Monthly Archives: March 2011

Bijou…

Bijou

Bouncie reached across the darkness and lightly touched Eddie’s arm.

“I’m sorry, Eddie. She wasn’t supposed to be home. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Eddie Forge glared back at him. “You mean to tell me, Bouncie, that I’ve taken you under my wing, put good money into you to train you to do this here job, and for this I get stuck in some broad’s closet?”

The closet in question was in an apartment on the fifteenth floor of the Wexler Building on Central Park West. A closet they’d had to run for when, in the process of removing several expensive bracelets from Mimi Del Sarte’s jewelry box, they heard her coming down the hallway calling, “Bijou? Where are you my big boy?”

Now, they could hear Mimi down the hall, still calling for Bijou. They spoke in whispers.

“Eddie, I swear. I folded a C-note into the doorman’s fist just this morning. He told me she went to the spa every afternoon at two and didn’t come back til four or so. I mean, he let us in for Chrissake.”

“Yeah? Well she’s here now. And it’s not four or so. What did she come back for? And who the hell is Bijou? I promise you, Bouncie, if there’s some big fucking Doberman in this apartment that tries to bite my nuts off, I am going to gouge your eyes out with my thumbs. This is just like high school again, Bouncie.  You remember the time at the packie that never carded you ‘cause you was so big and you saw Judge Tallman and you just had to go over and say hello, you stupid shit?”

Bouncie peered at Eddie through the closet’s gloom. “Sorry Eddie.” Then, “Did you notice some of this stuff? Mimi’s got some nice duds here.”

“That’s ‘cause she’s rich. Her old man had a big life insurance policy and that’s why I put you on to casing this place. I was trying to help you out , see? And now, look at this mess we’re in. What the fuck are you looking at?”

Bouncie eyes were fixed on something just above and behind Eddie’s head.

“Eddie. I think I found Bijou.”  Bouncie began to shake.

“Where-“ Eddie’s head was ripped from his neck. Blood spattered the clothes then dripped to the white Berber carpeting.

Bouncie didn’t know what Bijou was, had never seen anything like it. But it was devouring Eddie with frightening speed and making quite a bit of noise in the process.

Bouncie pushed himself back into a corner and pulled dresses and boxes in front of himself.

The closet door opened and there was Mimi Del Sarte. Bouncie could smell her perfume.

“Bijou, what are you playing with in there? Oh, look at this mess. Bad boy! You come out of there this instant. Oh, my Prada!”

Bijou slithered out of the closet, leaving a wide slick of blood on the floor.

Bouncie peeked out from behind a Hermes Birkin handbag. There was no sign of Mimi or Bijou. Eddie’s head was lying on the floor, eyes wide open, staring up at Bouncie.

Bouncie stifled a cry and  whispered, “She wasn’t supposed to be home, Eddie.”

A shadow. “But I am home,” said Mimi, standing in silhouette in the doorway. “Bijou, take him to the bathroom. I don’t want my Versace ruined.”

Advertisements

Space Plumbers…

Space Plumbers

Dr. Ernest Blovings hissed through perfect, white teeth and jabbed at the call button once again.

“Facilities. What is it?” a voice crackled out of the tiny speaker.

“Yes, this is Dr. Blovings again, on deck twenty-two? I reported, not less than one hour ago, that the gravitron in my lavatory is malfunctioning. There is now an increasing amount of fecal matter floating about the lavatory, and I was promised someone would be right up to deal with this.

“They’re on their way, doc.”

Dr. Blovings was just sitting down when there was a knock at the door. “Now, that’s more like it,” he said under his breath as he strode to the door. The pneumatic door slid open with a whoosh.

Two men in stained jumpsuits and blank expressions stood side by side in the hall: a fat one with his arms folded, a toothpick sticking out of the side of his mouth, and a tall, lanky one with a filth-encrusted tool resting on his shoulder.

“Dr. Blovings, I presume?” This from fatso.

“Yes, yes. Please come in. The head is just over here.”

The lanky one said, “The heads are all in the same place in each cabin, doc. We know where it’s at.”

Blovings stared at them. A rat and an ape, he thought to himself. “Then I’ll leave you to your repairs.”

