Friday, April 28, 2017

"What Aristophanes said..."

She didn't know how long she sat in the confessional.  After what seemed like hours, she quieted down, in part, because she needed to control her breathing. Closing her eyes, she took one, long deep breath and exhaled loudly. Unexpectedly, she thought of Harvey.  In that same moment, she heard the first rumble of thunder, then a flash of light.  The door to the confessional jumped, then opened with a creak.

Ellen sat looking at the door. Unmoved. Another crack of thunder, this time, much closer. Lightening flashed and suddenly she was standing in the park between the tall trees near the basketball court.

Rain soaked her beehive and she stood watching the bizarre dance of Harvey.  "He has lost her mind," she thought. "I'm going to have to fire him, now. It's so hard--"

Another crack of thunder and a bolt of lightening appeared in the corner of her sight and all went black.

Nothingness spread over her. Harvey's voice echoed in the long chamber of silence. "Ellen? Ellen?"

She awoke to Harvey's voice reading from a book "'Do you remember what I told you in the library? About how people are always wandering around, searching for their other half?"

The smell of coffee and cinnamon buns brought her fully awake.  "Harvey, stop with that nonsense and get me some food.  He closed the book and paused.

"I am glad you are feeling better. The storm was a rough one. It's a miracle you are still alive."
"Two cinnamon buns while you're at it," she said.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

By the Grace of God She Goes

"Your Wickedness makes you as it were heavy as Lead, and to tend downwards with great Weight and Pressure towards Hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend & of an angry God plunge into the bottomless Gulf" Jonathan Edwards -- "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"

She grabbed the crowbar from the corner of her office.  "This is an abomination," she muttered. Wobbling out into the sidewalk she turned, stood firmly, and waited. From around the corner "Pope Michael," as the neighborhood called him, turned his mobile confessional in Ellen's direction. He peered around the edge, saw her and came to a stop a few feet away. He didn't walk around the box. God was his shield, but it was prudent to keep a safe distance at times.

"You and this contraption are an abomination!" She shouted. Pope Michael made no move. "You are no Gabriel, you little bastard!" Her voice was getting louder. In a surprisingly deft move she welding the crowbar like King Arthur's sword.

As she swung it in the direction it of the box, she heard "Stop, in the name of all that is holy." Her swing went wide. She stumbled to the left and the crowbar flew from her hands and into the first floor apartment window, her window.  Glass flew inward, and some tinkled unto the sidewalk.

"Ellen, you've long abandoned the church, but it has not abandoned you. Please step inside."
"Like h-"
"Ellen." He still had not appeared from around the corner of the box. The door popped open as if letting out a breath.
As if in a trance, she stepped in. It creaked in slight protest of her weight.
"Wait!" She shouted, "You little conniving twit!" But the door closed and the bolt locked.  She was trapped. Michael, with considerably more effort, pushed the box out into the street--stopping traffic--onto 114th Avenue, toward St. Cecilia's church. It swayed and lurched as Ellen kicked and pushed at the door and walls.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Riddles and Reason

"But what does it mean, the plague? It's life, that's all." 
— The Plague Albert Camus

Her day began as it always does with aching bones and the irritation of waking-up at 3:30 every morning.  She starts the kettle and hears the whistle, but it's not from the steam of hot water.  Instead, to her mild surprise, it's from a train.  She walks out of the building to see if, in fact, there is one.  As she heads up 45th street, the train is rolling through. But the darkness and the fog keep her from seeing it.

"Damn it." She mutters.  But she continues up the street until it comes into view.  The fog swirls around the tracks and she is a bit out of breath. Finally the caboose rolls by and Munny is standing on the back tossing orange peels off the platform.  She only sees him for a brief moment, and then he's gone. The a few orange peels skitter to a stop near her feet. She looks down, "Damn it. That's not good." She mutters again. Turns and heads back to the scream of her own kettle. "I would not think it would be Munny. He doesn't fit."

"Everything okay, Ellen?" Harvey startles her was she heads back into the office.
"Strange things, Harvey, strange things out there."
He cocks his head like a well-trained collie.
"Trains are on the tracks." She glares at him for a moment and closes the door behind her leaving Harvey alone in the hallway.

Throughout the morning, she is restless and unable to focus. The fog makes her feel trapped. By late afternoon, she walks out of The Victorian and more or less wobbles down Blackbird with no particular direction in mind.   She waves her arms from time to time thinking to move the fog from her eyes.  He shouts from the shadows. "Ah, but aren't you the best woman alive at solving riddles?"

She squints in the old man's direction. "What?" She shouts back.
"You heard me!" He responds.
She walks closer, stops, and puts her hands on her hips.
"Go away, woman!" He shouts.
"What damn riddles?"  She shouts back.  And the young boy waves his hands in warning. His eyebrows raised.

"Ridiculous." She says, but feels the tingle down her back as she walks away.

