Lucky

IF YOU FOUND ME ON THE STREET and asked, “What have you done with your life?” my answer might be:

“Well, that depends on who you ask.”

Some people say I’m a murderer. Others call me a nasty nuisance. Then there are those who can’t go a day without me, and to them, I’m the only thing standing in the way of a complete mental breakdown.

I’m no hero, that’s for sure. I’m not even positive I have any control over my own fate. I am born, I grow, I change along the way, and then eventually I die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The only difference between me and you is this: I BURN SLOW.

I’ll never get a proper burial. 

***

I met Doris Lynch at a Citgo in 1997. It was a good year. Gas cost $1.22 a gallon; you could go see a movie in the theater for less than five bucks, no joke. Doris Lynch picked me up after a fight with her estranged first husband. She was a little more colorful coming out of the apartment than she’d been going in. We hit it off pretty quick. I was there when she needed me.

Don’t get the wrong idea, here. I’m no homewrecker. Doris cashed in her chips long before I came around. The bags were already in the trunk of the car. The only thing she forgot was her purse––wouldn’t you know it––and she would’ve left without that if it hadn’t been for the pictures of her mother in the wallet.

Doris Lynch needed me, but I needed her just as much. I’d been in a slump myself; sitting in a gas station 18 hours a day with sweaty lottery addicts and the occasional junkie for company will do you in real quick, if you catch my drift. I was looking for a way out, and Doris just happened to come along at the right moment. It was love at first sight, if such a thing ever existed.

Doris took me places I’d never imagined. Most of all I remember her lips, the classic cherry Chapstick flavor, the way her tongue slid out to wet them from behind brittle, yellow teeth. They got more and more yellow in the years to come, I imagine.

We were standing in the parking lot, fast approaching midnight, when this guy came up to ask if Doris knew “The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He offered her a pamphlet. Her response was priceless: GOT A LIGHT?

“No thanks, I’m allergic.”

We were golden from then on, baby. It was the best thing, and the worst thing, and the shortest thing that ever happened all rolled into one. A brief moment of clarity; burning desire mixed just the right way with desperation, a volatile blend of agony and regret. This makes for a powerful concoction, one any down-in-the-dumps burnout would be hard-pressed to refuse, and Doris had never been a model for reasonable behavior.

She knew all the warnings. She’d read about this kind of relationship in magazines and on the sides of buses, on billboards and on TV. She’d heard politicians groaning on the radio, pressed by pundits and lobbyists to make outlandish statements, promises they would never live up to. In that moment, Doris didn’t care about all that. She went with her gut.

Her gut was telling her, “Well, I guess it can’t get any worse.”

She took the leap. Both eyes closed, lips parted, an eagerness on her tongue and an emptiness in her heart, she jumped in with both feet, and from then on, well, as they say: SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM.

The rest was history.

***

About seven years later, almost to the day, Doris Lynch came down with a cough. Nothing serious; the doctor said it was Bronchitis. She didn’t even call in to work that day. She worked the rest of the week, coughing into her fist. Then one afternoon Doris Lynch pulled her hand away, beet juice glistening in the crook of her thumb.

I heard about it through the grapevine. You know how these things go. You meet someone, you have a moment, and then the moment passes. Sometimes one leaves a mark on the other. Sometimes it just doesn’t stick.

There’s no denying I left my mark on Doris Lynch.

It’s true what they say: the small things are the most important. It was just this tiny thing growing inside Doris Lynch that did it.

She never stood a chance.

I have to say this: I didn’t feel a thing when I found out about Doris Lynch. Not a thing. No regret, no burning in my eyes, nothing. I went on about my day, laying in the crack of a sidewalk, like nothing ever happened. I’d been decomposing on the streets for years; hearing the news didn’t change anything. Life after Doris Lynch hadn’t been exactly kind on me. Apparently we had that in common.

Point is, I’ve moved on. The world has moved on. Doris Lynch rots the same as you will.

I don’t care what you think of me. You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to love me. You can outright hate me, for all I care. I’ve been around for a very, very long time, and I’m not going anywhere soon.

When you stroll over a crowded crosswalk, I’ll be there. When you settle down for a beer at the local dive bar, I’ll be there. When you walk through the hospital, any hospital, I will most certainly be there.

If you were to find me on the street and ask me, “What have you done with your life?” my answer might be:

“Nothing. Everything. Depends who you ask.”

END


I wrote Lucky for the COLOR BY WORDS | THE OL’ SWITCHEROO writing challenge, brewed in a cauldron and cast upon the world by The Mother of Bunnies herself.

