Posts tagged ‘michael d. brown’


If You Try Sometime…

by mdjb

“Well, you know,” I reminded her, “One of the prime facets of due diligence is you have to understand the custom obtaining in the target’s home jurisdiction.”
“Mmmm,” she agreed in an ostensibly distracted way as if to let me know she did not enjoy being advised in regard to the job she was paid to do. She knew her stuff, and I knew that she knew by the way she skimmed two blood-red fingernails down the side of her wineglass while keeping it perfectly balanced with the rest.
The Stones were playing on the piped-in system but sounding somewhere off in the distance. Low and not at all antagonistic.
No, you can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime, you just might find
Apropos, I thought, but said to her, “Now, there’s a chestnut you don’t hear every day.”
Fully aware of every detail going on around us, she remarked, “We live it, though, don’t we?”
In a black sheath, one I would suppose had never before been worn, and her hair familiarly swept up, she was an enchantress—the embodiment of the lyrics’ character. And I was her footloose man.
“Ah, here he is,” she said as an elderly man in a tux came up beside us. “I take it you and Mr. James have already met.” He appeared too old to be in this or any business and looked uncomfortable dressed formally—probably more at home on the beach in Acapulco with a cuba in one hand and some young coqueta on the other arm, enjoying the perqs of seniority.
We had not.
“Oh my dear,” he said, raising her hand to kiss it, “Are you bleeding?” He took out his handkerchief, wiped her fingers, and added, “Ah no, it is merely the cherry wine.”
I heard his slight Mexican accent and tried to equate it with his English sounding name, wondering at the same time how she had missed the flecks of red as she was so on top of things. There was a disconnect floating over this reception. Everybody had an agenda including the victims. Due diligence indeed!
She was practiced at the art of deception
I was aware she was playing us off against each other, and though I had it over him in fresh-faced youth, his wealth and prestige would win every prize, which he would retain only for safekeeping until it was to be delivered over. I hoped at least I was considered a more enjoyable fuck, and though I knew from my morning mirror that as yet there were no hairs sprouting from my ears, I found I had involuntarily brushed a finger over my right lobe as if in anticipation of their growth.
I considered it time to bow out to halve her amusement. I mouthed the words, “Will I see you Monday night?” and she patted her breast. I could not be certain if that was a yes or meant “Let me check my calendar,” but coinciding with her smile found it easy enough to interpret as the former.



by mdjb

He drove up in a rented car, half the size of the one he had back home, and his wife got in. Then he headed toward the bank. He’d had several tacos with a very picante salsa and a couple of beers for lunch while she had insisted on eating steak and potatoes in the hotel dining room. They were on vacation, for chrissakes! Now, she was wearing too much make-up and an orange blouse with sunflowers on it. Obviously, she’d wanted to stay behind so she could change her outfit yet again. Visiting places with her got up that way made him feel so much like some stupid tourist. Thank god she had no itinerary planned for today. At the corner he had to stop for a light.

“Can I have a cigarette?” George asked.

Brenda pulled out two, lit them and handed him one. “You know, we really should cut down,” she said.

In the intersection, a bare-chested young man in dirty pants laid down a cloth-wrapped bundle and opened it. He quickly arranged his props.

“Oh no,” she said, “Please don’t.”

“He’s going to do it.”

“I just ate my lunch.”

The young man spread several pieces of broken glass on the cloth and, for just a few seconds, lay face-downward, his ribs on top of the shards. Then he stood up again. The shiny brown skin of his chest was unmarked in any way.

Next, he picked up two rods each about half a meter in length. At first, George thought he was going to light them and perform the fire-breathing stunt. Brenda had translated an article from the local newspaper about the Mexican government trying to get the fire-breathers off the street and into rehabilitation centers. The kerosene they held in their mouths to do the trick burned the insides of the mouth and throat, affected their brains, and their career-expectancies were nine months to a year at most. But this kid surprised him.

As he inserted one rod for what seemed half its length up into his right nostril, Brenda looked up the street in another direction. She tossed her cigarette out the window.

“God, that’s gross,” George said, “He looks like some kind of surreal walrus.”

“Oh, don’t tell me,” she said, “I don’t want to know.”

“Have you got a peso?” George asked.

“You want to pay him for doing that?” As she turned around to see if she had any coins in her pocket, she must have caught sight of the youth removing the second rod because she flinched. She asked how it was possible to put something that far up one’s nose. He thought she was about to upchuck that expensive steak. Looking away again, she handed him some money and said, “People should pay him not to do it.”

“I think that’s the point,” George said. He handed a coin to the performer. The light changed and he drove on.

“Why couldn’t he just dress up like one of the clowns and juggle or do somersaults?” Brenda asked.

“Maybe he’d find that too demeaning,” George said, “At least he’s doing something for the money. Not like most of the homeless people back home in New York, who just sit in the street and beg.”

“What about the window-wipers on the Bowery?”

“I always give them something. They do me a service.”

“Yes, they smear your windshield with a dirty rag. And you know they’re only going to buy wine with the money,” Brenda said. “These boys are more likely doing this for food for their families.” She patted her permed hair in that way he found irritating.

“Hey, what a man does with the money he earns makes no never mind to me,” George said, “So long as he does something to earn it. Here’s the bank. Stay in the car and I’ll run in and make a withdrawal.”

“Take out enough so I can stop at the artisan’s place later. I promised my brother and Alison I’d bring them some souvenirs.”

“You just don’t get it, do you?” George said, closing the rental-car door with extra force. Did she even listen to him anymore when he spoke, he wondered.

“Oh, I understand you, George. You have your priorities and I have mine,” she said, “Besides, I need something to keep me occupied while you spend all afternoon and evening on the toilet.”


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.