Category Archives: In progress

Exactly as the title states; things I’m working on that are in progress.

In the Tenderloin

The Tenderloin. 11:30 a.m. November. 

Hey, you how ya doing? You look lovely today.”

He was youngish, somewhere between 19 and 30, with dark brown skin the color of wood smoked oak. His head shaved with new hair growing a shadowy crown of ebony. His face was fine; Swazi nose, Zulu chin, Xhosa face, a child of ancestral Southern Africa whittled away over a century of abuse, and replaced with poverty, drugs and anger. An American boy.

He was such a good boy when he was little.” Grandma used to say. “Such a nice boy.”

(Grandmothers cry a lot these days. )

His dark brown slacks sagged slightly over a practiced limp in his walk. Swagger. His jacket oversized and bulky, black, and worn, but kept as clean as the streets allow.

“Thank you.” I said. My heels clicking against the sidewalk. The sound loud and obtuse. I had bought them recently, put them on layaway and made small payments. I had wanted nice shoes. Heels that were good for my feet but also flattering. This was an expensive requirement that took two months to pay off. They seemed too loud now.

He matched my step never looking at me always looking around or forward. If he glanced my way it was only to look at my body never my face. I forced myself to look at him to not allow fear keep my head down. A “nice” woman keeps her head down. This tactic has never worked in history, and yet we repeat, repeat, repeat.

He pulls out a phone from his coat, and I wince at the movement. Don’t be silly, don’t be silly, I think, keep walking, don’t slow down, don’t speed up, maintain the pace- maintain the pace. Nothing is wrong and I am not scared.

“Can I have your number?”

I keep walking. I don’t change my speed. I keep the same pace. I wonder how long he is going to walk with me. He holds his hand behind his back, and I wonder what he has hidden there. It is mid-day, but the light, and the people do not give me feelings of safety. I have stumbled unsuspectingly into the Tenderloin.

He leans heavily onto his right leg and swings his left forward in a well rehearsed strut. It’s so rehearsed that now it is his natural walk.

“When he was a baby he would stick out his belly and it would lead him around.”

Another man, gaunt face, chestnut skin pulled taught over his high jutting cheekbones, passes us. As he does he holds up two fingers. My unwanted companion nods. The chestnut man brushes against my shoulder, like a dying twig on a fall branch snags a sweater, and I am like a ghost to him; invisible in his world.

Another man pulls his car up to the curb. He rolls down his window and sticks his out his shaved head. His dark eyes and high cheekbones eclipse all other features nearly erased by his bone skin. He reminds me of pictures of boys in Southern Eastern European. I can see his blue track suit and automatically I think he is Russian. I secretly smile at my assumption- how do I know he’s Russian? Television? Magazines? Track Suits? He probably is Russian. He nods to my unwanted companion and lifts two fingers in the same manner as the chestnut man. My new-friend nods in response, but never stops walking alongside me.

As we share this walk, on a San Francisco street block that in my mind suddenly became the size of four city blocks, more men pass with nods and raised double digits. We were waking through a wave of nods and fingers.

His hands have been behind his back the entire time hidden under his heavy dark jacket. I wonder what he has under that jacket and if he will use it on me. I balance on the edge of fear and reason.

“So what do you do for work?” He asks me.

“I’m a teacher.” I say.

“A teacher?”

“Yes.”

He takes this information in like a fine cognac, inhaling first before placing the words to his lips and slowly sipping, then swallows with a nod to no man on the street but himself. He shifts his hands and arms but doesn’t reveal  them.

‘You know,” he begins, “I’m tryin’ to get back on my feet.”

“Such a good boy. And so smart too. Just whip smart.”

I don’t say anything. I just keep walking. I know at this point that he isn’t going to ask me for any money, not that it mattered, but if he didn’t want money, what did he want? Why the long walk?

“So, can I have your number?”

“I dont live here.” I say.

“I don’t either.” He says, “What does it matter? I want to be your friend. I’ll go where you are.”

