out of the ashes

Friday, July 30, 2010

Twelve

Here we are...in the mansion at last.

Twelve

Marvin stopped.
He turned, curious as to what Maribeth might say, seeing as how he hadn’t exactly impressed her. A glint of afternoon sun struck his eyes as he did, and he closed them quickly, reaching for the thin marble column nearest him that supported the roof to steady himself.
She sat forward, her posture elegant, yet rigid. Delicate hands lay clenched upon the tabletop, her soft lips pressed tightly together to form a grim line, but, it was the gentle questioning look in her eyes that sparked a glimmer of hope within him.
“Do you know Shakespeare?” she asked.
Marvin closed his eyes, took a deep breath, letting the thread emerge. He stood immobile for a moment or two, and then answered.
“Plays or Sonnets? I don’t have them all yet.”
“Try ‘As You Like It’.”
He thought for a moment.
“No, sorry. I can’t find it. How about Hamlet or Love’s Labours Lost?”
“Act II, Scene I, then. Love’s Labours,” she challenged.
Marvin stepped back toward the table as he searched the gigs in his fortified brain. Amazed himself.
“Am I supposed to act, too?”
She laughed. “No, you’d probably wreck it. Go ahead. Do what you like.”
“Okay. A-hem…” He cleared his throat, lifted an arm and began.
“Enter The Princess of France, Rosaline, Maria, Katharine, Boyet, lords, and other attendants.” He paused.
“Now, Madam, summon up your dearest spirits: consider…” There followed a grand gesticulation… “who the king your father sends, to whom he sends, and what’s his embassy: Yourself, held precious in the world’s esteem, to parley…”
“Good God! Laurence Olivier come back from heaven!” All her contrary appearances vanished in a single, undignified outburst of delight. “Marvin, either you’re the world’s greatest liar, or else someone touched by some power I can’t imagine!”
Marvin left the stage and walked with aplomb to the patroness seated in her chair. He bowed slightly, in deference to her position in the court of Harris. “Madam, as you can see, I lie not. Wouldst thou have me, thy lowly servant, entertain thee further?”
Maribeth took her cue, stood in the radiant afternoon light across from him. She tipped her head and reached across the table with the palm of her small hand down. “No, gentle bard. I have received measure for measure and am pleased. As such, I knight thee.
“Where did I lay my sword?”
“Then you believe me?” Marvin asked, taking her hand in his.
“Well…no. Not really. You might be an overnight phenomenon, a miracle…but, angels? I don’t know, Marvin Fuster.”
“Are you religious?” he asked.
“Not exactly. Well, yes, I suppose…oh, I see where you’re going. I’m Catholic by birth and upbringing. Marvin, bible stories are one thing; fascinating, yes, but this is the Twentieth Century.”
“Nothing changes, essentially, paraphrasing Augustine. Truth is truth, no matter the era or the mores. Either it was fantasy then, or it was not. Let me prove the truth of it, dear child.” He held her hand, Anselm’s fingertip atop them. A gentle warmth radiated in a circle around the touch of fingers; the flesh of youth, and the decay of age. Maribeth reacted as though she was standing on a precipice, slipping, unable to halt her movement forward.
“How?” she breathed.
The die was cast. Anselm spread his wings, and the temper of the air in the garden gazebo turned from incredulity to awe.
How, Marvin wondered? Very simple. Rewrite biological reality.
“I need books. Every book ever written on genetics.
“And I need a room,” he added as a veiled reference to his need for light to see by at night, and shelter from the elements if nothing else.

It was nearly six o’clock when Maribeth threw caution and good sense to the wind after hearing a dissertation on faith, imagination, and desire—on Amy, a woman from a dream, of all things. Marvin Fuster was a shambles, at least physically, but beneath the exterior of the wraith standing before her she saw the spark of brilliance, and the lyricism of every poet from every age. His eyes, suddenly, had begun to sparkle, as though deep inside him a universe of atoms had begun to collide. When she had discovered him dead to the world on the lawn, he was blank; a blackboard wiped clean of what once might have been something of lasting value. Within half an hour he had filled the slate with chalk of immensely varied and dazzling color, and words of incomprehensible allure. What could she do but adopt him as her own?
It would have been easy, rational, sensible, to send him on his crazy way. She had no idea that Marvin had already made an enemy in the person of Robert, but even if she had, the passion and frightening eloquence of Marvin’s dream, his quest, stirred an equally passionate response, stirred by a different but equally powerful thread winding its way inside her heart, if not her head.
And so.
“Daddy and Mums are gone. Hurry then, let’s get you situated,” she said, taking hold of Marvin’s hand.
Maribeth spirited Marvin through the garage door into the home. A long hallway with windows on the yard side opened at the far end to a kitchen. Immediately to the left, five feet in, was a paneled door. She opened it quickly and motioned without a word for Marvin to follow her. A broad switchback stairway led down the wainscoted walls to the mansion basement, originally a spacious cellar for storage of coal for the home’s boiler, non-perishable staples, boxes of papers, the overflow of non-essential goods of the families who lived and died in the house. More recently it had been cleaned out. The old boiler was replaced in an earlier administration, and the coal bin dismantled. Modern accoutrements and décor were added for the overflow of entertainment; a place the governors could retreat to with friends in a relaxed, non-official atmosphere.
“Your room is right down here,” she said motioning him to follow her. The short, narrow hallway at the foot of the stairway opened into a cavernous room, in the center of which stood an opulent billiard table, and for a moment Marvin wondered if the gigantic felt-top might become his bed until father discovered his presence sometime in the near future. He dispelled the notion of having to climb up onto the uncomfortably hard surface, though, when she led him toward a doorway into an adjoining room.
Walking behind her across the room, Marvin glanced at the walls, rich Mahogany lining it. The thick carpet was deep red, and one wall was dominated by a fully stocked bar. It reminded him of the interior of a decadent nineteenth century brothel. He vowed to himself never to tell her that, however. He imagined His Lordship The Governor might very well have had some interesting parties in a room like this.
“Do you like Daddy’s playroom, Marvin?” she asked looking back over her shoulder.
“I think so. It reminds me of a whorehouse, though.” He cursed his stunning lack of ability to keep a promise, and at the same time found his eyes taking inventory of the wealth of bottles lined up like soldiers behind the bar.
Maribeth laughed at his statement. “That’s exactly what I told him after he had it remodeled. I remember that he looked a little shocked, and he asked me how I would know something like that.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“I just said, ‘Daddy, your only daughter is an avaricious reader’. This city had more than its fair share of those kinds of places…the archives are full of them.”
She opened the door to the adjoining room and flipped on the light switch. Marvin was torn between following her or remaining close to the source of a potentially endless drunk. The thread arose and squirmed, and he dispelled the very notion of it.
“Do you think I can crack the mystery of time and aging,” he asked Maribeth as they walked toward the small anteroom.
She turned and looked back at him sadly. “No, not really. Still, it beats sitting in the drunk tank for the rest of your life and dying out there on the streets, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a perfectly noble quest on your part, but it seems way too big for an angel-seeing drunk, if you don’t mind my saying. Sorry.”
“No, that’s alright. Half the time I think I’m nuts, I really do. I appreciate your picking me up and offering to help me, though. You’re probably as crazy as I am. Even so, all this stuff that’s been going on…there must be something to it.”
“We shall see,” she answered.
They walked in, and Marvin looked around. A single bed with a blond frame dominated, made up and ready for whoever might need it. Tonight it would be for someone absolutely unsuspected. Above the headboard on the wall hung a painting of the Capitol Building with its glittering gold dome, flight of steps leading up from Broadway Avenue, conifers on either side, and a brilliant blue sky above. To the right, a small writing desk with a few books atop it, a plain wooden chair without arms. An awning window with the sheers drawn closed provided a powdery glow of light to the room.

