THE DOG DAYS OF TITUS O'NEE
Oh, come all ye travelers and listen
And a tale I will tell ya of Titus O'Nee-
A true son of Erin, a man brave and stout,
He had little book learning, but could tell without doubt
A cow from a jenny and a lamb from a hound
A hog from a barrel and a glass from a crown
A cat from a woman and dry land from a bog
A cart from a stovepipe and a man from a dog-
Or thought so, did he,
Until one night, as he was sumblin' home down by the lea-
Jolly of soul and his thirst darn near slacked-
He came upon a site that near set him back.
A dog he saw walkin' upright and grand
A hat on its head and a pipe in its hand
A hand with four fingers, mind, full palm and thumb.
Well t'was almost enough to strike the poor man dumb.
A sack it had, over one shoulder
And a stride to its walk like that of a soldier.
(A British one, you know how they go-
All brass and polish, purely for show.)
The dog was as tall as Titus was round
And each step it took did rattle the ground.
Its muzzle was pointy and covered with bristles
And filled with sharp fangs through which it did whistle
A light country air, that Titus knew well,
About how too little temperance can lead you to-Well,
Bein' the man he was Titus got t' thinkin'
That the site before him had come from his drinkin'.
''Tis naught but a whiskey dream,' Titus said t' himself,
'An I'd bet all mah money, had I but any wealth.'
So up he strode to the creature and gave it a smack
And sent it flyin' tail over back.
Out onto the peat it tumbled and thudded
And came to a rest completely well mudded.
His hand smarting awful like he'd hit a rock,
Titus stared at the creature in a kind of shock.
And it stared right back at him and started to growl
Then lifted its head in an inhuman howl-
'Oh stupid man,' Titus himself did chide,
''Dreams do not have bone nor body nor hide.
'Tis real, good Lord, what have I done?'
And it answered, 'Ya've belted a werewolf, ya fool-now RUN!'
Run he did, screamin' up t' the sky
With the werewolf runnin' right next t' him as easy as pie.
'Tis not much sport,' the creature did say,
'but I've not much time, tis a'most the day
'And I needs be back a'for missus has a fit.'
And with that it leapt-and with that it bit
Where the flesh was a mite sparse,
And sank its canines into Titus'-Are
You sayin' it's a lie I been tellin'?
Well, I swear t'you straigh up t' Heaven,
But if you still don't believe it you can come any night
And talk t' old Titus over a pint-
'Twas long ago it happened and he's old now and frail,
but he'll drop his trousers t' show ya and thereby hangs the tail.
"Ah Summer...balmy days n' warm
nights...soft breezes and tender moments. What better time of
year to think o' love.... well, for some of us, that is. The followin' is what ya might
call a 'cautionary tale,' gent'lmen. So don't say ah didn't warn
P. D. Cacek
"But I thought you knew I didn't
love you. I like you
I like you a lot and I care about you,
He didn't finish, but Megan could have forgiven him that, the lack of nerve, if he'd only reached across the table and taken her hand. Hell, if he'd only touched her hand she would have been happy and not felt so much like a pathetic, unwanted thing.
"But," she echoed and stopped because it had suddenly gotten very hard to breathe. After a few more minutes of deathly silence, when he should have said something to make it better, Megan finally looked up and watched him finishing the glass of imported wine she'd searched five different stores to find.
Because he once told her he liked it and because tonight was going to be special.
She'd had it planned for weeks. After dinner and dessert and three years of heartfelt talks and movies and dinners and crying on each other's shoulders because they understood each other, Megan decided to tell him.
I love you. I've loved you from the first moment I saw you.
You would have thought she'd hit him with a dead fish.
He actually jerked back from the table, away from her-shock registering in the depths of his brown eyes. There was a different look in them now, something colder. Megan felt the "special dinner" curdle in her stomach.
It took a moment for her to realize the words had come from her mouth, not his.
"I- I mean let's just forget I said anything, okay?" She felt the corners of her smile quiver and the harder she tried to stop it, the worse it got. "It doesn't matter. I I really didn't think you felt the same way, so we can just keep being friends. Okay?"
Her stomach twisted over on itself as the whining plea reverberated like a gunshot through the apartment.
"I'm sorry, Megan, I really am and I feel awful about it." His hand moved, but not toward her. "Look, I suspected you liked-felt stronger for me than I did for you, but I hoped it would never be an issue. I feel incredibly guilty about this. I really should have said something sooner."
"Okay, I take it back," she said, as light and easy as she could and it might have worked if one stupid tear hadn't drifted down the curve of her cheek. "I don't love you. Never have. April Fools?"
He ran his thumb over the lip of the wineglass. "It's not April 1st, Megan. I'd better go."
"No! Please don't I made chocolate cake. Your favorite."
He stood up and back, putting the table and his chair between them. "It'll be easier this way. I-God, I've met someone, Megan."
"When? Why didn't you tell me?"
He shrugged one shoulder, indifferent, already so far away he couldn't see what he was doing to her.
"About a month ago. I wanted to, but I thought it would hurt you."
Another tear fell. "I'm okay."
"No, you're not. So it probably is better that we don't see each other for a while. If you didn't-feel the way you do, we could still see each other, but-"
"You're punishing me for loving you?"
"I'm not punishing you, Megan, I I really do care about you and don't want to hurt you any more."
Nodding, she gathered up the dinner plates and silverware and carried them to the kitchen. "At least let me give you some cake to take home."
