Friday, June 01, 2007

Don't Stay Up Too Late

For the next three days, I'm going to post the third story in the novella, Something To Do In Bed. Thanks for reading!

Pretend You’re Not Here

The night before Devil’s Night, my brother Josh’s ex-girlfriend Coley shows up at our door right after midnight without warning dressed like Jackie Kennedy on the day of the assassination, a blood-splattered pink suit and pillbox hat, a fake brain on a string necklace. She’s sobbing like a bereaved widow, one who might be desperate enough to crawl around a car, trying to save her beautiful if faithless husband.

"What are you doing here?" she asks. She‘s looking past me, trying to spot Josh as if he were in a crowd. Her amethyst nose ring gleams under the porch light and part of me wants to tear it out and watch her bleed. We were never close.

"I live here."

"Is Josh home?" I can see by her posture that she’s not leaving so I let her inside and warn Josh that she’s here. He’s going to be pissed off that I opened the door, but I thought it might be Kevin, my long lost married love, MIA for months. I am a mistress without a master. What good can come of this?

She spots Josh sprawled on the couch and stops crying. I can see her trying to understand his face. It’s a hard thing to adjust to, the grin he razored himself underneath his mouth, the way he cut his tendons so that his mouth doesn’t quite work in the same way anymore. Sometimes people assume he’s had a stroke, and not one of good luck or fortune.

She looks at me. "What happened?" she asks. Josh continues to eat popcorn, the microwave Kettle kind with sugar and salt. I wish we had some normal kind of popcorn in this apartment, but I haven’t been to the store in weeks, not since my failed stoned effort to make a nice dinner for me and Josh his first school night back to the dreary high school teaching job he has. Needless to say, my good intentions, the road to culinary hell.

I shrug. "Want a drink?" I say. She looks like she could use one, although the same could be said for all of us at any given time. She doesn’t say anything, so I take that as a yes and fix her a kamikaze, something uncomplicated and a little bit sweet, a whole lot sour, a drink with bite.
After I finish mixing the drink, there’s nothing for me to do but leave them alone. I grab a bottle of Absolut from the freezer, no need to stand on ceremony with this crowd. I feel like saying something like, You two be good or Don’t stay up too late, but I don’t. We are all up too late, none of us have been very good. Before Coley’s arrival, Josh and I went to a haunted house, something we loved to do as children. It’s strange to think that neither one of us has ever lived anywhere else, so the city acts as its own haunted house, memories like ghosts, lingering and ready to make you feel their chill the minute you stop expecting them.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"A writer begins by breathing life into his characters. But if you are very lucky, they breathe life into you." Caryl Phillips

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Leap Days Katherine Lanpher

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!


Charles Nelson Reilly said...

"Amethyst nose ring" does it for me!

Margaret Mead said...

Is that a Hutu or a Tootsie god in the photo, Michelle?

Jon said...

The Hutu and the Tootsie peoples should hire an American PR firm to design new names for them so that they are easier to keep track of. I could never remember which was the purger and which was the purgee. Now when I'm not sure I just picture Al Jolson singing, "Toot, toot, tootsie, goodbye."'s not nice to make fun of a genocide, but there you are.

Al Jolson said...

Wherever you go, there you are!

Thor Heyerdahl said...

It's Tiki in the photo. Undoubtedly.

The Great Communicator said...

You ain't seen nothin' yet!

Jimmy Carter said...

There he goes again.

The Lone Ranger said...

Hi-o, Silver, away!!!!

Ed McMahon said...


Jack Nicholson said...

Heeeeeeere's Johnnnnnnnny!!!!!!

Karnac the Magnificent said...

Haiku. What a high-flying dove does.

Lonesome Dove said...

It's been quite a party.

Gene Hackman said...

I'll see you in hell!!!

Charles Gramlich said...

A nice sense of pacing here. I like the narrator's asides. "We were never close."

mr. three am said...

I won't! Promise!


But when will I write?

eric said...

This is excellent work, m, once again I'm left in wonder. Read it twice--it's a quick read! And I seem to remember an older copy of this story floating around near by which I cross referenced to find you've done wonders editing all the tiniest details into sleek little units.

