a story written all by me purely fictional

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Odd Hour

ODD HOUR

The still before there was never more made such a gesture as to capture my lingering hope. Cast away doubt, as if I might prepare myself in such an odd hour. Taunting appearances return with me so off guard. Should I invite them in to be violated no more? Absent as I am so often from myself, crumbling carriage can carry no lode. As confined grey shifts blue to white drawn back to blue, not as bright today, overshadowed sights to see me through one more odd hour. Painfully lifting, tilting swiftly leaning towards blanketing wind, uplifting sights with tiring dire results. Such fruits I’ve tasted before, not remembering bleak futures meeting faster in such an odd hour. Blue turns to green, ever whiter. Shifting impulses leads to yet one more tour, of that which I never understood anymore, coming at times I need it least. Leaving me in places I never knew so little about. Frivolous activity keeps me occupied as plaster peeling seems tear, so it seems, revealed grandeur sleeping. Ashen walls enduring change. Settling no more in remembrances then settled I have in such an odd hour. Shining white, less blinding, shifting greener ever still. Sanity seeking flickering spirit in orchards of fallen fruit. Ebbing reality slips through vacant grasps reaching for something familiar as I regress into another tormenting malaise, bereft of this once tangible room. Expanding void invites them back reminding me I have been here before. Not so often enough to protect myself in such an odd hour. Looming green fading blue, forced to auburn into red. On edge, at the edge of this stained path, pushing forward following what is to follow, if it never touches my mind. Engrossing void giving way to ebon rain staining silver streaking walls, shifting blacker ever still. As still as I could be, new changes unknown to me. Chilling winds resume as they should show again. Patience. Waiting patiently.  Now I need them to help me through, as they have abandoned me in such an odd hour. Sinking deeper. Standing, shifting seems to mend broken seams, sinking deeper. Wading in crimson path, pondering tainted guises appear, meticulously removing remaining fragments of consciousness. Slipping into this unknown, though it was known before but not in this manner, this time change has abandoned that of the past. We must continue so I may return. Unmentionable concern. Any time now. Ominously leering as crimson path settles to settle about my waist. Queer sensation in such an odd hour. Lent myself to recite the past and this one shall not last in this fashion. Ebon walls blacker ever still as settling path fixes me in place. They conveniently recede indicating journeys end. Crimson path setting harder ever still. Placing me forever in such an odd hour.

 

Copyright ~ Antony Valoppi ~ 2011

Tule Fog

Tule Fog     ©2011

By R. Bailey

 

Fall fell and the foliage came tumbling after.  The tule fog mutated. First it was tule fog because they were a peninsula surrounded by a river and sloughs.  Then it was valley fog because they were a valley nestled within valleys.  Finally it became ground fog; a colloidal carpet that compressed lush and thick, covering the creek, rising over the pastel pasteboards, finally smothering the gables of Canterbury.  You could hardly see through it during the day and you could barely crawl through it at night.

The fog was home for Skin.  His earliest memories were of a straight finger of fog probing through the Golden Gate to Point Richmond, rusting the slides in the playground until they wouldn’t even work with wax paper.  Then it slowly filled the bay and basin with its smooth grey, right up to Grizzly Peak.  Even in Alaska, where the fog froze, he’d disappear into it to relish the solitude.  At night he itched to get away from the hard, warm walls of home and out into the soft, amorphic coolness.

At the end of the day the mustard bus emptied its contents in Canterbury.  Mick and Jim went for Joan watching Terri fade into the fog while she swayed with a wiggle, with a wiggle when she walked.   They knew she knew they were watching her.  Just as she disappeared, she turned back, shot them a little come-hither and was swallowed by the mist.

“Did you tell her about VanSickle?”

“Hell no, man, did you?”

“No way but she knows.”

“No, she doesn’t”

“She knows, man.”

“Doesn’t make any difference.”

“What if she tells him?”

“She hates his ass.”

“And you didn’t tell her?”

“Not me, did you?”

Day was night was day, over and over and over.  The apricots, walnuts, cherries, pomegranates, and grapes were gone.  The big walnut was bare and no longer offered protection.  But the fog graced them with a safe shelter in the late night.

 

Reilly popped the Zippo; they lit up Alpines.  They were cool in the back of the Signal station, invisible again.  Surrounded by a hodgepodge of old mismatched body parts, they were busy filling the rusted shell of a 48 Dodge with smoke, letting their breaths condense inside the windows, adding another veil of invisibility.

The cops rode cream Impalas down Prescott oblivious to the side show.  For them it was another night, again.  But for Skin and Reilly it was an observation platform.  The sparse world floated by in a haze as they kicked back wondering who had been laid upon these worn springs forged in Detroit.

Then the 53 flathead crawled by.  Reilly dinched the Alpine.

“It’s Van Sickle.  We better split.”

“What for?”

“He’s been looking for us every weekend, he’ll check here.”

“You sure?”

“Pretty.”

“Good.”

Skin traced flames into the bottom of the steamy window.  He wrote the backwards message with a flourish.

“Watch your back.”

They split the Dodge to join the fog.  Reilly wanted to stay and check it out.  Skin said if VanSickle did see the message, he’d search the entire place.  They maneuvered past the old body parts and were slowly sucked into the soft grey.  They hopped a fence and walked it.  It was one foot exactly in front of the other while leaning each ankle to the side against the fence boards. Step by step on the top of a two by, eight feet, over the four by, another eight feet on the two by, and over the next four by.  It would take them to Joan.

Rage wailed behind them.  Old body parts started crashing, glass windows shattered.  Then the crazed howling, “You son of a bitches, I’m gonna find your asses!  You’re dead men!  You’re fuckin’ dead men.”  Another howl, more glass breaking, suddenly a hair hat forced a hoarse whisper.

“Tommy, the cops.”

The flathead roared to life. A cream Impala screamed and leapt through the fog.  Tires screeched.  Steel crunched steel as the flathead rammed a tower of old body parts that crashed and fell back into the fogged up windshield.

A badge yelled, “Driver, get out of the car and put your hands over your head.  Passenger, get out of the car.  Put your hands up, NOW!”

They came off the fence on Joan.  Reilly was the pumpkin again.  “He’s busted man, he’s going to juvie, he’s busted.”  They relished the victory as they headed two more invisible blocks up Joan where they’d be home free.  Dim lights were squinting through the fog, Impala lights.  A searchlight tried to sweep the sidewalks in vain.  Skin and Reilly faded over a lawn and into oleanders.  The Impala’s searchlight didn’t even come close. It snapped off as it passed.

Hysterical VanSickle bleated with shrill urgency, “They’re here, keep looking, they’re here.  They did it, we tried to stop ‘em, you gotta believe me!”  The badge shot back, “You screwed the pooch, VanSickle.  We got your ass now.”  Sound travels easily through ground fog.

