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.
“…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.
Tom Hanks as Joe in the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano” snagged from http://www.videodetective.com/photos/029/001229_2.jpg
“Dead” employees walking from the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano” from http://www.sheilaomalley.com/archives/volcano.jpg
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.