Friday, January 31, 2014

[Friday Flash] Describing Amy

A pressed smile containing a suppressed squeal accompanied the keystroke.  Good bye sad polar vortex.  The ‘sell-offs’ website promised heat in Jamaica.  Pandora filled her half empty apartment with reggae while she packed.  Jeff would be stunned.  Solid Amy never made rash decisions.  Sometime in the coming week, he would call to check on her but she wouldn’t be there. 
The very next day, Amy stood marveling; frozen drink in hand, on the balcony of a Caribbean resort.  That was the beauty of sell-offs.  Book yesterday, travel today.  She was gone before the dreaded call from Jeff asking if Pathetic Amy was ok.  Would he move his furniture and clothes back if she said no?  Give back her ring? Not if that slut Robin had anything to say about it and apparently being pregnant gave her all kinds of liberties.
Conservative Amy stripped off her travel clothes, popped the tags off the first of seven new bikinis, purchased yesterday, and took her kindle, sunscreen and hat to the beach.  She’d been to a beach once before, with Jeff.  A tennis player who hated sand, he left her mostly alone by the pool.
A single beach chair was easy to find, as were drinks.  The tall good looking beach waiter dropped an exaggerated wink on her every time he traded her empty drink glass for a full one.
Several frozen drinks later, her teeth ached, her head spun and she had missed dinner.  At 3:00 am, she woke on top of her four poster bed, dry mouthed, bikini strings awkwardly covering nothing; starving.
Jeff would have laughed and told her to wait for breakfast.  Drinking water, Amy called room service and passed the time by slathering her sun kissed skin with lotion. 
“Yasiel.”  The handsome guy from the beach doubled as a room service valet it seemed. 
Amy held up the lotion bottle.  “Would you? Yasiel?”
He hesitated. 
Modest Amy turned her back and shrugged her robe from her shoulders.  Neither expected the electricity that caused Amy to gasp and blush furiously at her obvious showing of excitement when she pulled her robe across her chest a few moments later.  “I’m Amy.”  She murmured.
“See you tomorrow.”  He left with a sultry wink. 
Tomorrow was pink sequins bikini day, which got a lot of compliments, and rum punch.  Amy forgot to think about Jeff until she sat at a table for two alone for lunch.  Yasiel, carrying a Twister game box detoured through the courtyard long enough to drop an exotic flower on her table and wink without the exaggeration.
Braided into her hair, the compliments continued at dinner. Yasiel, a maĆ®tre de apparently, seated her with a bachelorette party and other singles.  Tequila Poppers and pealing laughter were all she remembered waking late the next morning.
On fedora hat day, the portrait studio rolled several photos of her paddle boarding.  Years of pilates paid off nicely.  The bachelorettes invited her on a catamaran sunset cruise where Yasiel happened to play DJ.  Shy Amy sat on the table next to him picking songs and dancing.  In a club, Jeff’s tongue would wag at such a girl. 
Leaving the gangplank, she slipped.  Yasiel caught her—firmly on her rear, under her dress.  It left them both shocked and Amy, at least, excited beyond measure.
Well after the party moved inside, Amy sat toes in the surf, drinking a rum and coke.  She didn’t hear Yasiel until he sat next to her.  Timid Amy smacked a kiss hard on his mouth before he could say a word.  His smile said all.  That and his arms that crushed her.  He shook his head immediately though, glancing nervously at the resort. 
A group from singles night took the unapproved tour to the Blue Hole on leopard print day four.  Cautious Amy was the first to jump over the falls, almost surfacing topless.  It was worth it to picture Jeff’s jaw dropping.  She missed Yasiel’s winks at the beach party dinner and fire eating show.  The other cute entertainer’s glances didn’t leave behind butterflies.  She made the mistake of taking her phone to the lobby when she couldn’t sleep.   The free wifi turned up no messages.  Jeff should have called by now. 
Metallic silver suit day started in a cloud cover.  Steering clear of the hungover bachelorettes, Amy let the salon girls talk her into a massage.  Self-conscious Amy wore nothing under the towel in the serene bamboo hut.  Without opening her eyes or speaking a word, she knew at first touch it was Yasiel.  Tender, passionate and personal, his hands stroked her to hot fire before he kissed between her shoulder blades and pressed a note in her hand.
“Meet tonight beside the pier?”
Terrified Amy carried her shoes under the pier, acknowledging the guard’s warning that she was leaving the safety of the resort.  Yasiel whisked her away in a small car playing reggae music softly.  No street lights, no traffic, no small talk.  Only the ocean, the moon and sweet anticipation.
The party was as laid back and friendly as Jamaica promised.  All night they held hands, drank beer and kissed for pure pleasure. 
“Are they?”  She asked as the fire died and the beach cleared.  He winked big and within seconds, Amy was skinny dipping too.  Yasiel swam to her smiling.  Wrapping her legs around his hips, Quiet Amy cried out when he claimed her.
The emptiness of her apartment was depressing compared to the life of Yasiel’s where Amy spent her last day in Jamaica needless of her final bikini.  He returned her safely to the resort with a promise.  Her inbox had hundreds of emails but only two that mattered.
My dear forgiving Amy.
Sexy Amy. 
Pushover Amy deleted Jeff’s and sat down to write to Yasiel.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kind Soul. Flash Fiction