Little rearrangements--and some heartbreaking cuts. It's funny that it just now dawned on me who Josete is so much like. At least, you made her universal enough to have that sense of the danger around her being muted and something she doesn't register until it's too late--that's what reminds me of, well, someone (not you--Josh reminds me of you, actually--he's so quiet about what's really going on). Those details about her and him that you've inferred as opposed to presented make her powerful as a character and a symbol of her role as one (of many) who facilitates the damage to her and her brother's life, and her unique role in being a healer through her acceptance of life. She tries with everything she has and doesn't breakdown--that's the only difference between her and who she reminds me of. That person has only just realized they can and will save themselves.

No matter what, Josete is highly universal, and thought provoking by her very nature and careful design. She breathes with the life you instilled.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, but why do you call my brother by his stage name?


e said...

of course, Josette is like you, to be sure, Josh has universal scars under his own unique scaring; the painfull physical aplication of a false face. What can be said about the author that hasn't been said be these You created her and Josh both as composite characters drawn from so much around you. They are both one and seperate, put simply. They cannot exist without each other; they have bonds nobody else can trully percieve, and some will not desire to ever do so.

That is where Coley stands--someone who would love to ignore it all and make it go away, representing a certain morally superior but saddly common point of view. She knows something is there and has tried to deny its existance to her self with every opportunity, but she can't forget that she knows it is there.

I get something knew from your writing every time, just a little bit better view of that mosaic you must see whenever you close your eyes and type one word after another bringing it into focus for the rest of us.
Anyone ever tell ya yer a real smart lady?

Sheila said...

Check me out

Mr three am said...

now it's time to remember those
kamakazes dead nazis and pabsts
blue ribbons that one the war
and the face always looking at me
time to write the last song
to write poetry to strangers
at an obscene hour
times in genral is obscene to me

but strangers are obscene
momma says--the devils says
strangers do things to people
strangers kill and maim
torture molest rape enslave
pretend to need help
and rob your possesions
or set christmas trees
on fire through windows while
families sleep in Detroit
strangers hate other strangers
and most likely see you
as their wallet
as their new car
as their best friend
waiting in the rain
behind them

but strangers read poetry
late at night

so maybe it's OK
to be a stranger

writing poetry
as the clock strikes me
and I turn 3:00 AM
and I wish for another dead nazi
that ain't happenen

E bombed said...

screw my car keys

the bartender

should have taken

away--my keyboard--

after over-serving me

or unstrapping the iv

and turning me out

with the sheets

shouldn't mad moms

of beautiful daughters

who serve drinks

hate me for this too?

who the heck said...

There are two people in my life
both are gone and forgotten by day

but could have stayed
and listened to these things

I say to people who
have nothing to say

There are only two:
my father
my favorite therapist
both of them fucked me

but only one fucked me
in the head

I am told that this was
was a lucky thing

by more than two people

the reefer and booze said...

do you have room in your heart
for a poet?
maybe a dark quiet space
where you keep your old animals
remembered against
the rushing blood pulse
and the wounds you thought were healed
but are torn awfull easy

Maybe your heart has room for a poet
books and pens and clothing
and drama and alcohol and
sexsexsexsexsexsexsex and alcohol
drank dry--the damn pin-hole burns
on everything
and a decided lack of rent money
on time
every month

It might be fun
an adventure in feeling hell
and better than solitare
by candle light
so tell me:
how big
is your heart?
and if your heart has room available
for one poet
and his aparatus
for creating and killing
for mayhem of the headiest kind
you should tell me about
your living situation

e said...

does a man
learn new tricks?

or do new tricks
learn a man?

one should probably start
by asking a few tricks

what they know about man--
if you must know nature's folly

lonely hands said...

with nothing left to say
with these hands
on these sacred keys
I am alone
no words to say
all the things
that meant nothing to me
before I lost almost everything
alone except for these
drunken, angry, broken
and crying words without shape

but they do smell so much
like your warm bed
after we take our love straight
on the rocks
and there is nothing left to say
and we are both
with these hands

your unabashed student said...

I won't stay up too late. Nope. It's early!

Susan Miller said...

I echo Charles' love of the narrator's asides. This character is definitely the one I want to tell me the story.

And I love the quote today.