Invitation Touch And Go

Note:  This piece was “penned” in celebration of B-Movie Zombie, Poe Ballantine, whom I have just recently discovered, if you can believe that.  I still can’t. 


Joe01.jpg picture by pemerytx


“…oh me, too, Honey,” Kylie cooed in my ear.  Then she teased me with a kiss, kind of brushed my neck with it, and rolled quickly away from me.  I knew what was next so I started my legs going like I was riding a bike, fighting, forcing my way through the knots of sheets.  By that time Kylie had already swung her legs gracefully over her the side of the bed and was well on her way down the hall to the kitchen to make coffee.  I was supposed to have grabbed her by now and dragged her laughing, mock-fighting back to bed.


Finally I break free from the sheets, but my excitement is seized up by a falling-off-a-cliff feeling of fear.  The bottom of my stomach drops out.  I feel myself breathing hard, fast.  My eyes pop open.  I look around, panicked.  I do a cursory surroundings check.  Seems I’m lying on the very edge of the same old ratty mattress as always.  One more inch to the right and I’d have hit the floor.


I look over at the part of the floor I can see from here.  The carpet is nasty, stained.  And the whole place stinks like the cramped, musty basement apartment that it is, only with the added offense of mounds of cigarette butts doused with cheap, red wine.  I squint up at the filthy, narrow basement window that’s barely eking light through, as if sunshine cost money and this place isn’t worth much.


Still a bit foggy, I look to my left for Kylie.  But all I see is a couple of Hustler magazines lying on her side of the bed and I realize…  Shit.  That same piece of crap dream again.  The usual tortured, mental tail-chase follows, the one that always starts and ends with the question of why I’ve got to keep rehashing something that was bound to crash and burn and I knew it the whole time.  She’s been gone almost two years for crying out loud.  Started another life, a better life, with “a real man who actually has his shit together,” I think is how she put it.


That reminds me, shoots a bolt of adrenalin through my body, like electrocution.  Work!  What about work?  Electrocution or a dead-end job, both are death.  Electrocution’s just faster.  I realize my thoughts have drifted again.  Work!  What time is it?  I look around panicked again.  Where’s the clock?  It’s right where it was when you went to bed, you moron, I heard myself think.  “Shut the fuck up,” I said out loud.  Ah!  6:03 a.m.  Still enough time…


Wait.  I don’t hear the usual traffic noises.  I think…yes, it’s Saturday.  What the hell was I drinking last night?  I look over at the nightstand and see a Mason jar half empty with Thunderbird.  I shudder.  Christ.  Alright, well never mind that.  Knowing it’s Saturday, I actually feel a spark of enthusiasm now.  I swing my legs over the bed like a girl, mimicking Kylie’s sweeping, legs-together swing and pussycat touchdown, and I say to her, wherever she is, “HA! 


I think, on this auspicious occasion, in honor of my delayed death sentence, I’ll go down to Connolly’s, get a table on the dock, and work on my novel.  Which isn’t going so well is it, Asshole? came from my internal heckler.  I didn’t bother answering.  I went to the bathroom and on the way out happened on some jeans on the floor and a shirt that didn’t smell too bad.  I put that stuff on, grabbed my laptop and headed out the door.


Connolly’s was pretty much as I’d imagined it.  I managed to get a table fairly close to the water and I’m sitting here with a cup of the world’s second- or third-best coffee, working on chapter six.  Life is good.  Then I begin to realize that the sound of a small airplane I’d been hearing was getting mighty close.  I look up and holy shit!  It’s a Lake 250 amphibian practically on my head, throttle back, gracefully losing altitude on its approach to a water landing.  I haven’t seen one of those planes in years! 


Whoever the pilot was greased that beauty onto the water, like the water was hot, flat tarmac, and right away gunned the throttle and the sweet little plane angled easily, powerfully for the sky.  Magnificent sprays of water flew out behind it and back to earth.  Gorgeous!  Several minutes later I see the same plane come back around again and I realize the pilot’s shooting touch and gos.  My emotions went crazy.  To laugh or cry? 


