CLOSING TIME

 closing time

        It had been a very good night at David and Jana’s bar. “If you haven’t gotten lucky by now, you’re not gonna!” laughed Jana. The last of the happy boisterous regulars exited at 2 AM. Jana went into the back room. The bar was filling up with silence as David prepared to lock the front door.

        As he reached for the door handle it suddenly cocked and the door opened. A man walked into the bar and marched right past David. The man had long hair, sun glasses, a beard and a trench coat that smelled like sulfur.

        David said nervously, “Sorry, friend. After 2 AM I stop serving alcohol.”

        The man continued to the bar, stood up on the foot rail, leaned over the bar and then reached down into the well, grabbing a bottle of whiskey.

        “Well,” the man said as he pulled up the bottle of whiskey, “You are not the one serving me, now are you?” He turned back toward David, threw back his head and swallowed loudly croaking like a bullfrog.

        David’s pistol was over there behind the man, under the bar counter just below the cash register, “Hey, pal. I don’t want any trouble. You can have the whiskey, just go, ok?”

        “Petty Officer David Ryman, you cock-sucking dumb ass, it’s me. Me!” and the man lifted his sun glasses to expose his red eyes and disfigured upper face.

        David’s revulsion flashed faster than his good manners, “Belathauzer? Allen Belathauzer! I, I haven’t seen you since, since…”

        “Since I saved your life, David? Since you emailed me in the hospital? Since you took Jana from me, David?”

        “Belathauzer, we tried to help you. You drove her away.”

        “I died for you, David.”

        Belathauzer took another drink from the whiskey bottle. “Well, David. Now I do want your help. You need to understand me clearly when I say it is a matter of life and death: I need to hide. I need six grand cash and quick.”

        “Belathauzer, I don’t have that kind of money. This bar is just getting by.”

        Belathauzer set the bottle of whiskey on the bar and then from his trench coat withdrew a sawed-off shotgun. He pointed it at David.

        “The safe, David.”

        David hollered loudly enough so that Jana could hear him in the back room, “Shit, ok. OK! It’s in the back room. You can have whatever’s there. I swear I won’t call the cops. But this makes us even, Belathauzer.”

        “I’ll tell you when we’re ‘even’, David.”

        They walked single-file into the back room. David crouched behind his desk and raised the rug to expose the floor safe. As he touched the dial David had a vision of unlocking a grave.

        “Hey, Belathauzer.”

        “Open it, David.”

        “I heard a good joke tonight.”

        Belathauzer tensed and leaned the muzzle of his shotgun closer to David’s head, “Don’t fuck with me, David. Shut up and open it.”

        Twirling the dial, David began, “Three guys are drinking in a bar when a drunk comes in, staggers up to them, and points at the guy in the middle, shouting, ‘Your mom’s the best sex in town!’ Everyone expects a fight, but the guy ignores him, so the drunk wanders off and bellies up to the bar at the far end. Ten minutes later, the drunk comes back, points at the same guy, and says, ‘I just did your mom, and it was sw-e-et!’ Again the guy refuses to take the bait, and the drunk goes back to the far end of the bar. Ten minutes later, he comes back and announces, ‘Your mom liked it!’ Finally the guy interrupts. ‘Go home, Dad, you’re drunk!'”

        “Go home, Allen.” said the soft voice close behind Belathauzer, like an Angel on his shoulder. “Put the gun down or I’ll shoot.”

        Belathauzer looked over his shoulder, inhaled, and then breathed softly, “Jana. Jana, I knew you’d be here. Come away with me.”

        Suddenly he was slinging the shotgun around toward Jana.

        “No!” cried David as Jana’s pistol flashed and Belathauzer’s shotgun blasted.

        Later, the authorities exhumed Belathauzer’s coffin and they placed Belathauzer’s body back therein.   Jana cried as they closed the coffin lid.

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PRESENT TENSE (Me Moria)

 

        Danny awoke angry. In the weekly motel he had not slept well and he did not have the rent. It was Sunday morning but today his favorite preacher would not be on TV.

        The smiling talking news head had said, “The Reverend O. L. Duck bumped his head on the limousine door and later collapsed inside the exclusive restaurant. His condition is listed as guarded.”

        Tomorrow Danny’s boss was cutting Danny’s salary by fifty cents an hour. “To prevent layoffs,” reasoned his boss just before his boss departed with the family for a trip to Las Vegas.