Skin and Reilly continued up Joan.  The pumpkin was about to burst.  “Too much and a half.”  He turned to Skin.  “Man, nobody else can find out about this.”  Skin was a grin.  “No problem.”

A gate silently swung opened as they passed.  A mushroom vortex of mist wafted up.  Terri stepped out barefoot in baby dolls, even more invisible than Skin or Reilly.  She watched the ground fog envelope them, wiggled her toes and slipped back behind the gate.

Skin and Reilly went back through their windows, conquerors of all they encountered; the night was still theirs.

 

Then came morning, again.  His mother crashed his door, again.

“ALL RIGHT YOU KNOW THE DRILL UP AN AT ‘EM GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED.”

There was no Michael there to scream at.  Her eyes exploded.  Her jaw clenched.  Her fists clenched.  Her neck muscles knotted and stretched out wider than a cobra.  She gave a low hiss and bared her fangs.  Her eyes gleaming blood red, she coiled and shot off.

Michael got up from his hands and knees, went to the sink and started to rinse the filthy towel.  The cobra was lurking at the kitchen door, its eyes crimson slits.  It hissed.  Before it could strike he turned.  “It’s OK, the wax is dry on this side of the kitchen.”  Not quite good enough, but the cobra’s hood did dip, the coil loosened.  The venom dripped but the words didn’t come. Michael was pleased with himself.  The stalking began.

“How long have you been up?”

“Since five.”  Big smile.

“What?” Eyes narrowing further, searching for the lie.

“I woke up.  I decided I’d get started.”

“What are you up to?”  Suspicion.

“I’m just trying to get everything done early.”

“What brought this on?”  Unsure.

“You said I shouldn’t wait to be told what to do.  I should take the initiative.  I’m done, can I go?”

The cobra’s neck unknotted, knotted, teeth ground, fists opened to claws and clenched to fists again, lips stretched tight over teeth, still unsure.

“OK.”

“Thank you, Mother.”

“Where are you going?”

“Maybe Jim and I’ll go down by the creek.”  He knew he had to give her something or she’d be roiling and hissing in a fit for the rest the day.

“DON’T YOU BRING ANY OF THOSE DAMN CRAYFISH BACK HERE.     “

The stare got cold; the eye slits froze, still looking for a fight.

Michael Riki Tiki Tavied around her and headed out.  Mim was coming down the stairs as he hit the door.

“Are you already done with everything?”

“Done and gone.  Good luck.”

Fear grew in her eyes as Michael got out while the getting was good.

 

Reilly was in his garage filing a spark plug from the Briggs and Stratton.  “How’d you get away so early?”

“Didn’t go to bed.  Got all my CHORES done before she could strike.”

“That must have made old Momzilla happy.”

“Yeah, I thought she was going to choke.”

“She still fighting with your dad?”

“You mean Johnny?  You betchum Red Ryder.”

Reilly screwed the sparkplug back into the mower and closed the garage door.  They headed down on Joan.  Terri emerged from her front porch, walked across her lawn toward them with wet toes.  She let her baby blue bathrobe fall open.  They could see her baby dolls.  “Hey guys, have a good time last night?”

Skin and Reilly came to an abrupt halt.  The fog was lifting.

“Hey Terri, what’s up?”

“I’m going to go paint my toenails, want to help?”

They both tried to swallow but couldn’t.  Skin cleared first.

“Uuuhhh.”

Reilly was a close second.  “What color?”

“Does it matter?”

“Uuuhhh, no, guess not.”

“What about you Micky?  Do you do toes?”

“Uuuhhh, well uuuhhh, I have before but uuuhhm, we’re kind of busy right now.”

“Well let me know when you’re ready for me.”  She turned; her hips swayed their way back to her porch.

Skin and Reilly finally closed their mouths and walked on for a while.

“She knows.”

“She can’t.”

“She knows.”

“How?”

“What’s the difference?  She knows, man!”

They didn’t look back.

 

They grabbed a couple of navels from an overhanging limb and started to peel.  They were just beginning to sweeten.  They got to Huckleberry and the field that would never be a shopping center.  Hodad was hanging with Ed.

Hodad was Greg, a short, broad-shouldered transplant from Oceanside, where a couple of years earlier, he’d fought the marines with his surfboard to lay claim to the best Pendleton breaks.  The Marines had won.

Ed was then and always had been, Ed.  He was a tall and lanky hard guy, science geek.  In the future he would be Sir Edward but that’s over the mountains and through the jungles.  He had been pushed into Sputnik’s math and science fast track but he had pushed back, hard.  It pissed off the Prescott Valley admin who figured they were losing cash because he wouldn’t play the game. Reilly and Skin split their navels and pieced them off.

A closet full of white shoes sauntered down Huckleberry.  Irwin, a half-assed fullback led the charge, “Hey guys, it’s the four freshmen sucking their navels.”

Suddenly they were in a crowd.  Skin was the fresh meat in the neighborhood especially to the white shoes.  He was an easy target.  Even full of Dixie Peach, his hair was unmanageable and always falling over his forehead where it nurtured little blooms of bright pink pimples.  His marionette arms and legs were a bully’s amusement park.

The white shoe figured to do a Grauman’s Chinese down Skinny Micky’s back.  Skin didn’t have a chance so he tried to fake it like a joke, but the white shoe had no sense of humor.  The more Skin tried to make him laugh, the harder Irwin pushed and pushed again.

Then Ed gets fed up with it and smears his Keds over Irwin’s bucks.  “Fuck off!”  Irwin can’t believe it and stares, speechless.  Ed takes a swing, catches him on the jaw.  Irwin staggers back.  Ed tries to punch him in the gut but Irwin clinches him and starts to pound him down.  Ed struggles free as Irwin lands a left to his head.  Ed falls.

Skin jumps to help Ed up and pull him away.  Ed shakes him off, Hodad pulls Skin back.  Ed gets up and charges.  Irwin knocks him down again.  Ed gets up.  Ed goes down.  Ed gets up.  Hodad and Skin try to hold him back but he breaks free and charges.  Ed goes down.  Hodad and Skin help him up.  Reilly blocks Ed and tells him not to do it.

Ed pushes them away and charges.  He swings and misses.  Irwin catches him hard in the gut and follows up to the side of his ear.  Ed goes down and out, a cauliflower starts to grow.  Irwin plants the smudged buck on the cauliflower, twists, laughs and walks away.  Skin and Reilly try to pick Ed up.  Hodad, who had treated skeg gashes in shark surf, stops them.  “He’s breathing evenly so he must not be hurt too bad.  He’ll come to on his own.”  Just like on Ben Casey, MD.

Ed flashes awake and jumps to his feet; they try to restrain him but he throws them off, sees the white shoe walking proudly away and yells for him to come back and fight!  Irwin flips him the bird.

Ed’s cauliflower starts to grow.  He looks at the three of them.  “That white shoe belongs to me.”

