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The Coast, part I

Six sticks poked their heads above the waves. Suspended above their hunting ground, they clung to the praying mantis bamboo. Behind them, the deep and thick orange sun enjoyed a growing intimacy with the dark world beyond the equator, signalling the end of another long day of beating down upon the fishers. Ahead, the lonely island sat, a lump of volcanic green coal in a vast and empty ocean. The day had been long and hot, a singularity suspended in a plurality of hours, weeks and months waiting for a catch, any catch, another one, with long pauses between each.

One dry and cracked hand grasped the knotted nodules of the bamboo, whilst the other held a rudimentary fishing rod made of the same material as that which held the fishers above the murky abyss. They had waited for hours in this position. Their lean muscles cramped under the continuous pressure, yet the six knew that no pain relief would come for another few hours. A physically and mentally arthritic occupation which yielded only several, small diseased fish as its fruits each day. The paltry few that had been caught that day were stuffed uncaringly into leather pouches on the hip of each hunter, which served up a putrid rotting smell as the heat of the day wore on. Coupled with the filthy ocean, the air they breathed was not only unclean, but practically toxic.

Catherine craned her neck to watch the Indonesian sun set behind her. The fading slave-driver star carved its way through the clouds, casting sunbeams down onto the waves. She felt as if she could recall, from memory, the intricacies of every newly-formed wave as it passed by her post. The immense details engraved into her head of that great silent graveyard of a hunting ground, her ocean, provided a good indicator of how small the role of fish actually was in the task of fishing. A single day at the office for Sisyphus proved more fruitful than that of her fishing crew.

The explanation for this lay not in the crew’s ineptitude, but rather more literally on the horizon. Catherine watched as a choking airship glided across the purple sky, dragging its long nets through the fields of fish that lay at the deepest depths of the ocean. An irregular occurence with increasing regularity, the airships had gone from being silhouettes in the distance to fully-formed vessels - even the glint of the fading sun could be seen in the iron balloon bearing the ship across the sky. As the increasingly introverted fish fled the deep in favour of shallower waters, the air trawlers were getting nearer and nearer to the crew and their island. If the noise of breathing and the sound of waves were to subside, the splutter of burning coal and the shouts of the sailors would be heard. Catherine feared that they would soon be able to reach out and touch the nets, and then one day be swallowed up whole along with their mutual prey.

The crew rarely spoke to one another, each opting instead to walk the winding path of his or her own thoughts and to drink, with their eyes, the world around them. A different time, perhaps, would have made poets or painters of them. Any potential beauty, though, was normalised by the necessary survival upon which their occupation was based. In lieu of human conversation, the parasitic insects gave the silent group a common tongue.

As the sun finally gave way to the moon and the trawler slid out of view, Catherine watched as the two fireflies’ lamps grew bigger and brighter. She packed away what little she had, sliding the fishing rod into a rope holster on her back and put her bait back in the same exposed pouch which held the rotten fish. Others, whose awareness of the approaching vessel which signified their return home was more delayed in its formation, continued to wiggle their bamboo rods in hope of a final catch.

Soon, the small boat’s headlights cast an orange glow on the faces of the crew, highlighting the deep-set cracks engraved into their sun-battered skin. Already heaving with the weary bodies of crews from the other villages dotted along the coast, Catherine faced the daily challenge of finding somewhere comfortable to sit and hopefully stretch once she had disembarked her post and boarded the raft, a single foot in front of the other.

What excuses there were for seats were already occupied, and she was forced, as usual, to take a seat with some of the other girls on the floor towards the back of the ship. It was here that she curled up, half-squinting at the rise and fall of the burning cigarette embers.

The dazzling stars danced through the gaps in the nuclear clouds, alone in a universe filled with mostly nothing. She was fifteen years old, she spoke to nobody, and nobody spoke to her. The raft coughed its way back home.

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No Answer

Your mother didn't answer her phone. She had left hours ago, off to collect the meager "bonus" she was offered at work. It was a few extra dollars from the manager, your grandfather. It was Christmas Eve, the sun had gone down hours ago. You were supposed to be in bed. 

You call again. 

