Trying my hand again, so here goes…
The scent of roses hides
Shadows cold under the dark sky
Soft baby warm light.
Trying my hand again, so here goes…
The scent of roses hides
Shadows cold under the dark sky
Soft baby warm light.
Yellow. As in piss poor. Rubber ducks. The sun. Lemonade. Flowers. And dead if the man heading into the bank didn’t perform up to snuff. He’d wanted to kill the bait before, had argued for it, but had been overridden. Nobody wanted to listen. Nobody wanted to believe.
It was dangerous to use one piece of bait too long. Too dangerous, not only to the bait – which didn’t matter to him – but to the job. There was always more bait. There wouldn’t be another mission should this one fail.
He drew in a long breath, not looking at the asshole beside him or the rest of the team watching from above; strategically placed around the street corner on which the bank was situated.
“Good afternoon, Mr Marshall. I hope for a productive meeting.”
“I am sure it will be, Mr. Jenkins. I am sure.”
Listened to the sound of walking. The rustle of clothes. The almost silent breath. Checking the bait’s vitals on the machine beside him, he cursed. The bait was going to panic; he’d been waiting for this to happen. You don’t pluck bait from the street and expect them to function in the high-stress situation of a mission. This one had lasted longer than the others. He’d almost believed things would work out this time.
More fool, he.
The sound of a door opening and closing.
“This will be suitable for your review, I hope?”
More rustling. The thump of a briefcase laid upon the table.
“I will call you when I am done.”
“Very well,” the bank manager replied, clearly reluctant to leave. “Let me know if you need anything.”
“Thank you,” the bait said a moment later. “I’ll give you a call.”
Rustle of clothing and the squeak of door hinges opening and closing.
Now, the fun began.
Gone, Part 2
He’d been tempted, yeah. What man in his right mind, even a married man, wouldn’t have been when the offer came tied in such a beautiful bow? Now he knew what the beautiful bow had concealed, but it was too late. He’d been snared and didn’t have any real choice in the matter.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
He could have refused, could have walked away, but they knew where he lived, had pictures of Susan, leveled threats he knew they meant.
He’d thought, stupidly, he just need to help a few times and then go home, but that hadn’t been the case. A year now and to infinity.
He looked around, wanting to scratch his new-growing beard, but didn’t. One wrong step. He’d been living with that phrase for months now. One wrong step and you know what will happen.
He did, oh yeah. And he’d do anything to keep his wife safe. He’d wanted to tell her in the months they’d given him to tie up his affairs, make her think he was leaving for another woman, but he knew what would happen. The only way to ensure her safety was to remain quiet.
And so he had, walking away from everything which had ever meant anything to him. Susan, job, friends and family. He’d spent their marriage taking care of her, giving her whatever she wanted to make her happy. One, because he could, and two, to keep her safe with a wall of money between them and the world.
God, he’d been such a stupid shit.
He frowned; hated earpieces. It was them watching over his shoulder. Straight and narrow. Eyes on the prize. Staying alive.
He shook his head, running a hand through new-blacked hair, and stepped off the curve, walking quick and confident to the First Bank of Farmingham.* He had fifty minutes. Taking a steadying breath, he opened the door and stepped inside.
He’d been gone for two months when she realized he wasn’t coming back. The thought confused her. Why wouldn’t he come back? Was something wrong with their marriage? Her? Was something wrong with her?
Hadn’t she cooked his meals, cleaned the house, everything he didn’t have time to do when he was working so hard. Eighty hours some weeks. He never listened when she tried to talk about working less, being home more. They didn’t talk about anything anymore. He ate alone, often at 10 or 11 at night. He worked weekdays. Weekends. Holidays. Sometimes all night.
Has she not done enough? Was it her fault?
Slowly, she realized he had abandoned her, abandoned their home, their life, but mostly her. She’d nagged too much. Fussed about clothes left on the floor. By the hamper. Dishes left on the kitchen counter. By the dishwasher. Towels on the bathroom floor. The way stress was wearing him thin.
She’d tried to do right. Tried to support him, to help him. God knows, she loved him, even if he didn’t seem to want her anymore.
It occurred to her he had met someone, some woman, someone who listened to him and loved him, who wasn’t too tired when he got home to have sex. It didn’t matter what she wanted, at least not in the last year. Before then, everything had seemed perfect.
She loved him with all her heart and soul and life. He’d provided for her, for them, given her a huge house, two fancy cars in the garage, a pasture and barn for her horses. Romantic trips to far away places. Parties. Gala openings for movies and the theater. Anything she’d wanted, he’d given her.
Until this year.
She must have changed. He didn’t love her anymore.
She spent the next few weeks crying, frantically looking for him. Calling his cell. His office. His family. No body knew where he was and he never answered his cell. When his voice mail got too full to take any more messages, she stopped calling.
