Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aiden I

He was accustomed to being awake at all hours of the night. His ever-loving and faithful relationship with the moon was always a source of aggravation for his parents when he was a child. Aiden did not deliberately haunt the dark empty spaces of night. It wasn’t a choice that he had made as a toddler that he preferred the company of the gentler celestial bodies. Being awake at night was just as natural to him as breathing. The moon and the stars, after all, never burned him, never harmed him. The moon never drew sweat from his body like the hellfire of the sun. Aiden had always been cool and comfortable in the peaceful night, until now.

“Aiden! Help me!” she cried. It usually began at midnight. Her scream ripped through his peace. “What’s the matter Gram?” he asked as he walked into her room. “Help me get in the bed,” she mumbled as she kicked her feet like a child and flailed her arms. He held her hands as she wobbled into the upright position and she danced a made in China imitation of the Charleston to the bed. He loved Gram with all of his heart, but was torn between her and the night. He settled her under the covers, kissed her on the forehead and walked back to the room where he slept at Gram’s.

“OH! I’m so tired!” she yelled in her sleep. She never yelled when she was awake. Aiden contemplated making her scream for ten minutes straight before bed. Perhaps her inner victim would be satiated with the pregame screams. “Ohhhh wweeeee!” she cried. I don’t know what the hell gets after her in her sleep but it better not fuck with me, he thought to himself. “Aiden!” and again he went to her.

As he lay in bed Aiden thought about how he had ended up there. Had he followed through and achieved his goals from his earlier life like he had planned, he’d have graduated from law school this year. He thought about his year in Montreal and how he wouldn’t have given away his time there for a million dollars. He had not necessarily squandered his dreams by taking the internship in Quebec. He had, after all, learned French and gained invaluable experience in international relations. Gram’s kidneys failed her the following year when he was touring France. She spent four months in the hospital and rehab center and he had not been able to be with her and his family. Now it was payback time he supposed. Reconciliation for his two years abroad came at a heavy cost.

He had felt trapped in his little town since he had arrived in June. Everything from that point seemed like a lucky break to him. He landed a job teaching. He had a free room at his mom’s even though over half his time was spent tending to Gram. He loved her and was glad to help her, even though she sometimes stole his nights. He was not, however, content. He hated being tied to the dead little place he called home. He dreamed of being somewhere else. He dreamed of having friends near him again. Although he had attended school and lived in Janson his whole life until college, he found it difficult to build anything substantial there. His friends from school were married, had moved or were wholly unsuitable for socialization now.

The last time he looked at the clock it was four in the morning. He lay on his back and stared at the moon whose light was drowning him in her serenity. She was the same moon that caressed his face when he was in love in Montreal. She cooled him on the island in Ibiza after the sun had abused him for ten straight hours. He closed his eyes and fell back gently into the arms of Morpheus.

“OHHHH!!! OHHH! AIDENNNN!” He had the sudden sensation that he had fallen off a precipice and was careening into an abyss. At some point he hit the bottom and felt the green shag carpet drag across his infrequently shaven face. “Gram, what? What’s wrong?” Luna would forgive him for drawing away from her caresses but the Morphean arms sent him lurching through dreams and hard into reality. He walked to her room. Though he would not admit it the following day when he complained to his friend on the phone about the nightly excitements at Gram’s, he was afraid each time she yelled. When would her moans and screams be the end?

“Gram, try to sleep. We both need it…” he reasoned with her and then turned to walk to his bed. He heard her deep breaths and knew immediately that her sleep came and went like that of an infant. It was deep and real and then all of a sudden it was gone. His sleep held on. He rested his body lightly onto the bed and sunk into the old mattress as found himself again being loved by Luna. He woke again only to hear Gram mumbling that she was not going to eat the oatmeal and that “she may as well go ahead and cook me some grits. It’s my money that pays her…” Poor Maggie…he thought to himself as he turned over for another hour of sleep.

He dreamed. He looked to his left and he saw a bricked street with streetcar rails and colonial buildings with chipped pastels coating their walls. He walked to the massive mahogany door of a church that he had once frequented in Panama City when he spent a month with a friend of a friend. He pushed open the door and stepped inside. He walked into the nave and saw the sanctuary ahead. He genuflected adoringly and made his way to the front. There was a man at the altar kneeling in front of the exposed Sacrament and it looked as if he was being lighted by a glow from the Holy Eucharist that was enclosed in a moon-shaped monstrance. As Aiden approached the man turned and his eyes pierced him as if the glow from the Eucharist shown through him and into Aiden. The man smiled and said to Aiden, “Ask me child, once and only once, a question which plagues your soul.”