Your younger brothers are all asleep. 

No answer.

Maybe your brother knows where she is. He is older. He is responsible. He has his own flat.

You call him.

He picks up the phone and slurs a "hello," at you. You hear a crash and some swearing. He can't stop laughing. The voices in the background laugh too. 

You hang up.

Call Mom again.

No answer.

You look next to you on the couch. An aging quilt that always rests on Mom's lap stares back at you. It has been folded.

It is never folded.

You swallow your fear and try again.

You keep calling. 

Never an answer.

You sigh, giving up. You make your way slowly to your crowded shared bedroom and lay down, stroking your dog for comfort until you drift off.

 

You don't wake until the afternoon. It's Christmas, but the only things waiting for you in the living room is a small trinket offered to you by your hung-over brother. You watch as he drinks countless cups of coffee and your younger siblings play with their gifts.

You ask about Mom.

No answer.

He offers to bring you and your brothers back to his apartment for the weekend and you agree. It is the best gift ever. He is grown up. He is cool. He has his own apartment in the city.

You spend a few days there, in the city. You fall asleep to gunshots and a cacophony of inebriated slurs from the parties held in the next room. 

Every day you ask about Mom.

No answer.

 

Finally, it is Monday. Mom knocks on the door in the morning. Your brother is dragging himself out of the shower to get ready for work. 

You ask where she has been.

No answer. 

You say good-bye to your brother.

No answer.

 

The drive home is quiet. The rest of the day is quiet. Everything in your chaotic home is quiet. She does not wish you a merry Christmas. She does not bring you a gift. You do not ask for one. 

When she goes to bed, you stare at the crumpled old quilt next to you on the couch.

You beg it to never be folded again.

 

No answer.

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Descriptions laid out in memoirs.

Czarina Evelyn S. Harper. The only daughter among five children of June Harper and Christine Harper. Born early morning of May 7, 1988. A Friday tragedy— a Saturday miracle as the doctors called her. 

As Detective James Bordeaux read her file encased in a green clear folder that has been thoroughly documented by Dr. Bright; Harper’s psychiatrist.  The dossier he held in his hands contained detailed accounts on her, from little details to day to day conversations  between Harper and Dr. Bright.  Fragments of tiny fragments of her pass slowly pieced up to form a puzzle Dr. Bright has been trying to solve all these years.

What captured his attention are the notes made by the doctor. They are attached between the pages and photos. He has certainly committed most of his time and effort communicating with Harper. 

Bordeaux requested to take the files home with him for further studies which the old doctor gave the green light. Czarina Harper has been reported missing the day she got her free pass from Fair view Correctional. 

That night he sat in his favourite lounge chair he had bought after his first bust. With a cup of coffee in the end table beside him and Harriet, a tabby cat he had picked up from the street years ago silently rested at his feet.  He began to read Harper’s files hoping to shed some light of her disappearance. Picking out the first note the doctor had written; it was bathed in amber and written in blue ink. With “EYES” labeled into the top corner of the page. He read the doctor’s words carefully:

Eyes:

Her eyes are of pale amber. Almost in comparison to the sun as her aunt  has always told her. Though she had always hated her eyes and had always wished for a change. 

What people perceived as beautiful she had described as “different.”
When she was 12, she had always hated how the the other children will tease her how they are blinded by her whenever the light drove through her gaze. I’ve seen for myself how her eyes shined against odd reflections and prisms. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before. There is something oddly unique about her. 

And the after a couple of sessions talking about her eyes 
she finally confessed how there was an instance she had almost killed a person because of her eyes. 

She had never know his name, nor sent him any apologies or flowers.  She could never felt guilt that all she did was “look” and he of course looked back. And as they locked gazes for a while he had lost control when the glare from her eyes blinded him momentarily which caused him to swerve right into the bookstore by 5th and 36th street. The bay window was shattered into pieces and he was bed ridden for about 3 months.

Though still she could not feel any remorse.


Bordeaux set aside Harper’s file for a moment as Harriet scratched his ankles.

“You hungry now huh? Come on. Let’s eat dinner.”

He sat and ate with the thought of her eyes shimmering against the shadowed window.