“You gonna go to China?” I say, half smiling at his friend request. I still want to see his hands.

“I’m tryin’ to clean up. I’m thinkin’ about gettin’ my G.E.D.”

“You should.”

“I don’t know what I want to be yet.”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Grandma asks. “I wanna be a police man so I can save people!” Baby says.

“Doesn’t matter.” I say, “Start with your G.E.D. You can be anything. Imagine what you can be.”

Grandma must have said that more than once. “Momma? Poppa? Can I be anything? Anything I want? Momma? Poppa?”

I look at his face. His young dark face already too old. Twenties? Thirties? Maybe, just maybe a teenager in the body of a hardened man.

“I wanna be your friend.” He says, “Can I be your friend?”

He never looks at me. Never looks at my face not the way I look at his face. I make him human he doesn’t do that for me.

He brings his hand out and holds a phone ready to take my number.

“We can’t be friends.” I say. “We can be acquaintances.”

“What’s that?” He says finally looking at me.

“Doing what we are doing right now. Walking together to the end of a block. We talk. We’re friendly. We say good-bye. We leave each other.”

“Oh. Well. I don’t want to waste anymore of my time.” He spins on his heavy leg and turns back up the street.

And leaves me with no good-bye, and like that I was dumped. In the Tenderloin.

My are you lookin’ lovely today!” A  giant black man with shiny skin is standing akimbo and yelling at me as I walk toward him. His white bleached shirt white as his teeth and tucked into pressed blue jeans stretched over colossus muscles. Huddle at his legs like a frightened children are a frail lady tweaker and a pile of rags with a toothless grin. They all smile at me. The woman’s skin which was once white is yellow and dry with a red sore on her chin and one on her cheek. Too much picking. Her clothes are dirty, but no where near the level of muck that is the Raggedy Cousin It hunched beside her.

“You sure are lovely.” The man yells again, and his voice is booming a deep rich baritone. The tone is to warm to be bothered, and only exasperated amusement rises into my being.

“Thank you.” I boom right back.

They were all children once too.

They all smile, and laugh cheerfully as I step off the curb onto the next block.

This new block is empty except for a schizophrenic man who is yelling to his invisibles.

“I know! I know! I’m upset! Yes! Yes! I am because that’s not what it’s about! I’ll gut it! I swear, I’ll gut it out! They’ll get it! They’ll get it!”

I walk pass him without incident. I am not a part of his visions.

I smile in the Tenderloin.

The banter is not cheap on the sidewalk, and it’s full of visions and monsters. Men and women who were once children shrink into reptiles because the light is too harsh and too cold. This is a place where the light is evil and the dark is good. A person can’t help where they were born. Not everyone was given equal opportunity, no matter how American one is.

“Fluorescents! It’s the fluorescents!” The man yells, and his voice falls behind me.

I agree with him it is the fluorescents. The grey pale light steals all the color. Whitewashes even the white.

Hunger suddenly diverts my thinking. I too am reptilian. I think of food. I could snap in a single jump to catch my prey, and everything else like fear of the street, fades in this one impulse of hunger. I must eat.

The Olympic cafe.

An old diner with faded pink linoleum tables, and a black and white checkered floor. Black  stools line the bar. I take a seat at a small single style booth. This is a place that once had smoking and non-smoking separated by this side of the room and that side of the room. I order bacon and eggs and black coffee.

Sometimes, I want to be an old man, anonymous, and alone with my shot of whisky, my cup of hot coffee, and my cigarette: “You youngsters you look at me and think I am sad, lonely, and pathetic, but I’m just sitting here being fine lost in my thoughts. My stimulants are small as you binge in your excess of partying such reckless youth. Now, I, I ease into my drink like a sage wrapped in a single sheet of bourbon: not a lake, there is no need to drown just to float. I am not waiting to die like Dylan Thomas. I am not gently waiting for the night to take me; I’ve a fine life. Leave your projections at the counter”.

I dream about being an old man. I will be an old woman. I want them both.

