Moments is out now in paperback form, available through Amazon and Create Space.
Below is a link to Amazon. It’s only $9.99 + shipping and combines poetry with short stories.
Moments is out now in paperback form, available through Amazon and Create Space.
Below is a link to Amazon. It’s only $9.99 + shipping and combines poetry with short stories.
Maria called William out of the blue one Monday morning. They hadn’t seen each other in forty years. The years gone by had brought sweeping changes but William concluded that it wouldn’t hurt to meet her. They decided to see each other in a small café.
William arrived first, unsure of himself but sitting patiently with a newspaper in hand. He looked over the current events section. Avoiding the obituaries had become a pattern over the years, not wanting to see familiar names printed within the pages.
Maria’s hair was streaked grey and William wore a hat to cover what little was left on his head. She appeared from nowhere, surprising him just the way she had years ago. He didn’t take her hand and they didn’t hug. She simply sat in front of him, a large smile appearing on her face. It hadn’t changed in the slightest over the years.
“You want ice cream? A scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate, wasn’t it?”, William asked, embarrassed that he still remembered her tastes.
“How on earth do you remember that?”, Maria said, bursting out laughing in pleasant surprise.
“I’m old, but not senile.”, he replied, grinning.
It was freezing outside but they removed their coats and sat across from each other, digging their spoons into the glass bowls.
“I never thought I would see you again.”, he said abruptly. The cafe was full but had fallen silent.
“I didn’t know if you would ever want to.”, she said.
William looked down into his bowl, swirling the strawberry shortcake with his spoon.
“Why didn’t you ever call earlier me then?”, he asked.
“I couldn’t wait forever, William. You were always around but never really there. I could never get through to you. I told you what I wanted but you didn’t move fast enough.”, she replied, ashamed but shaking herself into a stern posture.
“Why did you choose this place to meet?”, he asked, knowing that they had been on their first date there decades ago.
“I just thought it was a nice place that we might both know.”, she replied, searching his eyes for any hint of his memories. They sat in silence for a few seconds before they tried speaking. They stumbled over each other’s words and went quiet again.
“I can’t believe they’ve stayed open so long. Everything else has gone out of business from our days in school.”, he said, looking around.
She dropped her gaze to the floor. She didn’t care about businesses.
“I used to bring my kids here.”, William said, trying to change the subject.
“Me too!”, she said, almost shouting in delight. “But my husband is gone now, and my kids hardly ever call. I’m always chasing them just to hear their voice.”, she said.
“I’m sorry to hear.”, he said. “I never got that far.”
“You never got married?”, she asked.
“Never. Got engaged once but never married. Don’t regret it one bit. I’m happy having my kids but relationships….”, he said, stopping himself and laughing.
Maria looked away saddened.
“I’m sure you made a good dad.”, she remarked.
“You think so? I’m not really the patient type.”, he said, putting his hand on the table and looking at their reflection in the cafe window. The wrinkles on his face pressed together as he smiled.
“I’m happy to be able to see you after all these years.”, she said.
“You going to finish that?”, he said, pointing to Maria’s bowl of ice cream.
“Glad to see you haven’t changed a bit”, she said, laughing and shaking her head.
There is a small painting by Edward Hopper that sits above my bed. I visit Hopper’s scene often but I can never stay long enough to truly appreciate the breadth of the view. I am always pulled back to my pillow, to sleep away the night and have it rest in silence above my head, calling out to me from a place always so out of reach.
If I raise my hand above my head, it is a finger length too far from my touch. Maybe I should just sit up, maybe I should just open my eyes, maybe I should leave my pillow and leave behind the painting. But it will continue to grow wild in the dark, calling me to its shores, to the same old cottage and lighthouse with a beacon lit only for my eyes.
I cannot be sure that when I rest my head, the painting will remain as it is, peaceful and remedial. But I know that when I open my eyes, my dreams will live somewhere within its frames and I will move on from my pillow, my bed, and my home, but never far from its landscape and accepting shores.
Today I awoke at zero. There was little to pull me up and little to push me down. I hovered at a balance, walking a hardened tight rope leading from birth to the beyond suspended in time. I was not cold, and neither was I warm. There was no love as there was no scorn. I simply existed, without much insistence to take up or take down whatever the day brought my way.
