Purple's Platitudes

nothing but words …

in less than 27 days

06 September 2015

 

I always knew. I guess deep down, everyone knows. We try to stay busy, distracted, hoping perhaps that if we don’t slow down we won’t have to think about it or face it. I’ve filled up my life with as much as I possibly could,.This and that activity, more and more responsibility, more social events than I could squeeze onto my calendar, hobbies, recreation, leisure, family and friends, clubs and charities. You name it and I either was involved, or at least had been at some point.

 

… in less than 27 days

 

The thought insisted itself somehow, despite my every effort to not think about it. It was like the foundational joke in advertising, tell them not to think of pink elephants, and we guarantee their first thought will be … All of my busyness amounted to absolutely nothing. Oh sure, it sort of worked, for a while at least.

 

Don’t get the wrong idea, I do not have an obsession with it, or that morbid curiosity that I sometimes encounter in others about it. I admit it crops up in my thoughts from time to time, but I don’t dwell on it. We all know it is inevitable, right? That doesn’t mean I have to think about it or focus on it. I can’t change it. I know it comes to all of us at some point and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.

 

I am always amused whenever I hear about it happening to someone else or read about it in the papers or see something on TV. The emphasis always seems to be on it happening suddenly, or unexpectedly. It might be a little crass to make fun of that, but come on, does anyone really plan for this to happen? Does it ever happen without being sudden or when we expect it?

 

… in less than 27 days

 

We spend so much time and effort trying to avoid it, to not think about it, to somehow pretend, but we never really fool ourselves. It is coming, for all of us. Those little reminders inside of our heads, those unguarded moments when we find ourselves thinking about itcannot be completely avoided It happens and “it” will happen. The sooner we accept that, come to terms with it however we can, the better off we will be. It makes no sense to live our lives as if it won’t somehow happen to us,. Bravely pretending we do not care is never really a solution either. No one else believes that, and honestly, most of the time, we would be better off if we didn’t try to be delusional. Fact one, it will definitely happen. Fact two, fact one cannot be changed.

 

… in less than 27 days

 

I should be prepared, after all, it should never be a surprise. I shouldn’t expect anyone to make a big deal over it. I might get mentioned in a couple of sentences in the paper, a few vital statistics shared with the rest of the world, mentioned, and quickly forgotten. We display the condolences and try to show appreciation for the well wishes,. Some observe a period of mourning, grieving something lost, real or imagined. Others prefer to celebrate, to focus on the positives.

 

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t given it much thought. Then someone had to bring it to my attention. Just a remark, a teasing poke with a sharp stick, but it was enough to worm its way into my brain. Pink elephants … in less than 27 days. What the hell, it is not like I am dying or something. Happy Birthday! Yeah, whatever.

 

 

6 September, 2015 Posted by | Fiction | Leave a comment

The Papers

04 September 2015

 

“So you know what this is?” Holly beamed , holding up a thick clap folder . I glanced back at the clock on the microwave, and returned my unfocused gaze to her.

 

“of course I know what that is,” I lied, “I’m just not as blaisely familiar with it as you aer, after what, your fourth or fifth time around?”

 

She smiled but I could no longer tell if she meant it as the super model ‘I can get anything I want’ one, or theg hyen’sa, ‘I could devour you and there isn’t a damn thing you could do about it’ sneer.

 

“You were my fourth Bry,” she replied, overly emphasizing the past tense.

 

I hated it when she didn’t use my full name. Bryce was my replacement, conveniently only three days after she had reached her agonizing decision to end our marriage, once and for all.

 

Holly slapped the envelope against the door and I instinctively grabbed it before it fell. She forced her way past my arm and headed for the living room, instantly taking in every possible detail and judging me for it.

 

“Come in,” I muttered almost silently and let the door softly close.

 

Neither of us sat down.

 

“Are you trying to grow a beard?” she asked, noticing my five day straggly growth of facial hair.

 

“It’s the McDreamy look,” I retorted, wondering if she would even catch the allusion . She didn’t, or if she did she made no visible sign of recognition.

