A Welcome Home

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Life was different out there. They didn’t get much traffic that far out-of-town. The house was situated on the slope of the mountain. It was a gravel road while she was growing up, but they paved it a few years back. That made it slick in the winter months. The first snows had left a dusting overnight. She leaned against a post of the front porch in her oversized cable-knit sweater. Her dirty blonde hair, peeking out of a woolen cap, was in a large braid over one shoulder.

It really was a beautiful country. Some people called it ‘God’s Country’, but everyone called their part of the world that. She was just grateful for what she had. Life was good and she knew it. Everyday wasn’t was this perfect, so you had to truly cherish it.

The phone started to ring and she let it. That was what voicemail was for. Nothing was so important as to disturb this beautiful moment. Her coffee was getting low. She would have to go inside soon anyway.

When she went inside, she checked the phone. The number was unfamiliar and there was no messages left. She walked to the kitchen without a second thought. It was too good of a morning to waste any of it on someone who clearly didn’t have anything important to say.
The thoughts of a certain someone started to filter through her mind. Why hadn’t he called yet? The news of her arrival assuredly made to him by now. I’m sure the dirty old men at the bar made a few wise cracks. Did he no longer care? Had he moved on? Was he married? Maybe she needed to get dressed and pay the town a visit. Sitting here, thinking these negative thoughts wasn’t going to do any good.

While pouring another cup of coffee, there was a knock on the door. Startled, she clearly wasn’t expecting anyone. Heading towards the door, she paused at the mirror to make sure she wasn’t going to embarrass herself. “As good as it’s going to be,” she mumbled to herself. She peeked out the side window as she was about to unlock the door. Oh my God, it was William! He knocked again. She was frozen. All kinds of thoughts and emotions overwhelmed her.

“Hayden, I saw you. Please open up.”

“Hi,” was all she could come up with. She was instantly embarrassed. Where had all the things she’s wanted to say forever? She sounded like a star struck school girl.

“I just heard you were in town. How long has it been?”

“I don’t know. A long time. You look terrific. How are you?”

“Thank you, Hayden. You look great, too. I’m okay.”

“I’m sorry. Where are my manners? Do you want to come in? I have some coffee.”

“Yes, coffee sounds terrific. Thanks.” His smile was wide and enthusiastic and melted her instantly.

Hayden led him through the house. He followed her into the kitchen. He took in all the sights and smells of being next to her again. Life can be complicated. How he felt about her had never been complicated. He did not always know how to deal with it, but he was never confused by how he felt about Hayden.

“How do you want your coffee?”

“Do you have any creamer?”

“No.”

“I’ll take it black then.” He smiled at Hayden. She was caught up in that face. She cursed herself for succumbing to his charm again. She opened a cabinet and started up on her tiptoes. The hem of her sweater inched it’s way up, revealing more and more of her skin. She paused when she realized her state of dress.

“The mugs are up here. You’ll have to get one yourself.” Momentarily confused, he smiled again.

“What’s the matter, Hayden?” William took advantage of standing right next to her when he grabbed his coffee cup. He could tell she had stopped breathing. He placed his hand over hers, which was on her hip. “Relax. It’s just coffee.”

“I know.” She replied softly, almost imperceptible. Why did he make her feel this way? Hayden was nervous and shy around William. She always had been.

She took the cup from him. Their fingers touching again. She looked up into his eyes. He stepped back, grudgingly to allow her to pour the coffee.

“So, how have you been?”

“I’ve been okay, I guess.”

“You guess?” He blew on his coffee, pursing his lips and making her squirm. She loved those lips long ago.

“I don’t know. I’ve been feeling lost recently. That’s why I came back here.”

“I, for one, am grateful you’re back. It’s good to see you.” He took another sip, trying to hide his smirk.

“Thank you.” She blushed.

“What’s been keeping you so busy?”

“Work, mostly. There’s not that much to tell. None of it is interesting.”

“I think it is. I want to know everything.”

“No, you don’t. It’s boring. You don’t…”

“Shhhh….” William leaned in and kissed her before she could say anything else. She pushed him back. He was grinning.

“Did you just shush me?! Stop that smiling!”

“As you wish.” He grabbed her again and kissed her deep. She could feel all of her inhibitions leaving. His arms wrapped around her, holding her as to never let her go.

He knew within his heart, that this is what he had been missing. The passion between them was obvious. The mutual desire and hunger in their kisses carried them further in this embrace.

“I’ve missed you.” She whispered to him. He looked into her eyes, like she was the most beautiful woman in the world. He reached out, just touching the bottom of her sweater. Her hand met his. “Not here.” Never taking her hand off his, Hayden led them back to the bedroom.
It was sparsely decorated. An antique dresser with a mirror and a bed with a nightstand were the only furniture in there. The bed was covered in all white linens and stacked with too many pillows. The nightstand had a Tiffany lamp and books stacked on top and on the floor next to it.