..........................
(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

The end of Eleven

First draft, but...well, as you can see, Maribeth has seen the light :)
........

Marvin relaxed, now, seeing she was probably not “foe”, and that the police were most likely not on the way. “I have no fuckin’…AAAAGH! No idea. Sorry, miss. Something’s inside my brain. I think it’s him. Somehow he got in there. Every time I say something that isn’t straight out of Emily Post he zaps me!” Marvin leaned forward and grabbed her arms suddenly. “I tell you, Maribeth Harris, daughter of the governor, I know every line of The Grapes of Wrath. Boom! Just like that all of the sudden. It’s frightening! A Farewell To Arms, too! This morning I couldn’t have recited Mary had a little lamb…couldn’t even have read it! Christ Almigh…WHOOA-AAGH! You know what I mean?”
No. How could she? An instant savant, who yesterday was simply a common indigent?
“Explain.”
Okay, he thought. He’d come here to see Amy, though what he intended to do afterward was nebulous. But he had been instructed to come, that he would find her here. She wasn’t here, though, and that presented certain problems. Was that thing lying? Did he really even see what he thought he saw outside the Mission window? Maybe, maybe not. Still, what was happening inside his head? And why? The language, the books he’d never read rolling around up there complete and clear as crystal. The zaps. All of it was connected to Amy in some mysterious way.
He decided to unload. If this girl rolled over laughing or told him to take a hike, so be it. Back to the dock sooner than he anticipated was the worst thing.
“This might take a few minutes. Can we maybe find a chair or two someplace to sit more comfterble…AAAGH! Comfortably? And, I don’t suppose you’d have any cheese…or cookies…or…” Marvin was wincing, holding his temples.
“Of course.” Maribeth jumped to her feet. “Can you get up?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Marvin’s joints felt like staples had been driven into them, but he managed to rise by himself, afraid to speak. He faltered a step backward, the vertigo attacking him briefly. Maribeth skirted to his side and steadied him by the arm. Robert moped across the drive carrying Maribeth’s cell.
“Better?”
“Better. Thanks.”
“Here yuh ah, miss Maruhbeth.” Robert, dole-faced, but proper, handed her the phone as she and Marvin began the trip across the driveway to the gazebo he had noticed earlier.
“Will that be all, then?” he asked.
“Not quite. Please bring a large tumbler of iced lemonade and a platter of chocolate chip cookies to the gazebo. And a few slices of cheese.”
“Yes, ma’am. As yuh wish.”
Maribeth and Marvin walked down a long, sloping field of emerald-green. In the center, midway between the rear of the mansion and the guest quarters tucked into the western edge of the grounds, stood the gazebo. A meandering pathway of flagstones led from the house to the opening in the stem-walls surrounding it. Inside were a small table set to one side, two chairs, and a chaise lounge. Maribeth entered holding Marvin’s hand and motioned to him to sit across from her.
“Now. Tell me all about it, Mr. Fuster.”
Marvin took a deep breath. “Well, it started a few nights ago, I think. I’ve lost some days somewhere, but…”
Robert brought the platter of cookies and the drinks as he was instructed, and then left without a word, glancing over his shoulder twice as he made his way back to the house. Marvin began the journey, which seemed disjointed and beyond incredible most of the way to Maribeth. She listened to the sad story of his early life, how he had left society and married a bottle, without comment, but when he came to the chapter opening at the Mission, chewing on the fourth cookie, her ears began to flutter.
“You what?”
“Yeah, I had to get out of there quick…”
“Oh, Mr. Fuster…”
“Please, call me Marvin.”
“Marvin. Seriously. An angel?”
“Well, I don’t know how else to describe a thing with fifteen eyes and sporting wings. But, I wasn’t drunk! I swear it.”
“You hit your head when you jumped out the window.”
“NO! It just knocked the wind out of me. My head was okay.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet.”
“Look!” Marvin pushed the chair back with a clatter, stood up, and yanked his tee-shirt up. A wide band of reddish-blue extended straight across his stomach. Maribeth looked at it and made a frowny-face.
“Ooh, that’s nasty.”
Marvin then bent over and brought his scalp within her eyesight, pulling the failing strands of hair apart with his fingertips. “See, nothing there.”
She laughed at that. “Well, I can’t see inside.”
“No knock on the head. I swear it’s true. After Essie threw my legs out, I somersaulted...and I felt these, these fingers or something just before I hit. Or landed. It didn’t hurt a bit.” His eyes drifted far away. “Fingers. They were his fingers.
“I’m not crazy, Miss Harris…”
“Maribeth. Or Mare. Suit yourself.”
“Maribeth, look at me. You gotta’ believe me. I’m not nuts.” Marvin gazed hard into her eyes. “Do you want me to recite Moby Dick? From page one? I can do it.”
“So you were an English professor…”
“ I dropped out of school after the fifth grade. And besides, what English prof do you know who could recite the whole of any book? I tell you, an hour ago I couldn’t spell my name.”
“The thing in your head.”
“Yes! And she’s the reason! I have to…to reverse my age. I’m going to. I mean, why else would this be happening to me?”
Maribeth shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.”
There was a moment of nothing, a dead calm. Marvin looked at Maribeth. She looked at her hands folded in her lap. The sound of a fly crawling across a cookie on the platter was like thunder.
“Well,” Marvin said finally, rising. “Thanks for the cookies and lemonade. I’d better get moving. Thanks for listening.”
“Where will you go?”
“Back home. I need to rest. It’s been one helluva’ day.” He smiled and began to leave.
“Wait.”
(c) Patrick Sean Lee-2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And...some more

God AAAAGH! Sorry :(
...Gosh, I hope this works, lol.
Maribeth is talking to Marvin :)