 

“I should have burned that disgusting robe when I had the chance,” she commented with obvious disgust. “I can’t believe that you are still wearing it.”

 

I stood a little straighter, taller, like a peacock who had just been noticed. I was wearing white, calf-length socks, solid black cotton boxers, a white Hanes A shirt that only accentuated my firm pectorals, and my red and white vertical striped housecoat that I had since my college days at Northwestern.

 

Holly was immaculately dressed for maximum effect, dark, alluring, and about as sensible as any woman trying to get noticed above all others. Glossy high heels, black silk stockings, black dress slacks that drew every breathing male’s attention and light peach camisole that left little to the imagination, even though she was wearing a lightweight blazer. I sighed, distracted by memories, by wishful thinking, by …

 

“Please tell me you are not just moping around, wasting your life away now that I am gone?” Holly asked with almost a hint of sincerity.

 

Opening the envelope, I gruffly asked, “Where do I sign?”

 

“don’t you want to read it first? Before you sign?”

 

“Nope!” I said, searching for a pen.

 

She held out an expensive looking pen, which I took from her without pausing to wonder where it had come from, after all, she carried no purse to accessorize her outfit.

 

“I came prepared,” she stated, almost apologetically.

 

The papers were in legalese, but all of the places requiring a signature were already marked with a pronounced “X”.One by one I signed those blanks, feeling like another little piece of me died each time I did. Holly was babbling away, nervously. She always did talk too much and too fast whenever she felt uncomfortable or was trying to hide her true feelings. It was an obvious tell that any poker player would have identified after the first two or three hands.

 

“Are you even listening Bryan?” she demanded in that tone that was both spoiled Princess and demon—possessed wicked witch rolled into one.

 

“Yes, darling,” I smirked without looking up from the page I was signing.

 

“Goddammit it would be nice if you listened to me at least once in our relationship,” she half pouted. “This does concern our Siss you know.”

 

She was referring to our two pugs, Syd and Sid, or Barrett and Vicious respectively.

 

“I’m sorry, I was focusing on signing everywhere I was supposed to.” I tried to sound sincere, but actually I did not care. I never wanted the dogs to begin with, even though I got to name them. Holly didn’t have a clue who Pink Floyd were or the Sex Pistols. She just thought it was cute that we called both dogs Syd. She liked telling people at parties that these were our Sids, a play on kids, as if she were clever or something. She showed off pictures to anyone who would look and talked about everything the dogs did like they were our children.Her children. Her dogs.

 

She was still talking and I refocused my thoughts to enter the conversation.

 

“If you want one of the sids to stay with you, or both, sometimes, not all of the time, I would be okay with that.”

 

I looked up from the papers, into her eyes. She had not really asked a question, but she had paused and the silence was uncomfortable. Quietly, I said, “No, the dogs were always yours. It’s fine.”

 

She nodded, acted like she had more to say, butthen nchanged her mind. At some point, she had moved closer. She was looking down at the pen hovering over the final page, the final signature, the one where I agreed to plead No Contest to everything that had come before and sign off on everything, including her.

 

,Somewhere in those few moments, something had changed. Her triumphant haughtiness, her gloating superiority, her careless nonchalance had been stripped away. My own deep wounds and anger had been soothed by an unobtrusive inner stream of stillness, an ambling creek in the middle of a secluded wood. She was no longer the enemy or the demon with all of the evil connotations and images Icould conjure up.

 

“Are you going to sign?” she asked timidly, her voice only barely betraying unspoken feelings.

 

“What?” I asked looking up at her. I had heard her perfectly, but it was instinctive to ask her a question instead of answering her too directly, too honestly, too …

 

I signed, slowly, legibly, but without hesitation, then neatly put the papers back into the envelope and handed it back to her. I returned her pen, not lingering as our fingers touched. No one spoke as I walked her to the door. She turned and faced me one last time.

