COL – Perfection

“Every choice you make will alter you.  It will change the chemical makeup of your body and shape the way people see you.  It will give you a baseline for every decision that will follow.”  Looking tall and strong, Charles Ferguson stood beside him, his wide hands with their stubby fingers splayed on the edge of their kitchen table as he leaned down, staring him in the face.  Shane knew his father was only five foot seven, but in that moment his memory made him look so much larger.  The feel of it was like his dad had been towering over him, blocking the bright sunlight that had been shining through the kitchen windows.  Looking at his own hands now, especially the one holding the pen, he tried to feel a connection to that man who had worked so hard to make him understand something that day.  The lesson hadn’t been lost on him, but it hadn’t been learned either.

His own fingers were long, more like his mother’s, with narrow palms and soft tips that seemed to read their way along every movement.  Charles had called it a natural gift for learning, an ability that connected directly to his brain through his eyes.  Whatever he saw, he could do.  His hands would move, copying the motions of what he was seeing, duplicating the rhythms.  It didn’t matter if he was watching someone type a letter on a computer keyboard or being mesmerized by how a machine could carve a small peg from a single block of wood.  His hands would move, following the patterns and flowing along invisible pathways that he could feel.

The pen in his hand was warm, the heat from his skin having created a bond between himself and the plastic.  It was a common pen, a simple thing purchased in bulk in boxes of twenty-five with a personalized logo printed around its cylindrical exterior.  The casual appearance of the pen was a sharp contrast to the paper in front of him.  His eyes were captivated by the form, it’s perfect beauty a drug for his eyes.  Whoever had made this had cared very deeply for its shape.  They had taken the time to feel their way along its creation and respect the rhythm of its purpose.  The pen was typical, just ink in a tube.  The employment agreement was a siren’s song captured on paper.

“If you will sign your name at the bottom of the form that you are accepting the position we can move along to wardrobe and have you fitted for your uniforms.”

A perfect form.  A casual pen.  A voice that scratched his ears.

Rolling the pen between his fingers he ignored the blonde woman with her short, frozen hair and impeccable gray, wool suit.  The lesson wasn’t lost, it just hadn’t been learned.  Why now?  Why that memory at this moment?  His spirit ached for him to sign his name, to write it on the amazing form and become a part of what had created it.  His mother had called that rubbing against popularity.  People liked to be near things that were magnificent, feeling they could absorb the greatness and enhance their own existence with it.  Was that what this was?  Was he just trying to rub against popularity?

“Mister Ferguson?”

Ripping his eyes away from the beautiful form he found the woman smiling at him, the bottoms of her perfect teeth barely showing between her painted, pink lips.  Her eyes were fully open, the pupils expanded in the flourescent light of the interview room that somehow brought a deeper blue to them.  Was she wearing contacts?  Keeping his teeth to himself, he smiled tightly back at her.

“We should move along now.  We have a lot of ground to cover yet.”

Nodding his understanding he rolled the pen around again, looking for a cooler spot to grip.  Carefully he turned the paper, positioning it at the exact angle he needed to get the proper slant on his signature.  It was his way to write in an upward motion, away from him.  His second grade teacher had made a fuss over it, trying to force him to write from right to left instead, but he had ignored her, waiting until she walked away to turn his paper back to the angle he liked.  Positioning the pen over the line at the bottom of the form he took a last look at it, letting his eyes soak in the love that had been imbued into its creation.  He took a deep breath and touched the nib to the paper.

“Okay, let’s move along to wardrobe.”

Feeling like the room had become slightly darker, he shoved the paper away from him, not looking at his signature.  The form was ruined, its beauty destroyed the instant he had touched it.  All he felt now was regret.

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Snippet #21

The glass door was propped open with one of those hard, plastic wedges jammed beneath it. Nervously I peered inside, wondering if I was really going to go through with it?  I’d never done anything like this before.  It was so out of character for me that I could hardly believe I had thought of it all by myself.  The boy behind the counter looked too young to have a job.  His hair was flopping over the brim of his visor, and that vest!  Oh god, to even think about buying something from a boy wearing a vest like that and wasn’t working in a hardware store was almost too much.

Just as I was ready to discard the idea entirely, the kid looked up and spotted me.  I guess I’d blocked the light a little too long.

“Hi!  Welcome to Literation Services!”  His face radiated happiness as he looked at me like I was his favorite uncle.  “My name is Kevin.  How may I help you today?”

I felt my eyes get bigger as I contemplated just running away.  How would that look though?  The other people on the sidewalk might think I was a shoplifter trying to get away with something.  They might try to stop me!

“Come on in!”

