Thursday, July 26, 2012

Callan

THE CROW AND THE EYEBALL

I woke up in the wrong bed. My skin was tight and dry. My head ached.
I longed for an eye patch.
Outside in the mists of the morning I could hear the neighbors engaging in calisthenics, their smug grunts rang out over the hills.

I sighed and rolled over, pressing my lugubrious frame flush with the mattress.
My mother came in the room and began to iron. As she ironed she lectured me about the bed I was in. She had many valid points.
I understood her. But she took my silence as moodiness and was unhappy.
I said to her, “I agree, with you. It’s just that my right eye hurts so much, my head aches. All though the night I tossed and turned in my own bed, till the sheets became tangled and moist with my suffering. Please forgive me, for seeking relief in the cool fresh sheets of the guest bed. Could you open the window, please, let the cool air in.”
She was placated and eagerly flung the heavy leaden window open. Fresh cool morning air poured into the room.
She returned to her ironing and a deep peace set into the guest bedroom. It was not to last.
“Mom, can I borrow an eye-patch,” I asked casually.

“Why would I have an eye-patch? What do you need an eye-patch for?
A dark expression lit my mother’s features as she narrowed her focus to a single stubborn pleat.
I rolled over to face the window. Soon this bed would be as tangled and as damp as the one I had passed the night in.
A large black crow landed on the window seal. My mother yelped,. gathered up her linens and scampered out of the room. She had no fondness for birds.
There are no screens on the windows of this house.
The crow flew in the room and landed softly on the bed. It made its way slowly towards me grasping and tearing the sheets with its claws.
I did not drive it away.
It pounced upon my chest and dug its claws into my flesh.
Blood rushed to the surface of my skin: it ran in rivers between my ribs.
Deep dark splats of blood spread out from me. It stained the sheets.
More to clean. More to scrub.

I attempted to sit up and swat at the bird. Success was not my friend. The crow dug its talons deeper into my chest.
What was the point of further struggle? All was waste, ruin, and, work.
In a fast and fluid motion the crow leaned forward and plucked out my right eye.
My eyeball was so firmly in the crows grip, so clearly at home crushed between its wood colored claws that I did not attempt to recover it. The crow rose on the current of its wings, and, quicker than a thought it was gone.
From the vantage point of the crow’s claw I could see many things I had not seen before. From above I saw the broad wind swept streets of my tiny village. I saw my neighbors engaged in calisthenics.
The content of my immediate world shifted and was replaced by endless miles of blue sky. The endless sky was enhanced by the endless miles of deep blue ocean below.
The rush of flight, of constant motion bubbled up with in me, and the vast insignificance of myself, of the crow, of my dear mother and her ironing, swelled within me. The random careless beauty of all life lifted me and the crow still higher.
My headache was gone. The pain was gone. My vision, my depth of knowledge was expanded.
I set to work scrubbing the sheets clean of my blood.


© Callan 2012

Callan's work is featured at Six Sentences and her blog: theworksofjanecallan.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eric Suhem

THE BALLOON FIEND

Willow drank a glass of water, and started to see purple kumquats dancing the Watusi on the linoleum floor. “There’s something strange in this water,” she said, looking at the dripping tap over the kitchen sink.

“I’ll write to the state’s water commissioner about this!” she suddenly declared, sitting down at her desk. As she feverishly scribbled a letter, a large group of green balloons wafted into the room. The balloons slowly moved forward onto Willow and began pressing her against a painting of sunflowers on the living room wall. One green balloon circled around the room, and then wrapped its string around her letter, lifting it off the desk and carrying it back out the window, high into the sky. At once, the other balloons released Willow, and followed the first balloon out the open window.

The balloon with Willow’s note floated across the city to the desk of Hiram, the state’s water commissioner. Everything in Hiram’s office was green, including Hiram, due to years of overexposure to fluorescent light. His current project involved tainting the water supply to create more pliable citizens. “Well done!” said Hiram to the green balloon, rewarding it with a blast of helium, and quickly reading Willow’s note. “This citizen is becoming suspicious about the water supply,” he announced to the other attentive balloons in front of his desk. “I want you to step up the surveillance.” The balloons immediately flew out the window, back toward Willow’s house.

However, Willow had already left, speeding out of the city with her neighbor Julia towards the ocean. The balloons found and followed her car, which had a large sunflower painted on the roof. Trees, leaves, and sunlight flickered by as Willow and Julia accelerated through the canyons. They arrived at a forest near the ocean and began exploring, as the balloons hovered nearby. Willow and Julia wandered through a green forest, grooving on the moss-covered trees, emerging into a meadow filled with brightly colored flowers and butterflies, while the green balloons continued their surveillance from above. The women played in the ocean waves, and invited the balloons to join them. The balloons were hesitant at first, but soon were frolicking with Willow and Julia in the sea spray, drifting exuberantly through the foam, memories of Hiram collapsing into a misty collage of neon bubbles, melting together in the clear bright sunshine. The balloons became swirling lemonade lollipops bouncing through the saltwater waves amidst rising pink steam, as joy and exhilaration inflated them towards the blue sky.

Four hours later, the balloons drifted peacefully back to the city. Each balloon was radiating a warm glow as it wafted into Hiram’s office. He was sitting in a big pile of red balloons, enjoying the stinging sensation when they would occasionally pop. “Balloons, what’s your report?!” demanded Hiram.

The balloons sat quietly, and then consulted amongst themselves, ready for freedom from Hiram’s repressive control. “How about slowly pressing him deep into the ground?” suggested one particularly aggressive balloon.

“No, it may ironically taint the city’s water supply,” replied another. Ultimately, the balloons decided to wrap their strings around Hiram’s arms, and slowly lift him into the sky.

Willow and Julia looked up from the ocean waves to see the balloons and Hiram soaring into view. The balloons gently dropped Hiram into the surf, where Willow and Julia commenced wrapping him in strands of seaweed and kelp. The balloons returned to the city, and assumed new positions of responsibility.


© Eric Suhem 2012

Eric Suhem dwells in office cubicles and ocean waves. His book "Dark Vegetables" can be found in the orange hallway (www.orangehallway.com)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Donal Mahoney

BEHIND THE BARN WITH CAROL ANN

Back in 1957, kissing Carol Ann behind the barn in the middle of a windswept field of Goldenrod with a sudden deer watching was something special, let me tell you. Back then, bobby sox and big barrettes and ponytails were everywhere.

Like many farmers, Carol Ann’s father had a console radio in the living room, and every Saturday night the family would gather ‘round with bowls of ice cream and listen to The Grand Ole Opry. It was beamed “all the way” from Nashville I was told more than once since I was from Chicago and sometimes wore a tie so how could I know.

On my first visit, I asked Carol Ann if the Grand Ole Opry was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of country music and she said not to say that to her father. She suggested I just tap my foot to the music and let him watch me. Otherwise, I’d best be quiet and say “Yup,” “Nope” or “Maybe” if asked any questions which she didn’t think would happen. No need to say much more, she said, and after a few visits, I understood why.

Over time, I learned to tap my foot pretty good to the music because when I’d come to visit, her father would insist I have a bowl of ice cream with the family. I liked the ice cream but not so much the Grand Ole Opry. I’d been weaned on Sinatra in the city. Big difference, let me tell you.

But back in 1957 kissing Carol Ann behind the barn was something special since we couldn’t do much more until I found employment. Only then, her father said, could we get married. I found no jobs in town, however, for a bespectacled man with degrees in English.

Still, I always found the weekend drives from Chicago worth the gas my Rambler drank because kissing Carol Ann brought a bit of heaven down behind that barn, especially on summer nights when fireflies were the only stars we saw when our eyes popped open. It was like the Fourth of July with tiny sparklers twinkling everywhere.

Now, 55 years later, Carol Ann sometimes mentions fireflies at dusk as we dance behind the cows to coax them into the barn for the night. I’m still not too good with cows despite my John Deere cap, plaid shirt and overalls which proves, she says, that all that kissing behind the barn in 1957 took the boy out of the city but not the city out of the boy.

“Hee Haw” is all I ever say in response because I know why I’m there. It’s to keep tapping the cows on the rump till we get them back in the barn so we can go back in the house and start with a kiss and later on come back downstairs for two big bowls of ice cream.


© Donal Mahoney 2012

Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His poetry and fiction have appeared in print and online publications in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found here: http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Robert Morschel

SHE

The black London cab pulled up next to the night club and Fiona watched her husband get out, greet the bouncer with comfortable familiarity, and enter. She wiped a tear from her cheek, paid her cab driver and followed him in.
It all began when she found a smudge of red on the collar of his shirt - she had almost laughed at the sight. Lipstick on the collar? You have got to be kidding, she thought. She'd read about this many times in her lurid Mills & Boons novellas, but for this to be happening to her was surreal. Perhaps she should say something, confront him? But she was fearful of wrecking twenty years of marriage with an unfounded accusation. He'd been working very late nights these past months but she trusted him. She knew he loved her and the girls, and was a devoted family man. But now a shadow of doubt crept over her. It might be nothing, and talking to him would probably be the easiest. However, deep down her insecurities leapt to the fore - she felt like a dowdy housewife, a mother of two with no prospects, wrinkles spreading like wild fire from her once perky features. Perhaps this was his mid-life crisis, his middle-aged fling with some twenty something year old bimbo from work. She'd read all about it, and now it was happening to her. Did she need to be understanding?
The nightclub was dark inside, scattered shadowy figures sitting around dimly lit tables. Fiona cursed silently because she could not see her husband, but was partly thankful because the gloom hid her floral summer dress. She sat at the nearest table and ordered a gin and tonic from the waiter who appeared as if by magic. Across the room she thought she could make out Nigel talking intimately to a woman. She considered moving nearer but it was too late, the show was about to start. Music started, a burlesque, followed by garish, roving spotlights. She could now just make out the woman at the table - not as young as she had expected, but certainly very pretty and well dressed – and Fiona felt a wave of jealous rage overcome her. Nigel never bought her anything pretty. He was such a practical, frugal man, never expansive or effusive in his love for her. She had never doubted his love, just wished that sometimes he would whisk her off her feet and do something spontaneous, daring and romantic.
A chorus line of stunning young women appeared on the stage, singing and gyrating hips suggestively. Fiona felt sick. She was so far out of her normal world of families, children, school yard gossip and baking. She wanted to run for her life.
Then SHE appeared and Fiona knew immediately that she'd been mistaken about the couple at the table. This was her “enemy”. This was the source of that lipstick smudge. This was the reason she'd found that beautifully boxed dress in Nigel's cupboard. A tall sultry woman, with beautiful, long, sensual, familiar, male legs.


© Robert Morschel 2012

Robert Morschel lives in London, sometimes writing software, sometimes writing words at mulledvine.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RobertMorschel

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