Wednesday, March 11, 2015

the war

the war had taken more than his leg. he'd left a heart-sick wife and three tiny children with the promise that he would return to them no matter what. he'd told himself that nothing would touch him because he was so loved and needed, but months later as he lay half a world away in a cold, muddy trench with a quarter of his leg blown off, the only thing that kept him alive was hatred. the pain was absolutely consuming and raw. it was as if someone was holding a whirring, rough grit belt sander against the wound and pressing hard. the nerve endings jumped and sparked with a cruel and piercing electric current as the almost still air passed over them. he wondered why his body did not go into shock and protect him from the agony. he looked down at the sharp, jagged bone fragments and shredded limp white ligaments jutting from the macerated bright red flesh below his knee and watched the 19 year old medic wrap a tourniquet to stop him from bleeding out. as he examined the horror of the wound, his eyes flicked up and clocked the boys hands trembling as he struggled to keep from fainting. he saw the dead faces of his buddies as they searched the mud for his mangled severed foot- and once found, without making eye contact with him, placed it beside him as gently as if it were a new born baby. if he'd had the strength to do so, he would have heaved it with all his might out of the trench onto the exploding no man's land of the battlefield. instead he started to laugh. he heard the men around him agree that he was going into shock, but in actual fact, his pain was getting worse and the laughter was only the inappropriate sound his body was making as the last drops of his belief in the innate goodness of humanity siphoned out of him. it was a long time before they could get him to a field hospital and as he surveyed the muddy, bloody, stinking facts of his current predicament, he thought, 'so i guess this is how i die.'

when he woke up clean and bandaged in the quiet surroundings of a hospital, he was surprised to realize that he was still alive. he flipped the sheet off his injured leg and saw that it had been amputated to his hip. his eyes narrowed. he thought about all the faceless soldiers and (probably) civilians that he had maimed or killed in the name of his own blind nationalism and realized that he and they were the same fodder. he'd been duped into believing there was 'a greater good' to participating in this organized, uniformed slaughter called 'war' and now he knew just how hard he had to be hit to see the truth of the thing. he thought about the preened and pampered politicians and their 'exempted' ivy league offspring. he hated them all. when letters arrived from home, they remained unopened.

his wife had prepared their home to accommodate his healing and change in mobility. in the weeks before his arrival, she had attended classes and counseling and steadied herself for some difficulty while he adjusted to his new circumstance. when he was finally wheeled from the plane, she did not recognize him because his expression was so contemptuous. there was no joy or recognition in his eyes upon seeing her or the children, only a cold awareness of their presence. in the weeks that followed, he shunned her comforts and instead began to wrangle his way onto the lower rungs of 'business'. he became an unlicensed backdoor pawn broker (lots of obviously stolen merchandise with no questions asked) and soon graduated into aggressive, small-time loan-sharking. the money was rolling in and he had no problems with however it came to be in his hands. he stopped using his wheel chair and refused to wear a prosthetic because it made him feel 'handicapped'. he spider-crawled on his three remaining limbs and soon developed the agility of a monkey. he was low to the ground and as dangerous as an abused dog. no one ever tried a second time to take advantage. he threw money on the table for his wife every week before he melted out of the house. he did not make eye contact with her or share her bed. the children knew to be silent when he was home.

his wife eventually understood that everything was too broken to continue in the marriage. the awareness came in the form of hookers, drugs and criminals seeping unabated into her daily life. she quietly divorced him at which point he untethered completely from all social convention and fell gladly into total nihilism. his life continued in a steady circle around the drain while he satisfied his increasingly specific carnal desires and acquired more money than he could ever actually use. his children never gave up hope that he would one day love them again.

it was a mistaken belief.