Aiden thought for a moment and then he asked the man, “Sir, why can I not find contentment?” The man’s eyes ceased to glow. He walked to Aiden and rested his hand on Aiden’s shoulder and whispered to him. “Parce qu'en général l'enfant comme l'homme, et l'homme comme l'enfant aime mieux s'amuser que s'instruire.” Immediately the altar and the pillars faded and the space melted into the form of Aiden’s room. The blinds were open and the moon was full and bright and it filled the room. Aiden turned and looked into the mirror and repeated the words the man had told him. “Because in general the child like the man and the man like the child likes better to have fun than to inform himself.”

“Aiden!” Maggie called from the den. He jumped awake, slightly startled, and made his way to her.

Justice I, II & III


The music rolled into his ears like a sad melancholic fog rolls over the sea at dusk. It filled his body, lingering around his heart.

Dammi passione
anche se il mondo non ci vuole bene,
anche se siamo stretti da catene
e carne da crocifissione

As the music spilled from the speakers he felt in himself a great pressure building. It was one with which he was quite familiar. His heart beat a little harder and his breath became a little more rapid.

Presto noi sogneremo
distesi al sole di mille primavere
senza il ricordo di questa prigione,
di un tempo lontano ormai.

Each note of the music numbered the cracks in his broken heart as he opened his eyes to look out into the darkness. The clouds had parted and the moon was now shining on his face. Little specks of silver, like some sort of cosmic glitter were reflecting off the tiny windblown ripples on the lake.

Abbracciami e non lasciarmi qui
lontano da te

He cried. He cried, alone, listening to an Italian singer sing an Italian song that no one he knew would know. Who is Neffa, they would ask, puzzled. It was fitting that only he should know the song. As it was, he was the only one who knew himself, really.

He longed for a soft word, a warm embrace or even just a knowing look. He walked to the lake and stripped down to his boxers. As he stood over the water the lake looked up at him, glittering, and he felt ashamed. He lay down on the dock and looked out over the water. He made love to the lake, softly dropping tears into her peaceful cold.

He stood again and pulled his boxers off over his feet and he felt a cool wind tickle all the hairs on his legs and chest. He dipped a toe into the lake wanting her to feel his warmth before shocking her by diving in. "I'm going to jump," he warned her as he picked his toe up out of the water. He never liked to show up unannounced. He dove and the water splashed. The lake shivered around him as she tried to adjust quickly to his warmth.

He sank down into the water letting his feet touch the slimy plants on the bottom. He held his breath and contemplated his next step. Should he even bother to return to his world and take a breath or should he live forever inside the cold embrace of the lake? He was using his last seconds of consciousness debating when instinct turned to panic propelling him to the surface. The lake, having gained a warm lover, held on to him tight. She had reached out and refused to let him go. One of the slimy plants on the bottom had wrapped around his foot. He kicked frantically, struggling inches from the surface. His hands were touching the crisp, beautiful air that he now longed so to take inside of him. He grasped at her but she would not help him. He was the lake's now. He slept.

He felt the rope-like plant loosen from his ankle but it was too late. He commanded his body to kick, to swim to life. It could not. He faded.


He awoke to a blistering iciness on his skin. He was lying face up on the dock and the silver moonlight was covering every inch of faded wood around him. The thousands of reflections from the water were dancing in the trees above him as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He was numb and could not feel his legs. He wanted dearly to get up and put on his clothes so he could get away from this place and go back into the house.

He was wet and naked, and even though no one was around he was burning with shame. Splinters from the dock were pricking him in his back. Curiously he was not afraid as he thought he should have been. Perhaps, he thought, if his body was paralyzed then his sense of self preservation must be as well. He gave no thought to the fact that he had, only moments earlier, contemplated becoming one with the lake. Perhaps he was not afraid because subconsciously he knew that the worst occurrence would be death. Any normal person would have been afraid of a visit from death. Death, however, had been his friend for many years. Death was the only reason he was alive at that moment.

His grandfather, Justice Hill, had died on his mother Marta's forty-second birthday. He suffered a massive heart attack while fishing on that very lake. He was rushed to the hospital where he was treated by a young cardiologist named Sebastian Pike. The old man died as Sebastian pounded on his chest and searched for life in his eyes. When Sebastian finally gave up, fifteen minutes later, he crumpled to the floor clinging to Justice's lifeless hand and sobbed openly and sincerely. It had been Sebastian's first official patient, and he lost him. Nothing in his twenty-nine years of life could have prepared him to experience life slip through his fingers. He would later confide in Marta that the end of such a noble figure demanded a deep grief and so, compelled by his sense of honor he paid his devoirs to Justice in tears.

