Cracked plastic, waning moon, a scar, 4th floor, an old boiler, death on a bicycle.
I sit on a cracked plastic chair at my fourth floor window under the insipid light of a waning moon, wondering if the scars will ever heal, if the tears will ever cease, or if the horrendous images of an old boiler falling from the construction forklift and bringing death to my young son as he peddled his bicycle along the sidewalk will ever be erased from my memory.
You took care of that in short order my friend. Amazing!!!
Gullie, you have that amazing talent of being able to pack a lot into few words. Hats off!
You got them all in one sentence! You’re amazing!!
The waning moon rose very late, so late few were awake to see it. I was one. I stood at the window of my bathroom, like I always do when I get up in the middle of the night, searching the sky for the moon and finally finding it low in the eastern sky.
It soothes me, but I am stuck with the thought that nature is not enough. Trees, sky, weather, foxes, piliated woodpeckers—all so amazing, but never enough to fill me up, to bring me the joy I miss. It’s like trying to count my blessings. Okay, yes, I’m blessed. I have a four story converted silo (well, yes, it has a rather old boiler, but it’ll do). I have two million dollars in the bank. I’m in relatively good health, cracking the plastic on only one pill container each morning. But, but, but.
But between the herbal tea and the scotch and the phantasm who visits me in those predawn hours, riding his bicycle, I know I am either lapsing into dementia or living the myth of welcoming Death into my life. On a bicycle.
He does not look like you’d expect—no skull, no skeleton, no black hood. Well, a hoodie, but it has a zipper, not a long swirling cloak trailing out behind him as he passes by in the air outside my bathroom window, grinning at me with very fine white teeth and winking. It’s too dark to see the color of his eyes. He wears gloves. The bike is a racer. No fat-tire mountain bike for Death. He loves speed, not bumps.
I’m starting to like him. I may invite him in for a drink, if I can get this window open. What will we talk about? Life scars, perhaps? Or is he just a watcher. I could offer to launder his hoodie.
I get the window open. He zooms by again, about six feet out and 40 feet up. “Hey! Come on in and have a drink!” I holler.
He disappears around the curve of my silo, and I wonder if he’ll come back around. Clunk. He’s on the roof. He slides down, gracefully, feet first, into my bathroom. I back out. Thank goodness he doesn’t smell bad. I didn’t realize I was worrying about that. Rot or brimstone or something putrid. But he smells like Old Spice.
I gesture toward my study. He is wearing blue jeans; his hair is thick and white. He’s thin. He reminds me of Sam Shephard. A bit of the “aw shucks” posture, which puts me at ease.
“Take my chair,” I say, and he sits at my desk, swiveling and bouncing in the leather office chair like a kid with a new toy. I take the couch and reach under the end table to pull out the Cragganmore. He nods. Not much of a talker. Two crystal rocks glasses make the scotch gleam in the soft light from my desk lamp. Death needs a shave. I sit back and wait.
He sips. I sip. I realize this would be a good way to go. Chatting with Death and drinking good scotch. “Now you talk,” I say.
He clears his throat. “Written anything lately?”
I explode out of my seat. I want to punch him out. “What? You mean I’m supposed to write to stay alive?”
He sips scotch, innocent eyes peering up at me as I loom over him.
I sit back down, and sip. Sip again. I wait him out.
Death holds out his glass for a refill and flashes the dimple in his right cheek. “Is there really any other way to look at it?”
It’s not even Valentine’s Day but I’ve found something I love, love, and love somemore. This is splendid, Anne. It pleases me in so many ways. You’ve written humor into this enticing and mesmerizing narrative and in contrast you finalized it with Death’s perspective regarding the vital importance of writing in the lives of us who are at its mercy.
Oh my, I’m going back to enjoy your words again. Thanks so much, Anne.
I can live without writing. But I’m not truly alive without writing. Thanks to you, Anne, I’m alive in my life. It’s wonderful to be alive. I rise up each morning and inhale words; I subconsciously and consciously process them; finally, I let go of them, exhaling them into sentences, paragraphs and pages and pages that in turn nourish and speed the blood through my veins.
“Is there really any other way to look at it?” Of course he would have a dimple in his right cheek and a love of scotch. Nothing like a chat with death to clear up the issues. Loved it!
Your ending gave me chills!
You always come up with some twist I’m not expecting, Ann. The implied demand of this piece gives me the creeps and makes me want to look over my shoulder.
