Lava Seeped From Under His Trousers

30 11 2008



Charlie Ivory waited patiently in the small cubicle for the doctor to enter. He looked round. There were pictures of various parts of the human body with different diseases. He couldn’t imagine that so many things could go wrong. Most problems centered around the heart and brain. It reminded him of pictures in the gas station. That his mechanic had stuck to the walls. Pictures of carburetors and pistons. Was the body just a machine? A machine with a heart. That didn’t sound right. But the body, like a machine, was something that could be tuned up, broken down, worn out? Charlie’s head began to spin. Like last minute Christmas shopping. The door opened. And in stepped the doctor holding a clipboard. Like Moses with his tablets. He was reading the form that Charlie had filled out.

“Why have you come to us today?” the doctor asked. His eyes rose up his forehead.

“It’s on the form.” Charlie responded. Not wanting to sound like a smart alec. Though he’d never met an Alec with much upstairs.

The doctor looked up from the clipboard.

“I’d like to hear it from you directly.” The doctor smiled. His teeth glistened.

Charlie stared. Nobody’s teeth are that white.

“I’m paralyzed.” Charlie picked at the sequins on his jeans.

“You can’t move?” The doctor leaned against the door. Like a dame in a tight skirt in a drug store waiting to be discovered.

“Metaphorically,” Charlie explained.

The doctor nodded, repeating the world metaphorically in his head. Sounded like a thought that had slipped out of one’s fingers and bounced down the stairs.

“It says here that you haven’t had a bowel movement in a week. That’s a long week.”

Charlie nodded.

“You eating a lot of cheese?”

“Allergic to cheese,” Charlie explained.

“Have you tried eating fruit?”

“Finished a barrel of apples off yesterday. Didn’t help. Look doctor, I feel as if I don’t have something happen down there soon, I’m going to blow up.” He wanted to ask if that was possible.

“We’ll certainly have to do something about that, Mr. Ivory.” The doctor looked at the clipboard again. “I could give you an enema.”

Charlie thought the doctor had said Aunt Ema and asked him to repeat himself. And then Charlie noticed. The doctor’s hands. They were huge. Maybe he could ask his pretty little receptionist. And there was one thing more. He had his hand wrapped. His thumb in particular. A cast. Was that his enema thumb. Had someone bitten it off.

“Is there any other alternative?” Charlie asked. He could see that the doctor was having trouble writing.

“We have several medications that can loosen up your bowels. But I’m concerned as to why you have this interruption.”

Charlie did not speak. The doctor waited. The silence became uncomfortable.

“I’m paralyzed.” Charlie smiled meekly. He sure wanted to ask about that thumb.

“What do you mean by paralyzed?” the doctor asked.

“I’m afraid of dieing,” Charlie said.

The doctor nodded as if he understood. He did not. He felt as if Charlie was wasting his time. And he was still worried about his thumb. He’d had in reattached. But would it take?

“I see.” The doctor glanced at the form on his clipboard again. “I take it that you feel as if you are paralyzed because your fear of dieing is preventing you from leading a normal life.”

Charlie thought about that for a moment. Maybe that was it.

“I tell jokes,” he said.

The doctor smiled.

“You what?”

“I tell jokes. Compulsively.”


“Bad jokes.”

The doctor asked Charlie to tell him one of his jokes. Charlie told him a joke about a chicken and a priest in a bar. It wasn’t funny.

“And you can’t stop telling jokes because you are afraid of dieing?” the doctor asked.

Charlie shook his head.

“Not that,” Charlie said.

There was a puzzled expression on the doctor’s face.

“I can’t stop telling bad jokes because I’m afraid of dieing,” Charlie explained. “If I wasn’t paralyzed by the fear of dieing, I think I’d start telling funny jokes.”

“Have you talked to your family physician about this?”

Charlie nodded. “She got angry with me. The third time. It’s the enemas. I think…” Isn’t there some kind of mid-wife for enemas. Someone would could consult without having to see a doctor.

Charlie hesitated. The doctor leaned forward, encouraging him to continue.

“I think she believes I’m looking for some kind of… sexual gratification. I’m not,” Charlie cried. “I’m just afraid of dieing. I think it could happen at any time. And I feel so vulnerable when I’m in my toilet. Like that could be the moment when the attack begins.”

The doctor looked at his patient impatiently.

“What attack?”

Charlie was by now almost in tears. He looked up at the doctor. His hands were trembling. His lips quivered. His eyes always sad were about to burst with tears.

The doctor smiled and slowly turned away. Then suddenly turned. And screamed.


