11,041 vagabonds plus:
cyber dance on the plain III
So, I have one month to prepare my date, an Eliza Doolittle, to the Willow Manor Ball.
The past two years were easy when I escorted Thora and Uma across the border and to the dance.
But this year's gonna be close.
Again, Eliza! Again!
Phil is a pain
and his two-step is insane.
NO NO NO!
In Indy, India, and Inchon
insects itch incredibly.
My dear friend, Donna, has lost the sweetest companion.
Molly now gets to meet my beloved Muffin at last..
When God had made the earth and sky
the flowers and the trees,
He then made all the animals
the fish, the birds and bees.
And when at last He'd finished
not one was quite the same.
He said, "I'll walk this world of mine
and give each one a name."
And so He traveled far and wide
and everywhere He went,
a little creature followed Him
until it's strength was spent.
When all were named upon the earth
and in the sky and sea,
the little creature said, "Dear Lord,
there's not one left for me."
Kindly the Father said to him,
"I've left you to the end.
I've turned my own name back to front
and called you dog, My friend.
Twilight: Interior (Reading by lamplight)
Cottage beyond woods
Brittle clay pigeons swooping
Shooing cast iron deer
Composed by Steve Allen and used
as his theme for The Tonight Show
This rare version performed by
Ray Anthony and his orchestra.
beeline for the drain
This is the city.
A quick hard rain can make a hot summer night steamier. Shirtless tempers can flare up and it’s always a dame getting the bad end of a cloudburst. This is where I come in. I was working the night watch in Homicide Detail. My captain’s name is Welch, my partner’s Frank Smith.
My name is Joe Friday. I carry a badge.
Frank had one full mouthful of a pink donut when the phone rang. I was at the Coke machine trying to get my dime back since no bottle was in the chute, so he answered the rotary and just listened. It was 8:02PM. He nodded his head like the party at the receiving end could see him. Why do people do that? Shake their head and use hand gestures talking on the phone? Maybe I shouldn’t ask such picky things. I was mad from losing a dime. The steamy night was getting to me too.
I walked by his desk and looked at his pad. He scribbled ‘dead woman,’ and ‘tub.’ He looked up at me and nodded. I grabbed a yellow pencil and added ‘where!?’ He swallowed hard, coughed, and replied ‘Wilson Manor.’ Never heard of Wilson Manor, I said. He says, ‘No, Willow Manor again, Joe.’ We informed Captain Welch we were on our way.
How many times had we gone to that spot, I’d lost count. The last time was when a nosy neighbor complained that squawking magpies were creating a nuisance swirling around a nude statue placed right smack dab on the property line. Some muscular gladiator holding a shield towards the sky drew magpies by the tree load, and the neighbor shingling his roof gets distracted, loses his footing and slides down hanging by the gutter as one of our black and whites arrive.
We drive silently to the outskirts past the orchards illuminated by the full moon as the clouds break, dreaming of cooler days. One final trip to the infamous Willow Manor I say under my breath to anyone in earshot as we enter the front door past a yawning patrolman. It’s 9:43PM, and the pale Coroner descending meets us halfway up the staircase.
‘Two hours, maybe three.’
‘Nope, none. Drowning, Joe.’
‘In a tub?’
‘Are you sure.’
‘Nope, not til we open her up.’
‘Yeah, thanks, Arnie.’
One final flash from the crime scene photographer illuminated the hallway, sounding like a muffled gun shot. I’d witnessed that kind of flash during better days too, back in my patrol days on security detail, once escorting Marilyn Monroe at a premiere along a narrow sidewalk outside the Picture Palace. She’d squeeze my arm tight, trembling, scared to death. She asked what my name was. Beautiful girl. I felt ten feet tall and invincible. Then she was gone.
Frank entered the bathroom first, I went back downstairs and asked the tired patrolman who found her. He didn’t know. I went back up, the photographer nodding that he was done with his job, not making eye contact. She was still there, underwater in suds except for the protruding toes, the nails the color of death. No sign of a struggle. All the white towels straight, the sink spotless, clean hairbrush, cream silk robe folded neatly over a padded chair. It was quiet, except now a woman was crying downstairs. I looked out the window at the headlights of the ambulance arriving, then I turned to Frank. He swallowed like he was still battling that pink donut, dropped to his knees gently, pulled the plunger and it seemed all the sadness of life as we have known it sucked clockwise down the drain.
*‘Beeline for the drain’ - line from the movie, Fat City(1972), written by Leonard Gardner, based on his novel.
stone garden, part II
Tatyana, how many times I’ve said I love you. One year later, the dog is now brave enough to follow me every time I intrude into that cool solitude nestled beyond those white stone steps. I follow the dog stealthily hoping to catch a shadowy vision of the girl. I manicure the ivy from her cottage and pull weeds, but the next day it is re-grown and impassible. Except for the beautiful rose, you see. That sulfur bloom, mirroring the shade of Tatyana’s skin.
Why is the rose untroubled? It does seem my only connection to touching her again, I’m glad it is there. So, I’m clearing one day to allow it to breath untouched, and digging with the spade I hit something hard twice and it’s a shallow corroded line. Laid in 1899 by an amateur without a permit I figure by the looks of all those wayward elbows. The dog gets it just as bad as me, we’re soaked. The flow halts somehow and it is quiet.
Dripping and shivering, I look into the dogs eyes and before I can plead for her to be still she shakes and sprays me a second time like a museum fountain on a windy day, the scattered sunlight piercing the droplets and flashing a prism of colors in the shape of a young girl. Is that laughing I hear? The dog’s tail is wagging furiously. She knew all along. The cottage door squeaks ajar. Tatyana, I shall return with an oil can. I promise.
The dog won’t go beyond the lush overgrowth since Tatyana died.
She is still there you know.
Sometimes the wind unexpectedly becomes brisk and stone steps feel cold with an unwelcome notion even in the unending rays of August heat.
Alive, young and delicate, dancing barefoot she’d pretend the hot steps would lead to her very own grass roof cottage. Holding the can high she’d ask me to watch her pour long streams of coolness onto the stone steps holding the watering can in both hands like a wizard just to watch it evaporate, the stones turning white and clean, the path safely cleared down to her secret cottage nestled like a miniature fort in the tall thick grass.
Now the dog stops and bows at the rotted gate like she’s waiting, then suddenly lifts her head making eye contact with the invisible. I shudder as I watch a young girl’s footprints sink into the ground and recede into the distance. The rottenness smells of death, the dog cowers behind my legs, the water can has a cobweb echo, its spout rudely pointing intruders to leave, and nothing matters anymore.
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