 

The one stop on Cape Cod filled the entire mustard bus.  When Mick and Jim got there Ed stood alone, jaw set and silent, cauliflower beet red and blooming.  Greg came up from Pickwick.  They all stood together.

“You OK?”  Greg was checking the cauliflower.

“No problem.”

Mick peered through the fog.  The mustard bus was coming up Cape Cod as Irwin turned the corner in his 51 Chevy.  He cheerily waved at Ed.  Ed slowly extended his arm and pointed, tracing his track to the corner and around the turn.

A murmur rumbled the crowd.  Word had traveled fast.  Ed’s beat down was the talk of Canterbury.  The tone subsided as Ed stared straight into the eyes of every single person standing there. The rumble stopped.  There wasn’t a sound.  The bus came up to the corner and it slowed right down.

Nobody looked Ed in his eyes.  The bus began to fill up and the whispering started again.  Ed was in a dark spotlight.  As the four of them got on all eyes were on the cauliflower. A silent shudder passed through the bus.

Pat, a voluptuous, raven-haired, 15 year-old beauty always rode the bus with her older sister and younger brother, Ron.  She had a different agenda.  Mick caught a seat in front of her.  He couldn’t help turning back to look at her, her smoldering blue eyes, her dark hair pulled back in a curling ponytail, and her blazing Jane Russell-red lipstick. As she talked, her Maidenform breasts stretched her angora sweater.  She had no pimples.  She wore white shoes.

She told the story of how she had been cast in a film that shot in town the previous summer.  She was just walking by with her large breasts in her tight sweater and they just happened to ask her to be in the movie.  Go figure.

Mick figured Ed needed time to himself.  He looked back at Pat.  As much as he tried he couldn’t take his eyes off her.  It had been going on for weeks. When she’d see him staring he’d turn away, quick.  After that she started to watch him.  He tried to ignore her; his very tenuous cool was at stake.  She’d stare at Mick, especially if he looked at her; he tried not to but… those eyes.  White shoe sophomore girls just did not purposefully encounter freshman boys, unless it was to humiliate them.

Pat had no interest in Ed or the cauliflower.  She was focused on Mick.  The older girls began giggling, especially the pretty ones.  Not laughing but giggling. Pat focused a stare that bore through him with deep mysteries oozing moist things he could only imagine.  But he was ready for it; it was what he had been waiting for.  He had a plan.  He’d seen it on TV.  And now was the perfect time.  He glanced back and, cool and smooth, stared right into those eyes.  Pat smiled and locked on him.  He sneered a little sneer like he’d seen Elvis do in the movies.

“Take a picture it lasts longer.”

Terri raised a dubious eyebrow.  Mick didn’t blink.  He stayed cool and stared Pat down.  She devoured him with her eyes and timed the perfect pause.

“I am.”

It’s surprising how quickly the blood can flow to a teenage boy’s face.  Fuchsias started to bloom, first in his ears, then bursting across his cheeks.  A scathing comeback failed to materialize; he was wordless, mouth breathing.  Pat, with breasts you could live in forever, was smiling at him like he was dessert.

“Oh looook, he’s blushing.” She purred to her friends.

The fuchsias caught fire.  Ron choked back a laugh.  Ed, Jim, and Greg didn’t.  Terri was amused.  Mick faced forward with Buckwheat eyes and finally got his mouth closed.

All the freshman girls, sophomore girls, junior and senior girls had seen the whole thing.  All the cool girls, all the awkward girls, all the still-trying-to-come-of-age regular girls joined each other for a whisper and a giggle.

It wasn’t so much that everyone broke up, he wasn’t cool or uncool enough for that to happen, but he had been set up and sacrificed.  And in the midst of it all, of course, humiliated.  He had seen it coming but instead of getting out of the way, he had stepped right in front of it and gotten run over.  The dark spotlight left Ed and focused right on Mick.

When his head cleared, Mick was walking through the parking lot with Jim.  Ed split for the locker room and Greg stopped to hang with the gremmies.

Terri slipped in between Mick and Jim as they passed the crowd of hair hats; who were in conference.

“You hear about VanSickle?”

“No what?”

“He’s in juvie.”

“No shit, what for?”

“He caught those punks who trashed his custom paint job; framed their bods through the plate glass window in the Signal on Prescott.  Blood all over the place.  He split but the cops chased him down; totaled his flathead.”

“No man!  What happened to the punks?”

“They got away again.”

Jim and Mick didn’t miss a step.

Terri didn’t either, “Exciting weekend.”  She watched Jim and Mick exchange glances.  “Whoever Tommy VanSickle did over must be pretty cut up.”

Jim and Mick were silent.  Finally Mick chirped, “I guess.”

“See you later, guys.”  And off she went for a smoke.

 

The junior side of beef was still on guard at the door to D-building head.  Jim and Mick tried it again.

“I told you ‘No freshman.’”

Jim tried again, “C’mon man…”

“Don’t piss me off, Reilly!”

Getting known.

They went through D-building out toward the football field.  Ed jogged by with his cauliflower, making a run for “the hill”, a 45% incline up the butte to the old cemetery and the police academy.  It was the training ground for Prescott’s soon-to-be-national-champion cross-country team and the part of the home course that defeated all opponents.  “C’mon man, suit up, run the hill.”  Ed wasn’t on the cross-country team but if they could do it, he could.  Jim and Mick waved and walked into the fog.

 

Jim popped the Zippo.  They lit up.  They were dragging Camels as the fog thinned.  The ambling frame of the Maxx was materializing before them.  The Camels got dinched quick.  Jim was about to fade away to the side but Mick grabbed him.  “No man, too late.”  He pulled him straight for the Maxx.  When they were close, Mick began.

“I told you we shouldn’t cut through the orchard, we’re gonna be late for homeroom!”

“You’re the one who had to stop and tie your shoes.”

The Maxx was there.

“You made us miss the bus.  Hey Mr. Maxx, we’re not late for homeroom are we?”

“No, but you better hurry.”

“See, I told you we’d make it.”

“Thanks, Mr. Maxx.”

And off they went without a hitch.

 

Later in the day, during algebra, Ron nodded at Mick.  He was OK, a blond-haired, blue-eyed police cadet.  His real last name wasn’t the same as his sisters but nobody in school knew that.  And even though he looked like a blond Norse demigod and his sisters were raven-haired beauties Raphael would have would have killed for, nobody knew their family was a product of divorce and remarriage.  That wasn’t talked about then.

In just a few years, a Black Panther Party Minister would shoot him dead and beat the rap.  He’d tell the Oakland jury how those piercing blue eyes and shining blond hair challenged and berated him, made him crazy.

