26 September 2010

Alpheta Dawning

One time, Jimmie called me beautiful. It was our sixteenth birthday, and he called me beautiful. He looked at me with those dark, watery eyes and said, “You’re beautiful, Pheta.” I stopped curling my hair and turned to look at him.

“What did you say, Jimmie?”

“I said you’re beautiful.”

“Thank you, Jimmie, that’s very sweet of you.”

“You’re welcome. May I play with your hair?”

I nodded and let him take a handful of what wasn’t already in curlers. There was a moment’s pause as Jimmie breathed in, deeply, and then I saw the flash of silver before I knew what was happening. I looked up, and the hair was still in his hands, but suddenly he was sitting on his bed across the room, a large pair of scissors on the pillow. I watched, paralyzed with fear and confusion, as he sat and ate a single strand, rocking his body and groaning.

Then I started shrieking.


“Jimmie was always a little… different after the accident.” That’s what mama used to say when anyone asked after my twin brother. His once-auburn colored hair had turned a dark grey, and the scabs on his face and forearms wouldn’t fade, no matter how much iodine and antibacterial stuff mama’d  put on them. They would swell until the pink skin tore open, and a weird grey-green puss would ooze out that none of the doctors would touch, even while wearing gloves. Mama would get on her knees by her bed and cry and rock for hours after every one of those doctor visits. Jimmie just went back into our room and slept. And I’d be stuck in the kitchen doing something to occupy myself as the two of them moaned and groaned their symphony.

You see, Jimmie had nightmares. Since we shared a room, if he started moaning in his sleep, I would sing to him to try and calm him down. It rarely worked, but I kept at it, because it helped me not have nightmares of my own. Often, I would wake up after having dreamt about very odd things, and Jimmie would be over on his bed groaning like an ox in the heat. I never remembered my dreams, but I’m sure they had something to do with the accident. Sometimes, if we were both startled awake at the same time, quivering and sweaty, I even thought they might have been the same dreams as his, but he’d never respond if I asked him to retell his.

He never responded to much, really. He just sort of ate and drank and went to bed early and got up late. He stopped going to school, and mama never forced him to go, saying he just needed some time to get used to his new self. I always thought “new” was a strange word for her to use, seeing as how he almost looked like an old man. He lost all of the hair on his body, and the hair on his head was receding. His eyes had turned a dark grey, like what hair was left on his head, almost black. His voice had changed; it was eerily deep with a strange gurgling sound to it as he spoke, like someone had cut the inside of his throat, but the blood had nowhere to go. Part of me always wanted to pour a bottle of hydrogen peroxide down his throat to clean it out, you know, if it weren’t poisonous, of course.

There was one dream I think we both shared on several occasions, and I’m almost certain it had to do with the night of his accident. In my dream, Jimmie is still healthy. In my dream, he and I are sitting down to breakfast when mama gets a call. It’s her sister, Aunt Mabel, and she wants us all to come over for supper seeing as how it’s our cousin’s eighth birthday. So we all head over there, and when we walk in the door, Aunt Mabel sends all of us children outside.

Our cousin, Tobias, takes us into the backyard and tells us how we’re going to go on an adventure. He says since it’s his birthday, we have to do what he says. He’s eight now after all, and we’re only five. We walk and walk and walk, until I can’t even see the house anymore, and finally we stop near what looks to be a deep hole. There are weird gurgling sounds coming from the hole, and it smells a mixture of gasoline and dead leaves. I feel a strange sensation of foreboding, and Jimmie moves toward the hole to look down into it. As he’s leaning forward, Tobias and I hear something coming up behind us, we turn to look, I hear a crash, feel myself falling, and then I wake up.

Every time I have that dream, I wake up to see Jimmie staring at me angrily, like I’ve done something absolutely unforgivable. And for some reason, I always feel like I have, too.

06 September 2010


Chapter One

Lionel squinted as the mirrored windows on the Bidessy Hotel reflected the setting sun into his eyes while he made his way home. When he opened his eyes again, he saw a young girl pause near the revolving doors into the hotel, giggling joyfully, and push through them three times in succession before going inside. Lionel had never been inside the building himself, but everyone in the surrounding two or three blocks knew the building’s architect.

Old Man Santucci lived around the corner in the basement of the United Methodist Church on Third Avenue. After the Bidessy was built, the market crashed and no one wanted to hire him anymore. His ideas were too radical, his architecture too expensive because of its environmental edge. It was an investment no one was willing to make. After the eleventh rejected proposal, he simply gave up.

Supposedly, he sent all his money to an illegitimate son in France before going to live in the church’s basement. His graying, gnarled hands reached out to every passerby between the hours of 8:00 AM and 3:14 PM during the weekdays. On weekends, he took out his best, and only, suit and ate lunch in the Bidessy at precisely 12:12 PM.

