Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nostalgia

There're a lot of flagpoles without flags in the neighbourhood.
A symbol of another time, I suppose.
A symbol of a simpler time,
when caring about your country was a thing.

The poles rust,
but at least we've got seven hundred channels on the television.
The flags sit folded in the bottom of cardboard boxes in attics,
in garages,
in closets,
forgotten,
but at least we can Instagram pictures of our suppers.

In this world of disposable everything, 
no-one knows how to properly dispose of a flag - 

so they don't.

The poles rust,
the flags sit folded in permanent storage,
but at least we can make phone calls from the produce aisle,
at the park,
in church,
wherever,
whenever,
to whomever.

There was a time before selfies, before twerking, 
before hashtags, before the Twittersphere,
before celebrity supercouple nicknames,
when you had to wait until you got home to make a phone call.

A time when you checked your mailbox for letters.

A time when you waited eagerly
for your favourite television programme to air.

No-one binge-watched anything.

Now, there're a lot of flagpoles without flags in the neighbourhood.
The poles rust, and the flags sit in storage,
symbols of another time,
a simpler time.

A time before hacked cellphones and leaked sexts.

A time when we looked one another in the eye
instead of staring into smartphone screens.

FaceTime was actually face time.

Flags flew then,
symbols of a simpler time.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

it's the never leaving


“To come back, that’s not really anything,” she told me.
“It’s the never leaving that’s really something.”

Shuffling my big boots through the snow,
I pulled the collar of my plaid coat up to better block the winter wind.

I squeezed her hand a little tighter.

The bulk of the guitar case strapped to her back was gathering snow.

“Why’s the snow white, do you ever wonder?” she asked.

But before I could answer, she was telling me things:
that she’s not so sure about God anymore,
that she’s a Virgo,
that her mother fled her family a long time ago.

Frozen street lights twinkled down the sidewalk,
and a pair of white jackrabbits raced zigzag down the slushy street.

I rubbed my thumb along the warm, soft skin on side of her small hand.

“Writing music is tricky business,” she told me.
“You can’t just go and research what will sell best
because there are too many variables.

“And you can’t simply ask people what they want to hear
because no-one knows what they want to hear until they hear it.”

There are certain things which don’t need to be improved upon:
bathroom tissue, nail clippers, hairbrushes.
Toiletries, mostly.

And lazy walks on a winter’s evening with a fellow musician.

I went to tell her this, but she was still talking.

About the history of treble clefs,
about crystals,
about the difference between crows and ravens.

I squeezed her hand just a little tighter,
thinking of never leaving.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wish You Were Here (1.10)

the tables turn

He was taking it personally.  That's the only excuse for such a mundane choice of approaches to offing me.  A failed mugging, and a club to the head?  Why wouldn't he break out the hellfire right off the bat?  Because he wanted it to be intimate, wanted to get up close and personal, to toy with me.  Well, I showed him the kind of man he was dealing with.

Surprised at the sudden turn of events, he didn't even have the sense to ditch his weapon.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Though he may have been unnaturally fleet-footed when possessing the upper hand, he wasn't so quick when caught unawares, and carrying a – what was that?  A crowbar?  Length of steel pipe?  It didn't matter;  it was working to my advantage now, slowing him down.  My head may have been starting to sting, but a bit of pain wasn't about to keep me from tracking this monster down.

Breathing heavily, tearing through moonlit alleyways, my lungs were about to climb out of my goddamned throat.  With each breath, I could feel them clawing their way a little further up the soft flesh of my oesophagus.  But I kept going.  I was thinking about the terror.  It drove me.  His terror.  The terror I would bring when I caught him.

Giving chase, I witnessed him flicker out and back into existence several times, each time triggering an intense wave of nausea and awful muscle cramps in my own mortal shell.  Enough to make me stumble, to lose a bit of ground.  Not enough to force me to give up, however.  I kept on him, refusing to give him opportunity to focus on whatever diabolical machinations he had at his disposal.

Closing in.  Little prick.  I registered a loud clang as he finally thought to ditch his weapon, letting it fly into a brick wall.  But it was too late; he was growing tired and I was right behind him.  There was a desperate shuffle of soft shoes on gravel and the metallic rattle and clatter of chain link.

All at once, my hands were on the back of his light suit coat, pulling him off of that fence and hard onto the ground.  I kicked dirt in his eyes, throwing him further off his game, and my hands were at his throat crushing his Adam's apple.  Causing damage, that was sure.  I could feel his evil heart beating faster and faster in his carotid artery.