Chocolate cake was his one weakness and she knew it. He followed, still talking, still trying to explain.
"Let's just see how it goes, okay? You never know, she might dump me in a week or two and I'll need someone to talk to."
Megan set the dishes into the sink then took a knife from the drawer and pulled the cake plate toward her.
"You never know, do you?" He was standing so close she could feel his breath brush against the back of her hair. "I'm really sorry, Megan. I didn't want to hurt you."
"Me either," she said.
Her mother always said the way to a man's heart was through his stomach but Megan found it easier just to go straight through the breastbone.
A ST. PATRICKS DAY BLESSING
May the road rise up to meet you
And the sun be at your back--
May you never get run over
Or sit upon a tack.
May your children all be healthy
And your women all be strong--
May you never date so many
You call a name thats wrong.
May your arms never fail you,
May your spirit never be weak,
May your words be filled with wisdom
And your mouth be free of feet.
May your joys be great and plenty,
May your sorrows all be small--
May the ground be soft and gentle
When upon your face you fall.
May the Lord smile down upon you
Wherever you may roam--
And may they call a taxi
To get you safely home.
Why dont you grow up?
Act your age.
Youre too old to believe such things.
Ocourse they do. Yave heard em most of yer life and, perhaps, yave even said one or two or all three in ya time. Theyre just wordsa harried adults last defense against the unbridled joys (and noise) of childhood.
No harm done.
Not at all.
They are, as I said, just words.
Now, of course, there are some of us who have never grown up will never act our ages and still believe in things wondrous and impossible
And who knows maybe, after ya read the following story, ya may want to join us.
If so welcome friend.
I still remember color. And taste.
And the feel of the wind holding me in the palms of its hands.
Faces and names and places I knew as well as the skin I wore and things, both small and large, that filled my waking moments and visited again when night covered the world.
Dreams, hopes-silly things, considering. What dreams did I have that weren't fulfilled with a thought? Hope-for what? For the impossible never to happen? It was-we thought-as improbable as the sun not returning to the sky. How were we to know the sun would one day rise without us?
Memories are the last things to go. Faded, all but worn away like pebbles in a stream, yet still they continue to hover in the darkness like ill-mannered party guests afraid to leave lest they miss something. Anything.
Even if there's nothing left.
The laughter of children and how we danced in the brightness of their smiles. Their eyes saw more than even we could imagine. One laugh and we were reborn scattering to the four corners of this world and beyond on crystalline wings still wet from our nativity. Catching the dew with outstretched arms. Singing in bell-tones for all eternity.
The sound of a voice-young, never aging-that shouted: "If you believe clap your hands " and the thunderous sound that followed. For years that sound carried us like ornaments on silken threads. But a child's heart is only so big, and new stories take the place of old ones.
It wasn't " an awfully big adventure " It was small and quiet and came like the winking out of a light. It might have been missed entirely if I hadn't known it was coming. I was the last, you see the very last fairy in a world that had grown too mature to believe.
But I remember.
Sure, and 'tis the time o' year when
thoughts o' gifts n' givin' come t'mind...and so, with that thought,
I give t'ya a special treat. A story by a young author, aged 13,
that will not numb your nose nor tickle your toes...but may, very
well, have ya lookin' over yer shoulder. For as bright and shining
as this time of year is, there are also shadows galore.
So, pull the blankets tighter 'round ya and lock the doors...and take note of my young friend's name...for I think ye'll be seein' more o' it in the future.
"Oh man, I can't believe that you like Thomas! Ah man!"
"Yeah no kiddin' Becca really. Thomas!?"
"Eh, you guys shut up why don't you!"
"Hey, Becca, it's not your fault that you think Tomas Dell is a hunk."
"Oh, and let me guess you like Michael huh Cheryl."
"Yeah ha! That shut ya up," Becca laughed as she chucked a pink fuzzy plush pillow at the curly red head across the bed.
"Hey! Hey! Cheryl, Becca knock it off, it seems as if you have forgotten about Newgirl."
"Oh, yeah sorry Dolly. Now where were we again oh yeah "
"Hey, Newgirl, whada' bout you."
"What do you mean?"
"Truth or dare duh!" blurted out Becca.
"Becca hush it 'for I knock ya one in those big fat teeth of yours."
"Don't pay any mind to that 'tard of a girl over there Newgirl. So whatcha gonna choose?"
"Oh, oh well I don't know I suppose tr ."
"Hey, Newgirl," intervened Becca. "I think that since you're new and all, your first turn you should have to choose dare."
"Oh shut up, Becca," rebutted Cheryl.
"No! Cheryl think about it." Becca glared at Cheryl a glare that clearly pronounced loser-shut-up-I-have-a-plan look that immediately caught both Cheryl and Dolly's attention.
"Well, I, I-" she stammered. "I guess I could take dare."
"Good!" Becca jumped up. "Dolly, Cheryl, c'mon, we need to talk alone to discuss our dare for Newgirl here." She gave another promising glare to the two girls. "We'll, uh, we'll be right back, just stay here and yeah just stay where you are." The doors closed behind the three girls, leaving the one girl alone in a dark bedroom. They began to whisper.
"Becca what are you thinking? Why does Newgirl have to choose dare?"
"Because Dolly, you know the house down the street, that vacant house down the street."
"Yeah, what's your point?"
"Uh! You're stupid! We could sneak out your window and down the street. We could dare her to you know, do it."
