Archives for September 2015

#291 Things Happen Way Too Fast in New York City

#291 Things Happen Way Too Fast in New York City

I step onto the Greyhound bus in Kansas City, look in the rearview mirror. I see my dad’s old Chevy pickup pulling away.

“Remember what I told you.” His last words ring in my ears. I’m finally going to the Big Apple, where I know I’ll find fame and fortune playing and strumming my guitar. I’ve been playing guitar since I was ten, and I’m the best ever.

I pat my wallet to be sure it’s in my back pocket with the $800 remaining after paying for the ticket. The bus speeds down the highway at a constant 55 mph, and I watch the harvested fields flying by. I make a wish that I’ll never see them again. Who the hell wants to live in Kansas growing corn when I can be in New York?

I fall to sleep and wake hours later when the bus pulls into the terminal on 51st Street in the heart of New York City. I get off; pick up my one bag and my guitar. Walking out the door, I’m greeted by a smiling man with a gun.

“Welcome to New York my good man,” He says, and takes my bag, guitar, and wallet, leaving me with nothing in a place where I have no friends. Why’d he pick on me? Did it show that I’m a country bumpkin? Hell, I thought wearing cowboy boots and a fringed jacket made me cool enough to blend right in.

My first night in the big city, and I’m hungry and homeless, but never the less, I’m here. Kansas with its loneliness and barren plains will soon be erased from my memory. New ones of art and music will replace them, if I don’t starve to death first.

I walk down to 42nd Street and head for Broadway, that great Milky White Way. Passing the restaurants I endure aromas of cooking food spilling out over the dirty sidewalk, pizza, roast beef, and god knows what else? My stomach rumbles, baked smells penetrates my nostrils.

I get to Broadway, a wide street, and look up to see gray buildings rubbing against a blue and white sky. I’m not the only one mesmerized. There are others like me that have never before seen such a sight. I know by staring up I’m marked as an out-of-towner, because New Yorkers look at their feet as they walk, avoiding each other’s eyes and the shining neon colors glowing from so many signs.

I jog down steps leading to a massive subway system. I can take a nap on the subway train. Worn out from the long ride here, I need time to think how I’m going to survive with no money, food or friends to help, in this canyon of a city.

Hearing the roar of trains from below, I jump over the orange turnstile without paying and ride the escalator down to a place I never dreamt exists. Posters on every wall, lights everywhere, warm air, and clean swept floors. Trains make wind and noise as they pass, people congregate where the doors will be when the next train stops.

I move forward and amidst the crowd, beautiful music is being played, as good as mine if not better by raggedly dressed man plucking his guitar and singing true blues coming from a tormented soul.

My dog done died, and my lady left me without a cent. Please brother, can you spare a dime?

I reach in my pocket and run coins through my hand till I feel a quarter.

“Here you go my man. I’d give you more, but I have less than a dollar.”

He lifts his head, takes off his sunglasses, and stares at me.

“You lying to me boy?”

“Hell no,” I pull out all the coins remaining from those I brought from Kansas, that god-forsaken state.

He stands, looks into my hand holding sixty five cents, reaches into a moneybag on his hip with two big hands, and pulls them out brimming with quarters.

“Take what you need boy, I make ten times this in a day.”

I can’t believe my eyes, he holds near a hundred dollars between his super sized hands. He sees me staring at the money and says, “Whatcha waiting for boy? This is New York and I only got a minute.”

My stomach painfully turns as I think of how much food I can eat if I take a fraction of what he holds in his hands. Should I reach and take what he’s holding out to me? Can I take money from a beggar? What will people in Kansas think of me, here In New York, taking a poor man’s money? No, I can’t, I tell myself, but my eyes wander to a poster showing a burger and fries, reminding me I haven’t eaten. Eyes return to the money, thoughts of nowhere to sleep, shower, or eat course through my head.

“Come on boy, you want it or not?” the man shakes his hands up and down.

The chinking of the coins entices me to reach out my dirty hand. “Go on, take it,” I tell myself, but a vision of my father pointing his finger and saying, “I told you so” enters my head. I withdraw my hand.

“Can’t eat pride boy,” the man says, “go on, take what you need, and hurry up. I got some blues to sing and some begging to do.”

I glance around to be sure no one sees a young man like me, stooping so low by taking money from a beggar instead of giving. No one’s looking. I close my eyes in shame, and reach out my dirty hands, dreaming of hot golden-chicken-soup and crackers with a piece of piping hot pizza. My hands feel for the silver, but grab thin air, there’s nothing there. I open my eyes, and the man is nowhere in sight. I wonder if he ever really was.

 

#289 Silvery spheres in the sky

#289 Silvery spheres in the sky

 

On the way to my “Reading to Write” group at the downtown library, I drove a leisurely seventy five miles an hour in a sixty five zone on 89-A, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a silver streak flash through the sky. For an unknown reason, a creepy feeling spread throughout me, causing my hair to rise, and I wondered why. The Prescott Airport wasn’t far from the highway, so I thought it must have been an airplane.

But it made me think about a few nights back, when I saw a silver streak in the sky traveling at tremendous speed suddenly stop above my house, and a light came down and went through my house as though searching for something. I wondered if it was aliens looking for me. Maybe because I sat in my hot tub in the back yard they didn’t see me.

Trying to get my mind off alien things, I focused on the meeting at the library. A few writers gather every two weeks to discuss stories we have read, and the craft used in writing them. It started to rain, and I forgot all about the silver streak in the sky. As usual, the gloomy weather brought on my blues. No sunshine always changes my world, from a happy place to a dreary god awful place.

When I arrived, Pat, Sue, Linda and Mark sat in the library’s Elsea Conference Room at the long table, with their backs to the large window that looked out over the street. Carol and I sat facing the window.

“Okay, let’s talk about H.G. Wells, Valley of the Spiders,” Mark said.

Pat commented on the amount of times H.G.Wells used colors in his writing and the conversation moved around the table. When Linda opened her mouth, I became mesmerized. Her voice titillated my senses. Her lips enunciating words made my heart rate rise and I became aroused. I leaned closer to this woman who affected me so strangely.

I looked into her eyes. What I thought were blue irises spun in a hypnotic fashion. She spoke about Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. I could see past her teeth into her mouth and down her ruby red throat where her uvula danced.

Watching it bouncing around erased thoughts of rolling spiders and a man being hung from my mind, and filled it with wild thoughts, so when I saw the bright light coming through the window, I thought I imagined it.

The light surrounded Linda. Her hair rose as though floating on water. Her body began to rise from the chair. I wanted to shout, but not a word would come. I looked at the others who carried on as though nothing strange was happening. I looked back to Linda, and she now levitated above her chair and started moving toward the window as though the beam of light drew her in. I reached out and grabbed her ankle to stop her from floating away, but as soon as I touched her, I became weightless and rose off my chair like gravity didn’t exist.

I tried to let go, but my hand stuck to her ankle. I yanked it a hard as I could, but it felt like I had dipped it into superglue. Frightened by becoming weightless, I rationalized that the window glass would stop our ascent once we were pulled up against it. Linda’s hand reached the window glass, and instead of stopping when it touched the glass, ripples formed around her hand as though she dipped it in water and it passed through followed by the rest of her going through solid glass without a sound. Dragging along behind her, I too passed through the glass, and followed her on up the light beam that I saw coming from a silvery craft hovering above the library.

