The Longest Day

CAUTION: Intimations of buggery ahead….

 

“You been in there, right? Top floor?”

“Ah…it’s been years-and honestly-those days? Not much in the way of memories…”

“Well, it’s a long hallway and I’m at this end…” to make his point he did a chopping motion in the air and held his hand on edge. “Y’see? And Colleen’s room is halfway down-more than that actually-just a door up from the loo. Right there.” He pointed through the window and up the hill to the rambling ramshackle of a boarding house overlooking the few standing structures that still defined Wichymeade as a town on some old maps. “The one with the purple curtains”, he continued to point.

Glennon’s shrug was equal parts “I see”, “I don’t get it” and “get on with it.”

“Anyways” he shrugs getting on with it, “I’m creeping down the hall to do my night’s business and I hear this…hum. More like a moan.”

“A moan?”

“Like, ‘Mmmmmmmm’.”

“That could be a moan”, then shrugging. “Or a hum. And it’s coming from….”

“You got it. Right! Colleen’s room. And it’s getting louder as I get closer-which of course makes sense-and I get there, again, on my way to the loo…just passing by, and I see Dennehy-of course I think it was Dennehy. Never seen him from that particular angle.”

“What angle was that?”

“He was laying over Colleen’s lap-like a naughty baby-stark naked from what I could see…”

“Naked!?”

“Completely!”

“Facing which way?”

“Away from me.”

“Oh dear.”

“Right. And that’s not the worst of it. Colleen was pushing a cucumber into his bottom.”

“What? A cucumber?”

“Had to be”, he answered struggling to remember the details.

Glennon sipped his coffee. “Why don’t people shut their doors when they’re on about something like that?” Then, after a pause as he tried to envision the calamity, “You’re sure it was a cucumber?”

“And not a….”

“Zucchini, let’s say.”

“Would have had to be a small zucchini…”

“And the sound you heard, the ‘mmmmmmmmm…”

“That was coming out of him.”

“I don’t doubt it. Was there lights on in the room?”

“See, that’s the thing what gets me wondering if it were a dream or not. It seemed to be sunlight leaking in around the curtains…”

“But it was night.”

“Exactly!”

“Were you soused?”

“No more, no less.”

“Sampling any of Dixon’s latest”, he asked pantomiming puffing on a joint.

“My credit’s no good with him no more.”

“Did you speak with either of them?”

“No, not speak. But when Colleen noticed me at the door, she gave me a look.”

“What kinda look?”

“You know.”

“I’m sure I don’t.”

“Like I had come upon them playing bridge or something. Chess maybe. Like ‘nothing to see here, best be off.’ As if she wasn’t jamming a zucchini up me mate’s behind.”

“I thought you said it was a cucumber!”

“It was, what did I say?”

“Zucchini.”

“No. Had to be a cucumber. Of produce, I guess I could see a carrot…a banana, of course…”

“Candlestick.”

“Oh, yes. Forgot you were an altar boy.”

“Shush!” hissed Glennon clapping him on the shoulder. “What you do then? After she spied you?”

“What ya think? Bypassed the loo completely. Down the stairs and out into the yard. Did my business behind a tree and went over to Sadies.”

“Ah Sadie. She’s always good for a piece of day old pie and a cuppa that hideous coffee of hers.”

“Ghastly stuff!”

“You really have to work to make coffee that bad.”

“Then I come over here soon’s June Bug opened. Did you see Dennehy this morning at the dock?”

“No. But his boat leaves early so I wouldn’t, typically.”

The sharp double toot of a steam whistle cut the heavy air.

“That’s me”, said Glennon, drinking off the rest of his cup. “I’m off. Salmon to be caught.”

“You need a hand?”

“No, we’re full today. Why? Don’t you have a train?”

“No I do not! Fools threw a wheel down the bottom of the lake.”

“So you have nothing today.”

“Nope.”

Standing Glennon patted him on the shoulder and headed for the door. “You should set a bit. Stay down here and get your thoughts in order. And oh”, he paused hand on the push bar “on the off chance, pass on the salad if she tosses one for dinner.”

The door closed and he was alone at the counter.

“Junie? Would you give me a wee,” he held his fingers up a scant smidge apart for emphasis “tiny bit a’ schnapps please?”

“I will not, Kevin Duffy!”

“You won’t?”

“It’s not an hour past sunup and you yourownself told me to never serve you before noon.”

“I did, didn’t I?”

“Yes you did. So unless you want a good, sound spank you’ll have another coffee and be happy about it!”

“What?”

She stood in front of him with the pot. “D’ye want another cup?”

“What…else? The other thing…? What did you say? Besides coffee?”

“Are ye daft as well as deaf? No alkyhol till noon. Now, ‘nother coffee?”

“Uh…no. No thank you.”

