The Revenant Tender

The hiss of summer lawns is gone.

Heartbeats stumble among the missing.

The Tulsa streets dry as bone and marbles.

And Mother Mary the Vicious is drinking alone.

On a stool of torn red vinyl in a yellow brick bar with one glass and silver door smudged with human residue.

She’s tipping back buckets of wine and regretting the stings of a new world religion. She turns her partially veiled head toward a cacophony of dart playing and loud, boastful inebriation. Mother Mary the Vicious looks up to the Tender and nods her head and asks in a whisper, “Do they always make so much damn noise?”

The Tender is mopping the guts of a glass with a white towel. “What’s it to you, God chick?”

“I’m trying to commune with the heavens and they’re disturbing me.” Mother Mary the Vicious turns back to look at the rowdy rebels. “I would think they would have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon.”

The Tender, that being the tender of the bar, looked at her and snorted a scoff. “Who the hell are you to talk. You’re in here drinking buckets of wine. Big buckets, too. So big you gotta use two holy hands. Just let ’em be. They’re just having a little fun on their one day of rest.”

“They should be at the church… Volunteering and such. The lawn could use a good mowing. Christ on the cross needs his nailed feet polished as well.”

“Piss off!” the Tender snapped. “You’re nothing but a hypocritical revenant come haunting my bar again.”

Mother Mary the Vicious took offense. “I’m very much alive.”

“Are ya now?”

“Absolutely… Bring me another bucket to celebrate my own breathing days.”

The Tender turned in a huff and went off to find another gallon of wine down in the hidden back and out and around of a stuffy stone cellar.

Mother Mary the Vicious got off her stool and went to where the hooligans were. They quieted down when they saw her coming their way. Their eyes followed her.

“I’m surprised you could walk all that way in a straight line,” the big one with the dark green shirt said as he clutched a handful of darts. He had a large head, shaved by stone, and a once broken nose on his street-tough looking face. “Ya didn’t fall down a bit, sister.” They all laughed out loud at her.

She made a motion with her hands. “Give me them darts. I want to play.”

They all laughed at her again.

“Jesus, sister,” the same one said. “I don’t think you could hit the side of a house in your condition.” They roared with laughter again.

Mother Mary the Vicious grew impatient. “Stop mouthing off and just give me the darts.”

The rough one shrugged, stepped forward and handed her the darts. “Here ya go, sister. Don’t poke your eyes out.”

She smiled and grimaced at the same time. “Just clear me a path to the dart board.”

The hooligans stepped aside as she stepped up to the line. She squinted at the board. She raised one dart and moved it back and forth in the air as she set up her shot. She threw it and it stuck in the hole-strewn wall inches away from the board. They clapped, whistled and laughed. “Good one, sister!” a short skinny one who looked far too young to be in a bar shouted. Then he pointed. “The board’s over there!” More rowdy laughter.

“I’m just warming up,” Mother Mary the Vicious sneered in the smoky, dense beer-scented air. Then she lined up another dart, threw it, and once again, it pierced the plaster inches to the side of the board.

“I don’t think you’re warm enough yet!” the young one said, and as he hoisted a mug of ale to his mouth, another dart whizzed through the air and hit him directly in the eye. The mug fell to the floor in a splash and a crash. The young one wailed, clutched his aching, bloodied socket, and fell to his knees.

“Ya blinded him, ya fucking bitch!” the rough one yelled out, and he came at her as the others surrounded their wounded companion. He grabbed her by the throat and walked her back with force until she was pinned against a far wall. Framed photos of olden days rattled. His hands clamped down on her neck. Mother Mary the Vicious was about to drop down into blackness when a gun shot went off.

The Tender stood in the room holding a smoking Spanish pistola aimed at the ceiling. “The next one’s going straight in your thick head Bruno boy if you don’t let the sister go right now.”

Bruno looked at him, his face wet with sweat and anger. Then he turned back to Mother Mary the Vicious. “You’re lucky this time, sister,” he sneered. He released his hands and stepped away from her.

The Tender nodded at Bruno with his head. “Now gather your injured boy and get him out of here. You tell them doctors it was all an accident. There was no vicious intent here by the sister, or anyone. You got that?”

Bruno looked at his companions as they got the whimpering young one to his feet. “Let’s go,” he said. And they all made their way to the door and out to the street and disappeared into the Sunday golden mist.

The Tender went to Mother Mary the Vicious. He studied her. “Are ya all right?” he asked with a strange degree of concern.

“Yes. I think so. Thank you for helping me. I thought you found me distasteful.”

“Not really.” The Tender leaned back and watched her swirling eyes watch him. “But this has nothing to do with love, sister. I was merely protecting my property. Don’t get any funny ideas now.”

She laughed softly and with a sense of slight disappointment. “I didn’t say a word about love.”

“You didn’t have to. I saw it in your eyes. I can taste it in the room.”

Mother Mary the Vicious snickered with embarrassment. “You don’t have to worry about me loving you like that… I prefer the company of women.”

The Tender raised his eyebrows in blown away wonder. “You enjoy going down under with the ladies, do ya?”

She nodded her head in an absolute. “That’s why I like wine so much. It pairs well with the taste.”

“Don’t the gods in the heavens have a problem with that?” the Tender asked, looking up through the ceiling of the bar.

“Not my gods,” she answered, and then a shadowy figure appeared in the doorway, and the woman was partially backlit by the Sunday sun. “I have to go now,” Mother Mary the Vicious announced. “It’s time for our Sunday drive to the edge of town. To the edge of good and bad and everything else in between.” She looked around at the memories she forever scarred the bar with. “I trust you will clean up the blood I spilled and put any charges on my tab. The church’s tab?”

The Tender traced everything she had just looked at with his own eyes. “No charge today, sister. And I’ve got plenty of towels for the blood. You just go and love like thunder and then some. It’s all this world’s got left.”


Revolution Meat (Last Part)

After cleaning up the kitchen, Marsella Blume stood out beneath the carport with a cigarette and three fingers of whiskey in an iced glass. She exhaled toward the heavens and laughed to herself. “What a fool I’ve married,” she said, her thoughts lighthearted at first but then she suddenly deeply regretted most of what she had done with her life, and she almost started to cry. “I live on a planet of murderers and I’m the only one who seems to care. Rubbish.” She tossed the glass out into the street and listened for the glory of the scattering smashing.

The record store downtown was open late on most nights because it was the cool thing to do. The sidewalk there was dirty, and rebellious teens loitered about talking loudly and laughing and playing music out of their cars. Marsella pushed on the door of silver metal and heavy smudged glass and went in. The place smelled like the smoking of marijuana. Loud music blared from hidden speakers. She went over to the area where they had the alternative rock, post-punk indie music CDs. S, S, S, she was looking for something that began with S. Then her fingers hit on it. The Smiths. The album was titled Meat is Murder and she pulled it from its place and looked it over. “Hmm, this used to be one of my favorites,” Marsella mumbled to herself aloud. “How strange that I had forgotten about it for all these years and then suddenly it comes back to me… Memories do tend to return to find you and shake you at the most unexpected times in our lives.”

