Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One Last Thing

"Wait a minute,” Joe said, eying the handkerchief, “how do we know it’s his?”

“Are you kidding?” Casey said, “Its covered in American flags and,” she sniffed the fabric, “it smells like liquor.”

“So a liquor soaked rag dropped by a stray dog couldn’t possibly belong to anyone else?”

“Well,” Casey frowned at the fabric, turning it this way and that as though it were a precious artifact rather than something for the catching of snot, “it just seems like something he would have.”

“And what about this dog? Where did it come from?”

“You’re right, it could lead us back,”

Joe laughed, “Are you insane?”

“Oh shut up Joe, at least let her try,” Mali said.

Casey knelt next to the dog, scratching its mangy coat with one hand and holding out the handkerchief to him with the other.

“Where did you get this?” she asked, “Good boy, now where’d you get it?”

The dog took the worn scrap of fabric in its mouth and started off at a trot back the way it had come. It was slow, his gait hindered by an obvious limp, but his motions were practiced and it wasn’t long before he’d gone a good distance.

“Fucking unbelievable,” Joe remarked and took off with the others after the mutt.
Mali had started off with the others but Parker caught her by the arm.

“Wait,” he said, half stammering, “Just wait a second.”

“What? We have to keep up,”

“You’ll catch up just hang on. I don’t know if I’ll get another chance to do this so just wait.”

Mali looked down at Parker’s hand that still gripped her and back into his eyes. She’d thought to shrug him off, to make him wait on whatever trivial thing was rolling around in his mind but his eyes had stayed her. They were full and wide, opened like surprised mouths into two oh’s. She had never seen eyes look like them, haunted and deep as an old well. Pennies would never hit bottom, she though and so she waited.

“I don’t really know how to say this, well, I mean that no one would, or does, really know how. You know like, um, when things are tough for me I think about God,” Parker sighed and licked his lips.

“No, that’s not true. Ok, here, I want to say this and I don’t want you to speak until I’m done. I don’t think that at this point it really matters anymore, but its important to me that you don’t speak until I’ve said everything.”

Mali nodded, mouth parted by wonder, and hardly breathed. She’d been so angry with him before, easily writing him off and putting him aside. Shelved books don’t pull themselves from the eaves, she thought, and it frightened her to see him fluttering from amongst the number of thoughts she’d buried him in.

“I love you, so much so that I cannot go on without telling you that and telling you this. I didn’t come on this trip to become more spiritual or to learn to tell stories. As much as I love the comfort that religion gives me, it is nothing compared to what you do to me. At night, I watch you sleep. Oh gosh that sounds terrible but, your calm calms me. The way your eyes flutter when you dream is matched by my heart. Oh please don’t make that face I swear I’m not trying to be creepy. I just can’t help it. I never expected to feel this way, and in a lot of ways I promised never to feel this way again with anyone.”

“I’m sorry, Parker, but—“ Mali started but Parker was shaking his head, his hands outstretched slightly. Just wait.
She did.

“It is because of all this that I have to tell you that I love you, and I’m leaving. I came on this trip in order to run away from a woman I don’t love anymore and, oh Jesus,” he said and rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his palms. He shuddered as he let out a long breath and when his hands came down the water in the well of his eyes was creeping over its brim, “and a daughter who is barely old enough to know me at all. I thought that by coming out here with you guys I could start a new life without the sin of my past, only to find that sin would follow me anywhere. I betrayed a family I lustfully helped to create in order to save my own soul at the expense of theirs.

“I’m so sorry, my love,” he let go of her arm and took a wicker figure from his pocket. He held it out to her but, when she made no move to take it, he dropped it at her feet. “I made that at burning man, a man smoking peyote told me it would bring luck and fortune to anyone who held it. It brought my you in my dreams every night, I’m hoping it will do the same for you.”

Parker turned and, sweaty hands pressed into his pockets, left Mali numb and bewildered with a wicker man at her feet.

“Oh my motherfucking God in heaven,” she whispered and started to run after the others on shaky legs.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Even the air tasted like salt.