His boss told her he’d quit his job months before he’d disappeared, but couldn’t tell her why. He’d come in one day, given notice and walked back out the door. That was the last time anybody in the office had seen him.
It was then she realized he’d been planning to disappear for a long time. Had he lain in their bed late at night, thinking about how he was going to leave her? Anxious to be with the other woman?
Was the woman one of their friends? Somebody at his Office? A chance meeting at the Coffee Shop? If she just knew who and why, she might be able to accept his loss. As it was, his leaving left a hole in her life and her heart which she knew would never be filled. He was the only man she’d ever loved. The man she’d given herself to on their wedding night, the only man she’d ever been with.
After six months, she woke knowing she had to go on with her life. Either give up and die or move on. She’d tried to kill herself once, speeding around the narrow mountain curves, planning to drive off the road, but she been too afraid to go through with her plan.
She bought a farm out in the country. Sold the house and everything inside. Sold the fancy automobiles and bought herself a second-hand car. Donated all their fancy clothes. Sold her jewelry, the silver, all his things. Moved herself and her horses to the farm to start anew.
She adopted a dog from the Shelter. And a cat. Bought chickens and built a chicken coop by herself, complete with banged thumbs, frustrations, screaming fits, crying, mis-cut boards, broken nails. Back to the lumber store time after time, determined to succeed. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but she’d done it herself. She even thought about getting a cow. Maybe some fainting goats.
At the end of the first month on the farm, near the end of the first year since his disappearance, her phone rang at midnight…
He set the book in his lap and leaned back, nape of his neck resting against the rough horse-hide of the chair. Not his choice of sitting accouterments, but then again, this wasn’t his place. More a borrowed place.
Regardless of ownership, he loved this place. It allowed him to escape the endless ebb and flow of the world. Of reporters and paparazzi; a million people calling his name, pulling him in a million difference directions. The second leg of their tour started in two weeks and he was wiped out. He loved touring, loved interacting with the fans, but the older he got the more downtime he needed if, for nothing else, the fragile thing he called sanity.
Not that he considered himself anywhere near sane. Life in the music biz had never been sane. His parents had called him high-sprung; his friends crazy and the band members, probably, an arrogant prick. Which, he was. He was all of the above, but fronting a band like The Secret Agents and being the main creative genius, didn’t tend to engender one towards sanity.
Jay walked in and sank down into the other chair, shifting around to get comfortable. “I hate these chairs.”
Chris raised his eyebrows. “And you are sitting there why?”
“To bug the hell out of you.”
Chris snorted. “Well done, Jazzman. Well done.”
“The call earlier was Kerry,” Jay said, leaning over to look at the book in Chris’ lap. “He’ll be back by the beginning of next week. Rudy should be here by then, too.”
Kerry was thir bassist. Rudy the drummer, both coming in upon the departure of an original band member.
“So why the hell are you here and not amongst that gypsy band you call kids.”
“It’s so not a gypsy band,” Jay protested.
“How many kids is it now?” Chris asked. “Ten… twenty?”
“And one on the way.”
“Well, yeah.” Jay blushed, faint redness spreading across brown skin. “I’ll be heading home for few days so I can be back with the others.”
They fell silent.
“Are you all right?” Jay asked.
“Yeah,” came the answer, more upbeat than was the truth. He was never wholly all right, but he’d learned to keep himself to himself. It made things easier all around. No one need know the maddening world inside him.
He felt Jay watching him, figured he wasn’t fooling the other man.
“No more broken mirrors,” Jay said, suddenly serious.
“Make sure you eat.”
“Yep.” He was lying and they both knew it.
Rising, Jay lay a hand on his shoulder. “Call me.”
“Yep.” He didn’t watch Jay walked out. Heard the faint sound of the outer door closing behind him.
Alone folded him inside. Hidden, sinking into the disorder of his own mind.
“Is nothing sacred anymore?” I asked. peeved. I hadn’t meant to show my irritation, but I was much better at promising not to show my emotions than actually not showing them.
“It’s not like it’s a national secret or anything,” Jay replied, looking at me with the look which said he wasn’t interested in anything I had to say on that subject.
Not that I’d ever say that out loud. Jay was one of my best friends, and I didn’t really meant it. He had a point. Nothing was sacred anymore, not when one was a ‘celebrity.’ I should be used to the reality by now. Not only was my public life the domain of the people but, apparently, my private life was also.
Sighing, I leaned back in the chair.
“I know you don’t want to go,” Jay continued, “but you don’t have much choice.”
I rolled my head to the side to look at him. “How come nobody does shit like this for your birthday?”
Jay laughed. “I am not a Music God.”
