A Kiss Before Dying


Sioux tipi, watercolor by Karl Bodmer, ca. 1833

Mose Randolph sat bound and beaten in a dark, empty and smoke-filled Oglala lodge when the tipi’s flap opened and a handsome girl entered with a bowl of food and a gourd of water, which Mose was sure was his last meal.

“I’ll tell ya, missy, I’d go to hell with a smile for just one more kiss from a beautiful, entrancing woman like you before these savages kill me,” Mose said as the woman in her colorfully beaded elk skin dress loosened his bonds and checked his wounds.

Feeling he had nothing to lose, Mose leaned over and kissed the young Oglala woman–who responded in kind–but recoiled when he felt beard stubble against his lips.

“What’s wrong, mate, a fine looking man like you never kissed or been kissed by a winkte, a Two-spirit before?” said one-time stage performer Alfie Windemere, now called White Star, himself once a captive, but who had found the one place in the world he felt accepted for who he really was.

The Oglala men, including a bloodied White Star, took care in slowly dispatching Mose Randolph after he beat the respected winkte and lost a chance to live in a place where people accepted you for who you really were.

A quick draft of a five-sentence story based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt, ENTRANCE. Let’s say I took that word and used a scatter of its meanings.

I’m pretty careful in writing anything concerning gender, but the idea of man potentially being saved from death by someone for whom he could never imagine a place in his life (or death) appealed to me. I hope I got the dynamic of the Oglala Winyanktehca close to right. The winkte were not marginalized, but rather were considered to be people with special spiritual and other talents that fulfilled some needs of the community that other people could not fill.

Every Other Day Is Easter

I never said I’d leave
because I never made it
into your house. Okay,
maybe that once, but you’d
locked the door and hid
behind it, like I was
a trick-or-treater
and it was after 8:00.
Besides, you never shared
your candy anyway.

I never said I’d stay
even if you had opened up
and dared me to try.
I would have breathed in
your smile, drawing back
the sweetness you never shared.

So now I take my leave,
nowhere and never
near enough to exhale
what I might share
beyond these sometimes
sweet words. I leave them
behind other doors,
hiding nuance in them like
they’re candy-filled baskets
and every other day is Easter.


Like Ink Fallen Upon a Wet Page

Maybe I heard it in
the whispered drip of a dream,
spring trying to write
its story around the trees
and across the field.
In the dim near light
before dawn pulled its covers,
some primal push awakened me,
ushering me to the window.
Out where snow held sway
for ninety days, a blank page
upon which each day
I wrote you letters unsent,
dark spots grew almost while
I watched. And with morning’s sun,
I saw a different darkness,
like drops of ink fallen upon
a wet page, blossom into
the hope of new life,
come some April morning.

I’ll Be Seeing You

Maude 1905

“I think it’s best we don’t see each other anymore, Joel,” Marina said, looking him the eye and then gazing back into her coffee mug.

“Oh, okay,” Joel replied, grinning the stupid grin that Marina once found endearing, but now recognized as definitively just stupid. Nevertheless, Marina hoped for more than this response to her pronouncement. She wanted to see at least a tiny bit of pain.

“That’s it? Just ‘Okay’?” she said, once more glaring through Joel with what he once called her “hot chocolate eyes,” because he found their gaze too hot to hold for too long.

“Well sure.You made it very plain my obsessive behavior where you’re concerned made you quite uncomfortable and I guess I’ll just have to live with that. Have you already found somebody else?” Joel said. For the third time since they sat at the table, he sorted the little packets of sweetener. This time in sequences of white, blue, yellow and pink.

“Somebody else? There was never an Us to begin with for there to be a Somebody Else. And yes, I have found someone. Someone who’s not a lunatic like all my friends have pointed out to me.”

“I remember you once called us soul mates. Do you remember that? That had to come from somewhere,” Joel said.

“Yes, it came from me being lonely and vulnerable and I guess seeing something I wished to see. But I was wrong, so very wrong. And the only reason I’m here is because you called me here and you once meant something to me…as a cute and funny friend who shared interests with me, but just a friend, nothing more…and I felt I owed you a face to face explanation of why I don’t want to see you anymore. Please stop that.” Marina said, grabbing Joel’s hand as he reached for the sweeteners.

“It really is okay, Marina. I understand. I’ve kinda found someone else, myself.” Joel said, pulling his cell phone from his jacket pocket. Marina stared slack-jawed as Joel pulled up a black and white photograph on his phone of an attractive young woman obviously from another era. And then he flipped through seven more of the same woman.