Marsella went to the counter and presented what she wanted to buy. The young man with blue hair and piercings that made his face look like a pincushion looked at the CD and then looked at her. He made a weird face with his already weird face.

Marsella gave him a playful smile. “Don’t you get it, Johnny? It’s for me.” She handed him the money, took her change and bag, and walked out of the store and to her car.


Marsella drove fast and in complete disregard for the laws of the prickly electric night. She had the windows rolled down and the volume of the stereo was turned up high to overtake the whoosh of the air blowing in. She had track 10 on repeat, and the lyrics of Meat is Murder burrowed into her head and stoked the flames of her disenchantment with human beings and the world in general:

Heifer whines could be human cries
Closer comes the screaming knife
This beautiful creature must die
This beautiful creature must die
A death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder

And the flesh you so fancifully fry
Is not succulent, tasty or kind
It’s death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder
And the calf that you carve with a smile
It is murder
And the turkey you festively slice
It is murder
Do you know how animals die?…

“Do you know how animals die!?” Marsella screamed out as she brought the car to a stop in the nearly empty parking lot of the grocery store. She got out of the car and went around to the back and popped open the trunk. She reached inside and pulled out the can of red paint she had pilfered from her husband’s work shed, set it on the ground, and undid the lid with the screwing end of a standard screwdriver. She dumped some of the paint on the ground and watched it pool and slowly spread like a wound. The unnatural smell of it drove up her nose. She took a breath, and then she went inside the store.

The lights were bright, and they hurt her eyes as they buzzed and dazzled above her. The place was mostly empty except for the lone cashier flipping through a magazine, the young night stockers tossing boxes around, along with a few zombified customers perhaps craving a midnight pot pie. No one paid her any attention as she strolled down the cereal aisle with an opened bucket of red paint. When she got to the meat department, it was barren as a midnight graveyard in western Oklahoma. She heard wolves howl. She heard people chittering and giggling somewhere off in the distance. The music up above was sterilized, vomit-inducing ass hat glitter pop.

The custom meat case was empty, the animal flesh now removed, and the area behind was dark and quiet. Marsella looked around again before setting the paint can down and kneeling beside it. She dipped two fingers deep into the paint like it was a woman spread wide, pulled them out, and then wrote Meat is Murder, Don’t Ya Know? in a crooked, dripping scrawl against the exterior plexiglass of the meat case. She stood and looked at her handiwork as it continued to slowly bleed on itself, a very fitting touch to her art she proudly decided.

Next, she went over to the display case where they had all the packaged meat and she gripped the paint can in two hands, cocked it back and thrust it forward repeatedly as she haphazardly splashed the glossy red all over the chicken and their bones, the ground beef, the roasts, the steaks, the lamb, the porkchops, and all the groaning loins they had stacked there like genocide bodies.

“Hey!” someone suddenly yelled out from somewhere behind her. “What the hell are you doing there!?”

She turned just as the man got to her and she threw red paint on him, took the can by the carrying handle and whopped him upside the head with it as hard as she could. He made a pain-filled grunt like ooomphhh, then slipped and fell. She dropped the can with a clank and dashed down the soda aisle toward the front doors. For a woman of 39, she flew out of there like a wild bird, got into her car and sped off just as two other grocery store workers came hustling out after her screaming and yelling and carrying on as if she had just possibly committed a felony.

Marsella Blume sat in her car at the end of her block with the engine purring. She blew cigarette smoke out the open window as her eyes fixed on her house that sat like a morbid shell down the street and to the left. The air around the neighborhood was salted city orange and misty. The Smiths were still bubbling out from the stereo, but quieter now for she didn’t want to wake anyone. She took a final puff and then threw the butt out the window like she was Josey Wales cool. She pulled the shifter back into the D position and stomped her foot on the gas pedal. The car shot off surprisingly fast and Marsella gripped the steering wheel as she aimed the engine block straight for the corner of the house where her husband was hopelessly waiting beyond the brick and glass.

The impact was more violent than she expected, and her body snapped back and forth as the car drilled into the house. And it looked like being in an automatic car wash, she thought, with that suffocating blizzard of water and soap blotting out the windshield, the weighty thunder of the mechanical mops as they molested the filth away, the quaking turbulence of the high-powered dryers as one’s vehicle slowly emerged from the wash tunnel like a turtle’s head checking to see if it was safe out in the world.

Through the chaos she saw her husband’s startled face as his body was thrown back as if by a poltergeist, the bowl of buttered popcorn just moments before in his lap now curling high in the air and scattering its contents like youthful mischief. And then she watched as the debris rained down all around her in dust wallowed slow motion, bricks and glass and splintered wood hitting the car, and the sound came like ludicrous hail, and Marsella felt like she would soon be buried alive by the burdens of her own madness.


When Marsella opened her eyes, the butcher was sitting in a chair beside her hospital bed. There was something wrapped in fancy paper on the bedside table. She didn’t recognize him at first without the hair net, but the eyes were familiar. Those unsettling eyes were very blue as she recalled, almost a fake blue.

“Hello,” she managed to say. Her eyelids fluttered to batter away the stinging light.

“Hi. Do you remember me?” the man said, leaning in closer.

“You’re the butcher.”

“That’s right. How are you feeling?”

“Not terrible, but far from wonderful,” she said, and she tried to sit up more. “How did you… Why are you here?” She looked around the room trying to establish more thoroughly where she was.

“I read all about it in the newspapers. I just knew it had to be you,” he said. “The policeman let me in to quickly visit.”

“The policeman?”

The butcher turned his head and nodded. “Outside the door. I’m afraid you’re under guard.”

“I did something bad, didn’t I?”

The butcher sighed but tried to smile. “You made a terrible mess of my meat department. I’m afraid in your attempt to save the beasts, however, you inadvertently cast most of them off to the trash bin… So, in that effort, it seems you failed. But that’s really the least of your concerns considering the other charges.”

“Other charges?”

“Felonious assault. Aggravated homicide.”

“Aggravated!?”

“Don’t you know you killed your husband in a very terrible way? They had to pull him from the rubble piece by piece.”

Marsella shook her head in denial.

“They didn’t tell you?”

“Perhaps someone did. I can’t remember much… Just the cigarette and the grainy light and the music and the sound of the engine beating faster… And then it was just like a terrible storm but then bright like heaven.”

The butcher beamed at her with a gentle butcher-like smile. “Maybe you escorted him part way, hmm?”

“Huh?”

“Your husband. To heaven.”

“I do doubt it,” Marsella said. “He was a terrible person. He really was.”

