Ramble Tamble #1

When you’re in the middle of it, living and learning, learning about living, living as a means of learning, you don’t notice how you might be different from (or the same as) some guys across the ocean or across the room. You don’t notice much about anything but what’s inside the three inches of air surrounding your body.

They are Them, There, Then. You are You, Here, Now. Context is but a ghost, barely a specter of a concept through which you  your place in a wider world. You accept ideas, tenets, the virtual castle walls within which you secure your position as the center of the Universe. You don’t question. God just IS, He is a He and you need to toe his line in order to win the lovely parting gifts they hand you for completing the Home version of this dicey Game of Life.

The other day, I asked myself not only who I am, but what, forcing myself to look beyond myself as this sack of meat, its spark of intellectual and essential energy and the possessor of opposing thumbs that answers to Joseph, Joe, Joey and any of a hundred or so discrete alphanumeric identifiers that differentiate me from you. And you and you, as well.

I saw such a small thing, a cluster of cells both good and ill, beneficial and malignant, functional and inert, held modestly upright by some universally accepted beliefs that inherently make me superior to so much of the rest of the inhabitants of this blue marble upon which we stand as it falls, rises, or circles in the vastness of the Universe.

And so much of what I see is just a matter of dumb luck, some bit of kismet that Valentine met Maria and Patrick loved Lizzy and they all somehow decided to leave their homes in Europe to come to this coast-to-coast set of geographic coordinates that may make this the most varied and valuable piece of real estate on the planet. They came to this place where people can be free to become the monarchs of their own existence. Here in this nation established upon the premise that all men are created equal.

Except, of course, if you were on the wrong end of our “peculiar institution,” where white men owned black men who did the physical labor that either built or buttressed the Whites’ socioeconomic standing. And that sin was committed even in my hometown, tucked up here in the upper right corner of your map, which is the oldest chartered municipality in the country.

And also except if you were a member of the class of original inhabitants of this breadth of the continent. Then you were crushed in the essentially forgotten, if considered at all, dirty little secret of American’s Manifest Destiny, which included eviction, subjugation, military intimidation, interdiction and an open-air type of incarceration. And, quite often, our Euro-America’s God-blessed version of the final solution to the “Indian problem,” eradication.

Which brings us rambling back to my original premise. When you are so busy trying to make it from First to Twelfth Grade, from freshly minted believer to elder keeper of whatever Word you follow, from allowance grabber to worker bee and then retirement check-cashing senior, you don’t think of these things. You pretty much have to live within your insulated little castle keep, those walls of ideas and ideals I spoke of before.

It’s human nature. Self-preservation, self-centeredness, selfishness, maybe even a selective selflessness, draw blinders around us from which we might occasionally sneak a peek outside ourselves. Then we pull our heads back within the silken bonds of our own spiritual and intellectual cells. There in the comforting darkness we see house-of-mirrors reflections of ourselves, warm and fuzzy, clean and bright, dark and angry, volatile and violent. And we accept them or reject them with but a blink, a wink or a meditative, prayerful closing of the eyes.

Please forgive me this tedious ramble. I’ve been reading again, something I haven’t done as much as when I was younger. Back then it was hardcore youthful inquisitiveness, feeding the insatiable intellectual beast as much trivia, possibly necessary minutiae and winning team history it could take. Now, it’s my own version of sticking this silver-pated gourd out of the dusty crust of virtual Hesch topography to see what I missed. In my old age I’ve become another type of Self-something. Self-aware. It’s embarrassing and painful, yet somehow freeing.

I see the mistakes, poor judgments and failures I’ve made. I see the victories, loves and lucky guesses, too. On electronic and physical pages I’ve cast them out there like stars across a desert sky. And now I see how they tell stories and give necessary direction, even if I have almost reached my ultimate destination.

I just thought I’d pass this on to you, since you’re traveling that way, too. Slán abhaile.  Auf wiedersehen.  Safe travels.  Ramble Tamble. Down the road I go.

This started its life as a poem, then grew like some good ol’ southern kudzu, spilling all aroun d the page, seemingly taking over everything from my writing hand to better judgment. By the way, Ramble Tamble is the title of the first cut on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s  classic 1970 album, Cosmo’s Factory. It one of the rockingest songs I know, a great road song and might be as good a fit for our current times as it was for my youth.

