From the heart of the inferno Dante and Lucifer grow bored waiting, waiting for the ferry while Charon stops for lunch yet again at a Greek diner in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. They take up a game of catch tossing Molotov cocktails, raining fire onto the brimstone, setting the Styx ablaze. Each knows this is not necessary, for necessity is a creature of heaven and there is no room for the extraneous here in the realm of forgotten souls. We watch from deep within a nightmare of our darkest memories, certain that heaven must await us, or purgatory if that is how our fate is to finally be written. The angels dance on the ceiling waiting for the precise moment to break Morpheus’ grasp and drag us back to our reality, to continue our dance between heaven and hell.
It will soon enough be time again, I am an old clockface on a tower at which no one but the truly bored bother to look, tucked in a corner of a village half empty, its life moved away to places cooler, less stormy. So I sit and watch what life remains around me, the few children wishing they could be elsewhere, some parents wishing they had used birth control. No one looks, no one really cares but I have little choice, it is my fate to mark passages, entrances, but my hands are growing tired and at some not far off point they will stop moving, and I wonder if anyone will care.
Step right up, don’t hang back, come and watch the fool perform for you. You know me, bedecked in motley emotions worn like so many colorful rags, a suit of too many shades and hues, all displayed for your entertainment. See if you can find ten shades of anger as I prance around in front of you. Count the five flavors of tears that start and stop like a passing storm. Laugh at me as I pirouette, a dervish who loved blindly long after the love of my patron had died. See me in my fool’s cap, the bells of rage and guilt dangling from its points. If that isn’t enough to bring out a laugh, watch as I rip out my heart and lay it at your feet, still beating to the rhythm of the song to which she grew deaf so long ago. Rain your scorn on me as I stumble across the stage, for though they ring hollow, it is them that I most crave, a redemption that no monarch could hope to offer. Step right up, don’t hang back, come and watch the fool perform for you and do not pause to think that you could as easily be here, on this stage, and I out there marveling at you, wondering what you did to ever deserve such a fate.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)
She says you should not put all of your eggs in one basket. I remind her that I’m not terribly fond of eggs, and only rarely have more than one, and in any event, I keep them in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage. She says, so why is it we have no TV, no phone, no Internet, tell me that, wiseguy. I steer away from eggs and baskets and simply respond, because we have yet again been stranded on that barren, fruitless island known to all, hated by them, as Comcast. We both shrug our shoulders in resignation to our fate.
The lake arrives each morning, just before she opens her eyes. She’s tried to catch it, getting up earlier or later but it was just lapping the shore outside her window each time she first gazed at it. Once she tried to stay up all night, and it clung to the shore despite its desire to slip away, but she was certain it did when her eyes fell closed a little after 3 a.m. She got up at the usual time, and it slid in just ahead of her. All that day it seemed quieter, almost restive, as if, like her, lacking the energy that curtailed sleep might have provided.
She remembered her grandmother saying that only once in her years along the lake did she ever catch it just coming in around the point. That was a magical day, never repeated, but it bound grandmother to the lake in a way few could understand. She kept asking her grandma to tell the story again, but like that day, she’d just tell it once and only smile when asked to repeat it. She never asked anyone else — she learned as a child of the scorn she would face if she did. She given up Santa and the tooth fairy, but this was real, she could touch it or even take it home in cups or buckets, though she smiled, it always slipped away sooner or later.
She knew from the doctor’s face the chemo hadn’t worked. She could feel it failing even as they pumped into her. It was okay, she wanted to tell him, but it wasn’t and they both knew it. They tried, won some battles, lost others, but in the end they both knew who would win that war.
This morning the lake never arrived, never touch the shore and the house was shrouded in silence.Continue Reading