All posts by kwlk

Boathouse

She lived with him on a boathouse for one glorious fall. She would rush out of the prestige European university halls into romantic medieval streets to meet her lover. He left his work at the souvenir stand and they walked away, holding hands. They could barely understand each other, but they hung out at cafes and galleries, and met wonderful, colorful people who were full of music and art and ideas.

They postponed returning to the boat long into the night. They walked, silently or laughing, on the river banks, leaving the noisy night life behind. They fell into each others arms and made sweet love, transforming back and forth between sexual beasts and spiritual creatures immersed in each other.

They always fell asleep at the break of dawn.

One morning, she woke up. Looked at her watch, she was late for class. She untangled herself from his strong arms and the thick blanket and got up into the cold. It was getting too cold. She looked for her clothes, her teeth chattering all the time. He woke up and said good morning in his funny ancient language.

“It’s cold,” she complained.

“Oh, it’s winter coming,” he said with a strong accent. Then he got up and put one of his thick rough sweatshirts around her to demonstrate how to protect yourself. Then he put on pants, a sweater, and a wool hat. “See?” he said with a smile.

She looked at the cluttered boat-bedroom, took in the stink that would only get worse when you could not air the place. And why would you air it anyway? To get the smell of fish inside?

Then she looked at him. Still young, athletic, a scruffy-looking beard, hair a little too long, working at someone’s souvenir stand, no education, nothing to give to the world but his good looks, good nature, and the work of his hands. She would have to support them both, if they were to get a house and live in this beautiful city forever.

But I love him, she lied to herself honestly and began to feel like crying.

It Speaks

I borrowed a book from my friend and at first I was amused by the comments she had made in pencil. Every few pages or so, there was a little remark in the margin about what she liked and what she did not. Sometimes she would say “Baxter (the main hero) should quit his job and move to Venice Beach,” or something like that. It was amusing, as I said, at first.

As I read on, the comments grew , taking up all the margins and any blank space there was. Every page had more and more scribblings until they intruded upon the printed text. And then, finally, covered the original text. I could still make out what was printed underneath, but I became consumed with what my friend had written. I read on and on, into the night, ignoring the need to sleep. At some point, the printed text just stopped, as if the author had given up, and my friend’s scribblings could continue unhindered on hundreds of blank pages.

I finished what she had written early next morning. I looked up from the book, half expecting my entire room to be covered in more of her notes. All the curtains, the cushions, the furniture. Even my own body.

But the writing was not there. I sighed and decided I needed a shower before I could go to work.

Awoken by Thunderclap

I am so glad I survived the night. Thunder woke me up in the morning.

My dad thought it would be hard to survive the night and I think he was right, in the end. He had said we needed water and protection from the Holy Cross. He had said only our Lord Jesus Christ could protect us on a night like that. I thought it was a night like any other, but I guess I was wrong.

Dad tried to get me that night. He crawled after me. He has to crawl because he has no legs. And it is hard for him to crawl because he has only one arm. But I guess he is used to it. He has always been like this.

I hid in my room. I locked the door and went straight to bed. I woke up many times to drink water and to pee. I held the Holy Cross very close to my heart all the time. He did not get me.

I got out of my room in the morning. It was bright and hazy outside. I went downstairs. Mom was reading the paper in the kitchen, smoking.

“Thunder woke me up,” I said.

“Sweetie,” she said, “There was no thunder. There is no storm.”

Cemetery Moment

He stood over the grave. It was a sunny day, the grass was green, the birds were singing and it seemed like a perfect time to do this. He wanted to speak out loud, but there were people about, somebody raking leaves, a family visiting another grave, so he just thought.

“I came here to say that it is okay,” he thought, “All the things you did. I forgive you. I am over it.”

He looked over his shoulder, he could see his car, and his girlfriend in the passenger seat. They were going to get something to eat after this, but that did not matter. Only the moment mattered. It had to be perfect.

He became aware of his appearance. He was wearing a shirt and jeans. He could have worn a jacket at least, would make it a little bit better. But this was okay too, this could work.

“I am all grown up now,” he got back to thinking, “And you cannot hurt me anymore.”

He wished he could see himself from a distance, standing over the grave. The man raking the leaves would not be in the shot, and neither would be the other family. And you would not be able to see the road was so close, with cars parked. It would just be a great green meadow with white tombstones and a solitary man making peace with his past.

Not Her Type

“You’re handsome, just not my type.”

That is what she actually said to me. Does she know what that means? It is equivalent to my mom saying that I am handsome and that I will find a special someone for sure.  I know she was just trying to be nice, but please. Do I look like a little child? Do my feelings need protecting?

I smiled. “Thanks, Amy. You, on the other hand, are my type,” I could not stop myself from saying that, but I immediately felt like an idiot. What am I doing ingratiating myself to her like that? I had to save it quick by being unpleasant. “I think you are everyone’s type.”