It was in seeing Sebastian, kneeling and crying with her father's hand pressed to his face that Marta fell in love with this boy-doctor with the curly black hair emerald green eyes. They were married only three months after Justice resigned himself to peace and Marta gave birth to Justice Sebastian Pike at midnight, one year from the day her father died. The lights were dimmed at Sebastian's orders so mother and baby could rest. The light from the full moon showered into the hospital room and reflected off her baby's emerald green eyes as they darted around the room. If only the nursing staff had been as alert as baby Justice perhaps his mother wouldn't have died.

She rose from her bed and felt a sharp pain in her abdomen. Dismissing it as post labor pains Marta waddled over to her baby's crib and scooped him up in her arms. She backed slowly to the rocking chair and lowered herself. The bright full moon caught her gaze and she stared. She had never been so happy before in her life and yet she was grieved by a nagging sense that her joy would not be long-lasting. She looked at her baby. As she contemplated the shine of the moon in her baby's eyes a song welled up inside of her and she sang to him.

Look up to me child
from right where you are
I dreamed you to life child
God set you apart.

I looked for you, love,
and I found you alive.
I found you inside
your daddy's emerald green eyes.

Marta attempted to stand but the pain came upon her again and this time it was so sharp that she nearly dropped baby Justice. She fell back into the rocking chair and tried to call for the nurse but only a whisper escaped her mouth. She could feel her baby's tiny cool hand brush her wrist. She looked down at baby Justice and saw him, wide awake and staring up at her. His eyes were wet and shining. In her peripheral vision she noticed a shimmer of light from a dark spot on the floor where she had been standing and she looked up. There was a puddle of blood and she tried to call for the nurse again. She clutched her baby tight against her and she withered.

Sebastian found her a half hour later staring at the baby in her arms. When he called her name she didn't respond. He walked around the bed and immediately saw the blood. He screamed for the nurses and put baby Justice in his crib. He and the nurses carefully put Marta into bed. Sebastian ordered blood for his wife and called in a surgeon to see to her. She was rushed into surgery and brought back to her waiting husband and baby three hours later. She asked to hold Justice and Sebastian obliged her by handing her the baby. After a very long night he sat next to her and drifted off to sleep. Marta held Justice in her right arm and weakly placed her left hand on Sebastian's that was on the sheet next to her. "I love you, my green eyed boys," and she drifted into silence. Baby Justice, for the first time, cried. Sebastian awoke to the baby's screams and found Marta dead.

Justice lay on the dock and drifted in and out of sleep. It had turned cold since he arrived at the lake at dusk. He was shivering now as his naked body fought to conserve its own heat. He still could not move his legs even though he was sending every mental command he could muster. As he resigned himself to join his grandfather and his mother, whose ashes had been scattered over the lake, he felt a small warm hand touch his cheek and he felt blood rush into his legs. A tear ran down the side of his head from the corner of his moonlit emerald green eye.

to be continued...


Justice didn't know what had happened since he felt the warm hand on his face. He awoke sitting on a small worn leather couch in front of a blazing fire. It must have been the middle of the night because the house was dark except for the celestial lights peeking in the window causing the gold impressions on the spines of his grandfather's old books to sparkle. There was a trail of splinters and bark leading to a little pile of scrap wood laying to the right of the fireplace. To the left of the fireplace sat a small white saucer with a half eaten cookie and crumbs trailing away from the plate just like the splinters from the firewood. Next to the plate was a small glass of milk and an open book sprinkled with crumbs. The sides of the pages had little greasy fingerprints and smears of chocolate.



Justice ached all over. His feet prickled with a weird electrical soreness and his angry cramping muscles sent waves of pain that resonated into his scalp and through his hair follicles. Even the air around him was sore. He was curious about who had brought him into the house and started the fire. He had been certain that he was the only one at the lake. He bent down to look at the book. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands. It smelled like cherry pipe tobacco and cookies. Winnie the Poohby A. A. Milne was etched into its spine. Justice carefully put the book back where he had found it and slowly stood. "You wanna cookie, Justice?" he heard the small voice ask.

...To be continued

Monday, November 23, 2009

So Easy a Child Can Do It

A memory from November, 1989

I began walking at seven months old. I blame it on this feat of physicality that I just stopped there, so full of my seven month old sense of accomplishment. I would never be particularly good at sports or much of anything else physical from that point on. I wish I had waited to walk until a bit later. Maybe two more months having to have someone hold my hands would have delayed the inevitable. I equate it to a first time author writing a best seller on his first go at writing. It steals something from you.

For me walking stole my ability to tie my shoes. Every morning before school at my mom's house my sister would get down on her knees and begrudgingly tie my shoe. My smile said all that was needed. I was satisfied with this arrangement. Today I would not be tweaking my motor skills on the rough white shoe laces that my sister could so easily tie for me.