Marvin heard all this, vaguely. “Ghost” especially. His eyes were open, his head ever so slowly beginning to clear. He wanted to reach up and touch Amy’s cheek, to see if his hand would pass through it, but his muscles failed the command. Where he was had yet to crystallize fully. What was clear to him, though, was that she was here…leaning over his body right at this moment, illuminated by some trick of light, smelling faintly of lilac. Her deep auburn hair shone golden. Her eyes appeared sparkling blue, now. Even so, she was beautiful, his Amy transformed by the light and the fog in his brain.
He was a homeless man, that much was apparent to Maribeth Harris, and he was ill. She had spotted Marvin through the kitchen window, lying just off the drive, arms outstretched as if he were waiting for the cross to be dragged into place. His bare feet registered first; the grime on the soles picked up after the shower out on the streets. How the left pointed straight up, the right leaned to three o’clock. The impulse to grab the phone and call 911 was checked as quickly as it rose—she would wonder just why in the weeks ahead—and she ran quickly to the rear door at the end of the connecting hall. Robert had seen her peering out the window from his place in the main hall, and was close on her heels when she darted away, trying to explain the bum's earlier presence in chopped sentences. “Please just be quiet, Robert,” she’d replied when they arrived at his side.
“What happened to you? Can you hear me,” she asked looking into Marvin's glazed eyes. Her soft voice drew the curtain aside. He struggled to sit up.
“No, no. Just lie still. You’re hurt,” Maribeth said, placing her hands on his paper shoulders and gently forcing him back. The wrinkled texture of his coat, the condition of his entire bleak wardrobe seemed not to affect her at all. She kept her hands on his shoulders until she was certain he wouldn’t start, maybe burst a blood vessel in his weary-looking head.
“What on earth happened to you? How did you get here?” she followed.
Marvin lay still, thinking back into the cloud of the morning. “I…I’m not sure. I was told to come here. That I’d find you here.” He peered at her face, and a sort of confusion began to surface in his eyes. She was very pretty, he thought. Yes, very pretty, but no matter how he tried to change the color of her hair and the shape and color of her eyes…this girl was not Amy. His heart sank.
Robert returned with the water. He stopped and knelt beside his mistress Maribeth, handing it to her.
“Thank you.” She turned to Marvin, holding the plastic tumbler wide to her right. “Can you sit up?”
Marvin rolled onto his side and then pushed himself into a sitting position. His head spun momentarily, the trees and shrubbery at his right wheeling to his front, back to the right, and then again to the front, over and over until his blood settled. Maribeth steadied him with a hand on his shoulder while Robert surveyed the wreck of a man silently, a feeling of disgust rising like a blister. The head servant of the governor’s household hailed from common stock; a man, who by chance and providence entered into a trusted position. He viewed the tramp at his feet with a certain loathing, a giant step below him on life’s ladder. Robert’s education had come to an end after his eleventh year, a matter of necessity, not laziness. He drank little, possessed a few belongings of some value, and attended Mass with the First Family every Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Marvin’s education, he rightly guessed, had ended much earlier, and most likely this was connected at the hip to his character, identified by his rough speech, manners, and filthy clothes.
“There. That’s better. Drink this. You look dehydrated,” she said.
Marvin took the glass and sipped the icy water slowly. After a moment he said.
“Thank you, that was very refreshing. But I’m not dehydrated. Actually the opposite. I took a shower earlier…well, that’s why my clothes are still wet. I mean, that’s how I dried off…with the clothes. I don’t really need any more water. But thanks.”
Robert shifted to an upright position, rolling his narrow eyes. “Yuh might have cunsiduhed showerin’ with them on,” he said with a patronizing laugh.
“Shame on you, Robert. That will be all. Bring me my cell phone, and then continue with whatever you were doing.”
“Excuse me,” Marvin interrupted, “who are you?” He was staring intently at this young woman whose fingers rested on him, trying to make tails out of heads.
Maribeth hesitated before answering, looking at the hollow eyes. They spoke not so much of sadness, as perhaps they should have, but of incomprehension, confusion, the child whose mother has lost him in a crowd. He looked like Mad Max and Rothschild the day Maribeth had rescued them from the kennel’s merciless needle.
“My name is Maribeth. I live here. Do you know where you are?”
“Yeah. The Governor’s Mansion. 400 East 8th Avenue. He sent me here, said I’d find her…but you aren’t her. You…are you married to the governor?”
Maribeth laughed. “No. I’m his daughter. What’s your name, anyway, and who is it that sent you?”
Marvin eyed her, wondering. Was it go for broke and tell her the truth, or act the sane man and simply leave? Maribeth raised her eyebrows slightly, smiling with her lips held tightly shut.
“Well?”
“I’m Marvin Quenton Fuster, miss. Lately an indigent, of no account to anyone, especially myself. And, he told me…Do I look crazy to you. Be truthful.”
“Yes.” Maribeth nodded her head. “But no crazier, I suppose, than any other man in your, er, situation. Are you homeless?”
“At the moment? Yes. No. That depends on what you define as being without a permanent residence. Mine is the underside of a loading dock not far from here. Quite comfortable, actually, though it lacks the amenities of…” He gazed behind her to the wall of the mansion, and then back into her pretty face. “The amenities of someplace like this. How many toilets do you have here?”
Maribeth sat back onto her haunches and clapped her hands. “Wonderful! I don’t know. There are too many to count. You’re funny, Mr. Fuster—that’s an odd last name. Is it English?”
Marvin relaxed, now, seeing she was probably not “foe”, and that the police were most likely not on the way. “I have no fuckin’…AAAAGH! No idea. Sorry. Something’s inside my brain. I think it’s him. Somehow. Every time I say something that isn’t straight out of Emily Post he zaps me!” Marvin leaned forward and grabbed her arms. “I tell you, Maribeth Harris, daughter of the governor, I know every line of The Grapes of Wrath suddenly! It’s frightening! A Farewell To Arms, too! This morning I couldn’t have recited Mary had a little lamb…couldn’t even have read it! Christ Almigh…WHOOA-AAGH!”
(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Some more

I'm working, I'm working !
Here's a few more pages :)
...I’m goin’ in.
Marvin left the porch and strode east to the corner at Pennsylvania Avenue, the end of the mansion property. He found it disgraceful that there were no leaves, no twigs, not even a hairline crack in the sidewalk he walked on. The grass against the concrete must have been addressed as though it were a head of hair—the governor’s hair, clipped to an evenness and accuracy reserved for work by machinists. The shrubs on the inside of the fence were the same, and the lawn beyond. He spotted a slash of cement going from the street to the garage, and to the south of it some ways, a gazebo with a domed, metal roof, sitting in a depression in the perfect lawn. There was no one in sight anywhere, but the double gates of the drive were open just slightly, and so he slipped in. Two red-breasted robins took flight from the ground a dozen feet to his right when he stepped through. He could have sworn they had their beak-noses turned up at the sight of him. But then, his eyes. Most likely just his imagination.
Somewhere inside that coliseum was at least one person, the guy with the southern exposure. Probably a hundred others, he gauged, scanning the back wall and the endless grounds to the south.
Jesus. Ain’t nobody needs a spread this fuckin’ big…
The thread dug in and twisted suddenly, forcefully, making its point. Marvin grabbed his temples and winced.
Goddamit…ouch! Goshdarn it? That hurts like hell.
What I say, huh? What…did I…say?
Lord almighty…Ouch! Gadzooks. No one needs a home this extravagant, so ostentati…what the blazes is happening?