Charlie’s mouth dropped open. For a moment he smiled. Relief. Then both the doctor and Charlie realized that a terrible mistake had been made. Charlie looked down. Molten lava seeped out from his heart. And down under his trousers. The doctor looked down. He saw the same thing. From a different perspective. The smell was lethal. Charlie’s head slumped. The doctor’s eyes began to burn. He fled from the room. Charlie could not. His heart had given out.

New Face

29 11 2008


Now that I’ve finished the National Novel Writing Contest I’ve decided to change my avatar. The above is the old one used for my novel Snow. Below is the new one. For now.


A Thumb For A Kiss

29 11 2008



Sean Ohara played with the plastic heart that sat on the desk of the doctor’s office. He bounced it off his forearms then his knees. Tried to imagine what Michael Jordan could do with it. Then leaned back and took a shot at the garbage can. Hit the rim. Michael wouldn’t have missed.

His brother, Pat Ohara, leaned against the door. Watched his brother. Oh, he’s in one of those moods today. Pat would have smiled. They were going to have fun today. But Pat seldom smiled. Unless he was angry. Or that mad rash on his ankles began to act up again. A rash he could not rid himself of. Maybe the doc can scare me up something for it.

The doctor looked up from his desk. He heard the heart rattle off the garbage can. Sean was picking it up off the ground. There was a strange look, a combination of peace and fear in the doctor’s face. Like someone who had come to terms with their crime and was now awaiting. Hopefully absolution. More likely retribution.

The doctor looked up. His favourite song was playing over the intercom.

Watch that, hear that, minor strain,
Ba doh, ba doh, ba da da doh dad doh!
There’s so many babies that he can squeeze,
And he’s always changin’ those keys.

The doctor felt like shaking his head. Snapping those fingers. If he’d been alone. But rhythm was unprofessional.

Pat Ohara cleared his throat. God, I hate that 30’s shit! Give me that good ol’ rock’n’roll.

The doctor looked at Pat.

“I thought you guys were exterminators,” he said. His cheeks began to flinch. To pop. To jive.

Sean threw the heart into the air and caught it like a baseball.

“We are,” Pat replied as he stepped over to the desk and sat on the edge. “But sometimes we work on the weekends. Side jobs. Gotta pay the bills jobs. This here. This is one of those jobs.”

“What do I have to do with extermination?” the doctor asked watching out of the side of his eye as Sean put the heart safely back on its pedestal.

“You like your job, doc?” Pat asked. He took a previously chewed wad of gum out of his pocket and popped it into his mouth.

The doctor smiled. He looked from one brother to the other.

“What’s this about?”

“You know Mrs. Newton?” Sean asked. “The good looking babe that’s married to that douche bag bank manager.”

The doctor nodded. “She’s a patient.”

Pat looked at Sean and smiled. “A patient? Is that what they call it?”

“Has something happened to her?” the doctor asked turning his head from one brother to the other. “What is it?”

“You see, it’s like this,” Sean said leaning over the desk. “Mr. Newton thinks that you’ve been wanking his wife. And having permitted my eyes to crawl over Mrs. Newton’s lovely curves, I can’t blame you. But then I’m not a banker. And she’s not my wife.”

“That’s ridiculous,” the doctor said. “That’s unprofessional. Why would Mr. Newton think such a thing?”

Sean patted the doctor on the hand.

“Actually it’s true,” Pat said. “Mrs. Newton confessed. She made the mistake of telling Mr. Newton that you were better than him. Guy making as much money as a banker doesn’t want to be told that he’s got the shorts in the sack.”

The doctor’s mouth dropped.

Pat Ohara took a knife out of his pocket as Sean grabbed the doctor’s left hand and pinned it to the desk.

“Mr. Newton wants your thumb,” Sean explained.

“Why my thumb?” the doctor cried as he struggled to free himself.

Pat smiled. “It could be worse.”

“Ya.” Sean laughed. “We could take you whole friggin’ hand.”

“No,” the doctor cried, impressed with how strong Pat was. He was clearly smaller than the doctor and yet he was able to keep the doctor’s hand to the desk. “How am I going to work?”

“You may have trouble holding your soup spoon.” Pat smiled. “What’s our advice, brother?”

Sean grinned. “Switch hands.”

And then the knife came down. The doctor cried out. And the thumb went to the market.

That’s All I Want From You. That’s All I Ever Wanted

27 11 2008



Mrs. Murphy bobbed up to the cashier. The classic 18 step. With her walker. Shaking those screws and bolts. Rattling. Bones and bones. None of that osseous matter. Some that the Roman Empire could never understand.

Josephine, the cashier, smiled. She loved to see the old lady in her element. Not all her marbles are working but she sure can move those steins.

“Got a tune in your head, eh Mrs. Murphy?” Josephine nodded her head to one side and winked. Like the Andrew sisters. The blond one.

Mrs. Murphy nodded as her head bobbed up and down.