Gordon hawked and spat and rubbed the stubble collecting under his chin as he ambled down the desolate street, watching the wind kick up dirt up and down the length of the gutters. He shoved his hands in his back pockets and called Casey's name once again. No answer, of course.

They had been making their way back to the group when Gordon's attention became fixated on a stray dog. Gordon had given the dog chase down an alley, Casey shouting after him to return, but Gordon's affection for the mutt was overpowering. When at last he'd cornered the retriever, the dog barked twice before striding up to meet his outstretched hand. In all his fervor, he'd lost Casey - again.

That was the better part of an hour ago, and still no sign of Casey. He'd trekked back to where he'd last left his companions but found no one. With a pang of snide hurt, he wondered if they'd simply packed up and left him to rot in the deserts of Utah. To the credit of his company, however, the dog had followed, wandering a few paces away and keeping in stride with him.

"Where the bugger all did those twats go, pooch?" Gordon asked. The dog simply wagged its tail and panted like it was incurring a late onset of autism. He scratched behind its ears and the dog pawed at his pant leg reassuringly.

"I'm naming you 'Benjamin', I am," Gordon said with a nod. The dog continued to wag its tail and Gordon assumed it was satisfied with its new moniker. It was a handsome dog, no worse for the wear for all its time spent roaming the streets of Wherever-The-Fuck-We-Are Utah, though it strode with a mild limp in one of its back legs. It seemed to like Gordon, though, and refused to leave his side, even when other stray dogs called to it from the alleyways.

"Well, tell you what, Benny," Gordon said with a sigh. "If they did leave us high and dry, then you n' me - we'll be our own troupe. I'll play the fiddle while you dance for the lonelies, how do you like that?" One bark, a few tail wags, and they continued down the street.

"Let me tell you a story," Gordon began.

Once upon a time, in a land of berry-filled meadows and honey-colored rain --

"Gordon Mischance?" a voice interrupted.

Gordon turned and discovered a man in a cleanly-pressed suit climbing out of the passenger seat of a black Buick. Another man - dressed the same as the first, near as Gordon could tell through the shaded windshield - waited at the wheel, staring at Gordon through his sunglasses. 

It's dusk, you sod, Gordon thought.

"Could be," Gordon responded to the first, who was walking toward him with uncomfortable haste. The dog barked twice at the man and Gordon shushed it with his hand. "Who wants to know?"

"Are you Gordon Mischance?" the man repeated.

Gordon shrugged. "No, mate, the name's Habadash--"

The man in the suit grabbed his left arm and twisted it sharply, firmly holding Gordon's wrist behind his back. Gordon felt cold metal snap around his wrist before his other arm was snatched up and locked in as well. The man in the suit shoved Gordon onto the hood of the Buick.

"What the bloody hell?!"

The man in the suit produced a badge from his jacket's breast pocket.

"United States Immigration," the man said with a little too much excitement. "Our records indicate you have been living in the United States on an expired student visa."

"I liked it here, what the fuck is the problem?" Gordon shouted. Benjamin jumped around excitedly, barking warnings at the man in the suit. His partner finally climbed out of the driver's side door and produced a firearm from the holster under his arm.

"Get that mutt away," the man said, indicating his weapon before steadying it on Benny.

"Benny, go!" Gordon demanded into the cool surface of the Buick's hood. "Go on, get! I'm fine! Get out of here, damn you."

The dog barked once before snatching Gordon's handkerchief from his back pocket and taking off in leaps and bounds down the street. Gordon sighed and banged his forehead against the hood once before allowing the man in the suit to move him into the back seat. The door slammed shut behind him, nearly catching the toe of his right shoe.

"Well, this is an unfortunate development," Gordon muttered to himself as the immigration officers climbed into the front seats and fastened their seat belts. They exchanged a grin and a fist bump before speeding off into the night.


"Hey look, a doggie!" Kat squealed, bending over to greet the retriever as it ambled toward her.