The radiators begin to hiss and chink. It’s a comforting sound. For an old boiler, this one can at least put out plenty of heat. I pull Grandma’s quilt up around my ears and wish for another two hours inside this cozy nest. I am truly not asleep, yet the beeping sound of the alarm clock jolts me. I force one reluctant arm out into the early morning chill to quiet the monster but I can’t find the shut-off switch. Finally, I pull it underneath the covers, fumbling in the dark, struggling to suffocate its demanding voice. I run my fingers over the cracked plastic case, feeling for the little sliding bar that will release me from this annoyance. And there it is. Silence at last. I stuff the clock underneath my pillow and listen to the muffled tick-tick-tick while my mind searches for some legitimate reason to stay put.
Remembering my pact with God to be grateful for every new day, I throw back the covers in one swoop. The feeling I’ve leapt into an ice chest instantly motivates me to swing my legs down from the mattress. I steel myself for the cold of the bare wood floor on the bottoms of my feet. Through the opening in the curtains, I see the sliver of waning moon. Jupiter hangs just off its lower point as if it were an ornament, part of a set of jewels decorating the black sky.
My shower takes forever to deliver hot water but I welcome it when it arrives and dive underneath the timid stream. Living at the top of a 4th floor walk-up means my water must warm my neighbors’ pipes first. I wonder if they ever thank me for this service or if they’re even aware.
I use my towel to wipe away steam from the mirror over the old porcelain pedestal sink and peer through the fog at my reflection. A scar over my left eyebrow is barely visible now. But it serves as a vivid reminder that I’m about to leave the safety and comfort of my little palace to once again cheat death on a bicycle.
Such great details! It sounds like you’ve definitely seen a waning moon and also lived on a fourth floor. Loved the water issue. Who knew? And you’re going to cheat death on a bicycle. Wonderful.
I love the description of the waning moon with Jupiter’s jewels. I got a great visual of how cold it was in her 4th floor walk up!
YOU ROCK!!! (and many more exclamation points)
Barbara, I’ll get to yours soon. Today’s house-cleaning day into which I intersperse short computer breaks.
To y’all: Posted at my blog today is “Castles in the Air.” I’ve been working on it the past fews days, which goes a long way in explaining why my response to this Goofing Around was one sentence.
I’d appreciate any remarks–not so much on the message, you understand, but on the piece as a whole. One of the most frequent comments in critiques I receive is “more information” or “I want to know more about this part.” My own feeling is that sometimes less IS more, and that I need not explain everything for a piece to work, especially if that particular part is not the one I want to convey. It’s about day dreaming of an old love on Valentine’s Day, not about the relationship itself.
The best people to ask for comments are the ones who don’t know me personally, nor the history behind that piece, nor the person involved. So, I’m asking. Please. Pretty please with candy Valentine candies…
You drew me in with your vivid descriptions. I love what you did with Anne’s list of words. You’re spewing creativity every which way in this submission!
I should be kept away from tall buildings and ledges of cliffs. That urge always pushes its way forward to an actual thought…what would it be like to jump? It never makes sense, given my extreme fear of heights. Maybe that thought is the very reason for my fear. I would never jump, would I?
It happens in the city too. What if I just step off the curb in front of that black town car? THAT would leave a scar. I could never own a firearm for the same reason. No second amendment disagreement, but what if I pick it up one day and just point it at my head and pull the trigger? Maybe I’ll go in a lake. Death on a bicycle, as I intentionally swerve into the lake and get caught up in the tangle of weeds and dark branches underneath. My body beyond the saving reaches of the shocked witnesses.
“What made her veer?’ they’d ask in whispers on shore as the scuba man takes an hour to pull the slim covered corpse out.
Who knows why we have such weird thoughts. Surely I’m not the only one who’s ever thought about just doing something so unexpected it could kill you. The ideas pinch my mind like sitting in a lawn chair with a cracked plastic seat. It jolts you at first, but once you shift a little, it’s not as stinging.
I ponder these oddities with my arms resting on the one window that opens in my kitschy apartment. Fourth floor falling feeling as scary as flying at forty five thousand feet. Wondering what the waning moon is hiding on its other side; these thoughts heat in my mind like liquid running through an old boiler. My voice like the stream hissing as it exits…””What does any thought really matter if you never act on it?”
Your last paragraph is wonderful. It is a logical question!
Scary thoughts, but an interesting exploration. I enjoyed the strength of your ending, featuring the waning moon, the old boiler, and the fourth floor apartment. Your final thought gives us a lot to think about.
Oh God! Oh God! He hadn’t seen her until it was too late. The waning moon cast shadows on the side of the bridge where she had been riding. Hit. He couldn’t help her now; she was gone. He had to help himself. Cover it up.
He rushed to the top of the old bridge and looked over the edge in panic at the rushing river. He could barely see the impromptu underwater garbage dump below – he was as high as four floors above it – but he knew it was there.
The old boiler parts caused the largest scar on the river bottom, surrounded by other decaying pieces of metal, fragments of cracked plastic, and glass. A place unobserved by most; a place unknown by many; now her place.
