Friday, March 18, 2011

Serious Girl, Pt. 1

They met only briefly, when they were both on their way somewhere else. He was lost, he'd be the first to admit it. Trying to make the best out of a bad situation. He didn't speak the language, which to him sounded like someone dragging a stick across an old picket fence. It had this strange chopping rhythm he couldn't begin to attach any real meaning to. On top of that, the maps were a mystery to him. He'd been lost before. He'd driven through rural Mexico on half a tank of gas and gotten though alright. But this was a different story. Here he couldn't really negotiate the day-to-day. He thought he had North and South worked out, he was pretty sure he had at least that much, but then he'd hit the side of a church when he was expecting the riverbank. He'd find himself standing in the middle of a park somewhere miles off-course. The novelty of the situation was wearing perilously thin.

Most of the others had thrown in the towel already, retreating into the relative safety of CNN and the hotel bar. They'd drink down huge glasses of cheap pilsner and local rum and watch looping reels of disaster footage until it was time to stagger back to their rooms upstairs. He could see why, he wasn't blind to the appeal of giving up, but he wasn't ready yet. So he zipped up his jacket and headed out the door.

The city had a real problem with fires, she explained. Every few blocks and there'd be another monument to some poor guy who went up in flames. She'd translate it for him and he'd do his best to keep up. The Catholics set fire to the Protestants over here, a few yards from where the Turkish t-shirt vendor was standing now. Down the street the police set fire to the Jews. The Nazis rolled in and set fire to pretty much everything on that side of the river and then the Russians came in and torched all the bridges. The Americans never set any fires, she told him. They never needed to.

She was tall and thinner than he could fathom. She had spent some time in Chicago a long time ago, she said, but she was too young to know what a long time was. She had a real flair for self-dramatization. She wore a blue raincoat and strange chunky shoes, made her eyes up like Cleopatra. She drank gin out of the bottle she carried around in her bag and he suspected she was insane. She had this way of keeping him at a distance without keeping him away. He knew what she was doing but he didn't quite know how, and he didn't mind as much as he might have. They met at the castle gates. Met where they first met, where they always met.

She had a brother. She had a mother. Had he ever been to Chicago? What was his wife like? He hadn't mentioned a wife. She reminded him of a girl he knew a long time ago. A girl he used to go to the movies with once upon a time. They'd sit in the back rows of Cinema Village, holding hands and sharing a pack of Camels. Back when things were like that. But that girl was as all-American as the day was long, Boston cheerleader with a broken nose, and this girl was anything but.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Coeur d'Alene

He climbed out of the Chevy with a gun in his hand I recognized the weapon immediately it was the one his Dad brought back from the war. Climbed out of the car with this dazed look in his eyes and kinda stood there staring up at the house for a while he knew she was in there and he looked insane. Looked like an old dog, to tell you the truth, like some old dog been kicked in the ribs one time too often. Chevy's engine ticking over, cowbirds circling high up in the sky above. He stood there with that gun in his hand, didn't know what to do.

Her brothers stood together behind the screen door. Her mother screamed "GET DOWN!" and hid praying under the bed but she didn't she just stood there. Just stood there at the window upstairs. Stood there in the room where she grew up, where she hung posters on the wall, where she spent hours talking to her friends on the telephone, where she studied herself obsessed and uncomprehending in the mirror on the closet door. Room where she first let him in. She stood there with her white fingertips pressed up against the glass. Stood there staring down at him. Stood there still half asleep in her pajamas and she couldn't hardly breathe.

He saw her like she knew he would. His eyes stung, his heart kicked inside his chest hard, kicked inside one two three. He knew he was coming apart. He called out her name but the brothers inside just stared. Big country brothers one hand firm on the door. Now he was there he was lost, her mother still screaming from under the bed.

He blinked. Heard the screen door open and blinked again. He remembered the weight in his hand.

Good Job So Far

How did this happen? What's going on here? One minute you're sitting behind the wheel in an Albertsons parking lot and the next minute you're on your knees in a hotel corridor pleading like a child? Is that the idea? One minute you're pledging your love like Johnny Ace and the next everything's zooming away real fast in the rear view mirror? What's the matter with you, anyway? How old are you? What're you thinking? I'd be lying if I told you I liked it, Buddy. I'd be lying if I told you I was impressed.