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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Beachside Motel

By Daphne Taylor Street

Copyright © March 8, 2014

The moment you think that you have the words to describe everything, you hear music. The sound of a trumpet off in the distance filled the air as if painting it with brilliant colors, bouncing off of the waves, splashing onto the shore. Veronica stood motionless. Her evening gown dusted in sand and salt sprayed on by the wind and the Gulf, and the translucent fabric clung to her—a violet second skin, shimmering under the moonlight.

“You match the surf!” a voice called out from behind her. “Look at you. Your dress sparkles like the waves,” and the voice waschet getting closer, but there was no image of him in the dark. Veronica looked down at her arms, and it was true, the violet shimmer of the fabric on her dress was a perfect match to the moonbeams dancing on the waves.

“Are you real or a part of the water?” the voice said softly, now coming from directly over her shoulder. Veronica could feel his breath on her neck.

Though startled by the stranger, Veronica didn’t turn to look at him this time. She felt enchanted by mystery, praying that maybe this stranger was from her dream. Maybe he’s the trumpeter, handsome, strong, kind with soft eyes and made of mystery. A mystery she longed to keep secret for as long as possible.

After a few moments of silence, she turned, and no one was there. The buildings in the background were blacked out. It was three a.m. and not a soul seemed to be awake but her. Except, yards away was a beachside motel with a neon vacancy sign lit up out front, blinking in the dimly lit window of an office. The trumpet’s songs resumed in muted tones.

The reality of the buildings, the structures and solid features framing the other side of the beach transported her back to reality with a vengeance. She felt like crying, but the tears wouldn’t come. She felt nauseous, angry, humiliated, defeated, and a wave of despondence overwhelmed her. The three bottles of wine she consumed on her own a mere hour ago seemed to lose all effect. The intoxication was no use in dulling the pain any longer, and Veronica fell into the sand, dry-eyed and silenced as if her emotions have strangled her. She sat alone gasping for air, clutching the sugary white sand that poured out through her fingers.

Just then, something broke. Inside of her, a sharp pain crescendoed as if a glass had shattered and scratched the inside of her skin and began shooting outward, tearing her flesh, just under the surface—she became cold. The beads of sweat all around her body formed from the Florida August heat felt as cool droplets of rain while memories bombarded her brain, and her own breath betrayed her. All she could do was exhale.

Her mind played out the night’s events in vivid frames beginning wither husband, Jason, backstage, waiting for her after the opera. She was a stunning Carmen, with Bizet’s notes carved carefully in her voice—every tone embodied an intense characterization—that emanated a reality, transporting the audience into another world.

After the last curtain call, and the roars of the crowds died down, Veronica was beaming with joy. Seeing Jason backstage, she melted into his arms, snuggling intimately against his neck, then suddenly realized that his arms weren’t even around her, and his head was stiff and fixed forward. She felt as if she was embracing a concrete wall. She was. She grew cold and silent, gathered her things and left quickly behind him, sitting in the car with a knot in her stomach, not knowing why, but she felt immensely fearful just the same.

The next frame was of Jason uttering his only words, which followed a long stretch of silence in the car ride back to the hotel. “Oh, by the way, I’ve filed for divorce. And I’ve moved our money. You won’t find it, so there’s no need for you to contest it. I think you have $4,000 in your checking account. I’ve left you with that. Thanks for agreeing to selling the house so quickly. This way, it’s all neat and clean. We don’t even need to talk past this point. Our attorneys will handle everything. See? It’s clean. You should be happy—I’ve made this pretty easy on you. Okay, here we are,” he pulled up to an old beachside motel and stopped the car.

Veronica sat there staring at Jason, then whispered sheepishly, stuttering a little, “What?”

Next frame—Jason twisted his neck around with his chiseled jaw clenched, eyes stern and black, glaring into hers filled with tears, and he said simply, “Get out.” She did as he sped off. Veronica gathered herself up, and she walked to the motel office. No one seemed to be there; the door was locked, and no one answered as she pounded, just needing a place to rest.

She remembered seeing a hammock near one of the motel windows, and she figured that would do until dawn, which was still several hours away.