Casting for Carpe Diem

Another week has peaked and waned
and here I lie to wonder,
“What is it that you’ve gained
from living seven more days under
a plan with no plan contained,
in this life of blunder after blunder?”

Oh, I’ve seen seven suns rise
and watched them seven times fall.
But life no longer offers a prize
on the ride where you must be this tall.
Adulthood offered only losses and ties,
barely chance of winning at all.

So I guess this is a lesson learned
over time and rock hard ground,
that my life’s happiness is earned,
not serendipitously found.
That each time the Earth it turned
was my shot to make laughter’s chiming sound.

Maybe it was for a nebulous tomorrow I’d pine,
a today out of reach, a chance not yet blown.
A day where I could seize a ring so fine
on the ride not dependent on your joy alone.
So tonight, when I row in at sunset, I’ll be fine,
savoring the day I hooked all on my own.

Awaiting the Impossible Improbability

The waiting gets to you,
especially when you know
that for which you wait
will never come. Yet still
you sit by the window peering
at your out-of-focus world
hoping to see if those eyes
will come into view
and kindly set upon yours.
It’s just another pipe dream
a reverie, that, if realized,
would inevitably break your heart.
Nevertheless, you wait,
even knowing that if these
empty dreams ever came true,
you’d still spend your
graying days by that window
waiting for the next
impossible improbability
to manifest itself through
the pane from behind
your fog of sighs.

We’re all dreamers, to some extent, even if we know if that for which we wish will never come. Or, if it did, it would only make us more dreamy and miserable. At least that’s what I see from behind this foggy window, where I write about dreamers and the dreamed-about.

Another Case of Miss Apprehension

Hollywood Hills

Darcy Clyne was good, very good. Throughout her career as skip tracer, bounty hunter and private detective, she’d never failed to corral her target, be it a person with outstanding debts, serving a a process on some shadowy party of the second part in a legal proceeding, a bail jumper, a wanted criminal, or any other missing person.

She was so good at it, the cops, creeps and cons called her Miss Apprehension.

But her latest case, finding the Academy Award-winning actor Bruce Wilson, who had disappeared just before production was to begin on Mammoth Studies next blockbuster, Deafening Silence, was not what she thought it would be.

“Ms. Clyne, we have secured your services because of your reputation for success and discretion. True, we have insured  his participation in our film, but we want Wilson, we need Wilson, to make this film the success we think it will be. News of Bruce Wilson’s disappearance should by no means leak out to the press or even the prying ears and whispering lips of people inside the industry. In other words, I don’t want to see anything about him in the news or hear it in my club’s restroom until we have him in front of a camera again,” Deafening Silence’s executive producer Sig Schulmann said in their sole meeting at his Bel Air estate.

“Of course, Mr. Schulmann. Our catch rate is only part of the services you’re purchasing. Our ability to do it under the public radar, even here in LA, is what you’re paying for,” Darcy said from across an umbrellaed table next to Schulmann’s pool.

“We’re already working on some leads.”

“Oh, really? What is it you’ve found,” Schulmann asked, leaning forward conspiratorially.

“As I said, Mr. Schulmann, discretion and ‘remaining above the fray,’ if you will, including our clients’, is paramount to our success and your satisfaction with our services. You probably think that’s a unique way of doing business, but that’s the business I’m in. I shall give you what updates I feel we can share as we progress with our investigation and search for Mr. Wilson,” Darcy said, extending her hand to Schulmann’s and giving it a firm shake.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, my colleagues and I have some ground to make up. Wilson’s had three days off the grid and even these days a trail can grow cold in 48 hours,” Darcy said. “I’ll see myself out.”

On her way to her car, Darcy passed three servants, each of whom saw her approach and then averted their eyes or immediately busied themselves with polishing the unblemished, dusting the already mirror-like or entering a side room and closing and locking the door behind them with a loud click.

“The exit is this way, Miss,” a smarmy major-domo said, swooping in to take Darcy’s elbow and steer her down the hall and through the front door.

Jesus, F. Scott Fitzgerald was right even before he got out here and drank himself to death, the rich ARE different, Darcy thought as she climbed into her rental Mustang. At what she was charging Schulmann and Mammoth, plus per diem and expenses, she didn’t think the black Shelby GT350 was out of line for the market or the circles in which she would be investigating.

A call to her New York office had come up with Wilson’s phone and text records. In a case like this, privacy laws were made to be hopscotched. In the days before his disappearance, Wilson had made ten calls to Mammoth and Schulmann and had not answered thirty calls after that from the producer and his studio.

