Weatherwriting


The First Night
December 10, 2009, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Jake and Becca

The first time was an explosion of all hexidecimals, fractals of music and potential. Leaning back, eyes fluttering she looked at him and saw his patient, pleading eyes, still a boy, she thought.. For a moment she forgot about the fire burning in her nose and and thought that in that moment, she loved him more than ever. He quickly took his in two brief nods and they lay back on the beaten, brown leather sofa that everyone had slept on, fucked on, crashed on at least a hundred times, and they felt it crash over them an carry them in its wake. It wasn’t like the other makings of Friday nights, the weed or the beers or even those rare mushroom nights, those things that came in waves and receded and swept over you again. No, this grabbed them and all they could do was hold on be carried on at immeasurable speed, you just musn’t lose your balance.

Oh my god it feels like… – a sharp inhale.

A sharp laugh – IknowIknow…

They closed their eyes but the slashes of colors and thoughts continued to dart across the black screens they saw. The smiles ran across their faces and it was as if no one else was in the room. Their friends looked at one and other uneasily, not knowing if this was going to be the time they saw those two horrible letter come rising in panic and terror for them to race against.

“Uh, hey guys, are you ok?” someone asked.

There was a moment of silence, no one knew what to expect and they the laughter started. Opening his eyes with the look of some burning saint or covicted killer of ten, Jake sat up and forward in his seat, leaning over across the table, grinning.

“YES.”

That night they played for who knows how long. Chasing every possible angle of song, a disjointed shamble of nervy, droning melodies. One by one, the others dropped out. Jamie, secretly terrified by the whole affair, left early citing the fact her little sister would be coming up in the morning. For one second, the only of the whole night, they felt a strange twinge of something strange in hearing those words. James left with her. Next out was Mike, finally worn down by hours behind the drums and endless hits from the dirty plastic bong next to his kit, simply lay beside it after it had eventually been upturned by a stoned misstep on the double bass. Still, Jake and Becca played on, riding every shift, every tonal movement, pulling their heartstrings so tight, exchanging knowing looks every few moments because they both felt each other and oh god it was all so beautiful. The next morning, neither remembered going to be but to have seen them do it, quietly put down their instruments together, nothing left to be said, they surveyed the empty wreckage of their apartment with friends and instruments strewn across the floor like so many bottles and it was good. They retired to bed well after the grey light began to creep yellow around the blinds and were asleep in no time. Sometime later, when they woke they found everything different but was still all the same.

The first time was an explosion of all hexidecimals, fractals of music and potential. Leaning back, eyes fluttering she looked at him and saw his patient, pleading eyes, still a boy, she thought.. For a moment she forgot about the fire burning in her nose and and thought that in that moment, she loved him more than ever. He quickly took his in two brief nods and they lay back on the beaten, brown leather sofa that everyone had slept on, fucked on, crashed on at least a hundred times, and they felt it crash over them an carry them in its wake. It wasn’t like the other makings of Friday nights, the weed or the beers or even those rare mushroom nights, those things that came in waves and receded and swept over you again. No, this grabbed them and all they could do was hold on be carried on at immeasurable speed, you just musn’t lose your balance.

Oh my god it feels like… – a sharp inhale.

A sharp laugh – IknowIknow…

They closed their eyes but the slashes of colors and thoughts continued to dart across the black screens they saw. The smiles ran across their faces and it was as if no one else was in the room. Their friends looked at one and other uneasily, not knowing if this was going to be the time they saw those two horrible letter come rising in panic and terror for them to race against.

“Uh, hey guys, are you ok?” someone asked.

There was a moment of silence, no one knew what to expect and they the laughter started. Opening his eyes with the look of some burning saint or covicted killer of ten, Jake sat up and forward in his seat, leaning over across the table, grinning.

“YES.”