“Thank you, kind soul.” 
He calls everyone that—Kind Soul.  I hurry to disguise my accidental revulsion at getting caught downwind of the corner of 2nd and State. 
Like being able to get my preferred train seat or how crowded the elevator ride, I can gauge my commute by Cisco’s placard.  Today, it’s blank, laying at his feet. I’m early for work.
Wearing a matted fleece jacket, zipper gaping through the faded CISCO logo, the man appeared at winter’s end.  Every day since, he set up his remarkably white sandwich board with his calligraphic scrawled doomsday message.  I started noticing Cisco and his prophesy as an indicator of my punctuality. 
I wish I could say I noticed the message originally as they clearly progress.  About the time his fleece transitioned to a tissue thin t shirt of nondescript color, the board read:  You’re Not Listening.
Those three words riveted me to my office window as though they were written for me and me alone. I wasn’t—listening.  I am now.  I drop a dollar or two in his coffee can if there is cash in my wallet and I read the sign.  All Will be Accounted For.  I’m not the only one.  On days he changes the phrase, the can overflows green.
He’s leading up to your typical ‘the end is near.’  That much is clear.  It Comes Upon Us.  There is a running office pool on when that will be and a side, what the end will bring.  I’m in for $20 on a fall megastorm.  The big money is on disease and even bigger on weaponized viruses.  Lacking religious zealotry, very few bet on a flood or rapture.
I find my mind wandering as I absently glance down seventeen floors from the corner of 3rd and State.  The new sandals held up nicely under pressure this morning. I don’t believe in changing my shoes for the commute.  They will keep up with me in every way and look good doing it.  I smile to myself and look outside again.
The Least of Your Worries.
My heart pounds as blood rushes through my ears.  My own laughter interrupts.  The ringing I hear is my phone.  “Your 9:00 is here.” says my assistant.  I have work to do. 
The board doesn’t change for days.  
As summer bakes the city, Cisco loses his shirt completely and turns a muddy brown.  I take to holding my breath half the 2nd Street block. The whiteboard blinds in the sun finally changing its message. 
I win $78, guessing the date right on.  The sign changes later the same day.  Swim Above the Pool.  I walk by the vacant corner well after happy hour and think, not for the first time, the messages seem oddly directed at me. 
I stuff a wad of cash, $78 less happy hour, into the can in the morning, breathing a sigh of relief at the cryptic words, Embrace The Light.  I have no idea what that means. 
“Thank you, kind soul.”  I choke back my nausea, unable to pretend smile.  The smell stings my eyes.
It starts to rain by evening and the sign’s changed again, Embrace the Night.  Whatever that means.  Interest at work diverts to the crane operator two blocks down who appears to drunkenly stagger to his cab 80 stories above the sidewalk every morning.  I put $20 on his being replaced.  Others bet on a demolition catastrophe and some on his demise.
The CISCO fleece comes back early fall; the zipper still holding fast at the top and the bottom leaving bare chest evidence that Cisco has lost his t-shirt.  The rambling messages have warned of the Fall and Blindness For All Who Refuse to See. 
The crane operator finishes his job and presumably moves on without incident.  I can’t remember the last time I saw green poking from Cisco’s can.  I drop a single for old time sake, relishing the fresh breeze.  “Kind Soul.”  He commands my attention, lifting the newly inked board, white as ever.
Your Kindness Will be Rewarded.
Maybe it’s the crisp autumn day, or that he didn’t say thank you.  I look into his startling blue eyes tinged with red and I see the power of his belief.  His madness renders me insecure.  I walk Market Street to 3rd until the snow flies. 
The office has all but forgotten Cisco when he turns up outside the revolving door with his pristine message board.  He’s there for me.  I know it, like I know there’s no cash in my wallet and that isn’t why he’s there regardless.  “Kind Soul.”  He says, showing me the board.  Surrender.
I march by with my nose in the air.  He knows I read the sign. 
I bring cash the next day.  I walk straight up 2nd and State.  Cisco isn’t to be found.  His board, unchanged, is propped against my building.  It’s smudged and wet.  I find that more unsettling than Cisco’s disappearance.  It’s laying on its side the next day, dirty.  The following day it’s gone and for most, forgotten.
Often as I’m climbing into bed, I think of Cisco’s final message.  Surrender.  In the wee hours of the morning, the heat from a brilliant light wakes me.  I’m not meant to shake the vestiges of my dream.  Now.
Cisco waits for me in the light; scrubbed clean, wearing freshness in white linen.  I’m to embrace it and him.
“Kind Soul.”  I say stepping forward.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Flash Fiction

Drop It

"Drop it.” She said. “Can we just drop it? I’m not taking it. I am so tired of this conversation.” As if to demonstrate how tired, she dropped lifelessly into the plush cushions of the oversized chair and sighed dramatically for effect. Closing her eyes, she shut out the stunning panoramic view of the city below the sixtieth floor penthouse windows.