The plumbers went to the lavatory door and appeared to do nothing but titter and look back over their shoulders at Blovings.

After a few minutes, the fat one turned around and said, “Alright, doc. We got your problem figured out, but we can’t fix it from in here. The venting duct is blocked.  So we’ll need to spacewalk and snake it from the outside.  That’s gonna require divisional clearance. Maybe take a week. We could get you moved to another cabin until then.”

“Blocked? Blocked with what?” The doctor turned red.

“Dunno,” Lanky said, and then looked at his partner, “maybe with some…fecal matter.”  They snorted and chucked each other in the sides with their elbows.

Blovings chose to ignore their sophomoric behavior. He had bigger things to deal with.

“What happens if we just force the door open?” he asked.

Lanky said, “Don’t wanna do that. You’d have a gravitational cross-rip.”

“A what?”

“Think of it this way, doc,”  Lanky said. “The environment in your head is right now normalized to the pressure gradient of space right outside your window here. Outer space. The pressure sensors around the door to the head picked up the difference after the discharge vent got blocked and the gravitron stopped functioning. Just like they’re s’posed to. The sensors then locked this door down to prevent a gravitational cross-rip. If we were to open it or, say, break the glass here in the door, we’d be torn apart. Not to mention the potential damage to the station and probable further loss of life.”

Blovings stood in front of them, slack-jawed, and said, “Gravitational cross-rip.”

The plumbers nodded in unison, looking sympathetic.

Blovings puffed himself up, stood taller. “Gravitational cross-rip? I’ve never heard such nonsense. Gentlemen, I have Doctorates in both Particle Physics and Continuum Mechanics. And there is no such thing as a gravitational cross-rip!”

“Suit yourself, doc. You can try to open the door and take care of your little problem all by yourself then. Just let us get a few decks away from here. Good luck, doc.”

They packed up their tools and left.

Blovings looked through the window into the head. Large globules of shit pulsed and undulated in the zero gravity chamber.  Like a smelly lava lamp, he thought to himself.

Luckily, the idiots hadn’t looked too closely. In all their haste to make fun of him and avoid doing their jobs, they’d overlooked the girl’s hand sticking right out of the venting duct.

He thought he’d get the plumbers to open the vent and then he could kill them too.

But then they came out with all that ‘gravitational cross-rip’ shit. He didn’t believe a word of it. All he had to do was break the window and let the pressure normalize. Then clean everything up.

He grabbed an iron bar and swung it at the glass. Gravitational cross-rip, my ass.

The plumbers were just getting back to facilities when the space station shook violently.

________________________________________________

Okay, I have to admit this is not an original concept. In Damon Knight’s superb book “Creating Short Fiction”, he muses about space plumbers as a concept to build a story around. I mean, given the fact that someday we may all just have to live in space stations, surrounded by galactic oceans of zero-gravity, the guys (and gals!) who ensure our waste goes where it should will be in huge demand. Just as they are now, in our gravity-laden lives.  I had a vision of these two guys, smart-asses, but savvy enough to present their ideas in such a way that it would be impossible to tell if they were serious or just having you on.  The awful truth about Dr. Blovings just popped into existence and took me completely by surprise.


Wheel of Misfortune…

Wheel of Misfortune

There’s no moon tonight. The stars are bright and crisp, but it’s dark enough to sneak out of the house and get across Daly’s field without anyone seeing us, me and Paulie.

I’d finished my homework early and told my old man I wasn’t feeling well. I knew once he thought I was asleep, he’d take out the bottle and that would be that.

I can hear him snoring down there now in front of the TV. Some Western.

I tiptoe to the old man’s bedroom and grab twenty bucks from his wallet. Time to go.

My window is already open because it’s so hot tonight. I crawl out onto the roof but before climbing down the drainpipe, I take a moment to lie back and stare at all those stars.

The asphalt shingles still hold the heat of the day. The warmth feels good on my back. As usual, this time of year, my thoughts turn to Mom. Gone three years now. The old man, he never mentions her anymore. That’s a done deal, he says, whenever I want to talk about her. That’s a done deal.

So, I climb down and go pick up Paulie.

“What took you so long, Frank?” he says.

“I had to wait for my father to pass out. If he knew I was going again, you know he’d beat my ass.”