My first emotion was pure joy, a sense of freedom, as I involuntarily jumped up from my chair feeling like the possibility of flying bodily right then was real.  But it was only my spirit that flew off, leaving my sorry ass behind.  Then came the sadness.  I remembered way back before Kylie, I remembered the pilot I’d dated for a year or so, and how she’d given me a few flying lessons.  Those were some of the best times of my life, and I wondered what the hell?  What is this life I’ve been leading?


The pilot of the Lake 250 would come around for several more touch and gos, as I tried to make sense of my emotions, as my heart alternately soared with its arrival and graveyard spiraled with its departure.  What is this about?  Near as I could tell, it had something to do with freedom, with a person doing what interests them, doing what’s exciting…  What do you do with an invitation to fly free when the only thing you’ve flown solo is a kite on a string?


I sat there on Connolly’s dock like an idiot.  Oh, you’re just now noticing your low IQ? my innards sneered.  “Wiseass,” I snapped.  All I could think right of now was a conversation I’d had with a chick on the train about a year after Kylie left.  The memory of it flooded my head now…


I’d been sitting on the train for only twenty minutes of the one-and-a-half hour trek to work, to drudgery.  It was about 7 o’clock on a Monday morning so I was particularly morose, but I was making the effort to work on my novel, the same one I’m working on now which, as you know, isn’t going so well.  Then this really cute, perky chick got on at the second stop, and nobody, not even I, could have failed to notice her.  She lit up the train.


I remember looking up and dropping my mood, but only for the brief time the initial shock of her pleasurable appearance affected me.  The train was packed, but everyone cleared a path for her.  She ended up nearest me and I remember doing the right thing by offering her my seat.  She accepted with a smile.  I gave her a nod, grabbed the nearest pole and looked away, irritated that I’d allowed myself to succumb to ancient social mores.


At first the sunny chick had just sat there and messed with the stuff in her backpack, some scrawled-on notepads, a couple of books.  Then I felt her looking at me.  Soon she’d begun talking to me.  I wish I could remember now exactly how our conversation went, but roughly it went something like this…


“What do you do?”


I turned to her and feigned surprise, “You talking to me?”


“Well duh,” she said, her eyes twinkling into mine.


“I write manuals,” I droned, and looked away.


She seemed enthused, “Yeah?  Like how-to manuals?”


“Product manuals,” I said coolly.


She perked up all the more, like it was a big deal, “Hey, now that sounds interesting!”


I stayed monotone, “Oh it’s a real thrill, thoroughly titillating.  Yeah.”


She laughed, and said, “C’mon, tell me, really.  Do you freelance or work for a company?”


I leaned toward her and asked, “Did you ever see the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano?”


“Yeah…” she looked puzzled.


I leaned closer to her and continued in a low rasp, “You know that dark grey, dank scene where Joe’s walking from his piece of shit car toward the dark grey, dank building he works in?”


“Yeah…” she answered, scowling now.


I told her, “That’s me, dragging my cement feet on the beaten-down, tired-out dirt and asphalt, stomping down that same pretty lil daisy, day after day after day.”


She loved that, could barely contain her amusement, and exclaimed, “Yeah, but Joe also propped the daisy back up one day and quit that toxic environment with its mind-bending, buzzing fluorescent lights and that insane drone of his boss on the phone, “I’m not arguing that with you, Harry!” then she cracked up laughing.


I withdrew back upright, disappointed I’d not upset her peace of mind and quipped, “Ah, right, but that’s for people with guts.  Plucky people like you.”


She laughed again, “I’m not plucky, I just look at everything that catches my attention as a personal invitation from someone important…”


She felt the train slowing and looked out the window, “Oh!  My stop.”  Then she looked back at me and picked up where she’d left off, “…someone I really care about, so naturally I owe them the decency of a reply, ‘Yes, I’ll do something with what I see in front of me, or no, I won’t and here’s why…'”


“Fascinating,” I deadpanned.


The train’s brakes screeched.  When it had come to a stop she stood up, slung her backpack over her shoulder and teased, “You can have your seat back now.”


I rolled my eyes and sat down as she walked toward the open train doors.  She stopped just before stepping out onto the platform, looked back at me and sing-songed, “Good-bye, ‘Joe’!”  She winked at me and was gone.  Then I remember huffing and just going back to the writing of my novel that wasn’t going so well.




joe03.jpg picture by pemerytx




Tom Hanks as Joe in the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano” snagged from


“Dead” employees walking from the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano” from


Image hosting by Photobucket




Missalister’s “Invitation Touch And Go,” copyright © 2008, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#129 – Invitation.”  Click here for more on prompt #129 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.


23 responses to “Invitation Touch And Go

  1. Nice to see you back, MissA: you certainly done right by your Ballantine muse. I stumbled over him a few years back: I’ll have to pay him another visit. I know you’re hamster-wheeling around inside your narrator (sans, I suspect, Hustlers), but I like to think of you making a cameo appearance, too, as the girl on the train.

    Desolation, to borrow from Jack, makes such bright angels. My four years in Cambridge/Boston showed me a grey-gritty, red-eyed beauty in its streets; I fell for it hard, so much so that big Texas blue sky when I got back used to hurt from being so big, so blue, and so Texas. The fondness for grey that I can still find (while reading such as this, say) is like the sweet fondness for the Kylies (Elianas, Janes, Annes) layered deep in our traveling palimpsests.

    Hope this was as fine for your writing as it was for my reading.

  2. Paschal: why thank you, my dear. I love the “hamster-wheeling” business. You know I’m about it all day every day! Regarding the characters, I’d put it that the narrator is the dark me sans the Hustlers ;-) and the sunny chick is the little ray of hope in me that doesn’t force me to be saved, but merely suggests, “You know, it doesn’t have to be like that…” and flashes me a glimpse of heaven.

    On heaven, you mentioning Kerouac, and a couple of other bloggers I admire mentioning it, reminds me that I need to get me some! I’m doing my main man Dostoevsky right now, “Three Short Novels of Dostoevsky,” but I have got to go out and get some Jack, some “Desolation Angels” Jack. I would fly to Boston to get it, if money were no object, just to see that city that I have a soft spot for…like I have a soft spot for the big, blue good of Texas, and my palimpsest, which I had to look up in the dictionary :-)

    And yes! Writing this yesterday was so super-fine on the first go-around. But I was hurrying in anticipation of not having any time to work on SS stuff today, so I posted it late last night not at all tight and with a scary amount of things terribly wrong with it. Plans for today fell through so I’ve been able to work at spiffing it up a bit. So hopefully on a second reading go-around, you’ll find it more fine :-)

  3. Thank you, anno! I would say yes, that everything we encounter seems a choice we can make and make use of: get out of bed in the morning, work hard, invest money, go to an event, choose a new career, mate, attitude…or not. Endless choices can seem freeing or petrifying, or not seen as choices at all by the minds of some… I like the seeming power and control that seeming choosing seems to give my control-hungry ego ;-) Any way you look at it, life seems a curious game!

  4. I am also starting to like the choices, attitides and maybe a little equality might be energizing. I don’t keep up well matching movies with entertainers, but I have always liked Hanks. You have shown a very clever use of this weeks prompt.

  5. Welcome, Lela B! I like what you wrote about starting to like choices, attitudes… For me it’s been like when you’re starting to catch on to the rules of a new game and you begin to dare to test your knowledge and skill and soon you become comfortable enough to really work the game…winning some and losing some, of course ;-) Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Miz A: Just finished a comment to you, just about to click Submit when my computer decides from its own impenetrable lair that it’s time for a rebooting.

    The gist was this: I know that sunny (blonde) chick well from frequent dream visits to the resident Joe. Cousin, it occurred in the first writing, to the earthen brown sister deep in the forest primeval of the recent visitation. SBC is full of Youth for Christ / cheerleader brightness, beaming along on her Cailfornia pop Seventh Ray. I make her sound like a ditz, but she ain’t no ditz at all, always dropping in when Joe has mired himself in way too deep.

    EBS is from the collective “global south” unconsciousness, she does not speak English, she speaks very little at all, miniature gestures in the Tiffany glass of her strange hut deep within. Her mother is somewhere, circling. That silence is not an inability to speak, it is the inadequacy of speech (and surely, of poetic attempts to render it). Skin like madrona wood, she too brings benediction.

    Peace to you on this beautiful Sunday.

  7. The inspiration of this is new to me, but man, the writing and the concept… this guy is a total loser and yet we can’t help but like him. He’s got an amazing eye for detail, too.

    Awesome stuff, MissA. Keep it coming!

  8. Missalister: So enjoyable!
    Joe wasn’t having anything to do with that invitation! I wanted to scream, “take a chance!!”. I love the back and forth with the “critic” (nasty little fellow needs to be put in his place!). I love the narrators confusion between dream and reality and he made me want to shake him when he limits himself with the kite flying solo crack… the plane and memories had him in touch with himself for a moment but he coulnd’t go with it. The inclusion of Joe vs the Volcano really tied it together well!

  9. That achingly lovely scene with the plane and this – What do you do with an invitation to fly free when the only thing you’ve flown solo is a kite on a string? – must be too close to the bone to take SHG’s “this guy is total loser” lying down. Rhonda’s secret stratosphere notwithstanding, I’d say it’s more than just a matter of “you can’t help but like him.” You can’t help but know him.

    Okay, I’ve hogged enough cyberspace for one morning. Ciao.

  10. You do have some really cool lines but I feel ambivalent about Joe. I don’t know. I don’t know enough about him to care one way or the other.

    I don’t know the movie, I’m definitely going to look at the references you provide. Maybe, I’m simply dense and am missing the appeal of the genre here.

    By the way, appreciate you taking time to read and comment at BES.

  11. How do you relate to and write so well of a fictional character that your reader (me) can think his thoughts, feel his longings, talk back to his critic and respond with quickly repressed joy to happy stimuli? Joe’s novel (“which isn’t going so well”) was like a garnish of cilantro on a perfectly cooked dish.

    You are a superb writer!

  12. Paschal: Right on, your gist, your description of the SBC and the resident Joe, with the EBS assist. I felt a kinship with your EBS…although I can’t place the exact relation, I’ve known her before…

    Now about this loser thing, you sprightly starter of things, you! How about taking it sitting since SHG’s a great writer entitled to her opinion? How about I just stick up for the poor guy by saying you are right on again with your “you can’t help but know him,” since a little of him’s in each of us somewhere in varying degrees. And how about I add that there may be hope for him yet…after all, he does mention twice the novel that isn’t going so well, but after the airplane encounter prompts remembrance of the conversation with the sunny chick, he mentions the novel that wasn’t going so well.

    Btw, even if you could hog too much cyberspace, it’d be guaranteed to please and/or entertain, you being the bright and knightly Mr. Sprightly :-D

    SHG: this Poe Ballantine business just hit me a week or two ago. When I saw his article in an old “The Sun Magazine,” March 2008, to be exact, I felt like I’d seen that name before, thought maybe it was a blogger I’d run across somewhere along the line. But no. An internet search reveals relatively little on the guy, but man when I read his “Confessions Of A B-Movie Zombie,” I was smitten. His style is my kinda thang.

    Hi in the here and now, Ms. Present! Your comment was so enjoyable in itself! It moved, it grooved, it was like you were sitting on the sofa watching an action flick and moving involuntarily with the movie’s punches. It echoed Granny’s comment and therefore registers as a reinforced plus on my feedback report. Thanks for that and for visiting again! :-)

    Mr. Boston! Where’s the best bookstore there, anyway? I wanna get some Kerouac and it has to come from Boston! You’re welcome for the reminder, btw ;-) Great fun, that flick, eh?

    Greetings, Tumblewords! Oh my, I’ve got to stop over and see you! It’s been awhile! I’m so glad you enjoyed this and I thank you for adding your spice to the soup here :-)

    Hi Susan! Well, alright! Let’s do the discourse thing…keeping in mind that I went in the opposite direction as you did with academia vacuums and beaucoups English courses! OK, being familiar with the movie does help, but I was aware while writing this piece that it shouldn’t be dependent on that familiarity. And I was satisfied that I’d developed the main character enough. I admit, though, that I have an aversion to giving large doses of characters to the reader in any one place in the story, especially too early on. I’ve a preference for sprinkling description throughout the story via the characters’ thoughts, actions, and dialogue, but if that could have been done more effectively in this story, or if there’s a better way to treat characters althogether, I’m all for knowing it and trying it. I’d very much appreciate more of your feedback, more specifics regarding this story’s main man. Could his feelings have been demonstrated with more detail, clarity or strength? How could I have brought out the nature of “Joe” such that you would really care about him?

    Hi Granny! I think we have a little bit of each of a vast array of characters inside us somewhere. And if we’ve people-watched long enough and read enough books and watched our share of movies, I think we can access any trait we’ve observed with the help of our imagination. But who am I to say this to you? When I got done reading your Invitation To a Ceremony I wanted to be a bear! So from you a “Superb” rating is sky high :-D Thank you!

  13. From the Continuing CyberDesk of He So Full of HeSelf:

    Ms A: Ms SHG is by all means entitled to her read on your Prot-agoniste, and I fully understand the gathering unsympathetic “loser” vibe for Joe; ornery quasi-loser Joe (Joe in remission?) that I am, though, methought he needed a bit of a counterview, this comment alley always bein’ a home for dialogue and such. Was I shouting in ALL CAPS? Mi esposa Tina sez my “humble opinions” sometimes sound like Olympian pronouncements. i will start writing everything lowercase, the better to use my inside voices.

    while i am instituting the new plan, let me quietly offer the notion that boston is the last place your kerouac should come from, unless it’s from a fusty bookshelf in the back of a dorchester laundromat. texas hill country used book store – salvation army even mo better – there’s a great scene in desolation angels where they’re driving through a snowstorm near fredericksburg (they, i think, are jack, burroughs, ginsberg, maybe neal, et. al.) – forget the vintage paperback, this copy should be stained and pages acid (no, not that acid) burned. your joe’s probably got a copy on his bukowski-esque floor.

    the sun was where i first stumbled into mr ballantine, too.

    while you’re out bookshopping (or booklifting, more jack-like), a gold find: campbell mcgrath’s book of poems american noise, with among many gorgeous poems, his lovely mini-epic “blue tulips and night train for jack kerouac’s grave.” ain’t no night train at the harvard bookstore and cafe.


  14. Paschal: Yes and yes. Views is views and I was never not with you on the counterview idea. Only I think it would’ve had to be you that introduced that show and did all the tap dancing too ;-) You still can if you like. From one ornery quasi-loser Joe to another, we sure could use it… You have a soapbox in this alley, right? So you can use all caps and get all Olympian if you want. I know what Tina’s talkin’ ‘bout though. I’ve done time with Olympian humble opinion givers…hoo boy! Living with one must be far worse than blogging with one, because so far I haven’t been compelled to label you as one ;-)

    When I read your mention of using your inside voices I cracked up, for it reminded me of a video I saw a year or two ago of a comedian doing Bush. You’ve probably seen it, but here it is for posterity, live on this blog. Oh my gosh it’s such a riot! At the very end he talks about how there’s inside words and outside words… Lord have mercy!

    So OK then! I’m so glad you told me and that I didn’t rush off to Boston for the Kerouac. Perhaps you know of just the right Texas hill country used book store? I understand the value of a ratty paperback. I once found a beat-up copy of Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” in a Half Price Books in Dallas. Inside the cover was a lovely note of encouragement from a relative or teacher of a young man attending SMU. I like to think the young man lost the book with its valuable note and didn’t instead sell it to HPB for some change!

    When I looked up info on PB I found out he’d had many of his stories published in TSM. It’s a cool magazine. I’m especially impressed with editor Sy Safransky’s vision for it. You know I’m supposed to be working on a story to submit there. I mentioned it in a response to anno’s comment in “The ‘L’ in Miracle.” I’d better get on the stick, eh?

