Press 15 Please

23 Apr

This is a repeat from an older blog but I am crunching a deadline on something and some of you may not have read this so…

Press 15 Please

 

The elevator was haunted. Everybody knew it but nobody ever discussed it. Except now that they had replaced the old car there were a couple of tenants who liked to joke about it looking like something out of a Chinese horror movie because of the mirrored surround and the blue cast from the led lighting.

Mary who watched a lot of Asian horror films kept expecting to see old withered legs dangling behind her or a chalk-white face with black eyes glaring malevolently into hers. It was always worse at night which never made any sense really because once the doors slid shut it could be the end of time and who would know. Unfortunately for Mary she was a bartender and usually got home around 2:30 in the morning. She would have taken the stairs but she lived on the 19th floor and she would have considered moving but with the exception of the haunting Mary loved this building.

Nobody knew for sure who the ghost was because there were so many potential candidates. Not that the place was a death trap but it was located right downtown where people tend to live at a much higher pace. The superintendent alone had buried two husbands in the half a decade since Mary had moved in. And in addition to that there were a handful of age, aids, traffic, and suicide related deaths.

Although no one had admitted to actually seeing the specter, everyone had experienced phenomena. The most common being the elevator door opening as if it had been expecting you all along as you walked towards it. There were also the stops for floors that no buttons had been pushed for and temperature fluctuations.

So far only Mary had heard the voice.

“15 please.” was all it said. And it always waited till the elevator was full. It took almost a year for Mary to realize that no one else heard the request. An entire year of her fellow passengers giving her the filthiest looks as the elevator stopped at 15 and Mary once again failed to get out.

But it wasn’t until Mrs. Bapst, a diminutive octogenarian slapped her hand before it could press the button that Mary knew the request had come from the grave. Unfortunately this revelation did not stop the voice. In fact it grew more and more insistent now that Mary refused to play along till one day Mary found herself screaming in an elevator full of exuberant gay men “Press the fucking button yourself.”

That night Mary almost took the stairs, all 19 flights of them. But her aching feet won the fight over her pounding heart and so she entered the already open doors. Once inside she felt a shiver run down the back of her neck and she positioned herself as far from the mirrored surround as possible. Mary pressed 19. The light flickered on and then went dark. It was as if she had not pressed the button at all. And then right before her eyes she saw button for the 15th floor depress and light. Mary pressed 19 again. And again the light behind the numbers flickered briefly and then became dark. Mary pushed all the buttons as fast as she could with both hands and still the only floor that remained lit was 15.

She watched as the floors sank below her 6, 7, 8… 11, 12… 14, 15. The elevator ground to a halt but the doors refused to open. From behind the door Mary heard a scratching and a whimper. At first she thought it was a dog that was waiting on the other side of the door with its human companion impatient for its walk. Mary pounded on the door to let whoever it was know that the doors were stuck and the whimpering increased till it sounded more like muffled screams. Mary rang the alarm until she heard someone yell from below her that they had called the super. She wondered if whoever it was that yelled could hear what was going on outside on this floor. The screams had built till they were shrill like a siren and in between the screams were the sounds of a body being hit over and over again and then nothing.

‘This is what it must sound like in a vacuum.’ Mary thought, her eyes fixed on the crack below the elevator doors. Was that someone being dragged? Is that what was causing the flickering light in the space between the door and the floor?

Mary got down on her hands and knees, pressing her eye as close to the crack as she could get it. But whatever it was had vanished.

When the doors opened Mary discovered that she was not on the 15th floor at all but the 19th. The Super and her too burly sons were standing outside waiting to help her out because the elevator was a couple of feet short of the actual floor.

But try as they might they could not get Mary out until they promised to walk down to the 15th floor with her. Mary had no idea what she would find once she got there but she knew that no matter what she had to go there. Mary was moving so fast that she got there several minutes before the rest of them.

Without even stopping to catch her breath Mary ran to the elevator and just stood there listening. Was that someone crying? Mary put her ear to the door of apartment 1503 which was directly across from the elevator. She knocked on the door and heard heavy steps approaching from deep in the apartment. So focused was Mary on the door opening that she didn’t know or care that her back up had arrived. She pushed past the man in the flannel bathrobe.

“Where is she?” Mary said.

“What the fuck!!” The man said.