A sense of dead exhaustion overcame her, and she clung tightly to the old sea grass woven hammock and climbed into it, drifting off to a shallow sleep. The sound of the waves crashing over and over again against the surf took her mind to a place of uncommon stillness—a soft quietness within. A peace she hadn’t known since childhood. And she dreamed in soft colors.

About an hour lapsed, and consciousness swept in, waking her to a sharp pain in her thigh. Her plump flesh pressed uncomfortably against the strong ropes, she shifted her weight over to the left to relieve the pressure, but her foot got stuck. Trying to shake it free, her hand fell through another opening in the hammock, and she found herself twisted and tangled like a dolphin caught in an unforgiving net.

Moolit_Beach_Veronica then thrust all of her weight—a solid180 lbs.—onto one side, spinning her body, leaving her hovering over the sand, face down, still caught in the ropes. The hammock seemed to have won the battle, and as far as she knew, it might have won the war.

No longer feeling too peaceful, and the scorching Florida heat returned with a vengeance, she hung there, sweat leaking from every pour, her evening gown shrunk onto her flesh like plastic wrap. Not a soul seemed to be awake; even moonstruck lovers had found their way indoors for the night. There wasn’t much hope for a rescue, and her handbag was yards away with her cell phone tucked safely inside. Veronica tried to fight back tears of frustration and discomfort, and she failed.

As she tried to wipe her now slimy nose, she managed to finally free her hand from the ropes, and it fell to the sand below onto something that felt rubbery and cold. Curious, she dusted off the sand covering the object, revealing a hand—a dead hand, gray and shriveled, with a gold Rolex strapped to the lifeless wrist, still ticking away.

Veronica screamed.

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The Little Person and the Diva

It was a listening silence. Not like the silence you hear when someone is withholding a thought or waiting their turn to speak or being polite, because that is what you do. The amphitheater had 4,000 people generating electrical waves of openness, of anticipation for the next, a silence set to receive.

And I was asked before I went on if I was nervous. Nervous for what? What was there to be nervous about? Well, you know, hejessyenorman1 stammered this and that, there are all these people, millions more viewing on television, an international commemorative event… one would be nervous. But why, and what good would it do, and wouldn’t it ruin it? I’m excited, practiced, prepared and mindful—fully in the moment to give—to claim the stage and fill the listening silence with a full expression of my breath. To sing.

And so it was… I walked upon the stage, with my body taller than I ever remember it being before, as if my head were being lifted high above, into the atmosphere, by the history of all the brilliant ghosts haunting this place. I was standing on the very steps where Socrates stood, and I was as humbled and humanized as I was embodying grandeur and magnificence—a perfect balance formed from this sublime paradox. I sang.

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,

Whose stern impassion’d stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!

America! America! May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam,

Undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

 

So, you asked me what was it like to sing like that, to perform for thousands—millions, and to stand on the very slab of marble where Socrates stood and taught? Imagine being a lightning bolt. Imagine the energy you would give forth, the force and power you would have to summon to create a show as spectacular in the sky as lightening, knowing that your performance is restricted only to one part in a single storm. That is what it was like.

So you asked me about my career as a singer? Imagine having to be a lightning bolt countless times, practicing the art of being the best lightning bolt you can be every day of your life, always preparing for a fresh performance, to be prepared for the next storm when you’re called upon, and the storm may be brief or it may last hours, and you may have a small role, or you may be the entire show, and you must be as prepared for each role with the same level of excellence no matter the scale of your appearance. That’s the job of a singer.

You want me to sing? Sing with me:

He´s got the whole world in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,

He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the tiny little baby in His hands,

He´s got the tiny little baby in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got you and me, sister, in His hands,

He´s got you and me, brother, in His hands,

He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He’s got ev’rybody here in His hands.

He’s got ev’rybody here in His hands.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

 

So, you want to know what I think matters most of all? That humans care about how they treat one another. I am so tired of hearing about how people need to pull themselves up from their bootstraps, when there are too many people who have no boots. As a society we have a responsibility to our sisters and brothers, a responsibility to be compassionate and to lend a hand up, to reach around to your neighbor and ask, “How can I help?” and lend a hand up—no one needs a hand out—they need opportunities, second chances and others believing in them. If only we would learn that it matters most how we treat one another. In fact, it might be the only thing that does matter.

