TRANSIENT: A Short Short Story

transient02TRANSIENT

Short Short StoryA hazy beam of sunlight throws a vertical swath of light on the wall, making a bright smear on the washed out pattern of the wallpaper. The paper must have been ivory colored once, but now it is a dirty shade of cream, fading to yellowish brown. The peeling edges lift off the wall like the curling dog-eared pages of a well worn book, in places torn to reveal the dull blue of an earlier print. Along the path the sunlight takes as it creeps up the wall, the paper has bleached, evidence of long tenure.

In a corner across from the window, an iron frame bed leans drunkenly against the wall, looking like it might collapse without additional support. The frame was once painted black, but all vestiges of color have peeled away, leaving only bare metal, interspersed with darker splotches of rust that contrast vividly with the incongruous emerald green of the coverlet. The bedspread seems relatively new and the small images of romping cats scattered across the surface seem like a sick joke in contrast to the severity of the room. At the foot of the bed stands a battered brown suitcase, its leather scuffed and scratched. The zippers are broken, the tabs missing and the case is now secured by two straps, curling and worn smooth from much use.

There’s a wooden clothes horse in the left corner, adjoining the window. On its rungs hang a faded pair of blue jeans along with two threadbare grayish t-shirts. The shirts may have been black once, but repeated washing seems to have leached all the color from them.

The other corner hosts a small metal table and a folding chair. Paraphernalia litters the table; a thin length of latex rubber lies like a flaccid snakeskin beside a tarnished silver spoon and a partially used spirit lamp. A disposable hypodermic syringe has rolled to a stop against the lamp, and resting near it is a crumpled scrap of foil paper, an orphan from the overflowing ashtray.

The ashtray, once the property of the Happy Family Peking Diner, is the cheap tin kind that everybody steals. The remnants of a dozen cigarette butts, the unfiltered kind, fill the bowl. The ash tray, once gilded, is now black with the detritus of innumerable mashed out smokes. The smell of stale tobacco fights for supremacy with the scent of Lysol air freshener, creating a strange pungent odor that is not altogether unpleasant.

The sunlight barely illuminates the room, even though it is still early afternoon. The window is grimy, and the inside surface is streaked as if someone has tried to scrub it clean with paper. The outside of the glass pane is spotted and patchy where raindrops briefly liquefied some of the grime before hardening it into a new pattern; layer upon layer of cloudy whorls that filter out most of the light. The view outside is bleak; dominated by the brown brick wall of another building, all the windows shuttered. The light in the room will vanish when the setting sun disappears behind the rooftop of that building.

A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling by a length of wire, as grimy as the window itself. The bulb is bare and unlit. In the wan light diffusing into the room, the wooden floor seems streaked, the result of many repairs that have matched neither the grain nor the type and shade of the wood. The boards look stained and dull, the surface lacquer long since gone and the wood darkened to a chocolate luster with age.

The sound of a jack hammer drifts up through the imperfect window seal, the rhythmic clatter mingling with the sound of shouted voices from out in the hallway. On the other side of the wall, a baby cries, providing a monotonous background to the rhythmic thud-thud of a boom box with the bass turned up loud. The walls are like acoustically permeable membranes, making privacy altogether impossible.

A cheap mirror hangs on the back of the closed door, reflecting the interior of the room in unflattering detail. Above the mirror, someone has screwed in a couple of cheap metal hooks. A white bathrobe, relatively new, occupies one of the hooks, a puffy cumulus smudge against the dull leaden backdrop of the door. It is one of the few things in the room, along with the suitcase and the jeans, that clearly belongs to someone.

Curiously, there are no electrical or mechanical contrivances of any kind in the room. This, added to the lack of furniture, makes the room appear bigger than it really is, an illusion accented by its Spartan emptiness. The entire aspect is one of impermanence, as if the entire room is transient, primed to transform in a moment at its owner’s whim. But there is no living thing here. There hasn’t been for days. Eventually, the landlord will come looking. Come when the pre-paid rent has run out. But by then the Lysol scent will be long gone, replaced by the growing odor of putrescence and the grotesquely swollen foot and ankle protruding from under the trailing edge of that emerald green coverlet.

Bryan Knower 2014
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A Short Story

central park 03

TO GLIMPSE THE WIND

The afternoon sun shone directly onto the upturned face of a young man leaning far back on the park bench, his eyes open and staring. Although he felt the heat, Tim Boyd saw not the faintest hint of light and dissatisfaction spread through him like a malaise, pushing back the surge of wellbeing the sunlight had initiated. He sat just inside the park entrance, in his Tuesday spot, feeling bored, and now he felt irritated too. Idly he slouched even lower on the bench, stretching out his arms to discourage others from sharing his seat. The fingers of his extended left hand encountered something flat and metallic. It was warm from the heat of the afternoon, or maybe it had recently been in someone’s hand. Absently he explored the object, turning it in his fingers.

A coin. An unfamiliar one.

He knew the contours of nickels, dimes and quarters intimately, and this wasn’t any of those. It wasn’t a dollar coin either. He knew those too. Something foreign. Exotic. On a whim, he slipped it into his pocket. It was his now, and maybe it was lucky. His lucky coin. God knew he was due for a change, so how about now?

He missed the excitement of his old life as an engineer at the Honeoye Falls test facility. Loved the rush of testing new components, pushing them to the limit and beyond, his daily routine like the thrill of a roller coaster until that early June day six years ago, when an exploding gasket shot a shower of hot metal shards into his face. They told him he was lucky none of those fragments reached his brain. He just wished they had. Years of extensive plastic surgery gave him back a semblance of his face but not his eyes. Those were gone forever, blinded by minute heated metal knives that shredded them beyond repair. The compensation settlement was more than generous. He would never want materially for the rest of his life, but it did nothing for him on the inside, couldn’t give him his old life back. He was a blind man.

He always knew. Instantly. The point at which people learned his disability. Their voices changed; a mixture of sympathy and a generous serving of pity, unsuccessfully hidden. Most people thought that because he couldn’t see them, he couldn’t read their expressions, but Tim became adept at sorting out the nuances in the human voice. He knew when people were sorry for him and he knew when his appearance repulsed them. In the early days, his anger burning magnesium bright at the injustice that had left him incapacitated at twenty-three, he took to walking about hatless, his scarred and battered face in plain view, unmitigated by shadow or hair. Later, as his anger cooled and he acknowledged his situation, he accepted the painful rounds of surgery that slowly re-constructed his features so that today the only external reminders of that horrific time were the scars above his eyebrows and on his cheekbones and jaw. These were what people noticed first. Some never ever realized that he had two glass eyes.

His mother said his scars gave him a rakish appearance, but her opinion didn’t really count. She was his mother. Patricia’s opinion might have counted. A lot. But Pat was gone. He had driven her away. She left within three months, unable to take his fits of depression and violent mood swings. He wanted her gone. She reminded him of the earlier days. So he deliberately hurt her, not physically, but emotionally, battering down her defenses and leaving her in tears, screaming at him, asking him what he wanted from her. Tim could not tell her, He didn’t know either. He just needed to lash out, hurt someone else; make them share his own consuming pain.

In half a year, he managed to alienate all of his close friends. They tried their best to tolerate his outbursts, then came around less frequently, and eventually stopped visiting altogether. By then, he had come to hate the Honeoye Falls house anyway. Built at the end of a tony cul-de-sac named Bridlewood Trail, he had designed it to fit his attitude and social lifestyle, and its sunken levels and open spaces became a nightmare of obstacles. He fell constantly, skinned his knees and elbows, screamed abuse at an endless stream of attendants, disobeyed their instructions and was so thoroughly miserable that when his mother proposed he come and live with her, he agreed, relishing the prospect of a new victim for his vitriol.

Like all mothers, she was over protective and his abuse rolled off her like raindrops on a newly waxed car. Eventually they established an uneasy camaraderie. He submitted to the therapists and others who molded and shaped him into a new Tim Boyd. Not improved, just different. He came to terms with his handicap too, learning to use his ears and nose in place of his eyes. He learned Braille, devoured audio books of all kinds, fiction, non-fiction, languages, philosophy, things he would not have dreamed of reading in his previous life. He learned to use a cane and stopped bumping into things. He learned to go outside and cross a street, to order food from a street vendor, making the correct payment with bills folded in different ways to identify them, dollar bills unfolded, fives folded in half, tens folded lengthwise, twenties with a corner bent down. Of course he had no way of knowing if the bills he received in return were the right denominations and it galled him that he needed to have his mother fold and categorize them for him when he got home.

His settlement secured them an apartment on the second floor at the corner of Central Park East and he quickly learned to make it across the corner plaza into the park. He loved the park. Loved walking in it, feeling the air on his face, enjoying the sounds of birds and insects as he sat on the park benches listening to the conversations of passersby. Sometimes they greeted him and he responded, but it was ephemeral contact and he yearned for something more tangible. He had lost touch with the baggage of his earlier life and he was lonely. He avoided the other blind people in the park. He suspected they avoided him too. A mutual unspoken agreement to stay out of each other’s way. They reminded each other of themselves, and Tim didn’t need reminding.

He felt around on the bench until he located his cane, then stood up and walked across the grass to the paved walkway, heading north, further into the park, feeling for the verge with his cane. His ears tuned in the different sounds of various passersby; the regular scrunch of purposeful feet, probably someone in the park for lunch and headed back to work, the soft whirr of an approaching bicycle, the stuttering buzz of the occasional skateboard. Tim knew them all, just as he knew most of the paths and byways in the park by now. Just ahead, a right turn onto a gravel path would take him up a small hill overlooking the conservatory water. There, a park bench faced west over the treetops, perfectly situated to catch the setting sun. He was still a few hours away from sunset however, and he planned to sit awhile and listen to the sound of the summer crickets and the chatter of birds arriving by the water below him.

The hill was steep but he took it briskly, anticipating the solitude at the top, striding out purposefully across the grass to where he knew the seat was located. Very few people came here. In all the time since finding this secluded nook, he had only encountered a couple of people, and they arrived to find him already established in the spot. From their voices, he figured they were couples looking for a hiding place. They were always surprised to see him, then apologetic when they noticed his cane. They always backed away, apologizing profusely, and Tim understood exactly why they were apologizing. He stayed silent, letting them retreat from the clearing and down the hill, leaving him alone with his thoughts and his little victory.

Today, his cane encountered something foreign as he felt for the edge of the seat. It felt soft and he rapped it harder with his cane, hearing a soft gasp in response.

A voice said, “Excuse me.”

There was someone already seated here. On his bench. He was confused and a little irritated. This had never happened before. “I beg your pardon,” he said, scrambling to regain his dignity. Then, with a note of exasperation in his voice, “You should have said something, you know. I can’t see you.”

“I know. I’m so sorry.” The voice was feminine. Youthful and vibrant, with a hint of humor. “I was so taken up with the way you came up the hill without using your cane that I forgot to make myself known. I do apologize.”

“That’s ok,” he said, although he didn’t feel okay. “It’s a great spot, and the setting sun is just perfect from here. Enjoy the view. I’ll be going now.”

“Oh, don’t go,” she was contrite now. “Please stay. You can share the seat with me.”

Tim hesitated. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist these days, but the voice intrigued him, and besides, he needed to stake his claim to the bench. This place. Otherwise, she might make it hers. “All right,” he said, feeling opposite her voice for the other end of the park bench.

Her sudden touch on his hand surprised him. Her grasp was gentle but firm and her touch tingled.

“Here, let me help you,” she said, guiding him with her hand on his arm.

He felt her other hand at his back, helping him to settle down in the corner of the seat. Her touch was comfortable, almost intimate and he felt regretful as she withdrew her hands and sat down opposite him. Nobody had touched him in a long while. Not like that anyway.

Get a grip, Tim, he thought as he struggled to compose himself. She was just being polite.

He shifted his position so that he was half facing her, or where he presumed she must be, and made an effort to be polite too.

It was no trouble at all.

The conversation flowed easily. He felt mesmerized, lulled by the sound of her voice, almost as if he was outside his body, observing himself in conversation with this stranger. Their conversation covered diverse topics, veering from the weather in New York to automobiles to travel to exploring and even horseback riding, which he had loved to do back at Honeoye Falls. The breadth of their shared interests seemed astounding and Tim, nowadays taciturn by nature, found himself animatedly discussing the merits of different kinds of honey in a slowly growing bubble of contentment, like drowning in a pool of molasses. For a while, he struggled to keep his head above the surface, but his charming companion seemed to know exactly what to say at exactly the right moment, and he gave up the effort to stay detached and went with the flow.

She was utterly enjoyable on so many different levels. Her voice, attentive, with a hint of laughter behind it, captivated him entirely. But he was also aware of her presence, the subtle perfume that she wore, a mixture of flowers and grasses perfectly appropriate to the setting and the time of year. And her touch. She kept touching his arm with her fingers to make a point, slim sensitive fingers that never pressed down or grasped, just brushed his forearm, almost accidentally. He found himself looking forward to those moments, leaning towards her to facilitate the contact.

In those times, he could feel her breath on his face, peppermint sweet, as if she had just finished a stick of gum. Maybe she had. Tim wanted to comment on how nice her breath smelled but thought it inappropriate. He wondered what she looked like. Wished he could see her, see what she was wearing, and for a while, the old anger at his injury flared up, but she blithely turned away his looming discontent, unaware she was doing so. It must have shown on his face. She commented on how expressive he was, and how his features changed when he became excited or involved with what he was saying or what she was saying. He didn’t realize the sun had sunk below the treetops until she shivered audibly and said it was getting cold. The hill was somewhat exposed and the wind off the water made the evenings sometimes chilly.

“I’m so sorry if I’ve kept you past your time in the park.” He mentally kicked himself for not being more attentive to the time and place, but he didn’t want this to end. Didn’t want the moment to end.

“Oh that’s no problem,” she said, “I live on the West side, and it’s just a short walk.” Her laughter was infectious. “Besides, there’s still enough light. Can you feel it?”

Tim could not, but he didn’t deny it. “Let me walk you to the park entrance,” he said, getting to his feet, hoping he’d bump into her by accident.

“That’s not necessary,” she protested. “I can find my way out of here easily. Let me get you down to the path.”

He insisted. It would be a long walk back through the park, but the thought of the imminent parting was suddenly painful. Surprisingly, she didn’t demur. She took his arm, slipping her hand between his elbow and his side in a gesture that seemed perfectly natural yet unbearably intimate. Tim was sublimely aware of her presence as they walked back down the hill together. She kept talking, describing little details for him as they went, their bodies leaning together, steps synchronized like old friends. They reached the West Gate far too quickly.

“Thank you,” he whispered as she disengaged her arm from his. “I enjoyed that very much.”

“Me too,” she said, then leaned closer and pressed her lips to his cheek. “Goodnight,” she whispered in his ear, then turned away.

He stood there a long time, listening to her receding footsteps, feeling like a ship adrift from its moorings. Before the sound faded entirely, he lifted his free hand and waved, hoping she had looked back. He didn’t know if she waved back. Then the sound of her was gone. Only the silence remained, rushing in to fill the void that she had occupied both physically and emotionally. The street sounds came back, the clip clop of horse’s hooves, a carriage passing by, going back to the stands on Central Park south. The blare of horns announced the impatience of drivers in a hurry to get home. He realized he needed to go home too.

He took the major park thoroughfare on his way back, walking briskly, replaying the past hours in his mind. He savored the best moments, luxuriating in the surfeit of his senses until he realized he didn’t have her name. He didn’t know who she was or if she would be back. Cursing himself, he turned around, walking a few paces before he realized the futility of his actions. He had no idea where she lived, or which way she had gone after she had left him, no idea if she came to the park frequently, no idea if he would ever see her again. The thought leeched all the good feeling out of him, and he walked the rest of the way home in a foul mood, cutting savagely at the edges of the road with his cane.

Waiting to cross the street back to his apartment, he put his hand into his pocket and discovered the coin he had found earlier was missing. It must have fallen out of his pocket on the hill. He felt irrationally disappointed by the loss and it soured him completely. He drank a fifth of scotch before going to bed but it did nothing for the hollow feeling in his stomach, and the gnawing thought that he had lost something precious.

That night the nightmares returned.

Bryan Knower 2014

Short short story post-

And The Day PassesAND THE DAY PASSES

The noonday sun scorched his bare head and perspiration trickled across Leon’s scalp, crawling inexorably towards his hairline. He scrubbed his sleeve across his forehead, catching beads of sweat just before they tumbled off his brow and fell into the bottom of his boat. The breeze was out of the northwest and the canvas shelter he had rigged to the cabin provided no shade. He looked at the meager catch in the bottom of his boat, trying to push down the feeling of despair creeping up over him. It was the third day with no major catch now, and he urgently needed something substantial to keep Martha going for the rest of the week
He tried not to think of Martha, lying sick in the little seaside cottage they called home. Even if he got back by early evening, it was an hour’s drive in the old Ford pickup to Puerto Vallejo, where he could sell his catch. The fancy restaurants there paid good money for the big table fish, but those fish were getting harder to find, especially for a lone operator like himself. The developers mushrooming along the once pristine beaches had polluted the bay, driving the big fish out into deeper waters. The ones he caught nowadays were scrawny and undersized. Not worth much on the market, and he was struggling.
In spite of the hardship, Leon liked the life. Lonely, but that suited him. He had come here with Martha twenty years ago to get away from city life and never regretted one moment of it until six months ago, until Martha’s illness. It was scary how she deteriorated before his eyes.
They went to the city to see the doctors, many of them. None of them could provide much comfort. Cancer, they said, and ordered all sorts of tests, keeping Martha confined to a small room, sedated and comatose. She hated the whole process, when she was aware of it, and soon she refused to continue. He agreed.
Six months, the doctors said. Maybe longer if they were allowed to treat her. But for what? A few more months of misery and pain?
So they loaded up on narcotics and drove back to Caravinho, Martha squeezing his hand all the way and the first month had been good again. The narcotics helped and Martha was pain free and full of laughter, like she had always been. But in the past few weeks, the pain came back, and with it the cramps. Leon hated it when he had to leave her in the mornings, motoring out gently past the moorings to head out past the bay looking for those elusive fish. One or two good days might let him stay home the rest of the week but the catch lining the bottom were nearly worthless. Not worth driving into Puerto Vallejo to sell. The restaurants were only interested in prize catch. This stuff was only good for the neighborhood diners, who did not pay. Also, he was not the only fisherman in the area feeling the pinch.
A sudden unreasoning rage swept through him and he kicked savagely at the glittering pile at his feet. Even the contact was insubstantial. They were too slippery to provide much of a target. A beep from his navigation unit caught his attention. He had reached the end of his daily circuit. Time to pull up the nets and see what he had caught. He throttled back and cut the power, turning the small boat into the swells so she would not swamp. Then he walked over to the winch, activating the mechanism that would raise the net, gather it and swing it aboard. The motor whined ground and brought up the gray skeins of nylon from the deep, the bottom bulging slightly with the fruit of his current efforts. Nothing looked substantial there, just more of the same he had brought up all morning.
Swinging the net into the boat, he lowered it to the floor, opening the beams of the winch so he could look into the net. Something bulky and brown, bigger that the rest of the struggling silvery mass caught his attention and he leaned over, hooking it out. It was an old battered suitcase, waterlogged and rotten, nearly falling apart in his hands. Intrigued, he placed it on the floor and pried the lid open. It came up easily, the locks tearing away from the rotted leather panels holding them. Inside was a small package wrapped in plastic, about the size of a paperback book and sealed with tape. It appeared watertight in spite of the state of its enclosure. Curious, he cut the sealing tape and stripped away the wrapping, revealing a small intricately carved box inlaid with many kinds of wood and shell.
Very pretty, he thought, as he stuck the tip of his knife under the lid and levered the box open.
Taken aback by what he saw, he nearly dropped the box. Putting it down carefully on the deck of the boat, he stared again. The contents glittered back at him, catching the refracted rays of the sun and throwing them back into his eyes; all the colors of the rainbow flashing in a prismatic kaleidoscope that dazzled him and made him blink. They were a small handful of beautiful scintillating stones, crystals that flared in the light and tumbled around gently in their bed of crumbling black velvet. All were cut and polished, radiant and glittering; a king’s ransom in the palm of his hand, delivered to him in his need. He looked at the gems for a long time, trying to discern their story, but they glimmered on inscrutably, bright and hard in the sunlight, their secrets trapped like the rays of light imprisoned in their faceted bodies.
He did not wait to roll up the nets as he normally did. Stuffing the gems into his pocket, he swung the boat around, gunning the motor as he sped back to the shore. He felt filled to the bursting with excitement, anticipating breaking this wonderful news to Martha. They could afford all those experimental treatments now; the one the specialist doctors offered; the ones costing so much money. In fifteen minutes, he was back at the little jetty in front of their house, scarcely aware of navigating the shoals at the head of the bay. Leaping out onto the wooden dock, he ran towards the front door, calling out Martha’s name.
It was only a few hundred yards to the door, but long before he reached it, Leon felt something amiss. He felt it in his bones, in the oppressive stillness that seemed to surround the little cottage. The door was open, as it always was, and he pushed through, blinking as his eyes adjusted from the bright sunlight outside to the dimness of the interior. Martha lay in her usual spot, stretched out on the cot under the window where she could watch the seagulls swoop down as they scavenged for food. She always turned to greet him, no matter how weak she was but now she did not move. Leon hurried to her side, his heart growing heavier as he approached.
Martha looked asleep, her face turned towards the sunlight. All the lines had disappeared from her features, as if the care and pain of the past weeks had suddenly left her body. As indeed, they had. She was not breathing. He took her hand in his, fumbling for her pulse, feeling her skin still warm under his touch. There was not even a flutter, although Leon stood there for long minutes, concentrating. Martha had left him. Gone while he was out on the water. Alone at her passing.
Leon broke down then, weeping and wailing in his grief. Then he lashed out with his fists and feet at everything in the cottage, venting his grief in anger. He raged for hours, pacing around the little room, screaming at everything and nothing, until the westering sun began to redden the interior of the room, giving Martha’s pale cheeks a last lingering blush. He paused then, drained and spent, and walked out of the cottage, back towards the beach and the water, which a short time ago had held out so much promise.
He stood at the water’s edge a long time, staring at the water as the sun sank in a flaming ball below the horizon and the afterglow painted infinite reflecting pathways on the darkening billows. The waves rolled endlessly towards him, breaking on the submerged rock mounts inside the mouth of the bay and marching with diminishing intensity to dissipate in froth at his feet. He could feel his former life slipping away with the eddies of the breakers, the shell of his world falling aside like a peeled plum, leaving him raw and bleeding, exposed to the universe. He groped in his pocket and brought out the handful of gems that had seemed the panacea to all his ills a few hours ago. In the fading twilight, the stones had lost much of their luster. They lay dull and quiescent in his palm, their inner fire extinguished.
He should go back inside, prepare for tomorrow, but he lingered. If he stayed where he was, stayed still, time might stand still too. Tomorrow could wait; a small delay in the inevitable of the darkening present.

MicroFiction #09

MicroFictionBAD ENDING (96 words)

Eddie only saw the bag because he sat on the park bench. He was alone, so he nudged the bag out with his foot and opened it.
The stacks of currency inside made him giddy. Savoring his fortune he dug deeper, feeling something under the bills. A gun!
This changed everything. Scared, he closed the bag just as two men turned the corner in the distance. They saw him, saw the bag in his hand and began to run towards him, making no sound. One drew a weapon.
Eddie ran, knowing it was already too late.

Short short story post-

shortstory2WHITE ROOM

A man in a white lab coat pushes a steel cart down a white painted corridor, his feet making no sound on the dark grey industrial carpeting. The cart has two large trays. One of them holds covered steel containers that steam gently. The other tray is open, filled an assortment of medications, syringes and bottles of all sizes. Doors, painted white, stand closed at regular intervals. The man passes them all, going down to the end of the corridor, which ends in another door, also white and also closed. On the door a small metal frame holds a cardboard tag that reads Holmes, David. The man pauses at the door and fumbles in the pocket of his coat, fitting a large key into the lock.

***

David Holmes squeezes the white pebbled stone parapet hard, his grip so tight that the muscles under his skin ripple with the tension. He has powerful athletic arms; the muscles defined and curved under sunburned skin. He looks out over the low balustrade towards white flecked breakers flopping over lazily on the shore below. A vagrant breeze lifts a lock of his hair and whips it across his face. Absently he raises one hand and pushes the errant strand back into place, keeping his eyes fixed on the surf below. A single wisp of cloud hovers overhead in an otherwise azure sky and he smiles as his eye catches the glitter of the noonday sun on the rising crest of a breaker. It’s a perfect day on Hidden Cove Bay. Perfect for sailing. He relishes the prospect, imagining the feel of the wind whipping his hair into a tangle and hear the crack of the canvas sails as they gather the breeze.
Sailing is David’s passion, the only time he really feels alive. He loves the motion of the waves rocking the planks beneath his feet, the salty taste of spray on his lips, yelling nonsensical pirate phrases into the wind knowing no one can hear him. Sometimes he drops anchor in the middle of the bay, strips of his clothes and lies naked on the deck, luxuriating in the warmth of the sun on his skin, feeling the sweat pop out on his brow, the red haze hot against his eyelids as his upturned face catches the sun’s oblique rays.
Maybe today he’ll go swimming instead. The water looks inviting; deep turquoise blue, sprinkled with shimmering translucent wavelets that break up and catch the sunlight in endless tiny fragments. The motion of the waves is hypnotic, lulling him into a trance. His mind reels in a well worn memory.
Once, floating on his back a hundred yards from his boat, a flying sailfish, Parexocoetus brachypterus, flew right over him, fins spread, leaping over him like an inconsequential hurdle, the diamond like shards of its watery wake creating a rainbow of refracted colors through his half closed eyelids. He turned over then, rolling on the surface, trying to follow the path of the fish as it re-entered the water, but it was too fast for him. All he saw were the shadows of the wave ripples on the sea floor. It was August, the water so clear he could to see all the way to the bottom, almost forty five feet below; everything enhanced and clarified by the light, making the water so transparent he felt as if he was lying on a pane of glass.
Right now, his mouth feels dry. His body is sticky, remembering the liquid coolness; the sensuous embrace, like a lover, like being in a warm fluid cocoon, welcoming him in, arousing his lust, stroking him with the feathery touch of vagrant breezes on his skin. The water calls him with an indefinable urge, a visceral yearning his body responds to on a molecular level.
Today he must stay longer. He is tired of this place, trapped in this building even though it affords him a daily view of the sea he loves.

***

The sound of a key grating in the lock intrudes upon the stillness of the room, and a stark white door swings inwards to rest against an equally stark white wall. The room’s decor is Spartan, almost minimalist. Everything is white, from the linens to the furniture, unrelieved by even a picture on the wall. The man in the white lab coat enters, wheeling a steel cart loaded with two trays. One of them holds covered steel containers that steam gently. The other tray is open, filled an assortment of medications, syringes and bottles of all sizes.
Sunlight streams in through open French doors, the intensity of the light washing out any color in the room. The French doors open out onto a broad uncovered balcony where a hunched form is visible, leaning forward in a wheelchair, hands gripping the balustrade. A blanket covers the occupant’s thighs but beneath the edge of the fabric a pair of withered uncovered legs are visible. A flicker of sympathy crosses the lab coated man’s face as he notices the faraway expression on the patient’s face. David Holmes was a champion sailor once, but he will never walk again.
“Hello David,” he says, gently breaking into the others reverie. “Thinking of the sea again? It’s time for your medicine, you know.”

I have a new free story on Smashwords

A free ebook by Bryan Knower

A free ebook by Bryan Knower

I have a new short story, Improvised Explosive Device, up on Smashwords for free. It’s about 1800 words and is an odd little tale set in the background of the Iraq war. Some of you may already have seen this via my now defunct newsletter, but I’d appreciate a click through. Doesn’t cost a thing 🙂

Click the book image to the left to go to Smashwords and download your copy.