“We’re all terrible people who do terrible things at times. We are after all, merely animals.”

“But I must have loved him at one time. I mean, real human love. Don’t you think?”

“Doesn’t appear that way, now does it, considering your present-tense situation,” the butcher with blue eyes said coldly. He glanced up at the black and white clock on the wall. “I’m afraid my time is limited so I must be on my way. But there’s a present for you there. I don’t really know why I felt you deserved a gift; I suppose I’m strangely sentimental like that. Hopefully you can do something with it before you go off to jail.”

She looked up at him, puzzled. Then he drew closer to her, and she jerked back when he bent to grasp her hand and shake it. “Good luck,” he whispered. He made himself upright again and looked down at her. His eyes were taking pictures.

“You aren’t really a butcher, are you?” Marsella said as her gaze crawled up his body and to his face.

“We’re all butchers,” he said, and he turned and walked out of the room without another word.

Marsella drowsily sat up on the edge of the bed and reached for the present on the bedside table. She shook it like a curious child, and then carefully peeled it open. Inside was a package of meat — a flank steak. It was the color of a broken heart and lightly marbled with thin rivers of greasy cotton. Some blood pooled in the white tray. She drew it closer to her face and studied it and her soul shook like grass in the dawn of spring.

She poked a hole in the plastic wrap with a finger and stripped it away. She lifted the meat out and held it in her hands. It was cold. It was wet. It was heavy. She opened her mouth wide, moved her head forward, and clamped her teeth down hard on the animal flesh. She fiercely strained and pulled until a piece tore off. She chewed on it slowly, ingested it, and went in for another bite… And then it was another and another and yet another until the whole cut of the meat was gone from the space in front of her and slowly sliding down into her belly in various shaped chunks.

She went into the bathroom and turned on the light. Her animal reflection stared back at her from the other side of the mirror. She barely recognized herself. An ugly murderous stain bloomed around her mouth like a pink flower. She grinned at herself; a thin film of red juice was still collected on her teeth. Then the screams of all the beasts she had ever known crawled up from her bloated belly and into her head. And there they stayed and got comfortable, always calling to her until the death chamber of man snuffed her out forever like a quick puff of breath on a flame.

END


Revolution Meat (First Part)

Marsella Blume woke up on the wrong side of a lifetime of wishful thinking.

The house in the manicured suburb where she lived was quiet. She gathered some fresh clothes and took a long hot shower full of steam and soap. She had to be clean for him. She had to smell good.

Once dressed and properly perfumed, she went downstairs to the kitchen. An orange cat rubbed against her legs and purred. The cat’s name was Alex, and he was hungry so she undid a fresh can of food and plopped it into a bowl. The cat smacked at it mercilessly while Marsella brewed herself a cup of light roast coffee. She drank it down quickly and rushed out to her car that sat beneath a carport. She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror and dabbed at her face with a fingertip to smooth the makeup one last time before pulling away.

As she drove toward the Lucky U Motorlodge to meet the man she was cheating on her husband with, she went through a grocery list in her head for when she would do the shopping following her affair appointment. Gravy. Fat-free milk. Scouring pads. Cat litter. Onions… Meat.

She bit at her frosted lip, worried, hoping she would remember everything. She scolded herself for not writing things down like any sane person would, but she usually relied on her own overloaded mind instead, readily at the cost of her own personal derailments. And the boxcars were piling up.

When she finally pulled into the gravely lot at the Lucky U, she shut the car down in a space in front of room No. 9. He appeared in the window without a shirt on and smiled at her through the glass. Part of her wanted to throw it in reverse and tear out of there and drive to the other side of the world. Another part of her wanted to break the rules of decency.

The next thing she knew she was lying on her back in the uncomfortable bed, and she mindlessly studied the ceiling while he thrust himself inside her. The landscape moved annoyingly — a visual jolt every time he went deep that was beginning to make her head swim. She closed her eyes and thought of Niagara Falls in the spring. She could hear the thunderous flow of the water as it went over the edge and fell with a power like no other. Who was this seemingly random person above her this time? He wasn’t nearly as strong as the falls. She had her hands on his upper arms that weren’t even very muscular. She looked up at his unappealing face, now twisted with his own hard work and pleasure. He was breathing like a marathon banshee and dripping sweat onto her face as he slapped against her skin.

“Please don’t cum inside me,” she warned him.  “Not today. I don’t want to feel it today.”

His dead eyes went wide as he looked at her face. “I may not be able to help it,” he grunted. “You’re a dream come true.”

She suddenly turned away and tried to get out from under him by twisting her body. He popped out of her like a cork from a bottle.

“What the hell! What are you doing?” he wanted to know.

“I’m suddenly not in the mood,” she said as she straightened herself on the edge of the bed. “And I’m not anyone’s dream so don’t say that ever again.”

He scoffed in frustration and went to sit on the opposite edge of the bed. He was trying to catch his breath as he moved his hair out of his eyes. He reached for his pack of cigarettes on the nightstand and lit one. He just sat there naked and smoked quietly.

Why had she even chosen him, she thought, as the room filled with the haze of his smoke. Glenn. What an inconsequential name, she thought to herself. They worked together in the real estate office. He was an assistant to the more experienced brokers like herself. How did it even happen? She tried to recall. Then the memory suddenly bobbed to the surface of her jumbled mind like a dumpling in boiling water. One day they were driving in his car together, just the two of them, and they were on their way to the home of a prospective client out in the country who had a very large house they wanted to sell. They had been listening to the radio and laughing about something. He purposely reached over and touched her leg. She instructed him to pull off in a secluded spot and then she found herself leaning in and kissing him. He kissed her back ferociously like he’d never known love. She recalls seeing the glint of her wedding ring as she held his rough face. Soon after, her top was undone, and his hands were on her. She knew she had to stop, but she couldn’t. Then her head had fallen into his lap and this essential stranger was in her mouth, and then she began to cry because it wasn’t love. It was never love, but still, she kept at it. And now she was trapped in a cheap motel room once again, and she didn’t want him at all anymore.

She got up and walked past him without a word and into the bathroom to take a shower. But there was no erasing him from the hard drive of her body — only time and keen personal deception could do that, maybe. He was long gone when she came back out. The key to the room sat on her pillow atop a one-dollar bill.


Marsella Blume always ended up with the shopping cart that didn’t go straight or had a wonky wheel that rattled and drew unwanted attention. It was just her lot in life, she achingly figured.

She steered her trolley down the shiny, well landscaped aisles of boxes and cans and bottles and bags and tins and sacks and pouches until she reached the meat department at the very back of the store. The chilled and brightly lit cases gently hummed. She drew closer and peered down at the animal flesh neatly cut and presented atop the white foam trays wrapped in plastic. She studied all the various hunks of animal flesh. Some were bright red like blood. Others the color of well-tanned human beings. Others still were pale as a sun-bleached shell on a sandy beach or like a distant breakthrough muddied star in space.