“Easier said than done, sweetheart.” Naked, he walked unabashed to the wet bar for a refill. On the way, he scooped up the empty crystal glass dangling from her perfectly manicured fingers. “We need the money. There. I said it. You need this job.”

She sat up, stomping both her slippered feet to the floor in a puff. “You get a job. How about that? You make us some money.”

“Again, with the easier said…” Even in the shadowy room at dusk, the long tracks lining both his once muscular arms stood out. Similar lines could be seen behind his knees. Lines forever marking him an addict. No one cared if he was clean again or not. He was uninsurable. In this business, a heroin habit could be worked around but not without insurance.

“I won’t do it. I won’t work with that pig. And I sure as hell won’t do sex.” Sweeping the floor with her silk robe, she took the full glass onto the balcony scowling like the words left a nasty taste in her mouth. Sauntering his famous walk, he followed. “I said drop it already.”

His sandy eyebrows lifted and dropped with his shoulders. “Don’t do it then.” He lit a cigarette and leaned over his elbows blowing smoke down at the street so far below. He added casually, “There’s already Oscar buzz.”

She couldn’t help it. Her eyes sought out the glass case at the other side of the room. Side by side, two golden statuettes stood gleaming. Best Actor. He’d won twice—once before rehab and once after as if it was nothing.

“I said no.” She stuck out her lower lip, crossed her arms over her glorious cleavage and shook her head. No. She’d made millions with that icy bitch stare. He made his millions with a smile that could melt the tundra. He turned it on her now and tugged at the robe tie.

Days passed with no mention of movie casting. The respite was too brief for Natalie Wells, second highest earning actress three years running. Soon, the director called to reassure her that her ex-husband would behave himself, “promise” if she would only consider reading. The producers sent a luncheon invitation and Knicks’ tickets. The popular older actress who desperately wanted to play her parole officer, (if she would only say yes!) sent a spa package unavailable to the public.

Didn’t any of them realize the roll called for her character to be imprisoned by her arrogant, overacting ex-husband? She would have to spend months with the man who emotionally abused her for years. Who made her so insecure she’d actually cheated and been caught with Tristan Hemsley, narcissist, sex and heroin addict. Her publicist and agent coerced into marrying Tris to save her career but not her sanity. No way that could happen when for months on end drug paraphernalia became casual, mingling with used condoms. He made no effort to hide it. Oddly, she understood his pressure. But now, the money thing. Where could all that money have gone? Their accountant called too. Take the roll. You need this job.

“Please, Saul. Don’t make me do it.” Saul would understand. Her agent from the start, he knew what working with that control freak would do to her.

“Nat, darling. It is the roll of a lifetime. I talked to the director—we can work around cutting your hair.”

“My God! I am not cutting my hair.”

“No, no, dear. No cutting hair. Promise. And. The producers offered back end royalties too.”

“I like that. My movies never die.”

“And, your trailer will be on a different lot. Way way way away.”

“Way away? You promise?”

“I promise. Oscar baby.”

“I don’t think I can do this Saul.”

Together, Saul and Tristan rode with her to the set for the start of filming. She’d avoided her ex until walking up the steps to her trailer, located directly next to his bigger trailer. He plastered a fake smile over his raised middle finger. A week later, he asked that Tristan refrain from breaking his concentration by always being on the set. In true Tristan like tantrum style, he left the country.

They clipped her nails and scuffed her pedicure. Let her brows grow uncontrolled. Enhanced the circles under her eyes and smudged her porcelain skin with dirt daily. They filmed at night and she couldn’t sleep with the valley sun shining into the empty rented cottage. Saul’s wife whisked him to Barcelona to convalesce after having his second heart attack in as many years. Finally, they cut her hair.

“God, can’t believe. Let you them cut your hair.” Tristan was stoned out of his mind. Filming ended a month ago. She was exhausted, crying for what felt like days on end. He was laying on the tiled edge of the pool when she woke and stumbled out into the evening. She sat next to him, traced the fresh lines between his toes. He slumping up to sitting. “We’ll go to make room for your Oshcar.” She stared at his chapped lips. She knew where those lips had been.

From his pocket he produced a small packet of white powder and a tin box. He took his time cooking it up, ironically meticulous. “Some?”

Defeated, she laid out her arm.

The stars were out in full regalia as always for the Academy Awards. Saul Motts took the stage attempting to convey grave dignity. “I accept this award on behalf of my dear friend Natalie Wells. I still can’t believe she’s gone.”