Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Wait

This is part five.
To see the beginning,
scroll down to
"The Ache"

Roscoe was rotating his hat in his hands one inch at a time. The T.V. was blaring a game show to a full waiting room. No one was watching the jumping people or the screaming crowd. Maybe he should just go. He had told the E.M.T.'s what happened, no one felt the need to involve the police, but something kept him, something always kept him. He was one of those people that always got involved. He had been a medic in Nam and even though he arrived near the end, he had seen a lot of things. He had developed a reflex to take care of people. He had a gift for reading the injured and knowing what was wrong. He could talk to them and calm them down. After he got back to the world he couldn't be one of those people that drove by car accidents. He had training, he knew how to help, and so he did. Sometimes his wife Lilly, would get mad. She wished he could just drive by the wrecks. She said he collected people. He gave a little girl C.P.R. at a car accident and saved her life. She wrote him for years and came to the house to show him her college diploma. He saved a man down the street, by giving him a shot, after he was stung by a bee. Every time that man killed a deer or smoked fish he brought some to their house. When the old man died, Roscoe joked that they'd starve to death, now that he was gone. It went on and on. Roscoe stopped to fix cars, change flats and sometimes to find out there was nothing he could do. It was not a choice, it was who he was, he could help and so he did. Whatever gift he thought he had, abandoned him when he found this woman. She had surprised him, half naked like she was. He chastised himself for making it worse for her. He felt badly she had been embarrassed on top of being hurt so badly.

The rain was really coming down now. The double doors swung open and the sweeping sheets of water blew hard under the car port, that shielded folks getting dropped by cars and ambulances. He sometimes would feel the urge to go help people in the door but, there were plenty of people working and no one needed him. Roscoe did what he could; he rotated his hat, watched the rain and the folks that found trouble, just like he had. He just wanted to go for a drive. He just wanted to avoid this day, and get through the night, without being too sad about Lilly. He lost her today, twenty eight years ago. August 21st was the hard day to get through every year, worse than her birthday, and worse than their anniversary. It was even worse than the damn holidays that started on Thanksgiving and kept coming till Easter. Then summer would arrive and July forth and the dread of the coming August. Maybe God put this woman in his path to help get him through, but this hospital was filled with reminders; yelling doctors, hurt people, white sheets, nurses and blood. It was Nam, it was the day he lost Lilly, it was everything in his life that he wanted to avoid all in one room and all on the hardest day.

He rotated his hat and the doors swung open. Two men with no shoes shuffled in, one with his hand wrapped in a towel, in obvious pain. He fought the urge to get up as nurse rushed toward them and ushered them to the back. Lilly would be tapping his arm to remind him it was okay and not to get up and help. She just had a way. She lived every moment in a state of patience. She saw all that was going on around her and waited for need to come to her. Mostly she was patient, patient enough to let people work things out, and find their own way. She watched Roscoe with a quiet fascination at the way he moved through the world. He found people to collect in the strangest places. He was a mess, but he was never dull. He never meant to get involved, it just seemed to happen. Lord he missed her. She was such a comfort. On rainy days like this they would get out the candles weather they needed to or not. She hated when the power went out. They would light them all around the room and turn off the lights. She hated that pop when the power cut off. It was a little thing they did. It was a ritual he loved. It was a small thing he was glad to do, because it made her feel better. She would let out a a breath of relief when they were done, and then she would settle and look out the window. Her face would relax and she would become that young woman he had met years before. He never tired of that moment and he never tired of that face. She was then and she would always be his angel, in the light of the candles. He would watch her as she watched the rain and he would wait. He would wait till the rain ended, blow out the candles and put them away. He loved every moment of it. He wished he could light candles for her now, in this rain, but all he could do was twirl his hat and wait.

There was a water fall coming off the edge of the carport entrance to the emergency room. Even people with umbrellas were getting soaked as they passed through it to get help. They would drop their heads, then lift them up out of the rain with that look of hurried desperation. They would turn their heads from one side of the waiting room to the other, trying to figure out where to go. Roscoe watched the cab pull up and the frantic girl that climbed out. She fished in her purse, looked around her and in the back seat of the car, like she had lost something. He watched, and finally got up, to walked to her, through the double doors.