That night they played for who knows how long. Chasing every possible angle of song, a disjointed shamble of nervy, droning melodies. One by one, the others dropped out. Jamie, secretly terrified by the whole affair, left early citing the fact her little sister would be coming up in the morning. For one second, the only of the whole night, they felt a strange twinge of something strange in hearing those words. James left with her. Next out was Mike, finally worn down by hours behind the drums and endless hits from the dirty plastic bong next to his kit, simply lay beside it after it had eventually been upturned by a stoned misstep on the double bass. Still, Jake and Becca played on, riding every shift, every tonal movement, pulling their heartstrings so tight, exchanging knowing looks every few moments because they both felt each other and oh god it was all so beautiful. The next morning, neither remembered going to be but to have seen them do it, quietly put down their instruments together, nothing left to be said, they surveyed the empty wreckage of their apartment with friends and instruments strewn across the floor like so many bottles and it was good. They retired to bed well after the grey light began to creep yellow around the blinds and were asleep in no time. Sometime later, when they woke they found everything different but was still all the same.



Cassie and the time before
October 24, 2009, 12:01 am
Filed under: Jake and Becca

So many nights spent with the hatch popped, blue tarp stretched downward and hammered stakes into the soil. Crashing in his dusty old green sleeping bag on his tattered foam pad, they had all seen better days. Waking up soaked from sweat, from rain, from the upturned leg of a dog. He didn’t know before his trip of the stray dogs that roam the unfenced woods and countrysides, subsisting on rabbits, snakes and birds, free of the heavy hand of man.

Sometimes he would get lonely, of course. But he never wanted to call home, he left his mom in stitches of anticipation and grief, it was best when she didn’t think of him out there at all. He found himself seeking conversational sustenance from bored waitresses, bored farmers, bored gas clerks just trying to keep their eyes open through those dark midwestern tuesday nights. And the library girls, they were the ones that killed him, with their Jane Austin, Ann Rice and Paul Austerer. He’d wash up with the other hobos in the bathroom, pulled his shirt down to cover the toothbrush and soap in his pockets. Spent hours hours trying to catch their doleful eyes – everybody wants to save or be saved, he’d think to himself. The hitchhikers he picked up helped ease his pain through conversation and the occasional crumbling joint or pull from the foul brown pint they might share. He had not yet sated his wanderlust, did not think he had lived his consummate story. He had not truly plumbed the strangeness of our heartland, had not yet seen the effects of cocaine on the minds of the lost, he had not yet met Cassie.

He was sitting at the window booth in a clean little silver diner in the Des Moines, the town being a city he had not expected. He ordered his slice of apple pie with ice cream in homage, and was scanning Main St for those long-awaited prettiest girls in the world when she slid into his booth, eyes locking his from the start, her small frame falling against the seat suddenly with the oh-shit weight of a heavy conversation. Five foot nothing, hair the color of peroxide’s acolyte, teased up to score her an extra couple of inches, she folded her folded like a schoolgirl’s. They held gazes for a moment, clean as glass. Then she began to speak. “I saw you over here and could help think you looked like a poor little lost one, that’s for sure, why else would you be eatin’ pie all by your lonesome I was like you once.” She said with a knowing tilt of the head and the words kept rolling out, spilling across the table like an overturned glass. “Now don’t be scared!” she screeched, giving him a look of admonishment and grasping her jeans jacket. He blinked. “I know acid-washed is on its way out, but its my ex-boyfriend’s and I stole it from that sorry sack I figured I should wear it, see the back?” She said turning around a littleways in the small space between the table and the seat, showing some crazy writing in pink puff paint on the back. “I did that! Half of my canadian tuxedo he used to always say, well he could be funny but he was a real piece.” She sighed, looking downward, only to jerk her head back up with a fish-eating grin from tooth to tooth. “And what’s your name?”.

“Jake, I’m from Baltimore.” But there was no time for him to launch into his carefully prepared monologue, a few talking points in his mind meant to impress the girls he met, a script he would vehemently deny having, one part Sam Kinneson and two parts Woody Guthrie. But he doesn’t have time to really answer, for she has stood abruptly, turning towards the door, leaving him to read the writing on her back: “Kill Your JEANS JACKET!!” the exclamation points dotted with hearts. “Hey, are you ready to go?” She asked, looking out into the lot.

“Sure” he said. And they went.



September, Their Eighth Month Together
October 3, 2009, 4:29 pm
Filed under: god bless her, Stories of a girl

He tried to steady his uneven gait as he staggered down the hall trying to be quiet. It would be funny, watching him in the dark, mouthing “heel- toe, heel-toe”, if it wasn’t another 1am, another Tuestday, another drive home squinting, as the outer lines moved closer and closer.