“This is Maude. Maude Fealy.,” Joel said. “She’s an actress. Or was. Isn’t she beautiful? She may have the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen. And yes, I understand I may have transferred my obsession for you to a turn of the Twentieth Century actress, but I don’t want you to be jealous. You have nothing to be upset about, just as you said I have nothing to be upset about in our not seeing one another anymore. It just is.”

Marina scraped her chair back from the table, tumbling sweetener packets from their holder. Joel ignored the pastel pile of have-to action waiting to happen and continued to flip and stare at Maude Fealy. Maude in a flower garland hairpiece. Maude in virginal white robes. Maude dressed as a newsboy. Maude in a high-necked Edwardian frock.

“What the hell’s wrong with you? You do understand this woman is dead, right? That you can have no relationship with someone who was long dead well before you were born. That, even if she was alive, would probably never know you even existed,” Marina said.

“Oh yes. I guess you could say I have an unhealthy obsession with this woman, or at least her image. But, that said, she will never reject me as you have, never say mean things about me as you have, never judge me solely over my obsessions and compulsions. I know she could never love me and I don’t love her. Not the corporal Her. Just the spirit, you might say, of my ideal woman. And, yes, I guess you could say she looks a little like you and I imagine has a voice like yours, but that’s all,” Joel said, his face splitting into his stupid grin.

“Phil, she’s dead. D-E-A-D.”

“Yeah, and so are we. So are we,” Joel said, placing the phone back in his pocket as he rose to leave the coffee shop. “Bye, Marina. I’ll be seeing you.”

With that, he tapped his fingers against his chest.

I originally wrote this 680-word free write for J. D. Mader’s every-Friday 2 Minutes Go! fun fest. I post it here because I like it and still have an obsession with the face of that woman up there…Miss Maude Fealy.

The Beacon and What Lies Beneath

What if I anchored to one
of those benches down where
the sun would glare
off this silver hair?
Would it shine as a beacon
to someone looking for a friend
or as a warning of the rocky shoals
upon which so many friendships
have run aground, all souls lost?

Remember the last time we sailed
these waters, chartless and so sure
we could skirt the dangers in
the old cargo we carried,
ultimately scraping our hulls
and taking on what lies beneath?
What lies beneath,
I told myself, there where
I never let Sun shine. Until now.

Just once before I go under
that last time, could we approach,
drop anchors and not glare
at the souls we lost to one another?
Just halloo in memory of voyages
shared, and then pass once more
into the darkness of our nights.

Like a Wave

An 1897 photograph of a buffalo wallow, by Willard Drake Johnson. 
Photo via Wikipedia

After the third day and night on the run from the Cheyenne with no food and little water, his horse now lying dead a thousand yards away, Cleve Mason settled to rest in a buffalo wallow somewhere south of the Platte River in western Nebraska Territory.

Gathering some buffalo chips from the rim surrounding the nearly dry depression in the prairie, Mason lit a smokeless fire and began cooking off a piece of his mount’s stringy haunch.

Mason had been lucky enough to evade his pursuers this long, but fatigue and hunger proved too much, figuring it was only a matter of time before the marauders rolled over him like a red, feathered wave.

“The hell with this, just let ‘em come,” Mason said, as he gorged himself on a huge chunk of horse meat, closing his eyes and trying not to think that only an hour before it had been his companion for two years.

So intent was he with his meal he never saw, heard nor smelled the wall of flame, a speeding prairie fire set upwind by the Cheyenne, as it rolled over him like a red wave, though not the one he expected.

A quick five-sentence piece of flash historical fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word, ENGULF. Thought I’d try a couple uses of the idea of the word.

Rebirth More Than Resurrection

I can hear the birds singing, where before
only the din of the winter wind
and the scraping of crow beaks against
the slate sky split the entombed months.

But I do not see the singers, only blankets
of puckered white, broken here and there
by the sight of what maybe once was grass.
Maybe once again it will come to pass
come the green up I know will be.

I guess you have to look up to see
those whistling flyers, in their robed choirs
of blue and red and mud brown,
but I keep my gaze more to the ground.

Maybe its faith born of sixty winters worn,
that the songs still call me in alarum to
the longer days. Then I can lift my gaze
to a risen sun higher than yesterday’s.

And a rebirth more than a resurrection.