Tag Archives: winter

The Parking Space Saver Vigilante

The narrow city streets were choked off even thinner by the slick, craggy piles of snow browning at the edges, and he stalked along each cowpath like a jungle cat in heat. The streetlights shined down halos on each haphazard parking job that lined the one-way road, and he had trained his eyes to catch the absence of luster from an automobile carcass. And sure enough, he saw a vacant space amongst the parallels. A ten-foot-long box of dugout powder that revealed the slush-streaked pavement underneath. And in the middle of the space sat a wobbling chair with chipping white paint that exposed the weathered wood beneath it.

His eyes hadn’t always been so astute, of course. There was a time when he accepted such strange winter furnishings. But that age of innocence had long been ripped away, ever since that fateful evening when his father had used his mother’s antique rocking chair, the one that had been built by her grandfather as a gift when she was born, to mark his own shoveled-out space while he went off to gamble at the pub. The vigilante was eight years old then, and he had been at the neighbors’ house at the time while mother attended night class at the community college. By the time that father had returned from the bar, he had forgotten about the rocking chair waiting in his space, and he accidentally backed into it with his car. For the most part, the chair remained intact, but the wood had been irreparably warped by the extreme colds of the evening, cracking the grain. It was utterly ruined.

Mother was furious when she came home. She and father spent all night screaming at each other while the young not-yet-vigilante tried to sleep in the next room.

“I busted my god damn ass shoveling out that spot, and I deserve to use it!” father shouted. And mother screamed back “There’s not even any snow left on the ground! You can’t just save your spot indefinitely! And why the hell would you use an antique, handmade rocking chair?!”

It was then that the boy became the vigilante, for he understood that mother and father would have stayed together, if not for that parking space saver. He blamed that folksy practice on his shattered childhood, and committed himself to the cause: as long as he lived, no shoveled parking space would be saved by a furniture marker. He knew that it was too late for him to save his own youth, but he refused to allow that same pain to befall any others.

And so he slinked forward on the balls of his feet, circling around his wood-chair prey, waiting for the moment to strike. When the coast was clear, and all other cars and pedestrians had passed, he lunged forward and ripped the tattered furniture from its asphalt resting place. He gripped its back with both hands, and with a bellowing cry from deep within his gut, he whipped the chair into the nearest snowbank. He watched with satisfaction as its four legs sank into the sleet pile, as little chunks of ice were disturbed from their slumber and fell like boulders from the mount, exploding when they hit the pavement.

The wintery shrapnel littered the previously vacant space, twinkling underneath the streetlights, and the vigilante knew that justice had been served.

My City is a Fickle Mistress

My city is a fickle mistress, one
whose kisses drip with history
from chapped lips, coarse and
warm. When she wails, her rough
winds break through skin, and her
icy knuckles crack against my
cheeks. Flushed red from the
impact’s heat, her rage strikes
hard ’til nostrils bleed and fingers
plea for numbness over pain.

But then she radiates with yellow
eyes and smiles through a silver
sky and whispers softly, sweetly
through the breeze. She drapes
on me a blanket made of balmy
love and memories, convincing
me to never want to leave.

There Are Too Many (Part 2)

Part 2 (Ending of part 1 revised a bit)

“Hey!” His father stands at the base of the tree, waving his arms above his head, looking smaller than all those birds together above him. Some of them stare down at him as though trying to interpret his dance, but most of them ignore him, their calls drowning out his curses.

Reynold watches as his father’s arms slow their paddling. The desperation eases and turns into slow sporadic movements. It looks for a moment as though he is just swatting at a bee flying too close. Reynold has seen people give up before – the recognizable stoop of the shoulders as though something has been placed atop, the almost visible effort behind each step and subsequent motion trailing behind like a dust cloud in a cartoon. That is what he sees in his father as he aborts his mission and returns to his pickup. The engine screeches; Reynold remembers a mention of a new starter, remembers ignoring it, and watches the pickup drive down the street away from him.

The birds, emboldened by their victory, seem to get louder in the moments Reynold remains on his twin bed with his head against the window. The glass, cold and dirty, fogs with his breath, turning the mass of crows into a gray rain cloud.

“Renny.” His mother has to say his name three times before he hears her. She won’t open the door until he invites her to, and he pretends that he’s still asleep. She says his name again and the way it sounds against the calls of the birds, he feels guilty for his lie.

“Yes?” He almost has to yell.

She opens the door barely an inch, as though she’s afraid the mass of birds with their noise is waiting for her on the other side. She opens the door the rest of the way and stands there holding her gray robe against her small frame. Reynold wonders how she ever carried him around for nine months, let alone after he was born and growing.

“Go out and help your father, will you?” she asks, scratching her ankle with the toes on the opposite foot. She adjusts the sock so they are uneven and something about the way she looks like that keeps Reynold from telling her that his father’s already left.

“Yeah,” he says. She smiles at him the same way she smiled when he told her he was moving out, the same way she smiled when he showed up the first night Jenny was gone, the same way she smiles when his father says something unintentionally mean to her.

“Thanks,” she says. “I don’t want him out there yelling, waking up all the neighbors.”

