Prose, Unbound

Life of the Hereafter Party

Tom slowly closed and opened his eyes to clear his mind.  He surveyed his surroundings as he smoothed his left hand down the lapel of his suit jacket before he checked his wrist for the time.  Despite the stillness that hung in the air, a chill seeped into him. The hazy shine of fluorescents glared out through the blanketed night and caught in Tom’s peripheral vision.  The bus had long since left, and he needed somewhere to warm up while he waited for the next. With no other options in sight, Tom stepped out from under the awning of the bus stop and into the street where his black oxfords made a slimy click in the puddled water on his way to Nether’s World Diner.

As he neared the diner, he saw the place was packed and heard the tinny pulses of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” bleating out of the jukebox.  Tom ran his fingers through his hair brushing out the drops of water that had condensed there from his walk across the street and opened the door.  He prepared himself for the din of voices to overtake him, but all he heard was the scraping of cutlery on ceramic bleeding into the jangled instrumentation of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” as it switched places with the previous song.  Tom looked around with skepticism but decided no one was talking because the food was that good.

“Please Seat Yourself” hung squarely on the hostess podium, but Tom couldn’t find an open seat anywhere.  He craned his head to take a look at the place. No one looked at him as he took a gander at his fellow patrons.  Families sat at booths along the windows, parties of 2 sat at the tables running along the interior of the restaurant, and those dining alone sat at the counter  It seemed impossibly large, but there at the end of the counter, he saw a seat for a single occupant. Tom cleared his throat, squared his shoulders, and sauntered off to claim his seat.

“Hey there Tom, what’ll it be?” the waitress at the counter clicked between chews of gum.  Her sable ringlets bounced and big doe eyes sparkled between chews.

“Well, I must be in Heaven if an angel like you has the omniscience to know my name,” Tom flirted.  “How about a cup of coffee to help warm me up for starters and a slice of pie to sweeten to deal?”

“I’m no angel.  Your name is right there on your jacket, darlin’, and we’re out of coffee,” the woman said, a crocodile smile lingering on her lips.

Tom glanced down to see the stark white “Hello, My Name is Tom” slapped onto the lapel of his jacket.  He didn’t remember that being there, but he hadn’t checked a mirror since he woke up on the bus and stepped out into the dingy night.  Another traveler must’ve thought it clever to put one on him to help others help him in case he needed a friendly face. In the long run, it didn’t matter.  It’s always good to hear one’s name being called.

“Good observation,” he smiled back, “I’ll take a glass of sweet tea.”

“Sorry again, love.  As you can see we’re pretty busy,” his new friendly face said as she motioned about the diner, “The pie we can do but about all we have left is some tap water.”

“That’s fine,” Tom replied, disappointment turning down the corners of his eyes.

The waitress nodded and turned to check on other customers before walking back to fill his drink order.  Carly Rae Jepsen’s syrupy sythensizations of “Call Me Maybe” schmoozed their way through into Tom’s ears.  He hated to love this song with its repetition and its banality and it’s adolescent eagerness and idiocy wrapped up sugar sweet sickness, but he couldn’t help but sing along every time the course came on.

“Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe. And all the other boys try to chase me, but here’s my number, so call me maybe,” Tom hummed quietly and drummed his fingers on the counter, a boyish smile playing about his lips.  He spied the waitress pushing through the double doors carrying a small tray. Their eyes and smiles briefly met before she sat his order down.

Tom was still drumming the last cords of “Call Me Maybe” when he addressed the waitress, “Thank you, ma’am.  By the way, I didn’t get your name.”

“The name’s Purgatory,” she grinned back, “but most people just call me Tory.”

Tory set the water glass down and slid the pie across to him, “You know, you’re pretty happy for a dead guy.”

The alarm bells that had been drowned out by grating sounds of pop music as the smell of rotten fruit hit him.

“Hope you like durian pie,” Purgatory purred.  “You’ll be here for a while, and it’s about the only food we’ve left in the place.”  She winked and headed for the empty table that just opened up.