He pushed away, leaving more coin on the counter than was necessary.

“See ye at noon then”, she called at his back.

Outside the sun burning from over the lake warmed his back and threw his shadow well up the hill. He set out, trudging after it as if underwater, up toward the boarding house.

 

 

“Home again home again, jiggety-jig”

 

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Once the train rolled past the mill across the river the ground flattened and the hill backed off step by step until there was room for the town to wedge itself between its natural boundaries. He peeked through the slitted door of boxcar and saw Rohall’s body shop which was still the first building in town but he couldn’t swear it was still a body shop.

Then a few houses that looked abandoned then the fire house with someone, too far away to make out who, lounging in a chair by the open door. The track bent then, bellying toward the river and away from the football field, robbing him of the close-up view but opening the vista of the grimy little houses sprawling between two bridges and up to the hillside.

He watched the ties clicking quickly past and ventured to stick his head out. There was no one working on the tracks that he could see-no trucks, no equipment-but he’d have to wait for the switching yard to be sure. He had played there as a boy-and later-but now it had fallen into disuse-storing ties and timbers instead of old boxcars to play in.

Nearing the yard and its crossing the train slowed enough to make exiting, if not easy, at least possible. He squatted and stretched watching and waiting for the flattest spot with the least ballast which made the footing uncertain. He was entering the yard now, overrun with tangles of thistle, sedge, sumac trees and at least one very dead deer.

Quickly, while somewhat hidden by the brush, he slid the door enough to sit with his legs hanging then pushed off. With barely a stumble, he was walking beside the train instead of riding in it as he had for 300 miles. His boxcar outpaced him and slipped away. He carried no bundle, no bag, nothing that could mark him as homeless, a vagrant or hobo. Everything he owned he wore or left behind.

The creosote smell of the new ties gave him the same odd feeling it always did. Took him back to his first time; jaws clenched, bent grimacing over a stack of ties, the spring drizzle dripping from his hair. That was just down the tracks from here. If there was another man in the world who was aroused by the smell of creosote he didn’t want to meet him.

Every fucked-up path had a fucked-up beginning and once you hit the crooked way, there was no getting off it. Like riding your bike into a street car track-you were stuck where it would take you. It was always that way no matter what anyone said. Once your wires were crossed, they were crossed and singed into a new direction.

The ten foot fence was new-running beside the track for as far as he could see. He might have to walk all the way to the crossing which would be chancy but where there was a fence there would be holes, loose spots and passages for townies to cut across to the river. There was too much beer to be drunk, weed to be smoked and girls to be fucked on the riverbank to be deterred by a mere cyclone fence.

He ran his fingers along it as he walked remembering what it had felt like, as a kid, to be able to scale something like this. Up like a spider, leg over, drop down. That was a while ago. He stopped. There it was. The bottom two wires connecting the fence to a pole had been cut; the loose grid unnoticeable unless you knew it was there. He squatted, pushed at the bottom and the wire lattice lifted like a curtain.

Just like that he was back in town. And no one was going to be happy to see him.

“A little anisette, please…”

Moon Fall

He awoke slowly; grudgingly. The new pills not only kept him asleep through the night-or at least more of the night than he was used to-but made waking a slow, weighted swim up from of the bottom of a deep pool. It was a chore that he deferred most mornings. He allowed himself a few minutes gazing at the ridge line until he could just make out the bare limbs and branches etched against the graying sky.

He rose and stretched-hands high-counting the pops in his spine as he bent this way, then that.  Then listened to the cracks in his ankles as he walked, squinting to unlock the bedroom door in the darkness. An unnecessary precaution as it turned out but one he felt he had to take.

He padded across the hall and paused at the slightly open door to the front room-just as he’d left it. Her deep regular breathing was the only sound on the floor. He slipped the door open wide enough to enter. This side of the house fronted the lake and the light of the dawn moon falling over the far hills pointed a silver sword their way across the water. He watched the flickering light crawling directly at him and fell under the spell of her breathing.

He allowed himself to be borne away by her rhythm, inhaling deeply with her and exhaling as she did. Not being asleep, the exercise left him feeling winded-in need of quick swallows of air. The room carried the sweet aroma of his grandmother’s bread dough rising in her tiny kitchen-a heady mix of sleep, damp heat and last night’s lovemaking.

He approached the bed where she was on her side sunken deeply into the old mattress the sheet around her shoulders. He checked the knots around her ankles and gently slipped a finger between the bonds and her skin. Secure and not too tight. He then pulled back the sheet to check her wrists, bound before her as if in prayer. Her breath feathered the back of his hands. The rope securing her wrists to her ankles was likewise fast.

And lastly, the knife. His own deer knife, a nine inch blade sharp enough to shave, cut and gut. Happily, it was safely sheathed within her easy reach. His suggestion was to bind her lightly so she could easily release herself if necessary during the night. She instead wanted to be bound tightly, with the knife as her out card.