My thoughts are interrupted by an old black man his skin ash with age and the street. His hands in prayer shaking with pious pity and true religion. The owner of this timeless diner stares through the glass with dark Greek eyes. Pain through pane glass. The owner slowly shakes his head closing his eyes, he is hard-nosed, but not angry. “No.” He says.

They have a history these two.

Two old men. Old Americans: one stolen, sold, and bought; one who sold himself to come to the new country. Choices and no choices. America in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin in America.

All babies grow old. Come little children, let’s play kick the can ’cause all babies grow old. Hey, little baby’ll be an old woman soon. An old grandma looking at old men staring at each other through windows of pain. I want to be them both at once. I want to be the old America, the grizzled broken dream; the death of a salesman and the raisin in the sun.

I eat my eggs, and drink my coffee in the Tenderloin.

Version 2

 

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No One Said Life Was Fair

“Some of us are born losers.” My mother said, “but not you honey, no, you’re special.

It was the 80’s, and I was in high school. I wasn’t exactly sure where her words were coming from, but I could guess. She had just lost her job or maybe it was her boyfriend or maybe both. Something prompted her to say it. Maybe it was me. Maybe I was crying. I cried a lot in high school. Maybe I asked her why something didn’t work out for her; why those people at the store sneered when she took out her food stamps; why we never had any money; how come the IRS was auditing her, a poor woman, who made less than 10,000.00 a year, and not some rich white man who made over 10,000.00 a month.

“Life is not fair!”

“No one said life is fair. Life.” She paused and I could see the pain and sadness in her face. “Life is not fair honey. Life is hard.”

 

The day I got attacked at school by a group of four or five kids I decided I was ready to throw the towel in on this whole life thing.

“Kids are mean.” My mother said. “They’re just jealous.” She said. “You’re so beautiful.” She said.

“You say that because you’re my mom.”

“That’s not true.” She was shocked that I would accuse her of such a thing.

But it was true. She did say it because she was my mom. I knew this because we live in a democracy, and the majority rules, and the majority of kids at school said I was scum.

Kids can be so cruel.

I never told her what happened. I never told her about getting held against the lockers. Never told her about hiding under the bathroom sink. I could never explain the level of humiliation. It was too hard to tell her. I felt like too much of a failure. A failure to her, and to her God. If I told her about what was going on at school, what was happening to her baby girl, that her baby was stupid and ugly, that she was scum; trash. I couldn’t tell her God did not look upon me as more special than the neighbor’s kids. I couldn’t tell her that my life was not enough for her to keep on living. If she knew the truth would she die? No, I knew she wouldn’t die, but my pain was too great and I couldn’t carry the hurt she would feel. I knew she would blame herself. She didn’t teach me to be strong. She couldn’t help me. I learned from example. I needed her to find something else worth living for something inside herself.

“God brought you to me, honey.” She touched my face and her eyes sparkled with love. “You’re the only reason I’m alive.”

 

**************

 

I had this dream. A desire. A want. It hit me one day. It hit me hard. I had been out of school for a few years lolling about helpless trying to figure out what to do with my self. I could not for the life of me figure out what I was doing on this planet and then it hit me. I wanted to work for National Geographic. I considered my self a conservationist and a humanitarian, and I grew up with the magazine. My fantasy life began to unfold. There I was traveling, interviewing scientists, trudging through the jungles of exotic landscapes, meeting people of diverse and varied cultures, becoming educated and sharing that education with the world at large. Yes! I was going to write for them. Take amazing cover worthy photographs for them. I would be giving people the opportunity to open a book and discover Macedonia or Jane Goodall or the realities of a nuclear fall out. I was going to go back to school to study writing, and photography and, of course, science.

Sometimes I miss her. Mother. We live so far from each other now. Her love crushes, sometimes, to a point where I can not breath, and I need to be away from her. But, I worry. I worry all the time like she might die. Our relationship is not like in television or in the parenting books, and sometimes I want a mother.

I called to tell her about my new plan for my future.