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She wouldn't say no to an adventure.

Sirens raced into a near distance, like all other days in between crazy streets.

“Hey Mister.” An unfamiliar voice crept up from behind my back and as I turned around standing there was the most peculiar kid I had ever seen.

She was at least four and half feet tall, her hair is almost comparable to an autumn day in New York, a subtle mix of a sunset sky most people have the luxury to see. She wore faded jeans and a pink shirt; ones you see most children her age wear. You can’t miss it. Though what really caught my attention was this purse she was carried in her hand.It is the not of things, one that clearly didn’t belong in the picture.

“Yes little girl? How may I help you?” I crouched a bit and brought myself down to her eye level. I thought to myself how and why on earth is she alone is such a busy place, where and who could her parents be?

She smiled at me for a bit then suddenly, her expression changed from a slipping sunshine into brief hints of rain.

“Mister, do you know where I can buy this little white stick where magic smoke comes out? My mother does magic all the time though she needed to buy some more because she’s almost out.”

She caught me off guard there for a while as I couldn’t even begin how to answer her question. I had to think for a moment, but I was interrupted shortly after she started to tug the sleeve of my shirt.

“Hey mister, mister! Is anybody home in there? Where can I buy magic sticks for my mother??”

She kept on tugging and I swear a if I didn’t stop her sooner my sleeve will be torn off.

“Magic sticks?” I stood up and fixed my sleeves. Scratched my head as she gazed upon my curious face with such innocent intent.

“Yes, magic sticks. I need to hurry or else mother will go to heaven!”

What she just said enraged me.  I can’t even begin to process how wrong all of this is.

“Where is your mother?, I have some magic sticks here that I don’t need. I will gladly share some.” 

“She’s waiting for me by that place where everyone’s treasure is kept. She works there you see and she just let me go out through her secret door all by myself. She says it would be a nice adventure for a change and I am not the type of kid who backs down from adventures. I am no trapped princess! No sir!” She giggled and my heart cracked into two.

She mentioned her mother working at a bank. And the nearest one was at least five blocks away. Goodness. I am surprised how she got this far by herself. 

“Okay then. Let’s go save your mother.”
“AAALRIGHT! Let’s go mister! My mother doesn’t like to wait long!”

We went back to her mother’s workplace only to find dozens of ambulances and police cars all crowded near the entrance.
I felt this blunt pain inside my chest as I finally realized the truth behind the scheme of things.

She was silent and my heart broke into pieces.

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The Anger of the Ocean

               Johnny sat on a rock overlooking the ocean. It wasn’t the warm, calm, clear ocean of sunny California; it was the cold, dark, stormy ocean of the Pacific Northwest. The grey waters hit the rock he was sitting on with violence, crashing against them as if somehow wronged, and taking their vengeance out on the earth. He’d walked the beach for a while, letting the wind whip about him, chilling his cheeks and ear, causing the blood to rush and turn them red. He’d spotted the outcropping of rocks and knew immediately that was where he needed to be. It was a collection of small and large rocks, with one monumental rock reaching up into the sky and out towards the ocean, overshadowing all of its fellows.

               He’d slowly made his way over to the rocks; time wasn’t an issue and he had absolutely nowhere to be, nothing to do. He found the best route up the rocks and onto the giant rock, finally getting to the edge. He sat on the cold, hard rock and looked out at the cold, angry ocean. He stared out across the waves, his thoughts empty save for noticing the sting of the wind on his face.

               He watched the waves roll in and roll out, the continual motion of the sea entrancing him. It was so simple, the world around him, the ocean, all of it. He’d needed simplicity. In a world of demands and expectations, he knew nothing more than the needs of other people. For him life was about trying, about effort, and sometimes he needed the simplicity of the ocean. For a man that struggled to keep himself calm, he needed to see violence in motion. The anger of a tumultuous sea, the cold sting of the wind, he needed to see that it wasn’t necessarily wrong, as long as the effort was placed in the correct setting.

               Finally, his breathing calm, his mind clear he made his way off the rocks. Walking with the wind he made his way down the beach and to where he had parked his car. He clicked the button on his key fob and unlocked the door. With a last look out across the sea he turned the key, igniting the engine, and drove back to his life.

