’s tradition to serve the cake on it, they said.”

I shook my head. “We’d better get to it.”

The cart weighed more like 80 pounds. Maybe 90. I was in the back, Walter in the front. I was carrying most of the weight, trying desperately to keep the cart level so that the cake wouldn’t slide.

Lifting a heavy weight—that familiar feeling of fighting to struggle forward under an impossibly heavy load—will often take you back to a similar time in your combat experiences, the doctors said. I recalled their warnings as the cake cart morphed into the Squad Automatic Weapon, basically a belt-fed M16, and the steps turned into the berm in Iraq.

The SAW’s 10-pound additional barrel flopped at my side. I also humped a 50-pound pack and enough ammunition to buckle my legs. I was running up the side of a low ditch. Behind me, my Humvee was burning. We’d taken a rocket-propelled grenade through the windshield. Lance Corporal Johnson and another Marine I’d never met were dead. I’d been thrown out of the back. I couldn’t find my squad. I was scrambling for cover.

I crested the berm. About 10 meters in front of me was a low wall. Crouched behind the wall were a dozen Iraqis, nine AK-47 rifles in a loose pile and two RPG launchers, one loaded. They were all peering over the wall, apparently waiting for a signal.

Sweat stung my eyes. I blinked it away to an explosion of Arabic shouts and a blur of motion as they scrambled for their rifles.

The doctors don’t believe me when I get to this part. They say I should feel something different, some sort of human emotion. The training works that out of you. As I pulled the trigger, all I thought about was how I wouldn’t have to carry the rounds I fired out to the extract point. Like any good grunt, all I thought about was the weight.

*

I’d done my duty and made it up the stairs. The cake was in its place, and I was in the head, splashing my face with water and trying to stop shaking. Someone rapped on the door.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Me,” my wife said. She slipped in and closed the door behind her. “You okay? Walter came and got me.”

“I may need a pill,” I said.

“They’re in the car,” she said.

“Okay. Where are they with the ceremony?”

“Pastor Will is in the home stretch, I think. Almost time to kiss the bride.”

“Go on up, and I’ll slip in by the back door after I get the meds.”

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too.”

I dried off. My reflection: eyes surrounded by deep crow’s feet, a Roman nose red from sunburn, a mouth unused to smiles. A dusting of hair sat high and tight atop my skull.

I stepped outside. The day was indeed glorious. The sun warmed my face. I took calming breaths on the way to the rental. A pickup truck drove by, slowed to a crawl, sped up again.

I was rummaging around in my wife’s purse and had just found the pills when I saw the same pickup. This time it stopped.

The door opened, and the ex got out. He was big, about six-two. He had five inches and 40 pounds on me. A beer gut barely reined in by soiled jeans was topped by wide shoulders in a dirty T-shirt and a walnut of a head: big, round, and scarred. He started making his way to the church doors.

I could not get past the childproof cap.

He was halfway to the doors when they opened. Tom and Nicole came first, beaming. Alison and her parents came next, then the rest of the guests. Rice flew.

The ex shouldered his way past Alison’s aged mother, knocking her down. He grabbed for Nicole’s wrist. Tom, all 110 pounds of him, swung, missed, and went down after another shove.

I dropped the pills as I watched Tom fall. Moving out of the car took an eternity.

The ex said, “You’re coming with me.” He pulled Nicole toward him. She stepped on her hem, tore her wedding gown.

I sprinted across the lot. I heard each individual thread rip.

I hit him the way the instructors taught us, driving the left shoulder into the gut and lifting with the back and legs. The momentum carried us into the trees in front of the church.

Sergeant Gutierrez said fighting was like playing pool: It’s easy if you plan your shots.

The ex slammed into an oak. I backed up and fired a left into his face, my hand cocked at the wrist, fingers splayed and pointing skyward. The heel of my hand flattened his nose. I raked my fingers down, gouging the eye sockets. My right fist snapped forward as my left sprang back. My knuckles drove into the ex’s throat.