“Phuff. I thought gods didn’t have to do anything they didn’t want.” But I was smiling. I didn’t want to go to this very public birthday party, didn’t want to deal with the red carpet and the screaming fans and the push and shove of paparazzi. It was, however, part of the job and it was the part that didn’t give a shit if I’d just gotten divorced or not.
“Look at it this way,” Jay pointed out. “If you go out and about, it should dim the rumors over the divorce.”
Just last week, I’d finalized the divorce from my second wife. Another sacred down the drain. My first wife had turned into a jealous psycho and left me. Well, I guess she hadn’t really left since she still stalked me everywhere I went.
Bitch. And that I meant.
“Besides, how many groupies and starlets are going to attempt to crawl into your bed?”
I sat up. “Dozens, I hope.”
We both rose, bumped fists.
“We got your back, man,” Jay said. “We all do.”
“I know.” And I did. The whole band had my back, had had it, did have it, and would have it.
“I’m going to get dressed,” I said, heading for the stairs up to my room.
“Don’t forget to wear your tux!”
“Bastard!” I shot over a shoulder and this time I did meant it, in a funny buddy kind of way.
Somethings were still sacred after all.
Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.
There are those among us who live false lives. Nasty men. Vicious women. Forgotten children. You will never see them. They pretend normalcy; friends and neighbors and co-workers. Inside they are monsters.
Am I one? Some things are best discovered on your own.
Sometimes the screams wake me, desperate cries ringing in the dark. I never help. I can’t. I won’t. There is only so much pain a child can endure. That, of course, is where I’ve lived my life since, inside the bloody hollow place where last I was a boy, long before I became the man I am now. I never saw the change coming, never even knew a living death was possible but it is…. gods help me, it is.
I was awake. Really awake. Cold. Dark. Deep. Trapped.
Somewhere a dog barked frantically.
Damned dog. Rising, I pulled on slacks and a pullover from the day, treading bare-foot down cool stairs. The barking got louder. I unlocked the door to the basement and a thing of fur burst past, knocking me against the far wall.
It rushed to the front door, barking, claws scraping wood. Lying in blood-stains, the only sound water on tiles and a dog in the distance. It couldn’t come in. There was nothing inside me to come into.
As soon as I opened the door, it sprang down the steps and around the fence, towards the neighbors. Good riddance.
I listened for a moment, waiting for silence, but it didn’t come. The dog barked more and more frantic, sound turning into howls of despair.
Pressing hands hard against my face as if to stop the things inside from rushing out, I closed the door behind me. The grass was chilled, cold from overnight rain. The dog dug frantic at their front door. When he saw me, he started running to me and then back to the door, back and forth, forth and back. Barking.
I would have killed for quiet. I should have killed him the moment I saw him.
The door opened at my touch. He pushed in and I followed. I didn’t want involvement. Solitude was the only salvation I ever found.
The house was a wreak, eerily silent now the dog had stopped his uproar. I smelled it. Not a cut on the finger blood but much, much more. It was a smell I knew deep down in my bones.
Leave now. This isn’t your problem. Pack a bag and go away, find another corner in which to hide. Only I couldn’t. A shard of glass cut my foot. The room – floor, ceiling, furniture – were soaked in blood.
And the smell! The taste in my mouth. The squish of carpet beneath my feet. I heard somebody, somewhere, breathing heavily. The iron taste of madness hung suspended in the air.
I found Jane in the kitchen, no longer a pretty woman. She had been stabbed until her chest was a bloody mass, head almost severed from her body. Nobody was pretty after that kind of death.
The breathing continued and so did I, making my way into the hall. The bathroom was empty of blood as was the first bedroom. I continued to the final room, cold fear spiking in my chest.
James slumped on the bed, hands between his knees, covered in blood.
I was in the shower. Hearing cries, screams, pain tangible in the air. If I helped, he would hurt me. Again. Again. I feared the hatred in his eyes. He wasn’t my father. He couldn’t be. I tried to be good. I tried.
Pumpkin stood guard in front of the closet, fur bristling, growling low and dangerous.
It hurt,” he whispered. “Hurt.”
There was little blood in the room not on James. You knew and you left me there.”
Crying. Begging. Screaming. Blood swirling round me, down the drain. Dripping down the walls.
“You died,” I croaked.
He shook his head. “The minute you abandoned me, you died. I knew, knew, you were somewhere, hiding, pretending to be normal. Pretending.”
I drew in a careful breath. “Where is Janice?”
“She’s dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Like you should have been. Like you will be.”
I backed up as he rose, my hand knocking something hard. He raised the knife and I cracked the lamp on his head. He fell, knife laying where it had fallen.
I buried the blade into his back over and over. I’d been wrong to run, to leave him, but what did children know of monsters?
Gone. Finished. Done.