        Danny had not shaved or showered yesterday. He now faced the mirror and brushed his snarled hair. He smeared cold water on his forehead with a facecloth. He glared at his reflection. It glared back with angry bewildered eyes from a pale puffy face.

        “Fuck, I’m dying. I fucking hate this life.”

        Claudette was still asleep.

        “It’s fucking eleven o’clock!” snarled Danny.

        Claudette remained undisturbed. She remained undisturbed about almost everything that made Danny smolder.

        “I guess I get to go tell the fucking manager that I don’t have all of the rent. Shit. Fuck this. Thanks, God. Why do I fucking give a shit?”

        Claudette suddenly arose from the bed, silently, and shuffled to the window. She peeked through the draperies.

        “It’s an overcast day,” she observed softly.

        Danny did not look her in the eye. He was glad that he had not lost his temper again. He was glad that he had waited that extra five minutes. If he could always wait five more minutes, not “count to ten”, but wait five minutes more, things could work-out; he wouldn’t always have to fight.

        Claudette poured milk for the cats. She brushed her teeth. To Danny she moved like an angel within her own time. Claudette had a world all her own.

        Claudette could charm the manager into taking a partial rent payment.

        Danny was scared. The less he cared, the less he did, the better things seemed to be. It made him think about God again.

        “God, what fucking good am I?”

        Claudette made coffee and counted the money.

        “Did you hide away any money?” asked Claudette.

        “I have two dollars,” grumbled Danny.

        “Hey, the sun’s coming out,” said Claudette, as the cats parted the draperies to peer outside.

        Coins clinked, clinked, jingled, and jangled like tiny bells as Claudette sorted a palm full of change.

        “Do you want a sandwich in a minute?” asked Claudette.

        Danny answered “Yeah,” as he tried to remember what was left to eat in the food drawer.

        The cats looked out into the world beyond the parted draperies and calmly contemplated the motion and noise. They watched a thin gnarly man who could have been young (who could have been old) stiffly pushing a shopping cart toward the trash dumpster.

        “How do I look?” asked Claudette as she stood before the door. She had brushed her long blonde hair and she had pulled on her lavender sweater with the embroidered heart.

        “Good”, answered Danny. “Your face even has a good color.”

        Claudette went outside to the manager’s office. Danny re-lit a dwindling Avanti cigar butt.

        Danny thought to himself, “That’s one good thing about these Italian cheroots: they last and they still taste OK.”

        Claudette returned after only a few minutes, smiling.

        “No problem?” asked Danny as he held the door open.

        “No”, she said. And she added with a whisper, “He said that rates were going down next week. Back to winter rates.”

        “Hal-a-fucking-loo-yah!” cried Danny, rolling his head back and giving praise to the ceiling. Danny blew a big fart; a fanny-fare of trumpeting release.

        “Why do you always ‘say’ the same thing?” said Claudette with disgust.

        “This is different”, laughed Danny. “Something, one fucking thing, is finally going our way.”

        Claudette went to the top dresser drawer and withdrew a half loaf of Health Nut bread, four slices of cheese-substitute individually wrapped in clear plastic squares, a bag of Eagle potato chips half empty and folded, a small Roma tomato, and half a green chili pepper.

        “The mayo is in the ice bucket,” said Claudette as she handed Danny a paper plate, half a paper towel, and a blue-handled bread knife.

        They sat together on the bed and made their brunch.

        On TV was a news story about young adults going to a summer camp in Oregon where they learn Chinese social customs.

        “Fucking bullshit!” spluttered Danny.

        The TV interviewer asked a boy why he was at this summer camp, why he was learning Chinese culture, and the boy replied, “If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.”

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        “See?” squeals Danny. “Instead of going to a camp to learn math or geography or design, these fucking millennial brats are learning how to kiss butt!”

        “No so loud,” hisses Claudette, looking toward the draperies.

        Danny thinks to himself, “I must be waking up. I’ve switched to present tense.”

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DINNER WITH MY MENTALLY ILL BROTHER

mentally ill bro

“This place is heaven!”

“Yeah, China Diamond Palace Buffet has everything.  Remember: I’m paying.”

“Oh, you won’t forget.”

“I see you got your usual fried calamari and your usual creamed corn.  What kind of soup is that?”

“Oh, I chunked-up some salmon filets into the Sweet and Sour Soup.”

