I heard the sound, the bump from downstairs. I heard it from my room.
I paid no attention
I needed to sleep.

I heard it again that sound that didn’t fit, didn’t quite belong.
This time a creak from the stair;
Fold the pillow, turn on my side, ignore it again. Try to get to sleep.

The near silent squeak of the bedroom door
So familiar to me,
So out of place for now.
It garners my full attention.
Senses on alert, I lie still; peering into the darkness through half closed eyes,
feigning sleep.

The door swings wide admitting a soft white glow.
On the heels of the light I recognize Darlene,
“Paul? Are you awake?”
The chain operates the lamp on the bedside table, bringing more light, yellower light.
Light the color of cornbread.

Darlene’s face is bruised and bloodied. Her left eye is swollen, almost shut.
Her dress is torn and the heel is broken off of one shoe.
“What happened to you?” I swing my legs off the bed, feet on the floor.

“I was walking home from the theater. He came from behind.
I didn’t know where else to go so I came here. I used my key.”
I stood and moved to take her in my arms.


Yeah – Editor’s Pick!

Speakeasy #168: Another Epic Day


 

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.

“As soon as we didn’t get there when we should have,” I said “What kinda stupid question is that anyway?”  I grinned, “We were makin’ great time though.”

“Yeah we were,” he agreed. “But how did we wind up in France?”

“France? What makes you think we’re in France? We’re in a pickup truck – we can’t get to France in a pickup truck.”

“I dunno, maybe it’s all the people speaking French?”

“That doesn’t mean anything; we could be in Haiti or New Orleans or Montreal. We are lost, remember. And, what makes you think that’s French anyway? Sounds like it could be Spanish to me!”

“Pull over,” he instructed, “let’s ask someone.”

“You don’t speak French or Spanish,” I said.

“Not since high school, anyway,” he grinned. “Come on, come on – pull over by that café.”

So I did. I pulled over to the curb, put the truck into first, set the brake and killed the engine. He got out of the cab and naturally, he leaned against the hood until a good looking girl came by.

Excusez-moi mademoiselle.” He asked her, “Pouvez-vous s’il vous plaît me dire où nous sommes?”

She looked at him like he had just escaped from a mental ward and stepped a little closer to the building, giving him a wide berth, “La Rochelle, bien sûr.” She said hurriedly and picked up her pace to speed past.

He leaned into the window, “I think she likes me.”

“Like hell, she was lookin’ at me. What’d she say?”

“She said we’re in La Rochelle. Where’s that?”

I pulled out my iPhone and went to work. “I think she’s fuckin’ with you. La Rochelle’s in France, but dude… we only left Richmond a couple of hours ago and we haven’t even stopped for gas. No way could we be in France. Ask somebody else.”

He stood up, rapped twice on the doorframe and turned back to the sidewalk. An elderly gentleman wearing a beret and walking rather sprightly, with a cane, was approaching. “Excusez-moi monsieur, pouvez-vous me diriger vers La Rochelle?”

“Vous êtes à La Rochelle. Que faites-vous, un comédien?

He stuck his head back in the cab. “Well?” I asked.

“The old guy says we’re in La Rochelle, dude. How can that be? What are we gonna do?” He was starting to get worried.

I pulled my phone back out and started asking Siri some serious questions. He was standing on the curb looking at stuff.

“Dude,” I called, “come here, I got a plan.”

He came back and opened the door. As he climbed into the truck he said, “The only car here with Virginia plates is your truck, man. Everybody else has funny lookin’ plates. I think these guys were right, we’re either in France or we’re in the Twilight Zone. Have you seen that Serling guy? You know who I’m talkin’ about right? I think I’m startin’ to hyperventilate.” He leaned his head down between his knees; put both hands over his mouth and started breathing deeply.

“Take it easy man,” I said, “I tell ya, I got a plan. My phone tells me that La Rochelle is on the coast, right? That means there’s a beach right?”

He thought about that and nodded.

“Let’s go get some fries and head to the beach. If we’re in France well, the beaches are topless in France. That means there’ll be tits at the beach.”

He looked at me with that thousand yard stare, no longer hyperventilating. “Yeah,” he said slowly like he was talking in his sleep. Then, picking up speed, he continued, “tits at the beach and, and fried potatoes. This has the makin’s of a great day.” A smile spread slowly across his face. “An epic day.”

I started the truck and pulled back around into the sparse traffic, heading west.

“Can we buy beer?” he asked.

“We’ll probably have to settle for wine,” I answered, “this is France, after all.”


If The SpeakEasy is open you can check out what this is all about by clicking on the badge. My apologies for the poor French.

Please read in the spirit of fun – that is the spirit in which it was written.

Looks Can be Deceiving

Looks can be deceiving.” She whispered in my ear.  She was a vision, beautiful. Then she spun and moved quickly away, melting into the crowd, out of sight.  She was ephemeral, a specter.  I looked for her, up and down the streets, but she was gone.  I convinced myself that I had imagined her and kept walking.  We were almost 200,000 strong and we had a purpose, a destination.  It was August 28th, 1963 and we had a task of great import.  We were marching on Washington to hear Dr. King.

Two young men came out of the crowd and linked arms with me.  We moved together along the mall towards the Lincoln Memorial. “Good morning, brother,” said the young man on my left.  “Where have you traveled from?”

The man on my right, slightly older, picked up the thread and asked, “How far have you come to be here on this most auspicious day?”  The lovely young lady who had been foremost in my thoughts was now replaced in my head by my two new companions.

“I came on the bus from Chicago,” I replied, “and I’m not sure what auspicious even means.”  We all laughed at that and kept walking.  I kept talking, “I’m not sure what today will bring gentlemen but, I’m excited.  Can you feel me shivering?  I am literally tingling with anticipation.”

Another man joined us and linked arms. He was an old man with a cane, accompanied by a young girl who was probably no more than fourteen, I would guess.  We slowed to match his pace.  He was a talkative old man and he introduced himself. “My name is Walter Teasdale” he said, “and this is my granddaughter, Elizabeth.” I looked over and there “she” was again standing next to the reflecting pond.  The voices around me receded. “My Angel,” I thought.  She held a sign over her head; hand lettering on cardboard.  It read “Looks can be deceiving.”

She noticed me notice her, tucked her sign under her arm, turned, lowered her eyes and moved away from us.  I tried to give chase.  I wanted to speak to her.  I wanted to hear her voice again.  She clearly had a message for me.  A message that told me, “looks could be deceiving.”  Mr. Teasdale, put his hand out and stilled my flight.

“Please sir, won’t you help me get my granddaughter to the front?  She is supposed to sing the national anthem today.”

I looked at the old man.  I looked at his granddaughter, I saw her wide, dark eyes and I nodded my head, “Of course.  Let’s go.”  It took almost an hour to pick our way to the front of the crowd but I wound up with a front row seat to history.  It was  spectacular, marred only by the fact that I never saw my angel again that day.

In fact, I did not see her again for five years. The next time I spotted her was August 1968 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  Dr. King had been killed a few months earlier and an undercurrent of violence and civil unrest was prevalent throughout the country, but it felt especially intense in my hometown of Chicago.  She was standing at the back of the Amphitheater.  She was standing, waiting, beneath a banner that read, “Looks can be deceiving.”  I caught her eye, she waved.  A small wave, really no more than a slight movement of her fingers.  She turned and ducked through a door beneath a green exit sign.

“Wait,” I called.  “Wait, please,” and I ran after her.  But, again, I was too slow.  She was gone, not a trace.

I saw her only one time more after that, 1972.  Nixon had just been re-elected.  It was late November, twilight. That time of day when the sky is still blue but a darker, richer blue, turning quickly to black.  I was in New York, driving by Central Park. Most of the leaves had fallen from the trees.  She stood beneath one, a web of bare branches above her head.  My taxi never slowed.  She and I locked eyes and she smiled; a beautiful smile.  Her lips moved and I am sure I know what she was saying but, I never figured out why she was trying to communicate with me.  I have come to the conclusion that perhaps, it was a joke – a joke of cosmic proportions.