Bodega Highway

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I woke up early to get out there We met at the scenic overlook, just north of Bodega. It was a little more than a wide spot on Highway 1. It was a cool morning. The fog wasn’t really there. This was more of a mist. I was hoping it would all burn off by noon. I had only thrown a Mexican poncho over my swimsuit. The verdict was still out on whether that was a wise decision.

I was sitting on the hood of my old, beat up Volkswagen. She had seen better days, but we took care of each other. I loved being out here. A lot has been written about the ocean, but I have never read anything that comes close to what I experience. Life slowed to a manageable pace out here. It was peaceful and rejuvenating.

“You look cold.”

“I’ll be okay. The sun will come out eventually.” I adjusted my sunglasses atop my head, keeping my hair out of my face.

“Here, have some of this.” She handed me a capful of coffee from her thermos.

“Thanks.” It felt good going down my insides, warming me a bit.

“You’re welcome. Thanks for meeting me.”

“Always.”

“How did you ever become the wise one?”

“I don’t know.” I blushed, fiddling with my keychain.

“I never would have guessed this growing up.”

“Me neither.”

We sat there talking about our current lives and the complications in them. We shared coffee. When we left, both of our souls felt right with the world. The sun did come out that day. It always does.

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A Lover’s Morning

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“I don’t know what to tell you.” He walked naked away from the bed. He had to carefully make his way around her heels and panties from the night before. They had been irreverently strewn about the room in the lovers’ haste. Her dress didn’t make it very far into the room. It was lying by the door. His suit had been thrown onto the chair across from the bed. “Perhaps I’m not the guy you’ve been looking for all these years.”

She hid under the sheets and pulled a pillow over her face when he pulled the curtains over. The sunlight broke into the room. She cursed him from under all that material. She then threw a pillow at him.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re not man enough for me.”

“You didn’t think that way last night when I was…”

“I get it. No need to rehash all that.”

“I’d love to rehash that.” He gave her a head nod. She just rolled her eyes at him.

“Really?”

“Oh yes. Definitely.”

“No, I know you want to have sex again. I was saying ‘really’ to your corny line.”

“Whatever it takes to get you in the mood.”

“Right now, I just want sleep.”

“Not now, babe. I have plans for us. Well, non-sexual ones at the moment.”

“Like what?”

“You’ll have to get that sweet ass up and find out.”

“Can you at least bring me coffee?”

“You know, every time you smile at me, my entire life brightens.”

“You’re such a cheeseball.” She said, shaking her head.

“I’m serious. I don’t want any of this is overshadow how I feel about you. I am going to love you with reckless abandon.”

“You’re never going to get me out of bed like this.”

“Okay, I’ll get you some coffee. You want one of those fancy vanilla things?”

“No, just cream and sugar, please.”

“You better get into the shower.” He checked his watch. “We have about an hour to be downstairs.”

“Why are we on a schedule? What did you plan?”

“You’ll see. Now get on up!”

He walked out of the hotel room. The lobby was a giant room with rooms on four sides looking down on it. Each room had a small balcony for the guests to walk out on. It was a nice departure from the usual hotel with windows bolted shut. There were fountains and ponds wrapped around and in between a couple small open air bars and seating areas. It was a simply designed central room, but it was atheistically pleasing.

There was a Starbucks next to the gift shop. It was filled with customers by the time he got in line. He was the third person standing out the door, which doubled as the walkway for the hotel. It was awkward to have to keep avoiding the hotel guests with their luggage. The pace was slow, but he worked his way into the actual store. The baristas were working madly to get through the line of sleepy customers. His frustration softened when he realized the efforts they were putting. This was just a five dollar coffee to him. This was their daily life. He made sure to tip them a little extra than usual.

With Coffee in hand, he made his way back up to the room. He nodded silently and smiled wide to the cleaning ladies. He tried his best to keep the coffee from spilling in from of them.

Getting a key out of your pocket when you have two hands full of coffee is an amazing feat. It involves the use of your chin, shoulder and arm while trying to not give yourself third degree burns.

He could hear the shower going once he opened the door. The smile immediately crested his face. Walking into the bathroom, he set the coffees down on the counter. He had a tough decision to make. There was a naked woman on the other side of a very thin piece of plastic. He had already told her to hurry up and get ready for the day. She was a phenomenal beauty. His willpower was limited whenever she was feeling devious.

“Do you need any help in there?”