I often walk a balance between day and night, somewhere on the cusp of dusk and dawn. I merge into darkness and I seethe into light, but I am neither inside nor out. I hover in between, balanced without effort, kept afloat through the crashing waves and endless calm, like a boat suspended without direction.
Maybe someday, I will decide. Maybe someday, I will pick a side. But today, I will walk down the middle with my head neither lowered in distaste nor raised in pride.
There are many lessons to be learned. Prizes to be earned, rewards to be burned, swallowed down in deciliters to celebrate the millimeters you’ve moved forward for your returns. Collect your dividends as you pass go, harass those who have less yet you move fast past foes whom you deem irrelevant. In the last throes of life, the knife sticking in your back is your own, the few inches you’ve grown in grace replaced in haste by dollars and properties you inhabit in this outer space alone in your waste.
Without a doubt, never one to talk about purchases without moving in a haste so nervous that the magic beans sprouting from mouths drop worthless to the ground without purpose. The world of dividing and displaying values and brands, net worth and what have you on avenues where less fortunate gather and picket their revenues where they stand. I am a man. An “ism” and an “ist”, but really an extortionist and venture capitalist with a plan to exploit the children and take what he can from the poor rocking the boat of the dutiful and the damned and whoever dares to maneuver through this earth pitifully unplanned.
*I wrote this piece over a year ago given the nature of history, current events, and happenings in the media and society. I do not intend any offense with this short story. It is simply a play on historical characters, moments, and events with added fictional twists. If it isn’t funny, I hope you might at the least find it entertaining picking through the clichés. *
A Political Party
I once had a strange dream. I woke up in a bright white room. Malcolm X knocked before walking in. He looked sternly at me before telling me to sit up straight for “they” might walk in at any time.
“Who are they?”, I inquired, rubbing my eyes and dusting off my jacket to avoid any signs of my nap.
“I told you a million times! You never pay attention. You should wake up to what’s going on around you, man!”, he shouted.
“I…I…I’m sorry.”, I replied.
The doorbell rang and in walked a cast of characters capable of charming, flooring and making the most resilient of minds question their eyes. I watched Gandhi walk in, bowing before placing his walking stick near the coat rack. Behind him was Bill Clinton holding a cigar between his long slender fingers, and after a brief pause, in walked Martin Luther King Jr., George Bush, John Kennedy, Susan B Anthony, Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, and a host of familiar faces and historical figures. I retreated to a corner, wondering if I should serve drinks, or take my place on the couch and rub elbows with the greats.
“It is an honor.”, Obama came up to me and shook my hand.
“The honor is all mine…your honor…I mean Mr. Presi…” Before I could finish my sentence, Bush Jr. walked up and patted Obama so hard on the back that his drink splashed over my shirt.
“I’m so sorry.” Obama was apologizing profusely. “We will find a way to fix this.”
Malcolm X, who was watching me with great displeasure, walked over. “I hope that you know that whites and colored must be separated.”
“Wha…what?” I managed to stammer.
“Oh, for God’s sake, just go to my bedroom and grab a shirt and a pair of trousers. And put the white shirt in the “lights” basket and your black trousers in the “darks”. You’d think he was born yesterday.”
George Bush snickered. “So, Barack, haven’t seen you for a long time. Fool me once, shame on you! But fool me twice, well, then I’m glad at least Michelle answers my calls. I painted something for her. He snapped his fingers and a man walked in carrying a covered piece of artwork. “Just put it there by the Bill’s coat. I’m sure it’ll be safe.”, he said.
Bill Clinton was sitting on the couch, inattentive and fully focused on Susan B Anthony. He was nodding his head in appreciation, his eyes wandering as he leaned in towards Ms. Anthony.
As I walked into Malcolm’s bedroom, I heard a drawer shut. It was Nixon, grinning and his hands behind his back.
“Funny catching you here. I wasn’t expecting you to walk in.” He extended his hands but I had my trousers in one and shirt in the other. I offered my wrist as compensation, but he was unsure what to do so he slapped it with his hand.
“I’ll be outside if you want to talk.” He rushed out of the room, making sure I understood him. I had not.
