Saturday, May 28, 2011

More and Other HBKs: They are Everywhere and They Look Just Like Every Other House

"Hey, Miz W, what's gone on in your life since I saw you last? How are the girls? They working? Both still living with you or has Gwen moved out again?"
"I'll tell you, they are a blessing. You know, Gwendolyn has a great position at Price Waterhouse."
"She got it? Oh that's great, she wanted that so bad."
"Mmm. She loves it there and they love her. She is getting it all there."
"Well, she should. Smart, hard-working, talented, beautiful, good tempered. Lot like her momma, if you ask me."
"Thank you, child. All Jesus doing."
"Amen. And how's Genny? She back in school?"
"You know my Genny. She, she jess needs a little more time to get acclimated than some folk do, a helping hand on her back to guide her a bit, but she do right once she gets points that ways."
"Leastwise it's a helping hand on her back and not on her backside, like some need."
"Child, you do make me laugh! But yes, a gentle push now and then to keep her moving on her track, plenty of others could use the same but no one to give it to them. She's in this program, part work, part school. Likes it well enough, pushing papers around and around. Don't know how Gwen or I would feel about that, we like talking too much to real people to push papers or do that Internet frou-frou stuff, but it suits my Genny just fine."
"Be proud, momma, she hasn't had it easy. She is doing so much with what she has, be proud. And what's going on with you? Teaching, selling, training? Where are you living now, every time we talk it's somewhere else."
"I tell you, child, that is true. I have had no luck the past few years with living places. We've know each other five, six years now and I've lived in more places than that but right now we're down in Kissimmee, real nice two bedroom apartment."
"What about that big house you were renting, over down the street, the one that was all redone for you? Gwen told me you had new carpets, appliances, a garage even..."
"That house? That house! That was the Original House of Bad Karma, Hunter's Creek! You know they had to repaint the outsides three times cause the red kept bleeding right through the grey, cream, whateverall color they were trying to paint it!"
"Wait. You mean the house you moved into last year was THAT house? The one across the street from the park? Back of the fence, I mean the divide?"
"Yes, child, that one!"
"Oh no, Miz W, if I'd known that was the house, oh if I'd known, I'd've warned you right then that place is evil! I rode past it, sure, but on the other side of the street. I didn't even like driving past it, could feel it clawing out at me. You know it had two major fires? You know people died in those fires?"
"Yes, they told us before we moved in. More and more on top of what was already there. Getting new blood to feed it on top of the old, pulling down on itself anyway it can. That second floor they added, it was not right, not ever. We looked at that house, we went in through the front door and said, this is nice, this is very nice."
"How long were you there? Wait , as strong as you are, how'd you ever move in?"
"Few weeks. Work was still going on when we saw it, that's why we never did see the garage til after. Place had been empty for a year or so, we got it all new and shiny.
"And then we went up to that second floor. Whatever it was in the garage, it came right up through the floor, cold cold cold, room was so much colder than the rest of the house which sounds like a good thing but no, believe me, no."
"You know this whole area is built on Indian burial grounds? Or so I'm told?"
"I believe that, why not? That house, the fires and the stains... My Genny, she swears something slammed the door on her hand and one time she was going up the stairs and something grabbed her and pulled her and she fell over backwards, nearly broke her neck. We moved out after my Genny got pulled that night. Next morning, we just packed right up and called the owner and told him he could keep the security."
"Smart. Expensive, but smart."
"You should've seen it, like the Amityville horror all over again. Stuff dripping down the walls, nasty mold growing up from the floor. Course, that could have been from the hurricanes, they went right over although maybe the hurricanes were more and the same. Mm-mm, the noises... All hours of the day and night, there were these noises that came from the closets.
"We didn't move any stuff up to the second floor, that was going to be Gwendolyn's own private apartment, but then she decided to room with Genny, that it just was too much trouble to be going up and down the stairs when she works such long hours. I don't even want to think what would have been if Gwen or my Genny had been sleeping up there. I don't want to think about it.
"Miz W, that scares me, you living there, even if it was just for a while. Please tell me the new place is better?"
"Better and boring. Boring is good. I don't know why folks is always badmouthing Kissimmee, it's old and sturdy and boring and the rumors of it being full of crackers, well, I'm from New York but I have family from Ocoy or and my kind don't live there."
"Ocoy, up past Colonial, where the Turnpike crosses it."
"Ocoy? Ocoee!"
"You say Ocoee, I say Ocoy, that's how the Cherokee pronounce it, or that's what my granddaddy claimed anyways. Me, I still wouldn't live in that part of town, but some black folk do, now. Yes, child, that house, surprising to both of us that I didn't smell the angry in it."
"It was hiding."
"I hope it stays hidden, good riddance and far away. Meanwhile, we all gots to live while we can. More air we blow here, good air that is, righteous air, rich oxygen air, more air going round to light God's candles and snuff Satan's right out."
"You burn bright, Miz W. You give those girls of yours a bit hug and kiss for me. Let me give you some articles I clipped for them, but you bring them next time.
"Thank you darling, I'll say a prayer for you, too."
"Amen, Miz W. Can't hurt, especially an old reprobate like me."
"No, can't hurt, child, can't hurt a bit."