"Oh, don't tell me you're talking about the Missy Parkway murder myth, are you?"
"Of course I am. It would be perfect. I mean you did say that your mom had the keys to the house. Isn't that true? You said that down at your mom's office that they had assigned the house to your mom to sell, therefore meaning your mom has the keys to that house."
"Yeah, yeah, so I did that doesn't mean that we should go ."
"So basically what you're saying, Dolly, is that you either lied about having the keys to the murder house, or ."
"Or, you're scared."
"Am not what?"
"I'm not either of 'em!"
"Okay, so we should be able to go, no problemo, right?"
"Uh," Dolly sighed because she knew that she'd been beat. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Great! Then I guess we get a move on 'till it's too late."
The door to the room creaked back open and one by one Dolly, Cheryl, and Becca entered. In Becca's hands were a wine-red candle, five or six matches, and a black camo army blindfold.
"Hey, Newgirl, follow us.
The key turned and the door to the rustic house boomed open. Dust filled the air like rain in a thunderstorm. The house that had not been touched in decades screamed as the four girls treaded across its termite infested floors. The cobwebs had piled on so much that it seemed as if the spiders were creating their own life-size furniture. Taking a breath might as well of have been useless for there was no pure air to breathe.
The trespassing teens shook with shock in their knocking knees. The place sent shivers through their shoulders. It's amazing that the girls even made it to the basement door, for when they tried to move their legs they had seemed too heavy and almost unbearable. The three girls faced and turned to the Newgirl.
"Here." Becca handed Newgirl the blindfold and the candle.
"What do I do with these?" she asked.
"Uh, I mean well, we, I mean Cheryl, Dolly and I have decided that for your dare you have to perform it."
The girls gave each other equally sidelong glances. Dolly stepped in.
"See, there's this, um, uh, game you see where a kid has to go down to the bottom of this basement. There should be a circle in the middle of the room, and what you're supposed to do is sit smack dab in the center of the room, blindfolded, and light a candle. Except the myth says that once the candle is lit it awakes something of the supernatural. And the person that lights it turns up dead."
"Not just dead! Slaughtered! Slayed! Butchered! Massacred!" Cheryl broke out in crying hysterics. The creepy house had apparently upset her. Dolly went to comfort her.
"Ah, but the point is that it's just a myth. It's not really true." Becca shoved the matches into Newgirl's had as well. "Don't worry, nothing's really going to happen. It's just a test to see who's got the guts to do it."
The Newgirl nodded and turned to the stairs. Only a creak, creak, creak was left to be heard. The girls slammed the door shut and crowded around it, listening-just listening. They must have waited a good fifteen minutes before agreeing that the Newgirl had had enough time in the cold room and cracked the door back open.
"Hey, Newgirl, hey!" yelled Becca. "Yeah, uh, ya can come back up now. You've been down there for quite a while now."
There was no answer. The girls stared blankly upon each other. Cheryl frantically spat, "Git up here now! Didn't ya hear her, she said you could come back up now, c'mon!"
Still there was no response.
"You suppose we should go get her?" asked Dolly.
"Uh, yeah. I did always want to know what it looked like down there, anyways." Becca replied unfathomably.
Again, one by one the girls entered the dark and mysterious room. The dark that surrounded this room wasn't your normal dark. Heck, it wasn't even dark dark. It was the kind of dark that one would imagine if one tragic day the sun burst and depleted itself from existence; the kind of dark that could freeze you in a mere instant. In this dark was the faint glow of a candle. A candle sitting exactly in the middle of an empty circle.
No girl. Only a chest. A chest that lay, slightly opened.
Becca approached the crate. Inside was a paper. A newspaper, old and worn. She picked up the candle and peered at the faded words. There were only a few that could be recognized. It read:
"Missy Parkway, 14 years old, died mysteriously in the basement of 11138 Kudu Street. Police still are investigating the tragic death. If the culprit is found, he will be charged of gory manslaughter and will be labeled a serial killer. Probably facing the death penalty."
Becca's jaw dropped. Under the newspaper article was a picture of Missy Parkway-the Newgirl that she and her friends had sent to the bottom of the cold house-with the date March 4, 1935.
The girls turned around, and the candle went out.
Moira again entreated our friend, writer P.D. Cacek to present a chilling tale for the season. It's a story about why you really should be careful going out in the rain...
The storm started as an insignificant, and unexpected, drizzle an hour into the Friday night rush-hour, which allowed the veteran commuter-kamikazes to grumble and complain silently to themselves or loudly to their car-pool brethren about the damned weather and the god-damned weathermen who should have mentioned the slight chance of rain in the previous evenings or mornings forecast.
At that point, complaining was the natural thing to do. It wasnt a storm yet. Not yet. That would come during the Hour of the Wolf ... the time just after midnight when, if you believe late-shift police officers and hospital personnel, most deaths occur.
No one has ever been able to explain why; it just seems to be the time of death.
The time of the storm.
It came quickly, building from annoying drizzle to steady showers and finally to the downpour that, despite the late hour and meager pickings, still managed to whet its growing hunger.
The appetizer was a city bus heading back to the terminal; empty except for the driver and the trio of homeless men hed allowed to accompany him on three full circuits. It was late and wet and cold and he didnt mind the damp sheep smell that filled the overheated air. There but for the Grace of God... had been the drivers only thought; and for this kindness the storm had taken him first, allowing his neck to snap against the front of the steering wheel when the bus nose-dived into a flooded intersection.