We passed through the craft’s metal-skin as though it wasn’t there. Once inside the light disappeared. We dropped to the pillow like floor. Linda hugged me like a frightened kitten. Despite everything that happened, I became aroused again, and returned her hug with passion that surprised me. I pulled away. I wanted a clear head to try to figure out what in the heck was going on. But when I looked at her, I saw a cloud, and in it images appeared. I recognized myself and then her in the cloud doing things I sometimes fantasize about. It was like my thoughts were being projected onto the cloud, but evidently so were hers, because some of the things we did in there were things I never even thought of before. Hers and my erotic thoughts were being projected onto the cloud, like a movie. I responded to the images and couldn’t stop the sexual thoughts flashing through my mind, no matter how hard I tried, so I stopped trying and enjoyed them as she slowly disrobed, I did too. She reached for me; I took her hand in mine and became overwhelmed with desire. I couldn’t believe the intensity of my need and passion. It took all of my strength to stop and say, “Wait, this is some kind of alien trick.” I knew I had to keep my senses, so I ripped my hand from hers, and her erotic images disappeared. I put my pants on, and I heard odd shuffling sounds, like someone dragging dry branches across the floor. I looked up to see a creature that looked like a giant insect. It was about eight feet tall and had lots of hairy legs.

“You’re not cooperating,” it said from a mouth on the side of its head.

Holy shit! A huge talking spider.

“I need to finish my research by .0000.7000, so I guess I’ll replace you with another,” it said, and pointed at me. Light wrapped around me and I got that weightless feeling again as I rose off the spongy floor. “Wait, wait, I’ll cooperate,” I yelled.

The light shut off, and I fell to the yielding floor. Linda held out her hand. I tenuously took it, and at the touch, lecherous feelings overcame me. I put my face to hers, touched her lips to mine, stuck my tongue between her lips and I shivered with pleasure.  She in turn gyrated against me and I lost control.

Part of my mind wondered if this spider was studying us, or making a porn movie to be shown on some far away planet. I wondered if I performed well, would the spider make me a star, and use me in lots of movies. I’d become an intergalactic porn-movie star. I pictured myself shaking the tall spider’s leg and sealing the multi-million dollar deal.

“Joe, Joe, are you letting your imagination run away with you again?” Mark said, “Linda asked how you liked the spider story.”

I’d love to tell her, but only said, “It was out of this world.”

#287 Dance of the Dead

#287 Dance of the Dead

 

“There will be no Halloween activities this year. That day will be treated as any other day,” The 12th grade teacher, Mrs. Olsen announced.

“That sucks. What’s with her?” Billy asked Johanna who sat beside him in English Lit.

“You weren’t here last year. Were you?” Johanna said.

“You know I only got here a month ago.”

“Oh yeah, sorry. Lots on my mind.”

“Well?’

“Well what?”

“You going to tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“You know, what happened.”

“It’s a strange story that you may find hard to believe.”

“Tell me anyways.”

“Okay, but I warned you. There were two boys, Johnny and Marvin. They rigged up a holographic image projection device.”

“A who, what?”

“A device Marvin’s father used in the gulf war to fool the Iraqi’s into thinking they were shooting at his jet, when they were actually shooting at a holographic image that he projected onto the sky. The projector displays a three-dimensional visual image, that’s almost impossible to tell isn’t really there. ”

“No way. Stuff like that is science fiction.”

“Yeah tell that to the Iraqi’s who wasted all their ammo shooting at holograms.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“Marvin said his dad told him it provided a distraction while he bombed his target. Then he showed him how it worked.”

“Yeah sure, he had one sitting in his living room.”

“No, it was in his basement.

“You’re lying?”

“No, I swear, I’m telling you like it is.”

“Okay, so tell me, what did they do with this holographic thing?”

“Well, last year, Mrs. Olsen was in charge of Halloween festivities. She gathered the entire school in the auditorium and announced, ‘There’s no better place to celebrate Halloween than outdoors. The dark, spooky night is the perfect backdrop for fun and creepy Halloween activities, the moon is going to be full, so we can all pretend to be Wiccans.’”

“Wiccans?” Billy asked.

“You know, witches.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Then Mrs. Olsen said, ‘We can light a bonfire that will keep away the chill of the crisp autumn evening. But I think I should tell you that bonfires are symbolic during Samhain, that’s what Wiccans call Halloween. One of the Wiccan rituals that are celebrated on Halloween night could be fun. We can write down any aspect of our lives that we want to get rid of; it can be anything that has left us with feelings of anger, worry, or regret. After we’ve written our problem on the paper, we’ll cast it into the bonfire and watch it burn. As it burns, imagine that negative aspect disappearing. But if it does disappear, don’t credit it to magic, credit the power of positive thinking. Dress warm and meet me on the soccer field at 9: p.m.’”

“Ha, I can’t imagine Mrs. Olsen being awake at 9: p.m.”

“Oh, she was awake alright.”

“Well, come on, tell me.”

“Marvin got a brainstorm and recruited Johnny to help him.”

“Alright, I’ll bite. What did he recruit Johnny for?”

“Marvin improvised a film he had with witches flying on brooms, and duplicated twelve of them. Then he asked his dad to make a hologram out of it. He did that same day. Marvin had been taught to use the device years ago, and used to practice making three dimensional images appear all over his basement. He figured he could do the same in the night sky. They took the projector to an unused room in the school that overlooked the soccer field. Set it up, and then took wireless speakers, and put them in trees surrounding the field for sound effects.

“Marvin knew they’d be a harvest moon that night’”

“What’s a harvest moon?”

“It’s the full moon nearest to the autumnal equinox.”

“Okay, I’m not going to ask what that is. Go on, what about it?”

“He figured the moon would be a great backdrop for his flying witches.” They got everything set, turned the sound down and projected one witch across the moon. It looked so real, they almost believed what they saw. Anticipating the fun to come, they turned the sound track of cackling screaming witches to full volume so when it was switched on, everyone near the school would be able to hear in stereo.  They sat back and waited for the fun to begin.

“Mrs. Olsen and three hundred students crowded the field at the designated time, and lit a roaring bonfire. The students wrote out the things they wanted out of their lives and marched by the bonfire, and threw their scraps of paper into the hungry flames, to be burned, and hoped that their written down worries would vanish as the ashes floated to the sky.”

***

“Now’s the time,” Johnny said.

Marvin turned the projector on, and Johnny snapped on the sound system. A horrendous shriek startled everyone on the field. Cackles followed the scream, heads turned, groups gathered together in fear. All looked for the source, when one pointed at the moon and yelled, ‘Witches.” Silhouetted against a full harvest moon on their brooms a dozen figures cackling loudly randomly flew, intent it seemed to harass and employ their magic on those who watched from below. They wore black hats and flowing robes as they dangerously skimmed across the night sky.

Students and teachers alike made a mad dash for the safety of the school.

Little did anyone on the field know the witches they saw were only apparitions coming through a holograph machine triggered by Marvin and Johnny, who rolled in mirth at the discomfort they caused, until Marvin counted the images they had wrought and found there were now thirteen instead of  a dozen.

“Something’s wrong,” he shouted. “There can’t be thirteen. I only made twelve.”