The eye gouge sets up the throat punch, you see, as it tips the chin up and out of the way. The throat punch sets up the left elbow to the temple. You finish with a right uppercut to the solar plexus. Gutierrez demanded 100 repetitions every single day.

As my fist sank into the gap between the ex’s sternum and his belly, a wheeze rocked his body, and then he vomited. Flecks of scrambled eggs spattered my spit-shined shoes.

I am America’s pit bull, I thought. I smiled.

Then I looked up. Alison just stared at me, eyes wide, her gaze blank with shock. The full lips I had worshipped every night as I shivered in the hole now formed a thin “O” of horror.

Every expression in the wedding party mirrored hers.

I thumbed my nose with my left hand, noticed the blood. “It’s what you said you wanted,” I said. “It’s what I was trained to do.”

pencil

“I was honorably discharged from the Corps in October 2004 and am currently pursuing admission into graduate programs in creative writing. My experiences while in the military spurred me to write about the complex issues that Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors wrestle with every day, especially in the aftermath of combat.” E-mail: michal_carlson[at]comcast.net.

Sandra and Charlie

Fiction
Margaret Andrews


“I’ll walk you to work,” said Charlie.

“Looking like that?” asked Sandra, standing in her crisp white uniform.

“What?” asked Charlie, looking down at his own slovenly sweatsuited body. Dirt splotched the arms and legs, while holes dotted the seat of his pants. “I don’t have to be anywhere looking like anything.”

“You look like a bum.”

“Thanks. Okay, forget it, I’ll just stay here. On the couch. All day. Doing nothing.”

Sandra knew he was manipulating her. Goading her. Talking to the part of her that wanted him to get off his ass and do something, instead of lying around the apartment all day. At least he was willing to leave the house. Maybe he’d stumble onto a HELP WANTED sign. But he would want to go out as a slob, ensuring his safe return home without a job application.

Her desire for him to be more constructive with his day outweighed her disdain for his staying at home simply because he wouldn’t put something else on. If he wouldn’t listen to her, maybe somebody out there would tell him he looked like an idiot.

This was what their relationship had become. Everything he did or said whether innocent or not, had a selfish agenda. She challenged him on everything now. He couldn’t say anything right. Why didn’t she just end it already? Was she waiting for the right time? There was never a right time. She was busting to let him have it, but something was holding her back. She wasn’t up to the fight that would be his response. She was waiting for the right time for her, not for him. She wasn’t ready. Meanwhile, her focus had become arguing his every attempt at manipulation.

*

“Have you thought any more about looking for a job?” asked Sandra while they waited on a pedestrian-laden corner to cross the street.

“I still have trouble focusing on that sort of thing right now,” said Charlie. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“What. Joelle?” she asked.

“Yes. Joelle.”

This made interesting conversation for their fellow man.

“Charlie, she’s been dead for six months! How much time do you need?”

Innocent bystanders struggled to keep their eyes averted. What do these two look like? some people were dying to know. They wanted desperately to turn this radio soap opera equivalent into a television drama. Much willpower was exercised at that particular moment on that particular street corner.

What a loser, thought a woman standing in front of them in a purple dress. I’ll bet he’s got long messy hair, faded holey jeans, hasn’t shaved in a week or two, the bum. Charlie. Yeah, that’s a bum’s name. What could she possibly see in him? Get out, sister, while the getting’s good.

What a jerk, thought another woman in a pale blue DKNY pant suit and matching Coach handbag, who was suffering more than the first woman because she could only see the couple in her left periphery. It was like torture. It’s harder to judge people if you can’t see them. What they’re wearing. What they look like. What could she possibly see in him? Maybe she’s ugly. She tried to look to the side without turning her head, but that hurt her eyes, so she tried to look down and saw the girl’s sensible white shoes. Yep, she’s probably ugly, and clingy, and naggy.

“Sandra,” said Charlie as if for the hundredth time. “She committed suicide, for Chrissakes! Get off my back.”

Sandra and Charlie, thought the woman in the purple dress.

Sandra and Charlie, thought the woman in the pale blue suit.

