Monthly Archives: July 2011

the pier: installment the second

I’ve been in a rut for a long time. Same old, same old, nothing to do here but survive. Not the best way at looking to live. The human condition is that we’re supposed to do more than survive, be more than animals roaming the earth, searching for the next meal. In the confusion and loss of leaving college, homelessness, having a bastard, and more homelessness, any vision I had of what my adult life could become was overshadowed by the reality of what was, all thought bent on how to see one more day with my skin intact. Life hasn’t been quite so hectic for a while now, and it is time for me to try and move forward instead of treading water all the time. Many of the stories I’ve written are about people who are forced to stop standing still.

Out here beyond the pages, there’s no use waiting for the world to change. Whatever it does, daily life all swirls around the actions we take as individuals. In The Pier, we see past actions closing in and affecting the present. Here is installment the second. Installment the first can be found here.

The Pier after sunrise.

Waves assail the beach. Dawn brakes in their wake, maroon, orange, and blue–weak colors behind the fog. I am no closer to a decision. I stand up and brush the wet sand off of my legs, using the back of my hands to rub crusts out of the inside corners of my eyes. Sleep came late, after the footfalls of incoming night fishermen quieted into the silence of their hunt, and the pier became a dream world. Sound reduced to the small clapping waves and the low hiss of fishing lines. Their rhythms rocked me to nightmares.

The night I let young lust enter me, the cold sadness of death, the rustling of leaves on concrete outside the garage door. Rough fingers, cool can, condensation on barely formed breasts. The scent of dust and sin and sweat filling my nostrils, the grunts and sick wet squishing filling my ears.
He came nine months later. Things fell apart. I left. My mother loved him.

Dry heaving myself out of memory, I manage to put one foot in front of the other. I feel empty, lost.

My stomach growls. I wonder how I can even be hungry.

The Baby Ruth I stowed in my purse on the way out of the shop is not enough to satisfy my hunger this morning. The Ramada Inn has bagels and cream cheese in addition to the standard danishes and single serving cereals. And I really need some cheese therapy after spending the night under a pier.

Life turns a brilliant blue as I made my way up from the beach. I try to clear the mists of the night from my mind as well. One slip and they can find me. I can’t forget that again. The cool of an east coast morning, even on the beach, refreshes me as I head down the boardwalk. I do not miss the desert heat, a dry thing baking the life out of you from sunup to sundown. I can’t understand how people get heatstroke on the beach here. They don’t know what real sun is.

My destination approaches, red letters on white plastic. I don’t go in the back door, that takes you right by the front desk and some of them know me by now. Tattooing can be a feast or famine sort of business proposition. I get free food where I can, even if I have to take a belligerent clerk or two before I can put together a full meal.

The alley between hotels opens up on my right, and I duck down it. A few steps later and a glass wall looms high above the sidewalk, blinding me if I look up from the ground. Its corner has a seam for me to lean against without putting prints on the glass. It is cool and comforting under my cheek, a line of reality in the first light of morning. My phone rattles against the stiff wall and my thigh.

Technology is a blessing and a curse.


the pier begins

Might want to watch with the sound off, I wasn’t the only one this ride made scream like a girl. Not my vid, made by a dude crazy enough to sneak a camera out on there. I thank him. My trip to Six Flags yesterday doesn’t have anything to do with my writing of The Pier, a trip to Virginia Beach with a former friend o’ mine created the genesis for this story long ago. But facing fear and getting on some ridiculous roller coasters did serve the purpose of celebrating my brother’s birthday–because riding all the coasters at an amusement park makes you feel young and old. The trip also got me thinking constructively about Vagabond again, and over the fear of not being perfect enough to finally start serializing The Pier.

I am definitely an isolated sort, on purpose, but getting out makes more of a difference that way. All the memories it brought back of good times with the family seem to be balancing my depression about it all that never really fades, and that’s a good thing.

(wrestling announcer voice)

…and now, the first installment of The Pier:

Morning

Sunrise at The Pier

The waves make small shadows on the beach at night, the sound wrapping around me. It almost replaces the blanket I left at home.

I did not plan on leaving tonight.

Gerard and I live in an apartment above his tattoo studio, right on Main Street. I look down at my wrist. “Free” is still written there, clear as the day I suffered through the needles to get it. The weak orange lights from the street cast a shadow over it like a desert sunset. I miss the wastelands of Nevada. There’s nothing like them out here.

Water crashes and mumbles and I stare into it, trying to open myself to the calm Margie swore it’d provide. She’s a waitress with me at The Salted Fish, and knows the menu better.

