An Unquiet Mind…


I was listening to an early Murakami audio book on the train home. So, of course, I was horny. Just as reading Jim Harrison makes me hungry for rich food and wide open rivers, and Ron Rash makes me yearn for the hollows, hills and murders of my youth, Murakami fills my mind with visions of young women in white cotton panties-even when he’s writing about cats. Maybe it’s me.

So at home I go straight to the freezer for the Tito’s and pour three fingers into a short glass. No icy dilution needed when your liquor is teeth achingly cold straight up.

My beloved looked up from her ledgers to regard me coolly. Her glasses perfectly framed her dark eyes which showed the wear of the day, but still sparkled.  When she pushed them up onto her head her hair bunched and tangled roguishly around them-offsetting and accenting her perfectly formed cheekbones.

Rough day… she said more than asked unwinding her legs from underneath and standing. Without pausing she seemed to float over to where I leaned against the granite countertop still in my coat. She looked at my knuckles to find them unbroken and not bloody. She got up on her toes to pull my collar down to examine my neck for rope burns or the slice of the garrote. Nope. She gave a certain quizzical smile before sliding the back of her hand gently across the front of my pants. Ah…she said.

Ah, I replied. You still have those white cotton panties?


Would you put them on?

I’m wearing the black ones you like.

Has to be the white cotton.

She gifted me with that crooked smile and turned away, her body swathed in the long sweater she wore around the house. You want the skirt too?

Glass at my lips-warming fumes filled my nostrils. Sure I croaked. And keep the glasses.

In the study with a fresh cocktail I pulled a chair into the middle of the room and lit a few lamps casting almond colored shadows along the paneled walls. Outside the dusk had deepened with the first freshet of a cold February rain. Should have put a fire in I thought looking at the dark, lifeless fireplace. Too late now, though.

My wife walked tentatively through the open door. The plaid school girl skirt fell no further than the middle of her strong tennis playing thighs. Definitely shorter than would have been permitted at the Academy. We had established that previously. The knee socks were new and very nice. She wore the crested white oxford shirt we had found in a Shadyside consignment shop last spring.

Just inside the door she paused and looked at me with a perfectly rehearsed mix of anticipation and trepidation. She reached up a quivering hand and delicately pushed her glasses, which had slipped, up on the bridge of her nose. You wanted to see me Mr. Travis?

I explained as best I could about the missed assignments and the unrecorded tardiness and reminded her of what we had agreed at our last meeting. I’m afraid Miss Jensen, you’ve left me no alternative but to spank you.

She pouted beautifully and dropped her chin. I understand, sir. I’m sorry.

No need, Miss Jensen. Let’s get on with it then.

She walked haltingly to the chair where I took my seat. Eyes demurely downcast she lowered herself over my lap. My breath caught as I lifted her skirt up over her back revealing the white cotton panties tightly sheathing her bottom. I cupped her right cheek and was about to draw back when…a folder on the edge of the desk caught my eye.

It was the Kisama account folder that I’d brought home the day before. What a clusterfuck that had turned out to be! It had seemed simple enough-fairly straightforward Statement of Work but someone had neglected-it had been Elizabeth-to include the upcharges for the custom work outside of scope now they were balking at the cost.

Ahem, coughed my wife draped over my lap patiently waiting. Oh, right. Miss Jensen, I muttered. It’s time I dealt with you… I raised my hand then…I really couldn’t put it all on Elizabeth though. There was a team of five working on the document-that’s four too many to my liking. I would have one person shepherd it through from front to back…No matter. Done is done. I’ll just have to fly out there and…

Ah, Mr. Travis? my wife asked upside down. You may have to take my panties down so the spanking really sinks in…You have been rather naughty. Lift up. She rose slightly onto her toes and I rolled the white cotton down slowly revealing my wife’s bottom ready for Miss Jensen’s spanking which would …the word naughty struck me. We never really used it-seemed overly childish.

Like impure. Maybe impure was just mine. I had confessed to a priest once when I was eleven or twelve to having impure thoughts. He wanted details! I didn’t give him any-mumbled something about girls in bathing suits-right!-and he asked me if I jacked off. Just like that! I couldn’t wait to get out of there. What did you tell him?  Frankie asked me later when I told the guys about it. I told him no! You lied to a priest? We all laughed about that…

Tommy! I heard my name being called. It was my wife stuck in downward dog over my lap her panties at her knees. My shoulder’s getting a little creaky, she said lifting a hand off the floor.

Yes, right. Sorry. I reared back and delivered the first smack fully on her right cheek. She moaned lightly at the impact and relaxed-settling comfortably onto my lap. I regarded the perfect pink handprint on her bottom and thought a moment. It put me in mind of those turkeys we drew in grade school…where we would trace our hands on a piece of construction paper-I would go with the goldenrod color- then we would…

Tommy! Focus…

Yes, honey, I said lifting my hand.

Lengthening Shadows


I lit two candles with the wooden matches from the cigar shop. Even with the fog veiled moon hanging over the hill glowing through the windows, the room was dim. It would take a few weeks after daylight savings time to get decent light into my attic again. Two more candles helped.

A few stretches and a (premature) sun salutation and I was ready to begin my tai chi practice. There was no clock but I knew what time I climbed the bare wooden steps. I would have fifty minutes to do my forms-including the sword and cane which had recently been added.

The last conscious thought I had was the word “now…” trailing off to silence swallowed by a deep emptying exhale. As far as I could tell, the first-the short-form went well. It was my strongest having known it the longest. Sometimes, with my mind unavailable to keep track, my body would lose its place and I’d run over the same section again and again like a record needle stuck in a groove. That didn’t happen this morning. As far as I could tell.

In the space between the long form and the sword-when I had to break to pick up and unsheathe the weapon-I felt a little winded. Which was typically not the case in my tai chi practice. This was measured, deliberate, contemplative movement. If I wanted “winded” I go back to sparring or the bag.

My mind wandered to the book I was reading. Haruki Murakami’s writing is to be lingered over. It doesn’t come to you in the words-but in the spaces between. I think there is a notation in music that means “pause” or “breathe”. I can’t guarantee that because the only music class I ever had was in the fifth grade and barely remember. But pauses are as important as anything else. To make space. To allow for slow, total absorption. Lately I’ve been reading too fast; feeling my eyes flowing down the page, running like raindrops down a windshield.

Slow down. Outside the moon was dipping below the front hill but the morning was brightening as the sun rose over the tree line in back. Slow down…even saying it made my heart beat a little faster. Maybe I should masturbate, I said, startled to hear my voice. Living alone I found it sometimes difficult to separate thoughts from words and am surprised when the room echoes to silence after a thought.

I find self-gratification an excellent soporific-not as long lasting as Xanax or some other big-pharma concoction but on the plus side, doesn’t make me crave cold Chardonnay after an hour.

Downstairs the clock told me that all four forms had taken less than forty minutes. Was I running? I made a cup of strong coffee and sat in a chair in the dim house facing away from the sunrise.

“Are you going to work today?” my father asked from the next room.

“Go away”, I ordered. “No ghosts this morning.”

The shadows lengthened.