Paulie just shrugs. He wants to have fun. He doesn’t want me to complicate things with my family shit.

We take the short cut to the fairgrounds through Daly’s field. Already we can see the lights of the carnival. Just have to pass through this stand of pines and, there it is: Clark and Redmond’s Travelling Carnival.

Paulie and I ride the Tilt-A-Whirl twice. We eat corn dogs and go around on the Ferris Wheel a few times. The stars are invisible on the midway due to all the lights. There are the shooting galleries and ring toss pits where we lose money every year. We get some chili dogs.

Paulie is having a grand old time but I’m anxious to move on. We’re not here just to play games; we have other stuff to do: adult stuff.  Paulie wasn’t sure he wanted to come with me this time because last year one of them ladies in the back tents tried to grab his dick.  God, that was funny.

We walk down the side of the funhouse, cross the field where all the trucks are parked, and arrive at the tents. The wind brings an odor of stale beer, vomit, and the hayfield beyond.

And here’s the same guy who took our money last year. He looks like he’s lost a few teeth since we last saw him.

“Stefanie,” I say, holding out a ten.

He takes it and says, “Hey kid, it’s none of my business, but – ”

“Then shut up,” I say.

The guy looks at Paulie with raised eyebrows.

“Just him,” Paulie says. “I’ll wait here.”

So, the guy turns back to me with a shitty grin on his face. “Last one down on the right. Can’t miss it.”

I walk back amid all the little white canvas tents. A woman’s hissing voice comes out of one: “You put it on now or you can get out, you hear me?”

The tents are held up by coarse ropes that are staked into the ground. I trip over them occasionally.

Finally, I’m here at the last tent on the right. There’s a kerosene lamp burning in there allowing me to see Stefanie in silhouette. I take a deep breath and open the tent flap.

She looks up from her magazine. “Jesus Christ. What is this? Sydney? Where are you?” She gets up from her folding chair, wrapping a dirty silk bathrobe around her. She pushes me out of the way and strides back to the entrance. So I follow.

I hear her say, “Sydney, you ignoramus. I told you not to let him back here! He’s just a kid for Chrissakes!” There’s some muttered response from Sydney about giving back my ten bucks, and then she turns on me. She pulls me by the T-shirt and sends me tumbling past toothless Sydney.

“Get out! Don’t come back here! Jesus Christ! This is no place for a kid!” she screams at me, although I’m only six feet away.  “It’s no place for a kid,” she says again.

So I run. Like I ran last year and the year before. Paulie catches up with me and we head back to Daly’s field. We lay down in the sweet grass and I’m thankful it’s dark enough to hide my tears. My shame.

“I thought she’d be different this time.” I say.

“Your Dad’s right. ” Paulie looks up at the Milky Way.  “It’s a done deal.”


All the Way Round the World…

cornfield sunrise

All the Way Round the World

Delsante Corporation told me I could take it or leave it. Can you believe that?

My family owned this farm for ninety-two years before I had to go and sell a majority stake to a local distributor. Well, Delsante is way up his ass so you know they’re now up mine.

But I tell you what: if I make it out of this alive, I am sure going to enjoy watching those corporate bastards take a red-hot one in the ass. Same for the USDA.

We had no choice. They told us to plant the G646-DSGMO-666 or we could forget about distribution of any of our corn. Well, if we can’t sell anything, we may as well just give the farm to Delsante and be done with it. They’ll hire some Mexicans to come up here and plant that shit for them and they’ll never even remember my name.

So we planted it, watered it, and did fuck-all that their scientists told us to do. I have never in my life seen corn get so big so fast. After a month, I could disappear into those fields. And I’m six-three.

The USDA inspector came out one day along with a fella from Delsante. They were so impressed with how things were coming along. They took some cuttings away in a small plastic bag. Never said a word to me what they were for.

Well, along about eighty days into the growing cycle we started seeing a rust-colored pus oozing out of that corn. I told everyone to stay out of the fields and not touch anything. We walked the perimeter. That stuff just dripped down the ears.  I got on the horn to the local distributor rep and I guess he called Delsante because they came out to the farm with a huge RV that had a lab right inside of it.

