Archive for November, 2010


Her Shadow Self

by mdjb

Let’s begin at the end.
The mourners walked away in silence, for there was nothing in that moment they could think of to say. They had stood quietly around his gravesite. They had come to celebrate his life’s work, but the sight of the simple black casket unnerved them when they realized he had created ungainly, barely beautiful art from nothing, and not one of them had raised a finger to help Mira in her greatest need. Standing by herself, she was a disheartening thing to witness.
From the window of the atelier she had had a front-row seat to a paint-by-numbers landscape. Every time János put brush to canvas, she was struck by the irreality of his vision.
Sinew and blood became so much grass and ink in describing the Master’s handiwork, and the two of them suffered for János’ persistent untimely attempts to recreate His art in deadening poverty. Such violence in his crude brush strokes only served to take him farther from His source.
Her conscience played upon her as an orchestra member might solo on a violin, but the only sound that came forth was the snapping of a rubberband. Mira provided all the comfort she was capable of, and it was little enough at times.
She was consoled by her shadow self in the moonlight of hollow nights, for once he had painted her into his rough scenario and told her there she could live forever, but he never explained why he had painted her standing alone.


Going Solo

by mdjb

I was too late. It was the first time I would miss my solo since the first day I joined up with Scarpy’s ensemble. I was stuck on an elevator going nowhere when I could have walked up the stairs easily enough. At first, I grew grumpy thinking I had messed up badly, that it was a sign of things to come. I did not move a muscle.
I thought I had rust on my joints and acid running through a vein on its way to my heart, but as I knew that was where the music resided, I did not allow it to get the better of me.
I shifted my red backpack and considered pulling out the mandolin to play it right there in the stopped car, but as the thought of playing passed through my head, the cables jerked. I felt them as surely as I could feel the resanguinated acid flowing through my arteries. Then, the elevator dropped back down to the lobby. Why, when I was so musically inclined, had I sat motionless for so long? Was I trying to tell myself something?
Of course, I was too late. People were leaving, and I had to endure the stares of those who felt they had been cheated into walking. Hell, I thought, the exercise will do you good, too, and I promised myself next time I would walk up to hear Scarpy, if he deigned to come this way again because, I was certain, he would not call the next day to find out what had prevented me from appearing. He is that way. He never experiences rust.
Here is my song. You can listen if you feel so inclined. It isn’t the same without the accompaniment, but it has its charms.



by mdjb

He dropped to his knees and kissed the ground, and then he woke up and imagined he was far away from any place he wanted to be. He felt he had been swimming underwater for seven years, and the barren landscape he now surveyed would provide no respite from that feeling of alienation.
The constant rains had washed away trails, and the virtual trail he had been following likewise disappeared along with them. He had known this would be the truly wrong, but inevitable conclusion during those first days when the fog settled in to herald the deluge.
That was the season everyone wore a mask to avoid possible infection, so Poe-like in their conviction. Rubber-gloved handshakes had evolved into elbow bumping, and to see so many conversing from behind their blue gauze shields, one might assume that perhaps the authorities had indeed discovered and enforced a solution to the problem. However, when the numbers rose to pandemic proportions, it became clear there was no escaping justice. There had to be a leveling out, and nature must take its course, wrong or right by human standards.
His own mask had served him well, obviously, since he was here, and breathing. But what was this place? Abandoned as so many others had been, or depopulated through attrition? He saw the dead tree and knew it had not been a victim of anything ontoward. It was obviously long dead, and besides, the disease had not affected flora, save in gardens that went unattended. Adjacent to the tree were stairs that led where? And who, if anyone, or what, might be waiting above?
Then he saw a dog, a solitary scrawny brown and gold mutt, and knew hope still existed.


A Gray Pillowcase

by mdjb

It is all my mother’s fault. It’s why I’m here, wifeless, in southern Mexico, stranded in a dead-end life, nearly friendless, working at an almost non-paying job. If she had not inconveniently died in November, the first year I attempted NaNoWriMo, I might have completed the novel I was working on. I might have gone on to publish it and written more, and been successful at the one thing high on my agenda at that time, instead of going into a funk for six years and writing nothing. I do not see myself as self-centered. I needed that push, and it was taken away.
I can still see her sitting there in her wheelchair, her arms having been folded across her chest by the ambulance attendant. You would think he might have closed her mouth while her jaw was still pliable, but he did not. He probably got her back into her dirty apartment, and got himself out as quickly as possible, and I had to find her, eyes closed, but appearing to laugh raucously at me and all comers. The sheets were soiled, and there was a dark gray circle on her pillowcase as if her hair had not been washed in months. The sight of her in those surroundings is an image I will never be able to erase from my mind.
I would read bits of my novel to her when I visited, though not all of it to be sure. She would not have liked to hear the scenes in which she appeared, if she even recognized herself. She was constantly telling me I did not do enough while assuring me there was nothing she needed. In response, I could do nothing more than straighten out a few things and run back to my apartment in the city.
After she died and I felt her laughing at me, I went into seclusion, remaining hidden in that apartment for several months until an old ally convinced me I was trying to live my mother’s life.
Coming out of that was hard. I knew I did not deserve enjoyment. I put my craft out of hand, and did not participate. Everyone moved out of my radius. One day, I walked away from that emptiness, and moved south of the border to teach English. However, my dollop of nothing followed me.
I am not guilty; although, perhaps I protest too much. When I lay my head at night on my own pillow, I wonder how difficult it might be to make something out of nothing.
This year I signed up for NaNoWriMo again. I have no ideas, but I have a world of pain to write about guided by the sound of a dead woman’s laughter.