“Maybe the projector is duplicating one?” Johnny said.

“Marvin checked and ascertained it only projected twelve witches. He was upset, because he couldn’t understand why it projected thirteen, and he had to know how number thirteen got added to the mix.

“He tried to fix it so there were only twelve, but looked up when he heard Johnny yell, “Holy Mollie! He pointed to a flying figure lit by the moon and said, “That one’s flying so fast it looks like supersonic speed. Look out! She’s headed right for us.”

Marvin jumped up just in time to see the speeding witch crash through the school’s brick wall, and she flew around in their little room. She was as ugly as could be, surely made in hell they thought when an ear splitting scream sprang from her blackened lips. It turned into a cackle that could only be created by a witch. You boys fooled me tonight. I thought by joining the group I made number thirteen, but to my dismay I discovered I was the only one, so for your dirty deed I’m going to make you pay. I know you’re only boys  and don’t know any better , so I’ll turn you into girls, then from now on you’ll know better than to mess with a witch.”

Marvin and Johnny tried to scramble out the door, but she cast a spell, and they couldn’t move.

“Tell you what boys, if you don’t want to be girls, you can accompany me to the Monster’s Ball, and if you’re very nice, and dance all night, I may allow you to forego a gender change.”

Convinced she was for real, they both agreed to go, but they asked, “Before we go, can you tell us, what the Monster’s ball is?”

She let out a loud cackle and explained, “The monster’s Ball is where on every Halloween Night the dead are allowed to dance and enjoy living life. You’ll dance with me and any other who may want to hold some living flesh instead of cold damp bones. “

“You mean, we have to dance with dead people?” Johnny asked.

“On this night in the place that we’ll go, everyone lives for the night.” she said, and flew around the room in a blur and cackled so loud, the boys had to hold their ears.

She put on her broom brakes and stopped in front of the boys, “Hop on,” she said, and pointed to her broom.”

“No way,” both boys said.

“Okay then, you want to be girls.” She pointed at them, but before she could say a word, both boys jumped on her broom.”

“Hold on. How do you know all this?” Billy asked.

“I have a very close relationship with Johnny,” Johanna said.

“He’s your boyfriend?”

“No, we’re much closer than that. “Anyways, the boys sat on the broom, Marvin wrapped his arms around the ugly old witch, and Johnny wrapped his arms around Marvin. The witch cackled and said ,”Up, up, and away.”

The boys were about to protest, when the broom received her orders and took off, headed for the moon at a speed that dazzled the boys. Marvin screamed from fear, Johnny almost peed his pants as it seemed the broom would go all the way to the moon. Johnny looked down, and he saw the twelve holographic witches still flying around the field.

After a short time the boys began to feel safe and saw they were over the ocean, and both prayed the broom wouldn’t run out of fuel, or do anything other than return them safely to land. A brightly lit landing strip made especially for brooms came into view. They had to circle while waiting to land and saw they were the only multiple occupant broom in the air.

“Should be an express lane for those of us with passengers,” the driver of the broom grumbled.

All the other witches waiting to land pointed and smiled their toothless grins at the two boys on the broom.

A witch on the ground waved them in, and their broom laden with three almost crash landed, but an extra magic spell the witch said, helped them to safely land on the ground. There was a long rack made especially for brooms, and there were hundreds hung on it this night.”

A mausoleum large enough to be a palace stood right next to the landing field. Surrounding it was a graveyard that went as far as the eye could see. The ones not yet at the ball were digging themselves out of the ground and grooming their flesh and bones with handfuls of mud. Once groomed, they waltzed and shuffled their way to the mausoleum, where sixteen skeletons played music on their bones.

A dance floor stretching from wall to wall was crowded with those doing the dance of the dead.

“Boys, I didn’t tell you before, my name is Griselda, and I’ll be your witch for the night. If any want to dance with you, you can’t refuse, unless you tell them you’re with me,” Griselda said.

“What will happen if we refuse and don’t tell them your name?” Marvin asked.

“Simple my boy, you’ll be dancing once a year.”

A tall beautiful woman dressed in a white gown took Johnny by the hand, “Come dance with me,” she said.

A smile lit Johnny’s face at the sight of a beauty here amongst the living dead. He took her in his arms and asked, “Are you really dead?”

“Yes, it’s been a week.”

“Were you wearing this gown when you died?”

“It was my wedding day.”

“I’m sorry. What happened?”

“The church was old, and once the vicar said, man and wife, the bells were rung. One came loose and fell on my head.”

“She turned and Johnny saw the side of her face she had kept turned from him, and he saw maggots crawling from the part of her head that had been crushed. He turned in revulsion and wanted to stop dancing with her, but she held him tight and pulled him close so his face was against the side that used to be her head. An odor of rot overcame him, and he puked on her shoulder, and couldn’t believe his eyes as the maggots, preferred a hot meal of vomit that puddled on her shoulder, dropped from her head onto the steaming vomit.”

“I’m with Griselda, he finally managed to say, and she let go and grabbed a rotting hunk walking by, and continued to dance.

He saw Marvin dancing with a witch that wasn’t as ugly as Griselda, but when they floated by, her rotting smell hit Johnny and he puked again. Another hot meal for the insects, clinging to the dead.”

“Marvin broke free, and begged Griselda, ‘Please, please, take me away from here. I promise never to mess with a witch again.”

“Me too,” Johnny said.

“A look of disappointment washed over her face as she checked out her broom from the rack. We took off and went back the way we came. Marvin and Johnny were relieved to be alive.”

She took them back to the school and said, “Sorry boys, you didn’t dance all night. I’m going to turn you into girls.”

“No please,” they begged to no avail.

“Quite a story, but you don’t really expect me to believe it, do you Johanna?” Bill said.

“I know you may doubt my word, but ask anybody. At this time last year, my name was Johnny!” Johanna said,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#286 Dog Meat

#262 A Visitor                         

 

Saturday night and John’s watching the boob tube, by himself, again.  What’s wrong with him, he wonders for the thousandth time. Twenty-seven years old, and he’s practically a virgin. It’s been so long. Why in the hell couldn’t he find a woman to spend some time with? Spend time, hell, have sex with. There are women out there, looking for a guy just like him. So, he’s not considered handsome, but he has been pumping iron since high school and has a muscular and well toned body.

He wondered if he’s too picky about which women he’ll date. They have to fit his criteria, not too tall or short. Good looking with a shapely tight figure with the perfect sized breasts. He thinks that anything more than a mouthful is a waste. She can’t have — Heck, he could go on for hours talking about what he wants. The point is who he can get to keep him company on Saturday nights.

At work Joe told John he met his wife on Craig’s List, but John wasn’t that hard up, he thinks. When John sits in front of his computer, his reptilian brain directs his fingers to type out:  craigslist.com. The Craig’s list page comes up and he figures he may as well take a look and see what’s available.

He clicks on Women seeking men and has to agree that he’s at least 18 years old, and understands the women seeking men page may include adult content. He agrees to release craigslist from any liability that may arise from his use of their site and a few other things. He scans the page and sees a place to go to ask questions about safe sex. He clicks on it, and holy shit. The things he sees make him wonder what kind of freaks he’s going to meet on this site.

Looking at the questions really makes John think he should just click his way off the page, but his curiosity wants answers, so he reads on.