    Thanks for the American Noise recommendation. A gold find. Hmmm, I like that.

  15. I do love to read your stuff. Brings me on a roller coaster ride each time I read. Fully invested. Evocative and thoroughly literate. Ahhh… :)

  16. TD: glad to hear it! I loves me my compliments, but I’d like to hear any other stuff, too, like what Susan offered above. This is your official invitation to tell me stuff like “could you for once end a piece unequivocally???” ;-)

  17. Oh, I haven’t read all the comments. I couldn’t wait to tell you what I think.

    I like how you develop your characters. Yea, I don’t know this guy, but, damn, I know this guy. I know him in and out. Him and that dream he keeps promising himself. The dead-end job, the novel, and that urge to leap off a building–albeit with an engine, some whirring blades, a couple of wings, a tail and a very strong desire to not hit the ground.

    I’m there, somewhere. In your story. I have the ex-girlfriend I can’t shake out of my dreams. I have the dead-end job. Hell, I have the two ambitions that are poles apart. One, I’ve carefully been developing, hoping to get somewhere with it. It’s safe, provided I make something good out of it. The other, my plane to fly. You could compare my current ability to his sole, solo kite flight (try saying that one aloud!).

    Should I head back to the novel, or decide to go for some flying classes? I’m still undecided.

    But enough about me. What about you? Is Joe’s eventual inertia yours too?

  18. My brother in inertia, Void! I love how you worded this entire comment, my man, especially the, “I don’t know this guy, but damn, I know this guy.” YES! That is it, that is me, too. The essence of my humanness is Joe. The sunny train chick is my spirit trying to set me free. I hope she succeeds. She looks so tiny and unable to hold her own up against the looming black of Joe, though. But like you, I’d like to experience life on this planet in love with what I’m doing, how I’m living. Also like you, I’m trying, in my own way, to get out of my own way so the spirit can just do its job. (I did try saying, “sole, solo kite flight” aloud, btw, and I F’d it up good LOL!)

    Which to do? According to statistics there’s a good chance there’s time for both in your lifetime. I’d recommend doing the one that’s screaming from your heart to your head the loudest. If you can’t tell, I say pick the flying classes—the experience of them might just start cramming fuel for the novel right down your throat :-) The more life experiences accumulated, the more raw truth that moves, that grooves your fellow humans…

    Thanks for this, Void. I once said in a comment re: your “The search has ended…” that I like how you think. I didn’t have a specific reason why, then. Mystery solved ;-)

  19. Ms A: Funny how you read the power dynamics twixt Joe and Sunny Chick: “She looks so tiny and unable to hold her own up against the looming black of Joe…” Oh my: not my read of her at all: in my book, she’s got all the chips against our mewling “Fascinating” deadpans. Remember, she ain’t do ditz, that sunniness of hers is full-blown Jupiterian expansion, and what she’s already learned is that they ain’t no odds in engaging full tilt with Joe’s miasma: you think that was really her stop? I don’t think so. You leave your gift on the doorstep, you beam your Jupiterian sun on the patient, and then you move on. Too much commiseration validates the hangdog threads; hit and run be the mo’ betta MO, wet the whistle, till the train run out of track

    The lovely (divine) comedy is that we Joes will baldfaced lie our asses off in the face of love and happiness, just to prove our “pernt.” Damned if I know why I do that. Thank god the SBC still puts up with me and knows just where to aim that well-placed boot.

  20. Pashcal, my friend, now you just done some supreme tap dancin’ there that come mighty close to rivalin’ the Nicholas Brothers. This here’s you in writin’

    Aw Paschal, everbody’s got a little Joe, like you got a little Joe, so you knows the feelin’ comes ‘n’ goes, doncha? Sometimes Joe be rulin’, sometimes Sunny Chick…

    Well, you’re 100% right with that Jupiterian miasmic gift business and that’s why I enlisted you to do the tapdancing for us. And you done a fine job, my man, complete with a military-style hard truth boot and buck-up speech at the endin’ :-D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.