She could have easily taken that last bit as an insult, the way I meant it. Everyone’s type, as in “you are a whore,” or some other male chauvinist crap like that. Very much unlike me to say a thing like that. I regretted having said it, it was a clear sign of strong emotions. Was I in love?

Luckily, she did not take it as an insult. Or at least did not let it show. She smiled fabulously and said goodbye. I was left alone in front of a romantic fountain, just standing there like an idiot.

But why like an idiot? I was just a human being standing by a fountain created by human beings in a human city on the only planet in the universe that had humans. I was right where I was supposed to be. And she never owed me anything. I was just a fool for falling in love.

Never say that men “just say things,” because when people speak, they also think and feel. A lot.

Midnight Games

It was late. I think it was about midnight when I finished work. I closed my laptop lid, my mind still full of images of car dashboards. I am a designer and my job is to be creative. Well, not really. My job is to give executives options, and I work for a wannabe Steve Jobs who wants to revolutionize the car industry.

But enough about that. It was midnight when I finished, the house was dark. I never got around to turning the lights on, having worked all day. I was sitting in the kitchen, the half-eaten frozen dinner still in front of me, all around me dark. I turned on the light over the kitchen table and it became a bright island in the night, but it also made me see even less of my surroundings. The light sometimes blinds us. I wondered about that for a minute and tried to think of a way to put it on a car dashboard.

Then I got up and debated whether I should go straight to bed or take a shower first. I took a step away from the light, and almost felt an irrational fear of the dark. Almost. Not like a real fear, but rather a memory of fear. A primal, primitive part of me yelled “No, don’t go in there. There are monsters in the dark.” I snickered. I had not been afraid for years now, not since I was a child.

I walked across the living room. I knew where everything was, so I did not stumble or trip, but I wondered why it was so dark. There were street lights outside, would they not provide at least some light? Outside the windows it was almost black. And inside was even worse, I could barely make out the frame of the stairway. But I pushed on and made it a point not to turn on the lights. I wanted to show that primal, primitive part of me that he was not the boss. Nope. Not the boss of me.

I finally reached the stairs when heard a creak coming from the top of it.

I froze.

There was nobody else there. There could not have been. It was probably the house settling. I put my foot on the first step and I heard a creak again, right after the one I made. I could not see anything up above, just a wall of black at the top of the stairs. I took another step. Another creak. One more? I took one more step and heard another creak right after the one I made, as if somebody was climbing down to meet me, mimicking my every move. I took another step, hoping I could see more as I moved up. The other person should be down five steps by now and I was expecting to see something, but it was as if the wall of dark was moving down the stairs as I was moving up.

I took one more step. Silence for a second. Then a creak.

I panicked and ran down the stairs, and flicked the light switch. The lights came on immediately, filling the place with searing brightness.

I stood by the switch for a long, long moment with my head down, breathing uneasily. I was too afraid to look up. I listened, but there was nothing. As if there was nobody there. But I knew there was. There had to be.

I mustered all my courage and looked up the stairs. The top of the stairway was empty, mocking me with its emptiness. There was nothing there, no danger, no monster, no serial killer, not even a burglar.

I walked up the stairs. The hallway was a little dark, all the doors were closed. The light coming from downstairs was warm, but up here there were some cold dark corners and I did not want to turn the lights on and see they were empty. Not this time. The primal, primitive part of me would not get its satisfaction.

I moved forward, towards my room, having decided I was going straight to bed. I reached for the doorknob, swung the door open, and just stood there. It was pitch black. I could not see even the outline of my window. My room was just black darkness. For all I knew, it could have been a doorway into an endless abyss of nothing.

I listened. It took me a while to realize what I was hearing. It was heavy breathing. My own. I decided I needed light after all. I would just turn on all the lights in the room and go to sleep with all of them on. Nobody had to know. It would be my little secret.

I reached inside and onto the wall by the door, trying to find the light switch. I moved my hand up a little, until it got too high. I must have misjudged, it had to be lower, so I reached down. And down. And down. It was nowhere to be found. I began to wonder about the surface of my wallpaper, I never knew it was so rigid.

And then somebody touched my hand.

I ran downstairs to where the lights were. I turned on all the lights in the living room, the kitchen, the porch. I sat on the couch watching the top of the stairs. Then I wrapped myself in a blanket. Then I fell asleep.

I woke up on my couch the next morning and everything was okay. There was light coming from outside, it was a beautiful day. I got out of the house that day and worked in the office. Then came back home and had a normal evening. Then another day and another evening. nothing suspicious, nothing supernatural. I got on with my life and never found out whether something happened that night, or whether it was a weird dream.

Years later, I am not even afraid of the dark. I fill my house with light and with people, and laughter, and music. Not to chase away the darkness, but because I want to. I am a creature of the light. We all are, ever since we leave the dark of the womb to first gaze at the sun. I am a happy human being. Whole in myself and a friend to others.