In spite of myself I responded to his energetic wave and stepped across the threshold.  The change was like night and day.  The feel of the store from the sidewalk had been pretty normal, like it was any other store on the street.  From the inside it was like holding your breath in a submarine, completely unnecessary but oddly compulsory.  The walls were covered from floor to ceiling with shelves packed so tightly with words it was almost impossible to see exactly where one stopped and another began.  My hard won high school diploma seemed an unlikely aide among all these choices.

Walking around the counter Kevin stood in front of me and held out his hand.  His eyes were shaped like almonds with a perfect duct in each corner, just big enough to hold a single, pristine tear.

“What can I help you with?”

“Um… I’m… uh…”  How did people do this?  Did they just come right out and ask?  Or did they play twenty questions?  I shook his hand, so young and lacking lines.

Turning to stand beside me Kevin looked up at one of the shelves and gestured with his open palm.

‘We have anything you could possibly want, it doesn’t even matter what language you need.”  His face glowed with pride as he openly preened over the inventory.  He looked back at me.  “So tell me, what are you looking for today?”

Okay, so I was just going to say it.  No games or charades, just straight out ask for it.

“I need a word that starts with L.”  My voice sounded clipped and hard, like I might chip it if I tightened it any further.

Kevin’s face grew thoughtful.

“How many letters?”

“Seven.”  Yes, seven letters.  I felt like a huge schmuck.

“Okay.  Are you looking for a noun?  Adjective?”

“Adjective.”  What man can’t come up with his own adjective?  I wanted to cover my face.

Moving away like a hound on the hunt, Kevin raised his hands in the air and let them flow across the shelves like he could feel the words better with his hands than he could see them with his eyes.

“Can you give me an idea of what you want to use the word for?”  His voice floated back, very professional and businesslike.  I could not accuse him of being judgmental.

“Um…”  Crap.

Stopping, hands still raised, Kevin looked back at me.

“Don’t worry, I’ll never tell.  All your business with Literation Services is private now and forever.  We don’t even keep a database.”

Smashing Pumpkins – Opening Scene

(Being hard at work on getting my book finished I haven’t written a short story this week.  I feel moderately bad, but under the circumstances sacrifices must be made.  My life will be different next week.  Until then help yourself to bit of my main character.)

 

“This will go so much smoother if you will all just get in a line.”  Tammy’s voice rose higher with each word, a useless attempt to verbally control the throng of adults groping over her desk like zombies in search of a meal.  

Samson tried not to chuckle as he thumbed through the stack of papers marked for him.  Tammy’s desk was placed fully across the main path to Principal Brandt’s office, the door being in a direct line with her chair.  Anyone needing to speak with the Principal had to deal with Tammy first.  Like it or not though, the only order in force this morning was that of alpha versus everything that wasn’t alpha, excluding the scavengers drifting around the outer edges looking for their shot, and secretaries who lacked enough self-assurance to enforce order in an excited situation.

As if to prove his point, a narrow, pale arm covered in a three quarter length black knit and surrounded by four wide, silver bangles, snaked its way between himself and the other third grade teacher, Mrs. Chang, and snatched one of the thinner stacks off the top of Tammy’s faux wooden desk.  From the edge of his vision, he could see the platinum blond head of Alison Kanger, one of two seventh grade math teachers, retreat to the south wall with her prize.  Ghost white skin and large, round eyes with irises the color of drying earth clay, Alison was a startling apparition in the fluorescent illumination of the school’s main office.  More than once in his first three weeks here it had amused him to think she would be a heart stopping shock on a dark, county road in the dead of night.  High beams or low wouldn’t make a difference.  If Alison Kanger jumped in front of his car he would scream like a school girl and jerk the wheel.  

Using her middle finger to push her glasses further up the bridge of her nose, Tammy scowled at the group, her round, flushed cheeks bulging outward like a chipmunk.

“Is anyone even listening to me?”  

Noting the way the small muscles around her eyes were tightening Samson looked directly at her and smiled, showing just the bottoms of his upper teeth.  Tammy’s pupils expanded instantly and she smiled back, her teeth fully exposed.  Quickly he looked back down at the papers in his hands. 

“Not really,” Alison stated, head bowed over her papers.  The fluffy, overly large bump she teased into the front of her hair translated into the pillar of a crown in the shadow she cast on the pastel yellow wall behind her.  Her angle in the light coupled with her head down posture gave her shadow a grotesque hump on its back.

“Animals, all of you.”  Straining to cross her arms over her chest Tammy huffed deeply and used her feet to push off from her desk, propelling her office chair backwards, away from them all.  A slight turn at the end gave everyone a side view of the long, brown tresses she refused to trim, the split ends appearing gray and unhealthy as they floated through the air a mere two inches from the floor.