Lionel knew all this because he worked in the restaurant inside the Jefferson Hotel across the street from the Bidessy. The chef at the Jefferson, Anton, was fired from the Bidessy for giving Old Man Santucci extra food in his to-go box, and his respect for Santucci led to gossip amongst the staff in all the local hotels. It didn’t take long before Anton was hired at the Jefferson, and that was when the kitchen talk started getting interesting. Almost every day there was a new story from Anton, mainly having to do with Santucci’s love life.

“That Santucci… Such a gentleman. He would bring in such woman, ah,” Anton would begin, “Just… the biggest tits you’ve ever seen.”

Tales would be spun imaginations filled with Jack Daniels and steak, wine and cannoli, the sounds of jazz bands and late-night crooners. Women in brilliant, swooshing dresses of every color. Long hair, short hair, wavy, curly, straight hair. Busty women, skinny women, curvy women. The way Anton would describe these nights, the seductive nature of his speeches, every man around the stove would dream his own dream of the perfect night with the perfect woman.

“One day,” Anton told the group recently, all of whom were listening with rapt attention, “Santucci walked in with a young woman. Such a gentleman. Brought in this… this angel, ah. It was obvious how much he loved this one. Even wore new shoes for the occasion.”

Lionel was thinking of this latest tale as he walked home. This story was particularly interesting to him. Lionel never knew his father, and his mother never wanted to talk about him. She taught her son to hate the man who paid for his education, the man who paid for them to move from Bourges to the States, the man who bestowed upon Lionel his dark eyes and full mouth, and the reason his mother had trouble looking at him during certain parts of the year. Since he was young, Lionel had been curious to know what kind of person would leave a lover and a son alone with mere money for relief. Old Man Santucci was his chance. He was sure that to learn about him would lead Lionel to some insight on his father.

He nodded at the old man as he passed the church and received a glare in response. Chuckling to himself and shaking his head, Lionel walked on and reached his own building. When he pushed open the door to his third-floor apartment, Koshka, Lionel’s beagle puppy, yelped and ran forward to greet him. Lionel stepped aside and closed the door, and the dog’s paws slid on the checkered linoleum floor, sending his body straight into door. Jumping up and flipping his body around, Koshka ran at Lionel again. This time, Lionel squatted and greeted him, who, body shaking with delight, proceeded to pee all over the floor.

“Oh come on, not again! Shit.” Lionel stood, reaching for the paper towels on the counter. “Okay, calm down. Koshka, come over here, c’mere boy! That’s it. Good boy!” Lionel held the wriggling, jumpy animal back as he patted the floor with the paper towels. “Good boy. Okay, calm down now, that’s right.”

Lionel finished cleaning up after his puppy and began preparing dinner. He had recently received a raise, so he bought some salmon to make for himself tonight before heading back to work at the Jefferson. His plan was to spend the rest of the week eating ramen and macaroni and cheese, to save up the extra money, and then take Old Man Santucci out for lunch at the Bidessy on Saturday.

It was time to be formally introduced.

29 August 2010

Letter Home

you know it snowed today, mom
huge flakes
not-quite-brown red,
not-quite-brown yellow,
and just plain-old-shit brown.
strange how they seemed, mom
to me, mom
to be, mom,

i wish i could remember the dream i had last night,

mom, where a flash
of white blew
past my eyes, mom,
i waited.

i had something important to tell you

mom, about the other day
when you called
to say i love you, mom,
i waited.

25 July 2010


"I'm always going to love you;" she says, "I want you to know that." She takes the cigarette from between his lips and sucks in the hot, spicy smoke, then blows it back out into his face. He clears his throat and looks away from her, his forearm resting softly on her stomach.

"Sure," he replies. He tries to make his gaze cold and unfeeling as he focuses on the sound of a car alarm a few blocks away, its noise muffled by the heat pressing on his ears.

She lifts her head from his lap and stares at the side of his face. His hand slips from her torso, and he places it on the back of the bench. He still attempts to avoid her gaze. Shrugging slightly, she lies back down. He leaves his hand on the bench, finding comfort in the cool ridges of the wood.

"What are we doing, then? What's the deal?" He asks, trying to give her a hardened look, but his eyes unwillingly soften as they meet hers.

"I know what I'm doing."

"What are you doing?"

"No idea."

"Well, that's good." He looks away, wondering vaguely why he agreed to come out here. The heat is oppressive and sticky, and he just took a shower.

She sits up again, but turns away this time, starting to shake. This is it, he thinks. The tears will come now and it'll be at least another hour in the heat before I can go back inside.

He feels her face him again, but he refuses to look.


Giving in, he turns to ask her what she wants him to do. As the blast of the Browning echoes between the building, he cries out her name.

"I am always going to love you."