 

The papers were signed. Some Judge would review them, sign his Final Decree, and grant us a divorce. No lawyers, no bickering, no dispassionate division of what’s hers and what is mine, no questions over custody or visitation, or anything. She wasn’t even asking for alimony. It would simply be over.

 

“Goodbye Bryan.” It was sincere, closure without venom or regret. Holly turned and walked away, without hurrying or slowing down.. She never looked back. or heard me say goodbye to Syd and Sid, … or her.

4 September, 2015 Posted by | Fiction | Leave a comment

of lists and the old mare’s blanket

05 April 2014

 

 

Oh yeah, I could give you a list, a list a country mile long, a list like grandma crocheting a potholder, which ended up being a blanket for the old mare, out in the barn. Yeah, that kind of a list. A list I have rehearsed and rehashed, memorized, and added to over and over again. A list that defines everything that ever went wrong, is wrong, and will always be wrong about me, about my life, about the world I inhabit. Yeah, exactly, one of those kinds of lists!

But you know what? There is another list, a much shorter, simpler list. It simply says, “Yes, I will love you again.” For now, both lists coexist and life is all about choosing which list I will check off, right now, in this moment. And the next … There will always be things I could add to the longer list. That’s the list of overthinking, of not doing anything. I may never succeed in always choosing the shorter list, the To Do list, but the horse doesn’t need another blanket. Yeah, I choose to love you again, to live … to live.

 

 

written for Kellie Elmore’s FWF

 

 

5 April, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment

after the darkness

31 March 2014

 

 

I was forbidden to speak. I could almost accept that, but the Old One had also forbidden anyone to speak to me, which was much harder to accept.  I am now known as She Who Returned, never spoken directly to, but I’ve grown accustomed to being spoken of, usually when I am actually within earshot, or worse, directly among those who are talking about me as if I wasn’t even there.

 

The Old One was counting marks on his staff, standing apart, yet always watching it seemed. I already knew tonight would be the ritual of the Three Trees. This was my first year to bleed and all of us who did, knew when the ritual would be. No one ever spoke of it though, at least not that I ever remembered hearing. Somehow, everyone just knew when it would be, and those of age would gather and wait for the Old One. The younger all knew they were not allowed and seemed to embrace the Wandering, most without grumbling or complaining, although some needed extra coaxing sometimes.

 

The Old One eyed me, scowling I thought, but he merely made some noise and quickly averted his gaze. I knew during the ritual everyone would become more enlightened to those around them. The light from the Three Trees would show us things we had never even imagined. Like the Old One’s silver gray hair which hung long and straight, almost down to his waist, or the almost terrifying knowledge of seeing faces and expressions in that powerful glowing light from the Three Trees burning.

 

I listened to whispers, busy hands, shuffling feet, and other noises. It was so frustrating, so sad for me to keep silent. I had returned! I knew something more than they had ever imagined or experienced and yet, I was not allowed to speak. Sometimes I was not afraid of the Wandering, even though we all knew someone who had wandered and never come back again. It was different for me. I didn’t go into the Wandering and come back, I went beyond, some place real. Not real like in the Wandering sometimes, but real, I don’t know how to explain it or even describe it. It was like here, only it wasn’t always like here. It was like the Three Trees, only more often, not just during the bleeding. I don’t know, I have no words.

 

The Old One took me aside, when I first returned, listened as I told him everything I could, asked questions, and then forbade me of ever speaking of it again with anyone. Then, he marched me back to everyone and changed my name and pronounced the judgment and prohibition – no one was to ever speak to me again. No one ever disobeyed the Old One. I don’t know if anyone ever even thought of the possibility. But I had, since I had returned. Tonight, during the burning of the Three Trees, I would break my silence, not knowing what might happen to me if I did. I knew after the darkness, I simply could not remain silent any longer.

 

 

 

 

31 March, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment

5th September 1682

28 March 2014

 

 

September 5th, 1682

 

My beloved Mary,

 

It has been a dreadful, terrifying journey, full of evil portents and bad omens. Your letter reached me, my love, just before we sailed from Sicily and I have read it daily, and often nightly before I turn in.