She picked up a package of flank steak. She wondered to herself. Flank? She didn’t know what that even meant. The only thing she knew was that she was staring at a piece of animal flesh. It was the flesh of an animal that once walked around and ate grass or something like that, she thought. It breathed. It looked at the sun or stood on a hill in the rain. It had eyes and a brain. And now she was holding a piece of it in her hand. How incredibly odd, she thought. How when you really think about it, the truth of the matter is human beings savagely kill other living things, cut them up into pieces, wrap them up neat and tight and sell them for profit. Then we burn them, chew them up and swallow them down into our collective guts in a celebratory sort of way.

A man in a white lab coat streaked with red and with a hair net atop his head that made him look extremely peculiar smiled at her as he stocked more packages of animal flesh beside her. His eyes were alien blue and twirled like old time camera flashcubes when he smiled. “Can I help you find a particular cut?” he asked her politely.

Marsella looked at him. “Is that blood on your company uniform?”

He looked down at himself. “Yes, it is.”

She was alarmed. “Where did it come from?”

He looked at her strangely, but then again, he was used to odd birds swooping in from the ridiculous world. “I work in the meat department. I’m a butcher.”

“So, you cut up animals back there?” Marsella asked with a nod of her head toward an unknown space beyond them.

The butcher chuckled at her. “Not really. They come to us already cut up. We just cut them up more.”

“So that they fit neatly in all these little packages or in trays in your fancy little case over there?”

“That’s right. We take it right down to the point of purchase and consumption… Are you sure there’s nothing I can help you find?”

“Can you show me where you work?”

He made a puzzled face. “I’m sorry, mam. We can’t allow customers into our production area.”

“Then can you tell me what a flank steak is?”

The butcher cleared his throat and thought about it as he looked at her. “Listen. You seem nice enough. I’ll let you come back and look at my beef chart and I can show you exactly where the flank comes from.”

Marsella suddenly brightened. “Really?”

“Sure… But you can’t say anything to anyone. Okay?”

“Okay. But what about my shopping cart?”

“Just leave it. We’ll only be a minute or two.”

She followed him to an area behind the custom meat counter and through a set of swinging metal doors with two little square windows on each one. He led her to a white plastic table that was stained pink from repetitive butchering. Above the table was a big poster with a drawing of a cow except the cow was divided up into all sorts of different parts and the parts were labeled and color-coded. He pointed to the one marked flank. It was blue.

“See there. The flank is at the bottom of the cow, just forward of the rear quarter.”

Marsella’s eyes slow danced across the chart, and it almost made her feel like she was back in her high school biology class. It nearly smelled the same — like death and bleach. “I never imagined such a thing,” she said.

“Well, where did you think meat came from?” the butcher asked with a tone of sarcasm that made her feel stupid.

“I guess I never really thought about it,” she said. “I suppose like most people don’t.”

“Well,” the butcher smiled. “There’s a bloody reality behind every shiny facade.”

“I suppose that’s true,” she said, returning the smile.


The flank steak Marsella had purchased sizzled and smoked as it hit the hot cast-iron skillet. She turned to look at her husband who was sitting at the table behind her flipping through a day-old newspaper.

He sensed her looking at him. “What’s the occasion?” he asked.

“Huh?”

“Steak. You never cook steak.”

“Oh,” Marsella fumbled in her thoughts. “I decided I would try something different. The butcher recommended it.”

He moved the newspaper away from his face and beamed at her from across the gap between them. “The butcher? What butcher?”

“The one who works at the grocery store. He was very helpful. Did you know they have a huge poster of a cow back there and it shows all the different ways they cut up that poor animal?”

“He showed you a poster?”

“Yes.”

Her husband sneered with suspicion. “Did he show you anything else?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she wanted to know.

Her husband mumbled something undecipherable and rattled the newspaper in frustration. “Don’t burn it,” he said louder.

Marsella jabbed a large fork into the cooking flank steak and it bled out, the juices smoking and sizzling loudly in the pan. “I won’t,” she meekly answered.

She set two plates down. Her husband looked up at her from across the table and smiled after she took her seat. “This looks amazing,” he said as he unfurled his napkin. “I’m hungry as a dinosaur.”

Marsella looked down at her meal as he worked his knife and fork into the slab of animal flesh before him. His utensils scraped and clinked against the oval plate, and that combined with the sounds of his prehistoric chewing made her skin crawl and her teeth hurt.

She crinkled her nose at the hunk of flank steak before her. She thrust her fork in followed by her knife. She sawed, pierced the piece she had dislodged from the bigger piece and brought it to her mouth. She pushed it in and started chewing. The taste of salt and blood and iron played out strongly on her tongue. She forced herself to swallow and then she gagged a bit.

Her husband quickly glanced up at her. “Are you okay?”

She ran her tongue across her lips and fake smiled. “Do you see what we are doing?” she said, and she took a sip of water.

He looked confused. “I thought we were having dinner,” he answered.

“Yes. But no. Think about what we’re doing. I mean really think about it.”

He looked at his plate and then back up at her. “I’m having a steak, some potatoes, green beans…”

“No!” she blurted it out. “I want you to think about it at a much deeper level. Why can’t you ever do that!?”

He slammed his knife and fork down and they rattled angrily against his plate. “What the hell do you want me to say!? And I’m sorry if I’m not as intelligent as you supposedly wish me to be.”

“Do you not see it!?”

“See what, Marsella!?”

“We’re eating animal flesh! Look at your plate. That used to be a living breathing being with a heart and a brain and eyes to look upon the world with.”

He rolled his own eyes at her and wiped at his mouth with a napkin. “Oh Jesus. Here we go.”

“What!?”

“Is this your way of telling me you’ve decided to become a vegetarian now?”

“I may consider it.”

“Because of your great enlightenment following your visit with the butcher? I bet you won’t swear off all meat,” he scoffed.

She avoided his comment for the moment but filed it on the horizon of her memory. “Don’t you see how heinous it all is?”

“Heinous?”

“We stand over all these poor animals like gods and treat them horribly while we fatten them up just so we can cut them to pieces and then cut them to more pieces until the pieces are just the right size of convenience for the bloodthirsty bah, bah, bah consumers. Look at what you had in your mouth! Look at it!”

He watched her carefully in case she physically attacked him, and then he looked down at his plate.

“That’s right,” she continued. “We cut them up into little bits and package them up nice and friendly like and stack them in a refrigerated fluorescent case for the humans to prey upon with their watering eyes and nimble fingers. Oh, but to all of them it’s just a good piece of meat. It’s just something we breed and harvest to feed ourselves. We’ve turned other living creatures into a commodity to buy and sell by the pound! And then you put it in your mouth and shit it out later! Does that not bother you in the slightest?”