“Mom, I’m going to work for National Geographic.” I said this after mentioning signing up for science courses.

She is silent on the other side of the phone.

“Mom?”

“What?” She says.

“What do you think?”

“What do I think about what?” She says.

I’m annoyed. “What do you think about my idea?”

“What do I think about your idea? What do I think?”

“Yeah.”

“You want to be a scientist? You? We’ve never been any good at math. You know that. You’ll fail.” She was beginning to yell.

I was silent now. It was the only way I knew how to communicate.

“What!” She barked. “What? Are you mad now?”

“Well, yes, I’m a little upset.”

“Ya, wanted to know what I thought.” She said.

“Well, I didn’t expect you to be so harsh.”

“What did you expect.”

“You’re my mom!” I was yelling now. “You’re suppose to be supportive! It was just an idea.”

“Well how ’bout this: next time you call why don’t you just tell me what you want me to say.”

“Mom, I was trying to tell you what I wanted to do with my life.”

“Life? Do you wanna know what life is?” She asked. Anger and something heavy like a decrepit house shook in her voice. “Life is you’re born poor, you struggle and struggle, and next thing you know you’re old scrubbing some person’s floor as you’re just waiting around to die.”

“I’m not talking to you.” I hung up. I knew she was talking about herself. I knew she was scrubbing people’s floors. I knew she wanted to die. I knew it was about her, but I couldn’t separate us. She said, we’ve never been good at math. She couldn’t separate us.

I never had a mother, I thought this after hanging up the phone. I had an adult child. It was like Mork and Mindy when Jonathan Winters joined the cast only it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny when Jonathan Winters joined either.

 

She called the next day.

“Honey, I’m so sorry. It’s my hormones, they’re off. I’m going through menopause. I believe in you. you’d be a great scientist.”

I’d be a terrible scientist. I didn’t want to be a scientist, but it didn’t matter. I would have believed her if she hadn’t been talking this way all my life. Her philosophy has always been life is hard, we are born poor we will die poor; life is not fair and some of us are just born losers. Menopause was only going to make it worse.

**********

My mom’s sister died when I was five. It was an “accidental” suicide. She had hurt her knee and to kill the pain she swallowed a bottle of codeine and washed the pills down with a bottle of vodka. Ta! Dah!

I can still remember the night she died. Mother woke me from sleep, and half carried me to her grey-blue Volkswagen bug. She had loved that bug. I don’t remember the drive. I remember the sound of gravel beneath the tires. I remember my mother’s face terse and strained. I remember the flashing lights sparkling like an amusement park. I remember it was warm out and I was wearing my pjs the one with the built in footies. I was holding my blanket like a doll. My mother pushed me down onto the black vinyl seat. It was the 70’s and children were allowed to ride in the front. She leaned over me and her long blonde hair draped over her face like a veil and cascaded into mine. She was so young then, only 26 or 27. Her hair was golden and the lights from the ambulance and police flooded around her head and reflected against her hair. She was like an angel.

“You keep your head down. Don’t you dare look out the window you understand. You understand?”

I nodded yes. She slammed the door leaving the car rocking gently. I stared up at the tiny dots in the white ceiling cover of the bug and watched as the lights dance as my aunt died.

 

I don’t remember what she looked like, my aunt. She had red hair. I know my mother loved her more than anyone else in the world aside from me. My memories of her are nebulous. I’m not positive they are memories of truth or if they are memories of stories. I think I have a memory of sitting on her lap. The both of us shrouded in white. She said I was like an angel. The freckles on my face were angel kisses. The mark in my eye was a starburst. I was so special God had picked me out and gave me to my mother. I was a beautiful child. We were all angels.

“For some of us honey, life is so hard, and you just get so tired of living, and you just want to go to sleep, just for a little while, and I think that’s what your aunt did. I think she just wanted to take a nap.”

Angels are never alive in the first place.