“Will you hand me my coffee?” She slung open the shower curtain without a hint of modesty or embarrassment. “I just can’t seem to get moving today.” He handed her the disposable cup, without looking her in the eye.

“I really want to join you, but then we’ll never get out of here.”

“It’s a real shame you made plans for the day. You never know what could have happened.”

He smiled at her.

Groper Rob

“That’s a fine timepiece.”

“Thank you.” Andrew Simons looked down at his wrist. He looked up at the man leaning against the side of the building. He was a scraggly guy. It wasn’t clear if he was homeless or a surfer. He was only wearing shorts. His blonde hair was an unkempt mess. He was a short, wiry guy. He wore knock-off Blue Blocker sunglasses. He gave off a strange vibe. He laughed at Andrew, revealing broken front teeth.

The doors opened, emitting the air conditioning as he walked through the doors. The lobby was fairly conservative. To his left was a small reception desk. The elevator was straight ahead.

“I hope you’re having a good morning, Mr. Simons.”

“Morning, Billy. How are you?”

“I’m good, sir.”

“Billy, please stop calling me sir.” Andrew said as he walked to the elevator. Billy O’Connor was a balding middle aged man. He was the concierge and building manager. He had been steadfastly working that counter the whole time Andrew had owned his place.

He pressed the ‘up’ button. The doors opened moments later. Andrew hit the third floor and the doors closed. He stepped out and turned left. The first door on the right was his.

It was a beachfront condo. He had bought it back in college. He had scraped together some roommates from the dorms and moved in. It seemed crazy at the time for a 20 year old to buy a beach condo instead of renting an apartment, but now he was happy that he did. Almost a decade later, he no longer lived there. He used it primarily for his office.

Andrew dropped his briefcase on the couch. He walked into the master bedroom to hang his suit jacket up in the closet.

He went into the kitchen to make coffee. He had a morning routine. Andrew woke up at 6:00. He wore a suit and tie and never had coffee until he arrived here. He always drank his coffee black. His grandfather had once told him that, “If God had wanted cream in coffee, He would have put it there.” That was one of those nuggets of wisdom Andrew lived by.

Andrew was a writer. He took it seriously. He didn’t want to mix his home life with his business life. This condo let him escape those domestic hours. He could focus on his work without being worried about household chores or the phone ringing.

Phones weren’t allowed in the office. He left his iPhone in the car. The internet was no longer hooked up in the place. He didn’t want to be distracted by the outside world. The only way he was going to succeed in writing something meaningful was to sit his ass in that chair and write. There was no shortcut to writing. There was no app for that. You could either write or you couldn’t.

He emerged from the kitchen with his coffee mug. Andrew had a desk in the center of the room, facing out to the patio. He sat his coffee on the coaster sitting to the right of the keyboard. It was the only thing allowed on the desk, besides the computer.

Andrew walked past the desk and opened up the French doors. The smell of the ocean filled the room. He had always loved the ocean. It helped to calm his mind and let him get down to real writing.

He didn’t linger too long at the doors. He walked to the bookshelf and turned on the sound system. The iPod had a mix on it filled with his favorite songs; Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, The Grateful Dead with assorted other classic rock and blues. He didn’t have to worry about what to listen or skipping tracks. He just pressed shuffle and it would play all day long.

He finally sat down at the computer and opened the current piece his was writing. Andrew reread the last pages to remind himself of where he left off. He closed his eyes for a few seconds before typing. Sometimes the words wouldn’t come to mind and he sat there looking at the screen without seeing anything. He let his mind go slack. He pulled at his tie to give him another inch to breathe. He massaged his neck, trying to get some words to fall onto the pages.

The grandfather clock in the foyer rang out the hour. That was his cue to get up and walk around. He never liked to get stagnant. Sometimes he stretched, other times he just refilled his coffee. He would keep drinking coffee all day long.

The hours passed with this cycle of writing, pacing and drinking coffee. The clock chimed five times, which meant it was quitting time. Andrew finished the paragraph he was working on and saved the document. He always shut the computer down before he left for the evening. There was no point in wasting the energy.

Before He left for the day, he always straightened the place up, closing the French doors again. He washed his coffee mug and wiped down the counters. A little effort in the evening always made the mornings easier to deal with. He enjoyed walking into a clean office. It eliminated stress. Andrew retrieved his suit jacket. He straightened his tie in the bathroom mirror.

Andrew grabbed his briefcase, making his way downstairs. He felt good. He had put in a solid effort. He had written for the majority of the time he was at the office. Distractions came, but were dealt with promptly.