Storm drains are so terribly misnamed.
The storm toppled the bus and filled it, but not so quickly that the three men trapped inside were spared a moments agony.
That wouldnt do. Appetizers were to be savored.
A slight belch of thunder and the storm moved on to the next course: a young couple, mid-twenties running toward a car parked at a swollen curb ... laughing, coats held over heads because the Weather Channel had predicted clear skies and a light breeze. The storm was a surprise.
The storm was hungry.
The storm waited until the man had opened the womans door before dropping the power line on top of them ... and watched them dance arm to arm while flesh wilted and bones charred and lightning flashed from their empty eyes.
The storm applauded and moved on to the meat course.
A family home flooded in an instant. A family lost. A family consumed.
And hed seen it all, more or less, the perfect voyeur watching the swirling mass of yellows and reds with trailing green spirals as the computer screen updated itself from second to second. He saw it, but still shook his head at the storm that didnt have any business being there.
Meteorological indications for the next week were clear. A few scattered clouds and a band of rain two states to the south ... but nothing closer than that. No storm, no warning, not so much as the faintest hint of an advancing HIGH to overtaken a stalled (and nonexistent) LOW.
The radar showed exactly what anyone who happened to be outside could see and feel: clear skies, light winds out of the south. There hadnt been so much as an errant cirrostratus to compete with the ever-present layer of city haze... he had the readouts, the backlogs ... but the storm ignored all that and marched onto the radar screen like a well organized army.
And it came from the west, with blatant disregard to the prevailing winds.
No warning. Nothing. One minute it wasnt there, the next....
Hed swear to that if anyone asked, one hand to his heart the other on a stack of Bibles: one minute it wasnt there, and the next ...
Thunder hip-checked the building and laughed down the empty hallways. Everyone, with the exception of himself and the two Com Center techs up on the third floor, had gone home when their shifts ended. Eight to Four. Nine to Five. The Ten to Sixers making it a point to stop by and badger him about the unexpected rain.
Youd think working at the weather center would have its perks.
Whats the matter ... forget how to use the phone?
This is a brand new jacket! Im sending you the dry-cleaning bill.
See, thats your problem you need to get your nose out of the radar and look out a window now and then.
Now I know why they keep you guys in the basement!
He hoped they all got home safely.
He had no way of knowing ... or calling for help; the phone lines went down two hours ago. The power grid, an hour after that. Only the buildings self-contained generators and direct satellite-feed allowed him to keep his first row seat.
It was almost as if the storm wanted him to watch, to bear witness.
And I only am escaped alone to tell thee...
The line kept running through his head.
Sitting back, he rubbed his eyes and reached for the insulated Bark House Coffee cup hed bought as he came into work ...only to find it empty. He didnt remember taking a sip after the storms leading edge appeared, let alone finishing it, but the last couple of hours were mostly a blur.
Need to get out for a minute, he told the machines and empty room just to hear the sound of a human voice, even if it was his own. Better check with communications, see if this is localized. Be right back. Dont do anything while Im gone.
He bypassed the elevators no guarantee the generators wouldnt cut out while he was inside and took the stairs to the third floor. He was directly beneath the first landings glass-block window when the world reversed itself night, for one split instant, became day ... brighter than day ... a nova exploding from the depths of space. He barely had time to flinch before the thunder enveloped him.
Tried to swallow him whole.
The sound knocked him to his knees. If he hadnt made a blind grab for the railing and found it, he would have tumbled backwards down the stairs and broken his neck. With luck, he would have died instantly.
But he was still alive when the lights flickered and still alive when they came back on. He was even still alive when he ran up the last two flights and yanked open the stair-well door.
He died when he stepped into the Com Center.
The only trouble was that his heart kept beating and his brain went right along recording everything his staring eyes saw.
The storm had come in for a little dessert ... blowing out the large supposedly reinforced glass wall that overlooked the city and been a thing of envy for many of the other departments. Dead or not, he was suddenly glad his little bunker-like cubbyhole in the basement had wall-to-wall walls.
The man whose name he couldnt remember even though theyd been friends must have gotten up from his desk and walked to the window, probably to watch the storm. Hed been cut in half, hands clawed into the wet carpets nap as if hed been trying to pull himself together when he died.
The woman ...
There wasnt enough left of her to know what shed been doing before she died.
He turned and ran before he could remember if theyd been friends, too.
The thunder met him at the lobby and drown out the strange sound that came effortlessly from his mouth. And it was just as well.
Because he wasnt alone.
H-h-hi Mr. Thompson.
Dressed in jeans and the companys distinctive (and copyrighted) yellow-and-brown checked flannel shirt and clutching the front of the tan apron that hung around her neck, the girl huddled in the faux-log cabin entrance of the coffee store. Behind her, lighted by the same generators that had let him track the storm, the cold cases glowed seductively. Usually ... on any other night ... this would be about the time hed discover that his cup was empty and make his way upstairs for a refill and to peruse those same cases. Usually ... on any other night ... hed succumb to whatever guilty pleasure caught his eye.
This night, he couldnt even look at cases without wanting to throw up.
He blinked and took a deep breath, ran a shaky hand over the back of his neck. His hand came back wet, covered with sweat.
Hi ... He stopped, suddenly terrified that hed forgotten another name too. Then, Ginny. Hi Ginny.