"I can't find my wallet!"

She said into the cab as the pony tailed driver looked out the windshield and tapped his fingers on the wheel. She rubbed her hands over her pockets and and looked around confused.

"You probably forgot it in the rush to get here. I'm Roscoe, whats your name?"

"Kerry, Kerry Nichols, I, I...."

"Are you hurt Kerry?"

"No my Mother she fell and they called me....."

Her shoulders dropped as if she had given up. Is was that moment when a person realizes they don't know what to do next.

Roscoe pulled out a gold money clip with the word "Germany" on it and a small painted mountain scene behind it. He walked over to the cab driver and they spoke for a minute. Roscoe peeled off a few bills and paid the man. He closed her door and put his hand on her back.

"Lets get out of this rain and see about your Mother."

She felt her entire body relax and suddenly was aware of all the tension she was under. She a let out a rattled sigh and clutched her purse to her chest, as they walked to the front desk.

"There you go. You're going to be alright now."

Roscoe returned to his seat and resumed rotating his hat. He watched Kerry talk to the lady at the desk and he smiled to himself. He always felt better when he could help. Kerry was being led away by someone from the hospital and as she passed Roscoe she reached out to touch his hands.

"Thank you, so much Roscoe? I'll pay you back."

Kerry said as she passed.

"No, No, don't you worry about all that. Go see your Momma, you're alright now."

A doctor rounded the corner and began to speak into the room.

"Who is waiting for Gretna Arnold?"

"I am!"

Roscoe and Kerry said in unison.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mr. Jones

This is instalment four, of a story that starts with the post; "The Ache". If you would like to read it from the beginning, please scoll down.

Kerry wanted to stay distracted for one more day. She went to the flea market to buy incense. She bought a plant and a few candles. She wandered around trying to avoid the day, but as always it waited for her. He had left her thirteen years ago today. She turned on Pandora and chose the Counting Crows station. It was the last band they had discovered together. Their first record "August and Everything After" was the sound track of their love. It was the album the baby was conceived to, and also the foreboding ironic title that spelled out her tragic future. That band had spoken for her and her heart so many times before and after August 21st. The singer had a transcendent way of taking you out of your body, when you were emotional. He sounded like he had ghosts too. Most days she couldn't bear to hear it, and other days she couldn't live without it.

The first song that came on was a Counting Crows cover of "Ghost in You" by the Psychedelic Furs. She didn't recognize it at first and waited for the first lines of lyrics. Slowly the song started to form, as he sang the the last line of the chorus she remembered it.

 "The Ghost in you, she don't fade"

She laughed and clapped her hands together. It felt like an inside joke and for some reason she garnered comfort from it. It was a live recording, she could hear the people roar and then the slow chords of the verse started again. She plopped down in an over sized chair and pulled her legs up to her body. She drank her tea and watched the smoke dance away from the Jamaican lady's incense. She lit two more candles and heard the first drops of rain hit the air vent over the stoves exhaust fan. It almost sounded like some strange percussion instrument. She was glad it was the first day of school, so she wouldn't have to put on a face for her boys. She could be alone with her ghosts. Being melancholy was a luxury you must plan out well. It is a solitary endeavor that can only be savored in the privacy of the mind and the memories. The rain was coming down hard now, and she was thankful for it. She could open the windows and let the damp breeze enter her soul. 

"Mr. Jones" came on after an ad about Viagra. She had the song on a CD some where but great songs are always better when you hear them in random circumstances. It was like getting a little gift for no reason. She remembered the first time she had heard it. She and a friend were walking by a new club in Midtown. It was not their kind of place, they were on their way to Water Works to have a few drinks before going home. They heard the music coming out of the open front door and as they approached a handsome black doorman called to them.

"You know your feet are tired, and this is a great band....listen!"

