A proper bed

“David,” she whispered, and he stopped.

He did not lay with her here, not here, not between the cragged earth and the lean grasses. They kissed, unrehearsed, and it was a revelation.

He did not lay with her then, or the next day, but on the third day, and it was good. It was upon a proper bed, and watery sunlight pooled under the curtains. Her whispers covered him like a mist. She caressed his throat and wept, but he shook his head. No, he said. Not your fault.

They were delirious waves beneath the blankets. Here. And here. And here. His bruises, her wounds, forgotten, unheeded. The flesh didn’t matter, though it was the flesh they needed, but more: a pain subdued, the slippery balm of sweat soothing each other’s skin.

A proper bed, yes. Not here, churning beneath the scarred pines. They loved properly, in a proper bed.

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Fingerprints

He could smell the coming rain, the melted copper smack of an approaching storm. Gloom was too soft a word.

Their fingerprints stained the dirt, washed away by a thousand rains, but he knew they were still here, visible only at night, only when the silence was inviolable. He wanted to see them again, to test if they were real, if he was real. He could almost hear the echoes of  their laughter, those first brave kisses, and then….

Yes, they were still here, all of them. They were born here.

“David,” she whispered, and he stopped.

Stratum

The stone age lasted between “I see angels when I rub my eyes, Efrim,” and “this world and me don’t get along so well, buddy.” Almost thirty years, and the stratum ran deep.

Stones thrown into the pond, and the bony dirt convulsed.

She sat alone in the living room, lamp off, the Big Him gone for the night, children outside, co-conspirators in all things summer. The television was on, and there was sound, and there was movement, but it was a prop. She cared nothing for the staged chatter, the rehearsed expressions, the insipid laughter. She rubbed the bruise he set on her hip, rubbed it with her knuckles until it felt raw, and she waited for the night to conceal it, and everything else.

Evening drifted in slow, and the breeze from the Onondaga River, for once, did not stink.

**Excerpt from The Stone Age, a work-in-progress**

The Southside Cafe

He looked old; hell, he was old, but so was I. I’d probably always think of him as a boy: doughy, stumbly, soft around the edges. It had been maybe ten years since the last time. He was still drinking then, and it showed. His face looked wetly eroded, the jolt of red hair reduced to a dull patch of rust. Arrogant-me took stock. I was a little grayer, a little more settled into my bones, but otherwise the same. But he cut that down quick. “Guess we’re not kids no more, huh, David? Your forehead’s grown.” His quick grin showed that he meant no harm. It was true. We weren’t kids. But it showed hard on him. He was more… angular, I guess. It wasn’t that he lost a lot of weight – he had – but that his face had changed. It was more defined, as if years of drink had carved it down to the essential bone structure.

We talked about our jobs. He was working out of a rented garage, doing small appliance repairs and carpentry work, sometimes working on road crews to pick up a few extra bucks. Times were tough. I told him about my work at the newspaper, writing small stories, scandal-free and boring as paste, that I was thinking of quitting, going back to school. It surprised me how unsettled I was, how unformed my future.

And then, because someone had to say it, he asked if I’d seen her lately.

“Couple of months ago,” I said. “She was working in the Southside Cafe. You know the place, beside that old laundromat where the skateboarders hang out? She was hustling coffee and blended teas. I didn’t even know she was still in town.”

“She doing okay?”

“She’s all right. Well… you know. She said she found a new apartment. It was clean, she said, and so was she. But Jesus, this cafe. It had this organic, New Age kind of music in the background, and it felt like some fucked-up yuppified utopia. She didn’t look unhappy, but the place really didn’t fit her. Or maybe it did. But it was… surreal. I kept thinking there were androids in the back, boiling soylent green or something, that it was some kind of Ridley Scott production.”

He laughed. “You’re weird, David. But she was okay?”

“She was okay. We exchanged phone numbers. But, you know, time drifts away so goddamn fast.”

“Yeah. It does. Jesus, does it ever.

And it occurred to me. We didn’t have much in common anymore, not really. All we had was her. And that broke my heart in a lot of different and frightening places.

***a work-in-progress***

Fluid

fluid

The glide and swivel of young bones: the fluidity of motion. They took turns swinging on the rope, skipping stones across the muddied stream, rushing through the underbrush. It was as if their veins were filled with air, their joints with straw. Their bodies were liquid, and they danced to whatever breeze animated them. They were lightness and laughter. They viewed those days through a prism, a time before the light was broken.

***Excerpt from a novel-in-progress, The Stone Age***

Stones

Elani collected stones from the creek and placed them around the tree trunk. She discovered thin pieces of mica and she polished them with her sleeves until they glowed like cracked diamonds. They were her favorites. She also liked the smooth round stones that she shifted in her hands like marbles. She called the collection of stones her garden, and it was prettier than you’d think, with them just being stones. There was a pattern there you wouldn’t otherwise notice, of color and size and shape. Neither of the boys dare touch it because she was the only one who could see the pattern before it was there. That was the special thing about Elani: she could see things no one else could until it was right there in front of you.

Late night quiet

Late night, sitting outside on the balcony, sipping water, watching the collision of fireflies. There was a rare silence in the world, and a rare silence in his head. Tired, but satisfied. Happy? That was a blurry word. Did he ever know happiness, or was it above him, away from him? Once, maybe twice. Elani, she made him smile, a lot, but it was happiness he wanted for her and not for himself. Could he wish happiness upon someone else without saving some for himself? No, he was done with it. Hard work, a hot shower to wash the day off his back, and silence to conclude it. Loudness wanted him to drink, to crack open a bottle of something, but silence made him feel the pores of his skin.

***work in progress***