Thursday, February 12, 2009

Moving Along Now

"When the fuck are they going to get here?"

Joe's surly temper was partially inspired by the cocktail of medication he received that will continue for the following weeks. He and Mali passed the time playing checkers in the lobby, a task hindered by the sling placed on his right arm, a precautionary measure, but an impediment nonetheless.

"Ello ladies."

Joe's happiness at seeing the smarmy Brit enter through the spinning vacuum sealed door superseded the snarky remark made.

"You guys ready to leave?"


"You there with the potatoes for hands, come bake grandpa some ice cream."

"Come again?"

"You heard me cod piece. You and all 158,764 hairs on you."

"Uh, Gordon, care to explain?"

While Gordon filled Joe in on the events that had transpired in his absence, Penny began pocketing coloring books from the lobby.

"Is she coming with us?"

"Well I'm certainly not going to argue with her. She probably has a blade in one of her many pockets for boning and the sort. She's looking for her husband anyway."

"Where is he?"

"A Chuck E Cheese in Minnesota."



"Then where?"


"How does she not know where he's buried?"

"Not the proper question Joe." Gordon then pointed at her as she knelt in front of a sick child as her mother looked on with some concern.

"No need to fret lumpy wumpkins, you are suffering an an acute case of Roseola Infantum, nothing malignant. A little acetaminophen and you'll be as dapper as an ottoman."

Her words struck the mother curiously, a sense of articulacy muddled by a toothless maw.

"I guess she could be useful for.....something."

"What are you taro sucking faghats looking at? I ate all my makeup so it's not a mighty fine day."

"Well, whatever, let's get a move on then. Quickly."

"Speaking of which, it seems we've stumbled across a small bit of money that I think we should apply. How do you feel about a rental car?"

"Sounds amazing Gordon, but I can't drive."

"Obviously. CASEY, MALI, PARKER, any of you blokes have your license?"

Mali raised her hand, Casey motioned with her hand the American symbol for "kind of", an issue Gordon didn't care to investigate further. Parker stared at his feet.

"Well, looks like you little lady will be steering us to, where was it?"


"Bloody good show, let's see this snow the Ruskies seem to bitch about. Agreed?"

Everyone acquiesced readily.

When they arrived at Hertz, they were greeted by a heavyset gentleman with slick black hair and a widow's peak. He was probably in his mid-forties, but his face portrayed a man at least a decade further in time.

Midway through his interrogation, the old crone threw a penny and demanded the nigger get it. Parker conceded sullenly.

Remarkably, the penny landed under a mini van, a 99' Dodge Caravan with less than 100,000 miles and sat eight comfortably.

"It's perfect," Parker said with enthusiasm, as if serendipity negated the casual insult placed on him.

After making their purchase, the lot of them gathered their belongings in the trunk and started to make seating arrangements with Casey calling shotgun the moments she felt it was applicable. After placing Penny's leather satchel in the trunk, Casey closed the hatchback and looker around only to find the resident homeless among them no longer maintaining the last part.

"Did you see where she went?"

Parker shook his head side to side, a signal reinforced by Mali, Joe and Gordon.

"What do we do with her bag?"

"I guess we take it with us, she did hand it to us after all."

They departed, Mali in the driver's seat, Casey her navigator, Joe and Gordon in the two independent middle seats and Parker alone in the back.

Parker didn't mind this. He immediately began scribbling a story in his notebook.

There once stood a tree. This particular tree was of grave importance. In fact, it was the single most important tree in existence. Protected by the angels themselves, residing in Paradiso's Garden, this is until all went wrong. The tree existed to make of man something more, something greater than it was in its creation. The Garden's owner was very protective of the tree and did not want man to grow until it had become accustomed to its own skin. To grow too fast would cause man to burn through its own shell and fade away before it could shine. Some believe the fruit was never meant for man at all, that the Gardener planted the tree to give man something to strive for.

At the time, man had no reason to scrutinize the tree. The Gardener had found a wife for him, a woman equal to himself and just as pure in spirit. Man couldn't think of a better gift. He was given a person, a companion to share his existence with, a fundamental equal with enough variation to offer new avenues of thought, roads never traveled. They laughed, lived and loved, through time that felt endless, beginning each day with a smile and ending each night with a kiss.

Then came a day different from others. A day where they received a visitor. The Gardener was busy working other plots, readying the planting of other seeds when a neighbor inquired on his garden.

"I see you have creatures dwelling within your paradise. How do they live?"

"With the greatest of comfort sir. I have nurtured them slowly, I'd rather not start again, it is an arduous task you know."

"I do, I have watched intently for some time and I understand what you are doing. Hastening your experimentation would yield tragic results, but what would occur if you offered a simple avenue, a choice as it were. Inevitably the time will come where a decision must be made by them otherwise they will stagnate."

"An accurate observation sir, a wager then in the prospect of my creation? I offer you an opportunity. You may present my creation with a situation. If they take the correct path, you are required to tend to them personally every day, nurturing their growth. If they fail, I will give you a garden of your very own to do with as you wish. Have we come to terms?"