He knew she was mad from the first. But the first was so long ago that the knowledge did him no good now.

The World’s Worst Flirts

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He could see her behind the counter when he pulled up. Did he know she would be here? He had thought of her that morning for no particular reason, now here she was. Maybe he somehow knew that she worked weekends.

“Hi”, he said, pushing his way through the glass door which would have opened automatically had he waited for it. There was no one in the store but her. “I haven’t seen you in awhile.” She cocked her head slightly to one side expectantly so he pushed on. “I must not come in when you’re here.”

“You just don’t come in when I’m here”, she said.

She took his lottery card and ran it through the machine. Her face, round and scrubbed pink, opened in a smile when she handed him his ticket. Her teeth were tiny, baby-teeth but perfectly aligned. None of the others here had all of their teeth. At least he had that impression.

He opened his wallet when she said “Two dollars” and rifled through the receipts and paper scraps finally finding two triple-folded ones that he handed over. He failed trying to think of something clever and said, “I think I have enough.”

“Yep, you do” she said taking the bills with a smile. “Won’t have to make you mop the floors now.”

Taking the ticket and again, failing to think of anything clever, he looked at the floor and said, “I don’t think I could get down that low.”

“I think you could get down pretty low.”

What? Wait. On his way to the door he veered left, cutting off a quick exit to stare into the cooler. He’d buy an ice tea if he had another buck. He saw the reflection of his paint-spattered jeans, torn sweatshirt, his shapeless raincoat and ball cap. “Christ”, he thought and moved to the door again.

“Have a good one”, he said this time waiting for the hydraulic whoosh to open it.

“You too”, her smile was noncommittal to the point that it almost not a smile at all.

She works Saturdays he told himself trying to carve it in his memory. I’ll have something better to say next week.

Inside, she wondered idly where she had seen him before.

Left Behind

ghost

It doesn’t matter, he said sounding a tad strained. I just wish I could straighten up a little, that’s all. He tried for the millionth time to pick up one of the scattered cards or a stack of loose papers. They passed right through his hand.

See? Said the other. Why bother?

If I had some new file folders I’m sure I could make some sense of this. He continued to try to keep the desperation out of his voice.

It just doesn’t matter.

Listen, he said hearing footsteps on the gravel outside. Here they come again.

He turned to face the broken window and smiled a wide gap-toothed grimace.

What the hell are you doing?

Smiling for their picture.

You know they can’t see you, right? You won’t show up. Look at the floor. You don’t even leave tracks.

I wish Miss Baxter was here-she could put this mess to right.

She’s long gone. Forget it-

Why are we still here again?

The other sniffed and slowly diffused into a limp, spreading cloud of glimmering tendrils that rose toward the rafters.

What? But…

Sighing but afraid to be alone, he allowed himself slip likewise apart and followed, trying to remember why he wouldn’t show up on film. He’d make him tell next time.

Fish Prints

fish-print

And what would you have me do with these?

I’m thinking of adding color, he answered, shuffling gently through the rice paper portraits. Like on this one. I’d like some green at bottom like grass, it’s dark green, see? Then lighter green tendrils I guess-going from bottom to top.

Like kelp?

Maybe like that. Willow grass. You know? With the yellow flowers on top where they break the surface.

The younger man shrugged. What is this? The fish?

Carp.

Hmmm…aren’t they sacred in China?

This is Pittsburgh. Here they root in the mud. Then, turning his attention back to the print,  Maybe some gold color smearing down from the top like sunlight?

Why don’t you do it?

My son’s an artist, my father’s an artist. I can’t piss in a line.

You did these, he said waving his hand slowly above the prints like clearing suds from a pan of water.

The fish did all the work. I was a bystander.

What is it you do?

I make money.

A lot?

Plenty. But probably not enough.

Enough for what?

All of it…

Then you must try this yourself.

I’m sure I couldn’t.

Your son then?

Pfffft. He’s not my son anymore…he’s a grown man with his own cares…

Your father?

Long dead.

You should definitely give it a shot then. You seem to know what you want.

I’d like to. I just doubt that I can.

They regarded the prints silently.

I’d like to. I just doubt that I can.

You just said that.

I did?

Yes.

Twice?

Word for word.

Fuck!

He hurriedly gathered the prints and rolled them loosely, sticking them gently under his arm. He turned from the work table and approached the open window that looked onto the alley. The artist said nothing until the man had one foot out the window balanced on the dumpster.

The door, sir.

Pfffttt. He paused and looked back. Since we were talking about pissing…

Ah…yes?

The other night I awoke standing at my closet door. My dick was in my right hand ready to shower my shoes and most likely the bottoms of my hanging clothes when something-a passing car, a cloud skirting the moon-something flickered in the window and woke me. I was in the bedroom around to piss in my closet and not across the hall standing in front of the toilet where I had assumed I was. Huh! What do you make of that?