Sandra and Charlie, thought a man in a brown suit standing behind them. Who do I know who’s a Sandra? Oh yeah, that girl in Accounting. She’s kind of a pain in the ass. Gets on your case about everything. Always bitching about the mess people leave in the break room. This chick sounds just like her. I’ll bet this bitch is a nag, too. Yeah, a nag, she probably has the face of a horse. I wish she’d just turn her head a little more, so I could see if she’s got a horse face.

Sandra and Charlie, thought an elderly man wearing the same white button-up shirt and brown relaxed-fit pants for the sixth day in a row. His wife passed away several years ago and the young couple’s argument sent him back fondly to a time when he and his wife would carry on a heated conversation. He knew that later on, Sandra and Charlie would go home for a passionate night of lovemaking to which all fiercely fought discussions led. He had no qualms about staring right at them to get a good look at them. He could tell that they loved each other like mad, the way they stood so close to each other. Charlie’s tone of voice suggested that this wasn’t the first time they’d had this conversation, so he knew everything would be all right. Otherwise, he’d have left her by now. Men. It’s amazing what they’d put up with for a little roll in the hay. Or do they still call it that, he wondered.

“I don’t know anymore, Charlie,” said Sandra. “You gave her those pills.”

Oh my God, thought the purple dress. I just have to see what these people look like. I wish this light would hurry up and turn green. I’ll just go slow and let them pass me, so I can get a peek at them. Damn it! I’ll bet everyone else here can see them but me.

A few heads turned in their direction, as if, Charlie suspected, they thought he may have had something to do with it too. He shot them all dirty looks until each of them looked away, but clearly still listening. I don’t have to defend myself to these strangers, thought Charlie. But now, thanks to Sandra, they think I’m a murderer. “She didn’t have to take them,” he said. “I tried to stop her. I told you that.”

He looks like he would do it, thought the pale-blue pantsuit. He looks like the selfish type. He probably makes a habit of mooching off women and doesn’t have a problem with it.

“I don’t know what to think anymore, Charlie.”

“What are you saying? Are you breaking up with me? Is that it? All because I haven’t got a job yet? I need some time. I have to get my head together.”

This chick just won’t get off his ass, thought the brown suit. Give him some space or he’s gonna leave you high and dry, honey. Buddy, if I were you, I’d have been gone a long time ago. I wouldn’t put up with that shit. Tell her off. Right here in front of everybody. Embarrass her a little. That’ll put her in her place. I’ll do it for you if you want. You want me to do it? ‘Cause I’ll do it.

“I’m sick of paying your rent, Charlie. If you don’t get a job soon, you can find another… sugar mama.”

I knew it, thought the pale-blue suit. He’s a mooch. She should dump him. I should tell her that. If this light doesn’t turn green in a second, maybe I will. Yeah, I hope this light stays red for a while longer, so I can give him what for. Okay, if this light doesn’t turn green by the time I count to ten, I’m going to say something.

“Sugar mama? Are you kidding? I don’t need you. I can get a job, and another girlfriend anytime I want.”

Four… five… six…

Oh man, this is getting good, thought the purple dress. She looked across the street at the red DON’T WALK sign. Please don’t turn green yet. I gotta hear the end of this!

That’s it buddy, you tell her.

Seven… eight… nine…

“Well, I wish you the best of luck, Charlie. I’ll pack my things tonight so you can start looking for another girl to support you right away. ‘Cause I’m done.”

WALK… WALK… WALK…

“Fine!” said Charlie.

“In fact, you can start right now. Don’t even think I want you walking the rest of the way with me.” Sandra turned on her heel and started walking back home. “Excuse me!”

“No problem,” said the smiling man in the brown suit.

“Wait! Sandra!” said Charlie.

Oh no, thought the purple dress and the pale blue suit turning around to watch the quickly disappearing couple. Now what’s going to happen?

“It says ‘Walk’ lady,” said some short bald guy to the purple dress.

“Turn around and go already,” said a tall skinny jogger with glasses to the pale blue suit.

