Friday, April 22, 2016

The hole

Taking a break isn't the same as quitting.  I rested my arm on top of the shovel's handle and surveyed my handiwork.  Five hours of digging, three liters of sweat and screaming muscles in shoulders, back and legs only got me a hole less than knee deep.

I dropped the shovel and stepped down into the hole.  I lay down in the hard dirt and stretched out - or tried to.  I'm 5'7".  If I cut my feet off around mid-shin, I'd be able to lie flat.  My shoulders had to hunch and my hips rubbed against the sides. The hole wasn't wide enough.

I sat up then climbed out of the ground. A slight breeze blew hot air around me. It was cooler down in the earth.

I blinked the sweat out of my eyes and wished I'd had the sense to wear a hat. With a loud sigh, I dug back into the hard clay.  The hole wasn't going to dig itself. If I walked away it would never get done.

I had about four hours of daylight left. Time enough to widen the hole, maybe lengthen it.  It would be shallow, there was no getting around that. I still hadn't figured out how I would disguise the freshly dug pit.  The darkness would have to cover my tracks. It wouldn't matter in the daylight.

I'd be gone by then.




Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Breathe

Can't. breathe.

I clutch my hand to my throat - like that's going to help - and stagger down the stairs.  The lobby is empty.

Each breath feels like being stabbed with a serrated knife.  There's not enough oxygen reaching my brain. I don't know what's happening. I don't know what caused it. I definitely don't care.

I need air.

I struggle to the front door. Outside the sun is shining. It's a crisp Autumn day and the cold air will revive me.

I trip over the couch by the door. My sternum hits the arm and I gasp. Air rushes from my lungs, the world tilts and suddenly I can breathe.

I drag as much air into my lungs as possible. Leaning on the sofa arm helps me orient myself. The oxygen rush to my brain is exhilarating.  I slowly roll and collapse onto the couch.

A man's face fills my vision. With his nose almost pressed against mine, I can't help but see the rage in his eyes.  "You did this to yourself."

With gloved hands, he picks up both of my hands.  He wraps one of my hands around a paring knife and slowly forces me to slice across one wrist then switches hands. Weakened from the loss of air, stunned by his presence, I don't fight.

My hands drop to my lap, blood weeps onto my nightgown.

My gaze is glued to his, watching myself die in the reflection of his eyes.

He's right. I deserve this. I deserve worse.

I killed his son.




Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Barn dance

Andy spun Gwen through the dance floor in the middle of the barn.  It wasn't a livestock barn.  Used mostly to store antique cars and expensive convertibles, the barn doors were opened wide when Spring came and the cars left to purr down the country roads. Bales of hay were hauled inside, a small stage lined the back wall and the barn dances began.

Andy swung Gwen out for a twirl, dropped to one knee and brought her to rest there just as the song ended. Breathless with laughter, Gwen kissed him.  The other barn dancers whooped at their display.

Andy's hip gave out and they fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs. The hooting turned to concern but Gwen waved them off. She levered herself up with the finesse of the gymnast she'd been in her youth.  Andy struggled to his feet then took Gwen's hand. They bowed once to loud applause then moved back to the hay bale reserved just for them - the original owners of the 1945 Ford Coupe that Andy bought with his army severance cheque after the war.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good connections

Today's Awesome was more about what didn't happen than what did.  The nasty confrontation that was shaping up to result in irreparable damage, not to mention the police and ambulance (sadly, very real possibilities when dealing with people who have rage issues) somehow managed to be avoided.  AWESOME.

The nail from the bottom of the bed we were carrying down the street (see confrontation avoidance) missed my artery when it dug into my wrist. It didn't miss by much but miss it did. AWESOME.

While walking to work later in the day, it occurred to me that sometimes a Good Thing is something little.  Like the fact that carrying furniture up and down stairs burns a lot of calories. So I ate an extra triangle of Toblerone for medicinal purposes - to keep my strength up.

There was a flock of sparrows sitting on the neighbour's hedge. The dark green and faded red of the leaves provided nice camoflage for the little brown birds. As I approached their roost all but one flew off. Quivering, it seemed to hope that lack of movement would make me walk by. I stopped and marveled at how vibrant the browns, greys and beiges of its feathers were to my heightened senses. Sugar and adrenaline hadn't left my system yet and on some level I understood how desperately that little sparrow wanted to be invisible.  I averted my eyes and moved on. I swear I heard it sigh with relief before the rest of the flock surrounded it, chattering loudly.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hunter

For the fourth night in a row, I waited beneath a poplar tree at the edge of the parking lot. Exactly five minutes past closing, three women exited through the bookstore's back door.

