A very busy day today, out and about… I did manage to sit in the Espumoso Caffe in the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff and sketch out a short story in my notebook. I meant to type it up when I was home in the evening and let you see it here, but I’ve been hammering away and it’s nowhere near done. I have to drive to Oklahoma City tomorrow to pick up Nick, so I better get some sleep.
All I have for this week, therefore, are three little snips of text, signifying very little. I try to keep on file, well, several hundred little scenes or sketches… mostly culled from the wreckage of failed stories – in the hope that I might be able to use them someday. I pull them out in times of low ambition and massage them, water and fertilize them… see if something roots and grows from the barren cuttings of words.
The little boy came up out of the water like a sprite from a fountain. He shook the droplets off and watched the tiny rainbows as they flew from his body. He looked down at the dark footprints his wet soles left on the hot concrete – at the space between the toes and curved pads and as he gained speed there was only the toes and the ball, then finally nothing as his skin dried.
A sudden scream of air – a whistle – blown – designed to startle – stopped the boy in his tracks right at the foot of the ladder.
“No Running!” came the simple loud command from high.
The boy shook as he looked up at the voice from the chair – but the speaker was obscured by the bright haloing sun.
He walked carefully the rest of the day, little steps, glancing up at the chair.
That night he ate his dinner and cleaned his plate. Then he copied his lessons from the book onto his blue-lined three-holed paper using his number two lead pencil. He took his evening bath, and – remembering the instructions from his health textbook – combed his hair one hundred times. Finally, he crawled into bed, pulled his blanket up to his neck and quietly, almost silently, sobbed himself to sleep.
He sat on a thin high chair at a narrow bar of blond wood facing the broad windows sipping his drink and watching people drive up outside. Two scruffy guys wearing leather jackets sat smoking and talking – making wide, violent gestures and laughing – at a little table on the sidewalk. He was looking out over their heads. One guy had long stringy dirty hair, balding a little in front. The other had given up and shaved this pate.
Across the busy intersection was a bank building of white marble alternating in vertical strips with blue reflective glass. It extended up past the top of the windows – he wasn’t sure how tall it eventually was. He glanced up and caught the reflection of an aircraft, an orange and red Southwest passenger jet, crossing the face of the building. It must have been on landing approach over his head; lined up with the bank building’s mirrored windows. The image would jump from one strip to the next, sometimes curved and distorted, sometimes magnified, sometimes shrunk to a pinpoint, depending on the flaw in that particular glass panel. The plane would dance, bend, and jump, flitting distorted and plastic.
He noticed the two guys staring at the dancing plane too. As the reflection disappeared off the left side of the bank they laughed and waved their arms bent in the air in imitation of the flexible jet. They turned and shared a silent smile with him through the window – for a split second.
Until he thought better of it and turned back down to his book.
Paul woke up naked and crusted with what must have been vomit. His brain felt like it had swelled to twice its usual size but was still stuck in the same little head. He thought the pressure might separate his skull along some jagged line, exploding his brain in sweet relief. Every nerve in his body was firing quickly and randomly and the light pouring in from the end of the bridge felt toxic. Paul tried to protect himself by digging deeper under the pile of filthy blankets that was left to him. They weren’t thick enough and Paul was forced to try and figure out what to do. His elbows and knees were scraped bloody and his tongue felt torn on the underside, like it had been half pulled out.
He scrabbled around for his clothes, keys, and wallet and found nothing except a filthy pair of green shorts and a denim jacket that said Big Bambu on the back and a fresh bloodstain coursing across the front. He put those on, wrapped himself in the least-filthy rag he could find for warmth, slid down the concrete slope, and padded barefoot along the trail under the high Interstate overpass back to his car.
He wasn’t really surprised when he found the Chrysler missing. He dug around the camp trying to find anything of value but it had been stripped. The dirty shreds of rags, old shopping carts, and trash were still there as was a dark spot where the night’s campfire had burned itself out cold. But no food, drink, shoes, or anything else of any value remained.
Paul sat and cried for over an hour, until the sun rose and heated the mass of concrete overhead and it felt like a rumbling broiler. He could not figure out how to get home. He considered hitchhiking but couldn’t imagine anyone stopping for a horrible apparition like himself. He couldn’t find any change – not enough for a pay phone, and the thought of trying to panhandle… he couldn’t bear the thought of someone seeing him like that.
Then Paul realized that the creek at the bottom of the interchange was the same drainage system that coursed through his apartment complex. He thought he could follow the way, make the correct turns. He limped down into the stale slow-flowing water, the mud feeling good on his feet, but the filthy liquid stinging his wounded knees and elbows. He noted the direction the water was flowing, turned into it and began trudging upstream.