After it happened and the headlines were gone, it took years to realize that it was Ron.  Mick had never seen Ron as a hard nose or racist as the Black Panther has described.  But then Jesse, who was still a year away and had been a blond-haired, blue-eyed hoodlum, told him he and Ron had been bitter enemies because Ron had Jesse pegged as a criminal.  Jesse did have that rep.  Ron became the first of Mick’s peers to find his moment of fame.

 

But that would be then.  This was now and the fog was lifting.  Their invisibility was fading.  The days were getting longer but the night had much more in store.

 

 

 

Life After Love, Part 2

Life After Love: Part Two

Cheri Bermudez

 

Each raindrop could hold a galaxy for all I know, she thought to herself. Considering things such as time, space and perspective always cheered her up. It reminded her how insignificant she really was in the large scheme of things. That was comforting. Grounding. It reminded her that out of all the things she knew the most important thing to remember was that she really didn’t know anything. The universe was too complex a place to understand, so there was no use pretending. It was human nature to wonder why the world was so and it was a curse of the human condition to never know the answer. She liked to think death provided clarity, but didn’t get her hopes up.

Time was a continuous, unstoppable force. Or was it? Was it possible to manipulate time through space? Was now all there really was? It couldn’t be. That would be so disappointing. So anti-climactic. She liked to think that time existed on different planes and in different dimensions. She hadn’t quite figured out how yet, but she liked to think each moment in time had its own special place in the universe. It’s own little niche. Each moment was occurring simultaneously at all times and so there really was no such thing as time or death or beginnings or ends. There were just different stops along an infinite timeline. Right now was just where her consciousness happened to be.

She liked to think that when she slept she traveled light years away, around the universe and back. Maybe she traveled to different lifetimes, different forms of existence. The possibilities were endless, which was exactly why she liked considering them. There was no right or wrong, just infinite possibilities. Just like there were infinite raindrops.

So maybe, somewhere in time and space, she was with him. Somewhere in the universe they were together, happy and in love. Maybe that’s where she went when she slept. Those moments in time when they were together. The moments had been brief, but they were the happiest she had ever known. If she could choose anywhere in time and space to be, it would be with him. It didn’t matter where or when. As long as she was with him. And as long as he loved her again. She wasn’t so naive to think he loved her still.

They were done for this lifetime. He had moved on, moved past her. He was happy with someone else. She didn’t understand how it was possible to love someone so much that didn’t love you back. It seemed so very illogical and self-depreciating. It went against all biological instincts. That was because love was selfless. Evolution, on the other hand, was selfish.

Those that loved too deeply would be weeded out by natural selection she figured. At least those whose love was unrequited. It hurt too much not to be fatal.

 

Going Nowhere

by Jacqui Talbot,  http://justjacqui2.wordpress.com

I am almost home when the street ends abruptly at a high wall.  The bricks have faded and mortar crumbles at the touch.  Odd, I don’t remember seeing it before.  I shake my head and turn around, only to find a dense forest of pine trees instead of the cars, pedestrians and cigarette littered pavement that were there just a moment ago.  I listen for the hum of traffic, but all I hear is the wind.

I wonder if I’m dreaming. Must be. Otherwise, I’d probably be screaming by now. Instead, all I feel is mild surprise.  I lean forward and touch one of the trees.  It seems solid enough, the bark rough against my palm.  Pine needles cover the ground.  The clean, fresh scent of evergreen makes me smile.  I’ve spent so much time inhaling hospital disinfectant and exhaust fumes that I’d almost forgot what fresh air smells like.

The forest is dark, the canopy overhead blocking most of the moonlight.  It’s chilly beneath the trees.  I pull my worn cardigan closer and shrug.  I’m not going to get home standing here and waiting for the street to reappear.  I start walking, my surprise replaced by a dreamy feeling of contentment.  I don’t know why, but being here feels right.  It’s as if someone or something has taken control of my emotions.  There is no fear, no uncertainty, only a driving need to move forward.

The wind grows stronger, ripping at my sweater.  Long strands of brown and gray hair blow around my shoulders, the rest straining against the small army of bobby pins holding it in place atop my head.  As I walk, my footing grows uncertain, my orthopedic shoes unable to get traction on the slippery pine needles covering the forest floor.  Finally, I stop and take them off.  I know I won’t need them anymore.

The wind grows calmer.  The night air presses against me, not in a suffocating way, more like a warm, fuzzy blanket made of air.  In response, I remove the ill-fitting nurse’s scrubs uniform and look down at my pale, fleshy belly. Time has not been kind. Varicose veins mar the once smooth perfection of my legs, seeming to squirm with every step.  Stretch marks squirm up the sides of both legs

I keep walking, cheered by the sight of my freshly painted toenails against the dark green and brown pine needles.

The forest floor changes. Slimy, purple loops of intestines lie underfoot. They squirm with every step, and I have trouble keeping my balance, but I’m not afraid or even disgusted. The squishy feeling reminds me of the thick black mud along the banks of the Mississippi where I grew up.  I spread my toes, dig in, and keep walking.

Then he is standing there, naked, arms loose at his sides. Norman. Five foot-eight, balding on top and working the comb-over, shoulders rounded from too many hours spent hunched over books and computers. My Norman.  I rush forward to embrace him, only to falter when he doesn’t respond.  Confused, I stumble to a halt.

Suddenly, I am afraid but don’t know why. I look around and see others roaming through the forest, each one lost in his or her own nightmare.

“Where are we?” I ask, startled by the tremor in my voice.

He shrugs.

“Am I dead?”

He shrugs again, a small smile on his thin lips.

“Oh.”

He is still staring at me, and I’m starting to get angry.

“Where are we, Norman?”  But I already know.  We’re in the Forest of Broken Lives, the place where dreams and might-have-beens are buried. Everyone ends up here eventually, each of us paying for acts we committed in life. But to whom were we paying? God? The Devil? Ourselves?

Norm turns, picks an apple from a tree that wasn’t there a moment ago, and passes it to me. When it touches my hands, the fruit turns into a fetus. Small, about the size of a peach, with ten heartbreakingly small fingers and ten tiny toes. Perfect, except that it is dead. Hundreds of trees surround us, each branch bending under the weight of unborn children suspended by their umbilical cords, all dead, swinging gently in the wind. Occasionally, one drops to the forest floor with a soft plop.

I stare at the dead child in my arms, and then at Norman.

“You knew?” I whisper.

He nods and turns away.

The child in my arms is so small.  Tears threaten, but I blink them away.  I made my choice.  The time for crying has passed.

“Forgive me.”

Norm turns, takes my hand and our little family – such as it is – ventures deeper into the Forest of Broken Lives.

Warrior

by Eric LeGrow

Sitting above a crossbar of steel, high above the roaring New York, so staggering a view, I knew a man, though he was not my friend. He stayed isolated from the group, working the harder jobs along the trim steel, hauling wires and jumping rails, as if he dared God to let him slip. When the boys ate their lunches hundreds of feet above the solid concrete, he drank from a small silver flask, the only sustenance we ever saw him ingest. But that man, alone atop the blaring city, rivaled the memory of Hercules.