But sometimes, when I am alone, I realize I am never really alone. None of us are.

The Thief

When I was on the train a few years ago, I saw a girl steal a phone out of some guy’s pocket. I looked her straight in the eye. She returned a playful look, as if she was proposing us to become partners in crime. I refused to smile back. She finally gave in and put the phone back in the guy’s pocket, pouting her lips. I kept looking at her, trying to send her a look of reconciliation, a sign of forgiveness, tell her it was okay now. But she never looked at me again. She got off at the next station.

This morning I saw her again. It had been years, but somehow I recognized her face almost instantly. She jumped onto the train last minute, as the door was about to close. She was carrying a box full of stuff, like she was moving. She was winded, but a look of relief appeared on her face. She was probably in a hurry, very glad she caught the train. She sat down with the box in her lap. She looked happy. I wondered how her life turned out.

Flash Fiction

It was a slow day in non-fiction writing class. The professor had prepared a story about a sax player, but nobody was getting into it because the examples only showed what they had already learnt. The professor sensed something was not working, but he did not know how to fix it. Or did not care. Either way, Tracy was so bored, she decided to change the pace a little.

“Professor, do you remember Trent Hauser?” she had been thinking about bringing up the subject before but she never did, not until this day. Even as she spoke, her throat went dry and the last word of the sentence turned out squeaky. It was as if she sensed this was not a good idea.

“Yes,” said the professor without looking at her, “He was a student here. What about him?”

“Have you read any of his flash fiction?”

“I might have, one time in class. Why?”

“I’ve been reading his blog,” she said, “And I quite like it. It reminds me of your style.”

“What of it?”

“He was recently published in The New Yorker,” she said

“Miss Baxter, do you have a point?”

“No, professor. Sorry.”

“Good,” he said, “Now can we get back to work, please?”

The Voice in the Night

I heard a voice calling me in the night, so I woke up. There was nobody there, but the voice kept calling.

“James.”

“Who is it?”

“It is I, your Lord who is the Lord of Israel and Utah. Heed my voice.”

I got out of bed, put my slippers on and knelt. Then I got up, ran to the closet, got my bathrobe and put it on. I tied the belt and then knelt again.

“I am here, my Lord. Speak, for your servant is listening.”

“I am the one who led Moses out of Egypt and Columbus to America to reclaim my kingdom from the savages. Heed my voice.”

“I am here, my Lord!”

“There is a wicked man walking this land,” said the Lord, “A man who takes my name and flaunts it on street corners, who swears he is my servant on webpages and social media. But he is wicked in his heard. He withholds payment from his workers and that is an atrocious sin. I will make you my tool to take him down.”

I got excited. I bowed all the way to the floor but then I realized this is what Muslims do and was worried the Lord would strike me down for it, so I got up to normal kneeling again and said: “I am a humble servant, how can I serve thee, my Lord?”

“Silence,” the Lord’s voice became loud and angry, “How dare you question me? I am a vengeful God and I will fuck you up if you don’t do as I tell you. Do not dare question my choices. You are the right tool for the right job.”

I fell back down to my face and decided to keep this humble posture.

“Now, back to the wicked man. He made a mistake and We shalt use it against him. He did not file the A-3 form. You will go to the tax authority and tell them about that, they will uncover multiple other inconsistencies and he will lose everything. His wife will leave him and he will have to seek humble employment. And he will know I AM THE LORD.”

That last comment brought about a small earthquake. I humbled myself into the carpet and waited for it to pass. The the Lord doth spake again.

“Now, go to sleep. You will wake up early in the morning and drive to the tax authority. I have already changed your alarm clock to 7 a.m. Know my Love, for I am a gentle and caring God.”

I thought saying something would be appropriate at this point. “Thank you, My Lord. That is an excellent plan. I know it will work.”

“I work in mysterious ways. Now sleep, my child.”

The Commute

Two men were riding the train into the night.

“Well, it sure is good to be out of the rain,” said one, “And almost home.” He looked outside at the golden-lit windows rushing by. Each promised a family dinner.

“You’re right,” said the other. “You know, I missed the 6:10 and had to wait for the 7:20.”

“Are you kidding? There’s trains out of the city every 15 minutes.”

“Yeah, but most of them don’t stop in Bedford.”

“Oh. Why don’t you get a place in the city? You can afford it. You could stay some nights and avoid the hustle.”

“My wife would think I’m screwing around.”

“Would you be screwing around?”

“No,” he said with hesitation.

“So she doesn’t trust you?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I’ve never done anything. And I would never do anything.”

“How long have you guys been married?”

“Five years. We were high school sweethearts before that.”

“So, you guys have known each other for so long, but she doesn’t know if she can trust you.”

The train screamed. It was slowing down to roll gracefully into the next station.