“What we desire, what we want, what we make happen.” The middle aged businessman with the salt and pepper hair, just been to the Dentist grin and obvious white circle where his wedding ring had recently been, flashed Diana a reassuring smile as he reached for his glass. “These are the things that make up who we are and where we want to be in life.”
“Well,” Diana said softly “That’s quite an observation.”
“It’s more than an observation,” His cell phone was shivering on the bar, the only indication that someone was trying to reach out to him. “It’s a way of life.”
The rain was coming down in a steady sheet outside, nearly obstructing the view out the window. Over his right shoulder, in some adjacent building across the street, a sign blinked steadily: HOT COFFEE! FRESH PIE! Diana imagined herself there for a moment, what it would feel like to be curled up in a booth with a hot cup in her hands. Flipping through today’s paper while zoning out the chatter around her. How comfortable that would be. His hand over hers woke her from the daydream.
“I’d like to see you again,” He was saying. “I think we could have some fun.”
“Sure,” she managed “I’m always up for some fun.” It always goes in the same direction, she thought. A little chat, a little dinner and drinks in some empty, nondescript restaurant, a little prelude to foreplay, and then precious little else after that. The modern- day mating ritual of the modern-day man. “You never mentioned that you were married.” She gestured towards the ghostly band encircling his left ring-finger but then looked away before she could gage his reaction. The diner’s neon sign blazed across the way. There was a tilted cup now that she hadn’t noticed before, something that his shoulder must have been concealing. The cup favored the left as if about to tip its contents out on to the words: COFFEE! PIE! Words are so powerful, she observed. All they needed to do was blink and she was craving them. The coffee and pie, the comfort of being able to choose where you want to be. She could hear the slight tremor of his phone vibrating against the bar again. It had begun to panic. “You should answer that.” She heard herself say.
A week ago, there had been a Email message waiting for Diana on the Connections dating site Somebody had viewed her page and thought her worthy enough for actual communication. It took exactly one shot of liquid courage and 45 minutes of deliberation to get the nerve up to view it. The outcome wasn’t unpleasant. Salezguy46 was good looking, clean cut, young enough to be adventurous and yet old enough to be sensible. His profile made mention of a decent salary in sales, frequent travel and fifteen years at his current place of work. That meant stability. In his status bar it read: Single. Not separated. Not divorced. Single. That meant no baggage. It also had said No Children but as he opened his wallet to pay for their first round of drinks she could see that that too could easily be disputed. The brown leather flapped open to reveal a photo of SalezGuy46 with his arm around a full-figured blonde woman as two young children grinned joyfully over a colorfully wrapped package. A tinseled artificial tree stood in the background. I wonder if this is the shot they used for their Holiday cards, she thought. He was too busy shoveling the trembling phone into his pocket to notice that she had even seen the photo.
“That’s the third time.” Diana said casually.
“Whoever it is will get the hint,” He patted her knee in reassurance before motioning the bar tender over for another round. “This is pleasure…business can wait!”
Over his shoulder the rain continued, a group of people emptied out of a cab and into the street, umbrellas opened, friends hugged, the sign vanished behind them like a neon moon. It was in that brief moment before she glanced back at his face that she saw it. The gathering had parted ways, leaving one sole person by himself out on the sidewalk. He turned sharply right to continue up the road, each red letter being revealed behind him as if his back were spelling it out. C O F F I N.
The rain drummed loudly against the glass washing out the words temporarily. Diana lurched forward on her stool with a soft gasp, Salezguy’s hands setting firmly against her arms as if pulling her into a hug. The rain settled, the letters sharpened once more. The sign blinked warily: C O F F E E. She took in a breathy gasp of air, her lids fluttering to clear her eyes. Hot Coffee, it said.
“See! Now this is pleasure!” He laughed but Diana didn’t hear him. Words, she thought, words are powerful tools.
For the next half hour, he droned on about his life, a high wire artist carefully straddling the line between fact and fiction. He never got married because of his work. He didn’t have kids because he believed in a good, stable environment and wouldn’t want his children constantly uprooted. Diana volleyed her attention between Salezguy and the sign. The sign blinked a steady invitation. The rain continued as a fresh round of drinks arrived. The photo was flashed once more, a family of frozen smiles and disconcerting eyes.
“So do you have any siblings,” Diana countered, watching the family slip silently back into the recesses of his pocket. “A sister or brother?”
“Me? No! Only child. My parents figured one was enough, why mess with perfection, right?” There it was again. That static smile. It reminded her of the old posters they used to nail up when the circus came to town. Painted faces alluding to an otherwise secretive existence. Step right up, ladies and gents! See the most amazing show in town! She thought of the blonde woman in the photo and suddenly wanted to punch him in the face on her behalf. You ridiculous piece of crap.