In bed she tensed, every bone curling upon itself. She knew he wouldn’t bother unbuttoning his shirt, would struggle to pull it up over his chin, craning his head back towards the ceiling, collar tight over his mouth until something gave. He would fumble audibly with his belt buckle. It would ring like a toy bell every time. He would drop his pants and wince at the heavy thud of his forgotten wallet hitting the floor. He would then stoop, rooting through his pockets, hunched on the floor naked, spine poking through his back like a fucking animal. Feeling blindly for his cell phone, he would rustle and crouch. He would slide into bed, listening for her to stir. Even in the dark, he’d be sporting that shit-eating grin smeared preemptively across his face, the one he always fell back on when she pushed him on an issue. She would try to keep her breath regular, try not to grimace in the dark at the smell of beer or whiskey or pot and salsa, the smell of another night out. Two pieces of gum if he fancied himself a real sweetheart. He’d sigh like a patient who snuck a smoke before surgery, safe and sound now, already under anesthesia. No one ever thinks someone will smell the smoke. He would be out in a minute, whicle she would brood for what felt like hours. The anger, the empathy, the weighing of the good times and the bad. That time at the lake when he packed a picnic and they sat for hours laughing, feeding the ducks, sipping stolen bourbon, watching the boats go out. That time at the happy hour – he always tried so hard to impress them. The fact he understood her – that he knew he could be perfect in her eyes if it meant anything to him. Above all things he was not naive. The fact he never questioned her, even when she sought it.

He stumbled, leaning against the door jamb. He would be out in minutes. She had taken this trip before though, she knew it would be a long one.



The Insurrection (Final)
October 1, 2009, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

You could hear the explosion from a mile away. 21:12 read the clock. Less than two hours left on shift but that didn’t mean a thing when the bell rang. They were suited up before the call finally came in. Crashing out onto the tarmac, they locked eyes and cast baleful nods to the soldiers already assembling the envoy. Six humvees and two trucks tore offbase, past the guards and fencing topped with barbed wire, past the concrete jetties, barreling into the dry and darkened city ahead.

Warrant Office Derrick Andrews had been in Iraq for nine months. The ash fell about him in gray flakes. Warehouse and tent fires, mostly. The Marines he was sent to back up didn’t have too much to say to him, they walked paths too similar, and like waiters and cooks, lawyers and accountants, they held grudges of unknown origins. Derrick was just seventeen when he signed up for the National Guard. The recruiters had been coming to his school every couple months: blockheaded twenty-somethings deemed too persuasive or too useless to be trusted with weapons and responsibilities. He didn’t buy their bullshit, all it meant to him was a free education. He didn’t know what debt meant but he knew to avoid it at all costs. Old men would stumble into the restaurant where he passed the lost high school nights busing tables. They would preach in whispered intonations against loans and unstable women; offer him career jobs pulling wire, installing fence. He’d nod, smile, jot down a number, thankssir. It was easier to say that you didn’t know what your next step would be. When you tell them you are joining up, going to college, they congratulate you, wish you luck, but you know son, if things don’t work out… Clear the tables, be sure not to spill the final swig and a half of beer, drink it down in the back, smoke a cigarette. At least the dinner rush was over.

He had started school training to be a paramedic, but after the second try at Orgo and a few too many Busch Lights, he was ready for the aptly broad Fire Studies. He could be a fireman, why not? Besides, the Guard didn’t ask too much; a couple weekends, a haircut, some time at the gym, college was over before he knew it. The day after graduation he shook off the hangover, kissed his girl and walked into the local OK City firehall a college graduate and walked out a recruit. They even gave him an ax. A year and half later came marriage and a house. Two years later came the baby. Then he saw the planes hit the towers. Everyone caballed around him in the firehouse with talk of hatred and revenge – if I was a bit younger, if I hadn’t thrown my back out in that eight-alarmer – he didn’t hear any of it. He just lowered his head, went home and waited for the call.