               

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Cords [novel excerpt]

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Making a Deal with a Beauty

               Jeanine pulled a solid gold cigarette case and lighter out of her small clutch purse. She set the purse down on the desk in front of her, and pulled a cigarette out of the case. Her long slender fingers clutching the smoke as she brought it up to her full, luscious lips, painted a bright red with lipstick. With her mocha colored complexion, long, straight black hair, and eyes so dark brown to almost be black, she made a striking figure. Add the custom made red dress that hugged her ample but subtle features, she was a woman that haunted men’s dreams.

               She put the lighter up to the end of the cigarette and lit it, smiling at the discomfort of the man sitting across from him.

               “Baby,” she said, her voice rich and full of melody, “If you’re worried about your health, you came to the wrong place.”

               The man shifted nervously in his seat, glancing back at the two men flanking the door. They were large, muscled, and had a look to them that said they were just waiting for someone to test them.

               “I know,” he said, “It’s not a problem.”

               Jeanine flashed him a smile that had an edge to it. The pearl white teeth of one side of her mouth barely showing.

               “It wouldn’t matter if it was,” she said, leaning back in the chair, “Now would it?”

               The man shook his head.

               “Now,” she said, taking a drag of her cigarette, “You understand what you’re getting into here?”

               “Of course,” the man said, nodding, “It’s been explained.”

               Jeanine studied the man, shaking her head slowly.

               “No,” she said, “You really don’t. They never do, they never really believe.”

               “I’m telling you,” the man replied, getting anxious, “I understand, and I’m willing.”

               “This isn’t something to enter in lightly,” she said, sighing a little, “For something like this, I’m going to require a lot, and you’ll pay for it. You always pay for it.”

               “He took everything,” the man said, rubbing his pants legs with his hands, “Everything. It doesn’t matter the cost. I’ll pay it willing.”

               Jeanine pursed her lips and stared at the man. Finally she looked up at one of the men guarding the door.

               “Prepare the room,” she said, “We’ll be there in a minute.”

               The guard nodded and left the room. Jeanine rested the elbow of the arm holding the cigarette on the arm of the chair. She rubbed the end of the filter with her thumb absently, thinking, not looking at the man or anything else in the room at all. Finally she nodded and looked at the man.

               “It’s doable,” she said, “Six months for complete destruction.”

               “That much?” the man asked.

               “No,” Jeanine said, shaking her head, “That’s how long it takes to destroy a man’s life; at least the way you want it done. The cost is fifteen years.”

               The man went white.

               “So much?” the man asked, a desperate edge to his voice.

               “Yes,” Jeanine replied, a hardness to her voice, “That much. I told you, it wouldn’t be cheap.”

               “I know,” he said, “But I wasn’t expecting that much.”

               Jeanine shook her head, sighing.

               “It isn’t too late,” she said, “You can always just leave.”

               The man sat still and silent for a few moments, and then shook his head.

               “No,” he said, “No, I need this. I have nothing, what is fifteen years for vengeance?”

               “It’s life,” she said, “Fifteen years is a lot of your life, and you’re signing it away to me for this. So make sure you want it.”

               The man nodded.

               “I’m sure.”

               “Good,” Jeanine replied, “Then follow Marcus; he’ll lead you to the room.”

               The man nodded and stood, sweat on his forehead, a nervous energy about him. Marcus held the door open and they both left. Jeanine was without guards, but to assume she was without protection would be a mistake. She put the cigarette out on the ashtray on her desk and stood, smoothing out her dress. Standing she was an impressive six foot four, the heels she was wearing adding an extra four inches to her already impressive six foot even.

               She walked out the door, and made her way to the room, her long graceful strides taking her there quickly. She opened the door and walked in. The man was strapped to a table, Marcus and the other guard standing to the side. The man looked up at her as she entered.

               “Is this necessary?” he asked.

               “Yes,” she said simply, walking up to him.