“It’s simply the cycle of life, Marsella. The cycle of life,” he answered sternly.

“It’s barbaric. If a man did that to another man, they’d send him to the electric chair and then some… And how many people out there do you think would even buy a steak after watching it gutted and plucked straight from a cow right in front of them? Hmm. Would you?”

He stood up. He was perturbed and he yelled at her. “I don’t know what you want me to do about it! It’s just the way it is, Marsella, and I’m sorry, but there are a lot of things in this crooked world far darker than you realize or wish them to be. But man is at the top of the food chain. That’s reality. It’s where God put us. It’s called survival of the fittest. Cows weren’t meant to plow fields or operate machines or be doctors. If you don’t like it, then go ahead and stop eating meat, but I for one will continue to eat meat because humans are carnivores… And I happen to like it.”  

“Omnivores,” she said dejectedly.

“What?”

“Human beings are omnivores. Maybe if you educated yourself, read a few more books, you’d know that.”

“Why is this suddenly turning into an attack against me. Jesus Christ, Marsella! All I wanted to do was enjoy my dinner and you launch into this psychobabble about meat and insult my level of intelligence. I won’t stand for it anymore.”

He snatched up his plate and started to walk away.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to finish my dinner in the den. There’s a game on I want to watch. And I would appreciate it if you just left me alone with my subpar thoughts.”

TO BE CONTINUED


The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (Ep. 1)

The sound of the jet airplane’s engines had lulled him into a half sleep. He was drifting in and out of a panoramic dream — something about floating on clouds — and then when his head jerked hard enough to snap him back into wakefulness, he looked out the small window next to his seat and saw that his dream had come true.

At that very moment, he wanted to crawl through that impenetrable opening and just fall like an angel into those mushroomy blooming puffs cut now like vibrant jewel prisms by the perfectly angled falling light of the day. There was a ding sound in the cabin and then an indecipherable voice came over the sound system. He could feel the plane beginning to dip and soon they were swallowed whole by the very same clouds from his dream come true.  And when they finally emerged from the bottom, he could see the land below, wide western meadows and low rocky ridges and far off into the distance he saw the snowcapped peaks that Colorado was so famous for, and they sprang out and up from a mirky soup of yellow pollution hovering over a city called Denver.


He moved through a pulsing hot throng of people on his way to the mile-long escalators going down to where the train arrived that took travelers to the main terminal of DIA. Even though he had no particular place to be at any particular time, he walked fast, constantly adjusting the backpack he carried with him because it kept slipping. People zoomed by him in both directions. The voices all mingled into one loud hum in a hive.

He dashed into a crowded men’s room to relieve himself. He had to wait in a line to use a urinal. Once finished he washed his hands, splashed his face, tried to comb his hair into some semblance of order with his fingers. He studied himself in the mirror for just a moment because he thought it was overly vain to look at oneself for too long. And for some reason it made him uncomfortable to look at himself, as well, almost embarrassed. That’s why he always did it quick. He decided he looked very tired and moved on.

Once back into the rush of the main thoroughfare, he slipped out and took a seat in the mostly unoccupied waiting area of a darkened gate where a flight to Detroit wasn’t set to depart for another two hours. It was a quiet reprieve for the time being. He lifted his pack into the seat beside him and retrieved his cell phone. He squinted as he looked at the screen. He took it out of airplane mode and waited for the technological pipes to clear. No calls. No messages. Nothing erupted now that he was back on the ground. He was almost glad for the fact he wasn’t popular among any crowd but his own. He took a deep breath and tried to stretch his neck by bending it from side to side. He could almost hear the tendons strain and crackle.

He sat still there for a long time, his thoughts getting caught up in the traffic of human beings continually parading by like a perpetual mountain stream. Some moved fast, others dawdled. Some had a trainload of luggage behind them, others merely a single bag slung over a sore shoulder. He wondered about where they had come from and where they were going. Why were all these people moving so much? What was with all the here and there? What great grief or passion was calling to them? His life in comparison seemed so much slower and simpler. But was it? Not really, after all.

He glanced at his diamond digital watch from Hades, but then realized it didn’t really matter what time it was. He was at that place in life where time was something that only other people dealt with, not him.

Then for some strange reason his thoughts drifted to childhood in the lakeside burbs of upper middle crust Chicago and about the Christmas mustard his Aunt Sharlene used to proudly serve with her platefuls of fancy meats and breads and cheeses during the warm, crystalline holidays. Aunt Sharlene was always wearing a dress, he recalled. Even if she was cooking eggs and bacon at 6 a.m., she had on a dress. Back then he even thought that she most likely slept in a dress. Maybe she did. But the mustard, that Christmas mustard. It came in a fancy glass jar, and it had a fancy foreign label and lid and Aunt Sharlene boasted about how she got it from this peculiar owner of a deli in the brick and gold shopping plaza in the neighborhood because he thought she was something special and would know exactly how to use it as if it were fragile magic. His Uncle Drake always frowned when she brought that part up because she would always throw something in there about how this particular and peculiar deli owner was also tall, dark, and handsome. His Uncle Drake was none of those things.

But the mustard was something special in exchange for the pricks of jealousy, as well, he supposed. And his Uncle Drake would lovingly slather it all over his rye bread. It had a bite to it that was somehow extraterrestrial and made the person eating it feel like they had traveled somewhere very far away. The man’s imagination had always been bright, and he believed the Christmas mustard must have had come from Saudi Arabia or perhaps Yemen or even Tatooine. But why would he think something so foolish? He shook his head at his own youthful naivety, and then he was suddenly hungry for a sandwich even though he knew that no one would have any Christmas mustard in the airport.


He settled on a faux New York deli type of sandwich place that pretended it was authentic but really wasn’t — merely corporate fantasies for sale. It was crowded and hard to move around inside the little box in a long line of other boxes aglow with money suckers. His broken velvet eyes the color of underwater gold scanned the menu for something that wasn’t gross. He settled on a New York Clubber — roast beef, turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, spicy (not Christmas) mustard, black olives on a crusty crunchy dick-like stick of white bread cut and spread open like a lover’s legs.

The pace of the place was frantic, and the man’s nerves began to tick and twitch as the people pressed in on him, the mingling of sandwiches and skin like uneasy sex in a musty dark cellar, and he reached forward to pay at the counter quickly because the pressure was on him. People were watching and waiting and staring at the stranger from somewhere else. He felt like they all hated him.

He found a small table in the very center of the food court outside the deli joint and the roar of people eating and talking and slurping and bitching and babies wailing was all around him. He unzipped his backpack and reached in for an orange bottle of pills. He uncapped it, shook out two white bars with score marks and tossed them into his mouth. He washed them down with a bubbling iced Fresca.

