Who even knows the mystery?

The Columbus Chronicles, episode 4

 

We can still smoke in the bar

a relief for the reprobates

Pretty soon the pine smell is obliterated and a

blue haze floats just above our heads

We’ve become animated, my barfly friends and me

outside the sun creeps down the west side of the street

and brightens the inside just barely

we play liar’s poker, crack peanuts so stale

the shells are rubber pellets

popcorn is fresh, though

The woman with the Lucy eyelashes and smeared lipstick

laughs out loud with a bray that donkeys envy

I see black molars and bits of popcorn falling out of her mouth

A younger guy, maybe 25. slips off his stool and staggers to

the men’s room.  We laugh and catcall at his stumbling

silently vow to make sure we don’t do the same thing

After all, it’s only 7 am and real people that do real jobs

are prancing down the sidewalk

and we aren’t there

The mystery continues

This is the third piece in the series “The Columbus Chronicles”

 

The guy on my left a couple of stools away smells like

aftershave, the strong and cheap kind that comes

in a pickle bucket.  He apparently bathes in it.

Not as bad as what I imagine the little guy on his left smells like

that dude looks like he was put through a wire winder

his hair isn’t curly, isn’t kinky, isn’t anything but

black springs that have been stretched beyond their capacity

and they are just. . . there  His muscles are thin and visible under

his rayon knit polo,  a topo map of hard living

He drinks whiskey with water on the side

he sips and talks and his voice rumbles like a diesel

truck, one of the ones that rattle over the potholes outside in the not-empty

not-busy street

My sour draft is cold, at least

but the taste is perfectly hideous

I consider quitting drinking for the hundredth time

The mystery, part 2

The Columbus Chronicles, Pt. 2

The bar reeks of pine cleaner and cigarettes, a smell that puts off

all but the most dedicated drinkers

fluorescent lights are dull blue grey and look remarkably like

a hospital waiting room

It could be a waiting room, I guess

A waiting to die room

The bar feels sticky from thousands of quick swipes with a

dirty bar towel   The man next to me orders a PBR

at 50 cents, he can afford a few of them, I think

judging by the five spot he fingers

The rest of us spread out, but not too far

people who are too far away are suspect, more so if they order

something exotic or imported

“might be a terrorist” is the unspoken ripple through the rest of us

We remember 9/11.  It is fresh forevermore in this dive

We joke with the perpetually tired bartender, his shift made bearable

by sips of vodka and 7-Up.  He chugs coffee in between, wiping, talking

bantering with those of us who are functional

Touch the mystery

The Columbus Chronicles

At 6 am I watch them, the men, one woman

They stand on the sidewalk in front of the alcove and

they don’t talk much but their bowed heads and their

shuffling feet, cigarettes puffed quickly, speak to

not who they are but what they are

They are thirsty

They are anticipating liquid breakfast

They are uneasy from a night spent dancing

and drinking and making connections with ghosts

They get out of bed with a mighty thirst to ease a

banal existence.  I’m not dead yet, might as well drink

They look down at the sidewalk and tap their heels or shake their heads

an unconscious gesture, shaking off regret, depression, lost chances

but the “Open” neon sign lights up, the door unlocks

and all is right with the world for just a few hours

Talking to the walls

Don’t mind me–it’s just another day to avoid

reflection, to engage in deflection

not answer the phone or check the mail, because

it’s just another day of the same questions over and over

from the same faceless drone in an office

200 miles away, getting cocky with impatience

It’s not my fault you don’t know how to frame a question so that

it can be answered correctly

But I swallow all those elegant curses that would pour

so eloquently from my lips in order to

maybe, just maybe

get that pittance you withhold with apparent glee

I hang up and feel the flush start on my neck and my arms

get prickly from repressed rage

Is it too early to start drinking??  Is it too much to ask

that you just stop with the “i” dotting and the “t” crossing

for the tenth fucking time?

Night Things

A fly buzzes just above the kitchen sink

I don’t want to smack him just yet

The cat watches and chatters like crazy with frustration

Her prey is just beyond her reach

When she swats it, stuns it, eats it

In less than a second

I understand how fast life can change

And it goes on still

for the rest of us

Book draft episode 5

I made my way through the throngs of tourists at the market, nodding at some of the vendors I knew.  The heat was not quite oppressive but the addition of suntan oil, perfume, sweat and that lovely velvet humidity made me more than a little short-tempered.  A fat family of tourists completely blocked my way.  All around, I heard voices, vendors, tinkles of wind chimes and gew gaws, tired shouts of basket makers, and the occasional car horn.  I tried to dodge a Japanese man snapping pictures of the glistening black vendors, but the baby carriage stopped me.  Damned tourists.

A small pink faced woman appeared at my elbow.  She held up a clear plastic bag dotted with condensation and announced.  “Miz Carol!  Here the fudge you wanted us to make!”

 

I said thank you, but she stood there while we were jostled by lines of people.  I opened the bag and took out a piece.  It was still cold from the marble and I bit into the wetness.  It was cool and full of texture, and I savored the piece even while my throat went dry and begged for a tall glass of iced tea.  The heat hit about the time I tasted a hint of pepper.  That heat spread through my mouth, down my throat and blew off the top of my head.  The fudge was unbelievable.  My southwest taste buds sighed and settled in for a long snack.  Sweat rolled down my temples.  Ole Rhonda had outdone herself on this fudge.  I smiled and nodded, not wanting to miss a single flavor.  It was deep chocolate and bold furnace.  It was exactly what we had talked about just a week before.

She beamed.  “Da boy worked on dis fuh days.  Is ca’lina peppuhs, miss lady.  What ya think?  Mebbe get us some peoples over yah?”  I just closed my eyes.  It was indeed a winner with me.  A few sweating tourists took our picture.  I hugged her, overcoming my automatic revulsion at wet bodies and handed her a twenty.

Her face fell.  Damn it.  Another faux pax in the convoluted southern tradition.  I said, “Honey, if you could just find me a tea, I would be most grateful for your gracious hospitality.”  She beamed, then.  She disappeared in the crowd.

I closed the bag and coughed discreetly.  Damn, but the fudge was hot.    I moved between two tables to get out of the way and all of a sudden, a man appeared in front of me, smiling.  I smiled back.  He held his smile for a beat too long.  A quick, strong revulsion sprang up before I managed to hide it.  His smile faded so quickly I didn’t recall it.  His eyes looked dead and yet alive.  He was relatively young but not so much that his youth showed.  I memorized his face, a dough ball of white skin, dark brown eyes, wispy eyebrows.  His lips were too red and full to be real.  He looked like the main character in a John Kennedy Toole novel without the noticeable bulk or ridiculous hat.  In fact, his hair was receding just a bit.  In those few seconds, something happened between us.  He leaned toward me, his height nearly mine.

“I wanted to tell you how much I like your books, but I see you are just another uppity bitch”.  Fear sprang up dark behind my mind.  It was primal.  I couldn’t get away, trapped as I was between the tables.  A red mist appeared to suffuse his face.  Instincts kicked in and I pushed him out of the way, not caring who got knocked over.  The ripple of protest echoed behind me as I ran blindly east through the market.