You could see the fire from blocks away, power was out for the night and the red glow reflected on the low-lying clouds a bruised orange. As they approached the burning building children were running everywhere, laughing and chattering over the sound of the traveling armory. Here, he though, at least kids are the same. They had set up a nine o’clock curfew for all the Iraqis, but it was never enforced with the little ones. They acted as messengers between families, friends, insurgents, whatever. They were the ones who could pass through checkpoints, carrying news and gossip from house to house, and they were the ones who were sent to see what new hell had sprung up in their city. They ran, relishing their newfound freedom. Derrick looked down and prayed the drivers saw them as they darted between the slow-moving beasts in the narrow streets. He saw a marine atop the humvee ahead of him tracking children with the bead of his rifle. He felt pressure building behind his eyes and everything began to shake. I wish I could kill him, he thought.

When he returned state-side, the Army dogged him for exams, interviews, everything. The first time he walked into the doctors office, after forty five minutes in the waiting area, he was ready to leave. He was sick of the muted pink walls, the dim fluorescents that still managed to make you squint. The flyers peeling at the corner, urging you to be tested for HIV, to report suspicious activity, to not worry, you were home now. Later he’d tell his friends, “You won’t know sadness until you’ve been to the VA”. It was hard to tell the veterans apart, much less the maladies from which they suffered. Who had lost their legs from shrapnel, who from diabetes. That first time there, he had been attacked by a fellow serviceman in the waiting room. The conversation had started out cordial enough, they were both Army men, both infantry, hell, they had probably fucked the same whores, they had joked. Then the old man asked him to guess where he had served. “Don’t tell a Korea man he’d fought in Nam”, he’d told his friends, pulling down his collar to reveal the red half-moons on his neck. “Oh, I heard of Korea” he’d replied, “that’s the city near Hanoi, right?”.

The building on fire was huge but isolated – that was good. The Marines fell into the order of securing the perimeter, the crazy bastards lived for this kind of shit. The fire reached up to the second story inside, the smoke poured out of the third floor windows. These buildings were all wood, drywall and sand. They could collapse at any moment. Derrick was the first one off the truck, running to connect the hose to the tanker behind him. Water was a commodity and even it had been looted in the days following the fall. They had to bring it with them in a truck now. Anything could have sent this thing up, he thought. Shoddy wiring, a busted propane tank, an errant cigarette, though he doubted it, at their cost. They were usually smoked to the filter by the locals. Cast off by soldiers, only to be picked up for what someone hoped would be one last drag.

Warnings from Al Kut of the Wasit Governorate: allegedly some wise insurgents sent an old warehouse by the firehouse up in flames, I mean practically right across the street. When the team arrived from the base – it was only a hundred yards away – they were sitting ducks. Nothing happened at first, but after they had begun to contain the fire, they had such little cover. They were falling by the second. No one knew what was going on. Over half the brigade had been lost that day. The following morning, the commanders had packed up what remained of the team and left. Let them burn their city to the fucking ground if they want.

When it was his turn to be seen, Derrick trudged past the medical reception area and into the back. He liked the nurses but damn did he hate the doctors. He was in love with his Filipino nurse, he decided.

“How are you doing today?” she’d asked.

“Mahal Kita.” He replied. He had picked up some Tagalog in the kitchen of the restaurant he worked at what seemed like so long ago. That was the only phrase he remembered that he could repeat in front of a woman without blushing.

“Oh, no” She responded, “you must be thinking of my sister. She’s the one who falls for you GIs”. Completely non-plussed. He’d thought himself worth at least a smile or wink. So it goes.

The preliminary exam finished quickly. While he was waiting for the doc, he saw the flowchart of questions to ask to diagnosis post-traumatic stress disorder on the wall. He’d laughed to himself. That made it easy enough, didn’t it?

The doctor entered, a middle-aged man with gray curly hair, glasses and a smug face. Doctor Glovinski. God, I hate these people, he thought.

“So!” the doc bellowed, smiling like child at his dog. “It says in your chart you saw a good deal of combat for a firefighter!” Question 1.

Derrick sat, silent.

“Look, I am sorry to see that, I honestly am.” The doctor’s voice dropped. He looked directly into Derrick’s eyes. It was unnerving. “How’s everything been since you’ve been back? Have you been having any bad thoughts about what happened over there? How’ve you been?” Questions 2 and 4. Strange, he passed on 3.

“Everything’s been fine, glad to be home.” Mind as well get through this quickly.

“Well, that’s good” he purred. “Has anything been reminding you of things over there? Have you been able to get back into your old routine here? I see you’ve got a wife?” Goddamn, he was skipping all over the place here.