Now, I think it’s time for a little person to go to bed. Oh, one more song? Well, alright. You start singing your favorite, and I’ll join in…

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night!

Son of God love’s pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

 

The Book of Carver – Intro *violent theme*

Intro.

Smmmokin’

manongroundCarver woke up with his nose crunched down on the cold damp sidewalk. He turned his head, and pried open his swollen, blood-crusted eyes that tried to focus on the partially dissolved cigar next to his face. It never did come into view very well. As he began to tense his body, hoping he had the strength to get up, he felt a stream of hot, wet liquid splashing onto the back of his head, stinging the many cuts and abrasions on his face that he didn’t know he had until now. Each one stinging sharply, and the waft of a putrid stench began filling his nose. Someone was pissing on his head, he realized. He threw his hands beneath him, to thrust his body upwards in one herculean push-up, but just as quickly, the sound of metal cracking on bone reverberated in his head, followed by a ferocious pain that almost made him vomit, and the force of a large booted foot came down on his head and squashed his nose back into the sidewalk like a bug, breaking it with a loud crunch. The taste of blood seeped into his mouth, and he coughed a bit before he could angle his head into a position where he could catch steady breaths, gasping through his mouth.

Just as suddenly, he heard the footsteps of the booted man walking off into the distance. Carver pried his eyes open once more, and tilted his head forward. There he saw a pair of sexy 5-inch black and white leather heels, arranged just above his head, topped with long slender creamy legs that seemed to go on forever. He didn’t have the strength to look up any farther before a pack of smokes and a book of slightly used matches were tossed in front of him. Then, those shiny heels and sexy legs clicked away out of view.

He placed his hands beneath him, and he curled his legs to the side. He sat up and recognized that he was right below the front steps of his motel room. He tapped his pocket to see if he still had his wallet, and it was there. He opened it to find everything in place, including $400 in cash.

Carver snorted in a repulsive mess of piss, mucus and blood, attempting to breathe from his cracked nose, but that didn’t work. He reached over for the cigarettes and match book, and slid a cigarette into his mouth, sitting up a little straighter, dragging himself onto the steps. He examined the matchbook—it was from a local night club that he had visited before. Then, remembered those shoes, and the legs that went on forever. He remembers asking this exotic Brazilian lady for a smoke, and her eyes fluttering at him through her sultry smile. He tried to remember more, but the memories came up fuzzy, like bad reception on a stormy day.

Carver flicked open the matchbook, and saw black letters inscribed that read, “Smoking can be hazardous to your health.” A smirk inched across his face as he lifted his brutalized body inside to his apartment. “Not nearly as hazardous as beautiful women,” he thought to himself.

 

My Psychedelic Cat – Rev2

My Psychedelic Cat (Revised)

By Daphne Taylor Street

As soon as he heard the clinking of ice cubes in the near empty highball glass behind him, Eliot’s head pulsed in time with the percussion to an explosive clash, flinging his hand above his head to catch the diamond cuff-linked wrist of the menacing middle-aged noise-maker who winced in pain when Eliot’s claw clasped unforgivingly, cutting off his circulation. The highball glass fell to the overly-polished teak wood floor, sending shards of glass in a kaleidoscopic display underfoot of too many gleaming and sparkling dark shoes. And all the senseless and grating chatter was silenced by the first crack of the glass and replaced by the frantic pace of the hired help in the background ushering in the clean-up crew. The host, too dizzy from a high gin buzz to react, and the hostess too numbed from Xanax to bother lifting her head off of the red velvet arm of the sofa. It was late. But not late enough for parties such as these to end. Just late enough for all of the degradation of the wealthy to show through their pasty masks, and the banal plainness of their true characters to step forth and begin their first authentic introductions past midnight, or later.psycat