It wasn't because I didn't want to learn to tie my shoes that I couldn't do it. I would spend hours in secret on the rough blue carpet in my room fiddling with the shoe strings, elating myself each time I could accomplish the first step: crossing the strings over each other. I would then grunt and whine until somehow forming little balls of knots out of my shoe strings. They may not have been the wide beautiful loops that my sister tied, but dammit, they were MY knots! I, at four years old, was again... accomplished.

Moments later my mother would look down at my shoes and tell me "Go see your sister to fix your shoe laces. That's not how you tie shoes." She broke my young artist's heart. My beautiful knots, wrought by my hands were about to be disassembled in favor of the style of the 80s, loops. I had not mastered the art of tying my shoes.

I didn't have my sister with me at my dad's house. When I would get up I would always hurry to get dressed and I'd put on my shoes, tucking the laces down inside them, only after pulling them tight of course. This system had worked for months.

One November morning I woke up to the biting cold air surrounding my face and toes. The kerosene heater had gone out during the night and I was freezing. I hurried to dress myself, pulling on the long tube socks all the way to my knees making sure the the seam line was not under my toes because it would tickle my foot all day long and I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my colors and numbers. I suppose in the cold rush I forgot to tuck my shoe laces into the sides of my shoes.

I got into the little red Ford Tracer that my dad was borrowing from my mom. His truck was broken, again. It was a horrible car, a hatchback, named after its least attractive feature. It had black mold on the floorboards and after my dad had driven it for a couple of weeks it began to smell of Montclaire lights 100s, his favorite cigarettes, and of course the strong whiffs of ass.

He had already cranked the car to warm it and to melt the ice on the windshield. I locked and shut the aluminum door on his white single wide trailer with the powdery paint that always rubbed off on my clothes. I hurried to the car and got in. My dad lit a cigarette and cracked his window.

He took off out of the trailer park and we were on the curving dirt road headed toward the curvier asphalt road. We traveled for three or four more minutes on the way to my school. I was feeling that suffocated feeling from the mix of the cigarette smoke and the heater air as he looked over and saw my shoe laces lying in the floorboard, dirty from walking in the frosty grass and from lying on the black mold.

"Tie your shoes, boy," he grumbled and I immediately began to fumble with my shoelaces. I was scared. I made the motions of tying the laces and twisted them before tucking them securely in the sides of my shoes. The soggy shoelaces shared their moisture with my warm dry socks. I despised any wet feeling on my dry clothes but it was a small, just sacrifice. I was safe now as he lit another cigarette so that my clothes would be saturated all day with a reminding smell of what would happen next.

He looked over and saw what I had done to my shoe laces and popped the breaks. He pulled over on the side of the road and snatched my seat belt off of me. "Now!" he screamed, "Tie those fuckin' shoes!" I furiously untucked the the shoelaces from inside my shoes and I began with trepidation the only thing I knew to do. I wrapped piece after piece of shoelace around the other forming the little knots that I had made sitting on the rough blue carpet at my mom's house. I thought my mom had broken my little artist's heart. My dad was about to crush my little soul.

"GOD DAMMIT!" he bellowed, "Boy, you better tie that fuckin' shoe!" My eyes were burning and this time it wasn't from the cigarette smoke. I could feel the hot tears welling up in my eyes and they began to blind me to the painful job that I was trying to complete. God PLEASE don't let me cry in front of him.

I twisted and pulled at the shoestrings for what seemed like hours all the while begging God to push my tears into my throat so that my Daddy wouldn't see them. "I know you know how to FUCKIN' TIE THOSE GOD DAMN MOTHER FUCKIN' SHOES! NOW TIE THE FUCKIN' SHOES!" One tear escaped and with it came all of its friends. The hot tears turned cold on my face as I choked for breath praying that they were only tears I could feel and that Daddy couldn't see.

"You better dry that shit up, boy," he growled my with a grimace usually reserved for use by people watching the murderer of their mother be put to death in the electric chair. He hit me in the side of the head. "TIE! TIE!" Another blow. He wasn't bruising me. He was however speeding up the production of tears to the maximum and interrupting breathing so that instead of wisps of ins and outs it sounded more like gasps and deep sighs. Tears made my daddy angrier than anything. He hated tears and for many years I thought it was me he hated.

He grabbed my feet and tied my shoes so tight that I couldn't feel my toes. He continued to berate me for what seemed like hours but I suppose it was only a few minutes because I arrived to school on time, embarrassed because of my red face and bloodshot eyes. I ran immediately to the bathroom to try to remove the evidence that I had been crying. I blew my nose and splashed cold water on my face. My breathing returned to normal. I didn't dare untie those loops that were glaring up at me from my feet. I could smell his Montclaire scented rage on my clothes all day and as soon as I got home I threw my shoes away. I dug out a pair of blue velcro shoes that had been too small for me at the beginning of the year and stuffed my feet into them every day until it was time for new shoes. I picked out blue ones, with velcro.