His text history was rich in language, participants and local geography. His girlfriend showed up here and there in cryptic, if only mildly affectionate language. Maryse Langois was a Canadian actress who had little public or professional profile before their relationship began four months ago. Now she was a daily subject for paps and gossips from Hollywood to cyberspace.

Another frequent correspondent was one Alessandra DeGrade, who ran a West Hollywood club called Willy O’Wōntshie.

And, of course there was Sig Schulmann, whose last three texts,  after his last phone calls to Wilson, were all related to holding off on Wilson’s “ vanity project” something until after the release of Deafening Silence.

“I’m gonna check Wilson’s crib first,” Darcy told her associate Ben Pierce, who was working the electronic and cyber end of the investigation from New York.

“Gotcha, Boss,” Ben said. “But no souvenirs, unless they’re pertinent to our investigation, of course” he said with a laugh.

Wilson lived in a glass-encased palace in a Hollywood Hills gated community called Beverly Ridge Estates, where the starter homes went for $19 million. Schulmann’s studio owned the property, which Wilson lived rent-free, a perk many cash cows were only too happy to enjoy.

With Schulmann’s call ahead and key card, Darcy entered Wilson’s home and found it to be furnished in not in Southwestern chic, nor mid-Century modern, but antiques and exclusive stuff from French Heritage in shades of gold and white and pastels of pink and blue.

“Ms. Langois seems to have made herself the home she has always aspired to, it would appear.” Darcy said aloud, which was how she conducted searches since her brother and partner Lonny Clyne was killed by a bail jumper two years ago. “What say we check the boudoir, eh, Lon?” she said.

The master bedroom was another museum-quality show-piece. Darcy checked one of the closets and found full of the slender Wilson’s trademark black outfits from high-end Italian and American designers. On the other side of the room, the closet, which Darcy thought would fit the Mustang, was full of exclusive couture outfits, lingerie and slick club clothes that no doubt were the pride of Ms. Langois’ recent fame and notoriety.

“Nothing much to offer here, Lon, unless I was interested in boosting enough product to retire to St. Maarten’s after we find this bird. Let’s check next door,” Darcy said.

This second bedroom was different from the first, appointed in the mid-century modern she expected to find elsewhere. It’s closet was filled with more of Ms. Langois’ wardrobe, though a look at a few of the dresses left Darcy with a new set of questions.

“Where’s the babe, Lonny? Why isn’t she here pining over her man? Let’s see if we can drum up the Mademoiselle Langois and see how’s she’s holding up in her time of woe and distress<“ Darcy said and headed the Mustang down into Hollywood.

A call to Schulmann, revealed that Langois had left Los Angeles a week before Wilson’s disappearance to film a movie in New Zealand.

“Can I reach her by phone?” Darcy asked.

“I doubt it,” Schulmann said. “We’ve tried and it’s a comeback project by that Australian wunderkind, Pearce, and he’s keeping it an airtight closed set, and I mean the whole project. Totally hush-hush,” Schulmann said. And that was that for Darcy’s most obvious lead to Wilson’s whereabouts.

“Okay, Lonny, let’s head on down to Willy O’Wōntshie’s and have a tête-à-tête with Ms. DeGrade,” Darcy said as she smoothed the Mustang onto the 8000 block of Sunset Boulevard.

Parking in the rear, even before the valet had set up shop, Darcy entered the club through the delivery entrance and slipped through the kitchen and into the main room, where dancers were rehearsing for a new show billed for that night.

Tall, thin and exquisitely costumed and made up women were being put through their routine by another woman who sat between the stage and the bar.

“Who the fuck let this civilian in?” Darcy heard her saying a very loud and raspy voice. A large, angry-looking man burst from the dark outside the stage lights and approached Darcy.

“Show’s not until 10:00, lady. You gotta leave. Now!” Darcy heard as the bouncer reached out to grab her arm.

Darcy grabbed the beefy heavily tattooed arm and used the bouncer’s momentum to enhance the power of her knee-strike to the temple. No more bouncer for a few minutes.

“My name’s Darcy Clyne and I’m a PI working for Sig Schulmann and Mammoth Pictures. I’m looking for Alessandra DeGrade to ask her a couple of questions about Bruce Wilson.