Seeing all his pages were in order Samson went through them a second time, not really looking now as he watched Alison from the corner of his eyes.  The way she was licking her finger before turning every third page was maddening, like listening to someone scrape their nails over an old, slate chalkboard.  The small gap between her top and bottom teeth, clearly the result of a mild overbite, was filled with the tip of her tongue waiting for its next opportunity to wet the middle finger of her right hand.  Near the bottom of the stack she froze for a second, her eyes widening and a calculated smile spread over her entire face.  It vanished so quickly that had he not been watching he would have missed it completely.

Straightening up he began to make his way out of the office.  At six feet on the nose, he was taller than most of them and used that difference to his advantage. Careful to not step on Mrs. Chang’s foot, he dropped one shoulder and slid between her and Mr. McDonald, the Middle School Phys Ed teacher.  McDonald grunted as Samson’s pristine blue button down brushed his arm.

“Mmpf.  Football players.”

A guilty smile flashed across his face.  He had never been a football player or into any sports at all.  His muscular build was from the hours spent at home doing floor exercises while studying his suspects on the plasma.  He never went to a gym.  

“Goodbye Samson!”  Tammy’s voice sing songed over the heads of the teachers.

Raising a hand in acknowledgment he headed into the hall toward the Elementary wing. He had twenty minutes to get himself together before the kids started pouring through the doors.

“Dream on, sister.”  

Irritated by the snarky tone, Samson paused and thought about going back to confront Alison about her assuming attitude.  It would be a great start to his day, but it would undoubtedly give Tammy the wrong idea.  She was nice and all, but she was also a toad. Every time he looked at the squat secretary with her four feet of dead hair, his mind drew a picture of a jelly-filled amphibian with giant glasses riding on a shaggy lily pad.  Naw, let Tammy deal with Alison on her own.

The school housed kindergarten through high school, each part joined to the next by a single set of heavy, metal, double doors.   Pushing his way out of the middle school, Samson let the big doors bang shut hard behind him and walked to his classroom near the end of the hall. Cardboard cutouts of pumpkins, scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns were taped to the walls above the coat racks and JOC banners were tacked over every classroom door.  Closer to the floors, cats, ghosts, spiders and colorful fall leaves had been pasted.  The overall impression was an entire hallway of Halloween.  Welcome to October.

 

Monologue #23

Another late post.  I’m struggling to get things done for myself right now.  By this time next week my schedule will be different and I will be learning to function in a different time slot.  I’m looking forward to this a lot.  After being on third shift for five years, the idea of being able to sleep at night rather than during the day is like a rainbow spreading over my spirit.  Knowing that I’m in the last days of perpetual daylight seems to be causing extreme tiredness though.  It’s like my body knows that real sleep is coming and is already trying to get to it.

Before I go, here’s a quick work-related story.  

I was talking with a coworker about Lemon Wedges, which is my nickname for a certain customer who comes in pretty much every night.  The name came from her particular habit of eating lemon wedges in their entirety.  Pulp, seeds, rind, all of it.  The whole wedge goes in her mouth and nothing comes back out.  After relating this curious fact to my coworker, he stared at her for a few seconds, shrugged and said, “She always reminds me of Misery.  You know, that book by Stephen King?”  I promptly leaped aboard the Fiction Train and let it carry me off for the rest of the night.  Finding the Wand Maker from Harry Potter was the pinnacle of my work day!

Snippet #20

Fading sunlight lit the windows with a soft, reddish glow, the edges fading first to orange, then to gold.  All along the street people lowered their heads, tugged the brims of their hats farther down or shielded their eyes with hand despite the sunglasses guarding their delicate peepers.  The brightness, magnified times six, tall, sky scraping buildings clothed in sheets of perfect glass, created a world bathed in its own fashion dilemma; a look to rival Godiva’s famous ride where only a fool could see the truth.  For sixteen minutes, there was no fool, only the dimming of the lights.

Reflections – Part Two of Two

Whistling air again, Mr. Jones slid himself onto the table, pausing for a moment as his feet came off the floor and his body settled back onto itself.  He sighed, the lines at the corners of his mouth becoming shallower as the muscles beneath relaxed.  Raising his head, he gave Master a smile.

“My knees.”

When no further explanation followed, Master narrowed his eyes slightly and shifted his sight again, this time looking specifically at the stated area.  The murky, brown aura swirled around Mr. Jones like a delicate dust storm.  No area stayed motionless long enough for a visual assessment.  In the seven years he had been professionally clearing energy paths and helping to open chakras he had seen several unusual behaviors in a person’s aura.  This swirling was something new.  He had no reference for it.  His eyes flicked involuntarily toward the small mirrors then back to Mr. Jones.