 He moved his hands like he was dancing and he made them laugh. They walked up and peeked in the door. The band was good and there were a lot of people dancing.

"Y'all ever been here before?

They both nodded; no.

"WELL THEN! Special tonight only; pretty girls that have never been here before, get in free!"

With that, he put his hands behind them and pushed them into the room. There was an eclectic crowd mostly older, but at least there were no frat boys. The band was playing a U2 song and the vibe was good. The doorman made a "two" sign with his fingers and the bar tender handed over two beers. Kerry and her friend Becky shrugged and laughed as the doorman handed the beers to them. They moved into the room and saw a group of people on the side wall, by a smaller bar in the corner. They stood in an empty spot next to them and began to survey the room. The band played a few more songs by the Stones, The Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla and some other songs she didn't know. She recognized the guitar player. He was a well known local musician that had been playing in town for years. He had a good voice and she watched him as he sang. She began to involuntarily sway to the beat. The song ended and guitar player started another song and as he played he yelled into the mic:

"C'mon everybody..... dance with us! This is a song by the Counting Crows! Sha La La La La ya....uh huh!"

The table of people next to them all cheered and moved to the dance floor. Becky turned and handed Kerry her beer as some surfer looking guy pulled her out to the floor. Kerry moved over to their table and set the beers there. A guy was left behind and sitting alone. He was a good looking, tanned and seemed slightly out of place, but he looked comfortable and relaxed. She set her beers down and he smiled at her. He waited a minute, pointed to the dance floor and motioned to her in a questioning way. She nodded and they moved out to dance with all the others and Becky.

"What is happening?"

Kerry yelled at Becky over the band.

"I have no idea!"

Becky grabbed Kerry's hand and twirled her around while they laughed. He was being cool. He didn't crowd her, and he danced with good rhythm in a very casual style. He smiled and laughed when she and Becky twirled each other and never got in their space. They danced for a few songs and Becky was paying more and more attention to the guy she was dancing with. Someone brought over shots. They all raised a toast and the girls were absorbed into the group. He reached out and took her hands as he danced with her, pulling her gently and giving her a little spin every so often. He was wearing jeans and a loose fitting Hawaiian shirt. He had longer hair than most guys and his hands felt hardened by work of some kind. She heard one of his friends call him Charlie and thought the name fit him. The band started to play a slow song, and he held up his hands in a way to let her know it was her call to dance or not. She smiled and they moved closer. He put his hands above her waste and made no attempt to pull her close. He looked up at the band and the guitar player reached out and shook his hand.

"These guys are good." She said into his ear.

"Ya, John is great. He's an old friend of mine. The drummer is good too. These guys have been around in different bands for years."

They talked and danced and then went out to breakfast and from that night on "Mr. Jones" was their song. Whenever she heard that song, she was transported back to the first time she met Charlie. She could smell the smoke in the bar and his cologne. She could feel the band loud in the sound system. She could remember the fall night she never made it to Water Works and how her life was never the same. The following day she sang pieces of the chorus, to the guy at Vinyl Fever. He took her down a couple of isles and then handed her "August and Everything After" by Counting Crows. Magic music finds you at the time you need it most, and this record found her. Kerry never could have guessed the impact that record would have on her life. How it would be a wound, a life saver, and a marker for a moment in her timeline, that would never dull or fade. That record would serve as a her time machine for the rest of her life, a portal to all she loved, lost and cherished. It marked her youth and the beginning of real life, and it would forever.

The ringing phone shook her from her day dream. It was the old style Ma Bell phone. It was loud and seemed like it was ringing in a bad tone. She hated phone calls that startled her. She turned down the music, set down her tea and picked up the phone.

"What? My Mom....Yes.....Is she okay? Oh My God....Okay, Okay I will. I'm on my way."

She hung the phone up an wondered what it was about this day. August 21st. It was not enough she lost the love of her life on her birthday, now she couldn't even have a quiet afternoon. She had to call a cab and get to the hospital.

"Jesus! Well, happy birthday to me!"