A Night In Funland

"We have a winner! Here ya go, little lady, pick any prize off the top shelf. Every time a winner, folks, every time! All ya gots to do to win is play the game!"
She turned around, confused. A winner? There's a winner? Not her? Who? The barker had his hand on a girl's shoulder, not her, a girl with a Cleopatra drape of light blue beaded dredlocks.
Why her? Why not me? How come I never win? And no, I don't care if there is a next time, if I can play again later or tomorrow, I don't care what he says, I'm never the winner. I'll never walk out of here with a four foot Scooby Doo and everyone going ooh and ahh at me. Not ever.
She wasn't sure how she ended up on the curb, leaning against a light post, but the brigade of fire ants marching up her ankle was just one more line on her list of "Bad Luck Lori Stories." Tonight, she should have been snuggling up with a sawdust filled, imported from China, cartoon character and instead she'd be slathering her feet with antibiotic and antihistamine ointments, hoping to avoid a visit to the doctor and a ten day regimen of cefalexin.
Maybe a twistee-treat would turn this night into a not quite total waste, but her pocket was empty of the eight single dollars left after playing a few rounds at the water-pistol gallery. A man walked by holding a vanilla-strawberry and a chocolate-banana, leaning towers of ice cream, dripping sprinkles a Hansel and Gretel trail behind him. He handed the cones to his codfish mouthed kids. "Don't worry about finishing them, we're going to have funnel cake later."
Lori sat down again and let the ants resume their reconnaissance mission across her legs. She sat until the carnival closed, until she had to go home, until she couldn't sit any longer.

First, Last

"Alright, but this is the last time." There is never a last time, not with him, not with her. Every time is a first time or an again time or perhaps a last time for today, but never ever a last last time.
I love my disciples.
Adjusting the clinchers, I made a mental note to refurbish the linings. The padding was thinning out and that could be, if not dangerous, certainly uncomfortable. The zippers, too, needed a quick spray with WD-40, and the safety locks. They weren't as smooth as they should be.
I like my zippers quiet.
They look so pretty hanging there, nude except for their matching cuffs, hoods and those heavy, heart-shaped lockets attached to their collars, sweat running the formal lacework design I'd painted on earlier, a touch of whimsy provided by horsehair and Trimtex acrylic paint. I'd considered doing a sharpy design a la Jigglypuff, but removing sharpy from flesh is tedious.
Leaning back in the swing, I kicked until I could grab the handle by the switch-pad and flick it.. It would have been easier to walk, but the swing, a cutaway tire, amused me. It was so iconoclastic, so irreverant, to have an old tire swing here. I'd picked up a rotating clothes rack at a dry cleaner's going-out-of-business sale and it had proven to be one of the best investments I'd made in terms of furnishing my studio: inexpensive, unique, multipurpose. They swayed as the rack rotated through and around the room, toes a few inches from the floor.
Then Clara sagged and her foot caught against a sawhorse and broke off.
Oh, dear. That will never do.
I stopped the conveyor and picked up the foot. A clean break, quite dried out. I poked Wilhelm's limbs and torso. He was dried out, too. Were they that dried out when I painted them the other day? I'm not sure.
I released the clamps and removed the hoods. Yes, those zippers definitely needed a spray of WD-40. Folded them neatly into a barrel and threw Clara's foot in after her.
No more play time for them after all.
When we got to the dump, I rolled the barrel to the edge of the sludge pond. Gave it a gentle nudge. "Ready for a ride, children? Alright, but this really is the last time."