“Take ten, ladies,” the raspy voice sounded from the silhouette standing in front of the bar. “I don’t have anything I can tell you, Ms. Clyne, other than I’m looking for Bruce, too. Eddy, would you see to Odin and tell her she’s back to parking cars tonight?”

Darcy walked up to the Amazonian six-footer who now leaned her hip against the bar, extended her hand and said,” Ms. DeGrade?”

“The woman held up both hands in somewhat feigned fear and said, “I hope you’ll excuse me if I eschew the proprieties, Miss…”

“Clyne, Darcy Clyne.”

“Miss Clyne. But I’m beside myself over Bruce’s disappearance, too. I haven’t seen or heard from him in almost a week and I’m worried sick something’s happened to him. Something serious this time.”

“This time?”

“Well Bruce has had…issues…in the past and I thought I’d helped him get it together since we…well…”

“I see,” Darcy said. “Then the Langois relationship is just…”

“A business transaction, shall we say?

“And those beautiful clothes in master Bedroom’s the second closet are yours.”

“Guilty as charged, but only of having a fabulous wardrobe as befitting the lady of the manor.”

“Gotcha. I thought something was fishy when I found those size twos in the next-door bedroom. No offense, Ms. DeGrade,” Darcy said.

“Call me Alley, please. Have you found anything new about Bruce? I know he was having a terrible time with that bastard Schulmann.”

“About what?”

“Bruce just thought it was time, you know? His career is winding down and he’s made his gazillions. He just doesn’t want to keep up with this career-long role they’ve made him play,” DeGrade said.

“The fact he’s gay and you and he are…?”

“Engaged, actually,” DeGrade said and began to cry. “I’m so worried. I’ve stopped him twice from killing himself. He told me I was the only reason he hadn’t since then. But Schulmann  needs this last big score himself. Mammoth lost big on that last Cruise flick. He and the Scios take a huge cut up front and on the back-end. And that left mammoth on its heels.”

“I see. You don’t think Bruce would attempt to take his own life again, do you? It sounds like he was ready to make that huge leap and you two were ready to make that commitment for good.”

“No, I’m sure he wouldn’t. Like I said, he loves me and he’s ready to come out. No more closets, no locked up secrets.”

“I think I may have figured out something, Alley. Do you have any time over the next few hours?” Darcy said.

“Place opens at 8:00 and the show starts at 10:00. I really need to be back here by 6:00, but the is more important than any club or show. You’ve got me as long as you need me. Let me fetch my purse.”

Darcy and Alley DeGrade drove back to Schulmann’s estate. She made a call on the way, informing Schulmann she believed she’d found a real lead and wanted to discuss it with him in private.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to bring a confidential informant with me,” Darcy said.

“Informant?” Schulmann said. “Uh, of course. Anything to get this horrible affair over and bring Bruce back.”

“You know where he is, don’t you” Alley DeGrade said, hope shining on her face.

“Pretty sure I do, but I’m going to need your help.”

“I’ll do whatever you need.”

Darcy made one more phone call to an old friend before they arrived.

They were met by Schulmann’s major-domo in the entrance atrium, who quailed when he saw Alessandra with Darcy.

“Ms. Clyne, just what kind of freak show are you bringing into Mist Schulmann’s home?” he blustered.

“Nip it, Jeeves. The lady and I have business with your boss. now take us to him.”

“This way, please,” he said, sounding none to pleased and all too scared.

Schulmann met them in the hallway on the way to the pool patio. His expression of confident concern collapsed and was rebuilt as nervous anger.

“What is this…person…doing her, Ms. Clyne? We don’t have time for a burlesque. I have a movie to start filming in ten days,” he said.

“Ms. DeGrade has informed me that you and Mr. Wilson had been having harsh words about this project and where he wished to take his career, Mr Schulmann. Is that correct?” Darcy said, looking over the producer’s shoulder to the gold face of an 18th Century Seth Thomas clock against the wall.

“Temperamental these artists, Ms. Clyne. I hope I don’t have to explain that to you,” he said.

“Yeah, ego and demands and possible drug relapses and even some silly personal quirk could cost millions. I mean, you even insured Bruce’s being ready to go before you even had the production buttoned down. Am i right?”

“He is known as a professional, a fine actor, but has been much distracted of late.” Schulmann glanced at Alessandra.

“You know where Bruce is, don’t you, Schulmann?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Why would I hire you if I knew that? He’s the indispensable man for this production. If we don’t have him, well…”

“I believe the insurance pays something like $200 million?”