Eliot decided to leave, and he made his way through the obstacles of countless uptight mannequin-posed humans robed in formal wear and through the double stained glass panel doors, the size and weight of tall forest trees, swinging on easy hinges. His lungs inhaled an herbal infused smoky frigid winter breath, and his sense-recognition kicked into overdrive. He pivoted left, swayed his head in snake-like elegance and emerged as an apparition to the boys, appearing at once through the smoke-filled valet caboose–a blend of sweet hookah herbs blending with cigar and cigarette tobacco wafted through the air, and whiskey poured liberally. Without a word, he pulled up a stool to take his turn at the shiny red dice bouncing around a beautiful felt-lined crap table. He laid two one hundred dollar bills on the table that was quickly scooped up by “The House.” A late night game of craps was a young persons ritual in this house, reminding him of times past and moonlight dancing in clear skies and upon summer-tanned lakeside thighs glowing in natures reflection, marveling at how bright the night could be. As he tossed the dice against the back of the table, he looked at the faces of the young eager men surrounding him. Eliot doesn’t even look at the dice–just the men’s faces, and he stacks a set of 3 hundred dollar bills in front of “The House” and walks away—his philanthropic gesture for the boys’ kind hospitality. He could afford to be generous. He owed this and a hell of a lot more back to the world for all it has given to him. “The House” winks at him. He nods back.

He removes his own keys from the valet board, and begins strutting ever so slowly towards his car, distracted by a set of enlarging headlights and the small green reflection on cat’s eyes just up ahead. Disturbed by the inevitable end that is sure to manifest within seconds and feeling the full extent of his powerlessness of this soon-to-be lost life, he begins walking towards the upcoming scene of a very sad occasion. And screeeetch! Shreeeek! It’s done. Old Sammy the beloved tabby is no more. Eliot decides not to progress any further and instead hides in the shadow of a large tree examining the goings on as a few unexpected tears well up and drip down his cheeks, which he wipes swiftly away. From the driver’s side of a silver BMW unfolds a youngish and very tall gangly man in an awkwardly-fitted and obviously rented tuxedo. His shoulder-length dark hair is a bit stringy, hanging around his angular face. He stands staring at the squashed mess that once was a cat and scratches at his patchy beard, which is too short to be intentional. He turns back, folding himself again inside of the car, turning the wheel, bouncing up over the curb and onto the circular garden surrounding an ornate limestone fountain, glowing in soft a light that lies just before the front lawn of the estate. He parks there, under another large tree, then makes his way with freakishly long strides carried by stork-like legs with a black leather guitar case swung onto his back.

Eliot is intrigued, and decides to leave the poor cat. After all, he’s dead now. Nothing can be done to reverse this misfortune, and he did live a long, luxurious life, even by a cat’s standards. He winks and says a silent, Goodbye Old Sammy, my friend, to the loving cat that always greeted him fondly upon every visit to the estate. Perhaps the only authentically friendly face you’d ever find around these parts. Oh, he’ll be missed. He’ll be missed dearly. Eliot turns and follows back to the party, after the stranger with the guitar.

The stranger enters through those remarkable stained glass doors and makes a bee-line for the intoxicated host, Eliot’s father, who seems to come alive at the gleaming aura beaming from the stranger’s smile. He shakes his had vigorously and leads him to the parlor, and as they make way through the guests, Eliot’s dad actually looked excited, gathering the crowed to follow after them, saying, “This is Badou, Tallon Badou! He’s from South Africa—the Ivory Coast! Come, and hear this. You won’t believe your ears!” Even Eliot’s mother arose from her Xanax-induced coma, rising off the edge of the velvet sofa to revel in her husband’s delight and proclamations.

And so Badou began to play his guitar and sing and tell stories of decadence, obscene excess, war and injustice, greed and depravity—things hey could all relate to in myriad ways. And then he sang of skinny dipping in lakes on the moon and sniffing on stardust, licking the spicy trails of comets and taking trips through wormholes to new universes where gleeful aliens danced in bright waves of light.

As Badou played, the crowd packed into the parlor, and not one soul was outside of that room. Shoulder to shoulder they swayed and tapped their pointy toes, hummed and fixed their eyes upon the performer. And swirling colors of spectrum light incantations playfully petted the heads of each spectator, beckoning them ever farther, deeper into the magic of the bizarre world that was unfolding before them.

And they all danced and laughed and dreamed. And the walls transformed to puffy clouds that transported them above the Earth. They laughed and twirled and the music turned into something no longer audible—it manifested into being, you could feel it. Like the fabric of crisp linen bed sheets, you could feel the sound and be shrouded in it and play with it like warm ocean waves splashing against your skin, and you could dive into it, like a pool of colorful plastic child’s balls. And they did all of that. And Eliot watched. And they all glowed warm auras of moonlight. And Badou played his music.