If I did, this flight could be permanent. Margie makes twice the tips I do. And has better hair.

The letter came today. It sits on the sand at my side, taking in water. The ink won’t bleed out. Indelible marks, unsatisfied cries.

My mother is dead. My baby is five. I do not know how they found me. I think I know. I can’t be sure. I told him I didn’t like cameras.

He said it was just a picture of my wrist. A small vanity.

The pier shelters me and I lean my head back against the base of the shore, cool sand grinding into my hair, calming the panic, calming the fever of flight. I need to escape, if only to here, if only for one night.

I wish it could be forever.

*


the game and other indoor sports

So, it is going to be awhile before the second story in The Tales of Lucas White is available anywhere but Kindle and Smashwords. I’ve entered it in Smashwords Summer/Winter Promotion, so you can get it free until the end of the month. Use code SSWSF at checkout for Smashwords/Stanza/Aldiko. Stanza is iStuff app for ebooks, Aldiko is Droid’s. The free price should extend to Amazon in a day or two from price matching. Freeness ends at end of month, at which point Smashwords will hopefully have ISBNs available and The Game will get shipped out to Nook and such. Still waiting for The Bar to show up on Nook store, it shipped from Smashwords on the 8th, so hopefully soon. It is available on Smashwords and Kindle for the bargain price of 99 cents if you’d like to read the first story of the Tales. To entice you to go check out The Game for free, I give you this sample here.

The Game

Available on Smashwords and for Kindle

Lucas trotted behind his niece, traipsing through Patterson Park with abandon. It was a glorious spring day, and the plastic vessels of candy they sought as participants in the park’s annual egg hunt stood out like flowers against the rejuvenated grass.

“Uncle Lucas, what’s this?”

Lucas turned toward the sound of his niece’s voice, blown back to him on the breeze of a late March morning. His flannel shirt swished in the wind, mindless.

Cassie held a purple apple in her small hand. Its mulberry skin matched the flowers on her Easter pinafore with horrid precision. Lucas shuddered, dashed forward, and whisked the fruit away, running twenty feet into the trees before hunching over it.

The dead sound of plastic mocked him when he tapped the side, and his hands trembled in embarrassment as he squeezed the bottom half of the apple and popped off the top to reveal the egg hunt’s grand prize–two tickets to the Lyric’s spring musical, The Wizard of Oz.

Lucas was still in Kansas.

Cassie ran up behind him, panting with the effort. As he turned around, she asked, “What is it, Uncle Lucas? Something dangerous?”

“No, boopy,” Lucas said, handing her the apple and putting his arm around her slender shoulders. “You won! I didn’t want any of the older kids seeing your prize and mauling you for it.”

Cassie looked down, bewildered, but grinned as soon as she popped open the apple. “Tickets for The Wizard of Oz . . . will you take me, Uncle Lucas?”

Lucas sighed, and gripped her shoulder a bit with his hand, comforted by the reality of it. “Sure, squirt, as long as your mom says it’s okay.”

“SQUIRT! Why you . . .”

Lucas took off into a run after the initial gut punch from his niece, and breathed in city air with relief and satisfaction.

*

That night he dreamed again.

The mulberry face was huge, surrounded by a great bubble of water, its swirling surface like oil on asphalt, shimmering in the sun.

“Eat the fruit, Human,” the tiny voice droned. “I need you this time, and you owe me for saving you from your ignorance.”

Lucas awoke at seven in a clammy sweat, and when he went to brush his teeth, he had to spend an extra ten minutes to scrub the purplish juice off his tongue.

*

The day was typical. Blank stares, blank manila folders with printed labels centered on their anomaly, the tabs. Lucas trudged the path from label printer to file cabinet without thought for the task at hand. His mind strayed to the voice in his dream.
Was it the midget who helped him the night he got too wasted at the Tavern?

Though by all accounts, he didn’t have a single drink that night. Everyone, including Lucas himself, wrote it off as some crazy random encounter he had on the way home from the office.

But he remembered the barmaid, her pierced ears and corset burnt into his mind’s eye for the rest of eternity. He remembered the gnome’s voice, like someone who sucked the gas out of a helium balloon, yet endowed with a tone of command that couldn’t be denied.

And he remembered the mulberry fruit–almost purple, almost pink, almost red–it sucked him back to his own world with a bite and a word from the strangest creature he ever met. No wonder he was seeing purple fruits and their juice everywhere.

A bender like that changes a man.

*

The rest is available for free until the end of July at Smashwords and on Kindle. Give Amazon a few days to make the Kindle version free, or just download .mobi file from Smashwords.


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