That’s all I want from you.” Mrs. Murphy pursed her lips. “A lovely song from Jaye P. Morgan.”

Josephine smiled. Then Bea, another cashier, dropped by for a moment. And the two cashiers sang together. A sunny day with bolts up to the sky. A kiss and no goodbye. That’s all I want from you.

The two cashiers laughed and Bea moved on. Shuffling her feet. Waving the palms of her hands in the liquescent air.

“You’ve got to have some fun,” Josephine said. Flashing her pearlies. Pieces of dental floss hanging out of her mouth. Like Romeo’s braided twine to Juliet. And never the twine shall meet.

Mrs. Murphy smiled patiently. She loved the song, but didn’t appreciate these kids confiscating her mood. Why do they consider their own thoughts worth expressing?

“I guess every generation has an ipod in their head,” Josephine said. Josephine loved to imagine that she could smooth over any discord. With her sassy observations.

But Mrs. Murphy had no idea what an ipod was. She would have understood jukebox. Making the gap between the generations seem like a language problem amongst teenagers from different eras.

“I don’t know about that honey,” Mrs. Murphy said shaking her head, “but I feel like there’s a juke box playing in my head. Those tunes fall into place. Can’t help but put you on your toes. Make me feel like smoking a Chesterfield. Oh boy. What a time we had during the war. The best of times as they say. My goodness how I loved to dance. My mother would have sworn that I’d been swept away by the devil himself.”

Bea stopped by again. The two cashiers sang, Don’t let me down, Oh show me that you care. Remember when you give, You also get your share. Don’t let me down, I have no time to waste. Tomorrow might not come, When dreamers dream too late.

Josephine giggled. Bea moved on. Oh that Bea loved to giggle. A jiggle in her jello.

Mrs. Murphy was not so impressed. She watched Bea dance toward the magazine stand. Where she was shuffling in the new magazines.

“She is very annoying, isn’t she?” Mrs. Murphy said. And wondered why people insisted on imposing their silliness on other folks who might have wonderful thoughts in their heads.

“Oh, we’re just having fun. Girls just want to have fun.” Josephine smiled.

“You don’t say,” Mrs. Murphy responded leaning on the counter. Her hand jumping. Her jowls shaking. “You know there are no old people. Some of us just have bad makeup.”

Josephine laughed. That’s very clever, she thought. Mrs. Murphy noticed that the young woman was impressed by her remark, a remark that she had repeated thousands of time over the last few years. After she read it in a Chinese fortune cookie. Still it made her think better of the young woman.

“In your head,” Mrs. Murphy continued, “you’re always 24. God, when you get to my age it seems that the rest of the world are children.”

“I never thought of it that way,” Josephine said as she scanned the diapers designed for seniors that Mrs. Murphy had placed on the counter.

Mrs. Murphy added some toothpaste. For dentures. And some ointment for hemorrhoids. And a brush.

“Or maybe it’s the other way round,” the old lady said caught up in her own nimble wit. “Maybe we’re all old. And being young is an illusion. A joke. A tease.”

At that moment Bea showed up again and the two cashiers finished singing their song. A little love that slowly grows and grows. Not one that comes and goes. That’s all I want from you.

Bea and Josephine laughed. And when they were finished they noticed that Mrs. Murphy had departed. Left all of her things behind. Unbagged. Unpaid for.

“What got into her?” Bea asked.

Josephine shook her head. “She’s just old.”

Bea nodded as her head bobbed up and down.

Bea pursed her lips and Josephine followed suit as they sang. “That’s all I want from you.”

The Pills Began To Laugh

21 11 2008



“Truth will come,” Mr. Edwards mumbled. Snapping his fingers. And tapping his foot. Standing stood in his office, his back against the door. Loosening his tie, he wiped the sweat off his forehead. Not with the back of his hand. But with one little finger. The French way. And then he began to scat.

“Fortune will seek me out. Shirley it Will. A soul just got to know itself. Like some deformed creature crawling. Inside a shell at the bottom of the sandy sea. And there must be predators down there. You’d think. But there ain’t any. So the souls commit suicide. Like good women in New York City. Yes, those souls are an easy commodity to deal. What else you going to do? On a hot August night. With no job prospects the next day. Give up on your ideals. Fall in love with your dreams. Death. My, how pretty she looks tonight. Doesn’t sneak up on you. Slides across the room. Like Ginger Rogers. Her heavenly face. Has tortured my dreams. Death will come as a virus. Off an airplane. Walk right through immigration. Into our veins. Beautiful madness. I must be sinking below that rational sea. That we all float our little red rubber boats. Upon.”

Mr. Edwards placed his ear against the door.