He unwrapped his sandwich and laid the paper out flat. He opened a bag of salt and vinegar chips and poured them out onto the paper. He brought the sandwich up to his open mouth and bit into it. He chewed and as the flavors and textures mingled, he looked to his left where he saw a young girl in a periwinkle blue dress and her hair in pigtails sitting at a table all by herself. She looked very different from everyone else. She looked like she belonged to a strict old religious clan that rebutted the ways of modern, sinful life. She looked like she should have been in a barn, knee-high in hay, not inside one of the busiest airports in the world.

The girl was staring at him for a long time for some strange reason. Did he have something on his face? He instinctively reached for a napkin and wiped it across his mouth. He glanced over at her again. She had weird eyes and she looked unsettled. He put down his sandwich and sucked on the straw connected to his plastic cup of Fresca. A strange man and woman dressed similarly to the girl suddenly appeared at the table and they set down bags of food and cups of drink. She looked up at each of them in turn and smiled. Then she said something to them that he could not understand through the cacophony of humans communally filling their guts.

Then all three of them turned to look at him and their faces were dusted with disgust. He watched them watch him through the clouds of humanity. He couldn’t understand why they were looking at him that way. What did the girl say to them? And why? He had done nothing wrong. Was it because he was so different from them? Had she read the inner linings of his soul and discovered there was a reason why he was now drifting listlessly through time? Did she discover that he was merely a living ghost after all, and it upset her balance of beliefs and familial rituals set forth by her spinning God?

He quickly finished eating, gathered his trash and stood to carry it over to a receptacle to dispose of it. When he did, an eerie quiet fell upon the food court and seemingly the entirety of Denver International Airport. A billion heads turned to watch him with scathing glances. He moved slowly to the garbage bin and dropped in the remains of his meal into the wide hole. No one else moved or spoke. He hoisted his pack over his shoulder and gazed at all of them.

“What do you want!” he screamed out.

And when they just continued to stare and not say anything, he backed away from the coital mob and made his way back onto the main thoroughfare of the concourse and walked as fast as he could. The people there too now stared at him, watched him with sallow unfamiliar eyes like he was some murderer on the loose. He quickened his pace as the swarm thickened. He started bumping into bodies, pushing bodies, kicking at bodies. He pulled the pack off his shoulder and started swinging it at the people closing in. He hit a young woman in the face, and she fell. No one screamed but instead they just hummed like a hornet’s nest plump with menacing insects.

And then he ran. He ran as fast as he could and the tunnel like artificial air of the airport whooshed by him in an effort to keep pace with his speed. He glanced behind him, and the people were floating toward him effortlessly. He glanced in front of him, and there he saw that a thick wall built of human beings was erected to keep him from passing. He suddenly stopped and looked from side to side. He saw an emergency exit door and made for it. He pushed on the thick silver bar and an alarm immediately began to wail. He ran down the jetway that was untethered to any airplane. Once at the end he could taste the open air and he saw an attached metal ladder in which he could use to get to the ground, and he swung over and onto it and climbed down.

Once his shoes hit the pavement he ran and ran and ran until he was breathless and limping. A jet loudly swam above him and then he was suddenly surrounded by white cars with flashing blue lights on their rooftops and men in uniforms quickly jumped out and corralled him. They pushed him to the ground and made him lie on his stomach. They handcuffed him. They yanked him up and led him to one of the cars and shoved him into the backseat and slammed the door. He was in a cage now, and he was headed for another cage. He was sure of it.

TO BE CONTINUED


Refrigerated Dreams (Act 5)

empty hallway
Photo by Aaron Mello on Pexels.com

Veronica Genesis sat nervously in class trying to focus on the puzzling geometry book spread out before her. She lifted her head and painfully watched Mrs. Anderson’s back as she scratched something into the green blackboard with a thick piece of white chalk. She was wearing a yellow blouse and black pants that were too tight for her and Veronica thought she looked like a bumblebee painfully stuffed into a sausage casing.

Her blonde hair was pulled back tight into a ponytail, and it bounced as she frantically worked to complete whatever equation she was trying to complete. It was all a foreign language to Veronica. She hated math. She hated equations and formulas and calculations that to her seemed so meaningless in the scope of real life. She wanted to be in art class drawing pictures of hopeful summer days with colored pencils and inky markers that somehow only smelled good to her; every other girl in the class crinkled their nose and said, “Eww,” when she would push them toward a face. Maybe she was destined to become some sort of non-traditional and pushy drug addict. The boys never smelled their inky markers for some reason, and she never forced it upon them. She didn’t know why.

Veronica looked across to the side of the room near the windows and there sat an empty, cold desk. No one had seen or heard from Andy Bliss recently, and at that very same moment as the girl thought about it and how she was practically involved, his parents were a few blocks away at the sheriff’s office on the square and they were sitting at the desk of a detective and reporting their son as missing. His mother was crying. His father was pained with worry. A younger brother somewhere else didn’t care.

And then all that dissipated in Veronica’s mind as the door to the classroom opened and Adam Longo stumbled in.

Heads shot up and turned in unison toward the front corner of the classroom. Geometrical-minded Mrs. Anderson stopped what she was doing and lifted her chalk away from the board. She was puzzled, angry, and emphatic all at the same time. “Adam?” she said. “Is everything okay?”

He looked at her and then he turned to look at the sea of faces lined up neatly in rows and he felt their mocking stares and he heard the whispers and he caught onto the teasing, muffled laughs. But he ignored all that and his focus bore into Veronica like a huge drilling machine on a mission to the center of the Earth. “Everything is fine,” Adam said to Mrs. Anderson without really seeing her.

The teacher looked him up and down. His clothes were dirty and torn in places. His shoes were muddy. His black as night hair was uncombed and flat from not being shampooed. His face displayed a draculian pallor of death. And then she noticed his hands. There were streaks of what looked like dried blood on them, as if he had tangled with a rose bush. “Adam,” she repeated. “Will you wait for me in the hallway?”

He broke the mental connection he had with Veronica and sleepily gazed at his teacher. “The hallway?”

Giggles rippled through the classroom. “Yes. Please,” Mrs. Anderson answered. “Right now.”

“But I’ve come to do my math lessons. I need to learn how to do my problems.”

“He’s got some problems all right,” someone in the crowd murmured, and there was more laughing.

Then Adam patted at himself and looked around in a sudden state of confusion when he realized he didn’t have his schoolbooks with him. “They must be in my locker,” he said aloud.

Mrs. Anderson pointed with a stern finger and repeated herself. “In the hallway, Mr. Longo.”

Again, snickers rose among his classmates, and he looked into them deeply and recorded and filed the memory of who they were before turning and stepping out of the room.


“Do you get a kick out of disturbing my classroom, Mr. Longo?”