The thread was happening. He had no idea. None. The thread of grace bore into him with the tenacity of an English schoolmaster, beating out the four-letter crap in the sewer of his grammatical memory bank. Disciplining the child who had crawled into his classroom from the gutter. Anselm sat laughing in the tree behind him, the same tree that had been occupied by the robins (who could have cared less about Marvin’s appearance—or his language). He moved a finger round and round, sending Webster’s in a painful stream of pulsing energy. Moby Dick. For Whom The Bell Tolls. Little Women. Oliver Twist. Anna Karenina. None of these condensed or abridged. In the blink of an eye. Overload.
Marvin took a faltering step or two forward and collapsed onto the edge of the lawn. His eyes remained open, turned upward until nothing but the whites showed. Lying there he witnessed a light show rivaling the inside of a nuclear reactor momentarily, and then his world went black.

“Wake up. Wake up.”
Marvin heard a small voice, indistinct at first, and then the fog began to swirl away. Tiny fingers jostled his shoulder. He blinked. In between the shutter snaps he saw two faces and two sets of shoulders leaning over him, ablaze with halos of piercing white.
Oh Christ…AAGHHH!...Oh gosh, I mean. My day for spooks? Am I nuts?
“Amy?” he asked the dazzling face hopefully.
“Yuh see, Miz Marubeth? This creechuh must buhlieve yuh someone else. Ah’ll phone for thuh uthoruhties…”
“No, Robert. Not yet. He looks hurt…he’s white as a ghost. Go get a glass of water. Hurry.”
Marvin heard all this, vaguely. Ghost especially. His eyes were open, his head beginning to clear. He wanted to reach up and touch her cheek, to see if his hand would pass through it. Where he was had not crystallized fully. What was clear to him was that she was here…maybe leaning over his body right at that moment.
(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Eleven

For some reason, getting past the Men's store scene was difficult,as though the hurdle was too high and I kept knocking it over each time I jumped. But I'm right there...Maribeth is right around the corner.
Whew.

Yes, yes, I will. I swear it.

He turned and left the entryway, continuing south along the street, unmindful of his surroundings, thinking of nothing but the piercing beauty of the voice. Amy had sung to him, and oh, how sweet the melody had been. He knew she was at his destination, waiting for him, and so he quickened his pace.

Some sense of embarrassment prevented Marvin from approaching the mansion with confidence at first. A sudden disbelief, or loss of faith, perhaps, coupled with the mirror that followed before him like a shadow in reverse. The rags he wore—had worn for what seemed an eternity—that suddenly shamed him more than ever. His face, his fingers with blackened nails. His feet without shoes.
How can I…meet her? Is that what I’m planning? Really? Am I that stupid? He gazed down at his clothes, to his bare feet, and then into the gutter where a stream of water flowed lazily by. Amy’s face drifted along in the sparkle of it. Raising his head, she reappeared in the reflection of a store’s window across the street. Marvin shook his head and laughed at the question. Yep. I’m just about that stupid. Screw my looks.
He turned the corner onto 8th Avenue, no longer considering turning back, pulled by the idea, the compulsion to see Amy, which was stronger by far than the reality of what he was. The mansion atop Logan Hill came into view soon, tucked slightly back off the street behind a filigreed wrought iron fence. A three-story stately Georgian Revival, constructed with hand-crafted red brick, white Ionic columns supporting a second story balcony residing above the front entrance. A beautiful set of French doors framed within the brick led to the balcony from somewhere on the second floor. The mansion’s trimming along the long eaves, dormers, and windows was the color of a freshly bloomed lily. He approached it warily, wrapped in his thoughts, and came to a halt behind a tall elm; sheltered from the street, but visible from any of the north-facing front windows, should anyone care to peek out at him. Which was unlikely, he thought. The place looked deserted.
An hour passed, during which time Marvin looked up and down the street a dozen times, sat against the tree and peered up at the columned portico, moved to the edge of the parking and looked into the gutter, back again to the tree, to the far eastern edge of the property, back again to the tree, wondering when Amy would come walking out, or appear out of nowhere and go walking in.
She is here, and we are watching her.
Go to the Governor’s Mansion…
Ah, bullshit.

Enough was enough. Marvin marched through the gate, up the steps, and then knocked on the front door. He waited. A moment passed without a response, and so he knocked again, this time louder. The sheers moved seconds later, drawn by a fingertip. They remained parted for a breath or two, and then dropped closed again. The lock disengaged, and the door cracked open.
Standing before him was a man roughly forty years-old, dressed like a penguin, wearing the predatory look of a buzzard.
“Yes, suh?” he asked in a deep-south accent. The man eyed Marvin suspiciously.
“Are you the governor?”
There followed a pause, and what appeared to Marvin to be a tiny snarling of the guy’s upper lip.
Finally. “No, suh, ah am not. The govunuh is out. What can ah do fuh yuh?”
“I’m lookin’ for Amy. He told me to come here. I’d find her here.”
"The govunuh?"
"Uh...no. Someone else."
“Well, whoevuh “someone else" is suh, he misinformed yuh. There is no one by that name who ruhsides in this home. Now, if yuh’ll excuse me…” He began to close the door.
“Wait! Goddamit…”
The door clicked shut.
No one here by that name? He wheeled around and scoured the sidewalk and the street beyond. Where the hell is she, then? I’d o’ seen her if she…He raised an eyebrow. Maybe whoever that Reb was…he was lyin’ to me. He glanced at his clothes again. Yeah, that’s it. He was lyin’.
I’m goin’ in.