“This is as it should be.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just mean that this room is exactly how I’ve always thought of you. It is kinda organized with the bed being perfectly made and hardly anything else in the room. Then you find the books all askew. You’re focused and organized, but then you an unraveling edge that you try to hide.”

“Are you trying to seduce me with this talk?” William laughed. Hayden tried to keep a straight face, but then broke into a wide smile.

William reached up to hold her face in his hands. He closed his eyes and leaned in to gently kiss her lips. He could feel her melt. He moved his hands down her back and increased the passion of his kisses.

Hayden reached up and untied his tie. She slipped it slowly from under his collar. Her eyes never left William’s eyes. She bit her lip as she began to unbutton his shirt. She took her time with each one. There was a certain distraction as she was trying to continue kissing as she fumbled with his buttons. They laughed together without breaking lip contact. She finished unbuttoning and hastily jerked the dress shirt over his shoulders. She kissed his chest lightly and then gave him a firmer kiss on his neck.

Taking a step back, she admired William’s innate manliness. He was rugged in a way that she had missed over the years. She was not fragile and didn’t want to be treated as though she was. William knew how to treat a woman as feminine, yet not disrespect her as a breakable object.

William kissed her hard with the passion of all the missed years. He then placed a hand on the center of her chest and pushed her back on the bed. She lifted her head with amazed eyes.

“What was that for?”

“You were distracting me.”

“Oh, I was, was I?” She flashed a playful smile. “How was I doing that?”

“You were in the way.” William slipped off his shoes and unbuckled his belt.

“I’m sorry. Would you prefer I got out of your way?”

“Nope. I want you to stay right there.” He pulled his pants and boxers off.

“Oh, my.” She released an involuntary approval. “Nice socks.”

“Would you like me to leave them on?” He reached down and pulled them off. He stood before her as natural as he could be. A smile of sheer confidence crossed his face. He approached her slowly and climbed on the bed over her. Hayden grew nervous. Her heartbeat increased.

“Are you going to take my clothes off?” She whispered. He kissed her cheek.

“Are you in a hurry?”

“No. I’m just…”

“Hayden, are you okay with this?”

“Yes. I’m just a little nervous.”

“Why would you be nervous?”

“I haven’t seen you in awhile. This is so sudden.”

“Do you want to me to put my clothes back on?”

“Oh God no!” She leaned into his lips and kissed him deeply. “I just needed a minute. I’m good. Why do I still have these clothes on?”

William placed a hand under her head, cradling it gently. He kissed her sweetly and slowly increased the pressure of his kisses. His other hand touched her mid-thigh. He could feel her begin to squirm. He relished every reaction she made. His hand slowly and deliberately made its way up her side. He stopped at her hip and then worked his way up her sweater. The fact that she wore nothing under made him dizzy with desire. His hand finally made it to her right breast. He cupped it and firmly squeezed it. He brought his left hand from under her head and started again at her left thigh. Their kisses never once stopped or slowed. As his left hand worked its way up Hayden’s side, the sweater rose, revealing more and more of her perfect skin. William’s eyes were closed. He was focused on her sweet lips.

Once her sweater was up over her breasts, William finally broke free of her kisses. He guided her up to finally remove her sweater. It was flung carelessly, far into the corner. He looked down in satisfaction. Here was the most beautiful woman.

They took a minute to admire each other again. Time changes many things, but not love. Hayden scooted herself up to the top of the bed. William climbed next to her. They looked quietly into each other’s eyes. She reached a hand to his cheek and closed her eyes before kissing him again. He reached out and pulled her into his arms.

They made love twice that morning. William made sure to concentrate on Hayden and make her feel how much he had missed her. He wanted her to feel how much love still burned for her.

He wanted to tell her everything that was in his heart. He wanted to unburden his soul. But most of all, he wanted her to be happy. Just because he had something to say, did not mean she needed to hear it. William clung to the hope that there would be a time for all those talks.

They laid in bed as the sun rose higher in the morning sky. He slipped away to take a shower. Hayden watched him walked naked out of the room. Her heart swelled. The morning had not gone as expected.

He returned and was soon dressed and ready for the day a second time. He looked grown up. He was a gentleman.

“I have to get to work. Can I call you?”

“Of course!” She smiled at him.

“Hayden, a broken soul doesn’t have to remain broken forever.” He kissed her one last time before walking out the door.

All she had to do was decide. This could be her reality once again. There was no good reason why she had to stay in the city. The job wasn’t enjoyable. She could feel her soul heavy with regret. There had been moments in her life when she traded happiness for success. They had told her that she could have it all. That turned out to be a lie.