Mrs. Anderson had him backed against a wall on the opposite side of the hallway. She was so close to his face that he could smell the abundant makeup that nearly dripped from her own face. Her mouth was thick. Her eyes looked like watered space jewels, and they contained all the colors of an English garden somehow. Her skin was seemingly flawless beneath the masking powder. He almost loved her.

“I’m sorry I was late,” he said. “And that I didn’t have my math book.”

“And what is all this?” she wanted to know, taking a step back and gesturing with her hands. “You look like you crawled out of a garbage dump. Don’t you have more self-respect than that?”

He just stared at her oddly and didn’t know how to answer. But instead of telling her that he had an inkling that she was right, it was all still too foggy to him and he instead said nothing.

She clamped her lips tight and shook her head with frustration. “You certainly are an odd young man,” she said. “I want you to go to the restroom and clean yourself up. And then I want you to report to the school nurse. You don’t look well. Don’t come back until you do. Understand?”

“I understand,” Adam Longo answered.

She shot a wondering sigh in his direction, turned, and went back into her classroom.


It was just a short time later when she turned from the blackboard to address the class about some sort of puzzling triangle, when something out the window caught Mrs. Anderson’s attention. It was Adam Longo, and he was power walking across one of the playing fields behind the school. He was recklessly waving his arms around and it appeared as if he was arguing with the oxygen. She excused herself and quickly went out and cautiously ran down a corridor, the bottoms of her shoes making an echoing tapping sound against the glossy school tiles as she went. When she reached the end at the exit, she pushed on the metal bar of the door that led to the back side of the school. Sunlight and air burst in as she stepped out.

“Adam!” she called out to him. “You can’t just leave! Adam! Get back here! You’re my responsibility!”

He paid her no attention and he just kept on going. When he reached the low chain-link fence at the boundary between the playing field and the wild lands of a fresh yet downtrodden suburbia, he leapt over it like an animal and disappeared down into a mound of brush and trees and into a ravine the depth of a tall man and it bore through the landscape brown and crooked like a jungle river with the light of day looking down upon it through the canopy thoughtlessly rearranged by man. He moved through it like a piece of electricity.

MORE TO FOLLOW

You can read the previous part of this story HERE.


The Sunday Visitor

The misunderstood devil knocked on the back door around noon on a Sunday. Mae looked up from the stove where she had just set her drained pot of boiled potatoes to cool. She dried her cooking hands on a towel hung on a drawer handle and turned down the kitchen radio that was playing war time classics.

“Who is it?” she called out.

The knocking came harder, and she went closer to the door and stood against it.

“Who’s there?” she said again, her heart beginning to race.

Then there came a man’s voice from the other side. “I’m very sorry to bother you on the Lord’s Day, but I was wondering if I could use your telephone.”

Mae paused for a moment and then told the stranger something untrue.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t open the door to strangers. However, my husband will be home momentarily if you’d care to wait.”

She held her breath for an answer.

“It’s quite cold out, mam. I’m not a murderer. I swear it.”

“What do you need the telephone for?” she asked. “Perhaps I could dial the number for you.”

She could hear the crunch of snow beneath the man’s boots as he shifted. She imagined he was looking around, searching for another way into the house.

“All right then,” the man’s voice came again. “I’ll be frightfully honest with you. I have no money and I’m hungry. I was hoping you might have a bit of food to spare.”

Mae bit at her brightly colored bottom lip and thought about it. “What does the good book say about such a situation?” the voice inside herself asked. She quickly decided and opened the door.

A small man wearing a hat and jacket wet with snow stood there and attempted a smile. “Mam,” he said. “The name’s Ed Jallow. I sure do appreciate it.”

“Come in, Ed,” Mae said. “Please, have a seat at the table and I’ll get you a cup of coffee to help warm you up.”

“Thank you,” Ed said, and he pulled a chair out from a small table by a set of large windows that looked out upon a modest yard now caked in various layers of snow. He sat down. He pulled the hat from his head and stuffed it into a pocket of his coat. He sniffled and then coughed.

Mae turned from the kitchen to look at him. “Are you sick?”

“No. I don’t think. It’s just I’ve been breathing all that cold air.”

Mae carefully carried over a steaming cup of coffee atop a small plate. She set it down in front of him and studied for a moment the now revealed top of his balding head. “Here you are. It’s a good thing for you I keep a pot going most of the time. I’m an absolute fiend about it.”

He smiled at her and picked up the cup, blew across the top of it and then carefully took a sip. “Hmm. That’s a good cup of Joe,” he said.

“So,” Mae wanted to know. “Where are you from?”

Ed Jallow cleared his throat. “Detroit,” he said.

“Detroit? What brings you all the way up here?”

A cuckoo clock suddenly released its half-hour call from up above them on the wall. Ed became startled. His hands trembled slightly. “I’m a fugitive from love, I guess you could say.”

Mae was intrigued. “A fugitive from love?”

“Marriage trouble,” Ed confessed. “I’m afraid I didn’t plan well enough. Ran out of gas. And so here I came around to your abode, penniless and hungry.” He feigned a laugh, but she could sense the stress devouring him.

“You were in the neighborhood?”

“I suppose I got lost,” Ed said.

“Would a sandwich be, okay?” Mae asked, quickly changing the subject. “Ham on rye?”

“Great,” Ed answered. “And do you have any potato chips? I’ve got a thing about potato chips.”

“I’m sure I could dig some up,” she said, and she went into the kitchen to fix up his plate.

Ed craned his neck to get a good look at her tightly packed rear-end as she moved it around while she worked. “You said your husband would be home soon?” he said, wanting to clarify the situation.

Mae quickly looked in his direction. “That’s right.”

“Does he work on Sunday?”

“No. He’s down at the corner bar watching the big fight with the fellas.” She strutted back to the table carrying a plate with a sandwich and a small mound of potato chips on it. “I could call down there and have him come home. Wouldn’t take him but about five minutes or so to get here.”

Ed Jallow eyed the plate as she set it down in front of him. He quickly snatched the sandwich up and bit into it. Then he shoved a few of the chips into his mouth. The noises he made while eating bothered her and she walked toward the phone and picked it up.

“What are you doing?” Ed asked.

“I was going to call down to the bar and ask my husband to come home.”

Ed waved his hand against the air. “You don’t need to do that. Let the guy enjoy the fight.”

Mae hesitated for a moment and then hung the phone back up. “I suppose you’re right. No man likes to be nagged.”

“That’s for damn sure.”

Mae smiled. “As soon as you’re done eating, we can go to the garage. I’m sure my husband has a gas can out there somewhere.”

Ed looked at her with a puzzled expression. “A gas can?”

“Right. You said you ran out of gas.”

“Oh yeah. Of course. Gas. I could sure use some gas.”

Mae chuckled.

“What’s so funny?” Ed wondered.

“All this talk of gas.”

Ed pushed the plate away and wiped at his mouth with his hand. “How about we go check on that gas now?” he said with seriousness.

