Friday, September 23, 2016

u no who u r

You start in earnest right after the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Once you see Santa arrive the season officially begins.

Of course, you were forced to start in September when the stores began mixing Christmas decorations in with the Back-to-School supplies. In October, you complained about the shining bulbs next to the Jack-o-Lanterns, red, blinking Rudolph noses in the same bin as green, warty witch beaks. November required that you stick your fingers in your ears as “Jingle Bells” clanged in your head and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” saw sixty sunsets.

Once you digest your turkey and purge all of that pumpkin pie, your good humor returns. Black Friday holds no shopping excitement for you. Instead, you have permission to sing hymns and carols at the top of your lungs. Your Christmas playlist is set on a loop, the same songs, sung by different artists, repeat repeatedly, but now they make you happy instead of making you want to barf.

You bring out the seventeen plastic bins containing all of the items that make the holiday special. You find the reindeer mantel hooks, place them on the ledge in the kitchen and attached the personalized stockings: the Grinch, Pink Princess, Mickey Mouse and the green, sequinned butterfly. The white ceramic angels, singing and playing instruments that you inherited from your mother and that made their appearances in your life every year of your life, get hidden a bit so they don’t get accidentally knocked over and broken.

The tree doesn’t get put up until the third Sunday of Advent. It really shouldn’t be until Christmas Eve morning but that’s too radically different from what everyone else is doing, so you bend a bit. You have also caved when it comes to live versus artificial. Falling needles make too much of a mess - you can never remember to put water in the stand so real trees dry out too quickly. Plus, spending all day searching for the perfect tree in lawn and garden store lots was never much fun for you. Some traditions deserve to die.

Each ornament you take from the boxes remind you of something. Decorating the tree takes you all day long. You have to find the perfect branch to put each on. You step back, assess, move, repeat. You take a break, have a hot chocolate (with a touch of liqueur because you’re an adult now and you can) then finish up with the little strawberries your mother gave you when you were in college. You spend the rest of the night, clicker in hand, flicking the tree lights on and off. You like the white fairy lights.

The manager goes under the tree. You plug the bulb that represents The Star into the tree lights. Mary and Joseph and the Angel Gabriel kneel around the empty crib, waiting, like you until the Baby Jesus miraculously arrives. Baby Jesus gets hidden in a cabinet until the bell rings. (Did you know bells ring when babies are born?) You put the cow, donkey and sheep in their stalls and you line up the three Wise Men from East to West. You place the shepherds randomly, so they, too, can keep watch.

Now, you wait until January sixth to take it all down and put it all away until next year.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

built like a brick house

Lancaster, PA, (pronounced LANK-aster with the middle part distinct yet said together by the locals) was originally called Hickory Town and is one of the oldest inland cities in the United States. The center of town, a single block of mostly brick buildings, is formed by King Street, Queen Street, Orange Street and Prince Street. These names hearken back to a time when we were still The Colonies.

The corner of King Street and Queen Street forms the bottom left corner of The Box, a square circle with a monument in the middle.

There is parking on the edges of the streets but those spaces were quickly taken. I parked in one of the convenient parking lots in the middle of the block. The price for my short Sunday stay was $6.00 for less than two hours.

I parked, grabbed my Shunk backpack filled with my iPad and notebook along with my camera and phone and headed for King Street where I picked one of the many restaurants in the area to have brunch.

I immediately found Steinman Park, a hidden garden created by the surrounding buildings. It’s a brick courtyard with outdoor seating for eating called The Pressroom. A beautiful fountain formed the base end with a bar off to the side. The fountain end had raised bar tables, the area closest to the entrance had regular height tables.

 When I got there around eleven am, only one outdoor table was occupied. I took pictures, found a table right near the fountain and settled in. I ordered a virgin Bloody Mary and coffee and Scallops and CornedBeef with a Poached Egg to eat (they forgot the corned beef, but I didn’t notice until I wrote this.) They were playing 70’s and 80’s music at just the right sound level. My Bloody Mary tasted like a shrimp cocktail. Perfect amount of horseradish.

Kevin, my waiter/bartender, was friendly, efficient and attentive without hovering.

