Tuesday, July 7, 2015

34. One More Mistake

"I guess it had to play out this way, huh?"

She rubbed her wrist, and looked one moment resigned and the next frightened, but never sorry or surprised. Why should she be?

"Nothing to say."

He took a step forward, and his eyes must have flashed, because hers widened and her chin trembled. She wasn't up for any of this. Give her enough time and she'd learn to fake it, but her heart would never be in it.

"Are you going to kill me?"

Jake snorted.

"I don't have to, sweetie."

It wasn't her first mistake. Might not be her last.

33. Sis

"Moody little bitch, isn't she."

Jake couldn't afford to give her more than a sidelong glance, so he shot one her way. He almost added a shrug, but he couldn't lie to her.

She pulled a chair up close to him at that little kitchen table, and set a cup down in front of him, filled with the hot chocolate she'd been stirring since he walked into the room.

"I can't quite get it right, can I?"

"She's not the worst you've done, but yeah, you do a hell of a job picking them. When are you going to give yourself a break?"

Her hand brushed a loose shock of hair out of his eye and smoothed it back into the mass of his hair.

Jake's brother walked in, then, as he always fortunately did.

"She likes the Bears, so I guess she can't be all bad. How long is she staying?"

32. Waiting Impatiently

An old woman paces in front of an office building. Not well dressed, but not poorly dressed. She holds a bottle of water. Her face look careworn, or perhaps only tired. It is early. People are filing into work, their minds on the day ahead or the night just left behind. They might see her, or they might not. It is immaterial. If they saw her, and saw her face, and held out a hand to help, it would come to nothing. They cannot help her. She is waiting for the only person who can help her. Impatiently waiting, and wondering where she is. What is keeping her? Why is she doing this to me? Why is she always doing this to me?

31. Back Burner

Does God ever lose track of us - put us on the back-burner mid-scheme as something new and wonderful pops into His mind and commands his attention?

Has He ever put a thing into motion and then let His mind wander and leave the miracle of creation he had been fostering to go it alone, a wonder how things had just petered out after having gotten off to such a wonderful start?

How many prophecies ended mid-sentence and were left a fragment in a potential prophet's mind?

How many epic tales ended on a dock in some seaside village because God turned his attention elsewhere and the would-be hero noticed a fetching maid selling fish and thought he might mosey over and chat and I suppose that quest-thingy can wait a bit?

How many divine plans have withered for lack of attention, cultivars gone wild and flourished or drooped and died because His hands became busy with a star system that just wasn't quite right, or some exciting new bacteria?

How many unfinished masterpieces litter His studio?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

30. Field Work

Two years gone, and he was never coming home. Her hands were cracked, her back a mess, and there was so much more to do under the oppressive sun or the morning damp or the chill of night, a wolf in every shadow.

She saw the stage coming up the road and stopped and balanced her chin on her hands, her hands on the hoe handle, the hoe balanced beneath her in the tomato patch. There was music coming from the coach, and a woman in a faded scarlet dress sat next to the driver, who grinned into the sun under a worn silk top hat. The music came from inside, and she was just enchanted enough to forget to pick up the shotgun at her feet.

The coach ground to a halt, cloaked in a plume of dust, and the man lifted his hat and produced a pistol and sheepishly asked if they might have a bite to eat. Sarah couldn't help but for a moment consider that rejecting Jason's proposal of marriage might have been a mistake, though the vision of that haggard old man with the pot belly soon dispelled that thought from her mind. Everything in her life had been a mistake, and this was the crowning moment.

Sarah dropped the hoe and turned around and began walking towards the house, her fingers straying towards her apron, wherein lurked a small pistol John had given her when he left. She couldn't hope to kill the lot of them with it, but she could use it to deny them a complete victory, for she hadn't yet been forced by man or beast to do anything against her will.

She fondled the weapon as she walked up the hill to the house, her mind mulling it over, her fingers dancing about the weapon, made warm from its proximity to her body and the labor of the day, dancing around it but never grasping it.

Sarah turned on her heels, leaving the pistol to lie in her apron. She walked with purpose down the hill towards the man with the gun and the woman in the faded dress and walked right up under her tired face, and squinting in the sun, asked, "Are you headed north?"

Sunday, November 24, 2013

29. Treadmill

She nuzzled in his neck and whispered in his ear, "I found your notebook. It was lovely."

He could only stare at the ceiling, for a beat or two, and then roll away from her and vault off the bed, his hand giving her bottom a sharp smack as he did so. She was unfazed. He stretched a bit. His lower back was a bit stiff, and his ribs hadn't healed quite right.

