11,041 vagabonds plus:
Amelia and Harold, a couple married twenty-eight years, on vacation in Fun City, entered a strange and ominous-stocked store.
It smelled of cheerful popcorn and grease.
"They have everything a person needs, I'm told", she boasted. She wasn't told. She read the small print from a creased brochure she held in both hands touting a cavernous clown mouth entrance built in the terrifying dark days of the Depression, 1931.
"Oh, that's just wonderful", Harold countered breathlessly with a sarcastic undertow.
She glared at him but he was pretending to be interested in a table full of one dollar unwrapped items.
She walked on a ways and turned back to her husband, the camera floating from a strap around his bulbous neck swinging like a pendulum, the man closely inspecting a squeaky squeeze toy for dogs that made no noise. He imagined it was built on a secret German Shepherd frequency. He could smell the air exiting the plastic toy, stale and rotten, shipped from China. He squeezed harder, but it just stunk more. He looked around but heard no dogs barking or charging towards him so he dropped it.
"Harold! What are you doing? Over here"!
"Yes, dear," he moaned.
"Look. They have devices to cure snoring".
"Just put a bowling ball on your chest why don't you", he said to himself.
"Look, Harold. Harold, look". She was pointing and talking loudly.
It was some sort of bed contraption with straps and levers. He looked closely, camera swinging in front of him, wondering where he might be able to fasten those straps, hoping at least one would be wide enough for her mouth.
A sales clerk in a blue jacket and pink tie smiling with yellow teeth and a white carnation in his pocket appeared and offered assistance.
"May I offer assistance?", he asked in a six dollar an hour monotone.
Amelia was startled and dropped the Fun City brochure.
"Do you have any bowling balls"?, Harold inquired as he took a picture of the man.
Scout took Boo along with us and we peeked in the window of the dark house at the end of the street and saw Miss Harper Lee at a desk under the orange light of a solitary lamp writing her book.
Then Scout motioned for us to move away from the window, scolding us like Boo and I were sneaking past a watchman, and that it was none of our business. She said if we disturbed Miss Harper Lee while she was busy writing that it would be just like killing a mockingbird.
Always remember. All ways. In the silent fluttering of the heart, in the slight detectable fluttering of a fragile moment, true joy in life blooms from the things we have no power over, nor ever plan.
dancing in the kitchen
One song after another wafted in, unnoticed, sandwiched in-between volume-cranked, dire notices of get rich quick spots. And then there was that one song, guitar chords, no words needed. He looked at her, but she already dropped the scrub brush and searched his eyes.
"Remember?", she mouthed silently. He nodded, smiling. They embraced right there in the kitchen, moving now, dancing.
"We danced to this for the first the time a mere ten minutes after you claimed to hate me with all your heart", he said, a bit too loud, lips moving like a ventriloquists at her ear, forehead to his shoulder, arm full of her wiggling waist.
"Shhh", she laughed. "Just shhhh, you". They were turning then in time, slower, one and two and three and four, and it reminded her of the cabin of their very own, puddles for a front yard, nestled beyond yellow and lime cottonwoods, the spring water brought up from the well he hauled in with two hands. That little battery radio. Alone and barefoot, close together, anything can happen.
photo by Eliott Erwitt
Mary and Robert Frank, Valencia, 1952
"What are you doing standing on those suitcases, dear"?
She looked down from her two Montgomery Wards matching travel cases. Two stiff suitcases that forever reminded her of a game show announcer sweatily telling loser contestants what consolation prizes they would haul home with them today.
"I'm changing the light-bulb in the chandelier", she deadpanned.
"You're leaving me, aren't you", he stated, hesitating to ask, no chandelier within miles.
She disbelievingly shook her head. "Watch out for flying glass". She jumped, trying to squeeze extra bulging possessions, kind of like forcing a thirty-seven waist into a mannequins thirty-two svelte fruit-of-the-looms. And she jumped again. He watched, hands wringing, naturally thinking of perhaps assisting. He was going to suggest to his wife that sitting, legs protruding outward, would result in the center of gravity producing the most downward force needed to fasten the snaps. He bit his lower lip.
"Why are you leaving me? The advance from the publisher could arrive any day now. Perhaps a thousand dollars, my dear", his voice quivering, fading at dollars.
She stepped down, looked at the open suitcases, hands on hips.
"Maybe they'll show up at the front door with balloons and a big old check". Sarcasm was oozing from her eyeballs. "A thousand dollars whoop-dee-doo".
She sat on the cases. He daringly grasped her ankles to try his theory, but she swung at him wildly missing before any snaps could have clicked shut. He put on his hat and coat, tucked in his scarf, and softly closed the door behind him.
The advance came just four days later. It was raining when he left his rented room, walking the seven blocks to the post office. He tore open the envelope standing by his open post office box, water dripping off his hat onto the huge black and white tiles. Inside was a crisp folded white letter and a blue certified check. The check was for one hundred thousand dollars. He read the paragraph three times that complemented his 'splendid idea' of the little misfit sparrow with the corrective goggles and backup parachute.
The rain had dissipated into a silver mist as he sat in a warm diner before a deluxe egg platter and hot black coffee. 'Whoop-dee-doo', echoed with every bite.
Photo by Elene Usdin
"Quick, in here. Do you see him"? Two women, Matilda and Tessy, entered a boutique out of a light drizzle in New York.
They were holding hands, the girls, and then tighter.
"Wait. Oh, yes, look, right across the way. Leaning, hat pulled down".
Their eyes shone, glistening, as in a chase, cornered and breath-catching.
"Not a place for a man. We're safe".
"I'm not so sure". And then they were laughing.
"Look at the choice. A hundred and one colors in lace hosiery." Her friend was not paying attention. "Still out there is he?"
