Archive for July, 2010


World Weary

by mdjb

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink, well on the drainboard, actually, with my my left foot under the running tap. I’m trying to stop the bleeding. I’m worried that I’ll be late catching up with Sally, or miss her entirely. She’ll be pacing the deck, I’m certain.
Sally is a great gal. Traveled the world and then some, but she just doesn’t get me.
Last week, as a sort of bon voyage, I rented us a room with a view in a deluxe hotel, and when I uncorked the wine, and made a reference to its vintage, she asked, “Wine is made from grapes, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said, “And sometimes other things.”
“Oh,” she said, “Learn something new every day.”
“You don’t read very much, do you?” I asked.
“No time,” she said, placing another cigarette in her holder before lighting it. “Besides, I don’t see what literature has to do with real life. It just doesn’t signify for me.”
“Only connect,” I suggested.
“You’re funny,” she told me.
Later, when we met with her Uncle Tom, who is quite an old man set in his ways, he was angry over something having nothing to do with us, and expressed his wrath by announcing he was taking her to sea again. Said he was reserving Cabin 17 as he had done so long ago, and Sally giggled with delight for the memory of her first round the world voyage. The old man was clear in that I was not invited, but I promised to see her off.
With an hour until her sailing, I had to go and rip open toes on a broken champagne glass.
So here I sit, losing blood, in fear that Sally will believe I’ve abandoned her, and all I can hear is her voice saying, “You’re funny,” but now thinking to herself, “Not so very much.”


Queen of Hearts

by mdjb

I should have seen it coming. Growing up was different up North, and we learned at an early age what we believed to be the truth. Traditions, however, were easily broken and it wouldn’t have taken King Solomon to see that KeriAnn had never been able to trust anything I told her in earnest, for though I would stand fast in that moment, she knew it would not be so days later.
As a Yankee visitor, I sought someone my age to help me adjust, and in KeriAnn, I found something older than our years. It was her ability to be guided by wisdom. She was not quick to shed tears, but when she did, it was a serious business.
The summer my body went through changes, I told her things even I could not believe. Little did I know her time had come previously while I was attending school up in New York, and though I strutted through that season with a false bravado, she was on to me.
Came the end of August, and I lay my blue cap on the swing on her family’s porch. I brushed sweat off my forehead, and with dramatic effect, I picked up the cap and placed it on the railing, and said, “I don’t know if I’ll be returning to Raimuth again next summer.”
KeriAnn said she was certain that I would, but that things would be mighty different. She had been playing solitaire and turning the cards 1, 2, 3 unusable, 1, 2, 3 unusable. She then swept them into a pile and redecked them. Queen of Hearts on the face of it told me for all my northern swagger, KeriAnn was saying goodbye to her childhood and to me in the same breath, and I should have seen it coming.


An Ode to Winter

by mdjb

A siren went off in the distance. Ganymede remained unstartled, ready to drag the loaded cart to Josef’s storage barn. Greta, the farmer’s wife would be waiting alone at the gate with cubes of sugar to reward the loyal, ever ready animal. Twelve winters the healthy cold-blooded draft horse had served the Tornos. As the siren sounded again, Ganymede slowly turned his head in the direction of the blare, and snorted as if to reassure Josef and the men helping him they need not hurry. Then he turned to view again the leaving packet boat feeling an odd kinship to the manmade vessel.
Winter meals cooked in the main house gave off pleasant aromas that charged the horse. He would eat his hay, have at the salt lick a few times, and drink gallons of water. He would listen to the sharecroppers’ conversation coming through the window of the big room downstairs, though in winter the sounds were muffled. This distancing provided a chance for Ganymede to ruminate over his lot.
In the cold season the children played inside. Actually, Erik and Sofie were no longer children, but the animal would always see them that way. They were tykes when he came to work for the Tornos, and almost daily association with members of the family did not make him aware of the passing of years. It was the sirens blaring when his ears felt cold that let him know time was moving, and for this he snorted, too.
Later, Ganymede was disappointed when Greta, wrapped in a shawl, standing at the gate without a treat in her hands, spoke to Josef. “There was an accident at the Gamels’, she said, “They lit that round fireplace without having properly cleaned it.”
“Will they be staying with us, this night?” the farmer asked his wife.
“It will take some time to rebuild their home,” she said.
“Take the supplies to the barn,” Josef told the men. “Leave Ganymede untethered for awhile. Then, come and help me at the Gamels’”
The horse realized there was some connection between the siren and his missing treat, but he did not snort, nor did he feel superior. His ears were very cold.


