Friday, July 30, 2010

The Caveman in the Flowerbed

I found the first of the cavemen in the loose ground behind Momma's flowers. All around me, the roses bloomed in hues of red, white, yellow, and pink. Between the blooms, between the thorns, I saw his hand sticking out of the dirt. I only got scratched a little as I crawled on my hands and knees to make the discovery. A line of ants crossed his skin. A few bit me on my knees and ankles before I swatted them away. I touched the grey skin of the hand and it felt cold and hard. That's how I knew it must be a frozen caveman.

I went inside to get my shovel. Momma was upset.

"What's that dirt on your new dress?"

"I'm digging up a caveman, Momma."

She made her eyes look big and said, "Really? A caveman?"

"Yes, Momma."

She smiled at me and patted my head. "In that case, you go on up to the bedroom and change into some play clothes, okay? You don't need to be getting your school clothes all dirty."

I nodded my head and ran up to my room where I changed into my pink shorts and a cranberry juice stained i-Carly t-shirt. I grabbed the small plastic shovel Daddy had bought me last summer at the beach and rushed back downstairs.

"Be careful of black widows!" my mother yelled to me as the screen door pulled shut behind me with a hiss.

Digging in the dirt, I was able to reveal an arm. Parts of the skin moved a little, and when I touched those parts they felt gooey. I worked my way up the arm and revealed his body. The caveman wore a t-shirt with a black Metallica logo. Then I dusted off the dirt from his face, and open eye sockets looked back at me. There were no eyeballs. Curious, I poked an empty socket with a stick, and little white bugs were on the stick when I pulled it back out of the hole. Despite his lack of eyeballs, he looked kind of like one of the older guys in my school. Like one of the kids who had moved on to the middle school last year. I think his name was Trent.

I looked at the throat and it looked funny. There was a black line across it, and more of the little white bugs were inside that line. They seemed to have found a home there. I started feeling sick. But I was excited about my discovery and ran inside to tell Mommy.

She did not react the way I expected her to. She came out smiling, letting me lead her by the hand. "I have revealed the caveman!" I yelled while moving my arms around with a dramatic flourish like that magician at school did during his show that one time. Then I stood back and noticed her face.

It turned white, really pale, almost green, and then she fell to her knees and began throwing up all over her flowers.

"Don't dirty your dress, Momma," I told her.

She waved me away. She wiped the spit trails falling off her nose and mouth and pointed to the house. "Get inside, baby! And don't look back out here."

She stood up and grabbed the upper part of my arm. I tried to wiggle away, but she grabbed me tighter. "C'mon! Get inside!"

"Don't you like my caveman, Momma?" I asked her. I looked up to her face. She didn't look back at me. Her eyes were wet with tears and focused on my caveman.

"I've got to make a phone call. Now! C'mon!"

She jerked me so hard tears formed in my eyes. I had a bruise from that yank for a few days afterwards.

She sent me up to my room. I heard her make a phone call. A few minutes later there were sirens. I looked outside and watched policemen talk to Mommy. I saw some men in orange suits take my caveman. They put him in a black plastic bag which they loaded into an ambulance. Mommy signed a piece of paper, and some people in white suits began digging at other places in the flower bed. More cavemen were revealed. All of them looked like boys I knew from school.

When Daddy pulled into the driveway, he started shouting. A policeman grabbed him, leaned him over his Buick, put a bracelet on his wrists, and took him away. I asked Momma that night where they took my caveman and where they took Daddy.

She never answered me. Anytime I brought it up, all she could do was cry.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Despite the significance of her name in the Hindu religion, dreams never really sat well with Maya. In fact, the more she attempted to ingest, the more frequently she choked. Her throat burned and blistered every time she tried to swallow another new idea.

Yet this never stopped her father from trying to force another dream down her throat. He would make her stay at the table until she cleaned her plate. He took no excuses. Never mind she just really wanted to watch her favorite cartoon show on television, read her story book (she liked that one about Disney Princesses), or perhaps even work on her homework – anything was preferable to trying to swallow down yet another dry and lifeless dream, and all dreams are lifeless, or at least it seemed that way.

But on this night, her father promised something different. He brought her a dish of greenery. Out of this sea of green, a lotus flower bloomed. A man walked towards her. He stepped lightly across the soft petals.

This man was tan and well-muscled. When he looked at her, a shy dimpled smile cut across his face. A glimpse of white teeth and pink gums. She was hungry. She pinched him. She lifted him. She opened her mouth.

He screamed, and she salivated. She began to chew. She chomped and chomped until his screaming ceased. A line of reddish spittle and blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth.