Jake walked to the mirror, and gave his chin a bit of a rub. He needed a shave. How the hell could a man be as stupid at 34 as he had been at 24?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

28. Dine and Dash

Jake make a right onto 18th Street and headed for the south side of Zenith, a tough area and one he would have preferred to avoid. Still, if there was any chance the voice on the phone could be trusted, the meeting would be worth the visit.

Four blocks down the street and into the south side, he instinctively checked that his gun was in his shoulder holster. As his fingers grazed the gun, a blue sedan lurched out of a side alley. Jake had to jerk the steering wheel hard to avoid the car. His own car leapt onto the sidewalk and caught a light pole, spinning it around. Jake tensed as his car did a 180 degree turn into the thankfully empty cross street and rocked to a stop.

A quit inventory of bone and sinew proved there was no permanent damage to Jake, but he could see clearly that the right front of his car was pretty well smashed. He was going to need a tow. As his head cleared, he saw the blue sedan returning to the scene of the crime, carrying two grim looking characters that had their stared fixed on him. This was no accident. Jake felt woozy as he reached for the handle to get out of the car and look for cover, but as he did he saw a red-faced cop running up the street in his side mirror. The men in the sedan saw the cop as well, and moved on.

Jake tumbled out of the car, a couple gents in the crowd that formed helped him to sit down as the cop arrived. As the cop looked for answers, the crowd erupted with them, and it took some time to clear things up. Fortunately for Jake, a few witnesses saw the blue sedan nearly run him off the road, and it turned out the cop knew his pal Curly. As the cop got on his call box to call for a tow, Jake, feeling steadier, hoofed it across the road to a diner. He was dry, and hadn't had a bite since breakfast.

The diner was clean, even if not entirely inviting. The diners were all black, and they gave Jake a hard stare as he entered, a mix of trepidation and wonder, as most of them had witnessed the accident. The waitress behind the counter was a bit friendlier, as they usually are. She poured him a cup of coffee and Jake picked up a menu.

"What's the special today," he asked as nonchalantly as he could, eyes on the menu.

"Roast beef," shot back the waitress, a touch of nervousness in her voice.

"Yeah, that'll do fine. Thanks."

Jake put down the menu and pulled his notebook and pencil out to jot down his impression of the two men in the sedan. As he scratched away, he heard somebody behind him say, "What the hell are you doing here?"

Not wanting any trouble, he kept his eyes on his notebook. Could be two old friends or enemies. No need to get involved.

"Don't ignore me whitey."

Okay, maybe Jake was already involved. He slowly turned around on his stool to see a black man with a thin mustache in a crumpled white shirt, the sleeves rolled up, a fedora askance on his head, beads of sweat on his forehead.

"I just came in for a bite to eat. Don't want any trouble," returned Jake, fixing his eyes on the man in a hard stare. He became conscious of his gun in the shoulder holster, but didn't dare make a move for it. It was a dicey situation. Jake couldn't afford to make the first move, for it would probably bring four or five other men down on him. In a street fight, though, if you don't make the first move, you lose. He wanted to look at the faces of the other folks in the diner, read them. Was he as outnumbered as he felt? Was this guy a well-known blowhard? His hand itched to grab his gun, but his reason got the better of his fear.

The man continued to stare. He wanted a fight. Maybe he just lost his wife, maybe his job, maybe both. Maybe the last few years of his life had been a string of failures and set backs. Whatever it was, he wanted a fight and Jake was a likely target. A sitting duck on the south side. Jake concentrated on the man's eyes and on his own breathing. It finally occurred to him that the gun might get him out of trouble without leaving the holster. He slowly let his left hand drop to his side. He took the hem of his jacket between finger and thumb and drew it back, just enough to let the holster peek out.

The gun registered on the man's face immediately, and Jake could see him doing the calculus. Could I get to him before he drew the gun? Was it worth it? If he'd had a couple friends nearby, Jake would have seen him motion to them with those eyes, but they stayed on Jake, steady and ever more fearful.

"Just see that you don't make any trouble."

That was it. The man withdrew to a booth near the jukebox and Jake turned around. He hated to turn his back on the man, but he was lucky to get out of the situation as it was and didn't want to push his luck any further.

In 10 minutes, the roast beef was eaten. It was good. In five more a cab was called, and five minutes after that it arrived. Jake made a hasty retreat from the south side, little the worse for wear but exhausted and frustrated. He gave the cabby directions to his sister's house in the suburbs and leaned back, wiping his forehead with a hanky that was overdue for a rinse.