Watching him work, you could image him beating raw ore into form. A brute who a thousand years ago would have been hailed a God, only to be the grunt, the fat ant doling out his life. Knowing him made me scoff at TV; boxing, bare knuckle, even famed blood sports paled in comparison.

One night with my wife I sat eating quietly in a diner adjacent to a club notorious simply for the patrons who frequented. Out of the blue He came, flask peaking out of his jeans. His eyes took sight of the club and he gave a roar, his body launching him through the door. Gunshots fired, quickly overpowered by the sound of fists packing meat into the floor. I watched as minutes later he poured out of the door, his chest slipping blood from entry holes, his fist still gripped tight to one man’s neck.

He spent the next at work free falling from one railing level to another. Some starred in wonder, question why any man would tempt death so much.

Why wonder, I say.

He was a gladiator at his prime, hauling metal. A small child had better education than this titan. None had right to judge.

Men who claimed him a degenerate stared in awe when his fists swung, both exhilarated and demeaned, for the could never match up.

Women who recoiled in disgust lived in a fantasy at the quiet hour, a world where his arms wrapped tight around them and their breath left in ecstasy.

For 25 years I knew him, without ever knowing him. At 45 he had a heart attack at the 20th floor of a building and fell. The concrete spilt beneath the impact of his incredible mass. Ribs cracked, bones shattered, and still he attempted to rise only to spit blood. It took medics twenty minutes to even cut far enough to drain the blood from his lungs, but by then it was too late.

He was laughing though. A rolling laughter till the last moment, the final chuckle echoing.

In all those years, the only thing I’d ever heard him utter was, “I’ve got no time for dreams or wishes. You can’t fell nuthin’ in em’ anyhow. Pain is real.”

People ask me where the heroes are nowadays. I laugh and say we killed them.

Book X: Pointlessness

from the upcoming collection of short stories “DEADICATION” by Abadawn Sims

Artie was a clown. He wasn’t one of those clowns with a name like Bozo, Bonky’ or another cliché “B” name. No, he was just Artie the Clown. It was just his real name plus “the clown”. He always secretly wanted someone to call him “art” but instead it was always the full Artie. To tell the tale of how Artie became a clown is a whole story in itself, and so we shall focus on the end.

Tonight Artie sits on a crate just outside of the elephant stables. Hands on his head that hangs low Artie tries to remember a time before he was sad. He can’t. The other clowns are still in their dressing rooms getting ready, practicing ridiculous tricks and acting as though any of it really matters. The lifeless cheeks under his sunken eyes feel as though weights have been tied to them for years. He tries to keep awake but he keeps drifting off into a realm of sheer terror. He sees images no man wants to see. He awakes to take another swig of rum from the inside of his patchy suit jacket while spilling half of it down his painted chin then drifts off again.

Ander and Inger walk by arms locked side by side. The Swedish acrobat couple from hell, they act constantly infatuated with one another in public, after the show they get drunk and scream at each other in their trailer only to make up for it later having loud Swedish sex that everyone hears. Artie used to masturbate to it. That was years ago. It’s all bothersome now. They walk by him letting out loud giggles that would make a Disney writer pull the trigger.

In misery Artie closes his eyes. The sad clown is attacked with twisted visions of hell as he drifts off into a drunken emergency nap. For the past fifteen years about four to five times a day Artie finds himself waking up from these. His body so weary and shot from the abuse that it comatoses itself at sparse moments. There’s no auto-pilot on his blackouts anymore, it’s just black and he’s just out.

Everything is stale smoke. There’s nothing but a cloudy haze as he awakes only minutes after falling asleep. He can hardly see through his own strained eyesight. As his focus comes back he feels wet. Looking down he realizes he pissed himself. Gibberish at a low grumble streams from his cracked lip-stick red lips. As he fumbles around attempting to get up without the attempt, a small framed female in an Evil Kneivel knock-off suit with helmet in hands is kicking him. It’s Fernie, one of the human cannon balls and a real bitch to Artie.

“you need to get the fuck up scumbag, this is supposed to be family entertainment.”

“we..we’rre not enter-uhhhtainin any famlees right naow!” he tried to retort.

“you are a bumbling idiot and I’ve had enough of working with worthless drunks like you, the show starts in twenty and if Ringmaster Ducrow sees another slip up from an old alkie clown falling asleep during his act perhaps, I’m going to be so on his ass about getting you the fuck out of here.”

“shove it, wench!” he managed to pronounce clearly.

There she goes, dropping an exaggerated o-face and storming off back to the Ringmasters trailer. Artie used to hear them screwing too, he never masturbated to that. He hated Ducrow and saw him as the devil himself not to mention Fernie was a cunt. Ducrow only keeps Artie around because he knows he has nowhere else to go, but because of this he always rubs it in his face. Last year every clown in the circus got a bigger trailer. Not Artie. Artie still has to bunk with Larry the Llama man; a freak show act of a human that grows wool like a sheep. Once Ducrow caught Artie falling asleep in a blackout during the clown performance, and he literally beat the shit out of him that night. Even Larry the Llama man had trouble sleeping with the seeping shit smell that wafted from Artie’s sleeping corner. Ever since then any mistake that Artie makes is punished by brute physical torture. The only good thing to come out of the shit-kickings was that Artie wasn’t usually able to perform a day or two after, and he liked that. The list only goes on from there as to why our beloved clown hates the Ringmaster Ducrow.

Fernie the human cannon-ball however is in love with Ducrow. Although, he has no care for her, he sleeps with all of the female acts; bearded women included. He even sleeps with Inger and she’s married, however often enough Ander is included. Artie would get jealous those nights and would be unsure whether to masturbate or not, and was usually too drunk to get it up regardless.

So the dust settled, all was quiet and Artie fell back asleep. Suddenly he was being kicked into consciousness again, this time is was Boingo The Clown.

“Come on Artie we got to go on now!”

“I..I’mmm comin gawdammit.” Artie stood up and stumbled about as Boingo rushed around the corner to the main floor.

As he began to stagger in the same direction Artie nostalgically turned around to look at the backstage area, and for a brief moment felt as if he were a kid again, seeing it all for the first time. What now brings him misery used to be a place of joy and wonder. For all he cared this could be the last time he saw it, and it was.

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN ARE YOU READY FOR FUN!?”

The crowd of stupid children and fat parents roared.

“Ringmaster Ducrow presents to you; The Bouncy Clown Brigade!”

The audience uprises in hoots and hollers as the clowns make way onto the field.

Artie stumbles out alongside the other clowns that all perform their silly introductory antics. Then all eight of them pack into the tiny car, they drive around in circles and park right over a trapdoor. As the eight clowns pile out eight more follow out of the trunk from the trapdoor. The crowd is ecstatic.