“The cost of doing business these days, Ms. Clyne. Now I thought you said you had real information for me.”

“Yes, Ms DeGrade informs me she and Wilson have an intimate relationship. More than that, actually.”

“Preposterous. Why would one of Hollywood’s greatest action stars have a relationship with some WeHo drag queen. I think your services will no longer be needed, Ms. Clyne,” Schulmann said and turned toward the locked room to his right.

“Just hold on a second, Schulmann,” Darcy said. She pushed back her coat and placed her hands on her hips, exposing her holstered Beretta PX4 Storm Compact pistol.

At that, Alessandra grabbed the pistol and pointed it at Darcy.

“I didn’t come her to be bullshitted by you, you little bitch. Or by this pompous crook, either,” she said. She wagged the gun to move Darcy over toward Schulmann and his man.

“Now, if someone doesn’t tell me where my Bruce is I shoot this arrogant queen first,” pointing to the major-domo, then Miss Bitch here. I’ll save the last for you, Schulmann. I think you know exactly where Bruce is.”

“Calm down, Alley. I’ve got this under control.”

“Bullshit. I want my fiancé and I want him now! You know, I think I’ll skip the preliminaries and start with the one with the most to lose. And I mean LOSE. What do you say Schulmann? Everyone on your knees.”

Alessandra pushed the muzzle to the pistol to Schulmann’s temple and sobbed, “What have you donate my fiancé, Sig?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. For all I know, you’re the reason he’s disappeared,” Schulmann said.

Alessandra pulled the muzzle of the Beretta from Schulmann’s temple, leaving a 9mm red circle in the skin. She pivoted and squeezed a round off into the face-off the Seth Thomas.

She brought the hot barrel back to Schulmann’s head again and said, “Last chance Sig. If I don’t have Bruce, I’ve got nothing live for, so I’ve got nothing to lose in killing you right here, right now. So you’ve got five seconds to tell me. Five, four…”

“Let’s be reasonable, my dear. You know why I couldn’t let him make that announcement before the film premiered.” Sweat beaded oh Schulmann’s forehead, dripping onto the pistol.

“…three, two…”

“I needed the insurance and the carrier made me hire Clyne. We were desperate  and couldn’t afford for Bruce to be found until after the carrier paid off. But I wasn’t sure how to keep him out of the way. I’m sorry.”

“If you killed him, you bastard…” She pushed harder and Schulmann’s eyes teared.

“He’s in the basement. I couldn’t kill him. He’s behind the bar in that room on the right. Just don’t shoot!”

The butler made his move and Darcy caught him in the throat with a punch she’d trained a decade to make lethal or just shy of it.

“Open the door, Schulmann,” Darcy said. “It’s over. My old friend Lieutenant Galea from major crimes is waiting in the entry, listening to the whole thing. Now open the doors and let Wilson go home to his partner, his fiancé.”

Galea had Schulmann wrapped up and held for kidnapping, assault, unlawful imprisonment, insurance fraud, the list was as long as his potential stretch in Chino.

Two weeks later, Bruce Wilson announced he was taking time off from his film career, not to enter a hospital for the euphemistic “exhaustion” following his kidnapping or for rehab, but to begin the life he cutoff too long with his fiancé, Alex DiGrasse.

Darcy Clyne attended their Malibu wedding. She told them she regretted her misapprehension of Schulmann’s nefarious motives, and how that slowed down finding Bruce Wilson and freeing him from the very real potential of his death.

But, owing to ‘the award-winning performance of Miss Alessandra DeGrade as Best Actress in a Supporting Role,’ Darcy was able to keep her perfect record intact, as well as he own professional name as Miss Apprehension.

Here’s Day13’s very long (for an online story) Story-a-Day response to writer Tony Conaway’s prompt for a story  revolving around misapprehension. In this case, it was Darcy’s misapprehension of Sig Schulmann’s motives. Should I ever return to this story and this character, I can see a revision easily turning this into a 5,000-plus word story. Hope I hit the mark for Day 13.

Misreading Between the Lines

It’s no wonder why most of us hate Mondays. Returning to the scene of that continuous crime. Your individuality and humanity lying there on your desk surrounded by its taped outline.

But by 2:30 PM Friday, I was looking forward to Monday, not because I’m some kind of 9:00 to 5:00 masochist, but because it meant I had survived the weekend.