And Eliot wondered when the last time was that any of them had dreamed—really dreamed of things never before imagined. If they dared, they might find themselves far less dull, he thought. Far less dead inside than he knew them to be. Maybe even alive.

And as enchanted things are, they go. So this was no different. Badou’s music came to a close. The cloud descended, the music ended, and the afterglow on all the faces of all the men and women dripped from their chins and arms and fingertips, like a haunted ectoplasm of pale pink happiness, it melted off of them, and their weary frowns returned to their rightful places. And things were once gain exactly as they were to be, as they always were unfortunately. The crowd applauded with exuberance and their plastic smiles shifted beneath their steady noses violating the statuesque botoxed cheeks that hate to be bothered with damn smiles.

Eliot feels a stirring in the pit of his stomach. It has quickly augmented to a deep burning. Hs nerves were unsettled at first and now it’s as if the rage of a thousand abused and banished souls have taken refuge in the pit of his gut. He feels something snap, literally snap, like a green twig in his brain, and his eyes blaze fire. He blinks and finds the calm needed o breathe again. And a cool, mad creature has become him.

Eliot sees Badou walk carefully through a crowd of praise and adoration with his guitar slung onto his back once more. Badou thanks his host who slides a wad of big bills into his palm and continues his slow journey out the door. But something makes him pause once more. A deep pain radiates from his side and down his leg—too sharp and agonizing to even make a sound, he falls to his other side, instinctively try to escape from the vicinity of the trauma. It’s still there. Wet, hot to touch and gut-wrenching. He can’t breath. He lifts his had to grab at his throat to find it covered, dripping in blood. Eliot sees blood pouring out of Badou’s side, and he looks down to view a sterling silver dinner knife, with deep red blood souring its tip clenched in his hand. Eliot drops the knife to the floor. He shuts his eyes again only opening them when he feels a warm, strong hand soothingly gripped around his shoulder. He opens his eyes.

Badou is standing in front of him, as healthy as the day he was born, holding Eliot’s shoulder. “Hey man,” says Badou. “You look like you just saw a ghost, huh? You okay?” Eliot nods. Badou gives him a friendly pat and smiles a gleaming happy grin, a great dichotomy it seemed in this place of misery. Eliot succumbed to the contagion and smiled back.

psychedelic_catBadou finally made his way out the door and towards his car, silently noticing Eliot following close behind. This time Eliot truly was wielding a knife, and Badou could he soft sobs whimpering from him. Badou continued to his car. Suddenly, Eliot lunged at him with the dull blade, and Badou caught his arm, struggling with him to the ground, near where Eliot saw Old Sammy lose his life. But Old Sammy wasn’t there. Instead, a crushed Heineken bottle rested before his raging eyes when Old Sammy himself, came up rubbing against the wrestling men, butting them hard with his loving head and shaking their bodies with his loud purr. Eliot immediately rolled off of Badou and onto the grass. Old Sammy was now between the two men, cleaning hi face. Smiling. Badou hopped up onto the hood of his car looking down at Eliot, “Friend, what the hell is your problem?”

Eliot began to sob, “I thought you killed my cat.”

“That cat?” Badou pointed to Old Sammy.

“Ye-es,” Eliot screeched out through his tears.

“Why would I kill that beautiful creature? Why, friend, would you think I killed your cat.”

“I thought you hi- hit him with you ca- car.”

Badou sensing the danger was gone, hopped off of his car next to Old Sammy, scratching him gently behind the ears, “No, friend. A beer bottle. And it retaliated. I could use some help changing my tire if you think you’re up to it.”

And Old Sammy watched then wandered off. Eliot and Badou took a look at him as he sauntered back into the garden, and his tabby fur began to lighten to a strange translucence, then took on an electric glow of pastel lighted colors as a fiber-optic fantasy in psychedelic patterns. “Did you see that?” Eliot asked Badou.

“I’ve seen that and a whole lot more, friend. What matters now is that he’s let you see, and you won’t be able to see anything the same way again. You should follow him. You won’t fit in around here anymore.”