 

The first discussion he reads starts with open sore on anus. He doesn’t know if it’s a man or a woman who has an open sore because only initials are used to identify the writer. He doesn’t want to know, and doesn’t give a damn what he/she looks like. Or wait, maybe he does want to know what a person with an ass sore looks like so if he ever sees that person, he can cross the street.

He clicks on the back arrow, but still under control of his reptilian brain, his fingers click the Women Seeking Men link. He doesn’t want to continue this romance charade any longer and wrests control away from the primitive part of his brain, and his finger is about to click on the mouse when his eyes lock on the words, “Money and looks are irrelevant to this 23 year old medical doctor from Midland, Texas, now living in Prescott, AZ. What are important to me are a healthy lifestyle and a healthy body. I’ll send a photo to qualified men. To qualify you must send me the results of a recent physical exam.”

Wow a doctor at 23. She must be Doogie Howser’s sister,He can’t blame her for wanting to see a physical exam record after reading about open sores on a butt-hole. He fits the bill for what she’s looking for, but wait a minute. She says beauty. Maybe she’s one of those heavy duty beauties. There’s nothing wrong with big women, but he can’t help himself, he wants the woman of his dreams, and he’d rather not have one than compromise.

He figures he may as well see what she looks like, he pulls out a copy of the physical he had last month wondering exactly what she can learn from it. He looks it over. Blood pressure, heart rate, blood type. His doctor wrote a notation across the top, No disease, or infections. He’s not giving away any secrets by sending it to her. He gets a recent picture of himself, scans it and the report onto his computer and sends them off.

Not expecting much he waits a few minutes for her picture. When it doesn’t arrive, he shuts off his computer and returns to the boob tube to watch SNL.

The next morning when he turns on his computer to check his e-mail, there is a message from Debby. John figures it’s probably one of those ads from a dating or porn site. To be sure he clicks on it. A photo appears.  His eyes fill with images of perfect hooters, like in his dreams. After filling his brain with visions of those rose colored nipples, he raises his eyes and sees sparkling blue eyes, blond hair and a figure that looks just perfect. He isn’t into porn, but after seeing Debby, he thinks that if she’s the star, it can’t hurt to watch a little.

He reads the message under the picture and almost falls out of his chair, “John, your picture shows me that you’re a healthy young man. If the report you sent me about your health is accurate, I think we can get together. Are you willing to confirm its accuracy? If you are, let’s meet for coffee and see what we think of each other.”

John types as fast as he can, “This afternoon, at Cuppers, say 1:00.” He clicks send.

He reads her return e-mail and replies, “See you then.”

Only two hours to get ready. He frantically searches for something to wear that may impress her. He doesn’t have anything nice. He never goes anywhere. He chooses his best gym outfit. She wants someone healthy, maybe that will impress her. He can’t believe his good fortune. Not only does he meet a woman the first time on Craigslist, but she seems like the perfect one. He can hardly wait to meet her and arrives at Cuppers at exactly one o’clock. He walks around looking for her. She isn’t there. He should have known it was too good to be true, a beautiful woman like her making a date with him. She probably made dates with a hundred guys for fun, or to satisfy some weird whim.

John orders a latte, sits down, buries his face in a newspaper.

“Hello, Hello.” He hears a woman say in a husky voice. He doesn’t look up. She can’t be speaking to him John thinks, until she says, “John don’t you recognize me?”

He looks up, drops his coffee onto the table. It splashes over his shirt, burns his hand. His chest constricts, and his heart races. Debby stands right in front of him. She’s wearing a maroon halter top with a matching skirt that’s not much bigger than the napkin he has on his lap. Her photo was breathtaking but seeing her in person does things to John’s body that had never been done before. His legs shake, and he’s nervous as she sits down across from him. He can’t take his eyes off her thighs as she adjusts her short skirt.

“John, you’re much better looking in person than in the photo you sent. That’s refreshing for a change. Most guys send me their high school picture from twenty years ago. Some even send someone else’s physical report. You didn’t do that, did you John?”

“No, no, I swear, the one I sent is mine,” John said.

“I like you John. We can probably spend the night together this coming Saturday, if you want. Do you live alone?”

“Yes, I do, just a sma. . .”

“Good.” She interrupts him. “I just want to be sure that no one disturbs us.”

Spend the night! He can hardly believe it. He writes his address on a piece of paper and hands it to her. “What time Saturday?”

“Hold on John. I told you I had to confirm the accuracy of your lab report. I know it’s an unusual request, but with all the STDs out there I have to be sure you’re not a carrier.”

“I understand completely.” God, he’d give her anything she wants.

“Then you won’t mind giving me a urine sample and a mouth swab for DNA? Just so I can run it through to be sure. I’m terrified of contracting AIDS or something.”

With the world the way it is, he can’t blame her for being cautious. He glances at her smooth white thighs outlined against the maroon lining of her skirt and his eyes following them as far as they can see. His imagination sees what his eyes can’t. His legs feel as though they might collapse from thoughts of touching what his imagination sees. He can’t refuse her request. She hands him a clear plastic cup with a screw on cap. He goes to the men’s room to fill it. When he returns she’s ready with a cotton swab.

“Stick this in your mouth and rub it against your cheek,” she says.

He doesn’t hesitate for a second, swabs his cheek, and hands her the cotton on a stick with samples of him on it.

“Okay, you’ve got everything you asked for. Will I see you Saturday?” John asks.

“Depends if everything checks out,” she says, “I’ll call you one way or the other.”

“Let me give you my number?”

“Got it off the medical report you sent.”

She leaves.

John beats himself up all that day, and the next, telling himself what he should and should not have done. He sits there with his head in his hands. Did he screw up somehow? Will she actually come to his apartment and spend the night with him?

The phone rings Saturday afternoon. When he hears her husky voice, he sits down, expecting her to tell him she isn’t coming.

“Well, John, I’ve got good news. Everything checked out fine.”

He knows he won’t ever have to worry about catching anything from her. If she checks everyone she has sex with like this, she’ll never contract any disease. Heck, he decides that he won’t even use a rubber. If she gets pregnant, maybe she’ll marry him.

“So you’re coming tonight?” he asks.

“I’ll be there at eight.”

Saturday night comes and Debby rings the bell at 8:03.  Incense and candles burn, champagne sits in a bucket of ice beside a bouquet of roses. John wears a brand new outfit he got from J.C. Penney’s on Friday. He has dumped half a bottle of Fragonard Cologne Grand Luxe all over himself, and smells like mandarin orange, bergamot peel, lemon, and lavender. She’ll find him irresistible.

He opens the door and sees her in a scoop necked giraffe print lycra bra top with matching shorts. When she bends over to pick up her bag, an open circle in the back of her top exposes cream colored skin that set him on fire.  She carries a small suitcase. Her night stuff and a change of clothes he figures.

“Sorry, I didn’t have time to change after the gym,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it. Come on in,”

She sits and John pours her a glass of champagne, then he takes her bag, when he carries it to the bedroom, he’s surprised at the heft of it. He hurries back to the living room.

“Do you want to watch TV?” he asks. What a dufus. A beautiful woman comes to his apartment, and he asks if she wants to watch TV. He should kick himself.

“I’d rather drink and talk,” she says.