It was after taking one of my decompression walks by the river—the one that always called to me from ninety feet beneath the pedestrian bridge, “C’mon in, the water’s fine!”—I returned to my office to find this message written in a spooky red script on the wall-hung whiteboard upon which I brainstormed plots against the ultimate plotter:

Whatever happens, don’t die. See you Monday.

No signature, of course. I mean why would someone sign such a non sequitur to the statements I’d left on it when I left for my walk:

We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
Cannot be truly follow’d.~ Iago

I had no idea who defiled my little nook in the office library. It was a space I’d carved out for myself because it kept me from having to listen to the masturbatory ravings and sycophantic mewling of my supervisor, Grant Godfrey.

There had been days in my time under his alleged supervision, though he was more overseer, when I would lift my depression-heavy head from its drool puddle on the desk and begin the staggering trek down to his office, where I sought to confront him, then grasp him in a strong hug of brotherhood. This embrace, preceded my throwing both of us out the fifth floor window to the pavement below. Didn’t matter which of us died. Either or both would do. I saw it as a Win-Win.

But I’d always run out of gas by the time I’d reach his office door and slink back to my quiet space by the water cooler and the collected monthly board proceedings from 1948 to present.

Who the hell left this message? You really can’t recognize whose handwriting it is on a blackboard or whiteboard. It’s larger, vertical and perhaps more legible than any note or signature they might give you.

I walked to the librarian’s desk and asked, “Janie, you see anyone slink into my sanctum sanctorum while I was out?”

“Nope, but I was down on 3 where they had cake for Annie B. She’s retiring AND getting a chin lift next week,” she said.

“Oooh, The Villages here she comes?” I said, my hands up and shaking like I was scared. If I was a guy in that Florida retirement community, I would be.

I thanked Janie and wandered across the hall to my friend Phil’s office in Legal. He was a jokester with a view of humanity and bureaucracy about three and a half levels below mine.

“You didn’t leave that message on my whiteboard, did you, Phil?”

“Joey!” he exclaimed, for he always exclaimed, never spoke, the name I let only three people outside my immediate family call me. “Nah, I was down in Human Resources checking how many weeks until I’m eligible for retirement. What’s it say?”

“You too?” I said. I’d been doing that since Grant usurped the position of my supervisor when my sainted boss, Jack Peters retired. “Retirement seems to be our biggest seller these days.”

I told Phil what the message said.

“Hmmm, cryptic. You think it might have been The Despicable One? He’s certainly not above screwing with your mind.”

“I dunno, he’d want to watch my reaction. No one was near my space when I got back,” I said.

“You could always ask him if he left this vile intimidation message,” Phil said.

“I don’t know what the hell it is. It’s just that someone came into my space, erased my quote on the whiteboard and left that message in its place. Maybe I will mosey down to Mahogany Row and kick the over-inflated tires,” I said.

When you want to deal with executives, the rule of thumb I established back in my reporter days was to develop relationships with the angelic keepers at the pearly gates——the secretaries. Yeah, I know. And Satan was an angel, too.

I decided to start at the top, the most, shall we say senior secretary in the exec wing, Donna McKenna. She’d been assistant to the previous Director, but when new leadership came in, her boss was swept out. So she took two steps down to the Assistant Director of Not Much.

“Hi, Donna. That a new picture of the grandkids there?” I asked, figuring there were not enough o’s in “smooooth” to describe my rapport with these non-coms who essentially ran this joint. And Mary was the Senior Master Sergeant, despite the fact that the new director’s hot secretary considered herself queen of the hop.

“Same picture as the last time you blew smoke up my skirt. What do you want, Joseph?” she said with her ex-smoker’s rasp.

“Was wondering if you heard if anyone,” I nodded toward The Despicable One’s office, “was down in my office trying to fuck with me.” I told her what I’d found she I returned from lunch and it was like talking to one of the guys in the locker room.

“How the hell would I know? I’m not his keeper,” she said in a combination of annoyance and relief.

“You know lots and you hear even more. You’re the Oracle of the Fifth Floor,” I said. “I trust your knowledge, instincts and counsel.”

“Excuse me while I hose the bullshit off my keyboard. I only know he was talking to his buddy Tom over there. Yucking it up about giving you some crap assignment like letting out his dog at lunch or picking up his laundry. You know, something demeaning because he’s afraid of you.”

“He has no idea,” I said, recalling my flight and drop of fancy fantasy of his demise.

