A small, occasionally changing, selection of published and favorite stories.

A Little Dead Boy and His Bear
Late Night Jedi
She Takes the Stage

 

A Little Dead Boy and His Bear
(The Story Garden 8 – August 2009)

It was my seventh birthday. I heard her through the hard packed earth. She pressed her mouth against the ground and screamed. She made mud with her tears. She whispered, keened, crooned. She sang me Happy Birthday, then sang me a lullaby. She sat Eddie, my bear, there against the stone to keep me company, and patted the mound I lay beneath to tuck me in.

I recognized the rhythm of her love pat as it vibrated down in my bones.
 
She promised to come back tomorrow. I waited so long for tomorrow. It never comes. The sun warms the soil of our old family plot, the moon drips dew on the grass, but tomorrow never comes.

At first I rested there, in my bones, as the flesh fell. My face split in the middle, lips swollen. The skin burst, sliding off to either side, sludge on my satin pillow. I hid there, down in the deep-dark, wanting her, scared to come out, not knowing I could come out, until I was all white-skeleton and dust.

My fingertips were wearing away. As the first phalanges fell to melt in my grave-grime I fled. I wanted to cry there, but the eyes goggling in smooth sockets were glass and dry, so I fled my bones.

Hovering small in the corner of my coffin I watched the last bits of my body broke and tumbled loose until I didn't want to see, or be alone anymore. I was tired of the dark. I turned to stare at the mouldering lid of my box, wished my way through the satin and wood, pushed myself away from my rotten remains.

The dirt was wet and alive, full of the wriggling children of worms fed-fat on my flesh. I was warmed, surrounded by the smell of clean soil, instead of the stench of decay. I almost rested there, outside my bones, somewhere between there and free. But, I knew if I could get to the dirt, I could get to the light.

So again I fled. This time I fled the earth, inching through the worm tunnels and up the tendrils of weed roots. The ground grew warmer and tougher the higher I climbed, baked to a crisp by the sun. I longed for the sun. I threw myself against the crust of ground again and again until it cracked and the light winked through the dark.

Light. I held on to the tiny point of light penetrating my grave dust, and used it to pull myself out. Out of the quicksand, out of the prison, out of the muck and morsels of myself.

Out in the light I was blinded by the afternoon, deafened by the wind, flooded by smells as sweet as the grave was sour.

I danced there, atop my own holy ground, worshiping the light, until I noticed Eddie. He was still there, propped against the stone where she'd sat him that day. His fur was matted and drooping, the white darkened to a mildew-spotted brown. I threw myself at him in a remembered pattern, a hug.

I fell, through his fur to the damp fluff and insect nests inside.

It was soft like a sponge inside Eddie, my old bear. I decided to stay, stretched myself out in his plush body,  tested his stitching, and looked through his plastic-button eyes.

The plot was littered with pine cones and needles. The grass grew high. The gravestones of my Grandma Bea and Papa Donny were growing thick carpets of moss, blurring their names away. Next to me there was a stone where there was no stone before.

I read the writing on my stone. Patrick William Flannery. That was me, once. June 8th, 2001 – June 4th, 2008. Beautiful Boy.

I read the writing on the stone next to mine, where there was no stone before. Mary Teresa Flannery. March 12th,  1976 – June 9th; 2008. Mourning Mother.

Mother.

I peer with Eddie's eyes at the earth beside my earth and wait for Mother. She was bigger than me, and maybe it takes longer for mothers to melt and long to leave their bones.

Still, she should be along soon, to find the light. Maybe tomorrow.

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Late Night Jedi
(I Can't Be Your Virgin and Your Mother (Shoots & Vines Press) – May 2009)

It's only 2 AM. There's still coffee in the pot. We look at each other, peering over our separate computer screens. My face is lit with the crisp blue glow of the word processor, yours a mottled, melting blur of colors as demons surround your Elf and go in for the kill. I love you. You're so cute. Where did you even get a copy of Diablo?

I smile and stare at you over my glasses until you decode the curve of my lips, waiting.

I turn off my machine.

This is why I am with you, this moment, when I cast my bedroom eyes and you look at me like you just can't believe you're about to see me naked, and ohmygod are you ever glad. I call it your Jedi moment. This is just how you would look if Yoda showed up and told you that, yes, you are a Jedi.  

I giggle when you make your best sexy face and growl, pulsing your fingers like claws in my direction as I carry my mug into the kitchen to the coffee pot for one last refill. You join me there with your own empty cup. I pour them both black, as you like it, skipping my cream and sugar.  Later we'll wax preposterously poetic about bitter kisses and  laugh to sleep.

We look at each other. He really needs a haircut.

“I call top.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

We blush and drain our mugs simultaneously.

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She Takes the Stage
(The Legendary Issue 1– March 2009)

She was alone before the show, smoking a cigarette at a table in the back, making her best bedroom eyes at the stage. It was like an affair, these weekly performances– like an affair in which she didn't tell her real name and didn't know his.

They couldn't speak, communicating only through the movement of her body above–but it was enough.

He loved it when she went right to meet his left and they came together at the high note.

His old proscenium pine knew her as Bella Italia, burlesque beauty, doe eyed darling, smooth and round with a healthy kind of heavy pressure to her steps. She wasn't the kind of woman the men bought drinks for. If she had let them, they would have given her Cadillacs, diamonds, and their last names.

But she was there for him, and she felt like home-again, like a ghost from the days when he was new.

The ladies then were the real thing.

He could feel the difference between the real thing and a flat-assed fake in the veins of his floorboards. It was a skill honed over sixty years of dancing girls. With only touch to tattle their tales he could tell a hard-up opera star from a pitch-pleasant hooker within four footfalls, or pick a slumming socialite out of a crowd of common chorus girls at the first toe touch.

They both lived for these moments alone, beginning with the click of metal in the lock as she let herself in early, sometimes by an hour or more, always taking care to lock the door again. She left the house lights low but brought the stage up to a brilliant red, glowing through the curtains, casting a ruddy blush on her china-white face.

And then the seduction.

She didn't take off her coat until the second cigarette, smoking it slowly, savoring the antiqued air on her skin and in her lungs. Often she moved from her table to stroke the waxed oak bar, tickling it's timber like piano keys. He grew frantic, straining against his screws to reach for her.

Midway through the third cigarette she kicked off her shoes and rolled her stockings down and off into tidy balls. She never mounted the stage steps before completing this little ritual.

She swept him herself, trusting the task to no mere stage hand. When he was clean she knelt down and bent her head to him, softly giving a kiss to the well worn wood. Her lips were powdered, each time, by an unsweepable silt of stage dust– smoke and makeup, skin and dreams. She licked them clean.

They breathed together in silence, her hands pressed against him, fingerprints melding into his grain, until the next click echoed from the doorway and they were no longer two lovers alone.

She was always gone, disappeared backstage, before the blazing illumination of the house light bathed over the tables, the chairs, the bar and his boards.

He kept pious vigil until her return, tolerating the steps of the less perfect, the punctual and passionless.

He waited while the bar filled and the other girls winked and wiggled to the music, dropping their sheer or sequined clothes on him like some simple floor for fun or money, but not for love or art.

Some sang, some were sweet, but no one shone. No one but her.

She took the stage last and stayed the longest, starting slowly with her feet still simply bare and her dress sweeping low to tickle her toes and brush him with the smallest of sensations. She left a sense of sex and sadness where her feet fell.

And then she sang. It didn't matter what she sang, they stilled. The people with their clinking glasses, glowing cherries, and sweating, pawing palms were still and staring. The other girls jealously tried to look away, but never could. The bartender ceased his banter. Even the bouncer took a breather from looking for heads to bust.

She didn't wink or lick her lips for tips. She danced for a different audience. Below her he was happy. He could suffer a fire, a flood, or a wrecking ball now and be happy–as long as her feet were the last he felt.

Her clothes melted away with grace as every eye watched her mouth shape the notes, her body moving in a never choreographed illustration of the song. The nudity wasn't even necessary. She had a voice like a soft, buttery orgasm and eyes of an almond afterglow. She suggested everything and really showed nothing.

Slowly, she let the smoky gravel of her sound resonate him to his long-lost roots, each note falling at her feet, with her clothes, like a gift. She could rattle the glasses on the tables or a man to his core.

This was the real thing.

She always ended on a big shivering note, high or low, stage left, sinking to her knees as that last sound swooned away and the stage lights dipped. Gone again before the house lights rose to the thrill of applause.

She panted and sipped her apple brandy backstage while he rested, relaxed into his foundation. When everyone else had gone they would steal just one more moment, in the dark, before sleep, until tomorrow.

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