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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PRIVATE COMPARTMENTS 🚂

The train’s whistle trumpets. We are rounding the bend into Montejo.

In the private compartment her head is thrown back. Her long blonde hair shudders over her shoulders.

I am callous as I pinch warm dough. Gently bite the filling. Smell the ferment. Sip the liqueur.

She bows forward and sucks my neck. “The curtain is open,” she reminds me.

Time is short but it has been too long. I will let her have all of me. Lapping around the thicket is slippery when wet and I plunge down the well.

Blast after blast the train’s whistle blows.

The next thing I know, she is exhaling sharply, “That, is, the, Por,ter, knock,ing! We, are, al,most, there!”

My ears buzz. My lips hum. Suddenly I am a kite, beginning to twirl, and she holds me in tight. Gravity is overcome, in all directions. Her voice is thrown clear in a spear of song, and it splinters on the ceiling into laughter.

We are rent apart, hot uncaring husks on the hooks of a grin, deliciously depleted. Memory alone is enough to cause trembles and aftershocks.

The Porter is knocking again. I wobble to my feet.

“Come on, Suizette. I already put a $20 tip under the champagne bottle. You don’t have to straighten up anything….. Else.” I grin at my own joke.

I think the Porter is laughing.

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CRUZAR MI CORAZÓN ❤️

Glistening like a pearl above Valentín’s Pizzeria,
The moon is pressing down on young Antonio’s heart marrow.
He bakes for lovers’ tongues, ‘neath the eye of Ave Maria

Glistening like a pearl.

Esmeralda saunters in, dressed to beg for Cupid’s arrow.
She orders pizza from Antonio’s fixated sueña;
Her piercing angel bites hypnotize the young caballero.

Antonio then bakes a gift just for his dulcinea.
She takes the steaming heart-shaped pizza, big as a sombrero,
Glancing back over her shoulder, the white of her sonrisa

Glistening like a pearl.

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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 husband would 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)

 

MY FAMILY TREE

The CLOUD CHAMBER

“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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Follow This Link To My AMAZON.com SITE

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🌈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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