I put my clothes into the laundry basket, separating them as instructed by Malcolm X and walked back out into the living room. The chandeliers hung low brightly lit and the party was in full swing. George Bush was having a great time, until his father walked in a few hours later to make sure he went home. I was sure that Senior grabbed him by the ear but it all happened in a flash and they disappeared quite quickly. Gandhi danced but did not drink, Susan B Anthony refused to dance with any of the men, even Bill Clinton, who wouldn’t hand over his cigar to any of his guests. Perhaps the most dignified and gracious guests were Martin Luther King and JFK. They drank to their heart’s content but eventually ending up arm wrestling on the kitchen table. Sleeves rolled up and ties hanging loose, the men glared at each other. The Kennedy clan hung around their fighter.
I looked over to Malcolm X and managed to stammer out incoherently.
“I don’t think this is a good idea for Martin. I mean he’s outnumbered.”
“Utterly foolish. I don’t think this will go his way.” Malcolm X agreed, watching eagerly.
There were fights, there was debauchery, and there was abundant drinking.
By the middle of the night, few were left standing. George Washington walked in around 2am.
“So, this is what I have fathered. I cannot believe this insolent mess.” He said, looking over to Lincoln, who returned his glare in defiance.
“No, George, you are the mess. I’m with them now.” He put his arm around Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X smiled awkwardly, easing away slightly as to not be too close to the volatile Lincoln.
“I challenge you to a duel.” George Washington stamped his foot and reached for his pistol.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, please, can’t we just get along? If you don’t behave, I’m going to take away your guns.” Barack Obama said, approaching slowly to diffuse the situation.
“Quiet! Everyone shut up!”, Malcolm X rushed towards the window, creeping alongside the curtains and cracking the blinds.
“They’re here. They’re here. I knew they would come. You fools.” Malcolm X shouted. “Well, I’m ready.” He reached for a vase, crouching into a mode of attack, hiding behind the couch. Luckily, the police were merely passing by and before long, the eye of the party’s storm had settled.
A few groups broke out and discussed politics and people from their age. Particularly enthralled was George Washington, who was the only one sober to have any sort of real discussion. But he, too, lost interest. I could tell he was feeling a little out of touch.
I felt more comfortable and soon, I was in the mix, offering my opinion and absorbing information.
“I’m slowly learning. I’m slowly learning. I feel like a student. Yes, yes, like an apprentice.” But the second those words entered my thoughts, it was as if I had uttered them. The room went somber, etched in darkness and silence. They all looked at me, eyes blazing in fear and anger.
“You’re fired!” They screamed in unison, the words echoing endlessly.
“What? What are you talking …from what exactly?” I said.
I woke up. It was still 2008. I patted the sweat on my brow. I had overslept. Some television show called “The Apprentice” was on. Just when things were getting interesting, it had to end, I thought. Too bad it was just a dream. I turned off the television and rolled over.
I was never meant to see him die. We never expect to see such things. There are some who see too much for their own good, and some who are blindfolded for their own safety. Looking back, he wasn’t meant to die there. He was young, his pants had dropped awkwardly around his legs, and the paramedics were plugging his convulsing chest with the AED defibrillator. He bobbled like a fish out of water, his head rising and falling onto the stone platform. The security guards stood around him with their arms folded around their chest. They had placed a large plastic shield on the ground around him. We weren’t meant to see him die. I took my place behind a vending machine, but I couldn’t help peeking my head around the corner. No one had their cellphones out to film the event and a few people couldn’t help but stare before walking away without a discernible reaction.
His life leaked from his pores out into the world as he convulsed. I couldn’t see any blood. I pictured him out loitering around the train station, drinking and doing drugs before his eventual overdose. Perhaps he wasn’t on drugs at all. His girlfriend stood a couple of feet away. Her hair was dyed black. Maybe she was all he ever thought he had and all that he would ever really leave behind. She was far enough to be safe from his convulsions but too close to ever really forget what she witnessed. I couldn’t tell if she was crying but I could tell she didn’t want to be there. She appeared prepared and kept her distance. Her life didn’t seem like a surprise, only a march into the well-known. His belt glimmered around his thighs. It wasn’t as it was supposed to be, firmly across his waist keeping his pants up. He stopped convulsing and the train arrived. I couldn’t tell if the paramedics gave up or he stabilized.
When I got on the train, I didn’t want to look back. It had already been a long day. A couple laughed and joked on the seats behind me. They were young, excited, and happy to be sharing a seat large enough to only hold the two of them. They didn’t seem to have noticed a thing from their window.