Reynold pulls his coat on over the sweatpants and sweatshirt set his mother gave him for Christmas. The clothes aren’t particularly warm, but they are soft, which is its own comfort in the cold. His father’s newer work boots that he refuses to wear until his old work boots disintegrate where he stands stand guard near the front door. Reynold steps into them, his toes scrunching against the curved front of the boot that comes just a half size too soon.

The front door is unlocked, and he takes care to not slam it behind him. The crows’ yelps and caws are another presence in the yard. He wonders why no one else has come to see how to get rid of them, and the task feels much too big for him all of a sudden.

There they are before him, roughly equidistant from his ears, but they inhabit all of the distances, volumes and ranges he feels capable of hearing. There is a steady background cawing that reminds him of what his mother still believes is the ocean in the conch shell from Florida that she bought at a yard sale. It says Daytona in multiple florescent shades on it, and he’s caught her several times just sitting in her chair with the shell pressed up against her cheek with her eyes closed.

That is just the background noise of them. In the middle there is a heartbeat of caws, and he can feel the ebb, the overlapping of where a group of calls end and the next begins. Then there is the front sound, the percussion, the drum major with his perfect rhythmic marking of the full and half beats. Reynold remembers ROTC, the feel of the wooden stick in his hand shaved down to look like a rifle, painted white like the ones the girls in the color guard threw into the air during half time. Reynold had wanted to quit the ROTC the year after Brian Golden shot the better part of his ear off with his gun and the school district voted to immediately replace the real guns with their just as heavy but humiliating equivalents. His father, shaken by Reynold’s mother’s insistence that that boy was trying to kill himself, wouldn’t hear of it, and Reynold had to march around the school’s gymnasium with that harmless piece of tree.

Yes, I know it’s cold; it’s fucking snowing. Now take your pants off.

“I really can’t stay…,” I told him, biting the left side of my bottom lip. Which, you know, wasn’t untrue. Sam Vallas was having an end-of-the-semester party, and I told Jackie I’d go with her. But Eric was right — it was freezing out, and the snow was falling harder every minute. He wore that same sardonic smile, tight-lipped and crooked, the way he does when he thinks he’s being just so fucking clever. Still, it was cute, if a little smarmy. He looked at me with narrowed eyes as he swept the shaggy brown hair out of his face like some kind of rock star.

“But baby, it’s cold outside. And your eyes…your eyes are like starlight now,” he whispered.

“Thanks. I really had better scurry…” I looked down at my feet and smiled nervously as I took the two pink gloves out from my left hand coat pocket. I always kept them in the same pocket together, one rolled inside the other. But before I had a chance to put them, Eric cupped his large, rough hands around mine.

“Are you sure? It’s pretty bad out there. And your hands feel like ice. Come on. I’ll put on a record on, we can have a drink. Just one more. It’ll be quick. You can tell Jackie you were stuck waiting for the train or whatever.” He played this routine in precisely the way that both Sarah and Meredith told me that he would. Every line rehearsed, every action carefully choreographed.

But I still went along with it. “Well…maybe just a half a drink more,” I answered, finally looking up from my feet and re-connecting with his shit brown eyes. Sure, there was a part of me that knew what was going to happen, or at least thought it did. But I played dumb against myself, or else I was just stupid all along.

“Great. Here, let me take your hat.” I tried to hold it on my head — the knit wool hats always messed my hair up, and I didn’t want him to see. “I think your hair looks cute like that. And gosh your lips look delicious.” And again, he had me, though I’m still ashamed of falling for such an awful line.

He went over to the iPod stereo dock and turned on the Postal Service, then left for the kitchen to fix our drinks while I fixed my hair in the mirror by the door. He returned with two full pint glasses that looked like rum and coke.

“I thought I told you half a drink?” I said with a flirtatious smirk, cocking my head to the right.

“You did,” he said, again with that stupid smile. Every time I saw it, it looked a little bit seedier, and a little bit sexier. “Cheers.”

When I took my first sip, I noticed that something was off, but I couldn’t quite place my finger it. “Say, what’s in this drink? Is it — ” I took another sip. “Is this Coke Zero, or Vanilla Coke, or…something different about it.”

It wasn’t until I woke up in his room the next morning that I realized it was rohypnol.

The Ghost of Prescience

i open my eyes to a brand new life still sealed in the original package all those gi joes that I would batter as a child rather than save and sell off to pay for college reminder that it loses value opp out of package and i see she left the price tag on the way that people accidentally do when they not so secretly want you to know just how much they spent three human lives and a broken heart plus tax unless of course she bought it in new hampshire i incise the shrink wrapped plastic with the key to my sisters nineteen ninety six nissan altima it has the best serrated edges on my keychain makeshift cutting too rip the rest away with my wild clawing hands a creature tearing the net in which it is captured squeeze the shreds of all that remains in my left hand crush roll into a ball discard in the trash can pick up my new life and try it on before i remove the tags and immediately i feel thirty pounds fall away shatter on the ground like some cursed vase or ceramic lantern smashed to break the spell free the genie get a wish i look at myself in the mirror just to make sure that it looks right and as my hands regain warmth feeling melt away the numbness of the winter as it has been my dimly lit reflection whispers its alright its all right its alright its all right its alright its all right and this time i think i believe it