 

We sailed up the eastern coast of Italy, but the gods turned against us, or so the unlearned crew believed. I tolerate their ignorance and try to keep a civil tongue, but they are a superstitious lot. I must admit though, these last two weeks have been quite trying. Near Naples, we lost fair sailing. Contrary winds and turbulent waters soon proved their origins as we encountered ten days of monstrous fire and brimstone, dense black smoke which fouled our vision and our lungs and blotted out the sun. A constant beastly roaring accompanied us day and night. The sailors claimed it was an angry Jove and many, in secret of course, offered all manner of appeasement in deep dark corners of the ship, away from prying eyes and ears.

 

As you may or may not have heard, it was just Vesuvius rearing its temperamental head once again. I would have liked to have seen it erupting, but alas, we were enshrouded in darkness and left to our imaginations.

 

I have heard about the trial and execution, a ghastly affair to be sure. It would seem the crew I sail with are not the only ones who cower in their superstitions and act accordingly. Are we really that naïve to accuse,, try, and hang three young women for witchcraft? Are we not enlightened enough to see beyond such fear and prejudice? Well, my love, on to last night’s vision.

This morning finds me cautious and watchful, almost fearful. Last evening I finally saw it clearly. I have spoken of it many times before, my comet. It appeared, exactly as I had predicted it would, although it is a good thing I spoke so little of it to these pagan minds. It was stunning, beautiful beyond belief as it slowly passed overhead in all its glory. The men panicked and it was all the Captain could do to maintain any control or order over them. At one point, a few even suggested putting me off the ship as if I was somehow responsible for this omen of ill. The Captain had me confined to quarters, locked in, with an armed guard at my door, a prudent, if not unconscionable precaution perhaps.

 

Do not worry my dearest, no harm has come to me and despite the fear the events of this journey have provoked, we have had only fair skies and favorable winds since, easing the men’s dispositions considerably. Through my round cabin window I can see a brilliant sunset, golden against the clouds and waves, so I am going topside for some air. It should be safe enough, no more comets for approximately 74 years if my calculations are correct!

 

I hope to be home with you in Islington before September’s end.

 

Your loving,

Edmund

 

 

(written for Kellie Elmore’s FWF)

You find yourself in the lower level of an old ship. A calendar on the wall says  1682. There is a small window, and the view is nothing but open sea and a setting sun. There is a staircase and you can see daylight at the top…

28 March, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment

she was there

08 March 2014

 

 

“Is that it?” Susanne asked incredulously and I nodded silently. From the safety of the car it looked innocent enough, a dilapidated, long since forgotten old house.

 

The yard, if you could call it that, was still peppered with more small boulders and rocky outcroppings than grass. Fallen branches littered the ground, the broken bones of two large trees flanking the house to the front and side. They were dead years ago, bare, leafless, and yet somehow still possessing that sinisterness they always had before.

 

Surprisingly, what grass was still there was green, but not over grown. It had never seemed to grow, even back then.

 

“Do you want to get out and look around?” Susanne asked tentatively, knowing all that I had shared with her about this house, the memories and nightmares I had never escaped from, even after twenty years. This time, I sat silently and didn’t answer her. She touched my arm gently, tenderly, and I shrugged. It was the only answer I could muster at the moment.

 

Everything about the house seemed the same, although time had taken its toll on it. The roof was curling upwards in places, the outside was pockmarked, pieces hanging off or simply missing. The cement front steps leading up to the porch were eroding, while a scattered few potted plants were thriving on both the porch and the balcony directly above it.

 

Most of the windows were still intact, even curtained, all except that one.

 

It had been my room.

 

Susanne opened her door quickly.

 

“What are you doing?” I demanded, more abruptly than I intended.

 

“I want to see if it’s open is all, just to peek inside.”

 

I knew telling her no was pointless, she was far too strong-willed, so reluctantly, I started to follow her.

