Monday, September 7, 2015

the filly

i'd hired him for the day and i didn't realize how young his horse was- a baby really. as the day wore on, his frustration with the animal and her emotional sensitivity grew to the point where he was jerking her head violently and digging angrily into her sides with his spurs. finally when she balked and caused him to slip off, he grabbed handfuls of dirt and threw it into her eyes as he kicked her until she cried out like a child. i rode my own horse up to him and grabbed the reigns from his hands. 'okay, we're done for the day. how much for your time and the horse?' he was swearing in spanish and i understood enough of it to know that he was going to beat the animal within an inch of its life the moment he was out of my sight. he reached for the filly and she grabbed the skin on the neck of my own horse with her teeth to keep from being pulled away. 'no, really, i want the horse. how much?' he was seething with rage. 'it's not mine, it's my friends i can't sell it.' 'call your friend,' i said calmly. 'i want to buy her.' javier looked at me for the first time since being thrown and now i could see he was calculating his own profit. 'tell your friend you lost the horse,' i said. 'it will be a secret.' javier grimaced what was supposed to be a smile and I could see that all of his teeth were edged in gold. 'okay, i make a deal with you.' he said. 'good, get some water while i put the horses away.' i let the terrorized filly follow my horse and only gently held her reigns as i walked the animals to the safety of the barn. i put them in the same stall and slipped off their tack. i said soft words to my old boy jack and told the filly not to worry. when i walked backed out javier had already loaded his gear into the truck. we negotiated briefly and he laughed in cruel agreement when i stopped the price because i said he was going to kill her anyway. i stood and watched until the trailing dust from the truck was only a distant wisp. i looked at my dogs and said, 'that's an enemy, guys. bite him if he comes back.' they all appeared to understand. i walked back to the barn to bed the horses down for the night.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Ladies Committee

it wasn't something i had wanted to do, but once i'd been roped in i decided to give it my all. peter had just finished touring and all of his hand-painted gorgeous silk panels were available to me, so i called in that chit. he had his crew spend the day installing them at the venue. when they finished, the effect was utterly breathtaking. peter and i stood in the back of the theater and marveled at the transformed space. the reconstructed skeletons of dinosaurs that belonged to the museum standing in front of the impressionistic mosaic of layered and compressed earth evoked a feeling of time travel. peter and i spoke of flow and beauty. everything felt right. The Ladies Committee came in as a group and sat in the seats in the very back row. they didn't 'understand' how impressionistic compressed earth related to dinosaurs. they wanted 'something more literal- no, cute!'. what? clicking tongues and small minds made a mockery of the magnificence. i felt my face turn to fire. peter knew me well enough to take my arm and walk me away. he signaled his crew to start disassembling the panels as he did his best to talk me back to calm. i glared at The Ladies Committee. they looked like stupid, overfed sheep in daytime pearls and poplin. i wanted to shred them with my fluent and profane longshoreman patois. peter finally said, 'they're not like us, don't waste your breath, girl.' i squeezed my eyes tight and nodded agreement.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

something naive not quite dead

the event was huge and i was enjoying myself, but i had found a small perch above the chaos and felt happy to be quiet and simply watching for a few moments. i scanned the hall and looked over all the fine details of the room. i was glad for paul and sara that the played out 'steam punk' element i had tried to talk them out of was working beautifully (just enough to be ironic). i didn't realize i was smiling until my eyes met with the grinning face of a very tall, bearded man standing still in the center of the floor. when i realized he'd been watching me, i laughed- which set him laughing and soon the shared laughter was the helpless kind. i let myself fall into that laughter until i was holding my sides. as i wiped the tears from my face, he gestured for me to come down. well then, right. i climbed down and made my way toward him. as i drew closer to him, the joy began to move into something more profound. it was as though on some level i began to recognize him and with every step become more aware of what the absence of him in my life had meant. by the time we were within arms reach, we shared a tender melancholy. he drew me in and picked me up with a warm, familiar embrace that seemed to last forever. i closed my eyes and let my head rest upon his shoulder like a child.

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


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


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.