Oh yeah, thought the same clothes for a week, moving to the side to let everyone else by while he watched the arm-flapping couple move further down the street. There’s gonna be some hot and heavy sex tonight. Or do they still say that?

pencil

Margaret Andrews is a computer programmer slash writer. She rides the Southwest Airlines fence between Los Angeles and Sacramento. Her other work has appeared in Long Story Short and The Glut. She recently placed in an Elk Grove Public Library Short Story Contest and has won Honorable Mention in the Writers Digest Short Story Contest. She is currently working on her first novel “A Slice of Heaven.” E-mail: manjo[at]citlink.net.

The Kiss

Flash
Trish O’Brien-Edwards


His kiss hello was deeper than normal and tasted of garlic. She recognized it as marinara sauce, from the Italian restaurant around the corner from where he worked. The place with the white table clothes and the waiters dressed in black. The place that was too expensive for him to take her on a regular basis, but was saved for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.

“How was Di Salvo’s?” she asked, her voice higher and louder than usual. She tried to force it to be normal, but she forgot what normal was. “If I’d known you were having Italian for lunch, I would have made something else for dinner.” She waved her hands over the spaghetti dinner she was assembling. She had already chopped the ripe tomatoes and was adding them to the sauce. Only the garlic was left. She put it off to the end because she hated the smell and she feared the big knife she needed to mince it with.

“A client. I went with a client.” His words chased each other from his mouth.

“Do you mind eating pasta again?”

“Not at all.” He walked to the stove and lifted the lid, dipping the wooden spoon into the red sauce. He blew on it, before touching it to his mouth.

He had scratches on the back of his neck, where his dark hair had begun to curl from the steam of the kitchen. They were fresh and deep, not done by his bitten nails. His hand reached up to cover them, and she turned away.

“Delicious,” he said, licking his slightly swollen lips. “Much better than Di Salvo’s.”

“Who was the client?” she asked.

“No one you know.” He opened the cupboards where the plates and glasses were kept, and began to set the table. “How about a bottle of wine?” he asked.

She nodded in agreement. They rarely drank wine with dinner, but he seemed intent on making the evening different.

“Do I have time to take a shower before dinner?” he asked, taking her into his arms. She could smell cigarettes on him and a hint of musk.

“Of course.” She pulled away from him and watched him go to wash off his day.

“I thought we might go look at cars this weekend. I know how much you want a new one,” he said at the kitchen door.

She waited to hear the shower start before picking up the knife. She set to mincing the garlic, taking quick chops. She thought as she worked, putting the pieces together in her mind. She rearranged them until she came up with a sunny life again. The knife slipped, nicking her finger. She put it in her mouth, tasting her own blood.

pencil

“I am a graduate of Iowa State University where I studied literature and creative writing. I live in Ames, Iowa with my husband of twelve years.” E-mail: trishieo[at]yahoo.com.

Short Order

Poetry
J.M. Gilliard


We were an accident
a dispute over an overdone omelet
in an all night diner.
Made brazen by her smile
and five cups of the road tar
that passed for coffee
I left an outrageous tip
and was rewarded with
a phone number hastily scribbled
next to the words
“come again”.

Our first date was Chinese
Just a little exotic, full of
signs and portents
riddles hidden in
egg drop soup and lo mein.
We spoke of the rock poets,
Dylan and the Doors
chainsmoking from
the same crumpled pack of Camels
over fortune cookie innuendo.

At her place
star charts taped
to the cabinet doors
and a beaded curtain
in every doorway,
I discovered her moon
was in Venus, while my
Scorpio was retrograde.
We danced while Morrison wailed
with her cat weaving its way
between my shuffling feet.

As the sun began to rise,
we lay tangled, half dressed
on a mattress in the floor
next to pile of dog-eared paperbacks.
While I toyed with the hoop
adorning the flat expanse of her stomach,
No trace of omelets here
she whispered in my ear
You kiss like a one night stand
her voice breathless, without reproach.