“Can I lay down now?”

Seeing Mr. Jones’ eyes watching him, Master nodded and held out a hand, palm open.

“May I take your jacket, sir?”

It was a simple request that clients acquiesced to without question.  Mr. Jones was no exception.  Shrugging his shoulders the grubby, tan jacket dropped down his arms, landing in a pile on the table’s soft, blue cushion.  Master tilted his head slightly to one side, surprised at the ease of the man’s movement.  

Plucking up the garment by its collar he turned to hang it on one of the round wooden pegs by the door.  When he turned back his foot froze in mid-step.  In that small, two seconds of time, Mr. Jones had, without a sound, become stretched flat on the table.  His hands were again folded, the fingers laced tightly together and resting on his stomach.

Finishing his step, Master made two more and stood again at the head of the table, behind Mr. Jones’ closed eyes.  Every hair follicle on his body was erect.  He could feel the energy gathering around him.  Unable to help himself, he looked again at the small, reflecting discs hanging so carefully over his windows.  They had been a gift from his mother the day he had opened his doors.

“Evil takes many forms.  These discs only guard against one.”

Showing him how to measure the strings and make the knots, she patiently explained the significance of each one.  He had never moved them from his windows.

Raising his hands he brought them together over Mr. Jones’ forehead, cupping them around the area commonly considered the third eye.  With shifted sight he focused his energy.  The response was immediate.

Mr. Jones opened his eyes and looked up, his blue gaze fixed on Master.  The area of his third eye swirled deeply, the murky brown color of his aura sweeping together into a vortex.

Master’s hands became captives of the storm, trapped in the tidal pull.  His own energy lashed out like a whip, violently looking for something to hold onto and finding nothing.  The vortex opened wide, revealing an iridescent jaw filled with teeth, the upper and lowers showing large, canine-like fangs.

Struggling to pull his hands back, Master felt his wrists bind together.  His personal energy poured out of him into the waiting jaws where it swirled away.  Dizziness swept over him.  His eyes rolled upward as the soft, hazy blackness of unconsciousness mercifully captured him in its waiting arms.

Master awakened alone, curled atop the blue cushion of his work table with his head pillowed on one arm as if he had lain down for a quick nap and fell deeply asleep.  He blinked repeatedly, trying to recall how he had come to be there.  Mr. Jones had been been laying here.  

Mr. Jones!

Memory jerked him upright and his head screamed with pain.  Dizzy, he pressed a palm to his forehead where it hurt the most, the skin over his hands feeling thin and tender.  He squinted at them, studying them through pain filled eyes, then looked at the peg by the door.  

Empty.  

The tan, grubby jacket was gone.

Slowly he sat up.  Every inch of him ached as his weight shifted from one part to the next.  It took both hands pulling at his slacks to get his legs over the edge of the table.  The step is still in place.  Carefully he lowered himself down, wincing as his right foot settled on the step.

Behind the sideboard where he kept his crystals, acupuncture needles, incense and hot rocks, is a full length mirror hung on its side.  He had hung it that way to increase the power of the candles he burned while he worked.  The light was softer, more golden and easier on the eyes.  Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror he is numb with shock.

Black hair, once rich and thick, is now thin, peppered with gray and flat in color.  The skin around his eyes has become creased.  The brown of his irises are now flat and washed out, like he had been drained of his vibrancy.  Knowing what was coming, he shifted his sight to see his aura.

Darkness

Shuffling closer to mirror he peered at his forehead.  An iridescent smear seemed to cover the area of his third eye.  Bracing both hands on the sideboard he leaned in, his tired eyes trying to make sense of it even as his stomach seized with horror.

Bite marks surrounded a gaping, ragged hole where his third eye had been.

Mr. Jones had left and taken Master with him.

Monologue #22

How do you maintain forward motion when life is dragging you down?

I’m not sure how to answer this.  My life has taken a few turns these past few weeks but nothing has changed.  Same job, same first novel. I’m tired though.

I keep staring at my files and poking at the words, changing sentences and editing spelling and punctuation.  I’m afraid if I don’t at least look at it, I will forget about it.  I’m doing what I have to in order to keep my dream in motion.  This tiredness will pass eventually and I will be off and running again.  Until then, I’ll continue looking at it, reminding myself of what I’m working for.  

Before I go, I want to give a joyful thumbs up to all the Camp NaNoWriMo participants.  I’m sure you are all waking up everyday super excited to get your fingers on  your keyboards.  Keep going.  The feeling you will have when you reach your goal is worth all the work.  You guys are awesome!