“Good evening, Mr. Simons.”

“Hey, George, it’s good to see you.” George McDermott manned the desk in the evenings. He wasn’t as polished as Billy, but he was the right man for the job for that time of day. He looked like a mob henchman from Central Casting. He was intimidating, but a sweet guy to the residents.

Andrew walked out the front door of the lobby into the late afternoon. The sun was working its way to the horizon. He could feel the summer getting away from him. The temperature was already down to a comfortable level.

“Hey man, you got the time?”

“It’s 5:17.” Andrew said, before realizing it was the same guy that commented on his watch in the morning. The guy smiled a goofy, toothy smile. It was difficult to look at him with that orthodontic nightmare going on.

Andrew did his best to keep walking. He used the key fob to unlock his car doors. Before he could get to the door handle, a baby blue convertible Bug stopped behind his car.

“Andrew!” He turned to see it was Holly. Sweet, beautiful Holly Lang was a girl he had liked for a long time. She was one of the perkiest blondes he had ever known.

“Hey there! What are you up to?”

“I was just in the neighborhood. I’ve been at the beach with the girls.”

“Sounds like a rough life.”

“You should have been there. It was fun.”

“I’m sure it was. Beautiful women on a beautiful beach. What’s not fun about that?”

“Don’t forget the scantily clad, beautiful women part!” Holly raised her eyebrows flirtatiously.

“Oh, I’ll never forget that. Trust me.”

“Wanna get a drink with me?”

“Of course I will.” Andrew popped his trunk and tossed his briefcase in before walking around to the passenger side of her car.

“You always look so good.”

“Thank you, Holly.”

“Why do you always wear a suit?”

“I just want to feel like a professional. Sometimes I don’t feel like an adult yet, you know?”

“Yeah, I get that.”

“I think if I look good, I’ll feel good.”

“Why aren’t all guys like you?”

“Because there’s only one Andrew Simons!” He said smiling broadly. She smiled and leaned in to kiss him briefly.

“I’ve always liked you, Andy.” The tender moment was interrupted by a voice coming from the building.

“Hey Suit! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do with Miss Sweet Tits!” The homeless/surfer guy chortled to himself like he was the funniest guy in the world.

“Ugh, I hate that guy!” She put her arm out across Andrew’s waist. “Please don’t do anything. He isn’t worth getting arrested over.”

“Do you know him? He was here this morning.” They both looked back at the man. Andrew’s fists were balled up.

“That’s Groper Rob. He is always bothering all the girls on the beach. He thinks he’s smooth and funny. He’s just a creeper.” Andrew stared at her, then looked back at the guy. He was still chuckling to himself and for anyone around him.

“Why do you guys call him that?”

“Because if you get too close, he’ll cop a feel. One time he flashed us. It was gross. He has such a tiny dick.”

“That’s not right. Why don’t the cops do anything?”

“They always remove him, but he keeps coming back.”

“I’ll talk to Billy about keeping him away.”

“At least that’ll keep this beach safe. Thank you.”

“It’s no problem. We need to keep the beautiful women of the world safe!”

“Don’t you mean, we need to keep all the women of the world safe?”

“Why yes, Holly, that’s exactly what I meant to say.” Andrew deepened his voice for dramatic effect.

“What are you talking about?” Holly said as she laughed.

“Nothing, I’m just being silly.”

“You’re a strange guy, Andy Simons. But for being such a gentleman, let me buy you a drink!”

“You do realize that a gentleman wouldn’t let a lady buy a drink, right?”

“Well, we’ll work something out.” Holly said with a wink.

Shifting

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The more he thought, the tighter he gripped the wheel. His anger was getting the better of him. He knew he was right to leave. There was no way to win in that situation. He was seething with fury. This was no way to live. There had to be a way to not get this upset. He had to learn to control himself.

“Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen blared from speakers as he shifted his anger. His knuckles were turning white. The driving made him feel better. There was fresh air and endless opportunities ahead of him. The music surged through him, sending the speedometer needle around the dial.

He was over-accelerating by the time he reached the top of the bridge. The tires got squirrelly, but he held tight. Traction was regained through his tight grip. It was a smooth, downward curve out and away. His speed was getting out of his control. He made a conscious decision to slow down. There was no reason to end up dead before anything was resolved. He downshifted to third. The car shuddered as it slowed.