They set up spotlights on the cornfield and kept them going all night long. They said it was just a precaution. Precaution for what? I remember thinking at the time.

There were lots of guys in lab coats and SWAT uniforms. Nobody told us any details about the pus, but I could tell they hadn’t expected it, and they were running around like their heads were on fire and their asses were catchin’.

Then one day, I was over in the barn replacing a fuel filter on one of the combines when I hear somebody start screaming. I thought one of the lab guys had stepped in horseshit again. I looked out the window and saw a huge red dust cloud swirling around. All the lab guys and the SWATs were gasping and choking, falling to the ground. I could see they were dying. All of them.

Not thinking, I just ran for the combine and closed myself inside the cab. The wind blew that red dust right into the barn and it covered everything. I can’t see anything through the cab windows now. And there’s no water in here.

So, I’m hoping Delsante Corporation sends somebody out soon to find out what happened to their scientists and soldiers. I saw them die; at least I think I did.  But now I hear things shuffling around the barn and grunting. And one time, something tried to open the cab door, which I now keep locked. I don’t even want to think about what that thing was.

Far as I can tell, anyone coming near this farm will meet the same fate as those things stumbling around my barn. The chemistry folks at Delsante sure did a bang up job. The only thing I know about chemistry is H-2-0 is water and K-9-P comes out the ass end of a dog. But, I’m a farmer and I know pollen when I see it. That red pus dries and blows off. I think Delsante Corporation has a little problem with their fucked up corn.

G646-DSGMO-666 was engineered to survive. I think of all that pollen on the wind.

You can’t stop the wind. It goes all the way round the world.

_________________________________________________________

Now I want to be explicit and state that this is a work of  FICTION and any resemblance to actual corporations and/or actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.  Go here for the real horror story…


Dreamwife…

ballet dancer

Dream Wife

Tran will not let me touch her anymore. Not like a wife should.

And who could blame her? My academic career is of no use to us here. It’s just dirt, smoke, and hunger now. I am no good at chopping wood or creating a shelter from rubbish. It is obvious to me: the men who are in demand now are those who can offer protection from the wind and rain and heat. Men with practical skills. Carpenters. Masons.

Tran is dirty these days, disheveled, but still lovely. And sexy too. Her legs still maintain the strength and shapeliness that got her to the National Ballet.

Each day we spend hours scavenging for food or pieces of trash we hope will be useful.  The Revolutionary Council has forbidden us from working. Our pedigree is too urban, too educated, for inclusion in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

In the evenings we swelter, the sheets so saturated they cling to us like giant leeches. I wake in a panic several times a night, thinking I am being enshrouded and dragged into a fetid swamp.

Sometimes, when I wake from one of these swamp dreams, Tran is not in bed with me. Of course, I’ve had my suspicions that she leaves for someone else’s bed. That would be the final humiliation.

Tonight, I’ve awoken again, my breath stolen by fear. I arch my back and expand my chest to swallow as much air as the humid night permits. I grasp at the sheets on Tran’s side of the bed. She is gone again.

An image of Tran straddling the stonemason down the street enters my mind and will not leave. She still has a ballerina’s body: hard, sinewy. She glistens in the moonlight and smiles down at her lover.  I let out a small groan and cannot decide if it signifies a voyeur’s pleasure or a cuckold’s anguish.

Then, another image fills the screen of my mind. Tran is in the alley behind our shack. She stands on a small packing crate, under an enormous, silver moon. Her arms extend gracefully to the heavens as she slowly spins. Then she leaps from one side of the alley to the other, like a jungle cat.  She floats and swirls. I can see she is crying, her tears turned to tiny drops of mercury by the moonlight.

I cannot turn away from all this beauty. I will not risk losing it.

But then Tran is here, sliding back into bed with me.

“Where have you been?” I ask her.

Her back to me, I can barely make out her muffled reply.

“Out.”


Melt…

Snowman

Melt

We built the snowman in the front yard the minute we got home from Mass General. Inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Claire had been silent until we were headed west on the Pike toward home. A heavy, wet snow had started to fall.

“I want to build a snowman when we get back,” she’d said. “A good, old fashioned snowman, with stick arms, button nose, and charcoal eyes. Keep him up in the yard as long as we can.”