All three looked in my direction to check if I was there. They neither knew nor cared that I could hear them. The words homeless, stalker, pervert all reached my grubby ears. Fear pointed out my filthy garments, broken spoke bicycle piled high with all my worldly possessions.

The lit ember of my cigarette gave my eyes an unearthly glow. The women shuddered as they walked past. The older brunette wrinkled her nose as if to seal off the heavy smell of woodsmoke from my campfire. Perhaps she was sensitive and caught a whiff of my unwashed skin and clothes.

The youngest, a thin girl in her late teens turned and looked back over her shoulder. She expected me to race from my post behind the tree and cut them down before they could reach their vehicles. They said goodbye to each other in haste and departed for safety.

I waited.

It didn't take long for the other to step out from behind the dumpster. Clothed in fine cloth, with clean hair and the sharp tang of aftershave, he was everything I was not. Night and day, clean and filthy, danger and safety.

He was a man women would stop and sigh for. I am not. Yet neither of us were as we seemed.

"Again, brother? How long will you watch over them?"

"For as long as I must"

"You know her time is coming. All men, and women, must die."

"Yes."

We both paused to think to of the middle woman. The blonde with short-cropped hair, a strength of character and confidence that kept her moving forward, towards opportunities and people no matter their circumstance. She'd looked at me, wondered if there was some way she could intervene, to improve my lot in life.

"They need not all suffer." I held my ground. His grin faded and he slipped back into the shadows.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The dead man's shirt

When I pulled the screws out of the pocket, I ripped the dead man's flannel shirt. He wasn't still wearing it. When Old Man Wilkes down the corner of our street died, he didn't have any family except for a spinster sister he hadn't spoken with in 20 years. The city paid my boyfriend and his best friend to clean out the house. Most of it went to the trash, some went to a secondhand charity shop, and most of the flannel shirts came home with Ben.

Ben and I went our separate ways a couple of years later but I kept one of the flannel shirts. Old Man Wilkes was a handyman, known throughout town as the go-to guy for everything from fixing a lamp to small engine repair. He also did all the woodwork in his house. The red, blue and white checked shirt came to me with a few small tears and a splotch or two of paint. I wore it for inspiration whenever I had small repairs to do around the house or yard. I could feel Old Man Wilkes' skills seep into my bones through the worn flannel.

When I ripped the pocket, some of the magic spilled out with the screws. My fingers turned into chair legs and I lined things up like Picasso. Duct tape. The solution slogged its way through my foggy brain. I grabbed a silver roll of versatility to secure the pocket to the shirt. Things went back to level and my dexterity returned. From that moment on, I kept hardware in my pants pockets. The shirt was precious.

One of the side effects of wearing the shirt for too long was a desperate need for a drink. Not any drink but gin. The cheap stuff too, the kind of gin you would swear Old Man Wilkes made in his bathtub. You could taste the juniper berries strong and fresh picked. I'd be able to finish my project but would sweat all the way through thinking about how bad I needed that gin. The second my work was done I'd jump into my car and head straight to the seedy bar on the far side of town.

I know you're thinking I should have just unbuttoned the shirt and walked away. Believe me, I tried. I was straight-jacketed into that thing until I got my gin, pinched a waitress and satisfied Old Man Wilkes. He wore me as much as I wore his shirt. The old man was a pervert. He'd stare at the neighbour's underage girl through my eyes and think about how he'd do her. It didn't bother him in the least that he was working with a woman's body now. That just made it all the more fun.

I'd go months without donning that shirt. Months as a normal woman who worked in high end retail, dated wonderful men and never touched a drop of alcohol. Then the downspout would freeze to the side of the house, a cupboard door would come loose or the roof would leak. I'd try to hire someone else to do it but I had a reputation. No one would dream of doing odd jobs for me. Everyone knew I could do a much better job.

I was the town's new handyman. So what if I was a little strange? I never hurt anyone and I did great work. I'd slip on the shirt and do the job.

And the dead man laughed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Images

She couldn't get that horrible picture out of her head.  It burrowed in deep and no amount of rubbing her eyes would release it.  Like a grit of sand, it was dry, scratchy and made her eye twitch in the days that followed.

The twitch of memory nearly drove her insane.

The image was burned into her retinas.  The twitch worsened until her eye bled, blistered and eventually burst.

Pus and blood poured from her eye, slid down her face, filled her mouth with acidic taste of fear, loathing and bitterness - a molotov cocktail of despair.

The weight of it was too much to bear.  She put her head down on the kitchen table. Like a 3D printer, the image slid from her eye and landed on the table beside her blood stained cheek.

Her husband's closed eyes, head thrown back, his hands buried in another woman's hair. The woman bent forward the long line of her bare back curving round over his lap and between his legs. The wife's reflection in the mirror across from the occupied marriage bed. A glint of silver from the knife in her hand.