He pushed her mangled bicycle off the edge and watched it take its death ride, matching hers, into obscurity below. He ran back to his car and punched the gas pedal, screeching the tires as he sped away. Run.
Really loved your take Parrot. Especially the way the next to last paragraph ends. I’ve had the misfortune of hitting someone on a bike. (No worries, it wasn’t serious and he is fine). When it happens there is such panic and choppy thinking. My God. hit. Which you capture in your first paragraph.
woooo! this is one more totally unexpected combination that grows and grows as you go. Loved the boiler. Very dark piece!
I don’t usually write this dark, but it just came out. Since I’m taking your WE class right now, you’ll have to tell me how I did on the punctuation! I redid it a bit, titled it Hit and Run, and put it on my blog today.
The punctuation looks good to me. I might use periods instead of those two semicolons in the second to last paragraph, but this is a judgment call–yours.
testing, testing, testing
I tried to post a comment here the other day and it didn’t appear until late the next day.
I tried to post a story earlier today and it still hasn’t appeared.
Apparently I should earn frequent flier miles for the distance these things have to travel before they get there.
I’ll be darned. Something there is that won’t allow me to post my story. Why am I being gagged? Why is it picking on me?
See? It lets me comment, but not post my story.
Good afterno-o-o-o-n-n-n-n, Boys and Girls, fellow Bloggers, and all of you out there who follow our scintillating site of cogent cognition and utter nonsense.
We’re blogging at you today from Gullible’s semi-private suite in the Seward-town hospital. Yes, siree-e-e-e, we’re all wrapped in gauze and plaster of Paris today, but at least the fingers still work and with the miracle of Wi-Fi and a saline drip mixed with goodies, we’re here to tell you of Gully’s latest madcap adventure.
What the heck. A busted femur, sprained neck, and a wee little concussion can’t stop the Gull from bringing you the very latest scuttlebutt from the Land of Medicare. So here it is, live from Bloggerville.
See, Gully has this theory that once you’ve done something, you’ll always remember. Wait. She said to reword that so it doesn’t include car keys, cell phones, and …. What? Wha’d ya say, Gully? Oh, yeah. Well, uh, let’s leave it at car keys and cell phones for now.
She says once you’ve learned how to DO something—like ride a bicycle—you’ll always remember. Now, Gully didn’t get in this fix riding a bicycle. No death on a bicycle for old Gully. No sir, Gully chose a more mundane method of achieving the same result. Or near the same result. She ain’t croaked yet, boys and girls, and fellow bloggers, even though she looks like she went bungee jumping from the fourth floor without the bungee.
What she did was lace on a pair of ice skates for the first time in thirty years. That was after she drove her truck onto the lake ice, turned left and drove a quarter mile to where there was a wee patch of wind-swept ice. Then, she strapped on the blades. Brand new blades.
Lest you think her totally insane, she did take some precautions. She turned on her cell phone—the one with the cracked plastic cover—and pre-dialed 911. All she had to do was push the send button if and when thing’s went awry.
So, here’s the full report from Gully about how much ice skating has changed since she was a kid:
1. It’s freaking cold there on the lake with the wind blowing. Too bad that old boiler of a volcano across Cook Inlet couldn’t belch a cloud of steam and warm things up a bit.
2. It took her longer to get dressed to go skating than she actually skated, and she was so totally color coordinated until she put on a red neoprene face mask.
3. Ice skates aren’t made for feet with bunions.
4. Snow-covered drifts on ice are just like runaway truck off ramps in that they bring your to a quick halt.
5. Rough ice slashed with bottomless scars of pressure cracks makes you wish you were closer to shore. However, wearing a face mask while wearing glasses means the glasses fog up with the first exhalation, thereby obscuring any danger signs.
6. There isn’t anything quite like being on a vast, frozen lake ringed with mountains, in the middle of the afternoon with the sun finally parting with a couple degrees of warmth, while up above a still visible waxing moon punctuates an impossibly blue sky. Or is it a waning moon? Well, it’s a moon.
And that’s it from Gullible’s world today, fellow bloggers. Tune in tomorrow when we’ll chat with Gully about her plan to take up alpine skiing again.
(I made it all up, guys. The only thing true about it is that I did go skating with my new skates after driving onto the lake. Also the six things I learned are true.)
I’ve tried three times today and once yesterday. I’m beginning to thin kit might have something to do with pasting a word document rather than typing directly into this site. I’ll try with the laptop and see if I have better luck. You might wind up with five copies of my story.