Wow, is she cool, but maybe she’s moving a little too fast for him. Drink, talk, and then sex. He swallows his drink. She pours him another.

“I want you to know my clients are very, very important to me,” she says.

“Your clients?”

“Yes, my  clients are all needy and on their last legs. I’m willing to do almost anything to help them. Drink up,” she says.

He wonders why she’s telling him this. Then his head begins to spin.

He wakes up face down on his bed, naked. Did he pass out before sex? He wishes he could remember. He tries to roll over, but can’t. Then he sees the heavy chains around the metal bedpost attached to manacles on his wrists. He tries to pull them free, but they’re wrapped in solid stainless steel. He tries kicking, but his legs are chained too.

“Help,” he yells as loud as he can.

“Don’t yell, John, or I’ll be forced to put a gag in your mouth.”

Is she one of those kinky women who like to chain up their men during sex?

“Did I pass out or something?” he asks

“No, I put Roofies in the champagne.”

The date rape drug? Men use it on women. He’d never heard of a woman using it to rape a man. “We can’t have sex with me lying on my stomach. If you’re going to rape me, you’ll have to roll me over.”

“Don’t worry, John, I’m not going to rape you.”

“I was hoping you would. If you’re not going to, why drug me and chain me up?”

“To get you ready.”

He turns his head as far as he can and finds she has changed into scrubs. What the f . . .

“Get me ready for what?”

He turns his head to the other side. That’s when he sees what had been in her suitcase besides chains and manacles. Gleaming surgical tools have been laid out on the dresser, along with a power saw, screwdrivers, a hammer, and an electric drill.

“This is a joke right, you’re not really going to use those tools on me. Are you?”

“I wish it was a joke, John, but— there is a knock on the door. “Be right back. Don’t go away,” she says.

Thank God, somebody came to save him, maybe. He hears male voices, and shouts. “Help” as loud as he can. Debby appears pushing a cart through the door with tubes attached to it, and a half dozen or so Styrofoam coolers.

“What the hell is going on?

“This machine will keep your organs oxygenated while I work. I already told you that I’d do almost anything to help my patients, John. I have so many in desperate needs. Tonight I have to harvest a liver, heart, kidney, pancreas and some odds and ends. Doesn’t it make you feel good to know you’re helping so many people?”

“Why, why are you doing this?” he yells.

“I’m just doing my job John, nothing personal.”

“Why, why are you doing this?” he yells.

“I’m just doing my job John, nothing personal.”

“Wait, you’re a doctor, you can’t do this. And you’ll never get away with it. I heard men’s voices. They know you’re here, and when my body is found, you’ll go to jail.”

“My interns flew in from India to help me. They’ve gone down to the truck to bring up some ice, and a body bag. When I’m finished they’ll bring your remains to the factory so there won’t be a body to find after that.”

“Factory! What factory?”

“Our dog food factory.”

John twists and turns with all his might and tries to scream before she stuffs his underpants in his mouth, picks up a hypodermic needle and sticks his arm.

“This will kill the pain, John.” she says and then turns on the electric saw. As soon as the blade touches his skin, he screams into his underpants. His vision is fading, but before he blacks out he realizes she’s serious, and knows he’s—dog meat.

 

#285 Pastry

Pastry Chef

I investigate insurance fraud. The chef at the Ambassador East in Chicago had put in a claim that appeared to be shaky. I went there to do my job and inquired where to find Pastry. I must have chuckled when I said his name, because a black man as big as Goliath glared at me.

“Laugh at my name and you’ll be sorry,” Pastry said, holding up a heavy metal whisk.

Holding back the guffaw I felt coming, I blurted out, “Okay, Pastry.” I almost lost it when I spoke his name, but eyeing the heavy kitchen tool in his hand, I continued our conversation. “Is there another name I should use?”

“Shadow, call me Shadow.” He gave me a look that dared me to laugh.

I eyed the rolling pin lying on the table and wondered if I could get to it before he whacked me with the heavy metal whisk he held.

To divert his attention from my snide laughter, I said, “My name is Sam Snead.” I looked up at his sweating face as a sweet aroma of baking cinnamon rolls washed over me. “Smells good.”

“Yes siree, cinnamon rolls made here are the best in the world.”

His anger subsided as he talked about himself. “Any chance of sampling one?”

That compliment would get him into a better mood. He poured coffee into a white mug set it on a table in a corner of the baking area of the humongous kitchen, and then scooped a fresh baked roll from the oven. He placed it on a dish and set it beside the coffee. I couldn’t resist, picked up the hot roll and it melted when I put it in my mouth. I gobbled it down in three bites and glanced at the oven.

“One free is all you get. Want more, you have to pay.”

I wanted more, but I had a job to do. I went to the metal sink and washed my sticky hands. “We received a report you’re claiming a sexual dysfunction you’re experiencing is due to your job?”

“Is this a privileged conversation, like when I talk to my lawyer, anything I say is confidential and can’t be used against me?”

It wasn’t, but if he was stupid enough . . . “Of course it is,” I lied. “Go on, tell me what happened.”

“Well, I had a kind-hearted woman I loved more than sweet potato pie. She knew anyone who touched my pie had to die. Turns out, she wasn’t so kind after all. I saw her with him and he was eating my pie.”

Was he using metaphors, or did he mean it literally? All I could do was to listen and try to find any holes in his story.

“Once I saw that happen, sunlight turned shadowy and I hid behind my door. That’s when I changed my name to Shadow. Night came, and I loaded my gun. It was time for the shadow to have some fun. Out from behind my door, I went slinking through darkening gloom to kill the one who touched my tart. I found him sulking in fear from the darkness spreading from me to him.”

This guy was confessing a serious crime. If I report him, it’ll mean I’ll have to testify to what he told me. I didn’t want to get involved in a murder trial. “Don’t leave me hanging, tell me what happened.”

“I decorated him with my pastry gun.”

When he said that, I let out the breath I had been holding. All the while, I thought he meant a firearm when he said gun.

“I drew stars around his eyes and a circle around his lips.”

Great, this guy draws stars and circles with icing. He must be nuts.

“As soon as the acid hit him, he screamed louder than a stuck pig, and believe me, I’ve killed enough pigs to know how loud they scream.”

“Hold on. Acid? You said you had a pastry gun.”

“Yeah, filled with muriatic acid.”

“Where are you going with this? What does this have to

do with your disability claim?”

“I’m getting to that. Here have a piece of fresh meat pie.” He set a dish in front of me with the steaming pie on it. The luscious aroma compelled me to sit and start munching while he continued.

“She started screaming when she saw his lips melting away. Guess she knew he wouldn’t be eating anymore pie. I decorated her with my pastry gun too.”

I licked my lips to gather up any remaining crumbs from the delicious pie. “Okay, now tell me what this all has to do with your insurance claim?”

“After their screams died out, I became worried. I didn’t want anyone to see them walking around with burnt out eyes and holes for mouths, so I did the humane thing and ended their lives.”

Definitely a nut case. I couldn’t wait to turn him in, but I was dying to know how his disability was connected. “Then what happened?”

“Not much. I cut them up, brought them here, and scraped all the meat off the bones, put them in that big caldron there and dissolved them in acid,.” He pointed to a huge metal pot on legs with a spigot on the bottom for draining.