"We have. I do enjoy your garden, let me mull over my options and I will return to you with my course of action. A pleasant evening to you Gardener."

"And you sir."

The visitor spent a considerable amount of time plotting. He was delighted by his neighbor's garden and fluttered at the thought of having one of us his own.

He decided on a simple proposition, an offer that would force man to confront a nature that was previously foreign to it, for until that moment, man and woman had been given everything they needed. His proposition wasn't to be a need.

It was a want.

The neighbor knew that as he stood, man and woman would be alienated by his presence, disturbed by the insinuation of another. He imagined they would react violently in ignorance. His better option was a guise, a form he could take that would look natural, creating a natural reaction. At first he thought of taking the form of a monkey, a form that would stray little from his current state while offering the option of thumbs. For the sake of mobility, he settled on a snake, a body that would offer infinitely more freedom and range.

He approached man and woman in their garden of Paradiso, and spoke to them like any creature would.

"Man and woman, I offer to you as a humble servant, a fruit I had found. It is of a foreign nature, the likes of which I have never seen. It was found near a large tree, the largest in the land in fact. If the Gardener was aware of such a fruit, I'm surprised he wouldn't have informed you. I suppose maybe that is why he warned against investigating the tree." The serpent hten placed the fruit at their feet, a vibrant edible adorned with a multitude of colors in a constant state of movement, as if someone was actively painting it, every second of its existence.

Man and woman were troubled. Why had the Gardener not mentioned the fruit prior? They marveled at the fruit and for the first time in their creation they had to answer a question no one had asked. They were required, by etiquette to make a decision on a question that had no right answer. Well, there was a right answer, but want was slowly pervading their psyche, igniting a fire neither man nor woman knew existed. It clouded their judgement, guiding their eyes to the fruit's brilliant display.

They spoke to one another while the neighbor observed from a nearby branch, allowing them to address the matter and come to a proper conclusion. The neighbor was proud of his plan, regardless of outcome.

After some time passed and the moon replaced the sun, man and woman agreed that if the Gardener had planted it, then the fruit must have been for them. The land was for them therefore whatever has been sown was meant to be reaped by them.

The Gardener was disappointed. His cultivation had reached only so far. They were no longer capable of being sustained in the Garden, the fruit made them ecologically different, so much so, Paradiso was no longer a habitable place. As a consolation, the Gardener planted a seed within them. The ability to seed on their own. The infant that came next offered solace to man and woman for their existence fell into their own hands from then on.

Yeah Casey, a gift.

Parker scribbled that last line out, hoping no one would pick his notes up.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Lion's Share

How rude, Joe thought, that she couldn't wait another five minutes to die.

The doctor, replete with his I-Make-More-Than-You-Will-Ever-Know Smirk and I-Wash-The-Gruel-From-America's-Future Smock, had narrowly ducked his head in the doorway for but a moment, his mouth agape to reveal the prognosis - and, God willing, the permission to leave - before a cacophony of voices and mechanical wails sounded from the next room over, leaving Joe to ponder his fate and wrestle with the gnawing of his restlessness.

Lying in this bed of pale palettes, Joe was defenseless against the tide of thoughts and concerns wafting about in his battered head, somewhere beneath the bandage and to the right of his bruise, and now they all came creeping up on him, clawing and scratching and --

"Sorry, son," the doctor mumbled as we strode back into the room, his eyes fixed on his clipboard. "False alarm, thank our lucky stars."

"Fantastic," Joe replied without an ounce of conviction.

"Looks like we're going to have to keep--" the doctor began.

Oh god oh god oh god don't you dare say you're keeping me you fucking asshole don't you keep me here you can't keep me here I have places to be I have things to see I have stories to tell don't you fucking tell me you're keeping me here another minute you smug prick I'm a free man and I'm well enough I swear I'm well enough Get me out of here Casey where the fuck are you Don't you say it don't you fucking say it

"-- your fingers bandaged for a couple weeks yet for the bones to heal, but other than that, I'd say you're A-Okay to check out of here this afternoon."

God bless you you beautiful man with your pen and your smock and your winning smile My angel of mercy and release Thank you for saving me and all my insides I'm so ready to go Get me out of this bed right now I can walk I can run

"Now, I suspect you'll be experiencing some discomfort for a while yet. You may find it difficult to walk great distances, so try to keep off your feet as best you can. You'll probably stay sore for a while, too, but that's normal."

Sore yes that's fine I've been sore before No big deal I don't have to walk doctor I can run I wonder if I'll need a cane I don't want a cane I don't want to walk with a cane But if it means I can walk God Blessed I'll use a fucking cane just get me out of this white-washed prison cell

"You have someone coming to pick you up, yes?"

"My friends are here," Joe nodded. "Well, some of them. I think Mali's at the gift shop."