The clowns all gather at one side of the ring while Bugsy The Clown makes way to center stage unveiling a cart of pies, Beanie The Clown runs to the opposite side of the stage and mimes rude gestures to the rest of the clowns. Bugsy holds out a pie and the first clown runs up grabs the pie jumps on the little trampoline and flings the lemon mirengue right into Beanie’s face. Two more clowns repeat the process, then it’s Arties turn.

As Artie runs towards the pie he drunkenly trips on his own feet and falls face first into the pie in Bugsy’s hand. The crowd is out of their seats in laughter. This would have been fine considering its part of the act but there were nine more clowns supposed to do the same thing before the tenth clown Brussels trips and falls into the pie. Because Artie fell early it shaves about 3 minutes off of their performance, and timeliness is important to Ringmaster Ducrow, he glares at Artie from ring side, Fernie right behind him giving a devilish grin his way.

The next couple acts went by without a hitch, but Artie couldn’t ward off the daunting stares he was getting from Ducrow, Fernie and the rest of the clowns. With one act left he finally said “fuck it”. As the exit music played and each clown did their silly final move Artie unbuttoned his bottoms, exposed himself and began to piss. The children laughed, the parents cringed and Ducrow began pulling his hair out and yelling obscenities. “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING RING NOW!” he demanded.

The clowns ran off ring towards the back stage quarters as Artie purposely lagged behind. The lights went dim and the cannon was rolled out into view. The crowd burst into excitement, completely forgetting the clown dick that was just presented to them.

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! ARE YOU READY FOR THRILLS!?”
The crowd of stupid children and fat parents roared.

“Ringmaster Ducrow presents to you; The Fearless Flying Fernie!”

The audience cheers as Fernie skips towards the cannon.

She purposely bumps into Artie on her way “I told you, you’re gone asshole.”

He has nothing left to say to her. Ducrow eyes down Artie, and points to the backstage before starting to hastily head there.

Fernie skips to center stage, giving a bow to the crowd she puts on her helmet and climbs into the cannons bore. The fuse is lit and the stadium is silent except for the faint hiss of the burning wick. Ducrow enters the backstage and turns around to no Artie to beat down. “What the fuck is he doing?” he was in the middle of saying when.

BOOM!

The cannon is shot, Artie jolts in front of the rifling as Fernie is hurled out of it. She flies through his body liquefying around her. The cloud of blood and flesh of a funny man fills the air like one of Gallagher’s watermelons. Fernie skids across the ground limp with her spine broken in several places. Artie’s bottom half takes a last reflexive stagger and plops to the ground. All of the parents cringe and all of the children laugh.

Life After Love, part 1

by Cheri Bermudez

I’ll be an author. I’ll simply publish a book, she thought to herself, rationally. Then she laughed. For someone who was (obviously) having delusions of grandeur, she certainly wasn’t having illusions of grandeur, her surroundings the same, as they always were. An apartment, a bedroom. Nothing permanent. She paid rent month to month. Every time she took the rent check to the main office she imagined $650 being flushed down the toilet. It might as well be. Where she was wasn’t home. Nothing was home right now.
She hadn’t always been so lost. At one point in her life she had felt very much at home; she had even imagined one in her head (a home, that is). Now she couldn’t picture home in her head. She had no idea where it was. Well. She had an inkling. But it was pointless to focus on that inkling, that feeling. Because the home she had once imagined in her head was now an impossibility, due to stupidity and circumstance. Better not to focus on that now.
That was how she handled things. Well, things that provoked any emotion. Not right now. It should be her motto. She always told herself she’d deal with it later. Whenever that was. It wasn’t her fault that she was so fucked up (she told that to herself too). It was a psychological reaction to anything that made her feel. Feelings are too powerful. They can take over who you are, make you do things that shouldn’t be done. It’s much better to be rational. Neutral. A lesson learned the hard way, but, she thought, at least she had learned it early in her life. Perk up, sourpuss! It wasn’t so bad. It really wasn’t. She thought it akin to what being haunted by a ghost may feel like. A moment, a feeling. It reminded her too much of a distant past that she barely remembered and of a more recent past that she remembered all too well. A paradox. A conundrum. Call it what you will. It was her life.
She became lost early in life, due to circumstance. At one point she had found home. But due to stupidity, she became lost again. Sheer stupidity. She could attribute it to being young, but nineteen isn’t so young. She really should have been more honest. Honesty, such a simple thing, may have saved her home. But because she had lied, the home was lost. Simple and plain. Why had she lied?She asked herself that every day, and that alone would bring her close to tears. So, not right now. Best not to think of that right now. Blink the tears away and keep on chugging. Or drifting. She wasn’t sure which she was doing. Probably drifting. Maybe paddling just a little, she thought to herself, trying to be positive. But really, she was drifting.
Failure, failure, failure. The words repeated in her head in a taunting rhythm. Her other motto. Or maybe it should be a nickname. Failure. She wasn’t really a failure though- as previously mentioned, she was simply drifting. She hadn’t found her spot in the world yet, and at 26 felt like she had somehow missed out on her entire life. The days would just pass. One after another. One the same as the other. She needed to find her place, her niche. Until then, the days that passed were nothing but failures to her.
Now back to this problem of feeling. In order to find her niche, she knew, she would have to feel. Something she did not at all want to do. Despite her distain for feelings, she wasn’t a sociopath. Not even close. She did feel things, but feelings are not logical, so she tried not to give them much merit. She had feelings every day, and some she didn’t mind so much. Like the feeling conjured when seeing a puppy or a kitten. That feeling was okay. But there were specific feelings she tried to dodge or elude. Every day was a fight, a match. Her vs. Shitty Feelings. That’s how she thought of them- they almost had their own persona. Shitty Feelings. Sometimes she won, and she managed to dodge Shitty Feelings for a day, but usually she lost. Sometimes she would dodge Shitty for half of the day, but he would take over the other half. Shitty Feelings was a man, in her mind, since most of her shitty feelings had something to do with men. Two men, specifically. Maybe it should be a woman though, because she also had a lot of shitty feelings about herself.
She thought about him specifically though. A lot. Every day. At least one million times a day. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Her heart, her home was with him. And he was gone. Gone forever. How does one cope with that?
There is no coping. Only survival. And survive she would. Scratching and clawing to get through each day did get a bit old at times, but it was what she was use to. It was what was comfortable, albeit not very healthy. That’s ok, she told herself. It’s how life is suppose to be. Life isn’t the fairy tale she had once believed it to be. Being young and naïve had its perks, but she had been disillusioned long ago. Besides, everyone has to grow up at some point.