 

“You sure honey?” she asked without any hint of teasing or challenge. “You don’t have to go with me you know.”

 

Again, words would not come out and I shrugged and nodded simultaneously, probably trying to convince myself more than her.

 

At first, when I initially shared with her my memories of those final days in that house, she playfully chided me, teasing mercilessly. But in time, when the nightmares became something I shared more intimately with her, she became understanding, supportive, even though she remained a skeptic at heart. There were too many unexplained happenings to dismiss, occurrences which she witnessed – it’s always difficult to argue with personal experience.

 

Standing on the front porch she glanced at my face, waited for some sign, permission to proceed perhaps. I gave none, but she reached for the front door and …

 

“That’s all I really remember,” I said, my voice trailing off. The officers looked at one another, then me. I kept expecting the guys in the white coats to come through the door of the interrogation room.

 

“Tell us one more time about the little girl you saw in the window upstairs,” one of them demanded, his voice hardly disguising his suspicious disbelief.

 

I suddenly remembered. Everything happened so fast, but I ran, terrified, back to the car, jumped in, locked the doors, started the car, threw it into reverse, and floored it.

 

She was there, peering out my bedroom window, the eyes that stared at me, that face that haunted my troubled sleep, that smile, usually the last detail I remembered before I woke up screaming. She was there! Maybe I am going crazy, maybe I have always been slightly mad, but I know one indisputable fact. She was there and now Susanne is not.

 

 

(written for Kellie Elmore’s FWF)

 

 

8 March, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , , | Leave a comment

leading me on

01 March 2014

 

 

“What the …” I muttered, not finishing the thought out loud.

 

It was night, but the fuzzy glow of a few streetlights revealed enough for me to tell I had no idea where I was. A sidewalk, on an unknown street, in a neighborhood I did not recognize.

 

I shivered slightly. It was snowing, softly, in big fluffy flakes that fell on my face and hands. I heard footsteps, behind me, casually walking away.

 

“Hey, excuse me,” I shouted, just loud enough for the stranger to hear.

 

He stopped and turned, but neither spoke, nor moved.

 

“I was just wondering sir, if you could possibly help me. I seem to be lost.”

 

I heard him shuffle back towards me, accompanied by an all too familiar sound. You see, even though I could not make any sense of where I was, or how I got here, I knew that back and forth tap tapping sound as intimately as he probably did. It was then I laughed, realizing he and I were both blind, the blind leading the blind.

 

(written for Kellie Elmore’s FWF prompt)

 

 

1 March, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment

Doctor’s office decorum

06 January 2014

 

‘Doctor’s office decorum’

There is always that woman, the one with 2.5 kids, who manages to continuously text with one hand while intently reading a tattered, six-month old copy of Good Housekeeping through gawdy Sophia Loren sunglasses, while fidgeting nonchalantly (as if no one notices her cross and uncross her legs forty-seven times.)

Or the gentleman in the obviously tailored suit who sighs loudly and checks his watch precisely every three pages of Car & Driver, which he is reading upside down incidentally, but of course, no one notices that until he clears his throat in an over-exaggerated manner which he apparently hopes the receptionist will notice, but she’s too busy.

Or the lady, and I use that term very loosely, who has managed to answer seventeen cell phone calls in less than ten minutes, all of whom are treated to an insanely loud diatribe featuring her latest acquired gossip, or worse, intimate details of her most recent personal encounter with a member of the opposite sex. And I am not sure which is worse, her slathered on lipstick smile as she notices that others may just have overheard her, or her laugh that would make even Fran Drescher cringe.

And then there is the twelve (almost sixteen) year old girl who is slumped down in her chair, cell phone-less, impatient, and looking like she may have raided her laundry basket to enhance her disheveled look, to appear more pathetic, sicker … like it is going to kill her if she has to wait even five more minutes. After all, she has to get back to school. Right?