2. It took her longer to get dressed to go skating than she actually skated, and the Gull was ever so color coordinated until she donned a red neoprene face mask. Gull
4. Snow-covered drifts on ice are just like runaway truck off ramps in that they bring you to a quick and decisive halt.
5. Rough ice slashed with bottomless scars of pressure cracks makes you wish you were closer to shore. However, wearing glasses with a red face mask means the glasses fog up at the first exhalation, thereby obscuring any signs of danger.
So, the problem lies in the PC. I posted this with the netbook. My, my, such an excuse to buy a new PC.
You had me worried Gully! So glad you made this up. My one and only attempt at ice skating taught me that I would never try it again. The ankles are just not strong enough. Now get me in a pair of roller skates and I can go a million miles without falling. Loved the six things you learned. Can you get your money back on the imaginary skates?
PW: The skates are entirely real. You’ll be seeing them on my blog shortly.
I was sitting on twitter trying to find something to cure my boredom – and BLAM – somebody I follow tweeted this post. Now, I am not quite as bored. Thanks for posting awesome material
I was stalling on twitter trying to find something to cure my boredom – and BOOM – somebody I follow tweeted this post. Now, I am not quite as bored. Thanks for posting good material
Ann and others,
At the Elder Storytelling Place today is a remarkable poem called “sometimes” by A. Peri. I’m wondering if that is the one and only Aloma from 9/20 BWW.
I’ve sent an e-mail to her address and one to Sandra Dee, hoping to find out.
Did you get my reply about how your postings are going into the blog’s spam folder? I can then approve them, but that’s what’s causing the delay. I have no idea why.
Please say hello to Sandra Dee and tell her to drop by.
ALSO, your broadcast above was wonderful. You’re getting better and better! Loved the review of skating and how you could fit all the details in. Where did you come up with that narrator!
I’m going to call you Gull now too. –Ann
Ann, The narrator? Unfortunately I am a natural born mimic. It gets me in trouble sometimes, usually when I accidentally slip into the same accent or manner of speech as someone else.
Nope, didn’t get your previous message. I should be happy I’m allowed to post here at all. I’m block from other sites. Gremlins have my PC undeer their control.
Still waiting to hear from Aloma or Sandra Dee. Did you check that poem at the Elder Storytelling Place? I used to send them stories, but haven’t in quite a while.
This “Six Pack” post has it all: suspense, noir, humour, and poetry! So much talent here. Reading everyone’s work is a treat.
Hunched over his Bianchi Infinito Ultegra road bike, the cyclist was clearly a serious rider. On top, his bright blue helmet was tightly secured under his chin, and on the bottom, his bike cleats were anchored to the Bianchi’s pedals. His body was painted with a dayglow bike jersey zipped up to his chin and the requisite black spandex riding shorts. His leather-gloved hands grasped the handlebar curls tightly, his knuckles surely white. A clear plastic tube ran from the side of his mouth around to the camel water bag on his back. Rearview mirrors and reflectors completed the package. Who would have guessed death on a bicycle presented this way?
Anastasia stared out the window, her breath fogging the glass. The waning moon, surrounded by millions of twinkling stars, was adrift in the sky. She could relate.
For their fifth anniversary, Anastasia and Eric had decided to celebrate by taking a vacation because they had not been on a trip together since they were first married. Eager to make up for lost time, they spontaneously decided to drive to Napa Valley. They would leave Sacramento the next afternoon, and an hour or two later, they would be relaxing at the Wine Country Inn.
The pungent, smoky aroma of Russian tea brought Anastasia back to their–now her—fourth floor apartment. Hot tea would soothe. As she opened the spigot of her Grandmother Palchevski’s samovar, she could hear Eric teasing, “Does that old boiler still make decent tea?” She hoped the impish glint in his eye would never fade from her memory.
On the counter, Anastasia spied the cracked plastic seatbelt latch. This latch was able to save her. Everything happened so quickly.
Full of the anticipation of wine tastings, gourmet meals, and a romantic week together, they left the house before dark. The radio was not turned up; they had nothing but water to drink; Eric was driving the speed limit; their road did not have a traffic signal.
The cyclist’s road, however, did have a traffic signal, and it glowed red. The highway commission computers could prove it. However, the cyclist deemed himself above all traffic rules. As was his habit, he chose to ignore the red light, thereby suddenly and unexpectedly appearing in front of Anastasia and Eric’s car.
Eric swerved. Anastasia gasped. Tires screeched. Car rolled. Seat belts braced. Air bags deployed. Neck snapped. Glass broke. Blood flowed. Cyclist froze.
The scar on her right arm was Anastasia’s only visible evidence of the accident that stole Eric from her. She rubbed the scar as she looked around the room wondering what to do next.
I always wonder what I’m going to see when I post a challenge. Death has showed up on a bicycle in so many ways, and here is one more. Loved the samovar! What a great detail. The waning moon shows that she’s up late. Poor kid. You make us care about her.
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle