Good in White

“You always wore a wedding dress well, sweetie, but marriage was the bad fit,” Jake said one afternoon to Maureen.

“It always seemed like a good idea at the time…I was told I needed a life partner to complete me,” she said with a faux sigh and a eyelash-batting look up toward the ceiling.

“Yeah, but you also thought you needed this poofy perm and shoulder pads you wore when I first met you,” said Jake, lowering the old photo album to the floor beside the bed.

“They caught your eye and kept you interested enough to hang around twenty-five years and two marriages for me,” Maureen said, as she rolled over to give Jake a triumphant kiss.

“Well, I always was attracted to that I could never have, so now you can put your clothes back on and get the heck out of here, woman” Jake said with a smile as he dodged a pillow-pummeling and listened to the charming chime of her still-girlish giggle.

A quick five-sentence eavesdrop on a couple that seems pretty complete without benefit of clergy. Based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word Marriage.

The First Kiss

I regret that my porous old memory cannot
recall who She was. Rose? Barbara?
Definitely not Mary Grace. Though I wish.
But I see brown eyes shining in moonlight,
street light or maybe porch light.
I still feel that cold stab of fear, tempered by
hot blasts of potential embarrassment
at the very real possibility of
screwing this up and setting my life
on a path of remaining forever
the untouched one.

Girls, I’m sure, think about this moment,
dream about it, worry about it, from an early age.
Did you practice, perhaps pressing your lips
to a mouth made of your thumb and index finger,
there in your single-bed sanctum sanctorum?
A guy can’t think that far ahead, would never
give that first kiss a dry-run. It wasn’t like
rehearsing his expression of insouciant cool
in the bathroom mirror behind that locked door.
You figure one night it just happens.

Uncharted, virgin, that first feeling
of neo-carnal warmth glowing off
that girl, that woman, Her.
The smell of her recharged perfume in the dark,
heady, sweaty, intoxicating, inviting.
Then that feeling of her mouth
drawing closer, warmer, tropical,
her breath sharing mine, mine with hers.
My shaking hand on the small of her back,
hers rising to slide within the black hair
now bristling at the back of my neck.

Then you simply fall into that wet,
warm pool of flesh, that doorway
to the pounding triphammer heart,
the unknown, the soon-enough revealed.
After that, the fall becomes a climb
and dive from the high board, then another.
I still feel it, walking away, whistling
my quiet, night-time whistle through the posh,
the not-so and the not-very neighborhoods home,
my left hand touching my cheek, my lips,
the smell of her still there.

But that’s all I remember.

My dear friend Kellie Elmore asked this weekend for a free write recollection/impression of that first kiss.

#FWF logo

Anchor Man

Baton

For a one-second eternity, the blue metal tube spun in the air above Lane Two between the grasping hands of Emmett Carter and Vince Bellini, and then fell to the track with a clatter.

Over in Lane Four, the third-leg and fourth-leg sprinters of Cardinal High’s 4 X 100-meter relay team fumbled their pass, as well.

But while that anchor man punched the air and screamed in anger at his teammate, Emmett scooped up his team’s baton and sprinted all-out the remaining hundred meters of the race, his favored team finishing fifth and last.

At the finish line, the third-place team’s anchor leaned over to say into the ear of a gasping Emmett Carter, “Why the hell you even bother picking that thing up and runnin’, man — you couldn’t win.”

As the three members of Emmett’s relay team and other athletes from St. Vincent’s track team ran up and began pounding him on the back and hugging him, their anchor man looked over and said, “Who says I didn’t?”

A lunchtime bit of Five Sentence Fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word Anchor.

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Go After What You Love

Burns
Until long after it matters
You don’t know if you’re good enough
You can bet your dreams will be battered
So just go after what you love.
     ~ John Gorka, Out of the Valley

I marched into the park from Madison Avenue,
staring down green-stained grandstanding Moses
as he poured parlor tricks from his rocky dais.
“I always thought you might be one of them,
you being published and all,” I said to him.
Just to bust his ass, I strode past the Lake House,
waved my arms and parted groundbound pigeons
like the Red Sea. I don’t think anyone got me…again.
All I wanted was to look up from reading my words
and see someone in Albany share a little joy.
I figured Bronze Bobby Burns around the corner
might intently sit to listen to my poems.

Squirrels scattered like rolling whitecaps
as I approached and stood in the poet’s shadow.
I read him some Albany pieces, ‘cause
I remember when the city and I had a love affair.
At the end of Champagne Tommy,
tulips nodded in the breeze, the bells
in City Hall applauded To Wander Adrift,
and a kid wearing big headphones walked by,
rocking his head to But Don’t Touch.
To my right, a robin chittered and
flapped his wings in the dirt, so I read an encore —
Whisper of Light. It was enough.
I knew my old girl didn’t hate me.