After dining, I walked around the block filled with quaint shops and plenty of eateries.

Lancaster is definitely worth a re-visit. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

it happened in the blink of an eye

The bell on the microwave dinged. The light went out and the humming of the motor stopped. Jason pressed the button on the bottom, right, front of the oven, depressed it into the plastic and metal box. The machine slid across the grey, laminate counter. It stopped when it reached the back wall, chipping the natural stone tile. The door popped open.
Jason reached in with his left hand and grabbed the plastic bag containing his mixed vegetables.  He pinched the hot, air bloated sack with pointer finger and thumb. He pulled on it, bringing it out. It hung in the air for a second. A burning sensation reached the pain center of his brain. Jason shook his hand. The packet of scorching pre-processed produce flew across the kitchen, landing six feet away in front of the brushed aluminum refrigerator.
Blowing on his fingers, he walked across the green, tile floor and grabbed a pear and apple decorated towel hanging from the oven’s handle. He bent and picked up his so-called healthy diet items with a swaddled right hand.
Using his teeth, he ripped a corner of the food pouch. The escaping steam scalded his lips and cheek. He dropped the open bag. Various vegetables of equal size but in assorted colors reminiscent of Autumn rolled and tumbled across the floor. Jason cursed. He stepped forward to wipe up the mess. His naked foot landed on some peas and carrots, smooshed them into a slippery mess, lubricating the space between skin and floor.
He flew backwards, flapped his arms, cracked the end of an ulna on a sharp corner, smacked his skull on the metal handle of a strawberry blonde cabinet, and landed on his sweat pants covered bony ass. Jason laid on the floor and stared at his knotty pine paneled ceiling. His stomach growled.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Revena's Revenge ~ this stinks

~ random scene from my novel ~
By the time she reached their neighbors' holdings, her feet were numb and her legs were tired. She stepped out of the creek where the women came to wash their clothes. She needed to find somewhere to hide herself very soon. The sun would be breaching the horizon soon. She would hide in the wash house.
The smell of the aging urine would be strong enough to mask her smell. A day of discomfort would be a small price to pay for her freedom.
Revena crept up to the building. There was no lock on the door because no one would want to steal anything in the building as it only contained barrels of urine fermenting in the building with no windows. While the liquid was valuable for bleaching the woolen garments everyone wore, it wasn't valuable enough to take. Not to mention the foul stench. Revena almost threw up when she first went in.
She covered her mouth and her nose with her shawl. She made her way to a back corner and scrunched down behind a large covered barrel of piss. There was enough room for her to lie down. She rested her head on her bundle. It was warm in the shed so she needed no cover. Despite the horrible smell, Revena fell asleep from her exhaustion. It was Sunday, so she knew no one would come here today to do any washing. Only the most necessary work was done on Sundays and washing was not one of the chores that needed to be done. She slept all day, not stirring until a mouse ran over her outstretched hand resting in the straw covering the floor.
She couldn't bring herself to eat in the shed. The smell was too bad and made her stomach queasy. Revena squinted through the boards of the building and saw no light outside. She rose from the floor and crept through the dark room. She knocked into one of the barrels and a wooden bucket fell to the floor. Revena stood still, holding her breath for several heartbeats. When she heard no other noises she continued more cautiously towards the door. When she reached it she edged it open and looked out.
Full night was upon her and no one was about. All was quiet and still. She left the shed and went around the corner and stepped into another body. She was grabbed around the waist and a hand was clamped over her mouth. She couldn't see the face of her captor but she could tell the person was a man who was much larger than she was.

She was dragged back to the bleaching shed, and pulled inside. She struggled to free herself but only ended up getting herself thrown to the ground, the wind knocked from her lungs as the body of her captor covered hers, his hand never leaving her mouth. Revena attempted to kick the man or knee him in the groin but he wove his legs around hers so she could not move. She tried to open her mouth enough to bite his hand but his hand was so large it kept her jaw closed shut. He was so heavy upon her she could not breathe.