               She didn’t say anything as she opened his shirt and placed her hand on his bare chest. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly her hand started to glow a bright blue, and the man started grunting. The grunts turned to screams as Jeanine’s head turned up, a look of ecstasy on her face. Finally the blue disappeared and Jeanine opened her eyes. The man was unconscious.

               “Make sure he’s taken care of,” she told the guards, who nodded, “I’ve got to get on stage.”

               She left the rooms as the guards unhooked the man she’d just taken fifteen years from. She walked down her private work hallway and opened the door leading to the main club. The guards at the door nodded to her, she nodded back. She made her way backstage and smiled at the small man with a clipboard who nodded at her.

               “You’re on in ten Miss Solorinski,” he said.

               She smiled and nodded, taking her place behind the microphone. She smiled as the announcer made her upcoming set known.

               “Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer said, “We have a special treat for you tonight; the one, the only, Miss Jeanine Solorinski.”

               The curtains slid open and the spotlight hit her. She stepped closer to the microphone and started singing.

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Some Kind of Something.

I slide to unlock and look down, tapping on a number that seems familiar, but I just can’t quite place it. Who do I know in that area code that would be texting me this early in the morni…

Hey. You seem to be doing well lately, and I just wanted you to know that I’m glad things seem to be working out for you.

I set the phone down on the table and stare for a moment, trying to wrap my mind around the missive. Our last conversation had been terminal, two “fuck you”’s bouncing off satellites to meet somewhere in the middle of the distance. Nothing says “Let’s never speak again” like “Let’s never fucking speak again.” But yet here I sit, without a deerstalker to cover up my awful hair, playing detective and trying to decipher text messages at two in the morning.

Twenty-six words. One-hundred-twenty-eight characters. No less than a thousand possible meanings.

Hey. Have you grown up yet?

Hey. You seem to be doing well lately… and I miss the ever-loving fuck out of you.

Hey. I read that story you got published. It was amazing.

Hey. I’m sorry about what happened. We really handled that like kids didn’t we?

Hey. I found your gym shorts in my apartment… do you want them back?

Hey. It would be nice to see you sometime.

Hey. I read that story you got published. I wish you hadn’t put so much of me in it.

Hey. You seem to be doing well lately… actually, who am I kidding? I’m doing really well and I wanted to rub it in.

Hey. I did a little growing up… can we talk?

I could spend my night trying to decipher everything, scribbling and scratching away like this SMS message was some sort of ancient manuscript. But I’m no translator. I’m a guy who knows at two in the morning that some broken people, no matter what their intent, will break you down further. Sometimes it's in your best interest not to develop film. I let the text go unanswered.

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Bunny Baby

The day her father broke her bunny’s back was the day Meggie knew that she had been born into a world where if she loved something she must teach it to stay close and when all else failed, run. Meggie had the reddest, curliest hair of anybody in the entire world. At least, that’s what her mother told her, before she went missing, and her father said, “Sssshhh.” Meggie preferred the red and blue flashing lights of a police car to the stars. The lights meant she was safe, for a little while. Stars meant she was outside, running, again. Once a boy in Meggie’s class asked where she got her bruises from. She told him that was heavyweight boxing champion, just like the men on her father’s favorite TV shows. He said that a girl couldn’t do that. She gave him a black eye and two missing teeth. When the principle found out he did not say, “Sssshhh.”

Meggie’s first girlfriend came along when she was 14; she tasted like bubblegum and coffee. She would dump Meggie underneath an overpass for a boy with better cigarettes. Meggie thought about giving him a black eye, but instead settled for one of his cigarettes. Her father beat her until she could feel the bruises on her soul. When he spit, she saw stars. When Meggie turned 18 she insisted upon being called Meg, and gave black eyes to anybody who decided otherwise. She’d inherited her father’s temper, and gained her sense of mercy from running. Meg moved in with a girl in a state far enough away that she couldn’t feel the bruises on her soul anymore, except on rainy days, but not so far away that she couldn’t bail her father out of jail or attend his funeral at the last minute. She learned to love the things that had hurt her, because they’d break her if she didn’t. Her girlfriend’s named was Lila, and they built a rabbit hutch in the backyard.

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What I was thinking about while your hand was on my thigh.

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