Friday, March 6, 2015

sophia



picasso was growing weary of brigitte bardot. the actress was beautiful but did not inspire him. her allure was so legendary that he had expected she would enter his studio ghosted by his new muse. sadly, the girl was alone. he did his best to be a good host, but really, there was nothing there for him. as the days passed picasso grew worried that he would never be visited by the ethereal again. all of his painting came directly from his brain and soon the tip of his brush wondered why the work was so hard.

he asked aloud to no one in particular why he had driven sophia away.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

gentrification


i'd come back from the future and was glad about it. this life was simple and clear and everything took a distant second place to growing season- which we were in the midst of now. i was muddy up to my elbows and over the tops of my wellies from plugging tomato seedlings into the wet, loamy soil near the shoreline. there would be no watering throughout the season because of the fresh water wicking through the thirsty tomato roots on its gravitational slip to the sea. i stood up after i had planted many rows, the falling sun behind me illuminated the tender leaves of my seedlings and highlighted the preciseness of my rows. i listened to the water birds conversing in the near distance and let a peaceful satisfaction wash over me. i headed toward the labyrinth of connected buildings that comprised our village and slipped out of my boots for the last few steps to the hose-bib. i laughed when i looked down at my feet- they were so muddy i realized i should have worked barefoot. i turned on the spigot and pulled the soft, clear tube of water from the end of the hose up my arms and over my knees and feet. i felt a thousand childhood summers pass through my memory and smiled. as i filled my boots for a final rinse, i looked up and saw a stranger walking toward me. as he moved toward me i could see from his gait that he was not from this time and my heart skipped a terrible beat. had i not gone back far enough? had he followed me? worse, had i left the portal open too long after my final departure allowing someone to slip in? 'hiiiiiiii!' he sang to me as he waved his arm above his head. he wore pastel 'preppy' clothes from the 1980's with the requisite coordinating tennis sweater tied over his shoulders. he held half-dead seedlings in his other arm and grinned as he said too loudly, 'i brought these for you!'. i did not respond with words but instead looked at him as though i could blink him away. as he spoke, i understood that i had not gone back far enough and he was the first wave of those who would bring 'gentrification' to this perfect place.

i thought of murder.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

not a campus


we climbed the endless, sloping, shaded lawn. my stride matched hers- but only because i was trying. the pace she kept was just a click too fast to be natural to me and i had to concentrate in order to keep up. 'we have a negative selection process.', she instructed. i looked at her square aryan jaw and 1000 mile stare and thought, 'jesus christ, these people have so many rules...'. i watched the main building come into view. it looked like it had once been a beautiful old library on a college campus. scores of attractive and robust  young men and women walked with the same unnaturally fast gate, many tightly holding books or brown accordion files full of paper and deep in conversation. no one was smiling. i heard the warm indian summer breeze pass through the leaves of the gargantuan oaks above us before i felt it. i closed my eyes for a moment as it softly brushed my body and lifted the ends of my hair. in that moment i felt certain that i should be parked on a gingham cloth surrounded by picnic food and friends instead of rushing through all this lush, pre-autumn loveliness. 'what does that mean? i finally asked. without looking at me she answered, 'it means we decide everything by process of elimination'. i sucked in a deep breath and pursed my lips to let it it soundlessly. it was only the first hour of the first day and already everything about this place made me feel rebellious. i let my lids slip 1/2 way down over my eyes in a private gesture of contempt. i knew it would be weeks- maybe months, before i was able to leave.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

hummingbird egg


i was frying a hummingbird egg in a 1 inch perfectly seasoned cast iron pan. i checked my tiny oven when i smelled the 1/2 inch slices of bread begin to brown. i quickly turned over the hummingbird egg (almost broke the yolk) and then picked up a miniature silver butter knife and deftly scraped each toasted surface of bread with a veil of hand-churned, fresh butter. i lifted the egg from the pan with an impossibly tiny spatula and laid it over my toast. i looked out my balcony windows when i heard the marching band hit a series of sour notes. i wondered why i didn't feel enthusiastic about going to the game. i also wondered why my swiss boarding school colors were red and white instead of blue and white. i saw old naked john striding across the grassy commons and let out an involuntary sigh of annoyance. he was painted in cracked tempura painted from head to toe; bright red from his testicles down to his tattered saucony runners and bright white from his penis into his curly severely receded hairline. i could tell even from my vantage point that his eyeglasses were covered in paint. everyone knew old naked john was harmless, but truly, i was sick of him. it didn't matter to me that he always had a smile on his face, i was looking forward to never having to avert my eyes from his deflated ass and wrinkly man-parts again. i was ready to be finished with school and start my life.