Friday, September 02, 2016

first vs third

I ran through the tall, wet grass, the sharp leaves slicing at my naked knees and exposed shins. My black and white canvas sneakers got soaked, muddy water seeping into the fabric and squishing as I pounded the ground moving as fast as I could. My own breathing was so loud that I couldn’t hear the sound of the person chasing me. The footsteps I had heard earlier drowned out by my own noise. I wanted to turn around and look to see how close he was but I couldn’t take that chance. My stopping might be the one minute he needed to catch me.

My foot landed on a board of some sort. I felt its shape through my shoe. It threw off my stride and my balance. I twisted my ankle, listed sideways, throwing out my arms in an attempt to gain my balance once more. I put all of my weight on my uninjured foot which turned me around enough to see behind me. The lot was empty except for trash. I stopped moving. My side hurt. Sweat drenched my hair. I rubbed the skin of my legs. They itched. I felt like a fool. A dirty, sweaty, out of breath, ridiculous fool.

Street lamps dotted the perimeter of the lot. Only two of them were lit but they were enough to be sure I was alone. I limped through the alley way towards the street looking over my shoulder every few steps. I was still spooked. My shorts and t-shirt were from the second hand store. I didn’t carry any bags. I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t know anyone because I was just passing through town on my trek to the shore. It was silly to think anyone would be after me. I was a nobody. A poor. down-on-my -luck drifter searching for a warm spot on a quiet beach to have a rest.

I found an alcove with a stoop, sat down and took my shoes off. My ankle wasn’t swollen but it sure did hurt. I had no idea how much further I had to travel. I could smell salt and fish so I had to be close. I couldn’t hear the surf though. All I wanted to do was get to the beach, crawl under a boardwalk and sleep. Maybe sleep forever. There wasn’t much use in going on. The ocean would be the end of the line for me in so many ways.

Perhaps, I could just close my eyes and take a little nap here. No. No, I want the sun warmed sand on my back. It would mold to my body and cradle and comfort me. It would hold me. I used the wall to leverage myself up. Not far now. I would reach my goal. I would accomplish something before it was all over. I picked up the pace. In my haste to reach my destination, I almost missed the sound of footsteps behind me.

~ ~ ~

Bob ran through the lot like he was being chased by the Hounds of Hell. He had heard footsteps behind him for several blocks before he turned off the street that would have taken him directly to the beach. When he turned around to see who was following him, the street was empty. There wasn’t even a person across the road. He couldn’t imagine where the footsteps were coming from. Perhaps they were only in his head, but when he started walking again, there they were, so he turned into the nearest alley and took off running.

He ran through the rundown grassy lot getting his beat-up sneakers wet and muddy, the weeds scratching and cutting his bare shins causing his skin to itch. He ran flatout until his foot hit a board and he twisted his ankle. He hit the ground hard, skinning the palms of his hands as he tried to break his fall. He lay on the ground, breathing hard. The lot was quiet except for the chirping crickets. Even the birds were silent. And so were the footsteps. The light from the few unbroken lamps showed him he was alone.

Once he caught his breath, he forced himself up and hopped through another alley and back out to the street. He was tired, physically and spiritually. He wanted to get to the beach, lay down and never get up again. He no longer had anything, so he couldn’t figure out why anyone would be chasing him. He had never been to this city before, so no one knew him.

He found a stoop in front of a cigarette shop, flopped down and pulled of his shoe. His ankle hurt but it wasn’t swollen. He leaned his head against the cement wall, closed his eyes. Visions of his former life played on the screen of his inner eye lids. A home. A family. A career. All gone now. All he had left was this shell and a few meager rags to cover it. He only wanted one last thing. He got up. He had just enough energy for this last trek.

He smelled salt and fish. The shore couldn’t be far now although he couldn’t hear the surf. He leaned on the walls of the buildings he passed, using them as a crutch. His stomach grumbled. It objected loudly to going two days without food, but Bob figured it was pointless to feed a body you had no intention of keeping alive.

He heard a seagull. It’s call spurred him on. He forgot about his aching ankle. He wanted to find the warm beach, crawl under the boardwalk and go to sleep. His walking dream was disturbed by the sound of footsteps behind him. If only they would wait to get him until he saw the ocean. He looked over his shoulder.