The two burly sons grabbed Mary and walked her out into the hall as the superintendent smoothed things over with the angry and bewildered tenant of 1503 who fully understood how being stuck in an elevator for a couple of hours could definitely make you anxious. He even smiled and said he hoped that Mary felt better once she’d had a chance to calm down.

And once she’s had a chance to calm down he thought, he would pay her a little visit and ask her how she knew about the dead prostitute he had wrapped in 2 pound packages like hamburger beside his ice tray in the freezer.

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This Cat

16 Apr

This Cat

 

 

This cat runs free. Never again to be trapped in mediocrity; never again to be a victim of mendacity. This cat leaps high above the mainstream, bathing her in the warmth of unconditional fascination. She stretches her leg to the full moon and salutes Isis with her five spread toes. Her fur, shining like patent leather or the blackest crude reflects the dreamer’s eye. Never has this cat felt more alive. Her past is a distant thirst; her future an explosion of shooting stars.

This cat is a Coltrane ballad, a Nina Simone cry for justice. She is the absence of and the inclusion of every color. She wants to dance on the tip of the crescent moon and peer through cut eye so sharp it splits hair.

This cat wants to be caressed until she is so stimulated she must sink her teeth into the hand that feeds her.

This cat runs free into the world, into shadow lands, into a state of bliss. This cat runs free. This cat runs free.

Pigeon

8 Apr

This is a story from my old blog but since I am still writing about this world, I thought I would share it.

Pigeon

Nobody knew who she was or much of anything about her except for what they saw. Some people are just natural-born secrets. While others like myself are, pretty much an open book. You see me on the street first thing you say to yourself is “drunk”.

Pigeon on the other hand didn’t need any mood altering substances to help her leave the misery of this world far behind. All she needed were her wings which she made of chewing gum and feathers. It took her nearly three years to collect enough gum from the undersides of park benches and patio tables. The feathers took longer since she only used those that she plucked from the wind or from birds who no longer needed their bodies to soar high in the heavens.

I was never able to ascertain whether Pigeon thought of herself as an angel or if she really believed she was a bird. And this was not for any lack of trying on my part. Pigeon never spoke. Not one word in all the years that she lived on the street had any of us ever heard her utter a sound. Not even when she swooped down from the eaves of St. Mikes to sink her toenails into the back of some hapless rat did she scream in triumph. Not even when Silk tried to force her with the broken bottle held close to her eye, but Silk screamed when she drove the blade through his guts.

I often wondered how she saw herself. If as she soared by the huge mirrored windows she saw beauty or if like us she saw a grotesque. Because the truth is, no matter how much the people living in houses like to romanticize it in their books, movies and photographs, there is nothing beautiful out here on the streets, nothing, not even in our dreams, not even when I’m loaded.

And if you are not bad to look at when you get here, you’ll be nothing to write home about by the time they roll you into a body bag and throw you in a pit with the rest of us unknown soldiers.

Pigeon at least was unique covered in her filth and feathers. Eventually that’s all she was. No clothes just feathers. Talons sprouted from the ends of her toes and fingers which she now used instead of a blade. Now she spent all of her time in the air or on rooftops. We would see her circling the park, messing on cop cars. Soon she had a whole flock of pigeons flapping their wings beside her across the night sky. And then she was gone. And we never saw her again. Some people figured it was Silk who finally got his revenge, others thought she probably ate some of the poison the city puts down to keep the pigeon population from getting too out of hand. Me, I think she got caught in one of those traps that those bird freaks set on their roofs. You know those guys that have the coops and all those birds in cages. I think Pigeon is in one of them coops being trained. And one day we’re going to look up and see her streaking across the sky with one of those bands on her legs, wings flapping faster than a hummingbird trying to beat some record. She’d beat it too. I’d bet money on it. Pigeon would break that fucking record.

The Climb

2 Apr

The Climb

 

Winnie flexed the toes on her right hand. With her left she clamped down on the misaligned brick and pulled herself up. She was almost at the top now, almost at the end of her journey. She threw her head back and let her neck extend so that she could see just how far she’d come. Down below the streetcars looked like caterpillars. She wondered what would happen if she wept. Would the frenzied specks be washed away? Would panic ensue? Did it really matter? It was no longer her world. She belonged to the sky.

Climbers usually left the ground once puberty hit and they had enjoyed their right. Climbers bore only one offspring. Once that baby was born and all twenty toes were counted. The parent was free to seek the homeland.

Winnie had been terrified that she would bear more than one child like Davinia. Climbers did not consider multiple births to be a blessing like the Swimmers or even the Creepers. It was the mother’s duty to choose the strongest of all her babies to be raised by the governing body and then throw the remainders into the subways to be crushed underfoot by the commuters.

Winnie would never forget that day. Never. It was carved into her memory like the Roman numbers on the side of the building she climbed. Davinia had made her choice and the governing body had looked in the holy scrips for a name. They chose Florence to be forever known as she who eats Prozac and carried the child into the great Lilly Hall.

Davinia waited until not even the scent of them remained and then she tore her birthing robe into wide strips and bound her two remaining babies to her breast. Taking long strides that built in momentum until she was almost flying Davinia hit the wall and began scrabbling as fast as she could. Winnie could not believe her eyes. Davinia was committing sacrilege. Not only was she making the journey skyward with the unblessed but she was contaminating the very clouds themselves with the living dead.

Even though Winnie knew in her toes that Davinia was committing blasphemy there was a part of her that prayed that somehow, someway she would triumph and cross the line to sky before the Disciplinarians could shoot her with their strength drainers.

‘Faster’ Winnie screamed to herself as watched Davinia desperately searching for a toehold. Davinia was almost there now. She just had another story to go. Winnie felt her hearts exploding in her chests. ‘Safe.’ Davinia was safe. The Disciplinarians had finally arrived but it was too late. Davinia was over the line and could not be touched. Winnie turned away. She would think of Davinia safe with her two babies all the way home.

A sound like buildings collapsing almost burst Winnie’s eardrums and then nothing, not even the low drone of the billions of pigeons nesting wherever there was a merest hint of space. Winnie did not need to turn around. She knew then that the great book of Pharmaceuticals lied.

Winnie preferred to remember Davinia safe and skyward rather than broken on the ground and she made a promise to herself, a promise that she was keeping now.

Winnie sat with her legs dangling over the edge of the gleaming silver building. She could feel her baby moving inside her. Baby? Perhaps there were more. It didn’t matter now because even if there were a dozen little climbers inside of her they were all safe and she would name them after the clouds.

Drawn Out

25 Mar

Drawn Out

I know it sounds crazy but my lover Miranda has a tattoo that talks to me. And I think I’m in love with it. Okay so it did start after a night of E but that was only once. But I have been conversing with it for months now and I swear on my mother’s grave that I am stone cold sober. I feel funny saying “it” when her name is Tempest. Actually she didn’t have a name but I thought she looked a lot like Tempest Storm the burlesque star so I asked her if she minded me calling her that. She said she didn’t mind what I called her as long as it wasn’t anything ending in a y like Suzy or Mindy. And nothing hyphenated like Bobby Jo or Pammy Sue. I asked her what she thought of Pamela Jo Beth and she told me to fuck off. I like a woman who swears. My last relationship wouldn’t say cunt if her mouth was full of it.

But there is more to Tempest than profanity or a skimpy pirate outfit. She is a real hardcore existentialist. Seriously. She can quote Being and Nothingness like other people quote Beatle lyrics. And she’s hilarious. Last night she looks at me with a totally straight face and says “I ink therefore I am.” I laughed so hard I almost woke up Miranda.

To be totally honest with you the only thing that is holding Miranda and me together is Tempest. I think about her day and night. I love the fact that both the plume and the Jolly Roger on her hat are the same blood red as her lipstick. Her hair is like the sunset sky over Tortuga and as for the rest of her? What can I say? They don’t call her a pinup for nothing.

Miranda on the other hand is so one dimensional.  She loves Jane Siberry for fuck sakes. And all she reads are those blink and you’re rich books by that lesbian with the enormous white teeth and spray on tan when she isn’t completely engrossed in that other woman that has all those books that have you Standing, Jumping, Sitting, Lying or Squatting For Your Life.

Tempest polished off the Alexandria Quartet in 3 hours and then began to devour Maldoror. And can you believe it she too is insane about Pendrecki. Miranda can’t bear to even listen to the opening bars of the Polish Requiem without screaming for the Tylenol.