Monday, January 19, 2015

the fair


we did so many things on the homestead; hand-carved olive wood serving pieces, various sizes of brass dairy cow bells and hand-tooled collars, shaker style nesting baskets and chairs and repairs on any manner of thing, but the reason we were there in the back country was the animal rescue- we needed the room. we had certification to take in everything from abandoned lynx kits to llamas and our old truck was always transporting the most urgent case along with us on daily errands into town. on this annual town fair day, our passenger was an old black and white one-eyed mama barn cat who had just undergone the amputation of a rear leg and was about to throw (her last...) litter of kittens. the old cat had apparently spent her life in a tipped over 1920's metal trash basket- and that was where she was the most comfortable. we'd cleaned it up, lined it with a soft, toasty plush and tucked her in on the wide floor boards of the truck with food and water within easy reach. in spite of everything she'd been through, she purred madly and i'd already decided she could live out the rest of her days with us after the kittens had all found homes.

while simon drove, i kept one hand on the 5 tier pie carrier sitting beside me. in it were the prettiest pies i could manage, made from apples, berries and stone fruit from our land. it didn't matter to me if i got a ribbon for any of them but i was dying to hear the 'oohs and ahhs' from our neighbors as they dug in.

as we pulled into town i felt a huge smile form on my lips. strung across the main street were the carefully kept old fashioned banners used from the very first fair and everyone looked in a festive mood. i felt so happy. simon slowed as he looked for the perfect spot under a tree that would throw shade on the truck for the entire day (the cat) and also be fairly close so we could easily check on her often.

simon carried the pies and we held hands as we walked toward the main street greeting all our seldom seen friends and neighbors. as we walked, i spotted a vintage trash can just like the one our mama cat was in, but this one was in better condition. i made a deal to buy it and right then used the sellers supplies to paint golden fleurs-de-lis inside and out with her name (tallow) written in fancy script on top. i told him i would pick it up as we left the fair to give it time to dry.

as we came to the center of town, people began to congratulate us on being one of 3 finalists for an additional hundred acres of land. it was such a surprise. the other two finalists were there and i knew i would be happy no matter who won.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

endo


she was a good girl with a quick and genuine smile. she helped her grandmother every day in the house and then moved to her outside chores before anyone had to remind her. she was a star pupil in school, but her greatest passion was her horse. it was incidental to her that she was recognized as the top equestrian in her age group (10-12 years) in the country. it only meant that no one ever questioned why she spent every waking minute with her equine friend. she had watched him be born and the moment he came out, she knew his name was 'endo'. his dame had been a gentle, deep red belgian draft and his sire a jet black, fiery andalusian. endo's coat was a deep, liquid red like his dam, his bottle brush mane, tail and feet feathers were black as pitch like his sire. it was clear to see in his first moments that he was intelligent and sweet-spirited. from the beginning, the girl and colt were inseparable and spent every day playing together like puppies. often the girls grandfather let her spend the night in the barn after he searched the farm and found her curled up with the colt fast asleep in a deep pile of straw. her grandfather would pull one of the old wool blankets out of the tack room and cover them both.

the girl was careful to wait until the little horse's bones were strong enough to support her before she officially mounted him- but from his first day standing she had put a wool 'baby saddle' on his back and gently tugged the soft cinch strap around his ribs and told him when he was big enough they would ride. as they both grew, their play became more athletic and she would clasp her fingers behind his ears, lift her feet from the ground and endo would run as fast and far as he could around the pasture wearing her like a necklace while she squealed with delight.

endo had inherited his temperament, strength and giant stature from his dam and his agile, graceful movement from his sire. when the girl and the horse entered the ring, there was always an audible gasp because of his size, astonishing beauty and effortless agility. as the girl and horse completed their perfect course, no one knew that the bit rings on the horse's show halter were purely ornamental. endo performed dressage to please the girl and because he actually enjoyed it. he had never worn a bit or felt the bite of a spur.