If He Had Tonsils

29 10 2008

IF HE HAD TONSILS

Mrs. McGuire sat in the wooden chair. Demurely. Her red and white checkered dress laid out neatly and pressed across her lap. Glad that she hadn’t forgotten to spill lilac water across her breasts that morning. Oh, that sweet smell of spring. Beside her little Alvin sat. In his stroller. Looking for a monitor to watch. Thinking that there was something that smelled like compost. Oh, that asthmatic aroma of the barn. Was it his mother? Could it be… him? Who cared? Alvin was hungry. His mother had forgotten to put his milk in the refrigerator the night before. When he was served that morning the warm milk made him nauseous. He liked his breasts chilled. And stirred.

The office they sat in was small. A couple of filing cabinets huddled in the corner. A hat tree looked lost against the barest of wall. And then there was the desk. Pressboard. And behind it. The detective. The sign outside the door read Storage.

“It’s alright, Alvin,” Mrs. McGuire said to comfort her son. She pinched her cheeks by sucking in the air. Through her clenched teeth. Mrs. McGuire took one of Alvin’s hands in her’s. And squeezed. It calmed Alvin down. She told people. And generally speaking, people believe her. No one asked Alvin. Alvin didn’t like his mother’s hands. They were sticky and smelled of bleach.

“This is not the way I like to spend my afternoons.” The detective loosened his tie. Sitting behind his desk. He was filling out a form. His trench coat and fedora were hanging on the hat tree. Like they’d been lynched. The lead in his pencil broke. The detective swore and dug into his drawer for a pencil sharpener. Which he found. And sharpened his pencil which was growing dangerously short to being unusable.

“Can’t we go now?” Mrs. McGuire asked. Her hands sat in her lap. Like two dead hamsters. At the bottom of a cage.

The detective looked up. His glasses slid down to the tip of his nose. He pushed them back up to the summit knowing in his heart that they would roll back down again.

“This is more serious than you can imagine, Miss,” the detective said, leaning over his desk. “I’ve only begun my investigation.”

“I only left Alvin for a few minutes,” Mrs. McGuire said.

“A half-hour is quite a few minutes,” the detective said. “And it’s not the first time. We’ve got the kid on surveillance. You’ve made a habit of leaving your son while you went about your business. Leaving him to be babysat by a television monitor. What kind of mother does something like that?”

Mrs. McGuire took a tissue out of her purse and began to dab at her eyes. Where tears refused to fall. Mrs. McGuire never cried. It was a medical condition that had a long latin name. She could have had an operation but it was not covered by her health insurance. And she didn’t think that tears were of much use. Until now.

“I won’t do it again.” Mrs. McGuire could have kicked herself. Why had she weakened? Begging was beneath her. She was a woman of substance. Accused of abuse. She looked at the detective. He didn’t smile. At least he wasn’t mocking her. She couldn’t have stood that. Little did she know that the detective couldn’t smile. It was a medical condition that had a long latin name. He could have had an operation but it was not covered by his health insurance. When a smile was required the detective pinched his cheeks. By sucking in air through his teeth.

“I’m sure you won’t,” the detective said. “I’ve called children’s services. Luckily they are here in the building. Mr. Macdonald should be down to see us shortly. Do you realize Mrs. McGuire what could have happened to your son?”

“But nothing happened to him,” she said sniffling.

“No thanks to you,” the detective said. “And there are other matters.”

“Other matters?”

“Your son is a prime suspect in another investigation we are conducting.”

Mrs. McGuire looked up at the detective who had moved from behind his desk. He sat on his desk. Just on the edge. He produced a photograph. Showed that same photograph to Mrs. McGuire.

“Recognize it?” he asked.

Mrs. McGuire stared at the photograph. A picture of a turd on a bathroom tile. She looked up at the detective.

“What has this got to do with my son?”

“Can you vouch for your son last week. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.?”

“You don’t think?” Mrs. McGuire asked.

The detective nodded.

“I think,” he said.

“But this is absurd. My son is trained.”

“So you say.” The detective put on his smile. “Or perhaps he was sending a message, Mrs. McGuire. A message that he did not appreciate being left alone in a drug store. Have you any idea what kind of rift raft walk through drug stores. Not this drug store. But other drug stores. And you would have no way of knowing what kind of drug store this is, would you?”

Mrs. McGuire stared at the detective. She did not understand a word he had spoken.

“My little Alvin did not do the number two on your floor.”