****************

I hadn’t seen my mother in two years. The last time I saw her she was impoverished with worn holes in her clothing. She lived in a room and took care of an elderly man. The elderly man whom she lived with was like her new child and she loved him dearly. She had always been such a kind woman. After he died my mother was never compensated for her time, and since she had no education, and no back-up she became jobless at 56. She was living with her boyfriend an ex-junkie and an ex-con who for some reason could not work. Something to do with his previous career. Then the stroke happened. The boyfriend forgot to tell me about the stroke. The phone call came weeks later from her.

“I had a stroke. They are going to evict me from my house. Why didn’t you visit me? You don’t love me.” She cried.

“I didn’t know.” I whispered. I didn’t know.

She cried more and more.

I feel helpless when she cries because I can’t take care of her. I’m still poor. I failed her. I followed in her footsteps. Born poor stay poor.

I had a dream I was at my mother’s house and a semi-truck ran purposefully through her house. I managed to jump out of the way, but it ran over her sleeping body.

 

************

She identifies herself through me and I try to separate us. She reaches for me and I can feel her tugging my essence like she’s trying to shove me back inside her. She steps through me and eats me till I feel like there is hardly any of me left and I am her or her sister or her cruel mother. Who am I? Am I my mother? A born loser? Is it only a matter of days till I scrub the floors of other people and wait and pray for death? When I die will I have to apologize to God for being a failure?

 

Conversation with GOD:

“It’s not my fault. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.”

“When are you going to make some money honey? So you can take care of me?” My mother has interrupted my conversation with God.

“You’re not old mom! You’re only in your fifties!”

“But, I made you special,” God says shaking his white glowing orb of a head.

“I know Lord, my mom told me that, but I didn’t feel special. It didn’t protect me and I grew up with majority rules. Special wasn’t enough.”

“Please don’t let me die in a home. Please take care of me when I’m old. Don’t leave me.” Mom is crying again. I hate it when she cries. She doesn’t notice I’m talking to God. She just wants me not God. “I hate it here. I want out of here.”

“I know momma. I’m trying.”

“It’s not fair Lord.” I say.

“Well, honey,” The Lord places his ethereal hands on his omnipotent hips, “who ever told you life was fair?”

“Nobody did.”

He actually looks like a god with the brilliant light shining through his akimbo stance.

The semi-trucks growl in the distance as the houses shake.

 

 

A completed Short Story?

I’m not sure but I think I may be finished with Ishi. At least close to finished. I feel like I managed to change it enough that people reading it may find it accessible, based on the feedback I received, but that I also managed to stay true to the original voice I had first created. I think.

Tonight I like it. I think it may be better than anything I have written so far, but I don’t really trust myself all that much since I think that often and then later think or realize that my work isn’t very good. Or good enough or right- whatever any of that means. I need to clean up the ending and do my best to correct the grammar, but seriously I’m an ignoramus when it comes to grammar. People always write, “your punctuation is too distracting to read this.” Sometimes I get defensive and I think, “Who the f’ are you?” I don’t see the problems though. Really it isn’t my fault, since I spent most of my 7th grade grammar class being humiliated by the militaristic grammar teacher, and I pretty much shut down after that.

Anyway- ew nasty memory, it is amazing that our schools had teachers that actually humiliated children, but they did.

Here is a small bit from the story: (I act like I’m advertising for a huge book or something)

Whenever I played at Wendy’s place we’d spend most of our time in a small swampy alcove, down below Wendy’s property. There, thick streams that looked like someone had drawn a thin line in the mud with a branch spread out like extended fingers between the Manzanita trees. The streams filled up during the winter then turned to muddy clumps of red clay during the summer. No matter what time of year there always seemed to be mosquitoes. I would pick at my scabs after spending the day down at Wendy’s. When I’d get home my mother would dab me with the chalky pink calamine lotion, mumbling about why us kids don’t stay away from that dirty mud pit. Her boyfriend would glare over at me telling her I looked like crotch rot. She would hush him, and dab more bits of the cool lotion on my skin the cotton swab soaked and mushy leaving impressions of its fine fibers.