“Yuck, I can barely stand the smell of sea food.”

“I know.  You tell me every time.  Well, I see you’re sticking with your Biscuits and Gravy.  We could have just gone to Denny’s.”

“Hey, I didn’t have to invite you, you know.  I’m paying.”

“Oh, I’m only kidding, come on.”

“You still make fun of me.”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean anything.  I’ll try to control myself.”

“Mom and Dad got tired of telling you.”

“Well, I got tired of Mom always taking your side, never preparing you to be on your own.  She wasn’t doing you any favors, believe me.  She didn’t let Dad say anything to you, either.”

“Dad said he was disappointed in you, not in me.”

“Well, they punished me good.  They left half the money from the house to you and one quarter each to Melanie and me when it was sold.”

“Mom wanted me to have the house.  She told me.”

“Uh, just how were you going to keep the house, again?  Your Government Disability would have been cut off if you owned a house.  And you have no other income.”

“I told people at church that you and Melanie were trying to take the house from me.  They told me to get a lawyer.”

“You never told those busy-bodies the whole story.  Uncle Harold was the Executor and he must have explained it to you a hundred times.  How much did you waste on that lawyer?”

“Uncle Harold did not do what Mom wanted him to do.  Mom told me that I was going to get the house!  I never liked Uncle Harold.”

“Mom always protected you and let you do anything you wanted.  She felt terribly guilty because a child out of wedlock was a big deal for that generation.  Your real father disappeared.  Dad was amazing to marry Mom.  You were a fucking retard.”

“Dad never did anything against me.  It was you and Melanie and Uncle Harold.”

“Mom wouldn’t let him!”

“Dad was so disappointed in you, he told me.  You were always in trouble and you were into drugs.”

“Listen, you freak, I always admired Dad.  He was my hero.  All I ever wanted was his respect.  So fuck you.”

“Excuse me, but I thought you just said that you were going to control yourself?”

“Yeah, yeah, let’s not fight about old shit.  Uh, sorry.”

“My minister said that…”

“Your minister just wants you to keep spending your inheritance on ‘donated’ bibles ‘with your name in them’ and new podiums, new microphones, and anything else that he can con you out of.  Don’t you get it?  Damn it.  So much for church.”

“Dad and Minister Rob prayed for you when you were on drugs.  Minister Rob said that we should still Love you.  You don’t know how hard that was.”

“Fuck Love.”

“That’s why Dad used to beat you!  Stop saying that.  Don’t you believe that Love is the most powerful thing in the world?”

“No.  No I don’t.  Forgiveness is.  We are all just trained animals.  There is no God!  We are always going to be cruel and selfish.  We need to step up and be God.  We tell ourselves that we are so special, so different; the “Crown of Creation”.  Bullshit.  We need to face our horrible savage lives with a shield of Forgiveness.”

“How can you say that there is no God?  I’m going to make you go back.  Are you forgetting that you are dead?!”

“No, no, but you only ‘invite’ me to have dinner with you on the anniversary of my death! You’re the one who got my share of the inheritance when I OD’d.  Maybe you feel guilty?”

“I don’t have to listen to this!  You go to Hell.”

“Sorry, there is no Hell.  There is no…”

“Stop it, stop it, stop it!  You go back right now!”

“…and there is no Heaven.  And there is no God!”

“Get out of here!”

“See you next year, freak show.”

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Good.  He disappeared again.  I hate him.  He always starts an argument and now everybody in the restaurant is looking at me.  How embarrassing.  He always embarrasses me.  Next year I am NOT inviting him to dinner!

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SCRABBLE THE MUDDY COBBLES

1 ARTHUR BLEWITT
Wind and Cloud and Ice
And Man who is the Fire
Claim the mountain top


Cock’s pride chortles forth
Dawning on humble mice
Cobwebs encompass windows
In gray doors peeling red
Unopened

Morning ragtime worm
Cut cut orchard
Hot thick apples
Leaning trees
Amber apples
Savage love bites
Pollen weary bees

My head clock really buzzed
Wanting that gin whack
Suddenly sucking back
Lonesome blood
I asked love
To end me

Dark shore beckoning
Across brandy dreams
Desire whispers
In craters of anguish
Lanterns flicker
In abandoned white ships

Midnight deeds aroused the cherubs
Burdens churned unspoken sleep
My echoes forgot
Daytime devils dream my soul