She grabbed her bag, tied up her hair, and fished around for the pill bottle Becky had brought her. She took one with the last swallow of her tea. The cab would be there shortly.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Three (or more)

....the following may be the third installment 

He had always felt like time was the enemy. He had fought against the tide his entire life. He was slowing down and the others around him were rushing away like some Einsteinian equation. He was desperately building dams that would not hold back a drop. His sweat was real enough but the goal was doomed and he knew it. He had become a comical parody of something he once (or never) was. He was mascot in a game he had once played. To his cycling friends he was a cautionary tale. If he rode better than a good rider, it was a wake up call for them to get back on their diet and training regimens. For new or resurrected riders, he was a stepping stone on the way to the sport and expert class. Everyone around him seemed to be able to get faster and he was struggling to maintain mediocrity. The victories were few and celebrated in private reflection.

There were three main areas of life as he saw it: Family, work, and bikes. The bicycle had been a refuge for him, a life saver in times with no anchor. Now it was just another thing he felt he needed to do because he had invested so much time. It was becoming another reminder of what he once had and no longer could maintain. Maybe now (just in the nick of time) he could add music to the list. He could see a light on the horizon for the first time in years. It was getting larger. Maybe this would be the thing that would allow him to join the flow of the universe again. He was so tired of fighting.

It was two years ago today he thought. Of all the things the stroke enlightened him to, the one thing that cut the deepest was the ridiculous amount of things that were a complete waste of time and life. What a world it would be if we could afford to pursue things that mattered instead of the next car payment. He wanted to write. He wanted to play music again. He wanted to make sure his kids got every opportunity he could help them with. He wanted to be a person people saw, not an invisible part of the herd. He had time for those that understood him and he would have to let go of those that did not. All these things were easy to say, easy to read on a fortune cookie or greeting card, but they were heavy words to live by. He was going to try.


Friday, August 17, 2012

The Bus

The following is a continuation of the post titled "The Ache". If you would like to read the tale from its beginning, please scroll down.

Kerry had memories of him that came from no where. They would find her in unguarded moments, and she would go vacant and catatonic, like a victim of silent seizures. She could hear the Billy Joel song on a Sunday morning coming from the speakers by the open window. He would sing about silence and euphoria and she remembered she had no idea that lyrics that wordy could ever sing so well. They would go for hours without talking on Sundays. Neil Young and Stephan stills sang about being on the bay and that took her away to places she thought she might finally get to see with him. He was older than her and a true man of the world. A sailor, a surfer, educated and kind. He played music she'd never heard and read passages from books and he opened her mind up with out being mean or condescending. He loved her. He wore it like a coat and he could not pass her without a slight touch, look, or a kiss. She remembered coming in wearing a Springsteen concert jersey from "Born In The U.S.A." she had found in a thrift shop. She bought it because it was vintage and when he saw it he pulled and old record out and put it on the turn table. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" rolled out of his speakers like a fog into her soul. He had changed her forever. From that day on she could not bear to hear the radio. She wanted to find new songs in his collection for the rest of her life. She was listening to Joni Mitchel the day the call came. The baby had been kicking all morning and she would glance at the time and imagine his plane was landing at elevn O'clock in Puerto Rico. By three O'clock, she figured he was over the Bahamas. As Joni Mitchel sang about false alarms and jet tracks across desert skies, the phone rang. She rubbed her tanned swollen belly and wondered why he would be calling so early, and then like a bad dream he was gone forever. They found wreckage but no bodies. She had nothing to bury and nothing to morn except the possibility of what might have been. They found a single surfboard floating twenty miles from the wreckage and a suitcase that did not belong to him. She gave the board to his best friend who hung it, in his Mexican restaurant. There was a short paragraph on a plaque about him stuck to the deck.