Tom tried to catch the eyes of the couple that just walked through the door, a young man in a letterman jacket and a girl who couldn’t be more than 17, but Rebecca Black’s anti-charismatic auto-tuned vocals in “Friday” drowned his plea.  Instead, a scraping sound of cutlery against ceramic filled the silence. He looked down and lifted the fork to his mouth.

Featured Image: Unsplash – “Open 24 Hours Sign” by FancyCrave (CC0 Public Domain)

Three Line Tales, Unbound

Edge of Reason

Like Hermes cast down from Olympus, the three boys sped surefooted through an overgrown field. Swaying dandelions and meadow thistle charted their traverse across the expanse like a compass. The true north of their hearts was a wild unknown teetering at the field’s edge where depths of darkness waited with a hungry embrace.

Featured Image: Unsplash – “Boys will be boys.” by Jordan Whitt (CC0 Public Domain)

Poetry, Unbound

Let Me Be Myself

This was the result of a creative writing exercise I did while attending a conference in Amsterdam this April.  It all points to identity and the things we desire if we could just drop the social pretense and requirements and be ourselves.

Let me
wear jeans for professional dress.
Don’t teachers teach better in jeans?
I heard that was true,
and if not, it should be.

Let me
just sit down and cry,
release the expectation that I have
all the answers even though I sometimes
don’t even know what I want.

Let me
etch “Carrie was here”
into the glass ceiling
and shatter it
as I dot the i in my name.

Let me
forget the shame
of bad decisions past
and prevent them
from haunting my quiet moments.

Let me
speak my mind
even if I lose my eloquence
and revert back to the girl on the ranch
doing a man’s work.

Featured Image: Pixabay – “Ranch” by skeeze (CC0 Public Domain)
Musings, Prose, Unbound

The Smallness of Us

There are these moments when I picture myself benevolently aged, a bittersweet smile of the past playing about the crow-footed corners of my eyes.  What I wouldn’t give to have a conversation with her.  The woman who weathered storms.  The woman who brought storms.  

What would she think of me with my self-pity and social angst?  

“Child,” she would say, sipping Zinfandel through her favorite My Little Pony mug a lover from long ago gave to her, “It is not the darkness in the life of an artist that creates art.  It is the hope that the darkness will end that helps the artist create life through art.”

I would cast a side-eyed glance at her, but since we occupy the same mind and body, she would guffaw at me and kiss her teeth as she knocked back another swig.

“It’s just like that story we loved as a girl and would always cry at every time we came back to it.  You know… the one where the guy crashes his plane in the desert and meets the alien boy and he tells him this story about a fox and a rose,” she would prattle on.

“Le Petit Prince,” I’d sigh back.  “Everything that is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“Exactly. Except there are also scars the eye cannot see, but that doesn’t mean we let them pervert our heart,” she’d sagely nod in the annoying way old people do right before she takes another gulp which causes Twilight Sparkle to mock me with her smug smile.  “Like this wine.  The fruit of which is sweet from the vine but fermented can leave a bitter aftertaste both in the mouth and in the actions taken under imbibed persuasion.”  

Adding punctuation to her words, she would put the mug down and lean forward in her chair, donning the doggedness that my mother wore when you knew she was right, when you knew she didn’t bring the storm but was the storm, “We must savor the delicacies of our lives, no matter how bitter.  We must not take for granted the world within the smallness of us.”

In response to Daily Prompt: Savor
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Storm” by Free-Photos (CC0 Public Domain)
Poetry, Unbound

I am

the taste of vanilla
melting into a concoction
of pecans and bliss
on Thanksgiving
when the warmth
of family is rising
like homemade bread.

The laughter plumes into the air,
and I smell the stale cigarettes
on my Mother’s hands
as she kneads the dough  –
their strength molding my world.
A twinkle of teeth flash
through open mouths
as a symphony of guitars
crescendo in a sense of urgency.