“Delicious!” she said with a smile. Then she tried to swallow. “Water!” she cried with her cheeks puffed out. The lump of dream lodged itself against her hard palate.

Her father smiled and poured her a glass of water. It was clean and clear. She took the glass eagerly and poured the contents into her mouth. She could not swallow.

She gagged and coughed. A tiny arm landed on the white table cloth and left dots of blood as it bounced. She coughed again, and a small leg landed in her mother’s dinner glass. It swirled in the pinkish hues of her plum wine. Her mother scowled at her.

Maya wanted to say she was sorry, but all she could manage was another cough. A tiny head struck the tabletop with a small thud and rolled away like a misshapen marble.

Maya’s face turned red. She broke out in hives. It became impossible to breath.

“I’ll get the Benadryl,” her mother said with a sigh. “Seriously, honey, why do you keep trying?”

Maya’s father shook his head and sat down heavily in the massive wooden chair at the head of his family’s table. “Because we are what we are.”

“But just because we are what we are doesn’t mean that she has to be.”

He nodded his head. “But we’ve been this way for so long.”

“Times change. People change.” Maya’s mother stole a glance in her daughter’s direction.

Maya grabbed her napkin and began spitting up the gory mess inside her mouth. She dared not look at either of her parents.

Maya’s mother looked back to the father. “Everything changes. Roles change.”

“But we are the unchanging.”

“Nothing is unchanging.”

“Then, who will destroy the dreams?”

Maya’s mother left the room and returned with a cup full of Benadryl. Maya hated the way the medicine tasted. It burned her already sore throat on the way down.

Once the hives receded, once her breathing was easier, Maya asked, “Can I be excused now?”

Her mother gave her a sad smile. “Sure, dear. Clean up your room before bed, okay?”

“Yes, mother. And father?”

He looked up at her. “Hmm?” A forkful of naked young women were impaled on the tines of his fork. They screamed.

Maya had to shout to be heard over their screams. “Father, I think I know the answer.”

“The answer to what, dear?” Her mother smiled at her from across the table.

“You know, his question. About who will destroy the dreams.” She paused and looked at the lavish dishes spread out across the table. “If you just give them time, dreams have a way of destroying themselves, don’t they?”

Her father shrugged, said “Maybe,” and stuck his fork back into the bloody rose on his plate. A chorus of tiny young women screamed. “Who knows?” he said over their terrified cries. He looked off into the distance and started to chew. The screams soon ceased.

Feeling ashamed, knowing she could never meet her father’s lofty expectations, Maya turned away.

Friday, July 16, 2010



Sadie looked around for the source of the voice. She looked under the bed, in the closet, leaned her head out the bedroom door, and peered down the narrow hallway of her trailer towards the small kitchenette and living room. She was alone. She was always alone. His crap still filled the closet, his tools still cluttered the back porch, but he had been gone for a long time. He never entered the trailer anymore. He knew his place.

She unscrewed the top of her Wild Irish Rose, tipped it up, and tried to forget.


Morning struck her like a sledgehammer. She opened one eye and then another and found herself looking sideways at the dirty orange shag rug. The world seemed to have tilted on its axis. She put her hands beneath her to try to sit up, but a wave of nausea rolled through her. She fell back to the ground and breathed in the scent of dirt, of dust, and mold.

The thought of mold sent an erotic shiver up her spine, but she lay still and resigned herself to rest a little longer. A sharp pulsing pain which matched the erratic beat of her heart threatened to split open her head. She closed her eyes again and tried to sleep. It wasn’t as if she had anywhere to go anyway. The bills were paid. The state made sure of that.


Hours later, an eager knock echoed across fiberboard walls and flooring.

She sat up and looked at the clock: 3:15. He used to get off at 3.


She ignored the pain in her head, ignored the sour taste of bile as it rose in the back of her throat, and wrapped her stained robe around herself. She stumbled down the hallway, using her arms against the walls to hold herself upright.


It was a whisper in her ear.

“Not now. You’re at the door. Hear that knocking? It’s real this time.”

She thought something grabbed her around the ankle. She tumbled forward and nearly tripped and lost her balance. She looked down, expecting to see she had tangled herself in the belt of her robe, but the robe was untied. The belt was not there.


She waved her hands around her head as if trying to knock away flies.

The knocking on the door became louder, more insistent.

She rounded the corner. She opened the door. No one was there. A shaft of sunlight poured through the clouds overhead. It lit the stretch of clumped, overgrown crabgrass that served as her front lawn. The gravel driveway was empty.