"The nurse will be by later with some forms for you to sign. Now, listen son, if you get on your feet and find you need to come back--"

No nope no sir not coming back I fucking hate these hospitals They smell like death and disease and all the cleaning chemicals you throw on the walls to clean up afterwards Oh God I smell like that too How long until I can take a shower Do they have public showers How much would they cost Where the fuck is Mali Why are you still talking you self-righteous cocksucker

"-- please don't hesitate. You're lucky your injuries weren't more severe."

You're lucky I don't leap from this bed and rain stabbity death on you and your stupid smock with that fountain pen tucked in your pocket Just want to leave just want to leave just want to leave

"Well, good luck to you son. Hopefully we won't be seeing you back here any time soon," the doctor concluded and left with a nod.

Joe sighed passively, then felt the flutter of sleep drift upon him, tuckered out from his mental assault on the lurid man in white.

"Colorado it is," he sighed just as unconsciousness took him.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Sick Angel and The Demon "Brother"

"I liked it," Mali replied.

Joe's eyes had grown heavier with each word of his story, and by the time Mali had complimented him, he was no longer conscious.

Mali smiled, and pulled the covers up over his torso, carefully as to not aggravate his injuries. A nurse entered, a black woman in her early thirties. It was his nurse.

"My, my, my, he sure does have a lot of lady visitors," she observed, winking at Mali.

"We're just his...traveling companions. Any word on when he'll be released?"

"Not just yet, honey. The doctors still need to clear him on his internal injuries, if they are any."

"Okay. I hope that's soon. We're all a little anxious to leave."

"Yes. I met that friend of his....young black girl. She seemed very heavy with guilt over his situation."

"Yeah, that's Casey."

"Well, she's a sweetheart," the nurse sarcastically stated. Mali smiled.

"You just have to get to know her, I guess," she told the nurse. "How long have you worked here?"

"About twelve years now. Came here as soon as I became an RN. This hospital has been my life for quite sometime. It's where my children were born. It's where my husband died. Chances are, it's where I'll die, too. God willing, I hope that's not for awhile."

Mali snuggled into a chair next to the bed while the nurse continued to check Joe's vitals. "Everything seems okay for now. Would you like something to read? Visiting hours are over in about an hour, and I doubt he'll be awake for awhile."

"Could you tell me a story?" Mali asked the woman.

"I really...I'm working right now, honey. I don't think I have time for..."

She didn't finish as she saw the disappointed look on Mali's face.

"Perhaps a short one, then."

This isn't a story as much as a strange night here at the hospital. Three drunk drivers in critical condition in the span of three hours, a mother giving birth to a still-born, a child with cancer crying over a ripped teddy bear....those things are normal here, as heartbreaking as that seems.

But this night was different.

A man came in. About thirty or so. He was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, but no one knew for sure what was happening to him. Especially the doctors.

They ordered to observe him overnight. Perhaps his body would give us some sort of clue as to what was ailing him.

I was assigned to stay in his room for a couple hours until Jill, the other nurse on duty, was to take over.

Someone claiming to be his brother came in to watch over him. I figured he was harmless. He just sat next to the bed, staring at his supposed brother.

I swear, for a moment, I saw flames in his eyes. The sick man started to turn in his sleep almost as soon as I saw the fiery eyes.

The "brother" stood up, almost defensively. Then the sick man woke up.

I immediately jumped up and paged the on-call doctor. I knew it would be just a moment before he arrived, but the sick man started to speak.

"Save your strength, honey," I told him.

The "brother" then began to speak to the sick man in a strange language. Here at the hospital, I hear all sorts of different languages. But this one I had never heard before. It almost seemed...ancient.

Suddenly, the room was filled with white light. I could still make out the two men, and I swear to mighty God above I heard the "brother" say to the sick man, almost behind the language being spoken,

"I am sorry. What we have will never be. I can never see you again. You must stop loving me. Our different responsibilities will never allow it. You must forget me."

And then the "brother" was gone, just gone like he had never been there. The sick man began to cough and cough and a strange black ooze dripped from his mouth. He suddenly seemed healthier, and much more alert.

Then he began to weep. "My love," he muttered through his sobs. Then he began to sing.

It was a sad song, one that caused me to weep as well. It reminded me of my husband, and the love we once had that, now, could no longer be. It was as if every heartache and strong feeling of despair had filled me with the sick man's beautiful, angelic voice.

Then the room went completely white. The on-call doctor finally arrived to find me slumped in the corner, asleep and pale, with shallow breaths escaping me.

To this day, no one saw the sick man or the "brother" leave the hospital. Even the security tapes revealed the two never leaving.

I have no idea what happened in that room that night. But I think an angel's heart was broken by something it could never be with.

Ever since then, I believe every living thing here on Earth and elsewhere, knows heartache.

"I really gotta go now, honey. I'll check back in an hour before you have to leave."

"Thanks. That was a beautiful story," Mali said, her eyes glistening with the threat of tears.

The nurse exited. Joe suddenly stirred in his sleep.

"My baby...." he muttered in his dream-state. "My baby's gone...."

Now Mali's eyes did leak their salty tears.