The detective stood up. He walked around his desk. Returning to his perch on the edge of the desk. Only a few inches from Mrs. McGuire. Did he have bad breath? He wondered. Then wondered why he cared.

“What kind of act are you trying to pull here, sister?”

“Excuse me.”

“You come into the drug store every day. Leave your kid in front of a television. And you roam the aisles. Looking. What are you looking for, Mrs. McGuire?”

“I don’t like your implication, sir.”

“Nothing wrong with my implication. I’ve seen your type before.”

The detective looked angry. It almost broke Mrs. McGuire’s heart to see him that way. She leaned forward so that her face was almost touching the detective. She was about to build up the courage to give him a piece of her mind. Instead she grabbed the detective around the neck and kissed him. A long kiss. So long Alvin put his hands over his eyes. And her tongue tickled the detective’s tonsils. If he had tonsils.





What’s Wrong With A Clearance Sale?

28 10 2008

Edge of Antartica

Edge of Antartica

WHAT’S WRONG WITH A CLEARANCE SALE?

Sean Ohara looked up. There was that scat feeling in the air. He fanned himself with his clipboard. He looked around. There he was. In the basement of the furniture store. He shook his head, smiling.

“What?” Mr. Singh asked. Mr. Singh had that indelible questioning look on his face. Less wonder. More suspicion.

“It didn’t have to be this way.” Sean smirked and shook his head. Oh God, it would have felt good if he had. Long blond hair.

“What way? What are you talking about?” Mr. Singh pleaded. His hands began to play with each other. Like piano keys spontaneously erupting into a melody.

Pat Ohara sighed. Pat was Sean’s brother. And volatile side.

“If only you had come to us sooner.” Pat cocked his head to one side. It didn’t mean a thing. Pat had a slight case of Turrets.

“How could I have come to you sooner?” Mr. Singh cried. He looked from one of the brothers to the other. God, he would have like an answer from someone.

“Don’t you hear it?” Pat Ohara asked. Turned his head and cupped his hand behind his ear.

Mr. Singh listened. What are they talking about? Mr. Singh couldn’t hear anything different. Except that buzz in his ears. But that had been there for twenty years. Originally he thought it was a broadcast station from Delhi. But when it stayed with him when he moved to Canada, he put that thought aside.

“What am I supposed to listen for?”

“Their heart beats,” Pat said. And sighed. Like someone who had just opened the oven. And smelled the lovely aroma of bread rising. “Civilians can’t hear it. But when you’ve worked in the service you can hear them beating. Their poor little hearts racing. It’s all about survival. The battle of the fittest.”

“What creatures? Mice? Don’t tell me I have mice!”

Sean shook his head and laughed. He looked at his brother.

“Tell him, Pat.”

Mr. Singh looked at Pat. “Tell me what?”

“If only it was the mice. We could rid you of that problem in a few days. Not that you don’t have mice problems. It’s the ants, Mr. Singh. They’ve moved into most of your furniture. All those mattresses you’ve got stored in the back. They’re pretty much a total loss. We’ll probably have to burn them. And hope that their empire hasn’t reached out to the futons.”

“Empire?” Mr. Singh cried.

“People don’t understand these creatures,” Sean explained. “They’re smart, Mr. Singh. Not smart individually. Hive smart. Like Republicans. They organize for months before they set out on their conquests. And then…”

Mr. Singh’s face sank into his hands.

“I’m ruined.”

“It’s not that bad,” Pat said. He put his hands on his hips. And leaned to one side ever so coquettishly.

Mr. Singh looked up and dared to smile.

“You still got your health,” Pat added. And clapped his hands together. In glee.

Mr. Singh cried out in horror. He wept openly. Sean handed him a handkerchief. Mr. Singh nodded in appreciation and wiped his tears.

“I’ve got to sell everything as fast as I can,” Mr. Singh said. “Try and cut my losses. Maybe I can clear enough to start over again. A new shop. Smaller of course. In another plaza. Give up on my dream.”

“Your dream?” Sean asked.

“To have a shop in a mall,” Mr. Singh said. “Like the big chain stores. And no more sales. I want to sell at retail. That’s the only way to get respect.”

“Maybe…” Pat said rubbing his chin. And tapped his toes. To a song that was seeping through the walls. From some unknown source. So far away.

Mr. Singh looked at Pat Ohara.

“What?” he asked.

Pat leaned over and whispered something in his brother’s ear. Sean shook his head. Pat whispered something else in his ear. Mr. Singh paid close attention to the performance.

“What?” he asked again.