She stepped outside. “Hello? Wayne? Baby?”

The wind rustled the weeping willow on the corner of the lot. Silvery green leaves danced in the bright sunlight.

Sadie fell to her knees and cried. She yelled out a string of curses which echoed back to her. There was no one to hear. There had been no one to hear her for a very long time.

She walked back inside and looked at the clock on the microwave. It flashed 12:00.


She tried to find something to eat. Her supply dwindled. There was a can of corn, sweet peas, an unopened bag of saffron rice, two cans of turkey SPAM, flour, and cornmeal. She took out a can of SPAM, the peas, and the bag of rice.

“How about a nice little casserole?”


She dropped the can of SPAM. It burst open. The contents bounced, leaving spots of grease like a slug’s trail on her dirty faux linoleum vinyl flooring.

“I had my reasons, Wayne!”

She felt a hand touch the back of her neck. Fingers moved upwards and caressed the back of her head. She leaned into the touch and felt him comb out her tangles. She turned around to face him, wanted to embrace him, but he wasn’t there.

She didn’t cry this time. She expected it. This wasn’t the first time; it wouldn’t be the last time.

Why? Why? Why?

The soft voice was a relentless echoing whisper in her ears.

She looked down at the floor. She saw a rectangular outline in the floor. She thought about mold and fungus and worms and maggots. She looked out the window, checked to make sure there were no cars on the long mud lane leading to her house. She lifted back the thin vinyl flooring, pulled up a hidden door cut into the fiberboard floor, and dropped down into the crawl space below the trailer. She lay down next to him. She smelled mold. She kissed his dry bones.


She whispered her replies between delicate kisses. “So you won’t never leave me baby. So you won’t never go.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010


According to a book I read, kudzu is edible. I laughed when I remembered this. Thanks to my datagraphic memory, I was able to pull up the image of those pages in my head. Flipping through the file, the pages even included recipes for various salads and sautéed delectables.

At least the kudzu might be good for something, I thought. I hated the way it grew over everything. It had completely taken over. It even suffocated the trivets – that other hardy foreign botanical invader – where the blackbirds had once hid, jumping from branch to branch. Now the birds, even the black ones, had flown away.

We were so lost in ourselves -- lost in our data -- we ignored the vines growing wild around us. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the world. All that remained was the kudzu, the whirring of hidden cicadas, and me.

And I had grown hungry.

When I tore off a handful of leaves, amber blood pulsed from stems as if they were green arteries. I thought I heard a scream and then stifled laughter, but I ignored this as I shoveled the leaves into my mouth.

They tasted sweet and reminded me of a tender rare steak that Jon had once bought me on a Valentine’s Day date long ago. There had been some effort on his part to make his messy apartment romantic. He even decorated the table with flowers and candles, but it was the steak that won my heart. I remembered having to struggle to leave those last few bites of meat on my plate that day. I wanted to eat it all, but did not want Jon to think I was a pig. We all wear masks like that, especially for those we love. At least for those ones that we want to love us in return.

Like that steak, there was a metallic aftertaste to the greenery, like iron. This was complimented by a hint of something citric or maybe minty on the back of the tongue. I shoveled handful after handful into my mouth. Drool dibbled down my chin. I ignored this and ingested more.

Then the whirring of cicadas buzzed inside my bones. Their song pounded in my head. My vision went spotty, then black. I doubled over in pain.

Vines erupted from my skin as the kudzu grew out and over me. My leaves rustled with bitter laughter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Beautiful Visitor

Jeremy stared at the scene through the grime coating his small hospital window. Beyond a gravel rooftop he spied a speck of blue sky breaking through grey clouds. He breathed in the antiseptic aromas of soap and laundry detergent. He tried to lift himself up, but found it awkward because of the plastic leads trailing down his arm. He thought about The Bionic Man and about what he once thought the future might be like and resigned himself to his present. He looked at the speck of blue and watched as a Jacob’s Ladder of sunlight descended.

The door opened.

A woman stepped inside his room. She was tall and lean and young. She was shapely and perfect. Tresses of golden hair framed a fine face with high cheekbones and large emerald eyes and full lips.

Jeremy worried a moment about his appearance. He wished he had a mirror, but then, considering his present position, he decided it was better he did not have a mirror. This way he could at least imagine he looked like something resembling okay. He ignored the pain in his back as he sat up to face his visitor.

“Oh, it’s you.” Jeremy thought for a moment and then blinked. “Wait. Who the hell are you?”

