It’s 6.03 am when I’m woken up by him next door, moaning for help through the wall in a deep disturbing slur: ‘Jes-sie, ca-ca-call am-bu-la-lance. Feel…wrong…’
The wall pounces with an earthquake-like thud. My framed Courtney Love picture flies onto the bare floorboards, shattering into glass knives. My heart drums in my ears like never before – bu-bum…bu-bum…bu-bu-bum – like someone else’s heartbeat through an old stethoscope. Oh my god. Did Frank just collapse against the wall? I hear relaxed vomiting that sounds almost satisfying; I think of cake mix oozing out of a pipe tube.
I lie still in bed. I recall walking through the narrow brick corridor that leads to our tenement flat balconies on the day that I moved here. His enormous body blocked my way; stained tracksuit trousers stretched with desperate elastic. His little rodent tongue suggestively licked his scabby upper lip. ‘Moving in, Blondie?’ he wheezed with a husky pervert’s voice. I ignored him and trotted quickly through to my ground floor flat.
The next day, our paths crossed there again as I tried to squeeze passed him with Mr Scruff’s cat carry-box. His exposed stomach layers pressed against my bare arm, but it was impossible to free myself without dropping Mr Scruff. The intimacy of the moment sickened me: warm, skin-to-skin contact that left a rash of man-sweat itching my forearm. I had to scrub to get rid of the smell: nasty, cheesy sweat, like a hairy armpit that hasn’t been washed in weeks. Continue reading
Park and Ride and I. January 26th. Ottawa. This is how we meet.
I park my car and then grab my overstuffed knapsack that rests on the seat beside me that holds various snacks and workout clothes. I turn and reach behind me, and blindly grapple to locate my brown leather purse that I flung on the floor of the backseat. My second bag weighs more than any Army Cadet has ever had to carry during a march.
“Ah! There you are!” I say to no one in particular. Locating both bags, I push my car door open as white snow whips against my face feeling like hundreds of pin pricks against my cheeks. The snow enters my Honda civic and dances around inside. With that, I stick my foot out. And that’s where we meet.
Snowbank and I; SNOWBANK 1, ME 0.
Snow worms wiggle between my hiking boot and ankle and then, smoothly shimmy their way down to my heel. When my feet hit the pavement, the cold ice crunches against my sock and bottom of my boot until it is pulverized into a puddle. And now, I have a puddle at the bottom of my boot. Continue reading
As David unwrapped his arms from around her, Jocelyn felt as if a down comforter were being ripped away and her skin exposed to the cold night air. Her fiancé’s mere presence always seemed to raise the temperature of the room a couple degrees. His tall build, muscular frame, and chiseled jaw would quicken the beat of any woman’s heart. His position as an up and coming trial lawyer at a prestigious firm advertised intellect and ambition. His kindness and empathy indicated that he would not only be an outstanding lover and provider, but also a best friend.
David pointed the remote at the television and paused the episode of Masterpiece. Jocelyn’s past boyfriends would suffer through episodes of the British drama series with her, but she knew they prefered sports or action movies. When David, knowing nothing of Jocelyn’s preferences, had first shared his love for the Masterpiece shows, Jocelyn had felt destined to marry this man.
David stood up and walked toward the kitchen. “A little peckish,” he said. “Want anything?”
“What are you getting?” asked Jocelyn. Please, she thought, don’t let it be—
“Just a few jelly beans. Want anything else or something to drink?” Continue reading
She started at the departure gate—blacked out, the blank space amplified by the endless line of mirrored hallways, the aluminum-edged escalator, its teeth the oily mouth of the silent room. Her body a ridged skeleton in a coffin too big, she tried to find comfort in the touch of stuffing herself to sleep between the arm rails of a vinyl bench, but it was submerged in the giant bank of windows, each pane curled like fingers into the rafters, the coldness of the city at her back. She wanted to be a shadow, an animal playing dead, until the sun broke open the breathing world.
“You been mistaking the forest for the trees since the day you struck your momma down,” her grandmother rasped into the phone, when Emily said she was returning to Montgomery, returning to the drag of her grandmother’s slack-knee house, its tabby cats and French hens.