Sean looked at Mr. Singh.

“We don’t normally suggest something like this,” he said. “But you seem at the end of your rope. Well…”

“Well?”

“We could delay our report to Mr. G.,” Pat said. “For a small remuneration of course.”

“And what should I do then?” Mr. Singh asked.

“Have a clearance sale?” Sean suggested.

“A clearance sale?” Mr. Singh asked. “That’s your solution?”

The two Ohara brothers nodded.

Mr. Singh sank down. Into one of his living room chairs. His face was in his hands. Ants, squeezed under the seat cushion, began to crawl out. Mr. Singh began to weep. The two Ohara brothers looked at each other and shrugged. The ants began to climb up Mr. Singh’s trousers.

“What’s wrong with a clearance sale?” Sean asked.

Mr. Singh looked up at the exterminator.

“Look around,” he said. “That’s been my gimmick for twenty years. I’m always having a clearance sale.”

The Ohara brothers looked at Mr. Singh sink deeper into despair. And then his leg began to move. One at a time. His feet began to ever so slightly move from side to side. Fingers twitched. His arms straightened out and bent at a ninety degree angle before his hands slapped those same arms. Fingers snapped. Mr. Singh jumped to his feet and began to move around the room. Like Michael Jackson. An outsider might have supposed that Mr. Singh was overcome by joy and needed to express it in dance. The Ohara brothers knew better. It wasn’t rhythm that made Mr. Singh’s limbs twist and turn. It was the ants.





Using The N Word Every Time He Opens

23 10 2008

USING THE N WORD EVERY TIME HE OPENS

“I’ve had my escape planned for years.”

That’s how Tony talks. Quietly. Softly. Self-assured. Like he has all the angles covered.

“That’s the first thing you’ve got to learn if you’re going to choose a life of crime.”

Tony has a movie vision of crime. Making the big killing. Being killed. Or living the rest of your days with a big smile on your face. Knowing that you fooled the man. Tony liked that expression, the man. It appealed to his sense of fairness.

“Imagine every possible job you hope to pull off and then imagine that it goes wrong and you need to escape. Visualize. Even life itself. Death will come.”

Tony sees himself as a kind of philosopher tough. Like a wise guy. Who is wise.

“You know there’s going to be that final moment or moments when it’s all going to end. And how are you going to escape that. I got a way. I got it all figured out.”

Tony likes to chew gum when he talks like this. That snapping rubber in his mouth makes him feel. Existential. He doesn’t know what the word mean. But he likes the sound of it. Like the gum popping.

“Know thyself. That’s the first thing I learned. And I knew that I was never going to be brilliant enough to get what I wanted. Not that I ain’t smart. I’m plenty smart. But in the straight world if you’re going to do things on the straight and narrow, you got to be really smart. And lucky. Better be smarter than lucky. That’s the second thing I learned. Crime was easier. I mean the learning curve is sharper. You gotta learn or you’ll burn.”

Tony likes to see himself as a guy who’s seen both sides of life. From up and down. All that Joni Mitchell shit. He likes to see himself as a survivor. Like he walked out of the rubble of an Italian town after the second world war. An orphan who made it. Except of course that it would have been his grandfather who walked out of the rubble. And his father who built up the plumbing business that now pays his rent. If he lived alone. But he stills lives at home. Somebody has to do his laundry.

“People say, well mostly teachers and guidance counselors, Tony, you could go far if you applied yourself. Applied myself. What they mean is work hard. Jump through the hoops. Kiss ass. Do what is expected. And do it over and over again. And then hope you’re lucky. Luck has too much to do with being straight. In the criminal world, luck has nothing to do with it. So I chose crime. That’s the third thing I learned. Oh, I didn’t mention it yet. There’s not as much competition in crime. Most of the people who are criminals are stupid. Morons. They get caught by high school drop outs – cops. How stupid you gotta be?”

You can see where Tony is headed. Probably get caught shoplifting. And bawl his eyes out if they keep him an hour in jail. The parents will come down to the police station and get him out. The mother will cry all the way home. The father will drive too fast. And yell. And Tony will sit in the back seat and smirk. And think how much cred this will give him with his friends.

“So I got two buddies now. Both morons. I wouldn’t say that to their faces of course. They’re sensitive. People are like that about the truth. Teddy is a cry baby. Been a cry baby since he was a … a cry baby. I’ve known him most of my life. He’s afraid of the dark. Afraid of his momma. Teddy is just a bag of jello. And then there’s Sean. The guy thinks he’s black. Keeps using the N word every time he opens his mouth. Which is something Teddy hates. Teddy is an N. Sean would change places with Teddy in a nanosecond. Sean is all muscle, no brain.”