Contract Work

"Maynard stumbled over the slick, lichen cover rock. He was sure he had clambered over the same rock an hour before but who knew in this dense fog; he could barely see his hand in front of his face. If only he hadn't given in to that inquisitive urge to turn of the main highway and satisfy his curiosity. What a stupid decision that had been..."
"What a stupid decision? That's an understatement. Oh fuck, are they paying me enough to read this crap? No, they're not. Didn't even do basic spell/grammar check on this and now I'm supposed to do that and content edit?
"I can't even look at this, it's so full of mistakes. It is hurting my eyes, I want to put needles in them! Look at that screen, red, red, red, underlines, green, tick marks. Where am I supposed to put my edit notes, tell me that one.
"It's as bad as reading the Slantinel! Okay, fine, maybe not that bad. As bad as the New York Times, that once great grey lady who has sunk so far she buys copy from Huffpo/AOL.
"How much time did I budget for this anyway? One hundred twenty-one thousand words, single-spaced, 10.5 font. That comes out to 400 pages at a 12 font? I gotta get new glasses. Oh fuck, this turdlet isn't even a doc. The asswipe sent it as a pdf, now how am I going to work this? Enough. Where's my phone?
"Hey, Rik, I opened that project you subbed to me. Yeah, that one. Rik, did you look at it? No, Rik, not the word count, the content. Did you look at it? Didn't think so. It is so bad it is Braxton-Hicks contender. Fine, Bulwer-Lytton, dark and stormy night, yadda yadda.
"We agreed to what as my percent? Uhh huh. Well, I think we have to rethink this. It's a lot bigger than we were led to believe-and a whole lot uglier. Really.
"No, can't do that, not at this price point. Rik, it wasn't even spell-checked. I am staring at a checkerboard screen of red and black. Or maybe a backgammon screen, I dunno. Cribbage? Very not funny. So it's copy and content work. Fix the basic errors and then cut it down to ninety. That's a 25% cut. Which shouldn't be hard, having read the first paragraph. Easy deleting drivel, but making sense of it, seeing if there is a plot and character development here? I think the difficulty will be not cutting it by 75%.
"Rik, the protagonist is named Maynard. Do I really need to say more?
"Yeah, yeah, I love you, too. You're my hero. I'm your muffalato? In your dreams. Fine, get back to me later, big guy, would you? I've got youporn to watch, at least that doesn't make me ill. OMG, I can't believe it! Rik, Rik, it's the midget hooker! I'll send you the link. You're welcome. Well-cum. That, too.
"All right, I'll close this. There it is already.
"I love the smell of roasting flesh. It so much reminds me of bacon."
"I like this one. Great first line. Thank you, honey. Later."

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Terrors

The terrors are back
We’re not going to hurt you, no not us
We’re not going to sharpen our nails and drain your blood
or pierce your eyeballs
or pull out your throat
or bite off your fingers
No, not us.
We’re just going to sit here and watch while you do it.
You make out job so easy.
Thank you.


Given a moment to breathe
I’ll take gulps but find no oxygen
The insta-harden holding my lungs hostage
If it is not out there, where will I find it?

I can choose to believe or I cannot
Doesn’t matter what you say or do
I close myself and open to
A reality? A future? I can create
or I can stay closed.
I think I will sleep a while longer

Toy Cars and Other Fictions

The child, of that age and appearance where gender is indeterminate, pushes the toy car back and forth in the sandbox until it is buried. Grabbing a bedraggled sock monkey, runs off to another adventure in the land of playground, while I ponder retrieving the tiny vehicle from its cat litter grave.
I’ve heard there is a car cemetery somewhere in Florida, a row of cars standing on end, noses in the concrete, their own row of neat gravestones, near a major highway, but I’m not sure I believe it. Perhaps it is another urban myth, like the sewer gators who run the New York City subway system or the underground civilization in Section 9.
But the roof of that tiny car is violet, the same shade of violet as my first set of adult lingerie, bought for a once and future life which came to the end I did not anticipate a few short years ago. Violet ribbons threaded through the palest green lace, so pale it could have been green or a shadow from the light because it was hand-dyed and custom fitted with teeny-tiny pearl buttons.
They, the buttons that is, were also violet.
And the button loops were pale green, all sixteen of them, in a neat row down the front, way to small for a man’s fingers to manipulate. One by one, I undid those button loops I’d painstakingly done up a few hours earlier. One by one, the chemise fell away, leaving me naked, vulnerable.
I shove the car back into the sand box and hurry to push the child on the swings.

The House on Orange

My fake blond beauty sits, on the curb, head on her knees.
Open the back door, get into the car. Please get into the car. Please get into the car.
Get into the car.
Can you stand? Can you crawl?
Sway against the car, mascara smears, matted hair and a bruise on her collarbone,
visible through the tear in her shirt tell me more than I want to know
but not enough that I need to know.
Do I need to know?
Does it matter, will it make a difference if I know what nightmares are coming?
She curls into a ball across the back seat, thumb in her mouth,
as if she was still 18 months and not 18 years old.
The more things change the more they remain the same. Trite but too true.
Don't waste your breath apologizing, I know you're sorry, ever so sorry for everything,
for fucking up, for getting into trouble, for costing me so much in time and energy and money
and some parents would say the money is the last of it but they don't know.
This is just another 5 a.m. emergency pickup after too few hours of sleep and
if it takes too long and I'm not at work on time I'll be terminated, no questions or explanations.
The job market takes no prisons and gives no ransom.
Any absences or lateness are automatic cancellation and I don't know whether I'm more afraid of that,
of losing this crappy job with the only redeeming quality that it keeps us from homelessness for a few more months or if I'm more afraid that I'm not going to have a daughter to scream at any longer for being a stupid fucking idiot who is wrecking her life with her self-destructive behavior, that this emergency pickup will end in some city-run, Medicaid accepting hospital instead of a ride home and soaking her clothes to get the vomit smell out.
I just don't know.
I don't know anything, ever.
I make a U turn and head for home.