"Friend, Brother, Partner, Father, we are lost without you. 1965-1999"

Mike told her she would never pay for a meal in his place as long as he was alive. She would come here with the boys, and sit under that surfboard, with sand in the wax from his last surf. It was in a corner by the window and looked a little out of place among the other longboards from the sixties. The entire ceiling was covered with vintage boards. Sometimes she would look up and a shiver would run down through her stomach, like a breeze through the windows of all their lost Sundays. Kerry shook her head as she walked, turning to check  the boys, behind her on the sidewalk.

Roscoe puttered along oblivious to the guy riding his bumper. Had Roscoe looked in his small football shaped rear view mirror, he would have seen the man behind him beating his steering wheel and holding both hands up in a angry gesture, wondering why the hell Roscoe was driving so slow. He put on his blinker and a small semaphore came out of the metal between the door and the rear window. The amber tail lights low down on the right rear fender blinked sporadically. The frantic man in the truck nearly hit him as he  floored his truck, shot a bird and crossed the double yellow line  to come around. Roscoe turned onto April road because he had never been down it. The road was impossibly muddy and his little bug shimmied from one wet rut to the next, down the dark orange road. He veered and slid and somehow pointed the car down a side road, hoping for relief from the clay that had turned to peanut butter in last nights rain. He took his foot off the gas and let the idle dictate his speed. He saw little houses back in the trees, but no evidence of an exit road. His crept along and then he saw it back by an old garage. It was covered in all manner of vines leaves and there was a tarp and lumber stacked on top of it. He pulled in slowly and wondered if anyone lived there. The front roof had fallen on the porch and there was a beat up Toyota Echo parked on the other side of the house. A pit bull walked up to his car with his head down, wagging his tail so hard that it jerked his whole body and made him walk side ways. Roscoe laughed and held out his hand.

"You ain't nothing but a big baby are ya?"

The dog licked the air and stared up at Roscoe, waiting to be petted. He opened the door slowly and swung out a leg. the dog nuzzled the door open and Roscoe waited while the dog smelled him. He scratched his ears and the dog stopped moving.

"I guess that's your off button huh? Good Lord you are falling down on the job, if you are guarding this place."

There wasn't much to guard. Everything on the property was falling down or about to. It was a nice house once, an old Cottage style from the thirties. It'd be pretty if someone cared for it and freed it from the plants trying to drag it down into the dirt. He walked slowly over to the garage. The drivers window vent was open so he slid it back and reached in to pry the door. A "For Sale" sign fell out landed on his foot. He looked under the wheel wells and knocked on the floor with his old dark brown knuckles. He peered over his glasses at the rain gutters. It wasn't bad, a little surface rust but the car was all there and no one had ruined it yet. It had survived the sixties and seventies without the humiliation of having a peace poster painted on it. It had made it through the eighties and nineties without some punk removing the chrome and seats. No one had put a God awful Corvair or Porsche motor in her. The dash hadn't been cut for some dumb radio or had a fan screwed into it. Over all it was pretty good. It wouldn't stay that way out here though. A couple years of sitting under mossy oaks and Tallahassee rain would wear her down and take her away.

"I got here just in time, didn't I?"

He rubbed the roof with his hand and wondered if he could save another V.W. He hadn't done a car in a long time but he'd never found a bus that wasn't ruined. He heard a moan and the dog ran off to the other side of the house. Roscoe followed the sound and the dog to the far side of the porch. He rounded the corner and saw something, it took a minute for the form to be clear in his mind. A woman was unconscious on her back covered in ant bites and leaves and he hurried to her once he realized it was a person. He got up and moved the ants away from her with his foot. He could smell dog droppings and cleared a wide path around her before he realized she was exposed.


He back stepped away from her and looked again. There was no mistaking that auburn triangle of hair and the white legs spread open to the whole world. He turned and ran back to his car. He opened the hood on the front of his 56 bug, careful not to hit it on the old chrome bumper. There was a blanket he used to lay on when he worked on the car. He reached in the car and grabbed a gallon jug of water (he carried with him to drink) and an old towel from the back seat (to sit on for hot days). He ran back to the woman who was moaning again. Pulled out a cell phone (his daughter had bought for him) and called 911.