I could sell this story to one of the tabloids before I called the police. “Whatcha do with their flesh?,”

“You just ate the last bit of it in your meat pie.”

I puked on the floor and looked up to see him sharpening a cleaver.

“I created a demand for meat pie, and I’m fresh out of meat. So I’m happy you dropped by.”

The clever guy hit me in my Adam’s apple. My last thought was, How does this connect to a disability claim?

 

 

#284 Subway Trains

#284 Subway Trains#284 Subway Trains

 

Growing up in Boston was fun for Joe because he loved to ride the subway and stand in the front car watching the tracks rolling by; a simple pleasure that only cost a dime. He grew to be a man and fell in love, but she turned out to be a cheat. He did what he thought he should to be a man. But after he had done the deed, Joe cried to God, “I can’t live without her.”

He reached into the pocket of his tweed jacket that she loved him to wear and whenever he did, she’d rub her hand up and down the rough texture and that somehow excited her so much that she’d suddenly melt into his arms.

That would never happen again he thought as he yanked a .32 from a pocket, put the barrel into his mouth, and tasted the cleaning oil, his shaking hand rattling the barrel against his teeth.

Memories of Sylvia flashed before his eyes, and they caused his finger to tighten on the trigger. In his vision, he saw rain falling from her blazing blue eyes floating in the night sky. He wondered if her tears would wash his blood away.

He squeezed the trigger in slow motion, pulling the hammer back until it released. Joe gagged as the hammer fell because he knew the time to die had come.

Visions of her beautiful heart-shaped face shattered as the hammer clicked onto an empty place. He saw in his mind a picture of her on the ground with blood streaming from a hole between her eyes and other wounds made by him.

Stupid woman, it was her fault he’d shot her six times, and now he couldn’t take his own life with an empty gun. He’d do it without one. Joe ran to a nearby subway entrance and rushed down the stairs, and her accusing eyes followed him below ground.

A train came screeching down the tracks and he knew it wouldn’t stop. Joe jumped onto the tracks and lay across them. The train roared over him scattering sparks and ozone. He felt insufferable pain as the wheels rolled over him, but all his limbs were intact as the roar of the train diminished as it rolled on down the tracks.

Sitting up Joe saw hovering eyes glowing deep in the tunnel. They were hers and she had caused the train to roll painfully, but harmlessly over him. His eyes fixated on the third rail. It carried high voltage electricity. He’d show her, that damn woman who wanted him to live, so that he would continually endure pain for what he had done to her.

Her eyes said he was hopeless. He didn’t think so. Joe gripped the third rail in his right hand reached out and touched another rail with his left. Sparks jumped and went from his hand to his head to his balls. He wet his pants and died. She was waiting for him on the other side.

“I wanted you alive,” she said, “to make you suffer, but now that you’re dead, your soul has been put under my care. So my love, what I want you to do is lay on the tracks both night and day until you’ve been run over by a million trains.”

Though dead, Joe grabbed the third rail once again, and then touched her with his other hand. Sparks flew, she glowed brightly and then disappeared. His heart started to beat once again. Revived, Joe lived to tell his tale, and repeats it over and over to any who will listen.

Her eyes are always there watching and reminding him of what he had done, causing him pain. He knows it’s better to be alive than to die and suffer from getting run over by a million trains, so taking his life is not a choice. But for the rest of his life he’ll keep suffering because he’ll always wonders if she’ll make him get run over by more than a million subway trains after he dies.

 

#283 Cherry

#283 Cherry

I should have run and hid when I heard, “Hey kid, come here.” I didn’t and my fear subsided when I saw friendly faces gathered around. But not for long as memories of a big old tree with them grouped around it filled my head with visions of what they did.

My friend and I were on our way to Sewer Beach. A fitting name because the slaughterhouse disposed of animal blood and guts through a pipe that emptied into the Charles River just upstream of the beach.

While swimming, once in a while we’d see a skeletal head. Being all of five years old, we thought it exciting to drag it on home to show it to our families. The river was full of used condoms and turds, so we always swam with our mouths closed. Snapping turtles that may have weighed fifty pounds or more were plentiful and we knew if one grabbed you by the toe, it would pull you under water and keep you there until you drowned.

Fearless, we’d dare cars to hit us as we ran across the highway separating Hano from the river. When the cars came close to hitting us, we’d gather up rotten fruit that had fallen from one of the many trees along the way, and we’d throw it at the passing cars. Revenge was sweet, even then.

“Hey kid, come here,” rang in my head and I saw it all again. Tommy and I were walking by the haunted house on Everett Street, the one with the big old cherry tree in the front yard. That’s where the thirteen of them stood. All looked at me and I wanted to flee. Some of the group held their hands out to me filled with fruit off that tree. I headed for the gate because I hadn’t eaten all day.

“Joe, don’t go. Can’t you see what they are?”

I looked closely and saw that all their eyes glowed,

“Let’s grab a handful of cherries and run,” I told Tommy, and when I spoke I felt the heat from a fire pit they had dug beside the tree.

“Come on, hungry boy, bring your friend and we’ll feast today,” one of them said.

My stomach made me obey,  and I dragged Tommy

kicking and screaming into the yard.

I never expected what happened to happen. Three of them bound Tommy and wrapped him in big leaves and then put him in the fire. When he screamed all thirteen floated off the ground with smiles on their faces and saliva dripping from their mouths.

Their eyes glowed so bright, it added to the heat as Tommy’s screams died away and the smell of roasting meat filled the air.

“Cherry sauce,” one of them said and handed me a bowl.

Too scared to refuse, I took it in my hand. “What’s this for?”

“Put it on the tender meat for an out-of-this-world flavor,” the thirteenth member said.

Tommy cooked for an hour or more and too scared to move, I stood there with the bowl in my hand, and after a while he stopped screaming. The leaves covering his body burned away to reveal his skin roasted to a golden brown. The cooked Tommy smelled good enough to eat.

“He’s cooked long enough, don’t want to burn the virginal meat,” a coven member said, putting on a pair of oven mitts and pulling the golden brown body from the fire. He placed it on a wooden picnic table behind the tree.

I watched as he carved Tommy into serving-sized portions. Number thirteen dropped a piece into my bowl of cherry sauce. “Eat up.”

I wanted to scream, to run, to get the heck out of there, but they all watched me closely. I didn’t dare move.

“Eat up!” one shouted. I put my face close to the bowl because I feared they’d be eating me if I didn’t pretend to be like them. When my nose got close to the cooked Tommy meat, the enticing aroma filled my nostrils. My stomach insisted I take a bite of the soft and tender flesh of the boy who not long ago was my friend. Now he was just a chunk of meat I could eat.

“Didn’t it bother you to eat your friend?” my wife asked.

“Once he was dead, he was only food,” I said.

“That’s horrible, Joe. I hope you haven’t eaten anyone since then.”

“Just once a year, on this 13th day of October, to remind me what I had to do to survive.”

I saw her look at the calendar and confirm that the date was indeed the 13th.

“Okay, you scared me with your macabre story, so now please untie me.”

I didn’t answer with words, but threw a lit match into the fire pit. The gasoline soaked coals burst into bright orange and blue flames. Her eyes got big and mine glowed.