With a fresh cup of coffee, she walked back out to the porch. Her soul yearned to be in this natural air. There isn’t much better than being in the purity of this land. The view alone was enough to change your life. She knew she had to make a decision. It didn’t have to be today. She could enjoy the beauty in front of her. It was possible to be happy. All she had to do was decide.

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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.

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

Thousand Yard Stare

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It was dark out on the flight deck. The stars and moon not visable tonight. The hum of the Diesel engines mixed with the lapping of the waves. The rest of the guys were inside playing cards. He was sitting on a bullnose, where the mooring lines enter the ship.

He was dirty. The overall grime of shipboard life had taken its toll on his uniform, exposed flesh and general psyche. At this point of the deployment, his blue ‘digital’ camouflage pants were were out of regulations. They had rips, paint splatter and grease stains. No one gave him flack about it. There was no time to focus on those aspects or the means to replace uniforms. It was not important at this point. There was a mission at hand. The priorities were to do your job correctly the first time. Crisp new uniforms would not help you succeed out here. There is a feeling among sailors that those who had time to polish their boots did not have a real job. Admin types and supply personnel usually were the ones with nice looking boots.
“Smitty, you okay man?”
“I’m cool”
“You got that 1,000 yard stare going.”
“Naw, I’m just thinking. I’m fucking tired man”
“Me too.”
“I just want to go home. This shit sucks.”
“I know, I don’t even want to get off the boat in port.”
“Right? Let’s just go back, cut all this short.”
“Wish we could, man. You gonna be okay?”
“Yeah. I’m cool. I’m gonna go to bed soon.”
“All right man, don’t be grabbing chains and jumping off the side.” They both smiled. “We’re laughing, but seriously. It’s not that bad. We’ll be home soon enough.”
“I know, thanks man.”
They went their separate ways. Smitty returned his gaze back out on the water.
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New Year’s Noir

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He parked down the street, facing away from the house. He sat there all night, parked against the curb. He flicked the lid of the Zippo back and forth the entire time. He gave up smoking years ago, but he didn’t give up carrying the lighter. He never stopped playing with that lighter. In years past, the sound would have driven a partner crazy. He gave up on partners, too.

The night was a moonless disaster. He sat in that car, knowing that he couldn’t see anything. He kept his eyes focused and ready on the off chance he was right. He didn’t know anymore. The Captain seemed to have more faith in him than he had confidence in himself. He did as he was told. That bit of trust between the men kept them both alive far longer than either were expected to live.

It was getting close to midnight and he began to feel a bit restless. He checked his mirrors and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The usual trouble makers were out setting off fireworks. There was nothing crazy, merely stuff on the line of bottle rockets and black cats. He knew he could have flashed his badge to scare them off, but he liked the idea of the distraction.

The house was dimly lit on the inside. There were no external lights. He carefully checked the side gate. It was unlocked. He smiled to himself. This might be easier than he thought. He made sure that his position was never given away in the light of the fireworks.

The lights were off and the shades drawn in the windows on the side of the house. He didn’t linger as he went around to the back of the house. The curtains were pulled back, allowing him to see into the living room and kitchen areas. There were no lights on, besides the glow of the TV. He paused, fading into the blackness of the night.

The only sounds continued to be the fireworks.

He walked up to the side of the sliding glass door, trying to keep most of his body out of view. The door was inexplicably unlocked. He was unsure of his good luck. He waited a few seconds after he cracked the door. He heard no alarms or beeps to be worried about.

There was only a few minutes now. Of course there was the possibility of a silent alarm. He knew he had to make things quick once he entered the house. He didn’t see any movement inside. The slight audible sound of the TV was heard as soon as he stuck his head in. He wore an all black outfit. It was a cliche for a reason. His movements were slow and easy. He didn’t need any joints to pop or his shoes to squeak.

There was no evidence of anyone home. He made it to the hallway without hearing anything or seeing anything. His heart began to beat a little faster. He looked both ways and decided to go down the left hand side. That’s when he heard her for the first time.

“I thought you’d be coming for me.”

He froze. Blood left his face. Instinctively, he reached down to his sidearm.

“Don’t.”

“Okay.” He breathed deeply. “I’m not going to.” He raised his hands up to shoulder level with his fingers spread out wide.

“I’m guessing you thought all that noise would let you do this without attracting attention.” He didn’t betray any thoughts. His face remained trained on hers. “Well, I’m counting on the same thing.” He never heard the shot and neither did the neighbors.

*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.

Deck The Halls

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She made sure the house was cleaner than it had been all year. She scrubbed and cleaned deep into the home’s old wood. A little elbow grease made that place shine like it hadn’t in too long. Bleach and Pine-Sol made sure her effort didn’t go unnoticed. Her old sweat pants and stained t-shirt looked like Cinderella’s rags. She was a mess, inside and out.

