Pumpkin And Mice

She’s cold.

She steals a shirt. pulling it over her body, glazed in sweat, half dry, half oily. No one will touch her, not even herself.

She’s attracted to a sweatshirt hanging on a rafter, yanking on it with her arms high in the air. Her tugging becomes a dance, the sweatshirt is her partner. She twirls, dips in rhythm. They’re melodic.

Motorhead’s Ace of Spades grips the air, loud, somewhat distorted.

The wire coat hanger holding the sweatshirt gives way.

She clutches the sweatshirt and the broken hanger, stuffing them under her arms, along with a piece of Styrofoam, an empty detergent jug, plus a dozen money transfer receipts from Western Union. None of the receipts have been filled out.

Her teeth are a magical white as if the tooth fairy had cast a spell on her teeth. She smiles a lot. Her teeth are blessed.

A cop speaks a foreign language into his radio. He knows who she is. He doesn’t know her name.

She understands his language by watching his movements, drops the sweatshirt. The hanger makes no sound.

He walks her out of the shop into the just-before-midnight air, where breezes dip down from Alaska.

An orange van, non-descript, no markings, stops in front of her. She gets in, smiling, like she’s getting a lift to another part of town.

As she gets into the van, one dirty white slipper falls off her foot.

I write up a receipt, pay for the shirt, get a new hanger for the sweatshirt, place it back up on the rafter.

I pick up the slipper, keep it behind the counter. Maybe she’ll come back for it.

 

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The Harvester and the Crone

He was an old orchard, still in the shape of rows. But time had scattered his buzzing and his feet made noise upon layers of fallen twigs. Still, he searched, moved with purposeful steps, noise and all.

She knew he would find her. He wanted to find his lost one. He’ll want her to kiss him like in the old days, when mornings were late and cars passed by on their way to work, headlights on.

She wouldn’t, couldn’t, kiss him again. Being close to him, an aura away, would feel strange, familiar in an unsettling way. Best to see him in the night. If he surprises her, let it be during the night.

She knew how he worked. He potted hard seeds, watched them sprout and with careful interest, plucked them before maturity. He harvested and ate tender plants.

He had a power of light. His house was an array of lights, growing lights, natural light, night lights, always on in one way or another. He said, “I want to see, always, all of the time. I always want to be clear on things.”

 He could see, but see what? She remembered him looking at her inside his house of light, with depthless eyes, irises with holes inside them, as if they were wells that had no bottom.

Why wasn’t there light inside his eyes? Perhaps that’s why she had loved him then. She wanted the darkness to surface, the hidden things he refused to show, a truth, an honesty, no matter how dim that reality would be. But he entangled her in light.

She escaped his little greenhouse, bolting towards unknown empty lots of life, streets, dirty kids with big hearts, confused adults with compassion worn on their sleeves. People blunt with darkness. It’s inside those living empty spaces where she became fascinated by the littlest scraps she found. Things she could see in the dark. Not one shape was like another and darkness let shadows move, whole lifespans, even death, move. “Funny,” she thought, “how we brush away the truth by using light.”

She knew he was coming. She sensed movement, the oceans rose, the forests burned, cities bulged. She would smell him before he showed himself. He smelt of old fruit, searching for the young bud, the vulnerable shoot reaching for the sun. He pretended to be the sun, an old trick of his.

 

She will touch him, not with her lips, but with words aligned by the absence of light. She will let her wings unfold, made of a shiny transparent film. She had bloomed. She was beyond seeds.

 

 

 

Readers

There are the flash fiction folks, the poetry peeps,  long read lingerers, essay sippers, quote queers, novel nuts, the journalist jackals…sci fi sympathizers, romance unrequited rejects, the mystery mongers, the New York old-timers, speculative spectators, fantasy freaks, comic-con artists, and the not-so-young adult Harry Potters.

I’ve seen them at bars, pretending they don’t want to be flirted with. They do, but in a readerly kind of way. Never approach a reader in a writerly kind of way. They’re too much into reading to be bothered by a writer.