“Please—” he pleaded.

But I wasn't hearing him.

With each punch to his face, I was pushed closer to absolute abandon, only planning to stop when he either took his last godless breath or I grew tired.  I had him, I thought.  I really had him.

He went limp, stopped trying to defend himself, and I broke to wipe my bloodied hands on his white slacks.  I rose, standing over the brutalised monster, drawing my Browning to finish him off, and indulged in a moment to fancy the slight glimmer of pale moonlight in the shiny mess of groaning flesh that was his face.  Truly, he'd messed with the wrong guy.

I levelled the Browning and took aim.  Peering down the barrel, across the sight, I saw a slight twitching from the mess of his face where a mouth once was.  Something was growled, long and slow, in a language some primordial part of me immediately recognised as one indefinitely old and equally unholy.

Suddenly weakened, my insides, all of my organs, contracted violently, while my consciousness madly fluttered like a dying flame.  Then there was a deafening blast as the fabric of time and space tore all around me, and just like that, I felt twelve tons of steel, a veritable tractor trailer, slam into me.  Heat on my face, all over me.  A sheen of sweat broke out across the whole of my ravaged flesh.  I smelt sulphur mixed with my own flesh burning.  I heard it sizzle like a steak.

When I opened my eyes he was gone.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wish You Were Here (1.9)

briefing room

The place was a small, hot, dimly lit back room of a nondescript dry cleaner's in Manama with clean white walls; the only adornment was a white clock, ticking, displaying the wrong time.  There were no windows, but there was a simple door with white-frosted glass filling the top half.  I could barely make out the shadows of some backward lettering: CUSTODIAL.

I was bored.

“You sure you wanna do this?” Agent Conrad asked at last, with practised bravado, arching a dark manicured eyebrow.

I smirked.  “As sure as I've ever been, boss.”

At a small table in the middle of the concrete floor, the agent and I sat across from one another, a flowery lamp drooping impotently between us, and an empty tin ashtray sitting unused, new, off to the side.  Agent Conrad, a hotshot up-and-comer: his suit was too new, his tie likely making its first outing.  His obvious greenness aside, I knew it could only be a lack of seniority which would see a man heading up such a remote branch office.  My eyes flitted from this manboy to the corner of the room where a stylized fan's blades rotated lazily.

I had already briefed Agent Conrad about my impromptu visit to Bahrain, and had nothing left to say.  I took a sip of lukewarm coffee, and we traded a few idle remarks about the heat.

“Love to be a fly on the wall back at headquarters right about now,” Agent Conrad clucked, shaking his head.  “So close to breaking this case, and we've got one agent hellbent on going maverick.”

I folded my arms across my chest, leant back in my chair, and measured the man before me.

“You happy here, boss, doing everything by the book, playing by their rules?”  I surveyed the tiny, stiff room.  My eyes met his.  “You've one life,” I continued, “and if you're not doing exactly what you want, then what's it all for anyway?”  I stood up, readying to leave, returning my hat to my head.  “If you found out today that your time was up, would you be happy with the life you lived on this tiny ball of mud?  I know I would be.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wish You Were Here (1.8)

airport dreams

Dear god.  I had drifted off, only to awake still curled into the tiny, unforgiving, plastic chair of an airport waiting area.  Same insipid song playing.  Muzak.  Same faceless waitees beside me.  Same ache in my back.

What is there to say about airports?  Nothing that hasn't been said before.  Cold and utilitarian.  The careful illusion of sterility.  Everything built with functionality in mind  leaving creativity by the wayside.  Shrines to the uninventive.  More a sepulchre, perhaps, for an architect's deceased imagination.

I took a sip of substandard coffee from a cheap paper cup.  Leafed through some pages of notes.  I was beyond anxious.  Would Lagan still be waiting for me in Bahrain when I arrived?

Two hours more, and I had explored every explorable deplorable inch of that colourless structure.  Spelunked through the yawning caverns of souvenir shops.  Reconnoitred the vast stretches of duty-free stores.  Traversed the wilds of the food courts.

I was ready to board, and ready to be bored on a whole new level, for the wan surroundings of an airport can't even compete with the totally bland interior of an airplane.  There, once past the invasive searches, the accusing eyes of security, I would be subjected to a higher plane of boredom.  Films of yesteryear, screened for appropriateness.  Tasteless gin.  Even more tasteless company.