She sat back and looked over the house, admiring the place which had been neglected. Work and caring for others had taken priority. She wandered into the kitchen and uncorked a bottle of Pinot Grigio. It had been a rough week and she felt a little relaxation would be nice.

Soon afterward, she retired to her bedroom and scrubbed herself of the grime and sediment of the past. There needed to be nothing left to remind her of disappointment and heartache. She needed to feel fresh and clean for the coming New Year.

The winter season had always made her feel special as a child. The recent past dulled any happiness she might have found. She was determined to change all that. This year she was going to be happy and joyous. She was going to take back her life.

She emerged wearing her favorite holiday cocktail dress. It was a classic blue taffeta. She loved how it fit her. It flattered her figure without being ostentatious. This dress quietly announced her. The perfect heels and pearls completed the ensemble. She felt graceful and beautiful.

She wasn’t going to allow not having a place to wear it this year to keep her from the pleasure of feeling this good. This dress changed her whole outlook. There hadn’t been many moments where she felt good about herself. She made a mental note to change that.

The fire had been carefully built and lit, as well as all the candles in the house. A fresh pine garland was woven along the mantle. She made sure the oversized red bow was tied perfectly upon the front door. Each decoration raised her spirit a little more.

She sat down on a barstool at the end of the counter. The second glass went down smooth. Her spirits began to rise. Spinning the stem in her hand, she thought about her life.

Something stirred inside her, telling her that she had a good life. She was tougher than this and was tired of feeling this way. She wasn’t a victim and she was tired of being treated like one. She knew that she was an intelligent woman. She held a good job. There were men who found her attractive and behaved nervously around her. The thought made her giggle softly.

She poured herself another glass and walked over to her phone on the bookcase. With a few touches, she queued up a waltz. The magic of technology had music playing from speakers throughout the house. She smiled broadly and returned to her decorating. She began to dance around the room as she filled her home with the Christmas spirit.

Once completed, she turned off all the interior lights, allowing the fireplace, candles and Christmas tree to illuminate the room. The coffee table had been removed for the winter to fit the tree. This offered plenty of room for dancing and merriment.

Her soul was glowing. This pure joy had been missing for so long. She knew that she would be okay as long as she could remind herself of the simple joys in life. She could be happy as long as she kept dancing. While she drank her wine and celebrated life all evening, her heels could be heard click-clacking on that hardwood floor.

 

*I forgot to post this earlier in the season. I hope you enjoy.

**previously posted on former blog

Sonia


“Are you responsible for her?” They weren’t happy to see her wearing trousers, but I thought she looked superb. I guess her appearance wasn’t their concern. They wanted her to fit into their society’s mold for women. They were uncomfortable with someone who so blatantly defied them. Sonia didn’t give a “rat’s ass” (her words) about their structures. She was Sonia and no one else. She lived by her own rules and no one else’s. She could be infuriating, but I think I loved her.

“Sir, would you be so kind as to speak like a gentleman around the lady?” I gently replied.

“Ladies do not dress as such.”

Before I was able to interfere, she had bloodied the poor gent’s nose. I grabbed her hand and off we ran. She held tight to her sloppy hat. I hated that thing. I never thought it flattered her. It was too big and worn.

Sonia was a little rough around the edges. I knew that. It was fairly clear from the get go. But, there was another side of her. There was a side of Sonia that you would only see when you had her comfortable and feeling secure within herself. She was kind and loving then. It was as if all the outside threats melted away. Her smile was infectious. Sonia was a special girl. I will never forget her and our time together.

I lost her sometime before Berlin. It is difficult to remember exactly where. All of Europe was in chaos. Sonia had strong feelings about the whole thing. I just wanted her, but Sonia had a stronger moral compass. She slipped away to fight her own private war.

There were reports of her joining the resistance in France, Belgium, and North Africa. I believe those were all exaggerated, but some people need to believe in heroes. She could still make me smile from across the world. I didn’t know how to find her. I don’t know if I would anyway.

My life had become dull without Sonia. I typed away at my desk in that same room everyday. The hammering of the keys kept me agitated, but I had no other skills. The world was changing and I didn’t know how to change with it. I felt like I was fading into oblivion without any beauty in my life.

So I just kept typing. I had to get these ideas of freedom out into the world. They were the only thing I could use against the atrocities. I wasn’t the soldierly type. I was a man of words. I hated evil as much as the next guy, but I had to fight them in my own way. I thought perhaps I could transcend the war with my ideas.

On my way out of the office at the end of each day I checked the mail one last time. There was hope in my search. I was never rewarded with any word from her.