She smiled and sat down next to him on the hospital bed. She was so light, the flimsy mattress barely moved. The scents of jasmine and honeysuckle washed over him. He breathed her in.

“You remember me? You know me?"

He nodded his head. “I have no idea who you are.”

She smiled. “Confused, huh?”

He thought about the drip lines coursing down from above into his arms. “Maybe it’s the morphine.”

She nodded her head. “Probably. Maybe. What do you think?”

He tried to focus on her question but it filtered in and out of consciousness. “What are you doing here?” He finally managed to spit out. He could not answer her question. His head filled itself with more questions the more he looked at her. The more he looked at her, the more he longed for her. He thought of his wife, his loyal wife who visited him every day, and before he was hospitalized had taken care of his every need, no matter how embarrassing, no matter how undignified. He was ashamed of the amount of dirty bed pans he had made for her, but at the same time was resigned to this. What choice did he have? Age and prostate cancer had led to very little in the way of choice. Life was what it was, and mostly he had found it disappointing. But now, looking at his visitor, he felt an adolescent irresponsibility rising inside of him overtaking all feelings of guilt (and that wasn’t all that was rising – he hoped and prayed his visitor did not notice the rise in his bed sheets).

“I’m here because you wanted me.”

And he knew this was true.

“I’m here because I’m everything you’ve ever desired.”

And he knew this was true, too.

He regarded her and thought of his first kiss, of his first time with a girl, of the first time he had smoked marijuana with some buddies at a KISS concert. “You look so familiar. You look like something I remember from when I was younger, like someone perhaps, but for some reason the word something feels more right.”

She smiled at him and gave a nearly imperceptible nod.

He looked into her emerald eyes and saw things there, everything, all he ever wanted, all he ever desired: that CEO position that had passed him by twenty years ago, the fancy cars, the cabin nestled in the Smokies, the beach house, a model wife followed by another model wife and then another and on and on and on knowing that when one woman grows old and saggy he could always trade her in for another (if Larry King could pull it off, why couldn’t he?), the comfortable retirement (opposed to his current existence where he was bound to leave his wife with nothing, nothing at all, except a pile of medical bills to sort through once he passed without the benefit of his meager pension which no longer offered a survivor’s benefit due to the recession), the kids who grew up to become famous athletes and rock stars (instead of the truck driver and the idiot in jail for possession charges with intent to sell). These green-tinted dreams swirled through his mind and heart and body until he felt a longing more powerful than any he had ever known before. He wanted to embrace his beautiful visitor. He wanted to lose himself insider her. He wanted to rip her apart and take all that was good out of her so that he could devour it and take it all for himself. He wanted more. He always wanted more. Nothing had worked out the way he had once hoped, the way he had once dreamed.

She smiled at him and leaned down. Her bosoms heaved (simply because that’s just what bosoms like hers were supposed to do), and she breathed on him. “You want me? You can have me.” Her breath was soft and warm against his face.

But there was an undercurrent on her breath – the slightest hint of sulfur. The jasmine and honeysuckle fragrance that had once seemed sweet became cloying and suffocating. He coughed.

Jeremy thought of his wife, he saw her washing his bed pans without ever complaining, and saw her for what she was: beautiful. He saw himself for what he was: silly and vain and ungrateful, always ungrateful – no wonder his kids hated him. He looked back to his visitor. She grew pale. Her hair lightened to a brittle grey and then fell out leaving a scabbed and rotted scalp. Her eyeballs began to sink into her decaying flesh leaving black holes in their place. A maggot fell from a nostril and took a chunk of her nose with it.

“What’s wrong? I’m everything you ever wanted, aren’t I?” she asked with a teasing voice.

She embraced him. Her touch chilled him to the bone. He recoiled, fell back against his hospital bed, and watched the sky through the dingy window over the exposed bone jutting through the moldy flesh on her shoulders with unblinking eyes. Clouds came and went. A rain storm passed. Eventually the sun returned. The clouds marched across the blue sky of yet another day. He smiled and found himself able to ignore the cold touch of his visitor. He watched the sun set over the gravel strewn rooftop. The blinking lights of airplanes from the nearby airport swept through the darkening sky.

The door opened. His wife stepped inside the hospital room. He wanted to get up, to embrace her, to tell her how much he loved her, to tell her he was sorry for all he had done, for all those affairs she had ignored (he knew she knew) for the sake of creating an illusion of happiness for their children, and that she had mattered to him and that she had always mattered to him, that she was good enough, and that she was better than he deserved. Only it was too late.

He heard his wife’s cry and understood the only tears she shed were tears of relief.