I saw one of them on a bus once, ignoring all noise, paying no attention to yelling crazy people. It must have taken several miserable years of public education to achieve such skill.

Some of them read on their phone, self-reflecting over what they’re reading. Or there’s Kindle which rarely start fires. Plus, there’s other e-readers for those who are literally frightened to turn pages of a book.

They create weird secret societies, like Goodreads. WhyAreYouReadingThatCrap?reads, OnlyReadWhatOprahreads 2.0, which is better than what Oprah read in 1.0. Shelfarifor those who hunt books and apparently can track them down by the empty spaces they leave on bookshelves. There’s Bookstrand Libibwhich can only be found on Bapple computers.  And there’s Rifflefor the reading riff raff. Strange are these readers!

At book stores and libraries they bump into each other. You can’t hear them, except whispering, which is a secret language known only to readers. I asked a few of them about it, out loud. They shushed me. That’s why I decided to be a writer.

Warrior Rock Light

 

The river is high for winter, but it’s still the water I know, its muddy banks, dirty shore, lucid waves. Swollen, I can’t follow it to the lighthouse. I cut through brambles, to the trail, stepping on spongy flora forming a false carpet, made of branches, dried leaves, and grasses, hiding the ground, hiding everything.  Curling around fallen trees, the carpet creates deep catacombs. I don’t know why, I’m searching for the dead, that kid that went missing, that woman who hasn’t been heard from in years, bones, fingers, humanity. All colors of the years here have melted into a gray mass. Anyone could be lost here, everyone is, perhaps, lost here, in plain sight. Every now and then I see the ground. I hear the river, its slow pace. 

I know why some jump into the river, inside the hidden current, upstream, from the city

To become lost, to lose themselves, to become gray like old flora, that’s the last place to hide.

There are freshwater clam shells strewn along the river’s shore, eaten by birds. Clams filter everything, then so must the birds. And it’s me, filtering…through the gray. There’s not really a way to get lost here, only a way to become hidden. The river’s been higher, flooded the brambles, the soft carpet and all things that have fallen for countless seasons. I stop my search, though I know someone is lost… somewhere… in here. If only I could lift the carpet, look underneath. Afterwards, I would place it back down, exactly how I found it. The trail is the shortest way, always on solid ground, a few feet higher than the river, a little muddy. 

I reach the lighthouse.

(Image: Mt. St. Helens from the Columbia River)

Movement

(Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

Baskett Slough

There’s so many speaking, not wanting to give up the slough.

They’ve had it for the entire winter… to themselves

Chickadees, common nighthawks, grebes, sneaky rails and coots.

 

The marsh, still cold…wet…wants to capture my clumsy steps.

Grasses hide the outer rim of the seeping lake

Then mud, a good dousing…slick…brown as cake frosting.

 

My movements tell the story of who I am…speech patterns.

Geese and ducks…angry…bat the water with their wings.

I can’t help it…I’m looking for spring…yes…still.

 

It sprinkles…the wind cold enough to numb my fingers.

Peregrine Falcons eye me with suspicion…they draw circles in the sky.

It’s quiet in the updrafts…they watch me plea with the talkers.

A Cold Bridge

On freezing nights when the river settles, the reflection of city lights is clearer than the real lights. She views this better on the bridge, her winter pilgrimage.

Colder than the air, she grips its handrail. Her hands pull away only at the moment she can’t feel them. It’s that pain she’s after, of her hands warming up after they’ve become numb, filled with little sparkles, needles, the slow throb back to movement.

But the lights found on the river’s surface hold a deeper meaning than pain for her.

She trusts the reflections more than real lights. They have a glimmer that’s missing from the real thing. She knows this not to be true. She knows the side of reflection is fiction, but, in a way, she believes that her wishing, a wishing so deep, so intense, begins to create an alternate reality.

She thinks… No. She knows there are millions of others just like her, wishing as she does. And with that power, alternative realities are coming into being, piece by piece, wish by wish.

Someday she’ll attempt to reach the reflections.

For now, she will settle for a hand on the railing, looking…looking…until she’s numb…again.

She’s on her tiptoes.

 

 

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