Speaking of not learning to write “properly” in school. I just picked up Kurt Vonnegut’s collection of short stories, Welcome to the Monkey House. I absolutely love his preface:

I have been a writer since 1949. I am self-taught. I have no theories about writing that might help others. When I write i simply become what I seemingly must become. I am six feet two and weigh nearly two hundred pounds and I am badly coordinated, except when I swim. All that borrowed meat does the writing.

In the water I am beautiful

In the water, I am beautiful too.

The First draft- short story#3

I’m not prolific, but I am trying to force myself to write more, to write everyday. Which I do, but more in a journal style or some exercise, but never writing with the intention of sending it somewhere. I looked on-line for some places that may take submissions and decided I will pick one, read the guidelines, write the story, than send it out. At least once a week, I told myself. The first day I struggled with an idea since there were no guidelines just a word count of 5,000. I’m not backing down from myself this time, I don’t even care if I think a story is crap I’m sending it out. I have finished the first draft of this story which I may call, The Rules of the Game, but I’ve ended at a little over 3,000 words so I need to add more, but the story needs work anyway. Still its a pretty good start- I’m not sure why this came into my head, what triggered it, but here is the beginning of the first draft.

“They beat that boy like a horse.”

My mother was standing in the kitchen of our double wide chocolate brown trailer with the built on porch. It wasn’t really our trailer, we didn’t own it, we were just renters. The owners tried to make the place seem like a real house by building the porch and parking it at the top of a cul de sac with a decent lawn, and of course, surrounded by pine trees. The place was probably owned by old people, every place in the Pines were own by old people; old people just waiting to retire, and move up from the Bay or from LA, to settle in the foot hills of the Serra Nevada’s. Not that I really knew who owned the house. I never thought of things like owning or renting or retirement or any of that stuff, I was only eight, and I didn’t think of any of that; I didn’t think about how many times we had moved, and how many times more we were probably going to move. I just woke up went to school, came home, tried to avoid my mom’s boyfriend, did some chores than went out to play till I had no choice but to return home to go back to a bed. Living in the moment that’s what kids do.

My mom was talking about Gary, my friend, Wendy’s older brother. They lived at the bottom of the cul de sac in a trailer, that their mother owned, on a large piece of land that they also owned. The trailer was built up on stilts and had stairs leading up to a small porch where they kept an old freezer that didn’t work, and had once had rotting meat in it that smelled so bad that once they got the meat out they never open the freezer again. Wendy said they made Gary clean it out, and that he puked all over the porch, and the yard. They had broken down appliances all over their property: washing machines, car parts, broken toys. Wendy’s step- father’s Black 1957 Chevy sat parked at the bottom of the cul de sac, rusting around the hub caps and gathering dirt. My mom said it hadn’t been touched for probably 10 years.

developing story 2 untitled

My writing has been on the back burner ever since I was cast in the ensemble show, Inviting Desire. I record my experience with the show and my other writing on my general blog, leta1950 aka A point in our journey. Even so, I had a temp assignment which gave me some time to sit and think about where I want to take this story- please feel free to let me know what you think about the latest development.

****

When Marguerite was feeling very stressed or overwhelmed, she would imagine herself in a field; a simple field with wild flowers, and tall weeds that looked like wheat, and had buds like a rattler’s tail. It would be a soft blue day with wisps of clouds like a woman’s hair spread out seductively on a pillow, inviting her lover to touch just one strand. She could smell serenity and it was like wet dirt and heat, the kind of heat that bakes bread or sweet muffins. Sometimes she could bury herself so deeply into the dream that nothing could shake her from it not even the stench of her brother’s apartment. It wasn’t the smell but the sound of a door slamming that pulled her out and left her alone in the mess, in his mess, his disease.