 

Still Water ~ A WIP

Chapter 1

The Lord is my shepherd

In the days following Lord John Dyke Acland’s purchase of the tenancies near Doulting, Somerset, the local farmers would meet as they always had in the small Ram’s Rest tavern just off the Roman road east of the village. Pipe smoke, the low rumble of conversation and the vacant looks of doubt filled the public room, but none of the old laughter and conviviality the men usually found at the bottom of their cups.

On this spring Saturday evening, the widower Stephen Bodden pushed open the heavy oaken door and the blast of heat from the large fireplace caught him full in the face like something between a slap and a caress. He stepped inside the tavern, closed the door and stood stock still, his hands in the pockets of his coat as his eyes adjusted to the yellow glow of candles and the crackling fire.

“Ho, Bodden,” called Edward Simmonds, the owner of the Ram’s Rest. Simmonds reached for a mug and Bodden’s clay pipe, which the he kept in a case behind the bar. “Would you wish an ale tonight, sir?”

Bodden felt the eyes of the men in the tavern turn toward him as he walked to the bar. He nodded at a few of the patrons and placed his rough left hand on the slab of oak that served as a bar.

“Yes, an ale would do me well, Mr. Simmonds,” he said.

“What have ye heard, Stephen?” said Inish Lundy. “Is it true? Is Acland taking our farms to raise horses? No more sheep?”

“Aye, horses and wheat. I did as I said I would, talked to his Lordship’s agent this morning. He told me Acland will be sending men from his properties in Devon to help with the change within the fortnight,” Bodden said in a harsh whisper.

“What will become of us?” Lundy said. “Few of us know naught of the hot blood. I know sheep and the plow.”

“That…has not been decided…yet,” Bodden said, and took a long drink of ale, his eyes never leaving the mug even after he put it on the bar. “But his Lordship will need hands to work his properties, make his money, and we still hold our tenancies until he decides otherwise.”

“Yes, but…”

“Until then, we shall do as we’ve always done. Lambing time is coming upon us and we have enough to worry about there. It will make him his rent and profit and help us put aside money, God willing, until whatever will happen…happens.”

Bodden hunched over his mug and took a pull upon his pipe.

And what of my girls, with no mother and no prospects, still so young and all? What if their father loses everything to the whim of some cockscomb from Devon? Those are the bigger questions, Bodden thought.

Those and what would happen if the agent’s body was found.

My friend Kellie Elmore’s novella Withering will be published any day now. She’s been a great supporter of my work for just about as long as I’ve been slapping it up here on the digital public wall. This past weekend she asked writers to begin to tell the story they’ve had burning in them for the longest time. She knows I have this book,if not burning in me then smoldering in a persistent agita for a long time. You’ve seen snippets, thoughts and pieces of it here every now and then, but I sat to a potential first draft of a first chapter and came up with this.

After the Rain

Opening the Door
Opening the Door, photo by Joseph Hesch

After the rain, shoulders hunched
and face clenched into a fist,
you punch your way through
the west wind. It undresses you
with your clothes still on,
stabbing and chilling your skin
like you’re bare-ass in the twilight.
Your eyes open wider after you splash
through a puddle that’ll pickle
your feet in their leather jars unless
you find a warm shelf to rest them on.
Red-shouldered black birds spin their
motorboat wings, tailfeather rudders
yawing this way and that, nattering above
the whole fuss of clothes and shoes
and the cars that spit in your face
as they pass. The same face Mother Sun
wraps in a smile, your sweet companion
in this westward walk to tomorrow.

Boxes

Box

Wrapped, sealed and bound, Photo by TACLUDA

Every morning in the dark before Today opens
the flaps of this box in which we lie,
stacked in its musty, dusty organization,
one atop the other, side by cardboard side,
I can hear birds. You can hear them, too,
if you awaken in that moment, or if you
never went to sleep in the first place,
everyone’s dreams nudging up against you
all night, whispering their prayers and curses.

You can hear the bird songs before Today
r-r-rips the tape off the wound that becomes
a chance to be chosen one of its toys,
to be spread on the floor, played with again,
bounced off the ceiling or wall.
I listen and think a hope of a dream maybe
I’ll get lucky and be misplaced this time,
slid under the bed or picked up and
liberated by the dog, before I’m put away again
in this box so carefully labeled Tomorrow.