On the plane, hunched into that polyester-clad, stain-resistant seat, I immediately closed my eyes to troubling images of cursors blinking and untyped pages, thoughts of unwritten reports and things not yet checked off of my growing bucket list.  Seat up, buckled in, passed out, I was ultimately subjected to horrifying nightmares of demonic robots giving chase, all glowing, red eyes and sooty, black breath.  Forever running and getting caught.

Lagan was there, around every corner, provoking, ridiculing, luring, always careful to remain one step ahead.  Images of that awful mouth, unhinged and open wide, laughing and laughing and laughing.  Then there were flies.  Swarms of them.  Hard to breath as they enveloped me in one diseased mass, tasting, nipping, consuming, slowly rendering flesh from bone.

Thirty-five thousand feet above nowhere, I awoke in a panic.  No leg room.  Numb limbs.  Screaming babies.  Hell.  Hell.  Hell.  My eyes opened to a headache inducing yellow light, panicked lungs filled with fake, opaque air, and the grotesquery of a stewardess's counterfeit smile.

“Another gin, sir?”

I smiled, shook my head, and shut my eyes, my ears locating the manufactured melody of a piece of soft piped-in Muzak.  On the wings of these artificial notes, I tried to relax, still packed into a steel tube hurtling through the blue, blue sky.  Going elsewhere.  Always elsewhere.  Hoping beyond hope that hell would, indeed, wait.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wish You Were Here (1.7)

wish you were here

Back in New York City, I was at my desk contemplating my next move, absently watching a fly buzzing madly, trapped in the space between two windows.  Sonofabitch.  I took a draught of whiskey from my glass, and my chair creaked, breaking my reverie.

There was a noise in the hall then.  Slight, barely perceptible.  My hand rested on the cool steel of the Derringer atop my desk, finger tensing on the trigger.

A key turned in the lock, and I relaxed hearing the tumblers give way.  There was a slight rap at my door.

“Come in,” I said, wearily.

The door creaked.

Goddamnit, I thought, I've got to fix that.

“Mr Turner?”

“Julie?”

Light footsteps across creaking floorboards.  “Today's mail,” she said, placing it on the desk before retreating.

I waited for the door to close, waited for the deadbolt's click

Three pieces.  I flipped through them in the dim light of a banker's lamp.  Hydro, Ma, and – what's this?

A post card: the Bahrain Financial Harbour, her grand towers glowing a beautiful turquoise beneath a pitch sky.

Flipping the card over, I was met with four words in a strangely familiar, but curiously stylised scrawl: Wish you were here.  I couldn't help but smile, and my finger flew to the intercom.

“Julie, book me on the earliest possible flight to Manama.  Call headquarters and let them know I'm leaving, and that I'll touch base with them when I get there.”

“Certainly, Mr Turner.”

“And Julie?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Leave my light suit out – it can get a little hot there this time of year.”

“Will do, Mr Turner.”

“Oh, and one more thing, Julie.”

“Sir?”

“Leave my Kevlar and Browning Hi-Power out, as well.”

“Of course, Mr Turner.”

“It sure can get a little hot there this time of year.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wish You Were Here (1.6)

a slight reprimand

You lost him?”

“Yeah, I lost him.”

I bit my lip, thinking, eyes darting to the side.  I glanced up, studying the ceiling tiles for a moment, before lowering them to stare at the digital recorder between us.  Agent Morrison waited, robotic, her straight platinum hair tied back in a utilitarian ponytail.  She waited for me as though she knew, like she was expecting, a change in responses.

“Rather,” I continued, “he lost me.  Whichever.”

One corner of her austere lips twitched ever so slightly, signalling veiled bemusement.  She jotted something down in her notes.

“These things happen,” I said.

Glancing up at me, she flashed a quick, cold smile before resuming her note-taking.

“Even the best make mistakes,” I went on, tugging nervously at the fabric of my slacks.  “Who do you trust?”  I puffed my cheeks, and exhaled a big breath of stale air I didn't even know I was holding.  “Who do you trust?” I repeated.  “Who can we trust?”

Agent Morrison simply kept writing for a moment, then stopped, purposefully dotting her last sentence before setting down her pen.  She carefully lined the pen up so it was parallel with the edge of her notebook, which she then closed with equal intent.

Locking her grey eyes on me then, she reached across the table to turn the recorder off.  She leant forward ever so slightly.  I'm sure the colour drained from my face.

“You don't trust anyone.” she coolly answered.  “When you're tracking someone who counts shapeshifting amongst his repertoire, you don't trust anyone.”