Then they just stood there he and the girl named Ginny staring at each other across the softly lit and empty lobby while the storm continued to rage just outside the front doors.
The glass front doors.
He turned too quickly and almost stumbled, his reanimated heart pounding away. It slowed back down to something that almost felt normal after he convinced it, and himself, that the doors were securely shut, the metal slid bolts at the top and bottom locked in place.
Its okay, it cant get in.
Hed forgotten she Ginny was there. I I have to get help. Theres been ... an accident.
She stepped back, deeper into the rustic chic décor, the front of her apron bunching as she lifted her hands to her mouth. Bobby?
Bobby. Hehe was working the shift with me. He... She braced her back against the faux-birds eye maple paneling and glanced toward the back of the store. He was worried about his car, yknow? He just got it and when the storm started he ... he...
Her eyes shifted toward the front desk. Mr. Cranton, yknow the Security Guard? He went out to look for Bobby.
She nodded. Yeah. Its been a long time.
He didnt ask her how long a time. Its okay, he lied. Did they go out the front?
The girls gaze shifted again. Nuh, the back door. Its closer to the parking lot, yknow? II didnt lock it or anything. The door I mean.
Would you like to try our newest coffee?
Now it was his turn to ask. What?
She nodded her head toward the counter, her eyes never leaving his face. Its new from Bark House ... Cross-Cut Blend. Dark roasted but not b-bitter ... low acid-ity but full bodied. Perfect for breakfast or even after dinner. Youll find the robust sigsignature of Kona, Costa Rican and S-S-Suma
When the memorized pitch began to falter, he went to her, touching one hunched shoulder with the tips of his fingers. It was like turning off a switch. The girl stopped and blinked wide, blank dry eyes wide. Thank God. He didnt know what hed have done if thered been so much as a single tear. Maybe hit her. Maybe scream. Maybe...
Ill go have a look, okay?
Theyre probably waiting it out in, whatshisname... Bobby ... in Bobbys car.
The small movement of her head could have been a nod, so thats what he chose to believe it was ... just like he chose to believe her co-worker and the security guard were warm and dry and alive out in the parking lot.
Until he found out for sure.
Meanwhile, Ill have a ... cup of that new coffee, okay? With steamed milk.
Twig, Sapling, Old Growth or Lumberjack?
He could never keep the cup-sizes straight. Surprise me.
For here or ... yknow, to go?
He glanced at the big, beautiful picture window where he sometimes sat during his breaks to watch the sleeping city. Tonight there was nothing but a watery blackness. Probably not reinforced ... not that it would do any good.
For here, he said.
She nodded and only required a gentle shove to break the inertia. He left her standing behind the counter, blankly staring at a brown-and-yellow checked oversized stoneware coffee mug she held in her hand. It was turned so he could see the company logo a house of bark in the middle of the sliced end of a log and motto:
He didnt want to think about water as he hurried through the storage area to the back door.
It was unlocked, just like Ginny said, but it rattled and creaked on its hinges each time the wind struck. Water had seeped in and covered the non-slip mat, squishing underfoot when he stepped down. That and the creaking should have warned him, but they didnt. He turned the knob and the door swung into him with the force of a battering ram. His shoes slipped and slide, seeking traction on the waterlogged mat and finding none. He went down hard on one knee as lighting flared.
And he saw them ... at least he guessed it was them, Bobby and the night Security Guard. In the brief reverse-imagine flash hed seen other lumps and mounds strewn across the parking lot, but these two were the closest. Some were pinned beneath fallen power lines, others pushed up against the side of toppled cars. They could have been bodies. Or debris. People-shaped debris.
Thunder laughed in his face and rain spit in it.
And then ...
Something crackled in his knee as he stood up. This is bad.
The quiet hurt his ears.
This is really, really bad.
Her shout hurt his heart.
Its over! Hey, Mr. Thompson ... its OVER!
He stepped out onto the raised concrete stoop, holding the doorframe for support; looked up into an inverted star-glittered bowl ... and felt the air solidify in his lungs.
No. Its not. He wasnt sure if he said the words out loud or not, but it didnt matter.
The storm circled around the city like a flock of vultures. Waiting. Biding its time. Patient ... for the moment.
Hey, Mr. Thompson! She came up behind him, rubber-soled shoes squeaking on the wet floor. The rain stopped! Did you find Bobby? Tell him my shift ended two hours ago and Im going home. Oh, and your coffees ready. Its on the counter and thank you for making Bark House Coffee your coffee choice. Its the wat
He felt the small pressure wave of air against his back when she stopped.
Wow! Its like totally dark. Think the whole citys like this or just the parking lot?
He didnt turn, didnt look away from the storms rapidly closing eye. He realized he was still whispering when he finally answered.
Its the whole city ... maybe the whole county. Im sorry.
Huh? For what?
Im a weatherman ... I should have ...
He felt a soft bump against his shoulder. Hey, dont worry about it. Nobody ever expects the weatherman to be right ... its, yknow, weather.
Yeah, I know.
So ... you want me to put your coffee in a take-out cup? I mean, if youll be leaving now that the storms over and everything.
Everything. No ... I don think that will be necessary. It hasnt had its coffee yet.
Nothing better than a good cup of coffee after a big meal. I
He would have told her he was sorry again,
then started to close his eyes ... but the storm beat him to it.
