Peter collected his mail and took a table at Café Central by himself, away from the ghosts of his friends: Kraus, von Hofmannsthal, Klimt, and the others. He plopped down on the cushioned bench beneath the window. As was the norm, his pockets were empty, his stomach was too, but that didn’t matter. He fully intended to pen some prose today, some poetry. Armed with his inkpot, his quill, and an armful of correspondenzkarten on which to write (because he thrived on the limitations that they imposed on his writing); he selected one and scribbled on the back:
“Ich habe zu meinen zahlreichen unglücklichen Lieben noch eine neue hinzubekommen
den Schnee! Er erfüllt mich mit Enthusiasmus, mit Melancholie.” *
*Excerpt from „ WINTER AUF DEM SEMMERING “, Written by Peter Altenberg, master of the aphorism, first published in 1913.
I chose to steal this, and use it as the verse for my Haibun.
It was late when Louise parked at the edge of the lot and started her trek towards the casino. She wore a pair of low top Converse sneakers and carried her black ankle strap shoes, planning to change in the ladies room. On the way, she studied the sky. The moon was high – Holding water. She felt good when the doors slid open, and she stepped inside. After exchanging her footwear and freshening her lipstick, she studied the tables. The one she selected was not yet crowded and had been cold until she picked up the bones. She put her chips on hi-lo and rolled a two. Let the good times roll.
I pushed open the swinging door and, the place got real quiet.
It took a little time for my eyes to adjust to the low light. There were six tables, all filled. An empty stool beckoned from close to the centre of the bar. A tall, dark-haired girl stood behind a row of beer towers; she leaned against the chill boxes and wore a white collared shirt with black jeans. An apron hung loosely from her hips.
I threaded my way to the empty stool, hoisted myself into the seat and put my right foot on the brass rail, where it’s supposed to rest. Nodding to the woman behind the bar, I looked at the rest of the punters. First, I glanced over my right shoulder, then my left. Still, no one spoke. The only sound was Gary Stewart, woozily singing low about an Empty Glass from the torn speaker of an AM radio perched at the end of the bar. All eyes were on me, the stranger in the room.
“Can you get me a shot and a beer?” I asked the girl. I spun the stool around and looked at the other customers. We all studied each other for a moment until I broke the silence, “Don’t look at me,” I said, “I voted for the other guy.” It seemed like forever, but finally, a deep-throated laugh began. Slow, it emanated from somewhere in the back, far from the front door. Others joined in as if I had just told the funniest joke in the world. The whole place was chuckling, giggling, belly laughing.
My drink came, I heard her set it on the bar, and she whispered, “This one’s on the house.”
I was in High School when I met Krissy (with a K) at a taco stand on night in El Paso. Me, Stevie, and Mike were out cruising in Stevie’s 1959 Cadillac convertible. It was a long, powerful automobile that was good for attracting chicks.
Krissy and her two friends didn’t require much prompting to crawl into the Caddy with us for a cruise downtown. Krissy came with a fat bomber, the size of her middle finger and I was pleased that she chose to sit in the back seat with me. On the way downtown we drank, smoked Krissy’s fattie, rolled up some Mexican weed so we could keep partying, and, most importantly, we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly on Montana where we bought a package or Oreos to stave off the munchies. I learned that night that Krissy could easily fit three whole Oreos into her mouth at one time.
Eventually we wound up near the University and lied our way into a Frat party. My smart mouth very nearly got us all into a fight but fortunately, my adversary developed a sense of humour at the last minute and we escaped.
The years have passed and been kind. Krissy and I have two high school aged children of our own. I don’t understand the kids today. They are not at all like their mother and I were. They’d rather play video games than throw up and hallucinate. I can’t figure it out. Can you?
When Jacob went to Jenny’s house on Christmas Eve, the excuse was to spend time with old friends and exchange holiday gifts. Both of them wound up filled with Christmas spirits; they split a punch bowl filled with Jingle Juice that Jenny had made from a recipe taken off a Martha Stewart website. Martha apparently believed in making Jingle Juice with both Vodka and Tequila. At least that’s what Jenny told Jacob that night.
As the evening progressed, the two fell deeper into a spinning well of intoxication. Pauses in the conversation grew longer, and their heads sank closer and closer to the table. It was about a quarter after two when Jacob suddenly sat up straight and focused his attention on Jenny.
“Jenny, what are you doing on the 6th?” He asked.
“Dunno, why you ask?” she answered her eyes at half-mast.
“Me and some of my boys,” he paused and stared through her. When his eyes focused again, he continued, “Me and some of my boys are thinking about going to DC, taking over the capital building. Wanna come?”
Jenny ladled out another cup of Martha’s Jingle Juice. She took a long drink and said, “that’ll be fun.” She seemed to consider it further, “Maybe not,” she continued, “I’m supposed to go to a work retreat in Mexico sometime in February, and I’m looking forward to that.”
“Won’t matter,” he assured her. “We prob’ly won’t get caught anyway.”
Back in the day, Felix used to hang out with a chick who called herself Mouse. She was a skinny girl; hardly had any tits or hips to speak of. Looked a lot like Kate Moss at the height of the ‘heroin chic’ wave. Felix and I had grown up together on East 3rd. His ma and my ma used to play bridge together on Saturday nights. He used to be just Felix, but now he’d begun to think of himself as a … I don’t know … maybe he’d have called himself a high roller. Perhaps he thought he was about to hit the big time.
I remember I ran into them both one night about a week before Christmas at the 24 karat klub on Ashland Street. They were sitting in one of those velvet booths, up high where they could see the dance floor. Mouse was wearing one of those gold metallic gown things with a loose low neckline. Eye candy for sure, but her downside was an overpowering reliance on cocaine. She said it made her feel happy. She said it made her feel horny. She liked it a lot. I hadn’t seen them when I’d come in, but it hadn’t taken long to notice them once inside. I caught Felix’ eye and, he motioned for me to join him and Mouse and a bunch of other people I didn’t recognize. There looked to be a favourable ratio of women to men, so I stopped a nurse, pointed to the booth where Felix sat, and asked if she could bring me a single-malt to that table. I made my way up to join the party.
I had recently done some work for Felix and, he’d been happy with the results, so I was in his good graces. At the table, he stood. He clapped me on the back with his right hand as he wrapped his left around my shoulder, giving me one of those funny man hugs that homophobes seem to do in public. Mouse stood and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek. I stared straight down her top at what looked just like two fried eggs on a plate. Then I took a seat at the end of the table, next to Felix. He smiled and motioned down the table. A girl came over and sat next to me. That night the air was thick with a perfumed nostalgia, a smoky intimacy that slowed everything down, impeding thoughts and motion.
The nurse brought my whisky; I stared at Mouse’s chest and watched her snort coke off the tabletop next to Felix. I talked to that other girl whose name I never caught, but she didn’t seem to have anything interesting to say. Eventually, I tuned it all out and watched the couples on the dance floor. My head began to spin from the run together sultry voices of all the people with whom Felix, Mouse and I shared a table. I still didn’t know who any of them were. It wasn’t long before I could take it no longer and decided to leave.
I took a cab home and made my way up the walk. I fumbled with the key until I opened the front door. A buttery yellow light glowed from the kitchen, and the clink of cutlery caused me to slink down the short passageway and peek around the corner. It was that girl, the one from the 24 karat who never told me her name. She sat at the tile bar separating the kitchen from the dining area. I had a thousand questions. How had she gotten here so fast? What was she doing here? Why was she standing in the kitchen? Who the fuck was that guy she was with? On the other side of the bar was a man with a bald head, short red hair around the sides and back, freckles on the top. I didn’t recognize him at all. He was feeding her with his fingers, white cake with white frosting. They laughed. She looked up at me.
“Mr Cardona,” she welcomed me in my own home, “come on in. We’ve been waiting for you. This is Mr Smith.” She gestured towards the bald guy with red fringe hair. “I didn’t get much chance to speak with you at the club so we thought it best to come meet you here.” She raised her eyebrows and waited.
“I don’t know you,” I said, “I don’t know your name. I’ve never even seen this guy.” It was my turn to gesture at her companion.
“Oh, sorry; my bad,” she said, and then she looked into her purse, she fished around a bit before pulling out a black leather wallet. Opening it, she showed me a badge. “Special Agent McKitrick, FBI. This is Agent Smith.”
“How did you guys get here so fast?”
She grinned, “That’s not important now, is it? We need to ask you some questions about your friends Felix and Mouse.”
This week’s prompt:
You walk into your home and find two people you don’t know eating cake. What happens next?
goals achieved (my own, or my loved ones, or friends)
having the right tool
plans that works as they should
machinery that works and works well
something almost heard
something almost seen
sometimes a drink
something almost understood
the golden gate bridge
the purr of a mountain lion
well-honed knife’s edge
“Inspiration,” in English has had the meaning “the drawing of air into the lungs” since the middle of the 16th century. This breathing sense is still in common use among doctors, as is “expiration”…However, before “inspiration” was used to refer to breath it had a distinctly theological meaning in English, referring to a divine influence upon a person. The sense of inspiration often found today (“someone or something that inspires”) is considerably newer than either of these two senses, dating from the 19th century. (from Merriam-Webster.com)
I was at my desk, headphones clamped to my ears so I could listen to Mrs Lagounov gossiping with another woman, I assumed to be her neighbour, and who went by the name Voronin.
Voronin’s daughter, called Masha, had recently become engaged. I took careful and thorough notes of the ongoing conversation between the two. The wedding sounded like a blast; they had gone over the guest list and discussed the dinner menu. Just two older women talking, and then I heard this…
Mrs Lagounov inserted an off-topic observation into the conversation, “My garden is full of weeds this year, and the herbicide isn’t working.”
Voronin replied with no change in her tone, “Perhaps you should use a shear to clip the weeds.”
Lagounov said, “Shears are too indiscriminate; besides, weeds must be pulled out by the roots. Perhaps you could come and remove them, for the standard fee?”
“I’ll meet with you tomorrow, in the usual place, we can discuss the details. I was thinking of serving Kissel for dessert. What do you think?”
I wrote down what they had said, verbatim, and pressed the yellow coloured button that would alert my supervisor. In almost no time, my supervisor and two managers were at my desk. The two subjects whom I had been surveilling were already returned to discussions of Masha’s upcoming wedding. Voronin was questioning whether or not it was appropriate for her daughter to wear white.
Malloree was a few years younger than Logan, but she had been the apple of his eye for quite some time now. Ever since she had come to work at Pellmans.
Malloree was the most beautiful girl Logan had ever seen, and he thought that today could be the day. Today could be the day he would finally ask her out on their first date. He had done his research. He knew what kind of music girls her age liked. He knew what they liked to do. He stocked his car with smooth jazz CDs. He knew that girls liked saxophone players, he’d seen “Some Like it Hot” with Marilyn Monroe. He got music that should make her feel warm and comfortable. He bought Kenny G, Dave Koz, Candy Dulfer, even Boney James.
He also remembered when he’d been in high school. In those days, girls enjoyed artists like The Carpenters, Christopher Cross, Barry Manilow or the Captain and Tennille. He used to keep eight-track tapes in his car in those days. For his planned date with Malloree, he stocked up on some of those artists, as well. Those guys were harder to find on CD, but he had located at least one example from each artist. He even managed to score a Barry Manilow CD at a Second Spin Shop.
That morning, at work, Logan kept one eye on the break room. He watched Malloree go in for coffee at about nine o’clock and waited, counting to ten before following her in. He planned to put a cheese Danish in the microwave and strike up a conversation with Malloree.
As he breezed in and spotted her pouring a cup, he made his way to the fridge.
“Morning, Malloree,” he sang out cheerfully. He reached in and found the bag with the two Cheese pastries he had picked up that morning at French’s.
“Hmm? Oh, good morning Mr Oberlin,” she responded absentmindedly.
“Please, call me Logan.” He looked in the bag, “Oh wow, looks like they gave me two this morning. I only asked for one.” He muttered to himself then, as if only then occurred to him, he offered one to Malloree. “Hey, you want one of these cheese Danishes?” He asked. “It looks like they gave me two this morning. I can’t eat two.” He held the bag out so she could see it.
“No, thanks Mr. uhm… Logan,” she said, “I have to watch my weight.”
“They’re from French’s Bakery,” he was trying to tempt her.
“I love French’s,” she said. “If you’re sure you don’t want it?”
“Oh, I’m sure. I can’t eat both of these.” He pulled a couple of paper plates from the cupboard, placed a pastry on each and slid them into the microwave. Now he had her attention and some time.
“Hey Malloree,” he started, “I won some passes to ‘WonderLand Park’ from a Gary Ghost contest on KJJW. I was thinking about going this weekend, but it’s no fun to go by myself. Would you be interested in coming along?”
There was a moment of silence. Then she gushed, “OMG, Logan, you listen to Gary Ghost?”
He held his hands out, palms up, “What? Of course, I listen to Gary Ghost. I’m not some old geezer.”
He smiled, she smiled and thought about it for a while.
“Is Gary Ghost going to be there?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” Logan said, “maybe.”
Her face lit up when she smiled, “I’d love to. Thank you.”
“Great, I can pick you up around two on Saturday afternoon. You have to give me your phone number, tell me where you live.”
“Of course,” she said and then she wiggled her shoulders, set her breasts to swaying. She did a little happy dance as she exited the break-room, Her pastry forgotten. Logan decided not to chase her and, ate both of the Danishes.
At two o’clock sharp Logan pulled up in front of her apartment building. He went upstairs and knocked on the door marked 36B. Malloree, almost immediately came dancing out to the landing. She looked beautiful with her short and colourful sundress, sandals, and a wrap slung over her arm. In the car, Logan started the engine and pushed in the Kenny G Ultimate Collection CD. He selected the Songbird track. The music started slow and soft, but when Kenny began playing a look of extreme distaste came over Malloree’s face.
“What the f…. is that?” Malloree said with a loud laugh.
Logan turned red and reached for his Christopher Cross.
“Jeezus,” Malloree exclaimed, “don’t you have any punk music. Put on The Cranky Fuckers or Industry Tommys!” she smiled, rolled her window down, and raised both fists out into the wind as Logan pulled away from the curb.
Make of, or do with the following narrative what you will:
I remember the first time I heard Kenny G. We had MTV playing in the background while we puttered around, separately doing whatever it was we were doing, when this soft, melodic, soprano saxophone came wafting through the house. We simultaneously emerged from wherever we individually were, drawn to what this completely bizarre/not MTV sound was. The two of us stood dumbfounded, listening and watching ‘Songbird’ video.
“What the f….was that?” my husband said with a loud laugh when it ended.