So we rolled up huge snowballs and stacked them one on another.

“Your back, George! Be careful,” she said.

When we finished, Claire said, “Virgil. We’ll call him Virgil. Like Dante’s Virgil.” She looked at me with bright, liquid eyes.

All winter, Virgil looked in on us through the front bay window. He saw Claire vomiting after chemo, then crying in pain on the sofa. He saw me carrying Claire to bed where I read Dante to her. Her favorite book to teach.

Virgil was impassive as friends and relatives came and went that cold, joyless winter. Final visits.

One mid-March afternoon, I returned from the market to find Claire kneeling in front of Virgil, without coat or gloves. She looked so frail and colorless against the enormous mossy pines behind her. A winter sprite.

“Claire!” I stumbled to her through the slushy snow. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Almost adventure time, George.”

Then spring came, warm and wet. Virgil slowly lost shape and sank into the earth, taking Claire with him.


A Glass of Water…

A Glass of Water

Atsuko heard the creaking of the porch screen and hurried out to greet her husband.

“What?” she asked. Her eyes bulged and glistened.

Hoshu limped through the door after removing his shoes. “There is no bottled water left at any of the stores.  Where is Tokutaro?”

“He’s out back playing with his friends.”

A breeze blew in the open door. Atsuko rushed to close it. “The neighbors have said the same thing. No bottled water at all. What will we do? Maybe we can go to Kamakura and stay with my sister and her family?”

Hoshu looked down at his gnarled hands and sighed. “It will be the same thing down there sooner or later. It’s in the wind as well as the water. It goes everywhere.”

“The radio and the television both said the water in the tap was fine to drink. The levels had gone up and babies shouldn’t get any. But they said it would not be a problem for anyone else. It is not too high.” Atsuko twisted a dry rag in her hands.

Outside in the street, children yelled and Hoshu could hear a ball slapping against the side of the building: Tokutaro playing football with his friends.

What does she want me to say? Hoshu wondered. He’d been at work laying bricks all morning and had finished his last bottle of water before coming home. Atsuko had promptly sent him back out in search of more. Now he was parched and found it hard to speak without coughing.

Atsuko said, “Tokutaro has a bottle with him outside, but that is the last one.”

Hoshu looked at his wife and shrugged. “It’s tap water then. The man at the store said they won’t have bottled water at least for a week. We can’t go that long without water to drink. The neighbors are all in the same position. I don’t see we have much choice.”

“Tokutaro. He is only eight years old, Hoshu.”

“Do you think I don’t know the age of my son? That a few hours without water have damaged my brain?” Hoshu stood up and went over to the sink. He peered down the drain looking for any telltale sign of contamination. What was he supposed to see, a green glow from deep in the drainpipe?

“What are you doing over there?” Atsuko came across the room and joined him at the sink.

“Looks fine. Smells alright,” he said.

“Don’t Hoshu.”

He grabbed a glass from the drying rack and held it under the tap. His hand did not shake at all, which surprised him.

He looked at Atsuko and took a deep breath, held it for a second, and then exhaled.  Hoshu turned the cold-water handle, letting cool clear water spill freely onto the white porcelain of the sink.

Atsuko took two steps back and bit her lower lip. “Hoshu, no…”

He filled the glass, turned off the water and walked to the kitchen table. Hoshu placed the glass in the center of the table like a sculpture in a museum. They gazed at the glass of water in silence. Hoshu imagined downing the water. What would happen, really?

He finally broke the silence. “Sooner or later, we’ll have to drink.”

“But let’s wait.” Atsuko said. “Maybe one of the neighbors will have a relative who’ll bring some. Or we could go down to the store one more time. Let’s just not do it until we’re sure we don’t have any other choice.”

They stared at the glass of water while joyful shouts floated up from the street. They heard Tokutaro yell “Goal!”

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I was driving around today and NPR was airing a story about the partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The story centered on the questionable safety of the Tokyo tap water.

The government has advised that infants not have any tap water. The question remained if older kids and adults could drink with impunity. Government pronouncements indicated that radiation levels, while elevated above baseline, were not such that a health hazard was likely.

Bottled water is getting harder to find…


%d bloggers like this: