She called me from across the ocean, as if it were a river. “I’m staying,” she whispered from her hotel, “they like me here.”
“Oh,” I said, shrugging into the phone. I wondered if she could hear the resignation in my voice. There was a time when it mattered fiercely, like she was an appendage and I couldn’t bear to have her strained away from me, like an arm bending all wrong. Then, suddenly, she could slide softly off, across one ocean or two, and call me like that, and say things like “I’m staying,” and it didn’t really matter.
Me and Casey were the last alive. Now I’m not sure about her. I haven’t seen her in days. The last time I saw her she looked exhausted. The President had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar again, so the election was called off. All hell broke lose, with the requisite fire and brimstone and whatnot. He absconded, and Casey chased after him in a stolen car, careening off into the conflagration. I put down my thesaurus, and kept the porch light on, just in case. Maybe this time it’ll be alright, I muttered, not really believing.
There was debris scattered all over the highway, shoulder to shoulder. The writer of the story had abandoned any pretense of understanding what it was about. He’d leave it for the tour guides to explain. What passed at one time for reason now just confused. Seduction and scandal at the airport. “Stringing words together is not a story,” said the editor. “Context counts for something. If you can’t tell me what it’s about, is it about anything?” The poet refused to weigh in, and let it hang in the air like a balloon animal. Likely no one would care anyway.
The phone rings on the far side of the house. I stop typing, my cat raises his head from the pile of comforters where he’s sleeping. We both listen, ears cocked, as the answering machine down the kitchen kicks in. I hear my own muffled voice telling the caller I’m not at home. Neither of us can understand the echoing message. After a single shrill note from the machine, the house is quiet again. The cat yawns, showing his sharp teeth, and goes back to sleep. I turn back to my desk. Now I know how the story ends.
There was a time once in my life when I was the blue light flashing under the subway cars. Down the hill from Mosely Street, the Columbia T station waits in the frosty morning. I huddle myself around a cigarette, bluster blowing up from Carson Beach. The train comes balling in with a billow of dust, I toss my dogend onto the tracks and we race together into the city that feels a world away. Rolling home late, the train filled with drunk and rowdy Southie toughs smashing bottles and itching for a fight, I’m hoping they don’t pick me.
Lola couldn’t sleep. She’d been pacing the cheap hotel carpet for hours, arguing with herself. There’d been one too many disturbing encounters earlier, and Lola was anxious. The swarthy street preacher had finally talked himself out and was snoring on the other bed across the room. She contemplated waking him and escaping with him down the back stairs, but in the end she slipped on her robe and left him, taking his mysterious portfolio, leaving in it’s place a hand-colored photograph of herself dressed as a Mardi Gras fan dancer. He’d know where to find her when the time came.
Inspired by Jack Kerouac, I used to have a roll of teletype paper strung through my typewriter. I wrote pure stream of consciousness poems and stories without stopping to edit or even think about what I was writing. I wrote a lot. I still have most of those rolls along with reams of other writing. Every once in a great while I sift cursorily through it, rarely finding anything worth repeating. These 100 word stories are an experiment and a challenge. Whatever value they might have remains to be seen.