I hope you enjoyed it.

If you think you know who or what the protagonist is (in other words, what perspective I’m writing from), drop a comment below and let me know. I’m curious to see how you all read it.

(Psst! I love you.)

Mother and Child

I saw it all in slow motion.
His chest expanded with the recoil of the bullet,
Swelled, and coughed a bright red mist
That danced with the morning fog.
From sixty yards out, you see everything.
Through that lens I could see the world,
Every circular reaction, every trigger.
I watched that child’s birth,
Saw him learn to walk, learn where to graze,
Watched him raise a family of his own––
But, no.
None of that would happen, not anymore.
Giants in my scope, they reacted
To the twitch of my finger:
The bigger one jumped, frightened.
The little one fell.
My stomach lurched.
We climbed down out of that tree,
Creek chic from head-to-toe,
Scented with the urine of our prey,
Hauling weapons of mass destruction
Over our shoulders,
And we stalked our way through the damp forest
Until we found that child’s final resting place.
The mother stood by, close enough to touch,
Watching in horror as I unsheathed my knife.
My father showed me where to cut.
I thrust the blade deep into the fur,
Right in the center of the chest,
And opened a long fuming cavity
Then fell back in the dirt and leaves,
Repulsed by the curling intestines,
A visceral reaction, truth be told,
But while I could not fathom the sight,
The smell, of this awful operation,
The mother just stood there, staring.
She watched everything.
She stood by even as we gutted the thing,
Tied its legs, and dragged it off,
Back toward the truck,
And she was still standing there,
Close enough that my father
Kept one hand on his pistol,
While I loaded the heavy creature
Into the truck bed,
Poured water over my hands
To wash off all the blood and fur,
And she was still watching
When we drove away,
Me looking back at her in the mirror,
Dad looking forward, through the fog,
Until I lost sight of her over a hill,
And started to cry.
Dad told me to toughen up,
It’s part of life, he said.
But I knew the truth:
If I hadn’t been there,
If I hadn’t pulled the trigger…
But I wasn’t crying for myself.
I was crying for that poor mother,
Too shocked to shed a tear.
Just standing there, staring.
Numb.


This piece was written for the COLOR BY WORDS | The Story Poem challenge. I’m posting this a little earlier than usual, but for whatever reason I felt like it needed to be shared.

This poem tells the story of my first kill. It is a true story. To clarify, it’s the first time I shot a deer, when I was around twelve years old, I believe. I’ve never felt so proud of myself and disgusted with myself in the same breath. I could probably say the same of my father.

I hope you enjoyed reading “Mother and Child.” I can’t wait to read all of your submissions for this week’s COLOR BY WORDS writing challenge!

Have a beautiful weekend.

I love you.

Walls

Stillness bends and whispers, mocking
Fueled by boredom, clocks, and talking

Nonsense, dementia so verbose,
Rapt and deafened, I close

My eyes and scream.
On which ear should I lean?

This one, aimed at death and counting,
Or the other, tuned to pounding

Blood? The truth I lost to time
Is you need both fire and water for wine.

Still, I’d rather linger here,
And hug my tongue to spite my ear

When even the walls give poor advice;
They stand there, silent, and watch me cry.

The stars refuse to offer aid,
Plucking strings in my chest, relay

A message of abandonment, neglect.
Anymore I’ve come to expect

These nights, wide-eyed, the fight to sleep,
When I lay still, my head just keeps

On ticking, tocking, hammering on,
The walls, the walls, they never yawn,

Never blink, break sweat, or falter,
While here I lay upon this altar,

Trembling, waiting for the knife,
I stare in envy at my sleeping wife,

And wonder how it comes so easy?
Each second striking makes me queasy

So I sit up, and curse the clock,
The window, stars, this mental block,

But most of all, I curse the walls,
The silent, smirking, goddamn walls.


This piece was written for the COLOR BY WORDS | Sleep When You’re Dead challenge. I spend a lot of time staring at walls when I can’t sleep, and I’ve almost grown to resent the walls in my bedroom. To me, they seem to trap my every thought and let them bounce around me all night like birds trapped in an attic, bouncing from wall to wall. That’s part of the reason that I can’t simply lay in my bed on nights that I can’t sleep; I have to get up, go in the other room, or go outside, and do something else. Anything to keep my mind off the ticking clock, and the fact that I can’t sleep.

I hope you enjoyed reading “Walls.”

And I love you.