“Only her cooking, heh.” Derrick grimaced. Ok, enough of this bullshit, he thought. I do not have to make jokes for this asshole. “Look doc,” he said “I’m fine everything’s been fine. I just don’t like answering these questions. They’re… they’re kinda pedantic, you know?”

Glovinski blinked, squinted and started right back into it. “How have things been with your wife? Has anything changed? Are you both still close? I know things can change, what with being away so long.”

“Well…” He sighed, “She has seemed a little bit more distant…” he trailed off.

The doctor’s eyes lit up. He liked the sound of that. “So, why do you think that is?” He asked, leaning forward.

“I just can’t reach her anymore. After all, she’s put on about 85 pounds since I’ve been gone.” he stared.

Glovinski paused. Took off his glasses. Leaned back. Wiped them. “You don’t think too much of me here, do you?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t think too much of you over there, either.”

And that was that.

The burning embers were rising up over the top of the building – not a good sign. Either it had already been abandoned and the roof had rotted, falling in from disrepair, or the fire had already burned through the ceiling. The structure could collapse at any moment. They looked at one and other. After years of fighting fires, certain signs and premonitions had the weight of omens in the hearts of the men that know them well. They felt it, too. They fell back. It was a lost cause. There was no shortage of oxygen coming in; besides, nothing could be alive in there now anyway. He looked back over the perimeter and saw the children’s faces illuminated by the red light. Everyone looked the same when they saw a fire of this magnitude. It was beautiful and wild and one could not help but stare in awe. One older boy, about 13 or 14, was pushing to get through, screaming with his arms raised. They had forgotten the translator in their haste. Everyone was screaming. The Marines in their broken Iraqi phrases “البقاء إلى الوراء !”. A few adults began to emerge in the crowd. “البقاء إلى الوراء !”. Derrick watched the boy get tackled by the soldier, his face in the dirt. He had to turn away. The building was crumbling.

His wife was asleep beside him, but he was not tired. He pulled himself gingerly from bed for fear of waking her. She’d lay with her head turned toward him, eyes closed and hair spilled across the pillow. She had stood beside him upon his arrival home. She looked beautiful. She would never ask about what he saw there. She had been alone for months and months on end, and never once questioned him. Asked him why he was not here with her. He pulled on his clothes and shoes, had been running long distances through the city every day, what else was there to do. It was 11pm on a Tuesday in Kansas City, almost 2am, Wednesday over there. He had moved here with her out of faith in his city. He had moved here to start a family. The traffic lights were changing, but there were no cars anywhere. He moved through gray halos the streetlights cast on the pavement. Ahead of him some young children were playing, chasing each other across the street. What the hell are they doing out this late? He thought. When he got closer, he saw they were darting behind trashcans and parked cars. They were split into two groups, with hands folded like guns. They were yelling loudly through the quiet, and the only other sounds were the passing cars a few streets over. His legs felt as lead and he sat down on the curb. He began to shake.

They soon stopped their game and were weary of the man just by them with his head in his hands. They watched him sitting there for a long time before one of them came over and asked him if he was alright.



The Insurrection
August 26, 2009, 8:15 am
Filed under: The Insurrection

You could hear the explosion from a mile away. 21:12 read the clock. Less than two hours left on shift but that didn’t mean a thing when the bell rang. They were suited up before the call finally came in. Crashing out onto the tarmac, they locked eyes and cast baleful nods to the soldiers already assembling the envoy. Six humvees and two trucks tore offbase, past the guards and fencing topped with triple barbed wire and past the concrete jetties, barreling into the dry and darkened city ahead.

Warrant Office Derrick Andrews had been in Iraq for nine months. The ash fell about him in gray flakes. Warehouse and tent fires, mostly. The Marines he was sent to back up didn’t have too much to say to him, they walked paths too similar, and like waiters to cooks, lawyers to accountants, they held grudges of unknown origins. Derrick was just seventeen when he signed up for the National Guard, The recruiters had been coming to his school every couple months: blockheaded twenty somethings deemed too persuasive or too useless to trust with weapons and responsibilities. He didn’t buy their bullshit, all it meant to him was a free education. He didn’t know what debt meant but he knew to avoid it at all costs. Old men would stumble into the restaurant where he passed the lost high school nights busing tables, they would preach in whispered intonations against loans and unstable women; offer him career jobs pulling wire, installing fence. He’d nod, smile, jot down a number, thankssir. It was easier to say that you didn’t know what your next step would be. When you tell them you are joining up, going to college, they congratulate you, wish you luck, but you know son, if things don’t work out… Clear the tables, be sure not to spill the final swig and a half of beer, drink it down in the back, smoke a cigarette. At least the dinner rush was over.