We were over, almost
before we began.
Started and quickly departed.
Some nights over black
coffee and folded eggs
I’ll hear the Lizard King reminding me
that people are strange
and I’ll remember when I kissed
a girl with nothing more than
that moment on my lips.
pencil

J.M. Gilliard lives in Torn\ado Alley in the Southern United States where he teaches Japanese martial arts in between his duties as a husband, father, and staff member at Lit.Org, a collective for aspiring writers. He has been published in Lost In The Dark and is currently working on his own upcoming ezine. E-mail: bartleby[at]lit.org.

Three Poems

Poetry
Dawn Bruce


Do you Remember

chill of air stroking
our bare skin, scent of sea breeze

lingering on our lips,
edge of dried gum leaves
fingering our backs, legs, arms,

releasing zing-strong odour
of crushed bush ants?

Leaves crackled and snapped
as we entwined, trees stretched

and moaned long white trunks
up to the canopy of midnight-blue.
Moonlight moved across us,
in a mother-of-pearl lustre,

phantasmal.

Our movements on the bush floor,

surreal.

Do you remember
or have I dreamt it?

 

Volcano

Exciting to be near
but living with you
my days are dark, air is thick,
life grey ash.

Your scalding words
burn, leave scars from flow
of countless arguments.

I must gather my belongings,
travel far away,
for I cannot forecast
your next eruption

when rocks you hurl
may be too huge, too many,
and cause an avalanche
that will completely crush me.

 

Face at the Window

Exiled from the present
she lives her days tight
in memories,
claws back every hurt,
mean deed, bruise and whisper,
weaves them into a comfort blanket
to keep out cold indifference.

Her house develops a lean,
diminished, but surrounded
by a garden dreaming.
Light ghosts through tangled branches,
past windowpanes, across floors, up walls
silently as the change of days
in her unchanging life.

 

pencil

“I am an Australian poet, living in Sydney. My poems have been widely published in literary journals, magazines, newspapers and anthologies throughout Australia. My first book of poetry, Stinging the Silence, was published by Ginninderra Press in November 2002. When asked why I write poetry, I answer with, ‘As a frustrated artist, catching the echoes in words leaves my painterly side satisfied.'” E-mail: somersetpoets[at]ozemail.com.au.

Two Poems

Poetry
C.L. Bledsoe


Pause

Crouched above me like a gazelle
dipping its neck to drink—your thighs—

a yellow cream. I leaned up,
clamped my mouth to your sex.

It gave you pause. Your head
lifted and froze and you didn’t make a sound.

It’s good that no matter the weight of days
that press us apart,

I still know how to make you quiet.

 

4 Short Poems About Sex

    1

My fiancé’s roommate
on one of her last nights
in the apartment
told us a story
about her father
who fed his dog sausages at night,
then, once, he got drunk,
went to piss in the trees
behind his house
after feeding the dog,
and the dog, smelling the sausage
on the man’s hands, enveloped
his penis, in its mouth, not doing damage
other than surprising him.

    2

When I was a fifteen,
the exterminator, in the process
of spraying the house, burst
into my bedroom, while I was
masturbating.

I stared
hard
in his eyes for one moment
and he closed the door, but then
flung it back open a second later,
entered and proceeded to spray my
bedroom, while I sat rigid
terrified
covering myself with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

I’d stolen
from my brother,

until the man left, moments later
leaving the door slightly ajar.

    3

Poor old Wesley got off work early
went home and found his wife
entertaining a gentleman caller.

The next day Wesley told his boss
not to send him home early anymore.

    4

The last night I sneaked into my father’s office
to call sex lines with Lawrence, my only

friend, on two way, listening to dirty stories, never realizing he
was doing what I
was doing until we called one

talking about a couple on a beach, pouring sand
in the girl’s ass; I started thinking

how much that would hurt, rub the skin
clean off. Then I heard Lawrence
breathing heavy.

 

pencil

C.L. Bledsoe is an editor for the Hollins Critic as well as Ghoti Magazine. He has work in Margie, Natural Bridge, Eyeshot, Fiction Warehouse, Story South, Hobart, Opium, Stickman Review, Nimrod, Thunder Sandwich, Word Riot, and Snow Monkey, among other places. E-mail: mariastatic[at]yahoo.com.