Oh God how I wish Miranda was a tattoo on Tempest’s body instead of the other way around. I asked her once what she thought might happen if I got her tattooed on my forearm? But even as I asked I knew it wouldn’t be the same. Tempest suggested that we talk to Miranda and let her know how we feel. Maybe once she understood how in love we were she would do everything she could to help us be together forever. But I told Tempest that she was being naïve if she thought Miranda would be anything but a total bitch about the whole thing. In fact I told her Miranda would do everything she could to make sure that Tempest and I never saw each other again as long as she lived.

There was only one solution. We would have to elope.

By the time we crossed the border into Detroit the stitches were beginning to pull. I reached into my tote bag and pulled out the cocoa butter and slathered a thick layer over Tempest’s sleeping form. She looked so good on my forearm I wanted to ask the woman beside me if she didn’t think we made a cute looking couple. But there was something about the way she was looking at my handiwork that made me feel like Frankenstein’s monster. ‘Oh well’ I thought ‘some people never like to see anyone happy’.

Inked

19 Mar

Inked

I met her at a party. It was one of those Queen Street warehouse things where everyone is a novella unto themselves. And you can choose to skim or become embroiled. She was mostly naked except for the art which was everywhere and the jewelry which was more specific. I guessed she was a dancer. It was the way she walked with that crippled grace that is shared by birds and ballerinas. I tried to imagine her in toe shoes. It wasn’t hard. In fact it was easy to visualize her slashing her way across the stage feet like razors, blue dreds sparking like chains on tarmac.

I must have been staring because she walked right over to me and slid her card into the pocket where I keep my keys. She kept her hand there a moment while she stroked the rest of me with her eyes. “I want to do you. Call me if you’re interested.”

 

I watched her make her way across the room slipping cards into a few more pockets before she left. I took the card out of my pocket to see just what it was she wanted to do with me.

 

I didn’t have any tattoos. I could never come up with an image that I wouldn’t get tired of. And then there was that whole fade factor, sure the panther looks hot while it’s black but not so much when it turns green. But I couldn’t get her out of my head. I kept telling myself that it was way more than insane to get inked just so I could see her again. I decided that crazy was more fun anyway.

 

She inked out of her home. She had an apartment in a converted soap factory just around the corner from where the party had been. Her name was Bete and her dreds were now electric violet. She was still pretty much naked.

 

“Normally, I charge about 100.00 an hour but I have a thing about being the first.”

I had no idea what it was that I was going to look at every day for the rest of my life. It was one of the conditions. If I would let her do whatever she wanted wherever she wanted, she would ink me for free. She promised that she had no designs on my face. No pun intended.

 

The needle pierced my skin just as the rich notes of Bach’s first cello solo filled the room. The pain seemed to ebb and swell with the music. It was such an intimate pain that it could almost be defined as sexual. And yet there was a connection much deeper than that. It was as if she was the ink.

 

When she was finished she took me to an enormous mirror. She stood there with me almost as mesmerized by the piece as I. It was exquisite. It was haunting. It was vivid. It was alive. I could almost feel her snakes writhing on my ribs, her eyes turning me to granite as she whispered my name.

 

Bete traced the Medusa that she had etched into my skin with her fingertips. She kissed me deeply, knowingly as if we had just made love for hours. She bandaged me and dressed me and sent me home wanting more, wanting to be covered from head to toe.

 

I have never been a highly sexual person. Oh don’t get me wrong I totally dig it but my body has never ruled me except in a couple of occasions. So it was highly unusual for me to be making out in bars and taking strange chicks home even after I had established their lack of intellect. But that’s exactly what I was doing night after night, day after day, month after month until Medusa spoke.

 

At first I thought it was the E but the woman in my bed heard it too. Not only heard it but saw it. “Oh my god, you’re tattoo is like trying to say something. Wow her lips are even moving.”

I looked down at my ribs and saw that she was right. Medusa was speaking but so quietly that I could barely hear her above the snakes because the snakes were hissing too.

 

“I can’t hear you. You have to speak up.” I said.

The Medusa smiled. It was a cold reptilian smile than never quite managed to convince.

“You are very beautiful.” She said to the woman on top of me. “I could look at you forever.”

 

There was something in the way she said it. Something final like the enactment of a law or the signing of a death warrant that made me know even before I felt it and it happened fast. I had just enough time to roll off the bed before my companion had been turned into a solid piece of obsidian.