Old bones restrain
False needs of love
Lords of vanity beckon
Deeds into stone
Ignorance proud within
Bonds old bones

Speech crashes my throat
Sober acid words
Guide my love up
Out the hot blue veil
Of half-digested empty skies

I myself thin soil
Frigid
I am willing orchids
I am armored

Quivering faces
Half-closed eyes waltz
Innocent birds
Clutching wrinkled
Outstretched
Frail cane hands

Wrinkles slicing bony pate
Pleated gnarly rind
Eyes shuffling decades faint
Mortality’s past my
Suspender stoop
Sneakers wade molasses

Jackhammer testimony
Shakes aching man
Toward another
Sucking razor ledge
precipice
Above nature’s marathon
Perched women poised
Pushed back
Alone

You will laugh through blue smoke hues
I found a memory unused
We spoke promises not truths
Consistency unchallenged

2 MARY MORRIS
Are you what you see?
Can you touch a reflection?
Who is listening?


Dull eyes toil
Down 50 women
Each born tourists
Hands preach plans
Tight jeans’ walk
Gyrates talk
Delicious designer illiterates

Hot arrows out eyes
Poked desire smothered
Smile weak worse advised
Silky tongue mothered
Lady summoned me
Sip poisoned tea

Tempting apples
On her hot kitchen table
Plunging teeth try to bite
Into her perfection
Bursting juice
I enter

Moon touching silky curves
Tingling floats soft fire
Stars crashing hot nerves
Strike long long desire
Beyond sane

Sitting sucking caramel
Rolling dewdrops on her tongue
Bittersweet baby doll
Sinking shadows sugarplum
Fairies twirling under lashes
Dance me to metamorphosis

Fierce hair snapping
Hips mud-brown fling
Silky legs fire dancing
Pagan secrets flare
Gods screaming stare

Diaphanous goddesses
Draping marble bodies
Pull Zeus in
To their catacomb
Osseous Acropolis
Clinging wrinkled wet
Bend Zeus
Expressionless

Love’s callousness
Amidst hidden carnage
Destroyed wisdom
Hammering solitary souls
Into a spaceless station
Of indefatigable enmity
Swallowing blazing stone

Celebrate sin with wine
Man fuse woman flash child
Knee ring wedding enslaved
Quietly trusting lying cheating
Door aha divorce

3 CHILD
Cacti silent hear
Distant promises of rain
This is true praying


Hush
Mom’s breast smells sweet
Sometimes
Chile gonna cry cry
And
I’m your heartbeat
Whispering everything’s alright

Cherubs foretold
Rainbow meadows
Clouds of pear gold
Dear Lord’s way
Calming pure white
Allowed Holy
Evil’s twilight
Mortal play

Look well beyond
The breaking rain
That cloud of fire
Heaven insane
With loud desire
Out to love

Baby watch mother down the charcoal path
Cried love song
Mother smiled dancing to the nearest end
Kept silent music

Dissipating ran
Half-remembered
Careless footprints
Now gone
Infant’s magic dream
Dim soft glow

My child fights
The darkness of freedom once
My words ignite
The soft light of ignorance

4 DEATH
Young Leaves arise through
Litter of fallen Old Leaves
Embrace in passing!


Months burned slowly
In my town
Silence bars me
Out past two o’clock
Invisible
Inside you
Another found
In rain drowned

Breath vanishes thus
Souls lost within vapors
Bide forfeited essence
Their pallbearers sway
Words hopelessly spurning
Death
Surrendered
Cadavers
Rekindling

Death cosmetically at peace
Cushioned beatless soul
Tears in motorcades of grief
Families ominous
Unembalmed rolled
More yet-to-come
Child’s sadness lids this life

Books covered your faith
Lullabies played through your cares
Hope now bears you tears
Praying resounds years of pain.

Bronze melts upon desire
Into fire – and love dies
Self-sacrifice – the spirit
Feverish and mute – yet lies
To shape again the dust

Skies crack
Raven cries
Whales gasping
Salt scraps
Survivors of every desire
Run praying please favor us

To run from heaven
Rain crossed the moon
Crashing long drought
And never found love

Breathless
From stimuli steel-toed
I play the floor cold
Extra harmony up my ear
I will taste decaying tears
Deathless

Remember sweet treason struck angels protected
I am faithless reason whence spirits seize space
For His Holy Anchored Embrace

Before moonbeams
Before god’s despair
God’s newborn mouth
Soundless nowhere
Mothering
Before God’s cry

Murderous from his cloudy chair
Over a cigarette nonchalantly
Staggered his mouth broken apart
Whispering ashes hot against me

We stand together
Frozen waterfalls waiting
For the thaw of death

I now understand
The best haiku I can write
Is the one that says…

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“EL BURRO VIEJO (The Old Burro)”

The Sun
My friend
Returns
Upon
The hill
To lift
The edge
Of night
So tattered by the embers’ flight

The Man
My Friend
Within
His house
Begins
To stir
With song
Alone
So sadness in my ear is sown

My eye
Is filled
The Man
My Friend
Now tithes
My trough
Sweet grain
With hay
Melaza means we work today

A blanket woven by his Wife Who Died
Adorns my saddle where he dare
Bestride me slowly with his beaten heart
And turn, as if to cry good-bye

I trot along the Trail My Friend once more
To bear all sorrow down to town
Where we will trade it for a day or so
Of work together dust to dust

The bargain struck by hand to carry goods
Upon my back up there somewhere
Beyond the pass where pumas hide the moon
Machete smiles did slice the price

My hooves the hours mull with dust and salt
That smolder from the pounded ground
The strangers grow impatient with my pace
And tell the Man My Friend to tend
My inclination, weighing on my knees
My coffin bones are spears of tears
The Man My Friend with gentle songs beside
My toil he shares with yet regret

Yet steep between the jaws of canyon walls
The waves of rocks in frozen pose
A shadow dances on my bleary eyes
My legs I lose, so quit and sit
The angry strangers my existence curse
But flying words can bring no wing
So stones are cast that gouge away my fur
I bray to heaven, then cries arise

The Man My Friend between the stones and me
Does intercede and begs my legs
To help me wobble, like a foal again
But he is struck by stones and moans
Collapsing with me back into the dust
The strangers leave us there aware
They take our chances with their own and go
The goods upon their shoulders rolled.

The Man My Friend is moving not at all
But grave injustice I defy
To find myself arisen and I bray
I bellow and I scream extreme
Damnation on the wicked strangers’ path
When one returns despising eyes
And draws his gun and fires amiss at me
I kick at rocks that fly awry
To clatter up the narrow canyon walls
He ducks his head his fellows yell
The canyon is an echo cauldron now
I hear a rumble, then again
When boulders fall and crush the strangers dead
Manojos de su dinero share
The Man My Friend and I
Viejos juntos

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PASSOVER 1945

“April is the cruellest month…” whispered in my mind, recalling a poem by T. S. Elliot.

I am Lieutenant Murray Cohen.  I am with the 89th Infantry Division.  We were moving wth the 4th Armored Division.  On the night of April third, 1945 we were in the Thuringia Forest of Germany.

I lit two cigarettes.  One for me.  One for my dead friend Allen.

A few days ago my squad had assaulted a machine gun emplacement.  It was impossible.  So I split my squad and we tried a five-prong attack.  I was the only one who survived.  Our commander leaned into my face and loudly commended me, saying dozens more would have been killed.  He shook my slumped shoulder.

They assembled for me another squad out of other survivors.

Sergeant Dale approached me as I alternately smoked both cigarettes that night.  He joked, “Won’t all that smoke give-away our position?”

I said, “Not like those shits you take.”

Sergeant Dale chuckled and he asked,”So what is this mysterious objective tomorrow?”

I answered truthfully, “A bunker of some kind.  They don’t know if they’re going to test some new super bomb or if it’s just a big new command center.”

Sergeant Dale mused, “Super bomb? Great.”

I reminded him, “You haven’t heard anything.”

Sergeant Dale said, “Sure.  OK, Goodnight, Irene.  Hey, it’s Passover isn’t it?”

I answered, “Tomorrow.”

In the sunrise of the coming first night of Passover we moved onward searching out our objective.  It wasn’t long until we saw smoke rising from behind a hill.

I said to my squad which was spread around me, “Put on your dancin’ shoes,” and we stalked toward the smoke.

We came upon the walled compound deeply hidden in the hillside from which the smoke was rising.  The watchtowers were unmanned.

Sergeant Dale asked me, “Was it bombed?  Why would they allow smoke like that?”

I observed through my binoculars, “The gate is ajar.”

Sergeant Dale asked, “A trap?”