She remembered being eight years old, one of many Campfire Girls, walking to the bathroom two-by-two, like animals headed for the ark, both born of the night, only the light of the moon to move them. Emily sighed. There were still thirteen hours to the end, and she couldn’t while them away pretending to be a stone in a cave. So she walked the escalator downstairs, her boots and suitcase barreling the teeth blunt, and found a bench at the arrival gate, racked by fluorescent lights, posters of Mardi Gras masks, of people in the narrow streets, outlined in beads, the churning metal of the baggage belt, strangers dressed mostly in flannel and jeans, waiting for taxis within the airport’s warm belly. Continue reading
The two of ‘em are having a real bad time changing Dwayne’s diaper, cursing and yelling for me to come out there and hold down Dwayne’s legs. But I can’t. I’m not done pouting. Mamma said I looked like a brood sow in my blue jean skirt, and Clarke’s still on my grievance list ‘cause he peed on my blue rug. Ms. Price would call that there irony, which is like opposite world, Clarke being a grown man and changing a nine-year-old’s diaper but going tinkle on my bedroom floor in the middle of the night. He apologized. Said he was dreaming he was back in Desert Storm and needed to show them Iraqis a what for. Then Mamma said he wasn’t in no Desert Storm and that he should know better than to drink fourteen beers when she’s not here to see to Dwayne.
I was embarrassed for Clarke while it was happening, so I stayed under the covers with Jeep while he finished his business. Jeep’s a real silky black cat with one white paw, and she’s never peed on my blue rug. She did pee on Dwayne’s blanket, but Dwayne didn’t notice ‘cause he’s got dystonic cerebral palsy and pees in a plastic jug himself.
Please don’t tell anyone. They’ll make fun of me and already they do enough of that. Boys aren’t supposed to have fairy godmothers. And boys have other meanings for the word ‘fairy.’ They already call me enough names.
My fairy godmother’s name is Fée Marraine. I can’t pronounce it. I always say Pee Marinade. She doesn’t seem to mind. Some years ago, I try to tell my mother about her. I climb onto the counter while Mom cooks chicken for dinner. I know how Mom like to share recipes with her friends. Pee tells me a chicken recipe and I want to share it with Mom. I say, “Ma, want help from Pee Marinade?”
Mom looks at me with a horror-filled face. “Why would you say that?”
I cry. I know I disappoint her terribly. I’m not very good at understanding what someone else is feeling. But, when she looks at me, I see love in her eyes while the rest of her body is frustration and sadness. I know I should be a better boy. I try so hard. I never know why I fail. Every night, I pray about it. I know all of the incantation’s magic words like hallowed, kingdom, trespasses, and temptation. But I never be a better boy. Pee says it’s not my fault. She says: “Contrary to the wisdom, the fault isn’t in ourselves but in our stars.” Continue reading
The secretaries who worked in his father’s outer office didn’t even say hello to Casey. That was because two of them weren’t really a secretaries at all but just students at the university. They kept typing on their typewriters and listening to their Dictaphones. And Mrs. Tish, the real secretary for the outer office, didn’t say “hello” either because she was talking on the telephone back at her desk.
Well, it didn’t matter. Casey walked right past the secretaries’ desks into the second office.
“Hello, young man.” said Mrs. Paskow, who was his father’s personal secretary. She had a drawer of one of the file cabinets open.
“Is he here?” said Casey.
But he had already gone over to the door and looked in. What he saw was his father’s big desk and his father’s big chair pushed back from the desk and the painting of rounded hills of corn fields and rounded trees up on the wall behind his father’s chair.
PART I: ERASMUS
The autumn breeze quivers my tiny, cotton collar. I survey the pumpkins lying haphazardly on Stuart’s Farm. Then I call out in the high-pitched voice of a three-year-old: “Pun’kin! Pun’kin!”
Susan’s red hair cascades into my stroller, shrouding my view. “Which pumpkin do you want, sweetie?”
I have never felt a propensity toward gourd shopping, especially not in Granite Springs, though now that she insists that I voice my opinion, I have no choice but to share it. I pull her hair aside.
“That one!” I point to the farthest and largest pumpkin in the patch, which takes us five minutes to approach.
Upon closer inspection of the plant, I reject it by stomping my feet against the stroller. I never tire of this performance, not in all my twenty-eight years of experience. Truly, the acting is unnecessary. This performance is something I add for pleasure. I am the epitome of toddlerhood. I have a small, button nose, large eyes, and peach-colored cheeks. Besides, with the right words and a little peas-blossom, I take on the exact appearance of the child I replace. When looking at me, you would never guess that I am middle- aged. Hardly! My skin has the sour and sweet perfume of diapers and baby powder. The fact that Susan has dressed me up for this inane holiday seems superfluous, and frankly, ridiculous. I do not want to be dressed as a stegosaurus. I am already pretending, why should I put on another mask?