Insular Dreams, by Antony Valoppi

Insular Dreams

Carelessly caressing the past brings futures farther from ever needing relentless

rewards. Aftermath path leads to nevermore, evermore, more so never in sight

but vaguely on the surface. Surface mass shown past the odds of finding truth

within these callas confines in mind. Letting all go to ever felt. Call unto you by

no chance, perchance a lack of fluid thoughts caught on barbs of arid flesh –

dangling close to outcry – once tried to no avail. A veil of silence enveloped by

searing sight of light. Come three bells fell sustaining trough of spine and feet

at my feet as the stomach grows fond of this intrinsic ort shackled belly to hull in

this prison adrift. Sharing space with thine own leg gave back unto me. Grave

separation, companion reminder, a donation of fates path lay beside me for days

inviting scavenging maggots leaving me to dine on vile waste too offensive for

their taste. Pulled at four bells from this box cell to bare witness of thine maiden

secured by rope, gowned for parade – enslaved. I would give that very leg in

floors below to cease this torture of my soul’s beloved. For she is like the air after

a thunder storm. As voices of such a multitude increase – as rail side dragged –

displayed anchored plank. Defiant reed resisting sea spray. Why her eyes never

reached so deep to my soul as now – as last sight falls to me. Soft pedal eases

gently to meet the sea. Below I am shut. Laughter trapped by latched boards

echoing in this box cell.

Copyright ~ Antony Valoppi ~ 2011

Book I: Supernova

from the upcoming collection of short stories “DEADICATION” by Abadawn Sims

Timmy wanted to be a ROCK STAR. Ever since a toddler, his father would style his hair into a Mohawk while blaring The Minutemen and chain smoking cigarettes in their wood-rot mobile home. His father was his idol. He carried himself like no other person Timmy had ever seen on TV or at the market. His dad was a rebel, with a pissed off face and little care left for the world, he didn’t seem to have much care left for mother either. It seemed the only people that matched his look were the yelping out of tune voices that came out of the record player on those evenings they spent together. Although it was more like the evenings Timmy sat near and observed as his dad swilled tall-cans of liquid he wasn’t allowed to; nodding his head and singing along with the noise, often falling asleep on his hand me down Lazy-boy recliner without giving any recognition to his son staring from the corner.

The scent of spaghetti (again) filled the pseudo home one evening as mom dripped sweat into a bowling pot and Timmy played with his younger brother on the cat-shit stained kitchen floor. “Timmy let go of Lucas and go get your father!” mom screeched over the beeping microwave signaling the tomato sauce was luke-warm. “I said GO!” with no time-delayed Timmy dropped his brother who sprawled across the floor wailing as he shot out the back door as his mother barked remarks and words he wasn’t too familiar with.

In the back of the house was a shed that Timmy was never allowed in. His father always kept the doors locked, windows blocked and extra precaution was taken so that nobody entered. There was however a doorbell installed, and in routine for years now he would hit the buzzer and minutes later out would come his father barreling in sweat and anxious wonderment with questions of the current situation that called upon him. Only this time wasn’t so routine.

As the ten year old Timmy approached the shed and extended his arm to prod his little index finger at the bell there was an eruption. The child’s body was crumpled by an explosion that sent chemical clouds gushing out of the windows and roof as the wood was practically torn from its shingles and nails. Boards went flying and dust suddenly took the atmosphere as the white plumes of smoke grew with the flames that reached outward. As Timmy’s consciousness faded into reality he found himself several meters from where he once stood. Mother burst out of the back door with little Lucas in hand letting out a shrill scream at a pitch; high and resonating, almost never ending.

The EMT, the Firemen, the Police and reporters all swarmed the property. Timmy was examined, taken to the ambulance and whisked away from the scene. He didn’t question anyone of anything. Never asked if he’d ever see his mother or brother again, nor did he attempt to make sense of where his dad was and what destroyed the shed; he just went. He was too exhausted to fight, and too young to realize what had just happened.

The next day he was in the hospital eating a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and apple slices when two people he had never seen before entered his room. “Hey Timmy, how are you feeling today?” the plump black woman asked him. He felt obligated to answer based on the fact she appeared more reassuring than the tall and stern gray-haired man beside her. “I am okay, I want to go home now.” He said ignoring the pain from his broken collar bone and left wrist. Then the baritone voiced man he didn’t want to hear from replied with “It’s a little more complicated than that son.” While giving a smug look that should have been concern but was all too hollow. They asked Timmy further questions, delving deeper into what happened at his home. What did mommy and daddy do? What did him and his brother eat? What kind of friends did dad have? How often did mom hit Timmy and Lucas? He answered all of their questions honestly and to his best knowledge. The two suits seemed to be very pleased with his participation. That is until they asked him about the shed, and a flash of memory surged him; suddenly he could smell the smoke and feel the blast. With a hall echoing child-like gag he vomited on himself.  As nurses rushed in to strip Timmy of his own filth the two well dressed left without saying a word and wearing grimaced expressions.

After some time in the hospital Timmy would meet with the suited interviewers from before. A worker in the hospital brought him to a small building only a few minutes away where he was shuffled into the cubicle maze and brought to the desk of the plump woman; she looked frazzled and the gray-haired man wasn’t in sight. As she spoke to him kindly of how they had found him a family and that everything was going to be okay his hearing became distant and there was no focus. The woman turned into nothing but colorful static fuzz in the background.

Timmy did alright in the Foster care system. He was kicked out of the first house on the first day for calling his foster dad an “old dick farting faggot” (he learned that one from his dad), but the home after that he was kept in for years, it seems they were more tolerant to more colorful language. That is until he was 16 and the home went under investigation. Ends up the foster parents had been molesting their new intakes for sometime now. Timmy thought back but he couldn’t remember them doing anything inappropriate to him, and so they found it was only the girls, and the entire home was broken up and scattered as if everyone in it wasn’t broken enough.

Shortly after that he was put into a new home, and that’s where he met her. A slim built dirty blond that sat on the stairs observing Timmy’s introduction to his new foster parents. He was watching her back through the corner of his eye, and finally looking directly at her she abruptly stood and ran up the stairs. His first couple days there he didn’t have the nerves to approach her, though she slowly consumed his thoughts as time went on.

One evening as he sat at the kitchen lazily doing English homework, the foster mom asked him to gather the rest of the kids for dinner. With a grumpy groan he journeyed upstairs yelling and banging on various doors  “it’s dinner fuck faces, come eat!”. He came to her door and delayed. Creaking it open ajar he called in almost a whimper “Shayla?” There was no answer. He opened the door wider and beyond crumpled sheets and dirty clothes there was nobody there, but the window was open. As he peered his head out of the window he looked right and saw nothing then turned left and saw her sitting there. She looked frightened. “What are you doing out here?!” She shrieked and fumbled her hands about her sweater. “Darlene says it’s time to eat, I just came to get you.” Shayla eyed him up and down while looking ashamed, “well tell her I’m coming, I’ll be down in a minute. Just don’t tell anyone I was out here.” He smiled and reassured “your secret is safe with me.” She looked him directly in the eye and quietly asked “would you like to come hang out up here with me later tonight?” nervously stuttering he accepted “y-y-yeah, of course.” They went inside and he could hardly contain himself at dinner, often tuning everyone else out and consistently glancing at her in disbelief and anticipation.