There was a red light at the bottom of the bridge. He was glad he had decided to slow down before then. He sat at the light, waiting for it to turn green. He could feel his heartbeat starting to slow down. The deep breaths were visible in the cold night’s air. He zipped his sweater up to the neck, sticking his face under the turned up collar.

We all have choices, he thought. I don’t want to live my life angry. The light finally turned green, but he didn’t move. The car just sat there with his hand on the knob. There were no other cars out on the street at this hour. The lamps were spaced too far apart and did little to light the boulevard.

He slammed his foot downward on the pedal, jerking the wheel violently to the left. He made the U-turn and kept his foot on the floor, shifting up through the gears to fifth. He was going back. There was no point in running. That wasn’t going to solve anything. He hoped she would still be there. He hoped she would listen.

It didn’t take him long to get back up and over the series of bridges crossing the rivers. His speed was once again out of control, though anger was no longer motivating him. The need to return and talk things out were at the forefront of his mind.

He pulled the car into the circular, gravel drive in front of her place. He rushed out and ran through the front door, glad she had still left it unlocked. He found her sitting on the floor, right in front of the fire he had build for their quiet night.

“I’m sorry.”

“I am, too.” Her tears were fresh. She didn’t look up at him.

“I’m sorry I got so mad.”

“You left me.”

“Yes, I didn’t want to argue any longer.”

“You left.” She repeated. His heart sank.

“Yes.” He wondered what was the wisest choice for his next words. He decided there were no right words. He just sat down beside her and reached out to hold her. She recoiled at first. He allowed a hand to just linger on her shoulder. “I’m sorry.” He paused before leaning in to wrap her fully.

Red Lights

 “Prepare to darken ship. Let no white light shine topside.” The loud speakers called out the same thing every afternoon before the sun went below the horizon. Life on a Navy ship is most remarkably characterized by the glowing red lights within the ship at night. Red light doesn’t travel as far to other ships, which would give away its position.

 Corey Simmons always grew more anxious walking around the ship at night. He always over thought things at night. The red lights made it worse. The dulling of his senses walking through the pitch black into the red areas creeped him out. It put him on edge.

 He was walking the passageway from his shop to his berthing. The red lights are spaced out every twenty feet or so. That allows for darkness to be spaced out every twenty feet as well. the red and black rippled down the ship’s interior. In one of the black areas, Corey hit his shoulder on a large electrical box. “Shit.” He rubbed his shoulder as he kept walking. Corey came to the end of the passageway. There was only a locked hatch. “Fuck man.” He looked around. He missed a turn or a ladder well. Turning around, he went back the way he came. He didn’t recognize where he was. Corey went down the first ladder well he came to. The aluminum ladder shook violently with each step. It made much more noise than you’d expect on a steel ship. Then again, steel toed boots aren’t the lightest of footwear. He still didn’t know where he was. That wasn’t so uncommon on a ship this size. He cursed himself for not remembering the frame and hatch numbering system. He should be able to use it to find his way anywhere on the ship. He walked for two or three minutes more, taking various turns and trying to find a familiar hatch or landmark within the ship. Most of the water-tight hatches were ‘dogged down’ to prevent water intrusion in case of flooding. That was rare these days, but precautions were always taken. 

 Corey could feel himself getting frustrated. He started to sweat more the longer he was lost. When was the last time he even saw someone else? Even though it was the middle of the night, someone else should be walking through these passageways. His anxiety was beginning to rise. Corey began to overthink the situation. His breath became short. Then he became light headed. He knelt down and put his head on the cold metal floor. 

 Dark thoughts began to enter his head. He thought about all the negative aspects of his life, about how he always felt inferior. There was a lot of bravado in his daily life. He overcompensated for having a low self-esteem. He began to think of past sins and indiscretions. He thought of that summer in college when he swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills to try to kill the pain. With self-loathing, Corey kept drudging up the past. He knew God. He knew he believed in God. He believed that he was forgiven of his past. Corey just couldn’t find a way to forgive himself.

 In a moment of clarity, Corey remembered being young, maybe six or seven. The neighbor kid, Nathan something or other. He thought it might have started with an ‘A’. Corey remembered Nathan touching him and making Corey touch him in return. Nathan must have been thirteen or maybe a little older. Nathan made him go into a closet in the garage. It was dark in there. Corey was scared, so he did as he was told. 

 Corey didn’t know why he was remembering this now. He wished he hadn’t remembered. He wished he could forget it. He could feel tears roll down his cheeks. He cried until he passed out.