Tony’s friends are more pathetic than he is. Of course, isn’t that how all criminals begin? Little creeps. Who are always taking the easy way out. Tony is right when he says that Teddy is a baby. If it was up to Teddy he’d be back on the tit tomorrow. And Sean! A brute. One of those guys who likes putting his fist through someone’s teeth. For practice. And one day gets caught in an alley. By someone with dentures. And friends.

“But Sean likes me. I think he’s a faggot. But that’s okay. What do I care as long as I’m not putting out for him and he does what he’s told. Course, I could never tell Sean that he’s a faggot. Who the hell knows how he would react if he had to face the truth about himself? But it comes in handy. Having two guys who’ll pretty well do what I want. And what I want is to make a reputation. Stealing. Robbing drug stores. We’re going to be called the Drug Store Bandits. That’s why we’re going to rob drug stores. It sounds good.”

You see how smart Tony is. He wants to be remembered for being a thief. Of drug stores. Blind ambition. Sometimes I wonder how he got this far. Mom was too easy on him. That’s what I think. And dad. Never kicked his ass like he kicked mine. The older brother. That’s what they call me. Don’t even bother to call me by name. Be a plumber. Get a trade. Sweat my ass off for the family. While their little golden boy sits around playing the tough guy. And heading straight to hell.

“Drug Store Bandids. It makes a neat name for a gang. Later on after we hit the big time, I’ll probably go out on my own. That’s what happens in rock groups. The lead singer leaves the group once they make a name for themselves. Well, why not? I’m going to make a name for myself. I can’t have morons hanging on to me. Dragging me down. You know what I’m saying? I’ve got to be myself. But that’s for later. Right now, we’re going to make everyone stand up and pay attention. Drug Store Bandits. It’s gotta a ring to it.”





And You’re Not Afraid

19 10 2008

I revised this old story to make it more fun. The original felt flat. The above pic has nothing to do with the story but with the conspiracy to kill Lincoln. A story I am working on.

AND YOU’RE NOT AFRAID?

“And you’re not afraid?” Mrs. Newton said as she sat up on the bench in the doctor’s office. She removed her blouse and threw it over the chair next to her. The blouse filled out like a sail. The bright sharp point of the chair seemed to pierce the shoulder. Mrs. Newton grimaced.

“Should I be?” the doctor asked. He placed the stethoscope on her back. It could have been a knife. It could have been an attack. Revenge for some affront.

“My husband is a very powerful man.” Mrs. Newton swallowed her words. Her breathing became shallow. She could feel her blood drooling down her back.

“He’s a bully. Breath deeply, Mrs. Newton.” The doctor moved the stethoscope around her back. He placed his hand on her shoulder. His finger touched her bra strap.

Mrs. Newton glanced at his finger. The nails were long. And sharp.

“You should know that my husband can be very jealous. What a temper he has. We have holes all over our house where his anger has been written. Do you have a temper, doctor?”

The doctor shook his head. He took a light and shone it in her ear. Mrs. Newton tried not to move. The thought of the light’s pointed prick sent a shiver down her spine. The doctor took a small hammer out of a drawer and tapped lightly on Mrs. Newton’s knee. Her knee did not move. Why didn’t she scream out for help. Her words caught in her throat. She thought she was going to gag on the t’s.

“Your husband tells me that you’re addicted to shopping.”

“I’m bored. You’ve got to do something.” Panic began to rise. Mrs. Newton wondered what her husband could possibly have said to the doctor. And why. If he asks me if I’ve had my flu shot I’m going to say yes.

“Take up a hobby.”

“Any suggestions?”

“Take up bridge, Mrs. Newton.”

Mrs. Newton shook her head. Does he think I’m going to fall for that one?

“I’m not very good at cards. And I love to win. It’s a bad combination.”

The doctor smirked. There was a glint in his eye. Sharp. Like a scalpel.

“I like things that are more physically active.” Mrs. Newton licked her lips. Her mouth was dry. His breath was bad. Like a dog’s.

The doctor tapped his finger on Mrs. Newton’s shoulder. She shuddered. She looked at the doctor. He had such sharp teeth. And his mouth. Was so large.

“Lie down on the bench,” the doctor asked. “On your stomach.”

Mrs. Newton did as she was told. And closed her eyes.

The doctor turned to lock the door.