"Careful, it might have rabies," Joe said. Casey rolled her eyes and Parker continued to sulk twenty paces behind the rest of the group. Mali, alternatively, strode twenty paces ahead, furiously thumbing her PDA.

"No, he's a big sweetie," Kat said. "What'chya got there, boy?"

The dog dropped a drool-stained rag at her feet and wagged his tail with excitement and expectation. Kat stooped to pick the rag up and examine it.

"Weird," she said.

"What?" Joe absently inquired, his attention again returned to Casey, who had still refused to speak to him since returning without Gordon two hours prior.

"It's a handkerchief."

"Throw it away, it might be diseased," Casey said, staring at her feet as she walked.

"Yeah, but it's kind of neat. It's covered in American flags."

Joe and Casey immediately stopped walking and turned.

"Oh my God," Casey said. She approached Kat and studied the handkerchief. "It's Gordon's."

Parker, puzzlement evident in his face, scratched his temple. "Yeah, okay. But where's Gordon?"

Monday, January 5, 2009


Joe, Mali, Parker and Kat wandered the street in search of their missing fifth.

"Where do you think we should look?" Mali inquired. She followed her question by lighting up a second cigarette procured from Joe, much to Parker's chagrin.

"I wish you wouldn't do that Mali."

Mali ignored him again, instead turning her attention to the rest. "Not sure. I'd say a safe bet would be anyplace where tail can be chased, which by the looks of things is few and far between, no offense Kat."

"None taken."

"Honestly, first chance we get we should get the fuck out of this state, I feel useless just being here. How does that ring you Mr. Joe?"

"Fine by me Mali, we have plenty of directions to take, so we can come to some kind of conclusion as soon as we are properly gathered."

As they walked down the street, they carried the appearance of a street gang, an image that did not please the locals. Joe used the observation to his advantage, knowing full well a patron that gave him a shitty grin would hardly be fond of a foreigner, no matter how patriotic.

The sky glowed from the setting sun, one of the first steps of the night's initiation. The dusk also carried with it a meaning unique to the travelers.

"Who's up?"

"I suppose I'll go."

Mali hesitated for a second, uncertain of what she wanted to speak of, and opted instead to simply do that: speak.

"I know I don't speak often, but a lot of that stems from this nature of mine to say things without fully realizing the implications. When I was a child I was punished often for speaking amongst the adults, saying things they didn't like or appreciate. I engrossed myself in the internet, becoming a recluse. For hours, i would peruse the internet, oftentimes exploring the most deviant and offensive depths the web provided. For awhile, those things interested me. I spend a lot of time experimenting in high school in things to just be different. Deviant. Unorthodox. Different. There was a time, where, given the opportunity, I would have taken on any challenge before me, and I did. I'd done some things I'm not proud of, and I'm sure those present wouldn't care to hear, but you know, it made me who I am. Now, I think I have a better understanding of the world around me. I feel like I can take things in greater stride, for the most part. Now I simply want to enjoy life and experience what the world has to offer me: instead of seeking out the pleasure, I'll let serendipity do the work. That's how I came to join you guys in the first place."

"Oh Mali, I'm so happy to hear you talk like that. I forgive you for your past misdeeds, that's what God would want. i don't mind that you refer to God as serendipity either, he has many faces and many names, but its all Jesus Christ."

Parker attempted to hug Mali, that is until he had taken notice to her expression which had turned from thoughtful to hostile at the speed of his religious-laden message.

"Look Parker, I know you like me. I do. Gordon told me back at Burning Man, but I didn't want to address the issue. i know how you get, but this is more than enough. it's not going to happen. You are much to much to much for me and I can't tolerate anymore of your holier than thou shenanigans. You even spoke earlier about this girl of your dreams, this girl you had sex with, that you loved and all that, what the fuck was that? A lie? Where you bullshitting just to fit in or did you just get lost in some fit of hormones that you arbitrarily decided to label "God's will?" Do you mind explaining yourself?"

Parker, distraught at the rather abrupt confrontation appeared flustered and his response matched.

"But I don't want to be a father!"