He had started school training to be a paramedic, but after the second try at Orgo and a few too many Busch Lights, he was ready for the aptly broad Fire Studies. He could be a fireman, why not? Besides, the guard didn’t ask too much; a couple weekends, a haircut, some time at the gym, college was over before he knew it. The day after graduation he shook off the hangover, kissed his girl and walked into the local OK City firehall a college graduate and walked out a recruit, they even gave him an ax. A year and half later came marriage and a house. Two years later came the baby. Then he saw the planes hit the towers. Everyone around him in the (firehall) caballed with talk of hatred and revenge – if I was a bit younger, if I hadn’t thrown my back out in that eight-alarmer – he didn’t hear any of it. He just lowered his head, went home and waited for the call.

You could see the fire from blocks away, power was out for the night and the red glow reflected on the low-lying clouds a bruised orange. As they approached the burning building children were running everywhere, laughing and chattering over the sound of the traveling armory. Here, he though, at least children are the same. They had set up a nine o’clock curfew for all the Iraqis, but it was never enforced with the kids. They acted as messengers between families, friends, insurgents, whatever. They were the ones who could pass through checkpoints, carrying news and gossip from house to house, and they were the ones who were sent to see what new hell had sprung up in their city. They ran, relishing the freedom. Derrick looked down and prayed the drivers saw them as they darted between the slow-moving beasts in the narrow streets. He saw a marine top-side the humvee ahead of him tracking children with the bead of his rifle. He felt pressure building behind his eyes and everything began to shake. I wish I could kill him, he thought.

When he returned state-side, the Army dogged him for exams, interviews, everything. The first time he walked into the doctors office, after forty five minutes in the waiting area, he was ready to leave. He was sick of the muted pink walls, the dim fluorescents that still managed to make you squint, the flyers peeling at the corner, urging you to be tested for HIV, to report suspicious activity, to not worry, you were home now. Later he’d tell his friends, “You won’t know sadness until you’ve been to the VA”. It was hard to tell the veterans apart, much less the maladies from which they suffered. Who had lost their legs from shrapnel, who from diabetes. That first time there, he had been attacked by a fellow serviceman in the waiting room. The conversation had started out cordial enough, they were both Army men, both infantry, hell, they had probably fucked the same whores, he had joked. Then the old man asked him to guess where he had served. “Don’t tell a Korea man he’d fought in Nam”, he’d told his friends, pulling down his collar to reveal the red half-moons on his neck. “Oh, I heard of Korea” he’d replied, “that’s the city near Hanoi, right?”.

The building on fire was huge but isolated – that was good. The Marines fell into the order of securing the perimeter, the crazy bastards lived for this kind of shit. The fire reached up to the second story inside, the smoke poured out of the third floor windows. These buildings were all wood, drywall and sand. They could collapse at any moment. Derrick was the first one off the truck, running to connect the hose to the tanker behind him. Water was a commodity and even it had been looted in the days following the fall. They had to bring it with them in a truck now. Anything could have sent this thing up, he thought. Shoddy wiring, a busted propane tank, an errant cigarette, though he doubted it, at their cost. They were usually smoked to the filter by the locals. Cast off by soldiers, only to be picked up for what someone hoped would be one last drag.

Warnings from Al Kut of the Wasit Governorate: allegedly some wise insurgents sent an old warehouse by the firehouse up in flames, I mean practically right across the street. When the team arrived from the base – it was only a hundred yards away – they were sitting ducks. Nothing happened at first, but after they had begun to contain the fire, they had such little cover. They were falling by the second. No one knew what was going on. Over half the brigade had been lost that day. The following morning, the commanders had packed up what remained of the team and left. Let them burn their city to the fucking ground if they want.