The stench that filled the room could not be described as anything other than shit. Marguerite stepped over the piles of clothes and papers, the stacks of books, strewn newspaper articles, shredded bits of card board, the yogurt cartons, the bottles and cans of beer, the accumulated mess of months of a recluse; a terrible, terrible recluse. He had only been thirty, they were both thirty, twins minutes apart, and technically he was her older brother. At thirty he was supposed to be getting married, planning on children, settling into his already well established career maybe refinancing his house; of course that’s what Marguerite should be doing too. She could always blame Peter for her current position in life, after all, their mother often did; wasn’t it Peter’s fault that Marguerite started smoking? Wasn’t it Peter’s fault their mother was soaked in tears? Poor, poor mother.

***

He was such a beautiful boy— her mother had cried the day she pulled his photos from the walls and albums, hiding his image like it was a blemish a pimple that developed the morning of prom. He had tarnished the family, and like the mint green residue of copper, the slimy pink ring of soap scum around the drain, the dull sticky hue of aged grime on silver, he needed to be scrubbed, disinfected and wiped away; erased from memory so that she could shine like her wedding band.  She sobbed over her beautiful boy as if she was watching his casket lower into the dirt, into 9 feet of wet soil- fresh like cut grass and new rain. When his casket really was lowered she wasn’t there to watch, she had already suffered far, far too much. Poor, poor mother. Marguerite had watched from the doorway, smoking her dreadful cigarette- the wind is blowing the smoke in dear please stop that nasty habit! – Marguerite had let the smoke drop from her mouth and watched it drift into the foyer before grinding it into the concrete doorstep making black ash drawings, like she used to when she was a child, but with lavender chalk. She had watched her mother fold the top of the box and seal it shut with utility tape borrowed from her job, the one she took for fun now that her children were grown- to pass the time and fill my empty nest. She buried Peter years before he was truly buried- poor, poor mother.

***

In a way Marguerite felt that he had done this to her on purpose, that all the while he had her in the forefront of his mind. Sure he was the one dead but she was the one still alive, still walking around in his swinging shadow. She was angry with him for leaving her such a mess- such a mess it was. The stench was nauseating. He had had two cats and they must have shit somewhere in the studio. All over the studio she thought.

She moved to the window and pushed it open. A rush from the afternoon traffic fought its way past her face. She pulled a cigarette from a silver case that had a printed copy of Venus Rising on the lid. She brushed her finger over the image then snapped the case shut and dropped it into her coat pocket. She tapped the cigarette on the windowsill two times then lifted it quickly to her lips and held it there as she searched her pockets for a lighter. The air felt warm on her cheeks and helped to relieve the smell. She cupped her hand over the lighter and cigarette till the tip glowed amber. She tossed the lighter on to the floor to join the trash. That’s all it was trash, garbage, a huge mess a nasty hassle. She stared towards a neighbor’s window and slowly exhaled. The smoke lifted from her lips like thin webs and quickly vanished into the rising dusk of the evening. She watched the neighbor in the window cooking. A man wearing a blue muscle t-shirt. She wondered what it would be like to feel his arms around her waist, to feel his hands on her butt pulling her tighter to him as he pressed his hips against her, the feel of the fabric of her dress as it moved above her knees her thighs as he gathered it into his clenched fists – How can you think about sex at a time like this? How disgusting, how vulgar, what have I done to deserve children like this?

Marguerite let the cigarette, lit and hot, fall from between her fingers. She watched it fall, and waited for the smoke to rise, the small flame that would start, that would burn the apartment complex to a crisp taking her and Peter and all the in habitants with it. Nothing. The man from the window was gone.

Marguerite- brainstorming

When she was feeling very stressed or overwhelmed she would imagine herself in a field; a simple field with wild flowers, and tall weeds that looked like wheat and had buds like a rattlers tail. It would be a soft blue day with wisps of clouds like a woman’s hair spread out seductively on a pillow, inviting her lover to touch just one strand. She could smell serenity and it was like wet dirt and heat the kind of heat that bakes bread or sweet muffins. Sometimes she could bury herself so deeply into the dream that nothing could shake her from it not even the stench of her brother’s apartment. It wasn’t the smell but the sound of a door slamming that pulled her out and left her alone in the mess, in his mess, he left over, his disease.