These are the moments I remember
while I lie in bed wrapped
in the warm embrace
of my mother’s cashmere blanket.
Salty tears catch at the corner of my mouth
and the bitterness
of these life moments irrevocably lost
stings like the wooly worms
I stepped on as a child.

“Baby girl, you need to stop worrying.
Dry your tears.  It’ll sting like hell today,
but in the morning it’ll feel better.”
If I close my eyes tight enough,
I can still smell her hair, freshly washed,
as she bent down to kiss
my seven year old foot.

In this moment I can taste
the bittersweet mix of
3 Musketeers, Dr. Pepper, pain medication,
and the release of a final labored breath.
In this moment I remember
she is
and I am.

Featured Image: Pixabay – “Heart” by castleguard (CC0 Public Domain)
Poetry, Teaching, Unbound

Nature Walk

I went on a nature walk with my creative writing students a few weeks ago.  A week of lazy afternoon suns had warmed up the little bit of winter we received here in Texas, and Spring was vividly pulsing through the air.  The Texas mountain laurel had just put on their blooms, and the smell of grape kool-aid made me light-headed as we walked the trail behind our school.

We had begun to study haikus, and it seemed the perfect day to experience the birth that nature gives to writing.  After our brief repose, we came back and wrote haikus about things we noticed the world was saying to us.  It has been almost a month since then, and our work with haikus has undoubtedly improved.  Here are a couple I wrote on that first day:

Mister Butterfly,
what are you doing here, sir?
Your flowers sleep still.

Breathing quiet life
like frozen pond lilies do –
Silence calls to me.

In response to Daily Prompt: Vivid
Feature Image: Pixabay – “Walking” by PublicDomainArchive (CC0 Public Domain)
Prose, Unbound

Foolhardy Heart

He paced across the porch, hands and fingers splayed out as if he were trying to make the ever-important point as he would in lecture. How frustrating I found myself feeling like the student instead of the work colleague that I was. Abashed and staring down at my drink, I held my breath for what was coming next.

“Don’t you feel it too? I know you do,” he lowered his voice as his pacing came up short and stopped merely inches from me. His body radiated heat that stretched out, curled around me, and closed the remaining distance between our bodies.

My breath stuck in my lungs, and a million thoughts swirled in my mind. Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? Did he really just say what I think he did? Does he know how I feel? How did he know how I felt? I’d been diligent. Friendly when I thought I could handle being close; quiet and withdrawn when I knew the distance could never be spanned.

“I do feel it,” I whispered, my eyes still cast on the ground. A huge weight had been lifted, but something more unsettling had filled its place. My breathing quickened its tempo as I waited for Jeremy’s reply.

He paced away again, his hands exasperatedly splayed out once more. I finally released the breath that had been tearing its way through my chest.

“You know… Amy… I’d have no problem having an affair with you,” he spoke with just a hint of amusement but with all the seriousness of a man who was determined to get what he wanted.

My breath caught once again leaving me breathless as if I had swallowed his words and they’d caught somewhere in my windpipe. Words are not tangible. They have no formal shape. They cast no shadow and bring no light. Hell, I work with words. I shouldn’t fall prey to them.

Panic shone bright in my eyes. I slowly prepared my rebuttal, but for my entire proclivity with words, they had failed me when I needed them most.

“It’s just every time I see you… I want to kiss you,” he said and crossed the distance of the porch in two strides. His hands enclosed my face and wrenched it upwards to meet his. Before any half-hearted protest could escape my lips, his mouth had enclosed over mine with a mingling of desire, desperation, and defiance.

Only the stirring of dust deep inside me registered any change. Was it fear that kept me from responding to the kiss? Surprise that I had the power to elicit this kind of response from a man? The emptiness I’d felt at being alone for the past three years? The understanding that the kiss was a forbidden folly was not lost on me. It’s not the knowledge that I felt nothing that keeps the memory of this moment fresh in my mind, tormenting me. It’s the unspoken acknowledgement that things had irrevocably changed.

In response to Daily Prompt: Folly
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Dried Leaves” by Unsplash (CC0 Public Domain)