Just over his right shoulder the red letters appeared to convulse. Diana’s gaze drifted unsurely towards their mark as the words swelled, thick snakes consuming a meal. It was as if she was leaving her body, drifting up from the stool and across the room to the rain spattered window. Pressing her forehead against the cold glass, hands flat to the pane; she was melting through it and pouring out onto the wet street outside, her wide-eyed stare never leaving the letters. The tilted cup had become a pregnant cauldron that bubbled out the word: DIE
“Oh, my,” she was saying “Oh, my God!”
Salezguy laughed, finishing a comment that she hadn’t heard the beginning of. “I swear, you can’t make this stuff up!” Diana wavered slightly on her seat, next to the untouched third Spritzer, perched just in front of the man so oblivious to her horror. She brought her cold hands up, rubbing them against her eyes as if desperate to scrub the image away. She knew that the moment she looked back up, the word would be gone and she was right. After a brief moment of deep breathing she managed to lift her head, her eyes connecting with the word PIE. A thunderous drumming pelted the glass, wiping the image clean. Salezguy’s rather tremendous paw caressed Diana’s knee. “So hey, where are we going from here?” He fished out three pieces of chewing gum, none of which he offered but rather injected them, one by one, between his teeth. He smiled as he chewed then leaned in for what Diana could only assume was for a kiss. She closed him down immediately.
“I suspect that I’ll be leaving,” her voice clicked dryly in her throat “and that you’ll be going home to your wife.”
“I told you I wasn’t married.” His statement was frosted with the inflection in his voice.
“It’s not what you told me. It’s what you didn’t.” She watched his face as he weighed out the words, balancing them between whether he should bother or whether he should cut his losses and bail. Salezguy46 ejected the gum from his mouth and stuck it unceremoniously beneath the bar, a final punctuation mark to the evening’s conversation. Diana watched his back as he exited the door, cut a sharp right and strolled past the front window, a man who knew what he wanted and where he wanted to be in life even if that excluded the family that loved him. The rain had stopped, offering her a clear view of the sign across the way. HOT COFFEE! HOT PIE! Maybe Salezguy46 had the right idea here. What you desire…what you want….you should make it happen. Seemed like sane advice to Diana. Subliminal suggestion. The idea that a thought can be put into your head and that the very idea will come to fruition. The corner of Diana’s mouth inched up. Yes, that was a plan. Her hand snaked beneath the bar top, locating the moist tacky gum, pinching it carefully between her fingertips. Words are powerful tools.
In a small, warm diner just across from a local bar, Diana sat in a red vinyl booth with a hot cup of coffee, a slice of cherry pie with a fresh cherry carefully toothpicked through the top, and the daily news spread out before her. A lumpy mass of gum sat in the saucer as she tipped a hot spoonful of coffee over it. As she took it between her fingers, its pliable texture began to take form. She tucked in bits of newspaper as she worked; tiny words she had extracted for their content. Word after word, she inserted the following: Liar…Cheat…Misfortune. She had even found the correct letters to spell his first name. The words: Deceitful and Husband became part of the gummy poppet’s sticky legs. She laid the tiny doll onto the table with a soft smile.
“This is what I desire, what I want, and what I will make happen.” She said and pierced the toothpick, cherry and all, right through the poppet’s chest. She knew she was only doing the ritual to be clever but it made her feel oddly calm, oddly just. “This is for you, Mrs. Salezguy46.” With a soft laugh, she dug into the warm pie. Lord, it was good pie.
Six blocks away, on a sidewalk set snugly between a bar and a diner, a neglected cell phone vibrated against the concrete. It writhed curiously, a fish out of water, waiting to be answered by the man who laid face down beside it. A small crowd gathered around, one person contacting 911, another kneeling beside the body attempted to find a pulse, another frantically barking into the dead man’s cell, “Hello?! Hello?! Who is this?”
There was a little diner across the way; you know the kind, bright with life and activity. Some folks had turned their attention momentarily to the scene outside but only briefly. The rain had stopped, the clouds were clearing away, tomorrow was going to be a beautiful day. And the little diner’s window blazed forth a joyous red welcome inviting in anyone who cared to partake. HOT Coffee! FRESH pie! C’mon IN!
( Lyrics that appear within the "Quotes" are by Tom Waits. The body of the work by VampireLily)
Somewhere in one of the opposing rooms, Tom Waits is winding his voice like a watch, for him, the evening is just beginning.