She nodded. "He's crossed." Looking up at the ambient lights, "I love this place already".
They spoke French then. "He is an American".
"How can you tell?"
"At the bistro he was hiding behind an upside down menu".
The other giggled. "And now he has cornered us, Matilda", in mock over-melodramatic fright.
"He's shy", she said quietly, blushing, eyebrows raised in a slight frown.
"Oh look...they have pink hose just like the store name". She was serious. After awhile, when she was down on her knees scanning the bottom display of silk delights, she looked up and asked in English, "How do you know he's shy?"
The other went to the window and looked out, neck craning, at the man.
She spoke barely above a whisper, a slight shudder, cinching the scarf around her sleek Audrey Hepburn neck. "'round the corner I stopped and turned to him. We were face to face. He rolled his hat from hand to hand and looked down at the ground".
Her dearest was at her side now. She kissed her cheek. "Poor thing, he".
"No. They make the finest lovers".
"Shhh", as she tapped on the window.
the shop around the corner
photograph by Robert Doisneau
"Sure, I remember, of course I do. We won't talk about the frequent weeping. Not even the frequent miles, apart. I held you, and we kissed as our feet were still floating. Frequently. We traversed like magnetic pins zig-zagging on a map in a sweaty police squad room. Like 'I've got a hunch, captain - Cordon off this area, men, along this route is where the next kissing incident will occur. Mark my word - I've been a policeman for twenty-three years. I know'. Right up to our parting from the bus station. I think they announced our kiss over the loud speaker, squawking like adults in a Charlie Brown special."
She smiled and looked down at her shoes.
"I don't hear so good anyway when you're kissing me", she said, her eyes gleaming.
On another walk, in a year when time once stopped around half past three, they stood in the middle of the block in front of a jewelry store shining with pudding-colored lights. The displays looked tasty, and she licked her lips. He saw this and then he kissed her. People walked by with hunched shoulders in the rain. No gumshoes need apply.
photo of Molly's new toy by Elene Usdin
"Ok. Ok, mom, remember that one time. That one time the dog brought a dead sparrow into the house"?
"And daddy. Daddy got upset that Molly parked it right in his favorite chair and just sat by it. Kinda just stared at anybody that saw Molly sitting there. Remember"?
"Yeah". Nervous giggling.
"What about it, honey"?
"Well. Um. Molly just dragged something in the house, mom. But, mom, Molly didn't put it in any chair. So daddy won't be mad when he sees, right"?
Bond of Union (1956)
"Did you ever try to peel an apple without breaking the skin?"
"Oh yes. Many times", he replied turning away, oozing a thick cider sarcasm.
"I can too."
"Oh, I can't wait". He yawned.
Their was a audible snap. It came out of the air. A pealing sound of innocence shattering, forever gone, as though kicking a sleeping dog.
'Lean over my way', he thought. 'I'm going to peel from scalp to your soulless shoes. Unbroken.'
by M. C. Escher
first autumn snow
Snowstorm by Maurice de Vlaminck
Snow melts upon autumn dreams
Vanished by palm's touch
in light of autumn cemetery
photo by Tess Kincaid
dried moth wings over morning dew
grave Poe prose buried shaded hue
seek mother's love ghostly spirit
tender hearts naturally inherit
uprooted bricks once old yellow road
endearments etched careless uprooted stone
smiles unseen passing headless rider
hallow deeds howling silent laughter
Self-portrait, Vivian Maier
I'll show'em. I'll show'em. Non-believers. A crank, they all say. I'll prove it! That crack in the ceiling the shape of Colonel Sanders. Right there! Wait! It's not there. Gone. It was. It was. I need more light. I'll show'em who's a wing nut.
"What do you want, Hilda?"
"Are you about done in there, Madam? There's two gentlemen at the door".
"They say they'll keep you where it's nice and quiet, Dear".
"Oh, let me be".
"And they have nice cushioned....chairs...and rounded corners".
Banquet of chilled foreign cuisine
odd celery with peanut butter and cold beans
blue cheese imported from Iraq
burns holes in ancient crock
a charity ball
the bashful debutante's call
sign donation checks please:
Lost Dalmatian Society
She's spotlighted in white among other gray dresses
slim unlike mayor's wives and mistresses
coiffed and adorned with moist sulfur rose
veneer dance floor polished for skimming toes
young men cracking jokes
slow turtle soup coughing out nose
"Try the celery..it's rather quaint"!
behind the curtain runaway debutante feints
It happened in a rented one-room. The writer held the electric bill in both hands. Final Notice it says. Just another deadline, joining a sweaty editor and a wooly mammoth landlord. He lit a leaky cigarette and then torched the bill. Two birds with one match. There was that flash vision in his dry brain again. He thought maybe he'd put the blue steel revolver in the bottom desk drawer upon the tip of his tongue and squeeze the trigger. That vision came to him in dreams as well, in crowds on the subway, or whenever he reached in his pocket and palmed that empty money clip.
He looked up from the desk swivel chair at the solitary light strung on a noose from the ceiling. He thought it would snap too easy before his neck snapped if he rocked off a chair. And then he soberly watched the moths at the bulb. It reminded him of his youth, in the backyard of the drafty cottage where he lived in a small town, chasing fireflies in slow motion. He closed his eyes and reached for the bottom drawer. He had to wiggle it violently to open to a crack, warped wood on splintered particle board, wide enough to get a hold of the revolver butt. He fired one shot in one swooping motion, the bulb exploding with a final blue electrical flash. Thinking about capturing those fireflies, along with a fifteen year-old girl and his first stolen kiss, a time about which he had never set words to music, he stood up in the warm darkness searching another drawer for candle and match. There was storytelling to set to paper, young man.
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