(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

The Old West

When I was about sixteen there was a man my parents knew very well, a wealthy man (we were not). The man’s wife decided one year she wanted to ride horsies.
I thought she was nuts.
But, nuts or not, he bought her twenty-five acres of prime real estate outside the city limits of Denver, near the foothills of the mountains. The previous owner must have boarded or raised horses because there was a nice tack room, enclosed stables for…I dunno’, ten horses, I think, and a ranch-style home. A barn, too, with a gambrel roof. Really a nice place. Oh, and a creek running through one end of the property bordered on either side by cottonwoods and poison oak. Infested with rattlesnakes from early spring until late fall, I should add.
The man and his wife lived in a very exclusive part of Denver…near the neighborhood where Marvin's tale is set. No cottonwoods or poison oak, only many poisoned personalities obsessed with money and status. Mr. Osgood—that was his name. “Mac” to all his friends. I was very fond of him, and so were my folks, even though he was rich--which was some kind of mortal sin in Mom and Pops' eyes. He was a Catholic, though, and attended Mass every single morning. I suppose that made him at least half-good in their eyes.
Scarlett was his wife’s name. I think she was a Methodist.
Scarlett went out just before they closed on the “ranch” and bought a couple of ponies. Really big ones…like, quarterhorse ponies. There were three or four others that stayed on with the purchase…one extremely mean one. I think his name was Thunder, or Thor, or something like that. His name, I remember, suited his disposition perfectly. I say this because Mac asked my dad if I’d like a summer job working at the ranch the week when escrow closed. I would get to meet that friggin’ horse.
I was very athletic back then; had dark, curly hair, and a winning personality. I mean, I thought I did. Well…Thunder didn’t think so, it quickly became apparent. He could have cared less about how cute I thought I was or my fabulous personality. But my dad answered his friend, “Sure thing, Mac. This kid was MEANT to break horses.”
There were no horses there that needed breaking, of course, except maybe Thunder. Or his neck. That horse…well…
I went out to the ranch that first day with Mac. It was early summer my sophomore year of high school, and Mac showed me around the place, all smiles and filled with pride. He introduced me to the horses, finally. He had no more idea what a horse was supposed to do than I did, but that’s neither here nor there, I guess. The ranch was his new hobby. Scarlett quickly got bored with falling off Lucinda, the gentlest mare ever born, so she went back to her country club existence in the city, leaving Mac to figure out what to do with half a dozen horses and twenty-five acres.
He wound up hiring two women, one with a short crew cut, and muscles; the other who was quite beautiful, and whom I lusted over (to no avail). Anyway, that’s what sixteen year-old boys do; fall in love with gay women. How was I to know?
Beside the point.
Sharon was the gal sporting the crew cut, and she knew horses as well as Eddie what’s-his-name…the jockey…did. She was good. Treated them with care; without the help of a two-by-four, which is the way Mac said you dealt with a stubborn, single-minded mule. Or horse, he added after buying the ranch and discovering Thunder.
As the ranch was something like twenty miles from my house, it was decided I would have to become a resident with the two women and the horses. The job chosen for me by Sharon was to begin every morning at 6:00 a.m. sharp. Get up, go out to the barn and get the wheelbarrow, rake, shovel and a bandana, then go into the stable and clean out the stalls. Okay, pick up horse poop. Little piles here and there in the stalls. No sweat.
Fortunately outside each stall was a fenced-in area—can't recall its technical name—so I could open the door and shoo them out while I cleaned up after them. Out there they could run around a little and whinny like crazy because they were hungry. That was part of my job, too. To fill their eating things with some oats and alfalfa (I think that’s what I was supposed to feed them—anyway, that’s what they got), and to make sure they had fresh water. Artesian well water, which tastes delicious, and in Colorado, the water was always ice-cold. I loved it, and every one of the horses did, too. Except that friggin’ Thunder. That horse hated everything, especially me. I think a lot of this was due to the fear he saw in me whenever I had to get near him. That was every morning, of course, because I had to open his stall door very quietly, hoping he was still asleep (he never was), ease past him…past the hindquarters with hoofs that could send a locomotive into orbit if he kicked…and open that goddam’ back door to let him out. He most always left without kicking me, but not without using his ten-ton rear end to pin me like a bug to the stall wall as he backed out. When he was just a head sticking in the door opening, he would bite me, or try to. I learned quickly enough to get as far away from him toward the opposite door as possible once I’d unlatched his escape hatch.
Lucinda, on the other hand, always whinnied and neighed kind of joyfully when I let her out. Lucinda had the most beautiful, huge, black eyes, and instead of biting me as she left, she would nudge me affectionately with her nose. I fed and watered her first, always throwing an apple from the trees growing near the barn into her trough-thing. She got extra oats, too.
Now. Let's back up.
I arrived and got up that first morning. The two ladies had just arrived the day before, I think, and they were in no mood to do the grunt work. They were busy inventorying supplies, cleaning the house, arranging the tack room, drinking whiskey sours, and who knows what else.
“Go clean out the stalls…”
For whatever reason they hadn’t been cleaned in what looked to be centuries because there must have been a foot of horse dung packed on the floor. It took me the entire day to pick and scrape all that horse manure saturated urine out. The smell of ammonia (that’s what I remember) was so strong I had to pitch the bandana away and get a mask. Even then I had to go outside and take a breath every five minutes or so. But, I got those stalls spotless. I was so proud of myself, and I took two showers that night after dinner. Lucinda loved me for it. Cleaning her home, not my showers. Thunder could have cared less. I think, even, he relished the thought of tromping over his own crap and pee. That’s males for you.
I learned to walk them (except you-know-who), curry them, and eventually to saddle them and exercise them out in the rolling hills.
One day…
To be continued next week…
(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday

It's so hot, but my shoulder seems to have healed. Maybe the heat. Maybe because I refused to accept the pain and willed it away. Maybe because I didn't try to lift that cabinet over my head with one arm!

Marvin has "met" an angel outside the mission..Naturally the sight kind of messed with his head, but he is following the instructions...Go here. Do this.... She is here, and we are watching her.

So, he's off, on his way to 400 East 8th Avenue--the residence of the state governor, Richard Harris.

I tried something different a few pages in; switched directions, slightly. I had planned on having Marvin sneak into the Men's store to steal a suit...well...I hope this isn't too much. I like it, but I'll wait for comments from my readers concerning their impressions of where I've gone. Cantaloube.


Eleven

He shuffled south on Broadway toward his destination. 400 East 8th Avenue. The Boettcher Mansion, residence of the state’s governor, though he had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to do when he arrived. Just go, he was told.
He had seen the palatial residence once or twice over the years, when the spirit had moved him to leave the downtown area entirely and strike out on a leisurely hike, or a reconnaissance mission through the surrounding neighborhoods. The last time was long ago, but the remembrance of it sitting like a splendid monarch on its vast grounds rose to new heights today. What was there? Why on earth had he been directed to approach it? Dressed in his filthy rags, and barefoot, he wouldn’t even be admitted with one of the afternoon tours. He wondered if Amy lived there; the governor’s daughter, or God forbid, his wife. No, highly unlikely. Richard Harris—that was his name, wasn’t it? Yes. Harris had to be in his late forties. Amy was, what? Twenty-five, or twenty-six?
Shit.
Money…and success…buy beauty.

Then again…maybe she would be among the visitors? Just a visitor. Why was he supposed to go, if not to meet her? There was no other possibility, no other reason that made sense. The angel said...what was it? What? What?
She is here, and we are watching her.
Where, he thought, is here, if not where he was going?
The early afternoon was warm, with a cool breeze out of the north rising and falling in fits and starts that lifted the thin, still-damp hair on his head. The park, the State Capitol Building on the opposite side of the street, and the Mission were far behind him now. Here the thoroughfare was lined with older single or two-story commercial buildings, and teemed with traffic. Men and women with kids in tow came and went carrying shopping bags, in and out of glass doors that reflected stabs of sunlight as they swung open, and then closed again.
Marvin passed Bunsmeier’s Fine Apparel as he went along in a daze. He walked by the front display windows of the upscale Men’s store, then stopped suddenly and backtracked. More mannequins dressed in fine suits, eyes of empty contentment looking outward, oblivious. He mimicked the pose of one of them as he feasted on the elegant attire it wore. There he was, or could be, outfitted like a banker or a thousand dollar an hour attorney.
I could steal that goddam’ suit if I put my mind to it. He turned his head and checked the street behind him. No cops. No hecklers.
Maybe I just will.
And maybe you should just get your butt to that mansion. Maybe that’s what you should do.
He didn’t say when…and why the hell am I goin’ there without shoes or socks, lookin’ like a basket of buttholes, anyway? This won’t take long, then I’ll show up an’ knock on the door like I was King Faruch. Maybe that’s what that thing meant.