Our dear Moira recently vacated her previous abode to take up new digs. Things, unfortunately, did not go entirely smoothly (there were delays, deadlines, and a bit of a flood problem) but she is at last settling in. Still, she was inspired to write about the experience.
She also forwarded it to her friend, cartoonist and writer Gahan Wilson. Here is his response:
It's Moving Day! It's Moving Day!
And you know what they always say-
That everything will have a place
And ... oops, what's that? Oh. I broke a vase....
Nothing to worry about, nothing to fret
Just a family heirloom, don't be upset.
Things get broken, just get out the glue....
There was a tube somewhere-haven't a clue
No, wait ... here it is ... stuck to a shoe....
But it's Moving Day! It's Moving Day!
Can't stop now or there'll be the devil to pay-
So load up the boxes and cartons and cats
Dig up the bodies and unhook the bats.
Take down the pictures, pull out the nails,
Leave a note for the milkman and cancel the mail.
Pack up the linens, the cutlery and chains.
Dig up the bodies and unclog the drains.
Give the floors a going over to get up the worse of the stains....
It's Moving Day! It's Moving Day!
And we must hurry on our way-
Load up the wagon, can't tarry too long
For then they would get us and that would be wrong.
I know their kind, I've seen it before-
They just want a scapegoat they can nail to a door!
With ropes they'll stretch us and our body they'll beat,
But we done nothing wrong, you know that, my sweet...
Those things were already dead when we started to eat!
So it's Moving Day! It's Moving Day ...
And we must quickly get away.
They don't understand us, they never will.
They think we're evil, they think we're ill...
So let us be gone and leave them behind.
There are lights up ahead ... let's see what we'll find.
It's far from the beginning, we've come a long way...
Oh! This town looks nice, I think we'll stay
And live high on the hog ... until the next Moving Day!
If ya happen t'live with a writer,
ya'll a'ready know that "mood swings" are par f'th'
course. As it happens, th' writer I happen t'live with is, at
th' moment, packin' up t'move. I'm thrilled 'bout it, since th'
new place is particularly haunted ... an' I love makin' new friends,
don't ya know. But ... well, t'say my writer friend's a bit stressed
would be t'say that summers in th' East are a "bit moist,"
so ya'll note this particular story is a wee bit dark.
But have no fear ... I'm sure m'human friend'll be fine ... if I can keep her off the roof, that 'tis.
Megan closed her eyes and turned into the wind, letting it rearrange the salon-sculpted wisps and layers to its own design. In less than five seconds the $43.00 "sassy" do was done, obliterated.
She could just imagine what it looked like - rat's tails interwoven throughout a coarse, grayish-brown bird's nest - and that was the problem. Her imagination always got the better of her.
How can you be so dumb?
The question deserved something, if not an answer, so she shrugged in the windy darkness before opening her eyes to the city's grand design. She had to admit it was breathtaking. By facing into the wind and following the wide, traffic-congested boulevard twenty-five stories below, she could see all the way to the river. It had always been his favorite spot, their favorite spot.
Edward. Never Ed or (God forbid!) Eddy. Edward - a strong, solid name that fit the man who carried it perfectly.
She'd noticed him immediately, of course, as probably did every other woman at the conference - tall and quiet, moving gracefully through the post-Opening Ceremony crowd like a shadow. Where the rest of them, herself included, had already begun to shift gears from "Financial Investment Consultant" to "conventioneers" - drinks in hand, ties loosened, corporate heels traded in for more comfortable footwear ... innocent flirting taking on deeper meanings - he had remained distant ... but not in a cold, standoffish way.
He was just shy.
Megan found that out later, when, out of every other woman at the hotel bar, he'd come and sat down next to her. She had no idea why and didn't ask. Nor had she asked him in the seven years that followed that first night.
They were friends from the start, only friends: meeting for meals, sitting in on each others' panels, and taking in the city sights together when - after the third or forth boring lection on "Making Mutual Funds Our Friends" - the conference became overbearing.
A hug when they first met, a hug and a quick peck on the cheek when they parted ... in between they shared the Internet. Silly things mostly, jokes and light banter, articles of interests, sometimes just to chat and catch up on each other's lives.
Then, last year, Megan had turned her head at the last moment and kissed him on the lips. Just a quick kiss, lips tight over her teeth and ready to pull back with a joke about ... something; but he held her there, pulling her into a tighter hug before he stepped back, toward the waiting cab and winked.
"Love ya. See you next year."
Megan remembered standing at the curb, waving, smiling, replaying the words ("Love ya.") over and over until his cab was swallowed by traffic.
Of course she knew he didn't, not that way. They were friends, good friends and she wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that, but....
She loved him.
And her imagination took it from there.
Along with the jokes and articles, Megan started e-flirting. Subtle at first, a little double entendre sprinkled in among the "did you hear that so-and-so stock in on the RISE?"
Hah, hah, hah.
And then a little less subtle.
"Edward ... you know I really like you."
Megan groaned and let the wind deepen the blush filling her face. Had she really written that? God, she hadn't been that juvenile even in high school.
"Oh, Edward, I really like you ... want to go grab a burger after study hall? Jesus."
But he'd written back. "I like you, too. So what do we do about it?"
What they did was flirt openly. On line. The double entendres gave way to evocative suggestions that left Megan breathless and put her imagination into overdrive.
This year, she told herself, this year we'll do more than just have dinner together.
Then, two month ago, he sent her another kind of e-mail.
"Can't make it this year. Projects, projects, projects. I'll miss you guys."