Freedom Possessed (from The Book of Carver)

Poor chap. He’s obviously here on a tropical vacation. I can smell the stress oozing out of his pours mixing with the faint smell of rum frombeach-bar the night before. It’s about 9am, and yes, we’re sitting at the bar—a quaint seaside bar in a Costa Rica fishing village around Potrero. His eyes poured over me in an attempt to size me up, and he was a handsome gringo from the States. Sandy, blonde, disheveled hair with a sturdy athletic build framing a small, plump belly that no doubt served as the aftermath of far too many craft beers. I’d say that he looked ordinary and familiar, except that over the three months that I have been living here, the familiarity of America had dimmed to the flickering of a candle—a memory that I can still recall, but only in glimpses.

 He began three seats over, and I pretended not to notice him much. Within the course of a full minute, he had maneuvered his way to the seat next to mine through a series of gestures, beginning with taking a lime out of the bar caddy to squeeze into his seltzer water, then shifting over to give room for his right leg, which sported the faint scar of a jellyfish sting.

 “Hi. I’m Carver,” he said, and reached his smooth hand over to offer mine a polite shake.

 I took his hand and cupped them in both of mine, rolled his palm upward and began tracing the lines with my finger. “You’re here on vacation. You had a terrible encounter with a sea creature when you first arrived, and you’re only hear for less than two weeks. You drank too much rum last night, but your leg is feeling much better.” I continued examining the palm of his hand.”

 “You read palms?”

 “No. I just don’t think you’ve ever done a hard day’s work in your life,” I winked at him and smiled. “I’m Veronica,” I said, as I smoothed over his hand and gave it back to him. He suddenly broke open with a smile that engulfed his entire face, and he lit up with beams of gorgeous energy. I’m certain I blushed, so I looked away to conceal my excitement.

 “Do you live here?” he asked.

 “I think so,” I said and turned back to him. “I’ve been here for three months. An expatriate of sorts. I don’t know how long I’ll stay. I’ll stay as long as I like.”

 “Wow. An extended vacation. Must be nice. I might have met a rich heiress, or just a freedom-loving beach bum who roams the world unencumbered. Intriguing. I want to know your story.”

 Oh, and what story is that?” I asked leaning into him slightly.

 “What is your take on being rich or freedom-loving?’ He looked down and his face dimmed as if he were being reminded of all that stress that had recently started melting away from him. “I could sure use a different perspective right now.”

“You really want to know. Want to know what I really think about all of that?”

 “You have no idea how badly I need to know,” he sad as he craned his neck over to glance into my eyes.

 I placed my hand gently on his shoulders and glided my fingers over them, “Well then I’ll tell you.’

 “About money. I prefer having money over not. I’ve had a whole lot of both. But, I’ve also learned that I prefer freedom over money. I used to think that money could buy freedom, and that it broadens our spectrum of choices. That’s only partially true. It matters where the money comes from. In looking drearily over the state of our political affairs back in the States, it’s clear the effects of having a bought government has on our liberties. The same can be said for most Americans. We are a bought society mostly, as most of our countrymen (and women) are owned by another corporation or set of persons for the better part of their day, nearly every day, with some temporary time off for good behavior. During the time we are at work—another party benefits far greater for our service than we do, and the majority of our actions, behaviors and even image is dictated by another. And, usually, the better we are at feeding the monster’s greed in some fashion: money or prestige or obedience, we are rewarded with a small share of money for ourselves and a few regulated freedoms.”

“Some smaller than others, and yes. I can’t disagree with any of that. But what can we do? We have bills, mortgages, responsibilities. We must obey,” he said, sitting up straight and taking a few gulps of his soda. “We’re in the machine—just a cog in a dysfunctional, evil wheel.”

 “Well, we don’t have to have all of those responsibilities. That’s the first part of the trap. We need shelter, food and clothing and a few dollars to help us get around and handle an emergency if needed. That’s it. It’s all the other shiny stuff that lures us in, and then we find ourselves trapped. Or perhaps we just think we’re trapped. In fact, they left the cage door open. We just didn’t realize it. We continued behaving like we were trapped, so they didn’t bother locking the door. They got lazy because so did we.

 “Okay, but if walking through that door really was easy, don’t you think more people would do it?” he said.

 “Most people never see the beast. One day, I saw the monster for what it was. It showed itself to me, and I spit on him. I took the most unimaginable leap into freedom that most people could not fathom, and I walked out into a sea of limitless uncertainty. It was easy for me to do—I just put the focus on “limitless” and used the power of uncertainty to fuel my adventure!”

