Friday, March 18, 2011

Death and Cotton Candy

"Switch? what color is the sky in heaven?"
"Are you sure its not like black, like outerspace?"
"I'm sure."
Shiloh Switcher was never sure of anything.
"I think it's black."
Shiloh Switcher pretended to be apathetic about everything.

Eilein dug the toe of her black mary-janes into the grass. "Switch?"
"I don't think Uncle Morty likes this place."

Shiloh surveyed the cemetery with his quick, darting, brown eyes.  The tiny statuettes, the crushed rose stems, the puddles collected in the stone crevices, the chipped edges of tombstones; all of it was thin and grey, like a pencil drawing.

He put his hand gently on her small shoulder. She squinched her face up and pushed her green, plastic glasses up the bridge of her nose. She sniffled.
"You alright, Alien?"
"Is here alright?"
"I think it's ok."

Shiloh crouched down and picked up the shovel. He dug the metalic point of it into the earth, lifting up loose, grey soil.

"Wait! I still don't think Uncle Morty likes it."

"You like it alright, old man?" Shiloh asked, speaking into the black plastic trash bag. "What was that?" He cupped his ear. "Huh? You do? Alright...yeah? Ok, I'll tell her."
He looked at Eilein very seriously. "He says to tell you that he likes it here just fine."

She playfully smacked his arm. He laughed and tossed the shovel down, the wooden handling clanking against a patch of granite.

"You have a funny laugh," she said through a stream of giggles.
"Alien, where do you want Uncle Morty to want to be burried?"
"That' a lot of want."
"Welcome to Watershed Heights."

The sun was nearly gone by the time they paraded over to the carnival. She insisted on dragging the garbage bag with the dead uncle inside it for part of the way.
"Can we get a dog?" She asked as the town varmint, Lucky, sniffed at the bag.
"No. They cause diseases. Give me the body."

Shiloh used the knife in his pocket, the one with the dark wood handle, to slice through the plastic. The usual crowd, ripe with popcorn and puke, had congregated at the other end of the field. The entrance had moved again and they were alone to hold their funeral for two, or three, but only if you count the dead man.

They didn't dwell too long on formalities, just said a few words, and dug a hole in the patchy grass and gravel. They dumped in the body, clad in his white Elvis suit, the suede fringe fanning out like wings as the dead uncle fell back into the earth.
"I think he'll like it good here."
"Why here?" He asked her.
"The pink lights won't let him be scared."
"He's not scared, Alien."
"Can we get cotton candy, now?"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Alfred's Apocalypse

When something bad happens, even the most respectable get damn voyeuristic. And as I pushed through the thicket of a crowd I chanted to myself,

I'm not one of them,
I'm not one them,
I'm not one of them.

I didn't even have a camera with me, my vision had been clear of that pounding fog for a couple of days, so there was no use for the camera, I never film anything good when I can see it. So I guess I was kinda celebrating this sudden spike in normalcy like it was some sort of damn holiday or something, my face permanently twisted into a sort of alligator mouthed grin.

It was early that morning, I woke up to the sound of a buzzing alarm instead of the sun crashing into the apartment and finally bouncing into my small cave of a bed, walled off by the stacks of old film reels I'd rescued from the mildewed underbelly of the theatre. I stumbled around, fearing that the squint of my eyes was the onset of an episode, but it wasn't, it was just a glob of sleep sand, or whatever the damn that stuff's called.

I hollered into the living room. The kid was sprawled sideways across her bed. I've learned she's a sound sleeper, not like one of those movie kids who wander around seeing ghosts in the night, or bounce around with angelic smirks at ungodly hours of the morning.

I fell into a sort of almost consciousness, as conscious as one can be at six AM, as I watered my soul with coffee.

"Can I have some?"
whispered a small voice.

Kids who drink coffee are five times more likely to get addicted to drugs. I'm sure of it.

She pouted.

I'd made of a small wallet out of film that was lying around the theatre, bits of its picture had been worn into a blur by the sun. In my rough hands, with the aid of duct tape it folded into a clumsy little pouch. I stuffed it with a couple of bucks and the phone number to the apartment and the theatre written on torn scraps of paper.

As we stood on the concrete platform I handed her a ticket and the wallet. She held the pouch neatly in her hands, flipping it around her fingers, admiring it. She was admiring it.

"This is so cool..." She breathed, holding it up to the light of yellowed pink blue sky.

The train came barreling in like a stallion, kicking up a wash of rain puddles and showering us in mechanical smelling wind.

"For emergency's only!" I yelled over the sound.

She looked at the money seriously, and nodded, biting her lips.

She through her arms around my hips, either trying to see if they really are as awkwardly narrow as they are, or, perhaps, though less likely, trying to give me a hug. I considered hugging back, instead it started to rain pigeons. Slick, shiny, rain covered birds fell out of the sky in masses, descending upon the station like a bomb brigade.

She leaped away from me with a startle, looking in amazement at the birds. I ducked my head and shoved my hands in my pockets, I'd seen enough Alfred Hitchcock to know this was no time for hugs, in fact, this was probably Watershed height's version of an apocalypse.

"Uncle Morton will pick you up at the station." I said to a jittery and fidgeting, lip biting Alien surrounded by a about a million damn birds.

"Does he still look like Elvis?" She asked, her head tilted and hands perched on her hips.

Our uncle Morton is an Elvis impersonator. He is also a plumber.

"Yes." I grimaced, surprised and ashamed at my own answer.

"Good." She added with a genuine grin.

That kid has a way of swallowing shit like candy.

Another army of pigeons landed around my feet.

"Get the hell out of dodge." I said to Alien.


I sunk into the concrete, god did I feel like a dork.


She went, leaping onto the train just as it churned away, down the redline, taking that prematurely hot potato to her next location.

On Calloway a crowd had formed, hustling around a dead guy for their viewing pleasure these damn schmucks could come to the theatre for their viewing pleasure instead, and I wanted to holler at in each of their peering faces. I wanted to holler. That was a first, I usually prefer not to talk.

I made sure not to outstay my eye's welcome, only glancing for a moment and then climbing up the stairs of Watershed. More voyeuristic schmucks were lining the hallways, I nearly crashed into a man, who from the looks of how he was cradling his head in his grungy hands could have easily been the dude swimming in his own blood, dead in the middle of the street.

Locked inside the apartment, I brushed my hands up towards my face, dusting away the morning dew and pigeon feathers that had gotten caught in my stubble, which was really more of a forest now. And then I had the most unthinkable thought, and before long I was elbow deep in a box, subtracting a cracked mirror from its contents.

From the looks of it, I could have easily been the dude swimming in his own blood, dead in the middle of the street.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Foxes, Crows, and Rainy Day Roads.

"I forgot my Alfred." She said softly as I tugged shut the apartment door. It stuck in the door frame and locked with a click.

"I forgot my Alfred." She said again.

Who the hell is Alfred?

"Can I go in and get Alfred?"

"What's an Alfred?"

Ms. Macintyre from upstairs walked by, the damn crow she keeps on her pointed shoulders cried "Alfred!"

Alien giggled in that damn movie kid way of hers.

A fox walked by, an absolute damn fox that sent shock waves down my twisted spine and a hum in my ears that sounded like the grainy click of the projector kicking on and a reel running through it. Damn. She was movie perfect, perfect lips, perfect hips, a face that seemed to spread out like starts across the screen and swell with an auburn sunlight. She was dressed in red like a flag, and adorned in silver and studs.

Should I smile? I didn't smile. I was afraid of looking like that damn stuffy polyester job, like I'd payed hooky to go eat stale tomatoes with polyester the day of that mandatory course on how to smile that whole rest of the world seemed to pass with stickers and stars.

Everything crackled a little bit, staticky and cold.

I couldn't smile at this fox, not with Alien around, she just wasn't the right kind of person for that damn kid to see me smiling at.

But Alien was gone anyhow, no longer beside me.

Alien was gone.

I spun around like a maniac, looking for Alien who had disappeared into a non-existent crowd, in a barely existent hallway, in a possibly existing building that smells of stale, smoked covered cheese. I ran down the hallway a bit, hoping there was no one I could crash into in my fogged up stupor.

My fingers smashed into something pointy, a metal stud protruding off of a brilliantly nice face.

"Sorry..." I whispered, pushing my hair across the my forehead, instinctively trying to impress this perfect specimen of the human race. My fist closed around a patch of twisted, wiry hair; grey hair. Those damn greys have been springing up since I was twelve. "Please, don't see the grey" I silently prayed to that great big white and red role of Panavision film in the sky, that I didn't believe in. I tugged out my shirt and scooted past her.

"I wanna be sedated" she mumbled at me.

So, she's one of those people.

I could only see her shadow now, but it was perfect. Even if she was one of those people.

"Your shirt..." She continued.

I was wearing a Ramones t-shirt.

So, she's one of these people.

I unhinged my jaw and hoped it looked more like a damn smile and less like an alligator. I have a feeling it probably resembled the latter.

"ALFRED!" I heard Ms. Macyintyre's crow hollering from the other end of the stale hallway. I tore towards the unpleasant sound, begging to find Alien at the end of it, tripping on nothing and landing on the flat carpet somewhere between a fox with piercings and an old woman with a crow.

"That's Switch" I heard Alien say as if that explained everything.
"So, Alfred is my horse." Alien paused dramatically, like a damn movie kid. "Well, he's not a real horse, he's a stuffed horse" She stopped. I guessed she was talking to Ms. Macyintyre. "but he is real" Alien continued.

I stumbled in what I guessed to be the direction of Ms. Macyintyre.

"Sorry about the kid." I mumbled.

"Its ok dear" I heard a voice say behind me.

I guess I had guessed wrong. I could feel the odd looks coming at me, the piercing gaze of the fox, Ms. Macintyre's croaking glare. Even the damn kid was looking at me. I knew she was, probably in fear. Her "legal guardian," god, I sound like that polyester job, was talking to a wall. The blood thudded in my ears and spun through a projector, displaying my pathetic life onto a wall I could I barely see in front of me. Complete with credits and a theme song.

A Small hand touched my arm.

"Switch?" She said meekly.
"Let's go."
"Can I get Alfred? I always carry him in my backpack."
In the last few days she'd been toting around this white backpack littered with stains and rips.
"Ok."She murmured. "I know its kid-ish."
Well that really broke me, damn kids always think they're so above being a kid. Damn paradoxes.

We moved through the hallway, through the awkward glances and webs of mold.
As we walked together in silence my vision grew clearer, still in early black and white, slow and snowy, but as I walked beside the damn kid I could see.

Rain drops dropped down in clumps, fat and ceasing to explode across my outstretched tongue, and instead just trickling down my nose. Of course.

I caught Alien looking up at me and my tongue leaped into my mouth like a frog with a fly. A drop ran down across my closed lips. Damn.

We headed west up Sam Street, our feet sloshing in unison. The rainy day roads gleamed with energy. Alien looked with those sad, movie kid eyes of hers at the playground and that was filled with a couple miscreant youth emitting an earthy scent and a billow of smoke.

"Now Kid, let's go." I urged at Alien, she fell back into step, just a few paces behind me.

And if the sun came up, I wouldn't care, no, I didn't care if it rained. I thought about showing a movie just a little earlier tonight, Singing in the Rain maybe, campy, but a kid would like it. How about nine, we could go to the movies, Alien and I, it wouldn't be too late for a kid. At least I hope that isn't too late. We kept walking.

The world was shrouded in a sort of technicolor hue, and I was excited. Excitement, it was something. I hoped Alien would like the theatre, finds its enormous supply of captured wonder half as intriguing as I did.

A man in front of us was enjoying the rained out world as I much I was, just standing there by the old basketball court and letting the rain run down his body.

My eyes widened comically like a blond heroine in the a zombie movie as I realized the naked monster.

"Why isn't he wearing any clothes?" Alien asked.

I guess he likes to shower without his clothes front of the world.

"Let's go somewhere else." I mumbled, jerking the damn kid away.

"Its ok Switch, I won't look, we can still go to the theatre..." She pleaded.

"No, its just work anyway, you don't need to see the theatre today." I grunted.

And suddenly, like that singing girl in gingham waking up from her dream, all the technicolor was gone, and I was seeing in sepia, brown lines zooming across the eyes.

"Can I come back later? When you work? Could I watch a movie?"
Nine's too late for a nine year old, it wouldn't finish til eleven. I should be responsible.
Alien pouted. "I wish Alfred was here."

And then, I couldn't see a damn thing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Movie Kid

"Switch?" She called from the staircase. Eight minutes early. I'd been counting. I never miss a count, not by more than a minute. Damn kid ever hear of a watch? You're supposed to be on time for folks, its just the decent thing to do.

I jumped in the shower. "I'm in the shower."
I never could lie to the kid.

I stood there in the shower a while, my foot throbbing, it got a little banged during the jump. You think you've got a good sense of where things are, and then you don't. I usually do.

I waited for it to subside, standing in the still shower, which is a strange thing and feels kind of wrong. It felt like it ought to have been boring too, but it was good, like a vacation or getting lost in a grocery store or something.

I don't how long it'd been. I stopped counting. I never stop counting. I began to grow all itchy, one of those ithes you can't scratch, where its just there, you don't know where you feel it, you just feel it. My watch was real itchy a lot, one of those cheap aluminum jobs, so i chucked it onto the tile floor. It didn't even thud, just squished into the carpet of muck. Can't even get a good thud when you want it. It didn't make the itching stop either. I knew it wouldn't.

She knocked again, or somebody knocked again. I guess she could've left and someone else come. So, I turned, wobbly on my abused ankle, and fumbled for the faucet. The water moved through it, those pipes, with a thud, a good thud. Man, it knew what was up. I hoped she didn't hear the water come on just then. I supposed to have been in there for a while

I was crashing through the apartment the moment I barely could. I knocked over the vase and a couple of reels. Glass shattered all over the damn place.

"Hey Switch!"

She knocked.

I sprinted for a camera, I don't know which one I grabbed, it still hadn't quite worn off, which is why I was crashing around like a maniac. I filmed the carpet and the fuzzy glass, I bet it looked like something. And I wanted to know that something. I left it recording, must've been one of the older u-matics, it felt good against my face, simple and smooth, and had more of a base sound than that mosquito hum of the newer models.

"Switch?" She was sounded damn worried, in that movie kid kind of way, supposed to break your heart or something. I felt real bad about making her wait, so
I tidied up the film reels as best I cold, careful not to fingerprint them. It felt better to make them right. When they're right I'm right.

"Hey Alien"
"Hey Switch"

Her pitch matched mine damn near perfectly, like some sort of confirmation of the false fact that we got each other. I always did think that damn kid kind of got me or something. I usually get people. I didn't get her though. She smiled like she hadn't been waiting a while, but she had, she smiled like she'd been waiting a while, but at the same she hadn't been waiting a while. I don't know how she did it.

"You're taller" I remarked.
"You're stinkier"
"Yeah" Yeah, I probably was.

I guess I should've talked then to the girl, the lady, the ma'am, the whatever the damn she was that was with her, but I don't like talking to folks, seems more respectable not to. She seemed a little scary too, with one of those polyester jobs that shrink and tug and say "I bought my pale tomatoes one isle over from where I bought this tugging and talking matching polyester job I'm wearing that was shelved between a boy's bathing suit with the last decade's cartoon characters on it and a Monopoly game with instructions printed in Spanish. She had either eaten one too many pale tomatoes or was creating a consumer for the cartoon character bathing suit and an El Monoployo game.

The girl, lady, ma'am, whatever the damn opened her mouth at me before taking. Not really a smile, just sort unhinged her jaw in my general direction.

"Mr. Switcher, someone's been by to inspect?"

What I am, a bug?

"They went over the legal?"

That sentence lacks a damn subject.

She unhinged her jaw at me again.
She wanted to know what took so long answering the door. I wanted to tell her. I want to tell that damn kid. I couldn't tell her though, not for the sake, the well fair they say, of that damn kid.

"You're cloths are wet."

What is this, damn Jerusalem? My 'cloths' are wet, are my robes and sandals dry though?

"I took a shower."

Alien piped up.
"You take a shower with your close on?"
Pipe down kid.

"Mr. Switcher, you shower with all your clothes on?"
Careful, don't to burst out of your polyester.

"Yeah, I shower with all my clothes on."

Quick, don't think about elephants. Thinking about elephants?

Polyester left. Left me with the kid, the kid she calls "Eileen" like it hurts to talk.

"Uh..." I grabbed her bulging suitcase and put inside, next to the reels and tapes. I put the u-matic, it was the newer one, seventy-six, not new enough to hum I guess, down.

Alien looked up at me with those damn movie kid eyes of hers.

"Do you have laundry?"

"No. Just my, my, well, everything."

She shrugged and smiled her braces covered movie kid smile.
"Guess its just not dirty yet."

She's damn funny. I like this kid, always have.

"I thought we'd go to the laundry mat. I thought you'd have laundry."
"I'm sorry"
"I do laundry every month. I thought you'd have more than once a month laundry"
"I can have more than once a month laundry"
"But you don't today."
"I don't today."

"Want dinner?"
"I want dinner."

We walked over to Mr. Foo's. Alien wanted to take the camera, the film one. But I told her there's no point in filming what you can see.

Mr. Foo's smelled like rice and nail polish. I didn't eat much. Alien ate like a goat. Damn kid. Ha. Ha. Kid.

We came back, I made sure we walked real fast past the old package store, nothing a damn kid ought to see.

We sat around the apartment for a while, I figured we'd sit and chew the shit for a while, but she was just drawing something on a yellowed pad of paper she'd brought. Those damn movie kids are always drawing pictures, of elephants the color of raspberry ice cream.
I showed Alien her bedroom, next to the old desk, in the corner of the living room I'd blocked with boxes of film.

"This is cool" She said with wide movie kid eyes. When I showed her her bedroom, a corner of the living room I shoved a cot in. It was pretty private, blocked off by walls of film and tape. A couple of Time magaiznes and few issues of Rolling Stone, mostly from the eighties.

"Bye" I said, leaning over and tugging on my sneakers.
"Where are you going?"
"To work." To work, to work, doesn't the damn kid know I work?

"You're leaving?"
"Of course."

"I'll be back" I added.

"I know!"
She didn't know.

I pulled the rusted draw string in the doorway. The light flicked off. It was perfectly dark.
"Don't talk to strangers."

"There will strangers in the apartment?" She said, bolting her movie kid face into the doorway where I was.

No, I just didn't know what else to say to you kid.

"If there are, don't talk to them." I winked.

I heard the swooshing of blankets. I'd put the best blankets on that cot, those blankets were the best in all of Watershed Heights, I guarantee it. That kid wasn't going to have pale tomatoes smelling blankets.

Then it was starting up again. I burrowed out of the apartment quick, before it turned into a steeple chase course. I felt around for the right key to lock the door, not that one, not that one, the last one, that one.

"Switch?" She called. "Can you leave the light on?"

I was blind then.
"Why do you want to leave the light on? Aren't you going to sleep?"
"Yeah, but, sometimes when you want to fall asleep, its easier with light, like the dark is too dark, and the light is like a better dark, 'cuz you're asleep." She was twisting her words in circles. "Its like fake dark."

So I crashed around until I located the fake dark switch.

Quick, there's an elephant in the room you can't see, don't look at it.

I tapped along the sidewalk, by the time I got to the theatre it was gone. I played Citizen for the ten o'clock. No one came. They rarely do.

I have this fantasy, that if it rained dimes, slick, shiny dimes, over Watershed Heights, it'd look just like Xanadu, and we'd be none the happier, but I'd have a cool fedora like Orson.