And reality blindsided her.
You guys ... not you, not 'I'll miss you.'
He'd lumped her in with everyone else, not to be mean, she knew him well enough to know that (I thought I did), but because he didn't think of her as anything but part of "the guys" ... "the gang" ... one tiny part of the whole.
She'd only imagined he felt the same way she did.
Taking a deep breath, Megan climbed onto the chair she'd placed next to the balcony wall and gave "their view" one last look before stepping out into the wind.
Twenty-five stories down, and she knew exactly what he'd think when he heard about it:
"I wonder why she did it."
Hav ya ever had that one friend
who understands ya like none else? Whos aways
there when ya need im, with either a kind word, an understandin
smile, or just a shoulder tcry on? Well, heres a wee
story about a very special friend indeed.....
It was the way he said it the slow, drawn-out quality that elongated the single syllable to infinite proportions. She knew what was coming, just as she knew that in another moment all their eyes would be riveted on her ...again ... silent laughter mixed with pity sparkling behind the lids. He wasnt the only one who didnt believe her.
Shed told them about Carl from the start, this group of writers and poets shed gathered together for once a month meetings in her apartment, and always made excuses why he ... Carl ... her friend ... her very talented friend ... wasnt there: a sudden winters storm, car trouble, a family crisis, a previous engagement normal things that happen to everybody.
The excuses probably would have gone unnoticed, in fact, if Dan hadnt started the joke.
You know, I dont think Carls real. I think hes Dianas imaginary friend.
The first time everyone, including Diana, laughed because it was funny. Was.
But itd been a year of excuses (Carl wont be able to be here today, he has todot, dot, dot, fill-in-the-blank), and now they didnt just laugh. All of them believed shed made Carl up.
... Diana ...
She could feel their eyes shift from their plates of after-meeting munchies to her. Waiting.
Lifting her mug to her lips, Diana filled her cheeks with coffee in the hopes that Dan would take the hint and move onto a new subject.
He didnt on both counts.
... what kept your imaginary friend away this time?
It would probably have been better if she hadnt tried to gulp down the mouthful of coffee all at once.
When she finally stopped coughing and managed to get the cup back onto the table without spilling any more of it into her lap, Diana wiped her eyes (and mouth and chin) with a napkin and looked toward the window as she stood up. It was almost dark.
He said hed be here, she told them, skirting the coffee table and chairs shes set up around it on her way to the bedroom. Excuse me a minute while I change. Please ... theres a lot of food left and what you dont eat I will, so
Shouldnt we leave something for Carl? Dan asked his eyes wide and innocent as they followed her across the room. Or do imaginary friends only eat imaginary food?
I had an imaginary friend when I was little, someone said, the chuckle only half buried, a dog. I always made it peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and left them under my bed ... where it slept.
Diana left the bedroom door open a crack so she could hear them, and kept her own voice to a whisper while she peeled off the coffee-stained jeans. Darn you, Carl ... now look what youve done.
You had an imaginary dog?
My dad was allergic so we couldnt have a real one. His name was Skipper.
Yeah, he died when I was nine.
Oh, my God.... How?
My mom got tired of finding moldy sandwiches under my bed, so one morning she told me she ran over him with the car.
Diana pressed her lips together to keep from laughing out loud.
Think we should do that with Carl?
Diana released the pressure on her lips. The rest of the group ignored Dans comment. For once.
I guess it was pretty awful at the time, but my mom bought me Guinea Pig the next day and I got over it. Kids are like that.
But kids grow up and stop pretending.
Yeah, kids grow up.
But Dianas still pretending.
Hey, come on Someone to the rescue. we dont know Carls not real.
Then someone else made a comment low and muffled that Diana couldnt hear, but everyone laughed and were still laughing when she reentered the living room. When she looked toward the window again, twilight had slipped into night. Theyd be leaving soon and Carl still hadnt....
She took a deep breath and smiled. Miss a joke?
Only Dan met her eyes, the rest of the group suddenly found other things to look at.
Nope, he said, I was just wondering if Carl was some kind of exotic male dancer ... you know the kind that get all oiled up and strut their stuff at places like Chippendales?
Diana felt a slow blush rise to her cheeks. Stop it. No! Of course not.
But Dan saw the rosy glow. Oh God ... he is! Thats where you met.
No! I I didnt meet ... He ... Its not like that. Carl and ... um ... I met Carl What are you doing? You know you cant tell them.
Itit doesnt matter. Carl is not an exotic male dancer ... hes
Diana licked her lips and forced herself not to look toward the window. He is.
Well, of course, to me.
Dan stood up, arms folded across his chest as if hed just won some sort of game. Then lady, youre nuts.
Only Diana heard the soft hiss near the window, the others were too busy packing up to leave. Quickly.
You ... shouldnt have said that.
And even Dan seemed to realize he may have gone a little too far. The trouble was he didnt understand how far.
Look, Diana, Im
Its too late.
Diana, really, I didnt mean it the way it sound
Carls a very good friend, she said, stepping back, and he doesnt like it when people make fun of me.
Well ... I just wont tell him.
You dont have to. He heard it himself.
All movement stopped. Coats hung from elbows or arms, purses and book bags stopped halfway to shoulders, and every eye was again locked onto her face. Fortunately, she never felt less like blushing in her life.
You mean, Dan asked, hes here?
Diana couldnt stop herself from glancing toward the window.