Just as she leaves the grocery store, a women approaches her and says, "Must you ignore everyone but yourself? There are sick people that need curing!"
"What?" Ellen's voice bristles with irritation and she looks at the startling colors enveloping the woman. "Get away from me you gypsy freak!" She shouts and waddles faster toward The Victorian. The woman follows and as Ellen enters, she turns toward the woman and says, "Read the sign on the door, no soliciting. Get the hell away from my door!"

But in her small office watching the fog darken into evening, the tightness in her chest returns and she shouts. "There are no riddles in life!" and throws her cup out into the lobby and it shatters sending countless fragments across the floor.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"The Brahmin's Son"

“’You will go into the forest,’ he said, ‘and become a Samana. If you find bliss in the forest, come back and teach it to me. If you find disillusionment, come back, and we shall again offer sacrifices to the gods together. Now go, kiss your mother and tell her where you are going. For me, however, it is time to go to the river and perform the first ablution.’” Siddhartha, Herman Hesse

She told the building owner that a resident destroyed doors and put bullet holes is several walls. She made Harvey replace and spackle. She wandered the halls, checking his work, complaining when he missed a spot or spent too much on the doors.

“I thought that new doors would help freshen-up the place.” She only grunted at his point.

Now, as she sat in front of her storage closet that sat behind her desk, she took a deep breath and sighed. Residents had complained at first, yelled at her second, and threatened to move out third. She only glared at them and didn’t utter a word.  No point, really, no water means, no water. But she wasn’t without her own. After years here she’d learned to prepare for the worst. The storage closet had only one key and it was around her neck.

Now, Munny stood in front of her, like Siddhartha waiting for his father to release him. A slight smile and clear eyes made “Ms. Ellen,” he called her, shift uncomfortably in her chair. She liked her chair.  She’d spent months looking in thrift stores for one. Now it and everything else felt displaced under the gaze of Munny Pang.  His slight build and stillness made her think he was an illusion, perhaps a specter. She felt a slight tightness in her chest.

“Ms. Ellen,” He spoke first.
“No.” She said.
He pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and placed it on top of the detridus on her desk. It was crisp, clean and brand new.
“No.” She repeated.
“Ms. Ellen, I’ve never missed a payment and never been a problem.”
“You know it’s temporary, and I haven’t enough to make tea. I don’t need much.”
She finally met his gaze.  “Fine.” She fished out a half empty Crystal Springs bottle from the top drawer and tossed it at him. 
He smiled deeply. “I knew you cared.” He said. He turned and walked away.

She sighed, and quickly reached for the twenty.

Monday, October 10, 2016


“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Her beehive perched awkwardly.  The burger sat unsettled and caused her to belch as she moved from floor to floor.  Her blood pressure clouded her vision and verged on dangerous.  These people must be stopped. As she banged on doors, opening them with the passkey and shouting at the reporters, she realized that other measures were needed. They weren’t afraid of the squat concierge.
From under the desk, she found the old shotgun. From another drawer she found the shells.  In her hast to shove shells into her pockets, several dropped and rolled under the chair. One bounced onto a stack of discarded notices. While riding the elevator up, she loaded the gun and as the door opened, she let out a large belch. Then she shouted. “Out! Reporters, out!” Knowing no one lives in 701, she turned to the door and pulled the trigger. Several residences screamed from behind closed doors.
“If you are a resident. Don’t move.  If you are a reporter, come out into the hall. Don’t,” another belch echoed in the hallway, “make me cock this trigger another time! Do you understand? Either leave peacefully, or not. Either way, you will be gone by the time I make it back to this floor.”
From behind 703’s door, Ellen could hear, “Bloody hell! She’s lost her mind! Americans and their guns!” Ellen smiled.
She did the same on the 6th floor, and at the end of the hallway the door flies open and books catapult out the door. They flutter then splay on the floor. Ellen takes aim, but decides against it. “She did, finally, pay the rent.”
Shouting and moving down the hallways, “If you’ve got a reporter in there, send it home!” She goes from floor to floor. Some people shout from behind lock doors, some cuss, some just scream.

Ellen finally collapses into the chair in her office.  She sees people moving quickly out the main entrance, but behind her labored breathing, she can’t be sure if they are reporters or residents.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sunset Boulevard

Ellen didn't notice the rare, beautiful sunset over The Victorian. Instead she was running down the list of overdue rents. "Anthony Moretti...I knew he's a mobster." She thought. 

"Barnabas..Jackie--I can't even say his last name without smirking...Masie what" She coughed and reached for her coffee, "kind of person would name their child that?" 

"Sophie Stone...Annabell... Aliteration-- parents with little imagination apparently... and then there's Fabio. Holy cow" 
She thought in her little mean ways and her little mean thoughts. And she kept listing in her mind who she would need to call the police to inevitably evict. 

"Laurel Ilsteson...Rick Flame--oh I'll light a fire under his butt...Wren Dillan, there will soon be a bird's nest in that place if  my heart is still beating."  

But the problem was that it wasn't really beating.  It sat in her chest like a cold, cracked stone. She looked up as the delivery man came in with a small fish bowl.  

"Delivery for apartment #7," He said. Ellen looked at the beautiful, small fish flickering in the evening light. Then suddenly all went dark. 

"Harvey!" She shouted.