 “Oh come on! I believe you’re good. But you didn’t escape clean like that. I know you didn’t,” he said.

 “I made a few small missteps along the way. At one point, I became “self-employed,” working on projects with dozens of individual clients, and it didn’t take me long to realize the horrible truth—that I had traded in one master for many! The only thing that I had taken control over was my earnings. I was still owned.”

 “I can see that. But, then what? That didn’t land you here, did it? You still need to pay for the shelter, food and clothing, right? Someone has to provide the cash for you to do it, and you are accountable to them for something, right?” he asked.

 “Sure, and that wasn’t the end of my mistakes, either. In my ennui, knowing that I didn’t want to be owned by these people either, I started doing more things I enjoyed for much lower pay, and my income and expenses were not even remotely in synch. A little of that had to do with me helping to support a sick family member… back to those emergencies I mentioned. So, I was in a whole, behind on most of my bills, and I needed to catch up. Along came an opportunity—one high-paying client. After three months there, and allowing another fluorescent-lighted cubicle littered hell to eat my life for a bit, I walked away.”

 “But,” I said, “I walked away with an epiphany. I learned that I could command a much higher rate of pay than I thought. My expenses had already been reduced to a minimum, combine that with a high rate of pay, and now I’ve found the balance that I needed. I take on just enough work, doing work that mostly I enjoy, for people I enjoy working with, to cover my expenses and a little more to pad the wallet for rainy days and my work can keep me roaming about the planet as I please. I can do what I do from any corner of the globe where I have internet access.”

 “And that mostly sums up my perspective on money and freedom and how I like to keep it balanced for me. Not to fulfill everyone’s dream—my dream.”

 Carver stood up, and rubbed his eyes, then he slowly began walking away back to his motel room.

 “Where are you going?” I asked.

 “I’m instructing my brother to sell my Porsche.” 

Beachside Motel – Chapter 1 (edited version)

The moment you think that you have the words to describe everything, you hear music.

The sound of a trumpet off in the distance filled the air as if painting it with brilliant colors, bouncing off of the waves, splashing onto the shore. Veronica stood motionless. Her evening gown dusted in sand and salt sprayed on by the wind and the Gulf, and the translucent fabric clung to her—a violet second skin, shimmering under the moonlight.

“You match the surf!” a voice called out from behind her. “Look at you. Your dress sparkles like the waves,” and the voice was chetgetting closer, but there was no image of him in the dark. Veronica looked down at her arms, and it was true, the violet shimmer of the fabric on her dress was a perfect match to the moonbeams dancing on the waves. “Are you real or a part of the water?” the voice said softly, now coming from directly over her shoulder. Veronica could feel his breath on her neck.

Though startled by the stranger, Veronica didn’t turn to look at him this time. She felt enchanted by mystery, praying that maybe this stranger was from her dream. Maybe he’s the trumpeter, handsome, strong, kind with soft eyes and made of mystery. A mystery she longed to keep secret for as long as possible.

After a few moments of silence, she turned, and no one was there. The buildings in the background were blacked out. It was three a.m. and not a soul seemed to be awake but her. Except, yards away was a beachside motel with a neon vacancy sign lit up out front, blinking in the dimly lit window of an office. The trumpet’s songs resumed in muted tones.

The reality of the buildings, the structures and solid features framing the other side of the beach transported her back to reality with a vengeance. She felt like crying, but the tears wouldn’t come. She felt nauseous, angry, humiliated, defeated, and a wave of despondence overwhelmed her. The three bottles of wine she consumed on her own a mere hour ago seemed to lose all effect. The intoxication was no use in dulling the pain any longer, and Veronica fell into the sand, dry-eyed and silenced as if her emotions have strangled her. She sat alone gasping for air, clutching the sugary white sand that poured out through her fingers.

Just then, something broke. Inside of her, a sharp pain crescendoed as if a glass had shattered and scratched the inside of her skin and began shooting outward, tearing her flesh, just under the surface—she became cold. The beads of sweat all around her body formed from the Florida August heat felt as cool droplets of rain while memories bombarded her brain, and her own breath betrayed her. All she could do was exhale.