“Well ya play that Tarantella
All the hounds they start to roar
And the boys all go to hell
Then the Cubans hit the floor…”
A copy of “Waltz Into Darkness” lays abandoned on the silver night table with a Magic 8 Ball strategically propped against it so that the window is facing up, the legacy “Concentrate and Ask Again” looming in the blueness. The dress tossed over the bed rail is also blue…. The sort of blue that speaks of rapidly fading memory, that recalls days past when men were still gentlemen, ladies still ladies and when most families didn’t have to bother with locking their doors at night. In the summer, they’d sleep out on the porch…. Drink lemonade with a splash of grenadine, and that good girl residing in the house just across from you…yeah, THAT girl…wore dresses just like this. The bad girls did too, but they would strip them off in favor of a downy white slip while your hand found the exotic and secretive territory of their upper thigh. It’s girls like that that get you high.
“And they drive along the pipeline
They tango till they’re sore
They take apart their nightmares
And they leave them by the door…”
There’s something about twilight in a town like this- where you’re a stone’s throw from the city but a short ride to the shore. On most evenings you’d shrug on a clean shirt and wander the sidewalks, casually glancing into a window or two…strictly for entertainment purposes, of course…. because, hey… you’re no per-vo, if you can dig that. You just find people fascinating and most people are willing to put on a show, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t leave their windows open and their shades rolled up.
“Turn the spit on that pig
Kick the drum and let me down
Put my clarinet beneath your bed
Till I get back in town…”
But tonight, tonight…. You’ll wait in her room. You’ll lay on the mattress that beckons her form and turn your face against the pillow that smells faintly of her hair and of her perfume… you’ll lay stretched out beneath her paint-crazed ceiling as if it were the sky… a sky pregnant with both stars and rain. You’ll shake that Magic Eight Ball until the prophecy reads: “Yes” then prop it against the book again. You’re looming in the blueness, my love…. Looming in the blueness and all signs point to Yes.
“Let me fall out the window
With confetti in my hair
Deal out jacks or better
On a blanket by the stairs
I’ll tell you all my secrets
But I lie about my past
So send me off to bed forever more.”
OK...that was really cool, the story interspersed with the lyrics.
Thanks, Captain.... i was listening to that song at the time and what was written was what i got out of the experience itself. We find all sorts of magic in the most common things.... a song or the droning of the tv in the background or the sound of somebody's voice in the distance. That's the good stuff right there:-)
There’s this house that still stands across the street from the house that i grew up in. A rambling, 3 story affair with a widows-walk-tower steepled at the very top…. a house that has no business being in the town where it has resided for well over a hundred years… a sea Captain’s house well over an hour away from the shore.
It’s had many incarnations over the years…. first that Captain’s house where he eventually fell to his death after being pushed from a 3rd floor balcony…. a widows house belonging to the women he left behind…. a house of ill repute for many years where the girls would set a candle in their window if they were available for company…. and then finally, a good may years before i was born, it was segregated in to different apartments and made available for rent.
My brothers school-mate was one of the occupants, she lived there with her mother and younger sister. I remember her mother as a rather slight, gangly woman who wore her nurses whites constantly and always seemed to be on her way to work. She’s the one that first told my brother about the ghosts.
At first it was only the casual complaint, she could hear them walking at night or could hear them in an animated conversation which seemed to silence the moment she’d walk in to the room. But then these incidents rapidly developed in to ones that seemed to be the root cause of the dark circles beneath her eyes and the quick jerking gestures that she suddenly inherited. “They come in to my room at night and rattle the bed!” She’d say. “They grab me by the ankles and yank me down the bed!” This went on for months, the horror stories that she’d blurt out to Tina’s friends whenever they’d come over to visit. Tina, in her teen-wrought humiliation stopped asking anyone over, ashamed that anyone would think that her mom was a fucking lunatic…. and pretty positive in her own mind that her mom WAS a fucking lunatic.
No one was in the apartment on the night that she hung herself from the 3rd floor banister. Tina and her younger sister had gone to spend the weekend with their father in Bridgewater. She was still in her nurses whites when she let herself fall….. an odd Halloween decoration in the gray stillness of the lobby. There was no letter or explanation…. just a vessel at the end of it’s rope and the excited chatter that always ushers out any tragedy of this magnitude.
Many histories might just die there but in a house like this….. in THIS house here…. it found new life. And even the kids that didn’t even KNOW Tina were saying that they did…. that they knew what really sent her to the end of her rope that night…. that they were there when she first started to talk about ghosts and voices….and having her ankles grabbed at three a.m. And many more would claim that they’d see her standing there at the top of the driveway…. still in her nurses white…. not ever escaping the ones that haunted her but joining them instead….in a house that has no business being in the town where it has resided for well over a hundred years… a sea Captains house well over an hour away from the shore.
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