I said, “We’re going in,” and one by one we covered each other as we entered through that gate.

I cannot make you comprehend today how we had no concept for what we found.  We were the first Americans to liberate a Nazi concentration camp: Ohrdruf.

There were decaying corpses lying everywhere and there were erect corpses with open eyes shuffling toward us, staring as if they could not comprehend our presence.

I approached the ghastly source of the smoke.  It was a railroad pallet piled with charred remains of people.  Tar had been poured on them and set on fire.  But fire would not consume the evil.

Sergeant Dale alerted me, “Murray.”

I turned and saw a woman in a Nazi uniform coming towards me, holding erect an emaciated young girl who had blood all over the side of her head and face.  The blood had soaked the side of the Nazi woman.

The woman spoke and gestured to herself and the young girl, saying something, explaining, pleading though I couldn’t understand her as I raised my rifle.

“Bitte. Arzt! Arzt! Ich bin Aufseherin Hirth. Gabriella. Dieses Mädchen ist Aliza. Ich kam zurück, um zu helfen. Als die anderen sagten, das Lager aufzugeben, schoßen sie jeden, dass sie konnten. Ich verließ die anderen Wächter, um zurückzukehren, um zu helfen.”

[“Please.  Doctor!  Doctor!  I am Supervisor Hirth.  Gabriella.  This girl is Aliza.  I came back to help.  When the others said to abandon the camp they shot everyone that they could.  I deserted the other guards to return to help.”]

Sergeant Dale ran to them.  He pulled the injured young girl away from the Nazi.  The young girl bleated and reached back for the woman.

I aimed my rifle at the Nazi woman.  I became the Angel of Death.

The woman withered to her fate.

I glanced at the blood of the young girl upon the woman’s side.  I heard the bleating of the young girl.

Then my eyes were opened.  Understanding descended upon me in tears.

I retracted my rifle barrel toward heaven and Death silently passed over that woman.
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A FORETASTE OF GLORY DIVINE

For every gift there is a theft.
The mind appears to be an elaboration of the senses.
Will appears to be chemistry of the senses.
Whence then the notion of enlightenment?  Aversion to pain?
Is it true that the senses can overcome themselves?
What, Who asks?
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MY FAMILY TREE

“Mom! Take a picture!

Ashley drawed Dad’s face out there

in the sand that’s wet!”

“Mom! Before waves come!”

“THE MEMORY CARD IS FULL, DEAR.”

“You’re never fun, Mom.”

“Mommy, cool off in those waves.”

“WE JUST ATE PIZZA!”

“Mom, I will live near the ocean to study fish.”

“DON’T CUT THE HEAD OFF JULIETTE’S RAINBOW PONY!”

“I need it for bait!”

“Mom! Look! Judith-Anne:

She’s peeing into the sand!”

“FOR GOD’S SAKE, CODY,

DON’T WORRY. SHE WON’T ‘GET CRABS’.”

“Mommy, Mommy, why

do you have an umbrella?”

“Is it the hot sun?”

“NO, IT’S THE SEAGULLS.”

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(“HONEY, YOU AND ME. NO KIDS.

LET’S TAKE A LONG WALK, PLEASE?”)

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GENEVIEVE

            Genevieve LeRoi is fifty years old and she is pregnant and she is not married.  Before dawn this morning she had set herself down here on the grassy cliff above the mouth of the river, watching ripples of ocean waves struggle upstream.  Her eyelids were dark and swollen from her drinking, and her lips stuck to her cigarette.  She expected to survive.  She waits for Alex.

            Alex LeRoi, who is Genevieve’s older brother, has done everything a father could have done.  Alex had scolded Genevieve every day in a protective, worrisome, and attentive way while the headstrong, remorsefully ideal, gently pale Genevieve did as she pleased.

            Alex, always thin, going bald, dressing with a tie, his eyes glancing off of his watch, has religion.  Alex is the only one who knows that Genevieve is pregnant.  The two of them, as children, were such opposites that they were always together, knee-deep in need, squabbling, teasing, crying.  Genevieve dug up worms so that Alex would take her fishing in his rowboat.  Genevieve thought it was mean to catch fish.  Alex wanted only to look at them, so he told her that fish felt no pain.  Genevieve said that she wanted to be a nurse.  Alex said that he wanted to be a doctor.  They would throw the fish back into the water, unless the fish swallowed their only hook.