"I need an ambulance! I found a hurt woman on Laga Way off of April Road in between St. Augustine and Apalachee Parkway! Hurry shes unconscious and shes got a broke leg and she ain't wearing no damn pants! Never mind! Y'all hurry!

 He rushed back to her side, knelt down to help her, and checked her pulse. She was breathing well and her color was good. He had a habit of sticking his tongue to the right side of his mouth when he was working. Her left leg looked broken by the hip, but other than that she was fine. He poured water on her legs and wiped them off with the towel. He covered her privates and body with the blanket. He moved around in front of her wiping the bugs, dirt and droppings off of her, all the while biting his tongue out the side of his mouth. He was in between her legs kneeling and sprinkling water on her, in a mad rush to get all the ants off. In all his hurry, he spilled water on his crotch and instinctively wiped between his legs as Gretna finally came to.

Gretna awoke to Roscoe kneeling between her legs, biting his tongue and rubbing his man parts while looking down at her. It took a minute for the fog to leave her and slowly the horror of her new situation overrode the pain and she began to scream and so did Roscoe.

Roscoe looked down and then at the lady and then he realized what he was doing and why she was screaming. It was gusty and had looked like rain all day. He felt a breeze come up and the blanket floated up and her business was once again out in the open. She was still screaming and Roscoe was trying to form words but all he could think to do was cover her. He pushed the blanket down and now his hand was between her legs. She screamed louder


Roscoe was in a full blown panic and he pulled his hand away from her crotch and stood up. The blanket once again picked up in the wind. He stamped his foot to push it back down and she screamed from pain. She kept screaming as Roscoe motioned to her with his hands, to calm down. He was saying "wait" over and over but she just screamed. She tried to move but the broken leg hurt more than ever and as she twisted, a cramp welled up in her gut. She farted loudly and it startled her and Roscoe. She stopped screaming for a second and Roscoe looked down (perplexed) and then back at her face.

Get off me.!!!!.....

Gretna passed out again, so Roscoe ran to the car and retrieved a few wrenches and ran back. He knelt down and covered  her back up with the blanket and placed the wrenches on it, to keep it from blowing back up. He sat down in a heap and tried to catch his breath.

"Sweet Lord!"

 He leaned back on his hands, as his chest rose and fell, shaking from adrenalin and fear.

"Good God! What did I get myself into?"

He heard the sirens and moved to his right and leaned up against a tree. He looked around for ant piles and realized (after the smell hit him) that he was covered in dog mess. He wiped his face with a hanky and closed his eyes to breath.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Ache

Gretna was waging war on anything with six or more legs. When she wasn't swatting, she was fanning away the gnats. She could hear the washing thumping and the uneven load, spinning lopsided. She knew it would stop in a minute and swatted another fly. The strike traveled though the smoke seeping out of her nose and made two tiny little tornado's in its wake. This went unnoticed by Gretna as she flicked the dead insect off the picnic table like a short order cook moving hash browns to the side of the griddle, before they burned. She settled back onto the prickly bench, reminded that she had no underwear. Her moo moo had fluffed out like a parachute, in the flurry of her last attack. Now, she sat bare assed on the bench, too lazy to fix it, and too hardened to care.

Kerry sat in the cantina with her two boys, both crew cutted. One in cargo pants and a brown shirt, the other with baller shorts and a Superman shirt. The older was playing with a cell phone and the younger looked at his brother then his mother, waiting for her to get off the phone so he could resume his "Baja Off Road Race" game. He didn't touch his mother or look at her expectantly for too long, he dared not. She had "the look" this morning; combination of tired and mad. He had been conditioned not to bother her when she had that look and he watched his brother play his phone, wishing he had sat on that side instead of next to his Mom. He wished he could, at least, watch his brother play. He turned and looked out the window hoping for a distraction that would ease the nervous feeling he got when he had to be quiet, wait and hope his mother didn't get mad.