Later that night as he laid in his bed listening to the radio she peeked in. “Psst! follow me Tim!” He crept out behind her and into her room, she gracefully moved out the window onto the roofing and looked back to confirm he was there. They got to the spot he saw her earilier just beyond the edge of the far rooms window and sat down. “You promise you won’t tell anybody?” she asked. He looked at her and with a sarcastic tone said “I’m gonna tel everyone.” She let out a laugh and realized she felt comfortable with him. She pulled out a small clear glass pipe, dropped some small white crumbs into it and began to heat it up with a lighter. “You ever smoke ice before Tim?” All he’d ever smoked was cigarettes, he was offered pot once at school but declined. “Nope, never have.” She hit the pipe and eyed him “here, now you take a puff” and he did. The taste was familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

After he blew out the smoke it was like all of his senses sky rocketed. He felt a rush of energy, pride, anxiousness and he quickly turned for another hit. After a couple more he was feeling like a superhero, he started telling Shayla all of these things that he wanted to accomplish and she smiled at him talking as well but he couldn’t hear anything but himself. Suddenly she leaned over and started kissing him. All talk stopped as they were engulfed into each other. “Come on” she quietly said while taking his hand and dragging him back to the window. They got into her bed and peeled off layers of clothing.  He never asked her if it was hers, but he knew it was his first time, and it was amazing. She fell asleep on his chest after they both climaxed, but he couldn’t. He lay there with her in his arms until 5am, then he went back to his room and awaited the school day.

As he was walking towards the school Shayla suddenly rushed beside him grabbing his arm. “Hey mister, fuck school! You should come with me.” They headed down a backstreet going away from the high school. “Where are we going?” Timmy asked. “To go get more ice.” She said with a smile. He looked at her with concern “Doesn’t that cost a lot of money?” she giggled “when I’m at school I’m bumming lunch money, and it adds up. Plus it’s not like Meth is all that expensive anyways.”

They approached a small tan house, the yard was covered with kitchen appliances, rotting chairs and knee high grass. She rang the door bell and the door cracked showing a tattered womans face “Hey Shayla, what’s up?” the girl at the door asked. “I need to see Rueben, and don’t worry about Tim here, he’s safe.” The haggard lady looked at Timmy with one bruised eye and then retreated as she unlocked the door chain and let them in.

Inside of the house it smelled rancid. There was a Television blaring day-time soap operas and on the floor was a man scribbling on paper while rocking back and forth. Shayla led him past and went to one of the bedroom doors lightly knocking “Rueben, it’s Shayla!” The door opened and they entered. Rueben, a slim latino man with a scar on his right cheek sat on the bed. “What’s up with this little prick.” he quizzed while glaring at the both of them. “This is Tim, he’s my boyfriend and he’s cool, don’t trip.” Timmy looked at her in bewilderment, thinking I’m her boyfriend now? Yes! He didn’t even care that neither of them asked, and the fact it had been less than 12 hours since they said their first words to one another. “Well what you need girl?” Rueben asked. Shayla took out a wad of crumpled bills from her coat pocket “I got fifty bucks Rube, what you got?” The latino started wading through various boxes around the bed. “I got some good shit right now Shay, it’ll fuck ya’ll up.” He let out a raspy laugh as he pulled out a bag with a few chunky white rocks in it “here’s a half.” He handed her the baggie, she opened it and looked at Timmy with delight. They all started smoking.

The routine went as follows; school was out of the picture, they’d roam the streets everyday high on their youth mixed with methamphetamine. When they were getting close to out of a sack Shayla would leave him at the park while she went to the school at lunchtime and returned with various amounts of money, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. They’d go to Rueben’s house, get more rocks and the cycle continued. Evenings they’d return home, avoiding the foster care and spending the nights fucking in her bed and talking about anything and everything. This went on for weeks.

One night as Timmy snuck into her room and got into the twin sized mattress with her she said “I have something to tell you Tim.” He laid quiet as she explained that she had been throwing up and feeling odd. She’s late on her period and thinks she may be pregnant due to their lack of condom use. He was shocked but not worried, it made sense and he didn’t want to scare her. He for some reason almost felt like he was ready to father a child, especially with Shayla. They agreed to not tell anyone and keep it their secret, and he promised her everything would be alright.

The routine pursued for several more weeks. Shayla got cash, they bought bags from Rueben and all was good in life. One night they hung out on the roof of their home and got extra high, started talking of dreams of the future, their life together. They went inside and began to make love, love like neither of them had felt before. Out of nowhere the door to the room opened, the light turned on and both foster parents stood there. “Oh fuck!” Timmy shouted as he jumped off of Shayla and began a quest for his clothing. Darlene and the foster dad yelled and screamed. “Get out! What are you two thinking!” Darlene slapped the girl as Timmy ran downstairs putting on his clothes and she followed close behind. They left the house with nothing more than the pipe and a bag with a few small rocks left.

They headed out to Rueben’s house for a place to stay the night. They got their and rang the doorbell but nobody answered. They could hear the television at full volume but there was no sign of anybody inside, which was very unusual. “Fuck it, we’ll be okay let’s go.” Timmy said grabbing Shayla’s hand and leading her away. It was cold and it began to rain harder than ever.

With teeth chattering they found a spot under a small bridge nearby and fell onto each other, shivering. Shayla pulled out the pipe and bag with the few remaining crumbs “this will keep us warm” she said as she dropped the rocks into the pipe and began to heat it up. Timmy’s mind was storming, he couldn’t stop talking about how they were going to be okay and he would find a way for them to have a life together without going back to the home. He wanted to save her, he didn’t know how but he knew there was a way.

They finished up what was left of their smoke, and were so lifted into euphoria that they couldn’t even feel the hypothermia setting in. Timmy laid back against the wet cement looking up to the underside of the bridge. Shayla laid her head on his lap, teeth chattering. Blood began to spill out of the front of her skirt and into the water below them. She lightly convulsed completely unaware of what was happening as the expelled secretions of fetus streamed into the rainwater and flowed out from under the bridge where they froze together.

“Tell me what it’ll be like Tim, tell me please?” she whinnied at him as she laid with eyes closed, forgetting to breath again. The blood was mostly in the street now, besides the few small solid chunks that remained squished between her still legs. He wanted to tell her what he saw for their future, but the words never made it out of his throat. He closed his eyes and envisioned a nice home with good property out in the woods somewhere. It was summertime and in the kitchen Shayla cooked dinner and took care of the kids in their lavish double-wide trailer. As he began to drift away into nothingness following his lover into the unknown and escaping the rain, his last vision was their homes flourishing backyard; with a nice shed in the back.