Pumpkin sidled over to me, head down, tail tucked between his legs. His cold nose nudged my face.
He whimpered, slinking beside me as I crawled to the closet.
I clawed the door open. She hurled herself into me, wrapped her tiny body around mine. Her heart beat a thousand thunders.
I carried her out of the room, past the body of her mother, into the cool night beyond. “It will be all right,” I whispered, “I won’t let anybody hurt you”. Pumpkin trotted beside me.
“It will be all right.”
And it was.
I started to write a fictional piece for this prompt, but it just didn’t work. The picture shows everything I was trying to say without a single word spoken.
“‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.'”
Raised eyebrows. “‘Where There is Smoke There is Fire?’ ‘Smoke Gets….'”
“No, done that one.”
Lowered eyebrows. “‘The Pot-Smokers Song?'”
“There is no such song.”
“Believe what you want, but there is.”
“By whom….Neil Diamond.”
She tried to read him, but, as always, got nowhere.
“I’ve got one”.
He motioned her to ‘take the stage.’
“‘Smoking in the Boy’s Room?’ ‘Smoke on the Water.'” Pause. “I always liked that one.”
“What? ‘Smoking in the Boys Room?'”
“No, ‘Smoke on the Water.'” She sang a few words of the song. “Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky.”
“Isn’t that about some studio burning down?”
He liked to know the back-stories of songs. His friends thought him weird, those few he had, but his Dad was a rock star and, early on, taught him to listen beyond the song, beyond the music, to the story inside.
With a roll of her eyes, she nodded. He was too weird sometimes. Only reason she befriended him was cause his Dad was – WOW!
“‘When Smoky Sings….'” Thought for a moment. “Is that about Smoky The Bear?”
“Bears can’t sing.”
“But they can have songs written about them!”
“True, but I don’t think so. At least this song.”
She held in her instant irritation. Just add him, water, anger and stir for a totally irritating boy whose father was a Rock and Roll God.
“Forget it,” waving away his laptop. “Don’t google it.”
“Well for one thing, its stupid.”
“Okay, ‘Smoke Rings in the Dark.'”
“That’s so not a real song.”
“Gary Allen.” He sang. “The night is like a dagger / Long and cold and sharp / As I sit here on the front steps / Blowing smoke rings in the dark.”
She tossed her cards down. “You win. Again.” Stormed out with the bang of the back door.
Why did he have so much to prove? His Dad was…… well, was a superstar. Did anybody in this world not know or like his Dad?
He rose slowly, steadying himself on the couch before heading outside. Step, drag, step, drag, step, drag. Nobody would ever know his face, never scream for it. For him. Throwing panties and bras. Pulling up their shirts for him to autograph their breasts.
Settling on the top step, he pulled out a cigarette and smoked for a few minutes before blowing a smoke ring….. almost, almost perfect.
How true, he knew, how true.
The lyrics used in this story belong to their respective writers.
The bridge stretched out before her like a ribbon of darkness, disappearing into low-hanging fog. All she had to do was walk across the bridge. Walk across and be free.
Walk across, she told herself, walk across. But she didn’t, she remained where she was as if rooted there by a slightly mad gardener.
She looked down at her feet, her falling-apart tennies. Just one step in front of the others and these ratty shoes, these red shoes, would carry her across the bridge into freedom. She couldn’t imagine what freedom must feel like.
One step. Two steps.
How could she know the feel of something she had never had? What must it be like to have an endless supply of food? A store filled, top to bottom, with food. Grapes and apples and berries. Meat. An entire counter laid with meat. Rice. Cereal with sugar loaded on each flake. Soft drinks. Bottles and cans filling a whole aisle, maybe two, top to bottom and bottom to top. Cola. Pepsi. Coke. For years she’d dreamt of how they must taste. Cold and refreshing.
Freedom. They tasted, she was sure, like freedom.
But what if it wasn’t? What if… nothing lay on the far side of the bridge. Just the on and on of fog forever.
She looked down at her blouse. Bright red, spreading across her belly and breasts. There was no what if, she realized. Nothing but fog-shrouded emptiness in which she would wander forever.
Her knees buckled and she fell. There had to be something through the fog, across the bridge, beyond the smell of tar and wood. There had to be or else she’d wasted her life dreaming.
Curling up, she looked across the bridge, vision blurring. The ground was soft, softer than anything she’d ever known.
The fog parted, just for a moment, and she saw what she’d never been able to imagine. Sunshine and green grass and a willow swaying in the breeze. Laughter. Giggling. Red light, Green light. Simon Says. Tag. Ring Around the Rosie.
She closed her eyes, not wanting to see the dream of freedom drifting farther and farther away. The ground was warm even as it began to snow. Her eyes still closed, she lay, crystalline flakes covering her like a blanket.
She’d never be cold again.