I am a monster with rage caged beneath my wings. Sing to me or else. Release to me your morbid wealth. It is not your health I crave but the grave I wish to rise from to wipe the engravings laid upon my tomb by slaves. My sole purpose is to be a monster. A system so nervous rocked to sleep by me and my gang of gargantuan mobsters. Am I not the ogre you rang? With a soliloquy you sang so melodically that I hang tangled like the wild orangutans you harangue.
The one you buried, hurried along and scurried into the wrong. The blurry in the storm, the worry of the worn torn down to be mushed into puddles without any form. I am a monster, and don’t you ever forget it. I won’t regret what I can’t mistake on a bet, you can pet me without a fret but make sure your gloves don’t ever tear for you to make contact with my sweat.
I’m all set and ready for leave because monsters don’t grieve but simply thieve your peace of mind as we aid and abet. A threat is one that requires no action. Monsters are such that we require but a little of passionate traction to make a fraction of what we are worth carry into the airs of your charms and attractions.
A golden double standard handled without care any longer. As if they have unraveled and so boldly dared to come out of the safety of their illusory gold rimmed holes of hiding. Our populations are formed and based on second class citizenship. The system will not thrive unless there are those who don’t.
Won’t you take a seat? And see what else is on offer besides the hand of history playing forward on repeat? Nationalism, Antisemitism, and Islamophobia. Dark as the days of slaves sent back to Monrovia. Blame it on the young, you’re poor because you’re dumb, and you weren’t given hands just to twiddle your thumbs. Just a few words to break the trust hidden behind the numbers on social media. Influencers as dense as to teach us again what serves as your common sense. But still you never really follow, knocking on wood with hope as hollow as bank accounts fully swallowed by dances with governmental ordinances against those perceived as poor and shallow.
Social contracts can be broken without your consent. You never really signed the dotted line, but your file is as large as the queue at social service office at lunch time. Did you notice the old shoes on the scholars? Or the honesty of the homeless men on the corner? Did I offer you a seat? I rescind my offer, lest you pay me a couple of dollars. Because money will keep the world spinning on its axis and remember that you’re a hardworking man with very few parking tickets and you never fail to truthfully file your taxes.
But anyway, forget what is said and try your best to rest and sleep. Because a sleeping man can hardly commit a crime, and the woke have already forgotten how many steps it takes to fall behind. In a world so filled with the one-eyed kind, the blind are always grateful to be led gently and gracefully up and out of their minds.
The monkeys descended onto the courtyards with little but hunger in their stomachs and fire in their eyes. They were balls of furor with tails wrapping around their heads, lingering behind them like whips ready to lash out at whatever came near. The mothers would carry their young around their chest, the babies hanging on looking over shoulders at the commotion they had stirred. In the orange evening sky, while the religious establishments boomed calls to prayer over the city, the animals leapt, from buildings to trees and into the streets in packs. They were merely passing but usually brought neighborhoods to a standstill in their melee of swinging branches and chaotic march.
We feared them like all other wild animals but always watched them with our jaws slightly open. Our games would come to a halt and we would stare, apprehensive and ready to run for cover. They were leftovers of times past, relics of times and people friendlier and accepting of nature. They were now seen as no more than dangerous pests, ready to wreak havoc over balconies and power lines until mayhem stirred and the concerned humans barked them away in contempt.
The watchmen would smash their makeshift drum on the brink of nighttime to scatter the evening birds and with them, the monkeys would disappear off into the darkness, their drooping arms slinging them back into the wilderness and their slithering tails the last sights of their raucous presence.
Remember to pick up the pieces when they no longer hold to you. Grab them together and plug the holes that are so desperately lacking. Patch the puzzle and keep it together. This is the desperation of flesh, the scream of displacement, and the necessity of existence. Without falling apart, without the togetherness of the memory of your start, you are where you are in a condition alien to sense and understanding. Threaten to go far along this route, but only if you could in a singular piece void of confusion. Sliced and repaired, plans are out of the window and life unraveling to your disliking.
But pick up piece after piece, like you robbed the bank of your calling and dreams and the brimming jewels keep spilling from your pockets. It is you, after all, that is being taken back. It is you, after all, that you have given. Every fallen part is a treasure forgotten and left behind for one to gather and reminisce upon. You will never fully break, never truly dismantle, the chunks of experience clinging to you like toughened meat onto bone. Go far if you must but trust you will not arrive as you began. And remember that you did not sink as you swam. And nor did you stop as your ran. Some do what they want, but ones who truly live and truly know, can only do what they can.