"Well honey, maybe you can meet some other guy that will pay your bills and get you pregnant. The worlds full of idiots that aren't happy with their wives. You shake that ass of yours, and look at them like a puppy, and once again you will do your best work... on your back. Ain't that how you got in this mess? Well honey, maybe that's the way out. God knows the well is dry and I ain't raising no more kids."

Gretna's own sarcasm made her laugh, triggering a coughing fit. She held the phone away from her face. Parts of her body collided with other parts of her body as she coughed and swayed. She felt light headed and steadied herself on the 2x4 holding up a corner of the roof. She got dizzy and set the phone down on the table.

Kerry listened without response, knowing all her mothers questions were rhetorical. She had made a mess of her life, she knew that, but her boys were in a good school and got good grades. She was a good mother when it came to things she could control. They were well fed, she was good with their homework. She had always done well in school and loved to help the boys with their studies. They would look up at her sometimes in awe of how she could do math and science. She hadn't done everything right, but she had done a lot of things. She had to remind herself of her good points because no one else ever seemed to. She could hear her mother coughing in the back round. She knew she had put down the phone. She hung up. If her mother was done talking the call was over anyway. She never cared about what Kerry had to say. She would just make her judgments and insults, point out where Kerry was wrong and get off the phone. That's why Kerry only called on Sundays or when she needed money. Otherwise, why would anyone put themselves through this abuse? On Sundays Gretna drank and would drone on and on about the weather and how nice a day it was and Kerry could escape before she remembered what a disappointment her daughter was. Week days were filled with Gretna's anger and remorse and her daughter was the perfect target for her bitterness. She seemed to feel better about herself after she tore Kerry down for being a failure, or a slut, or whatever she thought she was that day. When the call came for money, or a ride, or (in situations of extreme hardship) to watch the boys.

At the next table he noticed all three of them. He thought about his boys at that age. Now they were starting college and he could feel them slipping away. All his life he had been busy and he secretly dreamed of being able to have quiet and to get some rest. To eat a meal without having to negotiate with everyone else for what to eat, what to watch on T.V. and to have room on the couch to relax. Now he was faced with his wish and it felt like a curse. She was beautiful, tanned and natural looking with no make up. She reminded him of the surfer girls he grew up with in the seventies. Tan, blond and looking like they just fell off album cover of a songs about peace and love. She was slender and fit and her boys were very well behaved. Not like the kid in the booth behind them that was making his own sound effects for his every move.

As he fired a finger gun.
As he cross cut the air with an invisible light saber.
As he sat down with an explosion.

He thought to himself, that anytime a kid makes his own sound effects, a teacher, police officer or (anyone with any sense) should be able to note it in a file, so that he would be prohibited from owning fire arms in the future. The frantic waitress came to the table panting.

"Can I take drink your drink order?"

"Unsweet Tea with lemon and I'd like some chips and salsa, mild please."

She was gone before he finished his sentence. Nothing makes a waitress more happy than a table for one. It's all the trouble of a table for four with one quarter of the tip. She sped away and he looked up at the screens, playing videos of men riding impossibly huge waves. He used to draw scenes like that on his notebook in high school, but he never dreamed that anyone would ever ride sixty foot waves. He was tired. He'd played a gig last night and he had that afterglow feeling that nothing else gave him. It was the only thing that ever made him cool. In his life he was invisible to most. Women stopped looking at him years ago, and to his cycling buddies he was the funny slow guy. It was as if he had a secret and knowing it made life good again. He was great at something. Behind a drum kit he transformed into a confident player. He left his awkward nervous life at the edge of the stage and fell into music like a bird. He knew how to play, how to sing and how to read his fellow musicians. He understood gear and how to run sound. This was the only place he had ever been surrounded by people that listened to him and treated him with respect. He hadn't played in years because like all the great loves of his life, he almost never got back what he put in. There is a great ache that comes with pursuing something you love more than your own life. You get to bask in the light of what you want more than anything, but at any moment you could be broken beyond repair. He had known both sides of that coin and it was why he hadn't played for eight years. This gig was too good and the players too talented to say no. He was elated, but fear sat next to him again. It was a silent partner, and a patient thief that would wait until the dream died, to move in, take the jewel from his heart, his confidence, and his last ounce of denial. He wondered if he could weather another recovery, this late in the game.