Some Things You Never Forget

by mdjb

We were having one of our big arguments. I don’t remember now what it was about. We were always arguing about something and usually the root of the disagreement was money or the lack of it. She said, “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached to your body.” I remember that because she said it frequently. No, I don’t remember what actually started the argument, but I remember hearing those words. Some things you never forget, especially if they are repeated frequently. I cannot hear her voice saying those words, now, I have forgotten its timber, its pitch, but I remember the words.
I remember the first time I kissed her, or she kissed me. I don’t really remember who kissed whom, but I remember the taste on the edge of her tongue. We kissed each other so many times over the years. I don’t remember the reason for each kiss. Sometimes it was because we were going out and it was our habit to kiss each other before leaving the apartment. Sometimes we were kissing to make up after one of our arguments. Sometimes it was just one more thing to do while we were having sex, or because we were greeting each other after having been separated for one reason or another. But none of those kisses ever tasted like that first one did. I know because I always expected one to. I remembered that soft minty, herbal taste. Maybe it is because none ever tasted that way again that I don’t clearly remember any of the others nor the specific reasons for kissing in those instances. I was searching for a remembered taste.
I remember the last time we said goodbye to each other. We did not kiss nor had we argued. We just mutually came to a decision to end our relationship. I felt a little sad. She appeared to be feeling sad. We had lived together for six and a half years and we had dated two or three times a week for three years before that. She moved into my apartment, and then when we decided to end the relationship, she chose to move out, though I told her she could stay and I would move, if she wanted it that way. “No, ” she said, “You stay. You’ll never find another place for the kind of rent you’re paying here.” I had lived there for eleven years at that point, more than half of those with her. She went to live with her sister for a while, in Philadelphia’s Central City, until she could find a place of her own. She said it was like a mini-Manhattan. I wound up moving anyway–too many memories attached to the apartment. I don’t remember clearly the day she moved in with me, but I distinctly remember the day she left, and how sad I felt that evening. I drank a bottle and a half of Turning Leaf California Chardonnay and talked to the cat. He had nothing to offer by way of commiseration, only let me know when it was time to feed him. I was so bombed by that point I spilled half of the catfood on the floor beside his dish. I guess he was offended because it was still there in the morning although he had eaten the portion that landed in the dish. Cara sent a friend to pick up her things that weekend to drive them down to Philly. Since she had not come for her things herself, and I figured her friend wouldn’t know, I left a sweater she had worn two days before she left up on the shelf in the closet. I told her friend, “I guess that’s everything,” and helped her take Cara’s stuff down in the elevator and out to her Volkswagen. Then I went back up to the apartment and took the sweater out of the closet and held it to my nose to see if it had that herbal, minty smell and it could take me back nine years, but it smelled like clean wool, nothing more.
I remember the last time we spoke over the telephone. I called her sister to wish her a Merry Christmas this past December and I guess I wanted to find out how Cara was doing. I mean, her sister and I were never that close and I had never called her on the holidays before, but I did this time. We exchanged pleasantries. Then I asked, “How’s Cara doing?”
“Hold on,” she said, “I’ll put her on.” She was still living there ten months after leaving Manhattan.
There was a moment or two of silence and I could picture her sister holding out the phone to Cara and telling her it was me, and Cara saying in a whisper, “I don’t think I want to speak to him,” and her sister saying, “Oh, go ahead. He only wants to wish you happy holidays.”
Finally, Cara spoke into the phone. “How are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m fine. Merry Christmas, Cara.”
“Merry Christmas to you too.”
“Still haven’t found a place? I didn’t expect you’d still be at your sister’s”
“Oh, I’ll be here for a while, yet,” she answered, “Money’s a little tight. I’m getting by all right, but I’m not quite ready to go out on my own yet. I’m saving for the day. What about you?”
“I moved. It’s a much smaller place, at almost the same rent. It’s a little cheaper, but I keep bumping into the furniture. I moved about two months after you went to Philly. The cat wandered off during the move. He never came home again, at least not here, nor to the other place.”
“I heard, ” she said, “through friends. Well, you take care. And have a happy holiday.”
“Cara…” I started to say something else, but she had hung up. I don’t remember now what it was I was going to say. I just remember how the conversation seemed truncated. I started to put the receiver down, but brought the earpiece back to my nose. I know. It was a silly thing to do, thinking I might smell the scent I had been searching for. I didn’t, but some things you’ll never forget.