When I started to wrap her in banana leaves, she screamed. I smiled, because the more she screamed, the more tender her meat would be. So you see, I’ll never forget that old cherry tree.

 

#282 Never Say No

#282 Never Say No

One reason Joe’s parties were always so successful was that he cooked fantastic food to be eaten after the excitement of drinking and dancing had worn down and the party goers all sat around and ate whatever dish Joe had prepared that night.

Women galore always attend Joe’s parties and tonight there were more than usual because word had gotten around that drugs would be freely supplied. Joe had spiked the pink punch with several different hallucinogenic pills, pink for women, blue for men. Blue was loaded with ecstasy. Joe wanted the men to remain mellow while he observed the results of his experiment.

A beautiful, redheaded girl about eighteen hit the punch bowl every ten minutes. Joe decided she would be the one he interviewed to see how the mixture of drugs affected her. She was at the punch bow refilling her glass when he approached her. “You’re enjoying the punch I see,” he said in a jovial manner.

“What I see and discern is true,” she blurted out in an unfeminine voice.

“What’s so unusual about that?” Joe wondered if the drug had affected her voice.

“Insanity is a ticket to hell. Where’s the bridge? I’ll jump without a bungee cord.”

She’s really stoned. “Sorry, I don’t get the drift of what you’re saying.” He took the glass from her hand, thinking she had ingested way to much punch already.

“Ha, ha,” she laughed, “they’re coming to take me away; they’re coming to take me away. Better to leap than to go where I’ll be raped, beaten, and abused, in more ways than I’m allowed to say.”

Joe didn’t like the effect his mixture had on her. “There’s an empty bed upstairs. Why don’t you go lie down for a while?”

“If I’m lucky the police will buy me a one-way ticket out of this hell, and allow me to go someplace else where I’ll be free to live out my insanity all over again.”

Geez, she’s disturbed, better get her out of here before something bad happens. “If you don’t want to go lie down and sleep it off, then I think you should leave.”

“Reality is a lie,” she screamed.

“You sound like a psycho now.”

“A psycho, I know. So store me in prison, where crazy people in our country get sent to spare the expense. They have to let me in and can’t say no.”

Joe evaluated his options – put up with her the rest of the night, or maybe send her out into the night. If he did that, there was no telling what might happen to her in the messed-up condition she was in. While he was thinking, she collapsed onto the floor. He knelt beside her and felt for a pulse in her throat, then her wrists. He put his ear to her mouth and she wasn’t breathing. Dead, in my house . . . on my drugs . . . I’ll go to jail over this. He looked around. No one paid any attention to him. He picked her up and carried her into his kitchen and laid the red-headed girl on the counter top.

He had to dispose of her body, or else he’d go to jail. Joe got two five-gallon pails, put them beside the table, and put the girl’s hands into the buckets. Then he slit her wrist and watched the blood drip into the buckets. He pushed on her chest to make the blood flow.

After about nine pints were in the buckets, he wrapped her wrists in paper towels so they wouldn’t leak when he carried her to his butcher block table.  He laid her face down in the table, got his electric saw and started at the small of her back and cut until the saw exited her stomach. Using his Kinso knife, he cut the few remaining veins and pieces of flesh that held her body together. The body split in two. The top half fell to the floor in front of the table and the bottom half behind.

Joe set the top half on the butcher block and went to work with his meat cleaver and boning knife. As he cut chunks of meat from the bone, he dropped them into his electric meat grinder that spit it out in strands into the blood bucket he set in front of it. He wanted the blood to marinate the meat. He had added garlic and onions to the buckets of blood before he started grinding.

It took about two hours to grind all her meat. Joe took the bones to the basement and dumped them into a tub he filled with acid. He rushed upstairs and prepared the feast. He made a dozen meat pies

The time came when the drugs wore off and people wandered around looking like they were done for the night. Seeing this Joe announced that dinner was ready. Two dozen remaining guests filed into the dining room where Joe had placed all the pies on the table. One pretty girl smelling the garlicky aroma said, “That smells heavenly.” She cut a small piece of pie, picked it up with her fork, and put it in her mouth. She chewed for a second before her eyes lit up.

“It’s delightful Joe, so full bodied. The meat is tender, different from anything I’ve ever eaten before, but it sure tastes good. She cut a bigger piece of pie and the other guests, seeing how she enjoyed it followed suit and cut big pieces for themselves. Hardly anyone spoke. All busied themselves, enjoying the food. Joe took a bite and his eyes grew wide with delight. She was delicious.

“What do you call this dish?” The pretty girl wanted to know.

“Fruitcake.”

“Can I get the recipe?”

“Why don’t you come over tomorrow night for dinner?”

“What are you having for dinner?”

Joe smiled and licked his lips.

 

#281 For The Birds

#281 For the Birds

When Mary graduated college, she joined the Peace Corps. After taking the required physical, the doctor said, “You have an inoperable brain tumor.”

When he told her she couldn’t expect to survive for a year, the unfairness upset her. She had spent her whole life educating herself to help others, and now the education was finished, and so was she.

Her family had all died two years ago when a gas leak caused a fire and explosion that destroyed their home. She had gotten several hundred thousand dollars in insurance money. Small comfort she thought. Now, knowing she had such a short time left; the money would enable her to at least to go where she wanted before the grim reaper arrived.

Ever since she saw a TV program about Venice, Italy with the canals, and gondolas she had always had a desire to see it “No time like the present.” she told herself, “If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.”

She arrived in Venice the next day and took a room at The American Dinesen Hotel on Via San Vito. The well situated hotel was close to many interesting places. The Academy of Fine Arts, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Rialto Bridge, Ca’ Rezzonico Museum, and the Santa Maria Della Salute Church.

The one thing she always desired as long as she could remember was to ride in a gondola through Venice’s canals. She reserved one for herself. There were no cars or motor vehicles in Venice. The entire chain of islands contains an elaborate set of waterways, both natural and manmade that allow for the residents to reach their destination by water. These tiny waterways even have traffic lights, traffic signs like you would expect in a normal town. But, in Venice the waterways are the street system.

This was pointed out when she found herself in a gondola traffic jam.  Along the waterways the gondolas navigate waterways that are maybe three gondolas wide at the most and pass under footbridges. These footbridges, although they appear low, are safe as long as one remains seated keeping your arms and legs in the gondola.  She noticed that the standing gondolier sometimes had to pass under some bridges. She thought it curious that a gondolier only uses one oar.  And they row on one side of the gondola, yet are able to steer.

She stopped to use the facilities, and found she needed lire, because pay toilets are still standard in Italy.

She felt silly asking Rossario the Gondola if he would sing for her? The feeling vanished as he sang in a beautiful baritone voice. Mary closed her eyes, and just enjoyed the moment. This was like heaven to her, and the thought of heaven started her thinking. Do they have Gondolas in heaven?

The next day she visited the attractions close to her hotel. She was happy being here in the midst of this antiquity, and beauty. Whenever she became happy, the thought, “Enjoy it while you can.” Always snuck in, and ruined her happiness.

The Museum, and the Guggenheim collection were exquisite. Mary loved art, and she was jubilant  to see these collections.

She saved her visit to the Santa Maria Della Salute Church for the next day, so she would have plenty of time to go through, and observe all the fine artwork associated with the church. She spent the entire day at the church,and was tired when she left as dusk was approaching. While walking back to the hotel she stopped at a piazza where there were benches to sit on. She had been on her feet all day and needed to sit for a while. In the corner of the piazza she noticed an old woman feeding the pigeons from a small paper bag she carried. There were hundreds of hungry pigeons, and as fast as she threw a handful of pigeon food it would disappear.

She watched for about half an hour, and the old woman was still feeding the birds from that small bag. Mary wondered how she could feed so many birds from such a small supply, then forgot that thought as the old woman’s sweater fell open, and Mary saw how skinny she was. She probably gives all her own food to the birds. She walked over to the old woman and in Italian told her hello. The woman ignored her. Mary told how nice she thought it was for the woman to be feeding the birds when it looked like she herself needed to be fed, the old woman still ignored her. Mary grabbed her by the hand and dragged her to the nearest restaurant. The old woman resisted until Mary told her she was lonely and wanted someone to eat with. The woman being compassionate as she understood loneliness, and she stopped resisting.

Mary ordered dinner for both of them, and a bottle of wine. She introduced herself, and the old woman said her name was Victoria de Buduo. Mary commented on how many birds she could feed from the small paper bag she carried. God keeps it filled answered Victoria. Mary thought Victoria slightly demented and paid no attention to this statement.

They were sitting outside on the patio while eating their dinner. A few birds arrived looking for food. Victoria pulled out her little bag and fed them again. After several hundred birds had eaten the bag was as full as ever. Mary asked if she could help, and threw handful after handful to the birds. The bag never emptied.

Victoria told how years before while praying in the church she had a vision of starving birds falling from their nest. The next day she spent her whole pension check on birdseed and fed the birds. She had been using the same bag for two years, and it never emptied. Mary saw this as miraculous and wanted to know if she could help feed the birds.

That night Mary moved into Victoria’s squalid home. She slept on the floor, but it didn’t bother her. She was thinking of all the hungry birds they would feed together. In the morning Victoria gave Mary an identical sack to the one she carried full of birdseed. They walked from piazza to piazza feeding the hungry birds all day, and neither sack ever became empty. Mary knew this was a miracle and wanted to tell someone about it. Victoria insisted that no one but they were to know about it. “If we tell,” she said. “The tourist will watch us all day, and the birds won’t get fed, because the tourist will scare them away.” So day after day they fed the birds, and Mary made sure they both ate an evening meal.

Victoria went to church every morning, and Mary went with her so they could start their feeding routine as soon as they left the church. Mary had never been religious, but now after seeing the bottomless sacks of birdseed she believed something was helping them. If it was God she thought; so much the better.

Time flew by swiftly as there were always hungry birds waiting for them. Victoria told Mary of the many miracles that had occurred at the church where she prayed. Mary said she didn’t believe in miracles. Victoria asked her, “How do you explain our never emptying sacks of birdseed?” Mary didn’t answer, she didn’t dare believe God cared about her. She knew this was a false hope, and she didn’t want to delude herself.

While they were in the church the next morning; Victoria praying, and Mary looking at the paintings, Mary glanced at Victoria, and saw that as she prayed she had risen several feet above the floor. Shocked, Mary didn’t know what to think. She wondered if Victoria was some kind of witch with magic powers.

After they left the church Mary asked her how she had performed the feat of rising in mid-air? Victoria told her God was calling her,  but she resisted because there would be no one to feed the birds. Hearing how kind Victoria was she told her that if she wanted to go with her God then Mary would stay to feed the birds for her. Victoria didn’t know how to thank her. That night Mary saw Victoria rise into the sky and go to her God.

Mary went to a doctor the next daybecause she wanted to know how long she could keep her promise. The doctor ran numerous tests and after receiving the results he entered the room Mary waited in with a smile.

“I don’t know what those American doctors were thinking when they gave you that diagnosis. Our x-rays and lab tests show no signs of any tumors. Overall your health is excellent.”

Mary knew Victoria was responsible for this and vowed to feed the birds for the rest of her life. If you’re ever in Venice and see the old woman feeding the birds; that’s Mary who’s been feeding them for over fifty years now. (End)

 

 

#279 Multiverse

#279 Multiverse

I knew I shouldn’t have worked around chemicals but I needed to support my family so I did what I had to. A mistake, like practically every decision I’ve made in my life. How different it would have been if I had gone to school, been smart enough to marry beautiful Jeanne instead of plain Jane, thrown my first cigarette on the ground instead of sucking it down so small my fingers burned on the butt.

The chemicals destroyed my immunity, plain Jane’s kids turned out to be plain dumb. My lungs turned cancerous due to sucking on all those butts. As I lay in my hospital bed, unable to breathe without the help of a machine, I wondered how different my life could have been.

My breathing stopped and then my heart. Beeping sounds went off. I wasn’t afraid and I felt no pain as I floated above the husk that had held me for 58 years. I instinctively knew where to go and flickered to another universe where in a world like ours, I saw another me there, strapped into an electric chair. A guard pulled the switch, and I died a painful death. Now there were two spirits. We flickered on to another universe where I lay in a bed surrounded by doctors and family, who all wished me dead. They loved my money, not me.

At least my kids with Jane didn’t love me for my money. The me in that life died and three spirits journeyed onto another universe and found one more me who was explaining to his wife, beautiful Jeanne and his retarded kids, how if he would have turned left instead of right he wouldn’t die, but he did..

Now there was four of us whizzing onto another universe where there was another world like ours. I ran a marathon and was shot dead by a gunman in a passing car. I heard him say, “That’s what he gets for being so smart.”

Five of me zoomed to the next world on what appeared to be a mission to gather all my different souls. Once there I found a retarded me dying in a group home. People there cheered my demise, and I remembered how I had been saved from a brain crushing blow when just a babe.

Six of us wondered how there could be multiples of us when we found number seven dying. He was king of the world and the streets were lined with subjects sorry for his demise.

Onward we went and found number eight living in a cannibalistic world. He was dying from eating his cousin’s infected brain.

Nine of us coursed through space at unimaginable speeds until we came to yet another world like ours and listened to number ten explain the discovery he had made.

“Don’t be sad because I’m leaving you here,” he told his wives plain Jane and beautiful Jeanne, and his sixteen offspring, “I have researched hard and long, so before I go I’ll tell you all that life as we know it isn’t what you think.”

“Please don’t go,” they all cried.

“Let me finish. Once I do, you’ll be happy I get to go. We all have a soul, but there’s not only one. There are plenty more just like mine. Every other world has one of its own.”

“That doesn’t make me happy,” plain Jane said.

“Let me finish.  These worlds exist to make every opposite decision I never made happen. After one dies he can see how his life would have been if he had only made a different choice in that life.”

“How many are there?” Beautiful Jeanne wanted to know.

“Every choice you make, a world is created where you make the opposite, so the number of worlds is infinite, because there is one for every decision ever made.”

“But, why?” one of the children cried.

“So a person’s souls can discuss for eternity what choices were right and what ones were wrong.”

Eleven of us moved on, but with the knowledge, there’d be many more of us. Time went by and we became a tremendous mass, bouncing from one universe to the next. We just picked up number six billion and one.

It’ll take eternity to decide which decisions I made were right and which were wrong. And maybe that’s the plan for my soul, to perpetually try to know!