Oh, and there is always someone, usually sitting closer to the corner with one available seat to his right, even though there are eleven people standing and leaning against the wall or pacing back and forth. Now, he actually looks sick.Iin fact, he is the one you look at and wonder if perhaps he has died, right there in the waiting room. His eyes are closed and no one is really sure he is even breathing, but no one bothers to check either.

And me? Well, to be honest, I feel perfectly fine. I don’t even have an appointment – I am just  taking my lunch break. Even doctors need to eat sometimes you know.

6 January, 2014 Posted by | Fiction | | Leave a comment

The Color of Surrender

22 September 2013

The Color of Surrender

 

I was almost eighteen, well I would have been in fourteen more months. My older brother was eighteen and once I got used to answering to Marshall instead of Michael, pretending to be him wasn’t all that crazy. It got me into the Marines.

If I had thought about it, I might have realized that lying about my age, just to get into the Marines, to run off and fight and try to be a hero was never really going to impress Cheryl Anne like I hoped, but, like many things in life, we find things out too late.

It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas.

Vietnam was a never-ending nightmare, a moment by moment ordeal. The horrors I witnessed were so surreal, unimaginable, perhaps even indescribable, at least if you wanted it to sound believable to someone who had never lived through it.

I was smaller than most of the other guys in my outfit. Unfortunately, that landed me the assignment of tunnel rat. I was the one that got lowered down into those dank, dark, death traps after we had dropped a couple of grenades down the hole. My job was to go in with just my sidearm and seek out and kill anyone still alive.

Some tunnels were nothing more than a tight crawl space. Others, a man could stand up in and walk through. Sometimes there were caches, storage rooms, or living quarters. I even found oddly abandoned command centers, their oil lamps still burning.

I learned quickly how clever and resourceful the enemy could be. They seemed to invent new ways to inflict pain and death on anyone whose judgment could be momentarily colored by distraction. You learned to always pay attention, to never let your guard down. Down there, your life depended on it.

There were Booby traps everywhere, bomb triggers, water traps, and landslides that could be set off by crawling into a certain tunnel, or past a specific point. You just never knew. These were only some of the goodies I ran into and learned to recognize, even in near total darkness.

She was only a girl, I thought, maybe ten years old at the most. Straight, long dark hair and dark eyes, sitting in that room, all alone, in the dark.

I found and shot one VietCong. I heard him breathing ahead of me as I inched forward down a freshly dug side tunnel. I emptied a full 15-shot clip into the darkness and hit him twice in the back.

Above ground, a mortar shell hit and caused the tunnel to collapse behind me, blocking my route back to the main tunnel. The tunnel was only dug out to allow one person to crawl through it, so I had to dismember the dead soldier in order to crawl past him and continue on. I guess I panicked a little, but I did what I had to do. I was a Marine after all. We did whatever had to be done.

The room was a surprise. An earthen door in the tunnel wall collapsed inward and I fell into darkness. I tumbled head-first onto the floor, and landed hard enough to knock the wind out of me. I knew better than to start firing randomly into the darkness, but I was terrified, trying to hold my breath, slow my pulse, and listen for anything sound besides the rapid beating of my heart. I heard nothing, no telltale noise, no movement in the darkness.

"Please don’t hurt me," a child’s voice whimpered.

My instincts failed me at the sound of her voice. I should have fired first and asked questions later as they say. But, I didn’t. My ears told me where she was even though I could not see her.

"Are you alone?" I growled, trying to sound as threatening as possible.

"Yes."

I reached into my front shirt pocket and flicked my lighter on. In the orangish glow I saw her sitting there, in an ankle-length, clean white dress, oddly out of place. I saw nothing else in the room and relaxed a little. She was only about three feet in front of where I had landed.

The light flickered across her face, illuminating her eyes, a solemn little girl’s face. So innocent, so young, oh so young.

Suddenly, I focused in on her hands and I saw what she held in each. I watched in horror as she pulled the pins on the two grenades and whispered, "I surrender." Her smile was the last thing I ever saw.

22 September, 2013 Posted by | Fiction | , | Leave a comment