            Genevieve felt since her pregnancy that Alex had been no real help, no real resistance, no one to hold, no one to push.  Whenever Genevieve decided against the pregnancy, Alex nodded with all the wisdom of statistics.  Whenever Genevieve felt obliged to give the child birth, Alex hugged her.  Whenever Genevieve decided to keep the baby, Alex said it would keep her young.

            This morning is Mothers’ Day Sunday.  Genevieve and Alex are supposed to visit Mother’s condominium, driving in Alex’s car that looks as good as the day he got it from Father, nearly 20 years ago.  It is never Genevieve’s idea to visit Mother on Mothers’ Day Sunday.  Genevieve can close her eyes and see that on this morning, the condominium staff will have provided a breakfast that would taste funny to Mother.  Mother would push the tray away and sit on the edge of her bed, leaning on her cane, glaring.  Mother, tidy, determined, and suspicious.

            Father, quiet, smiling, yielding with gentle humor, died without much fuss nearly 20 years ago.

            Genevieve reclines in the cool grass above the mouth of the river, feeling the blood dry, waiting to survive, waiting for Alex.  Alex had jokingly named their unborn child “Joe King”.  “He’ll have to be a fighter,” Alex had said with his worrisome concern.  Genevieve had felt “Joe King” sparring inside her, reaching downstream.  Sometimes, in her mind, Genevieve had heard another voice and then there were times when Genevieve had been sure that she was sharing her eyes.  “Joe King” would not be a child to take “no” and pushing against Genevieve he had wanted out.

            Genevieve kneels in the grass beside “Joe King”.  It is now the end of the unfinished child.  “Joe King” lies still in the morning light that crawls over his tiny hands and feet.

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(homage to Gertrude Stein)

THE RAINBOW BEHIND US

            It was the first morning of our honeymoon.  We lingered on the balcony, overlooking Carmel-By-The-Sea.

            “Smell those pine trees,” I said needlessly.

            We sipped coffee, sitting at the little white table.  Sweet rolls lounged on a plate of china.

            “Remember that hawk?” you asked.

            “Yes.  Hard to believe.”

            “He was flying so close to the jet engines.  How could he take the noise?”

            “How could he keep up with us taking-off down the runway?  I never knew that hawks could fly so fast.”

            “It was like he was playing.  Like he was used to it.”

            “What kind of a hawk was he?”

            “A brown hawk?”

            “Wonderful.  Today we buy a bird-watcher’s book.”

            Yesterday, from an altitude of 31,000 feet, the ocean had been a sheet of satin.  The sky was a wall.  Clouds were far below, and we could see their shadows falling on the water.  I spotted a fishing boat, etching along beside a fog bank.

            Now we sipped our coffee in sunshine.

            “When you are up in a plane you are totally committed,” you philosophized.

            “Like marriage.”

            Dressed decently in robe only, I dialed for the limousine service.  You arose from your chair.

            “I must return to the Lady’s Dressing Room.”

            “Will I see you again?”

            “Give me two little minutes.”

            Even I liked the golden wash basins, molded into floral designs.  You had your three favorite perfumes, a full-length mirror, a towel array, and a plush rug.  Oh, yes, and a sunken bathtub with mood-lighting at your fingertips.  Were you “Rousing”?  Were you “Tranquil”?

            “What do you think, husband dear?”

            “Wow.  You look great.  That coat is simply elegant.  My darling, you have such a rare beauty.”

            I had been dressing, watching the big-screen TV.  There was a documentary about the first men on the moon.

            “Learning about ‘reentry’?” you smiled.

            “Yes, and ‘maximum heat’,” I leered.

            “Our grandchildren will honeymoon on the moon.”

            We departed our room.  We chose the circular stairway which swept into the lobby.  As we descended we saw Monty, our limousine driver.  He was studying the bronze sculpture gardens.

            “Beautiful morning,” he said.  “Would you like to have the sun roof open?”

            “Sure,” I said.

            “A little sounds nice,” you amended.

            The road swooped right and left, winging along the coastline.  Pine trees batted the sunshine overhead.  Villas came out from corners, castles came down from hilltops.

            “Look at those stained-glass windows,” you breathed.

            “We’ll stop for pictures any time you want.”

            We snuggled close and played a stereo cassette.  The ocean turned grey, with whitecaps.

            “We’re heading into some fog,” I observed.

            “It makes me think of other times and other places.”