I’m sure I don’t know sir.

I had to stick my thumb over the hole on the end and scuttle into the bathroom where I thought I’d been all the time. Odd, don’t you think?

Odd, sir. Yes.

Welp, he said. Then just before he shifted all of his weight outside be paused and pulled a thick gold coin from his pocket and placed it on the window sill.

That’s too much sir.

For what…

A conversation…

Pfffttt. Watch where you piss then.

With that, he withdrew the second leg and was gone.

The artist could see no one in the alley. Up or down. The coin was heavy and well used-but lustrous just the same.

 

(The idea of the golden sunlight “smearing” was lifted from Jim Harrison’s “Mother Night”. Probably indirectly enough that no one would have noticed but, well shit…you know?)

 

Vodka and Melatonin- III

(Continued from Vodka and Melatonin-Part II)

“Are you up?” came her voice again-from far away.

“Huh? What…?” he asked confused.

He grabbed the hard seat of the chair feeling it beginning to shake beneath him. Or was it him shaking? He couldn’t be sure but was suddenly fearful of toppling over and have the clamps tear at his nut sack in the most gruesome way. He held onto the seat as if on a pitching ship.

“Hey!” she yelled shrilly as she banged the bed with her hip. “Are you not up yet?”

He started awake in his own bedroom, the morning sun bathing the room in a golden glow.

“I’m up for Chrissakes!”

“It’s about time!” his wife Pamela cried exasperated already. She was a blur of multi-colored spandex, nylon and grim determination. Jim rolled quickly onto his side away from her to try to hide his tent pole erection. Nothing pissed Pamela off more than him having a hard-on that she had nothing to do with.

“Remember”, she said “I have a 9 a.m. training with Silvio-but I want to get there early for the treadmill. Get a head start on my steps for the day. Then after the training I’m doing a weight set with Carla and will probably hang around for Michele’s Zumba class. I hate that shit but it will be a good cool-down and I haven’t seen Michele for awhile….”

Jim noted that this was the same word for work itinerary she had ticked off to him the night before. He knew she wasn’t informing him of anything-rather just stating her commitment for the universe to hear. He felt his hard-on deflating during her litany. The more she talked the quicker he deflated.  He could almost hear the high pitched whine of air squeezing out of a pricked balloon.

“…so I won’t be home until noon which will give you enough time to get that goddam motorcycle out of my side of the garage…”

“Indian”, he mumbled into the pillow.

“What?”

“1958 Indian”, he said for probably the hundredth time trying in vain to impress her with the bike’s vintage.

“Not. Giving. A. Shit. It’s a pile of pieces right now and I need to get my car inside. You have enough projects-finish that little car…”

“Karmann Ghia.”

“What?”

“It’s a 72 Kharmen Gia Cabriolet.”

He felt her eyes boring into the back of his head. “You have till noon to get that piece of shit motorcycle gone.”

“Have a nice workout” he mumbled after she had strode off and couldn’t hear him. He lay still until he heard the front door slam. Then her car door. Then the motor started and he heard the crunch on the gravel drive. Not until it went silent and he knew she was out on the road did he throw back the covers and sit up.

Sighing, he stood and looked down to where his once proud cock had swung like a broad sword to see it hanging low in defeat-like a flag with no breeze.

“Coward” he grumbled at it.

He picked his phone off the nightstand and entered the unlock code-which he changed every two days or so just because it drove her nuts.

He tapped a quick text: “U up?”

It quickly bounced back: “Yep. Coffee.”

“Alone?” he tapped?

“Yep.”

He scrolled down his quick dial list to where she was hidden near the bottom and tapped her name. She picked up on the second ring.

“Mornin’ Glory”, she said huskily.

“Hey-where’s Kimmy?”

“Charleston for a couple of days. Left yesterday.”

He was silent for a moment because he couldn’t remember if he’d said “Huh”-which was probably called for right then. Instead he said, “I dreamed about you last night?”

“Was it hot?” she asked.

“It was…complicated”, he said absently rubbing his balls where he still felt the dream-clamp.

“Complicated huh? You can’t manage complicated…”

“You were naked…”

“Getting better…”

“…and you had a little, flat ass.”

“Oh-it was a complete fantasy then!”

“Like I said, complicated.”

She laughed teasingly and he pulled his hand away from his pecker which, hearing her voice, seemed to awaken enough to lift its head and start sniffing around.

“Can you store the Indian for a while? Gotta get it out of here.”

“Told you she wasn’t going to let you keep it”

“Just for awhile.”

“She gone?”

“Till noon.”

“Give me half an hour”, she said and hung up.

He put the phone back and stretched, digging his knuckles into the small of his back.