Medusa sighed. “Stunning isn’t she?”

I couldn’t help but agree. She was indeed. In fact she was far more beautiful than she had been in life. Unfortunately though this left me with a huge problem, well not huge really but seriously inconvenient. This was obviously the last time I would ever bring a woman home. From now on I would have to go to their place.

Phantom Pain

12 Mar

Sometimes goofing around with a friend can inspire a story. Actually in this case it inspired more than one. But this is the first. I am lucky I have a couple of people that just seem to ignite my creativity by just riffing or hanging. I’m not sure what it is but it’s very enjoyable.

 

Phantom Pain

 

Have you ever forced yourself to do something that either scared the living shit right out of you or was just so completely out of character that nobody would believe you’d done it if you didn’t have visual proof? What about something incredibly stupid, humiliating even, just to challenge yourself? If your answer is no then you are not going to get why I decided to get Simone’s lips inked onto my inner thigh. Unless of course you have ever had Simone’s lips actually on your inner thigh and then I’m pretty sure you’re feeling me.

 

I have a lot of ink but it’s concentrated mostly on my left arm and back. I don’t like the look of random ink. I believe that placement of art on your body is even more important than placement of art on your walls. But in this case I was recreating a memory. I knew it was going to hurt. I wanted it to. It was appropriate that it did. And I wanted to feel… anxious, jittery… so I went to a shop I’d never been, in an area of town that got really fucking restless as soon as the streetlights came on and then someone usually shot them out again. Like I said “incredibly stupid”.

 

The neon sign was a vivid red against the black of the glass and the reflection of the bikes parked in front. I was hoping the bikes belonged to the bars on either side but I wasn’t holding my breath. Besides not all bikers were psychotic, some of them were sociopaths. Let’s face it nobody does charming like a sociopath. But I was not looking for a relationship; I was looking for an artist.

 

It took me a minute or twelve to get used to the dim. If it wasn’t for the buzz I would have thought the place was deserted but from the sound there were at least two people inking. Once my pupils dilated to the best of their ability I could see that there were three.  But that’s about all I could swear to. I couldn’t tell if they were male/female, white, brown, old, scarred, conjoined or scaled. The shape farthest away from the door beckoned. I found myself shuffling so as not to bump into anything violently. Funny, you’d think I would have turned and run. Not me, I was so scared I could feel the blood draining from my face and yet it just made everything seem more perfect.

 

By the time I got to the station I could see that the pale beckoning hand belonged to a woman of indeterminate age and not the ghost of Christmas Past. Her hair was long, dark and hung in her face. I have no idea what her eyes looked like. I could not see them. For all I knew she had no eyes. I told her what I was looking for. Pulled the letter with Simone’s lip print on it out of my pocket and held it out to her. She motioned for me to put the letter on her table. I took off my jeans and jumped up on the bench. I knew it was my imagination but it smelled of the fear of the countless others who had lain before me in anticipation of that first jolt. No two people tattoo the same. You could get an identical image done in exactly the same place by 8 different people and they will all feel completely different ranging from almost nothing to excruciating. I know this sounds nuts but I like it to hurt just enough to make it feel like a bit of a heroic quest. Not a Beowulf quest, I don’t think I have the pain tolerance for that but at least fording a raging river or walking into a gale. This was like neither.

 

To be completely honest I really couldn’t tell you what it felt like because I can’t remember getting the tattoo at all. I just know I got it because I can see it but other than that… nada. In fact I have been wracking my brain trying to remember the name of the fucking place and where it was.

 

People who believe in ghosts believe that almost anything can be haunted. And conversely that anything dead can be a ghost like even a whale or a wolf spider. I don’t know about you but I find real spiders terrifying enough without adding a whole invisible, moving through walls and even your body, element. Fortunately I’m not a big believer in the paranormal so ectoplasmic arachnids remain the stuff of nightmares. I am however on the verge of believing in transmundane tattoo parlors because my new ink… is interactive.

 

I know, I sound nuts. Maybe I am. Not that I’m complaining. There was a reason I wanted to remember Simone’s lips on my inner thigh and now I feel them every night, many times a night. The only thing is I’m not getting a lot of sleep. Oh well I guess I can sleep when I’m dead.