Terminated With Just Cause

10 10 2008

TERMINATED WITH JUST CAUSE

Wendy Passion watched her boss, Wendel Martins, walk through the crowded bar of the Canadiana Restaurant, glad handing everyone he met. She marveled at the number of new friends that Wendel made each day. Merely by stopping and taking an interest in what their lives were up to. Even though he had preached the importance of information in business, it was not for reasons of self-interest that he took an interest in other people. It was a genuine interest. Even though at times she could read the skepticism in people’s eyes as they met Wendel for the first time.

Wendel finally made it to Wendy’s table. He bent over and gave her a peck on the cheek.

“You look lovely, Miss Passion,” he said as he took a seat.

“You look lovely too, Mr. Martins.” Wendy smiled. Their conversations always began this way. Like lovers. And not employee – employer.

Wendel gestured to her drink.

“Another?”

“Thank you.”

Mr. Martins waved to the waiter who was soon over at the table. Wendel joked with the waiter for several moments as he made his order. The waiter left laughing and shaking his head. Everyone that crossed Mr. Martins path left feeling better. He had an uncanny skill of making everyone feel special. Wendy had always admired that in him.

“How do you do that?” Wendy asked.

“Do what?” Wendel asked.

“The way you disarm people. Treat everyone as if they are the most important person in the world. The only one you want to be talking to at that very moment.”

Wendel smiled. “I wasn’t aware that I was doing any such thing.”

The waiter appeared once more with their drinks. Wendel put them on his tab. When the waiter had departed, Wendy leaned over the table and smiled.

“Now, what is the big secret you wanted to tell me?”

Mr. Martins stared at his secretary.

“You are incredibly beautiful,” he said. He was buttering her up. Something was up.

“Cut with the crap, Mr. Martins.” Wendy giggled then took a sip of her drink. “I can tell when you’re hot for some new deal. What are we selling today?”

“God, that’s why I love you, Wendy. You read my mind. It makes it so much easier to get the core of things.”

“Well?”

The smile on Mr. Martin’s face disappeared.

“I want to make you a proposition. It’s one that I’ve been considering for some time. Not one that I would jump into without considering all of the ramifications. In short, Ms. Passion, would you like to be my business partner?”

Wendy stared at Mr. Martin for some time without saying anything. She put down her drink.

“Are you asking me what I think you are asking me?” she asked.

Mr. Martin smiled.

“I want you to be Mrs. Martins.”

Wendy’s eyes dropped.

The smile on Mr. Martin’s face vanished.

When Wendy looked up, there was a tear running down her cheek.

“Why did you wait so long? I’ve met someone else,” she said. “I wanted to tell you.”

“Oh,” Mr. Martin said.

“I’m sorry,” Wendy said. “His name is Louie. If only you had…”

Mr. Martin smiled awkwardly.

“This is uncomfortable,” he said.

“Oh God,” Wendy said. “What do we do now?”

“Well,” Mr. Martin said clearing his throat, “under the circumstances, I guess you’re fired.”





Her Tail Ran Across The Small Boy’s Face

5 10 2008

HER TAIL RAN ACROSS THE SMALL BOY’S FACE

Like a fashion model down the ramp. Step by step. Eyes riveted. Ahead. Shoulders in a military pose. Tip toes. Her tail rose perpendicular to her body. Her golden hairs were smooth and soft. There was a certain demure smile on her face. Whiskers curled melodiously out from her cheeks. The golden cat moved across the top of the shelves. She looked down at Alvin sitting in his stroller, his little head turned upwards to the monitor. He was enthralled. With what he saw on the screen. It annoyed the golden cat. This child captivated by the monitor hanging from the ceiling. While she was there. To be looked at. Her foot steps became smaller. She found some invisible steps. To the floor. Arched her body against the stroller and rubbed. Alvin did not react. She rubbed against his legs. Still there was no reaction. He kept looking at the screen. She leaned closer to the little boy, her body almost perpendicular to the ground so intent was she on grasping the boy’s attention. Her tail ran across the small boy’s face. He smiled. And grabbed the tail. The cat screeched. Caught. Tried to pull loose. Turned on Alvin. Hissed. But it was the boy who pulled. There was a look of triumph in his eyes. His teeth jagged. He laughed. Feline eyes bulged. The golden cat panicked. And struggled to free herself. Alvin held on tighter. The cat crouched, crawling down the aisle, pulling the stroller behind her. Alvin threw his head back. His mouth open to the breeze. And laughed.