Hes always been here, and it was okay when you joked about him being imaginary because he didnt mind that ... but now youre making fun of me.
Dan looked around as the rest of the group, coats and bags trailing behind them, edged toward the front door.
Bye! Good meeting! See you next month!
They just werent fast enough.
You ARE nuts! Dan screamed ... then kept screaming when Carl leapt from his place by the window and tore him apart.
Before starting on the others.
Diana stared at the floor, shaking her head. She hated to see the group disband like that ... it always made her feel just a little melancholy.
A soft burp made her look up and she watched a napkin slowly levitated from the snack table to pause in mid-air six feet from the floor. A moment later red stained the paper as Carl wiped the blood gracefully she was sure from his lips.
You know, she told him, it would be a lot easier if you werent invisible.
Carl always knew just the right thing to say.
Even though computers werent
around when Moira first stepped from the mist on a long-forgotten
heath, they not only have become a source of fascination for our
banshee but also a well of
well, of inspiration.
Of a sort.
Being of a race that is lyrical by nature, Moira finds poetry in things that most people (including her human friend and occasional co-author P.D. Cacek) delete things like the subject of Suspected E-mails.
I kid you not Imagine poetry created by simply linking titles together and you have
Any use to you?
A simple plan,
One more time
And it doesnt need a battery!
Is easier this time.
Dont expose your intimate life,
Its not a joke.
Let me give you some advice:
Im everything you are looking for
Stop ignoring me!
Do you love me or not?
Its so easyfind out yourself.
This is the time of your life
No way back, once you try it.
What rules are in affect here?
You may have won.
Let me give you some advice
The first time
Theres always more room.
Come back later, honey.
Solution to a billion dollar epidemic
Your application has been received.
We owe you some money!
You have won!
Get back to me, please,
The softwares almost free.
Dont ignore this notice!
Just check it out!
What a neat little item!
(How do you turn it on?)
Your doctor just called
Your prescription is ready
You left something the other night,
She knows all about it.
What did Brady find?
What did Cherry find?
A little advice
Dont look back!
And now a little Free Verse
ODE TO DELIRIUM
But sit, no expediency
To leave of wandering
Can, by detachment
Break the gravity tiger.
As combs a bearheaded frostbite
He makes a gleaming scroll
Of lives unceremonious
That brings by dawdle
Do understand as poetry.
Her teacher is cadaverous
To lose the thresher anonymous
By looks a thought fictitious
Which coughs of afterbirth tasseled.
Do drink of autumn pierrot
In violin goblet
Or eat an entertaining iguana
At close it dwelling
By finish, a stonewall.
He eats penicillin corsage
On watch, so ignoble organized
Wrong in windows
Write on the downbeat
But comb it faucet
My dance in lobotomy.
Our own Miss Moira presents a collaboration
with her human friend, P.D. Cacek. Ms. Cacek lost her father recently,
and channelled her feelings into this lovely story. Incidentally,
the title means 'sleep song' (or lullaby) in Gaelic.
Are you sure your eyes are closed? The magic wont work otherwise.
She tried not to giggle and failed. That had been a joke between them for as long as she could remember ... longer probably, if she thought about it. From childhood to the time she left for college and even after, during those first few months when shed come back with a bad case of homesickness hed always ask that question before he sang her to sleep.
His voice was the magic ... never the songs, which would range from Irish ballads (her favorites) to classic Hank Snow (his). But whatever the song, all shed have to do was close her eyes and his voice would carry her softly into dreams.
I miss that.
Hey, Im workin here, remember? Eyes and mouth shut, please.
She curled her lips together, clamping them between her teeth and tasted the lipstick shed applied that morning. Hed bought her her first grown-up tube the day she graduated middle-school, carnation pink ... then warned her not to use it all up kissing the boys.
She blushed and he laughed, and she smiled remembering that.
Good memory? he asked.
He grunted in exasperation and she squeezed her eyes tighter together, hoping hed notice.
Dont do that ... youll get wrinkles. She relaxed her face and felt something slip past her lashes. And dont do that, either.
She nodded, brushing the something away.
All right then ... whatll it be?
This time she didnt take the bait. Smiling, she lifted one shoulder, just like she always did, to let him know that whatever sleep song he sang would be fine with her.
Hmm, okay, how about ... Ah! I know.
And he began singing Molly Malone. It was her favorite song because it was sweet and sad and had a ghost in it. He always teased her about that, saying she was the only little girl he knew who wasnt only not afraid of ghosts but wanted one as a pet.
You remembered, she whispered and thought the song would cover her words, but he heard and stopped.
Ill always remember baby ... now hush.
She lowered her chin, as if in prayer, and listened to his voice a voice that took on the shape of whatever song it sand. Now it was a high strong tenor, suitable for the old Irish tune ... but if he had decided to sing a Dean Martin ballot, it would have dropped into a baritone range ... for Elvis he even did the drawl. His voice was magic and she would miss it.
They came before the song was over and he stopped to accommodate them. She wished he hadnt but her father was like that always putting someone elses needs before his own.
When she opened her eyes, he was smiling at her ... not his real smile of course they hadnt seen him in life, so they wouldnt know what it looked like but a good smile nonetheless.
Are you all right?
People had been asking her that for days, so the answer came easily. Im fine. Thank you.
She stood to give them room and watched while they closed the casket lid. He wasnt there, not anymore, so it was easy to follow her fathers casket down the long hall to the waiting hearse.