“But he’s been down here kissing director asses and stomping on everyone under him, which is everyone, all day. Never even left for lunch. Princess over there picked it up for him and peerless leader.”

I was in thrall of her supreme bitterness. Olympian in her acerbity.

“Okay, thanks. I can’t see anyone else trying to mess with me like that,” I said.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Joseph. No one around here gives a shit anymore. We’re old and have snakes of x’s winding around our calendars all aiming for that last ring that circles our getting out of here before another purge or he takes over,” Donna nodded toward Grant’s office.

I decided to wander back to the office and erase the offending mystery from my wall and my memory. I figured a few beers would help.

When I arrived back in my lair, the afternoon sun was pouring through the door-to-ceiling windows like a prism and beginning to bake everything.

And there, captured in the otherworldly rainbow light, was my criminal conspirator, Tess Blake. She’d been Grant’s speed bag to my heavy in relation to his training for taking over the hearts and minds of the proletariat on floors 1 though 5. She had been lucky enough to transfer out, but stopped by a lot to talk to me and other friends so unlucky to have been left behind.

“Did you see my note?” she said she saw me coming.

“What note? You leave it on my desk or chair?”

“No. silly. The note I left to remind you to fully water the peace lily and spider plant I left in your care over on the sunny side of the building,” she said, not realizing the extent of my animus and paranoia where Grant came into play.

“Um, that note was from you?”

“Yeah, I wanted to make sure you knew what to do for Hortense and Edgar here before you take off and to wish you a happy weekend.”

“I see…” I said my face heating from the sun outside and embarrassment within.

“So will you?”

“Will I what?”

“Hydrate and have a great weekend.”

“Only if you help,” I said.

“Sure, let me get the watering…”

“Already did that before my walk, incase I didn’t come back. I meant why don’t you come help me hydrate at the Blue Bayou and help ensure I get this weekend off to a good start.”

“Oh. Okay, sure. Let me just close the blinds a little bit and run over to Legal and get my stuff,” she said with a smile.

“Thanks, that’d be great.”

As she closed the door, I grabbed my green marker and drew a flower on the whiteboard. Beneath it I wrote:

There is that in the glance of a flower which may at times control the greatest of creation’s braggart lords.~ John Muir

I guess my own suspicions and fears had conspired to scare me into seeing something sinister where there was nothing but nothing. I had met the enemy and it was me.

Story-a-Day May Day 5’s fluffy bit of desperation. It’s based on the premise of finding that first statement on the whiteboard in your office. Started this late and finished before midnight. I’m done until I see you all tomorrow. Another chance to get it right.

Recreating Recall of the Priceless

Age can be a terrible thing, what it can do
to a man’s body and mind that he once thought
invulnerable to the degradation of disease
and his own misuse over time.
But along comes the day when his shoes
become too far away to tie and the chasm
so great between the desire to remember and
the clear view of actual recall, it renders
memory nothing more than a museum ravaged
by the temblors of time. Now the picture
I hung of you is not much more than a frame
surrounding empty desire, one I must fill
or you’ll finally be lost to me forever.
And so I scour this shattered space for bits
of the ancient and arcane. With pieces of lapis
set in shards of Delft blue glass I fashion
your eyes, with flaxen threads of fine
Irish linen and crushed Etruscan alabaster
I formed your face, and with countless strands
of gold and brown silk, your hair. It’s an
imperfect portrait, true. Though, created
from treasured bits of my life and the echoing
music of your voice, I once again can hang
my invaluable memory of priceless you.

For Day 19 of NaPoWriMo, a piece made of the combined prompts of Writers Digest and NaPoWriMo.net — a memory poem and a creation poem. I like to think of this as my imaginary life imitating their art.

The Search Continues

I’ve been searching for something
my whole life, but if you stopped
and asked what my goal, my hoped-for was,
I’d likely give you the same kind
of twitchy, unfocused look as
any other liar. I’d give you some answer,
firm as granite or flimsy as fog.
But, in truth, that answer’s proven
as elusive, as out-of-reach as
that for which I’ve searched.

It’s worn me down over all this time,
and the only truth I’ve ever found
is this: Life’s one long crawl
toward a shiny something that
turns out to be nothing more
than a mirror reflecting the fact
I’ve spent my life digging
for nothing more than a clear look
at who I am and what I’ve become.
And I haven’t captured that yet.