Her mind played out the night’s events in vivid frames beginning wither husband, Jason, backstage, waiting for her after the opera. She was a stunning Carmen, with Bizet’s notes carved carefully in her voice—every tone embodied an intense characterization—that emanated a reality, transporting the audience into another world.

After the last curtain call, and the roars of the crowds died down, Veronica was beaming with joy. Seeing Jason backstage, she melted into his arms, snuggling intimately against his neck, then suddenly realized that his arms weren’t even around her, and his head was stiff and fixed forward. She felt as if she was embracing a concrete wall. She was. She grew cold and silent, gathered her things and left quickly behind him, sitting in the car with a knot in her stomach, not knowing why, but she felt immensely fearful just the same.

The next frame was of Jason uttering his only words, which followed a long stretch of silence in the car ride back to the hotel. “Oh, by the way, I’ve filed for divorce. And I’ve moved our money. You won’t find it, so there’s no need for you to contest it. I think you have $4,000 in your checking account. I’ve left you with that. Thanks for agreeing to selling the house so quickly. It would have been uncomfortable if we needed to deal with an arson investigation and insurance settlements. This way, it’s all neat and clean. We don’t even need to talk past this point. Our attorneys will handle everything. See? It’s clean. You should be happy—I’ve made this pretty easy on you. Okay, here we are,” he finished pulling up to the hotel as the valet opened her door.

Veronica sat there staring at Jason, then whispered sheepishly, stuttering a little, “What?”

Next frame—Jason twisted his neck around with his chiseled jaw clenched, eyes stern and black, glaring into hers filled with tears, and he said simply, “Get out.” She did.

Veronica gathered herself up, and she walked to the motel office. No one seemed to be there; the door was locked, and no one answered as she pounded, just needing a place to rest.

She remembered seeing a hammock near one of the motel windows, and she figured that would do until dawn, which was still several hours away.

A sense of dead exhaustion overcame her, and she clung tightly to the old sea grass woven hammock and climbed into it, drifting off to a shallow sleep. The sound of the waves crashing over and over again against the surf took her mind to a place of uncommon stillness—a soft quietness within. A peace she hadn’t known since childhood. And she dreamed in soft colors.

About an hour lapsed, and consciousness swept in, waking her to a sharp pain in her thigh. Her plump flesh pressed uncomfortably against the strong ropes, she shifted her weight over to the left to relieve the pressure, but her foot got stuck. Trying to shake it free, her hand fell through another opening in the hammock, and she found herself twisted and tangled like a dolphin caught in an unforgiving net.

Veronica then thrust all of her weight—a solid180 lbs.—onto one side, spinning her body, leaving her hovering over the sand, face down, still caught in the ropes. The hammock seemed to have won the battle, and as far as she knew, it might have won the war.

Moolit_Beach_No longer feeling too peaceful, and the scorching Florida heat returned with a vengeance, she hung there, sweat leaking from every pour, her evening gown shrunk onto her flesh like plastic wrap. Not a soul seemed to be awake; even moonstruck lovers had found their way indoors for the night. There wasn’t much hope for a rescue, and her handbag was yards away with her cell phone tucked safely inside. Veronica tried to fight back tears of frustration and discomfort, and she failed.

As she tried to wipe her now slimy nose, she managed to finally free her hand from the ropes, and it fell to the sand below onto something that felt rubbery and cold. Curious, she dusted off the sand covering the object, revealing a hand—a dead hand, gray and shriveled, with a gold Rolex strapped to the lifeless wrist, still ticking away.

Veronica screamed.

Please VOTE – Which story needs a second chapter written?

I’ve written a few short stories, and I’ve been told that they are too short and in need of more chapters. I’m open to a vote.

Which of these stories would you like to read a second chapter on?

  1. Gulfside Motel: A Meditation on Death and Life
  2. My Psychedelic Cat
  3. The Book of Carver

Note: The Book of Carver already has a few chapters written, then it spun off into something that should be another story… if you didn’t like some of the chapters here, please let me know where you think I should pick up and what I should scrap (I’m personally not crazy about all of Carver’s subsequent chapters).

With all of your recommendations, please feel free to give your critique of anything written. I welcome ALL comments.

All in fun!  –Daphne

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