When it was his turn to be seen, Derrick trudged past the medical reception area and into the back. He liked the nurses but damn did he hate the doctors. He was in love with his Filipino nurse, he decided.

“How are you doing today?” she’d asked.

“Mahal Kita.” He responded. He had picked up some Tagalog in the kitchen of the restaurant he worked at what seemed like so long ago. That was the only phrase he remembered that he could repeat in front of a woman without blushing.

“Oh, no” She responded, “you must be thinking of my sister. She’s the one who falls for you GIs.” Completely non-plussed. He’d thought himself worth at least a smile or wink. So it goes.

The preliminary exam finished quickly. While he was waiting for the doc, he saw the flowchart of questions to ask to diagnosis post-traumatic stress disorder on the wall. He laughed. That made it easy enough, didn’t it?

The doctor entered, a middle-aged man with gray curly hair, glasses and a smug face. Doctor Glovinski. God, I hate these people, he thought.

“So!” the doc bellowed, smiling like child at his dog. “It says in your chart you saw a good deal of combat for a firefighter!” Question 1.

Derrick sat, silent.

“Look, I am sorry to see that, I honestly am.” The doctor’s voice dropped. He looked directly into Derrick’s eyes. It was unnerving. “How’s everything been since you’ve been back? Have you been having any bad thoughts about what happened over there? How’ve you been?” Questions 2 and 4. Strange, he passed on 3.

“Everything’s been fine, glad to be home.” Mind as well get through this quickly.

“Well, that’s good” he purred. “Has anything been reminding you of things over there? Have you been able to get back into your old routine here? I see you’ve got a wife?” Goddamn, he was skipping all over the place here.

“Only her cooking, heh.” Derrick grimaced. Ok, enough of this bullshit, he thought. I do not have to make jokes for this asshole. “Look doc,” he said “I’m fine everything’s been fine. I just don’t like answering these questions. They’re… they’re kinda pedantic, you know?”

Glovinski blinked and started right back into it. “How have things been with your wife? Has anything changed? Are you both still close? I know things can change, what with being away so long.”

“Well…” He sighed, “She has seemed a little bit more distant” he trailed off.

The doctor’s eyes lit up. He liked the sound of that. “So, why do you think that is?” He asked, leaning forward.

“I just can’t reach her anymore. After all, she’s put on about 85 pounds since I’ve been gone”, he stared.

Glovinski paused. Took off his glasses. Leaned back. Wiped them. “You don’t think too much of me here, do you?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t think too much of you over there, either.”

And that was that.

The burning embers were rising up over the top of the building – not a good sign. Either it had already been abandoned and the roof had rotted fallen in from disrepair or the fire had already burned through the ceiling. The structure could collapse at any moment. They looked at one and other. After years of fighting fires, certain signs and premonitions have the weight of omens in the hearts of the men that know them well. They felt it, too. They fell back, it was a lost cause. There was no shortage of oxygen coming in; besides, nothing could be alive in there now anyway. He looked back over the perimeter and saw the children’s faces illuminated by the red light. Everyone looked the same when they saw a fire of this magnitude. It was beautiful and wild and one could not help but stare in awe. One older boy of 13 or 14 was pushing to get through, screaming with his arms raised. They had forgotten the translator in their haste. Everyone was screaming. The Marines in their broken Iraqi phrases “***will insert ‘stay back’ in Arabic***”. A few adults began to emerge in the crowd. “***will insert ‘stay back’ in Arabic***”. Derrick watched the boy get tackled by the soldier, his face in the dirt. He had to turn away. The building was crumbling.

His wife was asleep beside him, but he was not tired. He pulled himself from bed gingerly, for fear of waking her. She’d lay with her head turned toward him, eyes closed and hair spilled across the pillow. She had stood beside him upon his arrival home. She looked beautiful. She would never ask about what he saw there. She had been alone for months and months on end, and never once questioned him. Asked him why he was not here with her. He pulled on his clothes and shoes. He had been running long distances through the city every day, what else was there to do. He set out into the night. It was 11pm on a Tuesday in Kansas City, almost 2am, Wednesday over there. He had moved here with her out of faith in his city. He had moved here to start a family with her. The traffic lights were changing, but there were no cars anywhere. He moved through the gray circles the streetlights cast on the pavement. Ahead of him some young children were playing, chasing each other across the street. What the hell are they doing out this late? He thought. When he got closer, he saw they were darting behind trashcans and parked cars. They were split into two groups, with hands folded like guns. They were yelling loudly in the quiet night, and the only other sounds were the passing cars a few streets over. His legs felt as lead and he sat down on the curb. He began to shake.