That is precisely not what that thing meant.
As Marvin surveyed the movements of the customers inside, two salesmen swooning over them, he began to ease his way toward the door. Anselm was there waiting. When a voice from the far corner of the showroom distracted the customers and the sales staff, Marvin reached for the handle. He grabbed hold of the glistening chrome, but then stopped when a blinding flash burst in front of his eyes. He froze.
The thread inside him had awakened, slipping across a different, deeper region of his brain, burrowing now, touching a forgotten memory, or a dissipated dream—a life lived, perhaps, in a different eternity. Notes, at first. Only notes—rising from a soft and steadily growing field; spreading and pushing at the horizon in its birth. Flowers, then, with sun-swept faces of amber, pink, azure and crimson, raising their thousand leafy arms, waving at something overhead, or reaching, as their numbers grew, like a wave traversing a hidden reef. Endless fields growing and stretching in every direction as far as his eye could see. And then a high, clear voice beckoning him from everywhere at once…
Ne pas errer, mon Coeur, ne pas errer…
He recognized the lilting music, the soprano’s singing like a crystal knife opening his heart, moving the same note from word to word to word with clarity and an otherworldly beauty. His heart leapt, and he released his grip on the handle. Against all reason he had understood the command…and he knew whose voice had sung it.
Marvin stood immobile, blinded in the third dimension, immersed in the fourth with perfect vision. Anselm lifted a finger and his charge began the return. As the fields softened into blurs, the voice sang from far, far away in the fading mists.

My shepherd, the water divides us.
I cannot cross to you.
Sing to me, then, my love,
Come to me with your music.
Come to me with your youth, your youth.


Yes, yes, I will. I swear it.

He turned and left the store’s entry and continued south along the street, unmindful of his surroundings, thinking of nothing but the piercing beauty of the voice. Amy had sung to him, and oh, how lovely the melody had been. He knew she was at his destination, waiting for him, and so he quickened his pace.

(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday and Canteloube

Lord, where did the weekend go?
I'm
writing
slowly.
Editing a lot.

My right shoulder aches so much. I can hardly lift my arm. So, what does that have to do with writing?
Nothing at all, except that I have to lift my right wrist up onto the keyboard. Groan. Once it's there, everything seems to be fine, except that my right fingertips keep missing the keys, or else type the wrong letter. So that sentence I just wrote (and edited) actually looked like this;
imce ut;s tjere. everutjomg seens ti be fome, exceot tjat ,u rogjt fomgertoos leeo ,ossomg tje leus. ir ekse tuoe tje wrimg ketter.
Perhaps a strange version in French.

Editing.
Vampires are still hot this season, lol. I hope angels are too!

On a brighter note! I almost have Marvin into the clutches of Maribeth in Chapter 11. Hallelujah!

I was listening to iTunes (as usual) tonight. Classic FM. A work came on--one that I'd heard before, long ago. One whose title I could never find. Classic FM is German, and they used to NOT list the pieces being streamed, like Classical CBC does. I clicked the screen to iTunes, and there it was. Joseph Canteloube-Chants d'Auvergne. Songs of the Auvergne. I thought it was a modern piece, by a living composer...maybe Karl Jenkins. No, a French composer who lived during the last quarter of the 19th century until the mid-20th.
The composition being played from the collection of Auvergne was "Bailero"...hauntingly beautiful. The orchestration is absolutely stunning; the mezzo-soprano's voice, and the lyrics in French, melted my soul.
I thought, How Canteloube must have loved the French countryside with everything in his soul to write something so, so gorgeous.

"Shepherd, the water divides us,
And I can't cross it,
Sing bailero lero,
Lero lero lero lero bailero lo."

Amazing.

How does God inspire men and women to create such beauty? Oh, that I could. Somehow I want to draw from that powerful piece, put it in Marvin's soul--into mine. TRY to make something of my writing approach the dignity and profoundness of works such as this.
I go to write, now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ten

I keep saying to myself, "Okay, you're there...just get Marvin into the mansion. He has to steal a suit of clothes, burn down the clothing store, and then get run over by Mare.
I'm pretty certain I'm going to abandon the clothing store caper and Maribeth running over him. Too, too juvenile. I have another idea.

Almost there, almost.
Here's the first draft of Ten, first few pages. It's rough, still. Unclear images. T liked it very much, and she's a hard critic, thank God.


Ten

Esmeralda reacted first, moving in place, like the vibration of a perfectly tuned and taut violin string until she snapped, which sent her flying in four directions at once. Her delicate arms and hands were a blur as they snatched the trousers, the boxers, the tee-shirt and trench coat in a singular movement that would have made an electron blush with envy.
Marvin stood galvanized momentarily—in reality only a half second. He had no real fear of the Major, in fact, a disdain for him, but on the other hand he saw nothing pleasant in greeting a uniformed man six inches taller than himself dressed like a newborn baby. How would he shake his hand?
Esmeralda was at the narrow window by the time Marvin forgot his nakedness, raised his arms into the sprinters position, and dashed forward. She had the sash raised and the clothes and towel thrown out long before Marvin arrived shaking his head ferociously.
“No!” as softly as he could scream.
“Yes!” This uttered in a whisper, but with an emphatic movement of her lips that projected it as powerfully as a diva’s leap to the highest note. All the while her arms and hands were that locomotive blur, urging him on, and her face as stony-terrified as a bas relief on a sepulcher. The tension was infectious—even the little stick men’s faces on her gown were etched in terror.
The open window was little wider than a mouse door. God knows what lay outside. It could be dirt. It could be weeds. It could be a pile of broken liquor bottles. If that were not enough, the windowsill was four feet off the floor. Even at eighteen years old, a clean exit at full stride would have required months of training and a hundred stitches along the way. He stutter-stepped at three feet away.
Hail Mary, full of…