 What must have been hours later…

 “Dude!” Corey felt someone kick his shoes. “You can’t sleep here. Simmons, get the fuck up.” He felt another kick. Corey opened his eyes to see white lights all round him. They were bright. They hurt his eyes.

 “Sorry.” he said. Corey looked down at his watch. He was late for morning quarters.

Taco Tuesday 

 

 

Tuesday afternoon came around. We had planned on meeting up for lunch at Rosita’s. They have the best tacos on the island. The place was beat up. It looked like it was constructed entirely of driftwood and old metal signs. I ordered the Key West Amber. The barkeep wore peach shorts and a denim shirt buttoned low over a nice, tight tank.

“I’ll have a water, no lemon please.” The sound of her voice broke the love spell.

“Sorry, I was…uh…”

“It’s okay. I understand.”

“How are you?”

“I’m good. It has been a rough start to the week, but it’s early and we’ll rebound.”

“I love that about you.”

“What’s that?”

“How you always find hope in the situation.”

“What’s the alternative?”

“No, I get it. I just don’t naturally see it.”

“Are you guys ready?” The barkeep asked.

“I’m going to have the taco plate.” Alice’s voice was overly cheery, bordering on patronizing.

“Make that two, please.” I resisted looking at the barkeep, instead keeping my eyes on the menu. I folded it, handing it to her without ever looking up. I’m sure it was awkward for everyone.

“What’s your name, dear?” Alice asked the barkeep.

“It’s Summer.”

“Oh, of course it is. ”

 

*previously published

Just Keep Pouring Me The Coffee

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Just keep pouring me the coffee. I’ll need it to keep warm. The air conditioning is over the top. I can’t handle it. The nights are long and they keep getting longer. I don’t feel the loneliness as much as I used to. But then again, I don’t feel much anymore. I’ve closed myself off from everyone and everything. You cannot save my soul, so please stop trying. I know I’m broken. I’ll probably never get over it. But that’s just the way life is going to be. People swarm around me, but I can’t feel anything towards them. I want to feel something again. I see those young ladies walking around in those short skirts. Yes, I’d like to do dirty things with them, but my tainted soul is no longer for sale.

The Parlor

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I never knew the real story. I walked in on her in the parlor. It was one of those old homes, where the room could be completely closed off by panel doors. This part of Savannah was full of places like this.

I could tell that she had been crying for some time now. Our eyes locked instantly. I was the first to look away. Her eyes held a hatred that I could not begin to fathom. Her make-up was ruined and streaked all down her face. I had never seen her so flustered. She was always the model of composure. She was proper, almost defiantly so. I never saw her without her pearls on. She said that they were a heirloom, going back generations of buttoned-up ladies. Those weren’t her exact words.

It was a warmer day. I don’t know why she was wearing a coat. I was warm as it was. I loosened my tie. I looked back up at her. I could tell something wasn’t right.

“Are you okay, Charlotte?”

“Why yes, of course they are.” I paused. What was off?

“You don’t look well. Has something happened?”

“Nothing of any consequence. I will be okay.”

That wasn’t what I asked. There was something definitely off. I knew I needed to approach her politely and with caution.

“Hey, do you want to talk?”

“What about?” She had a blank, spaced out look on her face.

“You seem upset.”

“That’s sweet of you.”

I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her at this point. I needed to step away and give her time to sort out her feelings.

“You have my number. Please call if you feel like talking.”

“Sure, I’ll do that.”

“Okay, good day, Charlotte.”

“Good bye. Thanks for stopping through.”

She walked me to the door during that final exchange. It wasn’t until I heard the locks behind me that I realized I caught the faint smell of gunpowder.

 

*previously posted

Special Ability

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“I have a little known, special gift. I have the ability to see what is beautiful about almost any woman. They are amazing creatures. They inspire the greatest myths and legends.”
“So you objectify all women?”
“No, it isn’t just sexual. I want their hearts and souls, too. When you get all three to align, you find true beauty.”
“You are just using up these women and leaving them broken and alone.”
“Man, you can really suck the passion out of anything. Please don’t be so negative. Listen to what I’m actually saying. I love women. I truly love them for being feminine. They are amazing. I can be that mirror for them to see their beauty from their souls. They don’t want me to be their forever. They use me to gain the confidence to go and lead a happy life. I am merely happy to be of service.”
“I guess I just don’t understand.”
“I guess not.”
“We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
“Apparently.”
*previously published