Your frailty is deceptive; you hide it in the finery of a soft existance. The soft linens and perfume of success, the trappings of a failed aristocrat.
It's there under those folds of cloth and flesh, that heart waiting. One beat away at any moment from the flight of a small and meaningful life, a distilled sense of self creating fuel for the escape. Waiting, biding time. In hiding. You go through the day picking out light fixtures and drapery, more costumes and gadgets for your baleful attempt at happiness through furniture, and you stutter and stumble with the reams of data needed to accomplish any social transaction within your chosen community, everyone with fear in their eyes. Those gatherings like the chirping of crickets; meaningless and fearful of the predators that lurk just behind the curtains. Your doors desire locks.
Later you sleep with a buzzing brain, the hum a steady lifelike simulation to the vaccuum of meaning around you. The high thread count pillow cases. The color-matched walls that are just the right touch of whimsy and serious. Designer kitchenware quietly waiting in cabinets that make you proud to own them. The whole house silent, dark, while your head takes you through dream after dream of Italian villas and fine fabled disasters.
Your heart waiting, blindly, for the sympathetic rhythm, a signal from the world, sonar from the wild panic around us. You sleep in your frail shell, your heart ticking like a timebomb.
The Last Great Street Magician.
Dirty faces that go by unnoticed, junkies and cops in their eternal embrace, the dark city gleaming fresh after rain, twin ruts drawn in white noise down a county road not far from downtown, the whole world can be thought of as quiet and asleep. Daylight well forgotten, pre-dawn at it's deepest, daylight seems impossible. The outside is no more outside than when it is dark and wet; my hand out the window dragging trails in the fine drops of mist that cling to the atmosphere in bored contempt of gravity, I play the outside in.
I drive to a scene of sirens and lights, a blazing hell of switched pulses and panic. A streetcop, that bored look of concern and accusation, points to me and waves me down. I roll my window down. The ambulance, he explains in coffee and cigarette-stained breath, is about to pull out, so we wait for it. The EMTs are completing the transaction, slotting the body into their care. A body wrapped in white sheets and a blue blanket that must be dampened by the heavy air. A body strapped in, IV tubes and a chest full of yellow boxes and paper cartons. The medic closes the door, his partner pumping a bag attached to a mask, beathing for the victim. On the shoulder is a truck, a giant super duty GMC with dual rear tires, quad cab, lift kit, freight train engine. Aside it, downtrodden, a man roughly in his late teens or early twenties, cuffed, watching the ground intently, tears on his cheeks hidden from us. There also his passengers, a male in a cowboy hat and two girls in ropers and colorful wrangler shirts, their night stopped cold.
Behind the truck in line with it's path is a pair of dirty tennis shoes, suspended in action.
Nearby a plastic bag burst open, clothes and a notebook spilled out, thrown there hard and fast.
The remains of a homeless life.
The crime scene van with bored photographer, smoking and waiting. The ambulance starts off, but shuts the lights off and doesn't run sirens. They drive off almost liesurely.
The cop stands aside. Tells me to be careful, right to my eyes. Waves me on. I drive by the handcuffed man as he is being led to the sheriff's car. I see the front of the truck, gleaming, cow-catcher bumper and grill totally untouched.
The quiet night crawls on.
The Paths of Atoms.
He's an old man, broken by time and hard life. Hands rough and covered with scars. He's the sort of guy, he remembers each scar and can tell you their stories, almost all of them ending in laughter or with a gleam of mirthful anger. Most came from his work in the fifties and sixties. He ran steam presses during the Korean war, his missing leg keeping him from the front lines that time around. The leg he left on a ship in the Pacific, the result of an accident that crippled four and killed six. A bag of powder improperly rammed into the breech during an exercise, the ship steaming to a nearly defeated Japan.
He'd survived the best and worst of it at that point, had been on deck during a kamikazi attack that had drydocked his previous boat. He'd manned a gun once when the gunner was blown to mist and chunks by a zero. He'd been on fire, once.
Steaming full tilt to a recently nuclear Japan, he was standing on a deck above and behind the big gun, mop at the ready, smoking while they drilled. Gun crew readying for the invasion, for the surrender, for whatever. He wasn't near the damn thing when it went off. It was an unlucky piece of shrapnel, a chunk of armor that cut through the air and through the thin metal under the rail he was leaning against, cut through his thigh.
He remembers looking at it, white bone and dark meat.
He laughs about that, now. "First thing I thought: It looked like a damn fine roast just before you put it in the oven. Then I was sort of pissed, because my trousers were ruined!"
They tried to save his leg, maybe. He'd passed out, then they hit him with a shipfull of morphine. They cut his lef off, up high, and after an eternity in the boat's sickbay, they shipped him to Hawaii for another eternity. He was high on morphine, raw stump being cleaned by a heavy handed brown haired nurse (the one who wore her uniform as tight as she could get away with, he says) when he heard that the second nuke had been dropped. His heart wasn't in it, then. The enemy was dead and gone, and he'd lost a leg for it. He crawled into the fog and slept there for fifty years.
She Insists She Can Fly.
Who am I to judge? She runs from my arms squealing, chasing the dog and grabbing it's tail, the dog freaking out a bit, ducking and running, dragging her sock-covered feet across the shiny wood floor.
She laughs and falls over, letting go of the dog. It runs off, head down, and lays at my feet, the pose she gets when she's done wrong. I pat her head. The girl gets up, runs to me, holds her hands up and jumps up and down.
"To the sky," she pleads. "Up up, to the sky!"
I pick her up and hold her as high as I can. She laughs, beautiful clear high laughter.
"To the sky!" and she's a superhero.
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