And he leapt.
Marvin cleared the sill in a diver’s pose; head lowered, arms outstretched and pointing, eyes closed tight at the last second. He cleared the sill with the half of him that ended at his stomach, that is. Physics demanded a higher velocity, a body knifing straight and level at mach 1. When he hit, there was a loud sound. Air escaping from a punctured tire. A Phooomph! And a frightening paralysis as his lungs tried helplessly to obey the frantic messages from his brain to reinflate.
Esmeralda reacted to Marvin’s tragic miscalculations as though she’d swallowed the mouse. The unexpected, the unthinkable, her Marvin laid out like a slab of uncooked bacon there on the edge of the frying pan. She quickly regained her composure and took hold of his ankles. With a grunt, she heaved upward and tossed him out, into the fire.
The window slid back down before he landed.
He prepared himself in that split second as he tumbled breathless, head under heels, for impact. Jagged glass, at best. The remains of a weed, the thick stem hacked off six inches above the ground, waiting to enter his back and pierce his heart.
Something quite unexpected happened instead.
He slowed, the gentle press of something that felt like fingers on his buttocks and back acting as a brake. More than the sensation of slowing, the electric-like tingling from whatever it was on his bare skin stunned him as surely as if he had fallen onto live wires. He opened his eyes, glancing to his right where the appendages and the jolt seemed to originate. What he saw rocked him even more. For a fleeting instant the run of trees fifteen or twenty feet away at the property line disappeared in the outline of a shimmering body, a mirage of luminescence shot through with gold. Marvin saw a face, and in the face a myriad of eyes, sapphire and emerald and ebony, set behind long, thin lashes, moving at random, independent, up and down his body. He might have mistaken them for a simple illusion of fright except for the length of sparkling hair falling down in the forward leaning of the creature’s torso. It was a creature, there was no doubt in his mind; the definitions of a face, the hair, the shoulders and broad, ivory-colored chest. But the most astonishing of all of it, this apparition, this—thing—had enormous white wings that rose and spread as he lay Marvin down in the grass.
He lay for a moment in the soft green, straining to make sense of it, to comprehend the impossible, feeling the nerves in his body still racing from the touch of it. His eyes were locked on the angel, on Anselm, though he could know nothing of what was really happening to him.
Clarify images
His wings, an angel’s glory, like those of a Peregrine or a Golden eagle. Perhaps this feature, this fluctuating, menacing possibility of power, mesmerized the naked man lying on his back in the grass most thoroughly.
Anselm shifted and spread them fully as he began to move slowly away from Marvin. The indigent’s mouth fell open at the sight of it, and he drew in a deep convulsive breath as though it was the first of his life. He could see clearly, perfectly, in that second that lasted infinitely, the lights of Anselm’s eyes twinkling like teardrops on a Christmas tree, his lips forming words without sound.
He backed away, speaking, speaking, smiling. He rose upward, a mist congealed into awe-filled form that passed through the branches of the trees and caused them to rustle and glow. And then he disappeared.
Jesus.
Marvin stared in a trance, that state of bewilderment of primeval man visited by gods in shadowy forests, or late at night in showers of meteors. The thread inside him began to squirm and coil and posit possibilities. ADD It was the voice of the angel; the words he had spoken that had no sound. No vibration through the air?????
Marvin Fuster, what if…?
This is what you are to do...
This is where you will go...
She is here, and we are watching her.
Desire. Imagination. Faith.

Amy’s angelic face was intertwined in the lilting melody of prodding questions and instructions, wrapped by a dress of figures and motifs, something like Esmeralda’s, but colored instead with impossibly long and complex numbers, square roots, to the hundredth powers, symbols…genetic code. She was dressed in his youth.
(c) 2010, Patrick Sean Lee

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Nine

I'm chuckling. Thanks, Cherilyn :)
I wrote Nine with this brilliant idea to "round out" Marvin's character a little. C read it and fired back the doc. I'm sure she won't mind this quote.

"If this doesn’t make sense to you, just call me. I’m sure you had fun writing it, but if you think of it from a woman’s p.o.v.--who just happen to be your readers--they may just put it down here and not want anything else to do with it. Most women want a man to think only of them, to be consumed by them, in love and romance. To deviate would be suicide for you in your plot."

Well, it was fun, but I'm not thrilled with the idea of committing suicide. I X'd the XX (only two; it wasn't that bad!). Here's what I came up with.