“Follow me, Mr.… Jallow, right?”

“That’s right. Like shallow but with a J.”


Once inside the garage, Ed followed her movements with his eyes as she searched for the gas can.

“Surely there’s some gas in here somewhere. I can smell it. Can’t you smell it?”

Ed got closer to her and looked at her face in the dim light. “All I can smell is you, and you’re in heat. Why are you in heat? For me?”

She looked at him as if offended. “Mr. Jallow?”

“What do you really want from life? You want me?”

“Mr. Jallow… I’m a married woman.”

He suddenly grabbed her left hand and held it up. “You’re not wearing any sort of wedding ring… And I didn’t see a single picture inside of you with some fella. What gives, lady? Why are you lying to me?”

Mae yanked her hand away from him. “Why are you lying to me? You’re not some poor fella from Detroit run off by his wife… You’re nowhere near out of gas and down on your luck, are you?”

He got close to her face. He squinted his eyes in defiance. “Looks like you got me pegged, lady.”

“What do you want from me?” Mae quivered.

He was breathing heavily. “I want you to take me to your bedroom and spread your legs for me. Is that bold enough for you?”

With her movements void of any hesitation, she led him back into the house, through the kitchen, and past the table where he sat to drink coffee and eat his sandwich and potato chips. He followed her down a dark hallway, past a bathroom with the door slightly ajar, and finally into her bedroom in the corner of the house. Ed gently closed the door behind them, shed his coat and threw it on a chair in the corner. He loosened the collar of the shirt he was wearing, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up the sleeves like he was about to fight someone.

“Get out of your dress,” he ordered her.

Mae slipped out of the dress like he asked.

“Now everything else,” Ed instructed.

She did as he said until she stood fully naked before him.

“Get on the bed.”

“How do you want me?” she asked.

“Like if you were sleeping, but relaxed, open, untethered,” he told her.

Mae got onto the bed and laid down on her back. She felt his eyes on her as she looked up at the white ceiling that resembled swirled cream.

“Now what do you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” Ed Jallow said. “You don’t have to do anything. I just want to look at you.”

Mae propped herself up on her elbows and looked at him, confused. “You’re not going to have your way with me?”

He avoided her stare for just a moment. “No. I can’t. I’m not able to. I got an injury in the war. They told me I’m only half a man now.”

“Then why are you doing this?”

Ed walked to a window, parted a tender curtain with his hand and looked out. “I’ve been driving the last day and a half, and I just wanted to see something beautiful for a change. I’m plain sick of the way the world looks and acts out there. Plain sick of it. I never meant to scare you. You’ve been very kind. I should just go now,” he said, and he moved away from the window, reached for his coat and made his way toward the door.

“Wait,” Mae said to stop him.

He turned to look at her lying there naked on the bed.

“What’s up, lady?”

“Do you like fire?”

“What kind of fire?”

“Crackling, orange fire that gently licks at the brickwork,” she explained. “Would you like to sit in front of the fireplace with me in the other room? It’s supposed to snow more. And where else would you go?”

Ed Jallow scratched at his balding head. “And you won’t mind if I just get lost in the flames for a little while?”

She bowed her head for a moment to think, and then she looked back up at him. “Isn’t that what life’s all about?” she said, her tone thorough and full of conviction.

END


Refrigerated Dreams (Act 4)

The boy from the refrigerator was perched upon a steel beam like a vulture high above them in the old shoe factory. His slick black hair was more slick than usual. The dead eyes of alien blue that punctuated his pale face swirled like a spiral arm galaxy as he looked down at them. He cocked his head in an odd manner as he listened to them talk beneath him. Adam Longo recognized the boy as one of them that was there when they locked him in the old refrigerator that day. He was one of them that held him roughly by the arms as they led him down into the pit of the dump. The girl was someone he recognized from that school he knew as his living hell. She was the one he stared at when she wasn’t looking. She was the one he thought about at the closing of the day when he would lie atop his bed in his quiet room at home. She was his only good memory.

Then Adam Longo recalled how the other one, the red-haired one, their leader, had laughed without remorse, how he had gotten right in his face and said something like, “Are your balls all shriveled up… Is that why you don’t ever talk?” His breath was overpowering. Rudy was his name. He hated Rudy. And now here was one of his rooks and that girl thinking they were all alone in this immense place lost in time. He thought about leaping out into the air and floating down and he would come upon them in a fury of revenge. He could do that now. Something drastically changed after he went into that refrigerator unwillingly. Sheer human cruelty had given him a power he never expected.


Veronica took a step back from him. “You were part of that?” she wanted to know.

Andy paused for a moment. “I was against it.”

“But you still allowed it to happen.”

Andy looked up and sighed with frustration.

“What!?” the girl snapped. “You’re angry because I’m upset you let a boy get locked in a refrigerator? He could have died.”

Andy bent down and picked up a metal rod and tossed it into the void. It tumbled and clanked loudly. “Why are you getting bent out of shape? Let’s just get high.”

“I think I want to go home,” Veronica said.

Andy’s demeanor suddenly changed, and he grabbed her by the shoulders. “What’s your problem?”

“Let go of me!”

He pushed her away and turned. “Fine. Do what you want,” he said, and he started to walk away.

She called after him. “Where are you going?”

“Just go home,” he called back, and then, like the sudden snap of a bone, something fell from above and was on top of him. It attacked him with the ferocity and conviction of an angel bred by animals, and the boy struggled and shrieked as he was mercilessly beaten and clawed.

In the epilogue of the boy’s torn moans, a panting Adam Longo turned to look at her through the dim light. He was mystically aglow, and his gaze froze her in place, and like in a dream she struggled to run but her legs refused to receive and follow the command. Veronica had no control over her own self now and could only watch in wonder as the figure stood. He was just a boy, but nothing like a real boy. He looked down at Andy twitching on the dirt-strewn floor of the factory. Then he looked up, toward the place from where he came, and he suddenly ascended in a completely inhuman way.

Her legs became free from their dream burden and Veronica ran toward the lighted frame of the doorway they had entered. She burst into the outside world and leapt down the iron stairway, past the loading bays and toward the hole in the chain-link fence. She scrambled through, a piece of metal bit into the top of her shoulder and she winced as she dove into the sea of weeds and tall grasses on the other side. She went for her bike, lifted it up and got on. She pedaled toward town with an urgency and fear she never knew she could possess.

Once she was long gone, her scent and heartbeat now carried away to the place where the terrible people were, Adam Longo curled into himself for comfort and warmth as he perched on the wide beam. He watched the day turn to night through the broken factory windows. Living had been lonely enough he thought as his eyes set on the few stars he could see, but now, now this, whatever it was, whatever he now had become. It was lonelier than death itself — lonelier than the dirt piled upon the lost ones.

MORE TO FOLLOW

Read the previous part of this story HERE.