They soon stopped their game and were weary of the man with his head in his hands just by them. They watched him sitting there for a long time before one of them came over and asked him if he was alright.



The Writer IV
May 25, 2009, 12:28 am
Filed under: The Writer

The patterns throughout the house; the wallpaper, the sweaters, the cigarette burns in the woven sofa all stretched on with indefinite repetition and noise that made him twitch, moisten his lips and try and seek an anomaly: an errant line, a factory imperfection, a mutation. Instead though, he found they cut onward as rays, a clear beginning and a constant and unmoving march towards what he did not know. He knew that someday they would rot and the patterns would fade, whither and die, but now, now they bound as piano wire that stretched up the walls, in and out through threads and hidden corners surrounded him, constantly. He sought solace in the turbid chaos found in the movement of water; curls of smoke brought him peace.

In the midst of the endless plains they saw a tree etched on the paper horizon and so forward towards the desolate cry of nature calling from earth they trod as it rose static before them. Drifting upon the land they approached and found the tree barren of leaves and fruit which lay not on the twisting boughs, trunk folding upon itself under the rolling weight it bore, still far from its vacant arms they slept when night fell and spoke of reaching it the next morn. At dawn when the dew hung from the faces of the grass, they stood enwondered by the tree, which now stood in full bloom, unrecognizable under the fans of leaves lush and floating supple in the wind. By the tree stood one of the leaping creatures, tentatively trotting towards the trunk which began to twist and bend as clay unwinds bowing its crown to the fawn which in turn reached up to taste the gentle morsels of jade. With the grace and deliberate speed of the setting sun, their sprang silently from the ground roots, gently encircling the beast who too late, eyes rolling in fear towards the sky and ground, was pulled with gentle embrace into ground, disappearing with the sound of the leaves, already turning brown upon the branches. As his daughter wept, they turned their backs wracked with sobs on their lone beacon and wandering forth again into the fields throbbing in the wind.



The Writer (III)
May 19, 2009, 9:55 pm
Filed under: The Writer

Friends laughing faces cawing through cocktail parties and benefits held in their own honor now made him grit his teeth in knowing and nausea at the thought. He spent most of his time pacing, not muttering but speaking these glaring truths aloud – punctuating his sentences with a sharp blow to his open palm, a slow shake of the head, a low defeated laugh. Sometimes she leapt back to the forefront of his mind only to be pushed aside with a wince, there was no point in going over his mistakes, he knew them all too well. Some of these cycles of thought can be eventually broken: Letting her see him drunk, the time he called a woman a whore,  striking a dog in careless anger, the memories that weigh so heavily, but with precision and dedication can almost be obscured. It is hard to know when the final grain of sand will fall though, the scales will tip and those isolated incidents will not be scattered, but will weave together into a singular cloak of identity. He could cast aside those other times, smashing through them with sheer will, but how could he bury a person – another twist of the neck, force the eyes shut tight, move on move on move on.

They came to crag, a low mound of stone that offered shelter and in it a cave. She pulled him onward exploring they wandered through the pregnant stone hanging heavy with lichen and echoing the sounds of running water. Further they followed the sound of promise down until the walls surrounding them were covered in a ocher foam that strange creatures swam through and consumed and the ground was wet with trickling water and the small spiderous dwellers.  A great cavern soon emerged as the ceiling dove upward and the a yawning whirlpool raged in the pit beneath them consuming chipped rock and water and insect. They gazed into the black eye and could not speak over the noisome cry as the foam crept through the cracks in the walls feeding the creatures who then would grow too heavy for the froth to hold and fall into the streams of water through the rocks and into the churning mouth. She did not understand and thought their plight sad and dumb but he had seen the serpent turn upon its tail and knew that to live was to consume and so was frightened of the mindless deep that swallowed all it created and hurried them back to surface where night had fallen and that night they slept upon the fields out of the cave’s blind stare.




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