Continuation of Nine

...sometimes included the dreaded book of…
Numbers !
…wherein, “…of the children of…” quickly lost all meaning, except for biblical scholars and genealogy sleuths, of which very, very few sat in the folding chairs in front of the Major. It did not seem to bother the Major during any of these readings that the snoring was often louder than the spoken word of the Almighty.
Marvin tactfully entered the front doors at 4:45 p.m. The Men’s shower would most likely be silent, and another hour would pass before the dinner bell rang. All he needed to do was slide down the long hall to the admissions desk, wink at Ms. Garcia (who, he imagined, would be manning her post behind it until the Lord either returned, or said phooey to the whole Second Coming idea), and show her how filthy he was. That would be easy enough. Despite his feelings for the mission in general, he had always gotten on marvelously with the attractive little woman. A few times, too marvelously. Though he knew she was quite…no, somewhat religious (A Roman Catholic, of all things, he discovered during the second season of his stay), she sometimes let her tongue slip while working away at the desk behind the counter. He caught her muttering one day—a colorful expletive in four letters. F-Major. The bond between them was born at that instant, and in those leaden days, when fools roamed the halls expounding on every stupid thing under the sun, he visited her at her station frequently for reality checks. Duets of questionable grammatical taste that began andante, and when he was lucky, ended adagio sensuoso.
He liked her.
And so, he tiptoed down the long, dark hall to the counter. A fluorescent glow flooded the open space and the dull formica surface—which Marvin always thought made it look like an eerie doorway into a frightening nether world. Ms. Garcia was lost somewhere inside the bright haze, doing something that caused her to utter a string of F-Majors, soto voce, allegro appassionato.
Precious thing.
He leaned forward with his hands on the countertop and gazed in at her. There she was, bent over, her trim posterior aimed high at him. Ms. Garcia was tugging right and left, left and right, right and left, at a stubborn drawer stuck in an ancient wooden filing cabinet purchased at Goodwill. The motion, but not the swearing, made her appear to be doing a Latin dance step. A Mambo or a Rumba. Her brilliant Mexican Puebla dress, embroidered with stunningly beautiful florals, winding vines, stick people dancing, patterned needlework, and other colorful decoration, draped over her like a splash of moonlight over a garden of roses. Its hem ended just above her calves. All of this would have been ravishing had there not been thorns on those petite stems.
Lovely thing.
He watched her for a moment or two, wincing at various notes, smiling at her down-to-earth saltiness and the rhythm of her movement. At last he interrupted her.
“Hello, Pumpkin!”
She started, leaving the drawer quarter-opened and cock-eyed, straightening like a balloon stretched over an erupting geyser. Ms. Garcia whirled around to face the voice that had finally caught her defiling the Mission, so close to the sanctuary. Her eyes were coals of dread set beneath almost masculine, thick eyebrows. Her mouth had dropped half-open, exposing the faint beginnings of snow-white, perfect teeth, but within a blink she regained her composure, sighed, and then made a quick sign of the cross. She smiled at Marvin.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God! Marvin Fooster, you scared me half to death.”
“And you tickled my imagination!” he replied with a wink and a tiny twist of his head. He might stutter and stammer and stand on his own feet in the presence of Amy whoever, but the older, thicker ice of Ms. Garcia had already been broken. He was comfortable and at ease around her, like being inside an old pair of shoes.
Shoes.
“Essie, I need a shower. I gotta’ go shoppin’.”
“Shopping? You?” Esmeralda Garcia, a year or maybe two younger than Marvin, stepped to the counter and put her arms on it, eyeing him impishly. “What for? And with what? You don’t look like you’ve come up very far from where you were last time I saw you, Marvin, mi diablo pobre.”
“I can’t tell ya’.” Marvin leaned forward and placed his own arms onto the countertop close to Esmeralda’s, his nose close enough to hers to catch her rising, warm exhalations.
“Tell me why,” she cooed, “or I won’t let you in. You will have to go back to the gutter you crawled out of and wash up there. What is it you’re up to, you rascal?”
“Essie, my delectable pumpkin…” He glanced at a stick figure on her shoulder, dancing across the fabric of her dress. The strange little boxy head and starred eyes made of stitching. The enigmatic little smile on its thread mouth. “…My little Mexican dancer, I can’t tell ya’. I just gotta’ clean up. Can I use the shower? Please, sweet-cakes?”
Esmeralda giggled. “My. I am pumpkins and ballerina…and what else? Well, I suppose so. Clean up…Madre de Dios. What next?” She leaned across the counter and checked the hall in both directions, biting the edge of her small lip. Ten feet away the entry doors to the cafeteria stood closed. Across the hall lit by the afternoon sun squeaking through the small glass panel of the rear exit door, the men’s bath lay. Beyond that, the women’s, and nearest the rear of the building, the office of Major Jeremiah Forsythe.
“What’s the matter, plum lips?”
Esmeralda withdrew her face into the room and looked at Marvin. “He’s gone. Hurry, then. Go take your shower.”
“What does it matter if he’s here or gone?” Marvin asked.
Esmeralda scurried out of the room, grabbed his elbow, and tugged him toward the bath.
“None at all, caramelo. None at all. I’ll get you a fresh towel. Hurry. Go, go now!” She shooed him to the door and then left for the linen dispensary, a wide, deep cabinet set into the hall wall between the men’s and women’s baths.
Marvin stood for a moment at the door and watched her. He shrugged, then opened it inward with a squeak of the hinges.
Nothing much had changed, he noticed. The sofa with a tear in the fabric to his left just inside the door was still there. A plain, rectangular table between two slip-covered, overstuffed chairs against the wall opposite the door and the sofa. Atop the table a clear plastic rack containing a wealth of brochures and tracts reminded those who used the facility why they were using this bathroom and shower, and not the one they might have had in a home or apartment of their own. Above the table the venetian blinds covering the lone window had been drawn closed three-quarters so that a narrow sheet of light with gently moving specks of dust lit the room in a somber glow.
Marvin closed the door behind him and walked to the room adjacent, a long narrow space where three stalls stood. Their plastic curtains were drawn open, tucked inside the smooth, painted cement curbs. On either side of the framed opening, two rows of industrial-décor sinks stood supported by thick, scratched chrome legs. Behind each sink a long mirror with a narrow shelf beneath it provided a starkly functional shaving station for the transient boarders.
He peeled off his coat and shirt and tossed them onto the edge of the sink to his right. The pants, cinched close to his hips by a belt scavenged from a dumpster, went next, followed by his boxers. He left them on the floor, moving white and naked to the middle stall, thinking how nice it would feel to be clean again. It had been a long time—three months, soon—since his last sojourn into this room. But back in April he had shared the pleasure of a hot shower with Simon the opera singer, and cringed at each flat note. The other shower had been occupied by someone he had never met, who was dispelling bursts of noisy gas in a consistent way, maybe a metronomic accompaniment to Simon’s serenade. Outside in the anteroom there had been scattered clips of conversation among the men who anxiously, or not, waited their turns.
This afternoon they were elsewhere, gone from the building to do what they were best or worst at. The opera singer, he hoped, had found a choral group of like-voiced crooners—the impresario of oom-pah maybe a bottle of Beano, somewhere far away.
The only sounds came from the showerhead whistling the pleasant notes of steamy-hot water, and the gurgling of the drain beneath his feet. Standing with his arms crossed over his chest, his hands resting on his shoulders, his head leaning backward to catch the water splattering the grime from his face, he began to wonder about the woman whose name was Amy for the hundredth time today. What would she think of him dressed in a brand new suit, with shiny black shoes, and a clean-shaven face? Would it make much difference? In reality? No. But then, what?
I’m gonna’ reverse my age. Did I say that? Yeah, I think I did.
And pigs are going to fly to the moon.
He finished the job. The water went silent, save the final elongated whoosh down the drain, and Marvin stepped out, clean and ready to shave the gray stubble away. He lathered at the sink, contemplating the striking image staring out at him from the cloudy mirror, hollow-eyed, with skin like baked leather.
He stopped for a moment, holding the razor an inch from his cheek.
But…what if I could do it?
He chuckled.
Insane. Just go steal that new…but, what if?
Marvin felt as though he was suddenly drifting off into a dreamscape. His vision glazed. The face in the mirror smiled out at him, but it wasn’t exactly the one he knew as himself. The features were close, he could see, but the face was that of a fifty year-old gentleman. The line of a white collar and neat knot of a tie shimmered in the misty surface at the bottom edge of the reflection. The hair was light brown—but brown it was, indeed—with salt and pepper at the temples. The eyes sparkled instead of lolling lifelessly, like those of a dead fish floating at the top of a stagnant pool. As he stood there staring at the image statue-like, a thread jiggled in his brain. A thread, that is what it felt like, he thought. Uncomfortable and squirming through the ruffles and folds inside his head. The image in the mirror vanished behind a series of numbers and symbols as the thread coiled and then uncoiled, slithering about. He recognized what had appeared in front of him as a formula, or a theory of some sort written on a blackboard, but what it meant or signified he had no idea. But then again, it hit him, he did; something to do with genetic structure.
Genetic structure? I’ve never even heard of the term before…
A noise from the doorway caused Marvin to blink, once, twice, three times in quick succession. The Marvin he knew so well had returned by the last flutter. He shook his sopping head of hair, sending an afternoon flurry of showers in all directions, and turned full-face in the direction of the sound. Esmeralda stood five feet away, holding a white towel that draped over her arm with her mouth wide open. He was not Errol Flynn, not even Karl Malden, and he was naked. Esmeralda’s round brown eyes shifted downward, and a faint smile crept upward, replacing the first reaction of surprise.
“Oh my goodness.”
Esmeralda Garcia did not turn away. Marvin followed the laser line of her sight, then covered himself with his hands. He looked back up at her and smiled sheepishly.
“I forgot about the towel. Stupid me,” he explained.
“How did you think you’d dry yourself, silly boy? You did not know I would return with this?” she said holding the towel up. “I think you did.” Her Latin smile grew.
“No…I mean, I don’t know. I was thinking of more important things. I guess.”
“Than drying off? You are playing with me, you devil, you.”
Marvin began to back up, in the narrow lane between the showers and the sinks, toward the wall abutting the central hall. Esmeralda stepped forward, matching his tentative steps with two of her own.
“No, no I’m not. Honest!”
Esmeralda had closed the gap and was preparing to lasso him with the towel. “Then you would like to, wouldn’t you Marvin Fooster?” She emphasized the word wouldn’t. Another step. She was within striking distance, now. The towel went up; a set of barbells, two castanets linked by fluffy, white terry, the arms and hands of a referee signaling, “TOUCHDOWN!”
Marvin closed his eyes and prayed.
“Ms. Garcia! Where are you?” a booming voice demanded from the hallway.
He shot them back open.
“Madre de Dios!” Esmeralda whispered in shock.
No, just Major Jeremiah Forsythe, returned from his meeting with Madre de Dios’ son. Dios el mismo.
“Quick, Marvin,” she said. “The window!”
Marvin glanced over her shoulder to the far end of the shower room.
“I’m naked!”

(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010