            Monty said, “A lot of movie people live around here.  Clint Eastwood has a place just up ahead.”

            We drove into sunshine.  At the Look-Out-Point we parked.  Monty paid the meter.  You and I stood together beside the white fence, with halos of ocean spray behind us.  Monty snapped our pictures.  Seals barked and howled from the rocks.

            “Are they making fun of us?”

            “Pay no attention to those vagrants.”

            Seagulls hung from above, gawking.  I fed them by holding a sweet roll up in the air.  A hovering gull would bite hold of the other end and for a moment I would tether him like he was a kite.

            You pointed, “Look at those gulls standing over there in the puddle.  They think they’re pretty superior.

            “That’s their exclusive pool club.”

            We returned to the limousine and Monty drove us past the great golf course.  Near the marine research station the fog caught up with us and became rain.  Monty drove on to the “best restaurant on Monterey Bay”.

            “What a view!  California coastline as far as you can see.”

            “Look at all the rows of boats.  All those masts look like a forest.”

            Monty said, “This is the Monterey Bay Marina.”

            Inside the restaurant, in the middle of the room, was an actual fishing boat mounted with a manikin crew and seagulls carved from wood.  We sat near a large window.  Our table cloth was long and white.  The chairs were plush.  We studied the brunch menu.

            “It’s either Eggs Florentine or Halibut Tahitian for me,” I said.

            “An Avocado Club Sandwich sounds good.  But maybe I like Eggs Florentine, too.”

            Edward was our waiter.  He served us fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, pulpy and sweet.

            From the breadbasket you chose a warm slice of sourdough.  I claimed a raisin bagel.

            “Look at that: now it’s sunny here, but we can watch the rain sweeping over the north shore dunes.”

            Edward brought our fruit appetizers.  There was laughter in the middle of the room.  Near the fishing boat display was a table garrisoned with champagne bottles, a punch bowl, and a very big cake.

            Edward explained, “It’s our manager’s 20th Wedding Anniversary.”

            “That’s great,” I said.  “It’s our Honeymoon.”

            Into the dining room came the waiters, the hostesses, the chefs, the prep-cooks, and the bus-boys, assembling around the festive table.  A young woman climbed up onto the fishing boat.  The employees laughed and clapped.

            “A toast to Joe and Louise!  To Joe’s good taste.  To Louise, we love you.”

            Faces turned toward Joe who waved to the cheers.  Louise hugged his arm and wiped her eye.  Champagne punch, blocks of ice-cream, and wedges of gooey cake were happily divided and passed around.

            Joe came over to our table, “Hello, folks.  I’m Joseph, the manager here.  Rumor has it that you’re newlyweds?  Congratulations.”

            “We really like your restaurant.  What a location!”

            “Thank you.  Say, look at that down there.  That seal’s been chasing his tail all morning.  The other day we saw a mama otter swimming on her back holding her baby.  Cutest little thing.”

            “Talking about me again, Joe?”

            “This is Louise, my wife.  Louise, these folks here are newlyweds.”

            “How nice to have you.”

            I asked, “What are you getting each other for your 20th Anniversary?”

            “Our heads examined,” laughed Joe.

            Louise pinched his arm and said, “Don’t listen to him.  He is going to surprise me with a romantic train trip.”

            “I am?  I mean, how did you know?”

            Louise continued, “And a private compartment.”

            You and I spoke up, laughing together, “That is exactly what we plan to do in a few days!”

            “How wonderful.  Isn’t it, Joe?”

            “Sure.  And if you two get the chance, look inside the train station in Salinas.  Up high on the wall is this long mural done in mosaic.  It’s a picture of lettuce pickers working near a speeding train.”

            “Oh, yes,” said Louise, “And on the other wall is a mural of a rodeo, with marching soldiers, cowboys lassoing, and Indians riding horses.”

            Joe rubbed his chin.  “Only a block away from the station is the house of that fellow, Steinbeck, the writer.”

            Louise closed her eyes, “I could sit looking out the window of a moving train forever.”

            Edward poured our coffee while pulling his arm back slowly, letting the stream of coffee fall in a long arc.  He didn’t spill a drop.  We applauded.

            Edward pointed out the window, “A rainbow.”

            “Across the whole bay!”

            A friend of Joe and Louise was a photographer for the newspaper.  He took a picture of all of us together, with the rainbow behind us.

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