“God save me. What have I become? Struggling to defeat my enemies, I have destroyed the prize. Why did I have to possess the whole plaza? And now that news. Like an accident. Unexpected. I could hardly believe it and yet. Wasn’t that my intention? Easy to say that it was just business. But, it’s always more than that. Is a banker any different than a priest? During the inquisition. Give up your soul to God. But first, let’s have your skin. Oh poor Singh, where did his ambitions lead him? An empty room. A bullet in his mouth. A wife who mourns the man she never knew. I took everything from him. What a victory. And the cost. Singh’s life. My soul.”

Stepping away from the door, Mr. Edwards moved over to his desk and pulled out a drawer. Reaching in, he removed a small plastic container. And opened the top.

“Here is eternity.”

He stared down at the pills.

“O sweet death. Dozens of bullets. Straight to my heart. Is it made of stone? In the end one returns to the moment of birth. Perhaps there is hope in the next world. Peace from myself. Oh, this empty hope. Singh’s face. Why can’t I get it out of my head? Why do I persist in holding out for hope? Singh has taken his life and it was my doing. Took everything he had. For what. The appetite of my dreams. But dreams are the kindling of time. Smoke filled streets. Dread. Moments before my sleep with that image of Singh in my head.”

Mr. Edwards lifted the bottle of pills to his mouth. He stared into the container where the pills began to laugh. And threw the bottle on the floor. The pills scattered across the floor like orphans. And Mr. Edwards fell to his knees. And wept.

The Cosmetician’s Quiet Rant

19 11 2008



“All we do is talk. When you come right down to it. That’s our job. To keep the customer happy by talking. And smiling. And listening. It’s very important to listen. The customer must feel as if she is the centre of your world. Listen. But not too long. You could fall asleep. It is so hard to focus. I like to rub my tongue along my teeth. Customers can go on. About their problems with dry hair. Or dry skin. Or dry eyes. Dry is a common refrain. I had one lady complain about her private parts. Being dry. She should talk to a doctor about that. Right? Does she? No. She talks to a cosmetician. What does that tell you about the confidence these women have in us? And why is that? Because looks are important. We live on the surface. Beauty is skin deep. You don’t make an impression at work and you don’t get that promotion unless… You can’t look like a hag. Right? And let’s face it. Most women’s looks leave them pretty early in the picture. And once you lose those looks what are you left with? The look. The look that we sell. In bottles. In tubes. In sprays. It’s the look that women see on the covers of magazines. The look that younger women wear. On magazines. You don’t think any of those younger women want to actually look like that in their own lives, do you? Younger women have other issues. Except the morons. You know the type. They’ve been making themselves up since grade seven. They keep looking in the mirror thinking that they’ll find something new. It’s terrible to say. A lot of them become cosmeticians. But they don’t last. No discipline. No ambition. Think they’re in show business. Think they’re going to be a starlet someday. You can’t afford to get caught up in the illusion. A dealer shouldn’t get hooked on his own merchandise. And what about men? Well, in our world, they don’t get a vote.”

The Rant: Going Out Of Business

18 11 2008



“Going out of business. That’s how I ran my business. It was my business. Playing road kill. Living on the edge. For the vultures. There’s nothing people like better than thinking that they’re going to get something for nothing. Makes their bellies smile. That’s too bad that you’re going out of business. Let me take some of your merchandise off your hands. At those clearance prices of course. The sympathy of greed. And I made a living off it. Very comfortable living. Carrion. That’s what I was. People held their noses. But still they ate. Folks loved the idea that they were fleecing me. Taking advantage of me in bad times. Thinking that they’d got one up on the free enterprise system. Thinking that they’d put one over on Johnny Singh. Suckers! I had them over the barrel. And was putting it pretty handily to them. Up the ass! And that’s how the free enterprise system works, girls and boys. Free choice. Dupe you into giving up what you cannot afford in the mistaken belief that you were getting ahead. That there were short cuts. But now! The gods will have their fun. I am going out of business. For real. And I can hardly move any of this junk. I feel like the boy who cried wolf. Not fair. I played by all the rules. And that is, no rules. But I was laid low falsely. Not of my own hand. But by the big man, G. He wanted me to fail. Wanted me on my knees. Okay, you’ve had your flesh. But there is more. I am haunted by my wife’s look. When I told her that we had nothing. That we lost it all. That the only thing in our hands was calluses. Like a time machine. Returned without deposit to thirty years ago. All that effort and we’re no farther ahead. Except for a child. And our backs are bent. And our muscles spent. And our old friends departed. And the photographs in our books are photographs of a place far away. And the graveyards are filled with strangers. I swear that G will pay. Laughing at me now. Laughing as he always does. I don’t care if I look like a fool standing up against him. He will pay. For what else is there? Vengeance or a bullet in my head.”