"That was unsweet right?"

The waitress leaned on the table as she put down the chips, her breasts swayed in her tank top independently of each other. He saw the edge of her tan lines and a tattoo of a swallow. He was careful to make eye contact as she looked up from the table. She had on thick rimmed glasses and jet black dyed hair. She was oblivious to his glance and never considered how she looked because (he was reminded) there was no threat of interaction outside of the food transaction they were completing. What he thought of her breasts, hair and tattoos was the farthest thing, from anything she was thinking. She neither regarded or ignored him. She completed a group of robotic tasks as though she was sleep walking. He was invisible again. He was used to it. He fought the urge to make a joke.

"Yes, with a lemon please."

She was looking at her other tables assessing a list of what to bring back, to minimize the trips she would need to make. A black and gray rose stem with thorns, ascended into her shorts and disappeared beneath the fabric of what he could only imagine, were very naughty black underwear, with a goth lace theme. A single drop of blood hanging from the lowest thorn was in red ink and the only feature of any color against her skin. He looked back at the T.V. and surfers ripping the turquoise water, in long white tracks. He realized the list of things out of his reach (the attention of young waitresses, surfing great waves in exotic locales etc.) was getting longer everyday. For today, he was a musician again, and that would be enough to fuel him through the next few days and weeks until he played again. He would almost disappear to all those that knew him and then he would play again, and his colors would return. He would repeat the process as many times as he could.

The 2x4 gave way as Gretna leaned on it. She cascaded from the porch like the side of a mountain in a California landslide. Her fall was chaotic and unbalanced to the left. She rolled out of the bush and onto her back covered in wet leaves. She heaved in deep panicked breaths and a whistling sound underscored the cubic yards of air she took in and forced out like exhaust. She rolled to one side and got all her limbs under her till she could gather her knees one at time and reach her feet. She was facing away from the house when the front porch broke free of its nails and hurricane clips, crashing and creaking its way to the thunderous conclusion on the porch. Gretna let out a huge thoracic roar, as she began to run from the unseen threat behind her. The roar crescendoed into a full blown scream as she steamed away from the house. Her left sandal folded in upon itself under her toes, as she stutter stepped to regain her balance. As her right foot slammed to the ground to steady her, she found not solid footing, but a fresh pile of dog shit. Her legs began to slide away from each other and she heard a crackling sound that reminded her of pasta being twisted and broken in half to fit in an undersized pan. She was once again on the ground, with something broken badly, covered in dog shit, and leaves, unable to move. She lay there on her back with her moo moo up around her ribs. From her belly button down she was butt ass naked. Her stomach, legs, and lady parts were in the shinning sun for the first time in forty years. Her mother had always warned her about having an accident in dirty underwear and somehow she had surpassed that nightmare, ten fold.

"Becky Mobile"

Kerry clicked on the name and started to text her friend. The boys sat silent with their to-go boxes wondering why they couldn't eat in the restaurant.


Kerry, hit the send button and jiggled her leg nervously as she stared at the phone screen trying to will a response. She would manage, she always did, but it was very bad this time. She had gone too long between hits and she had exhausted all her friends that supplied her.

"C'mon boys!"

She stood up and left and the boys scrambled after her. She walked out the door and it swung shut between her and her sons. She crossed the street walking full speed and the older boy stopped his brother at the curb while they checked for cars. They had done this before, it was second nature.

He watched her go, she was in great shape. She looked so young. He imagined her on a beach in a bikini. He could hear the surf. He wondered what her story was. He wished she had waited to watch for her boys. He remembered holding his sons hands as they all crossed streets. It was all such a very long time ago.

"I didn't charge you for the chips, thanks for being so patient."

Again she leaned over but this time she smiled a little. The tab was four dollars and twenty cents. He tipped her four dollars, signed the ticket and headed back to work.