We woke that last morning, broke, in the Amsterdam train station, warm under our small blanket, our backpacks as pillows. We sat up and smoked cigarettes, watching the trains and the people
“It’ll be different,” she said. “Once we get back.”
“Yes,” I said. “Different.”
“We’ll eat slower. No more fast food.”
“Yes. Fresh baguettes. No more Wonder Bread.”
“And long walks, every day. Don’t you think?”
She smiled, her eyes still swollen from sleep, and I remembered us walking along the Seine together, holding hands, past the sunbathers and artists, happy, an ocean between us and home.
After my wife and business partner murdered me, I persuaded God to grant me three wishes.
“Hey, God. Let me be present at my viewing.”
“Oh, alright,” He said. “First wish granted.”
As my business partner hovered over my lifeless body, I said,
“Hey, God. Make him impotent.”
My wife hovered next. “Hey, God. Early menopause for her.”
“God, I feel bad. Grant my wife one wish.”
“That’s nice. Okay.”
“I wish that bastard was alive so I could kill him again,” she said.
After twenty years of marriage, I knew just what she was thinking.
Was that it? I looked up at him. There was sweaty, glistening dew on his brow, to which one of his curly, dark brown locks stuck to. I lovingly reached up and moved it aside.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“Sore … but a good sore,” I replied.
He lay down next to me. He put his arm around me and I laid my head on his chest. I could still hear the rapid beats of his heart. He ran his fingers through my hair. I soon forgot the pain as giddiness rose through me. Here I was truly happy.
Another hot day in the sun, the sky was clear, not a breeze blowing. I gathered my gear, my hat, my vest. Old Sal didn’t want to come today, she just sat on the porch. I whistled for her but she sat still. I started off to the lake, smiling about. I began to hum a tune. I couldn’t place where I’d heard it. It skipped along in my head as I sauntered on down the path. Then, of course, I remembered, it’s the same one my Granddad used to sing while we sat on the dock of the lake.
The first light of morning comes in through open balcony doors. A man and woman are lying in bed, beneath a slowly turning ceiling fan.
“I like being the back spoon,” she says.
“Thanks for coming back to bed.”
“I looked in the mirror. Pink cheeks! And I put sunscreen all over.”
“Good – you could get toasted your first day in the sun without clothes.” He starts to roll out of bed but she pulls him back.
“Hey, I’ll be right back.”
“Okay, but hurry. I want to be wearing a smile for breakfast.”
“Ham and eggs?”
“Sunny side up.”
-Edwin M. Kelley
The clockwork cat ticks down the alleyway in a measured trot, stopping to purchase a whiff of stale city air mixed with intoxicating perfumes of dumpster and dander. A rat taps scuttling claws against the seam of a wall, burrowing without pause or cause. Delighted with such a plump aspect, the clockwork cat contrives his artful leaping arc with precise degrees of inclination and ascension. Two steps back, to scrunch and tuck, he waits and anticipates the proper celestial moment. The feline springs, but in midair, halts. Fate, also bound to the chimes of time, opens the side alley door.
It was the Fourth of July weekend. It was supposed to be a happy time. It wasn’t her fault. She needs to keep saying that to herself. I keep telling her the same thing. It was an accident. It wasn’t her fault. The car had a blow out. She lost control. It tumbled and rolled. It was nobody’s fault. They were heading up to the lake to visit with the family. She looked over at him and he lay still, turned away. She was pulled from the car. She didn’t have a scratch on her. His little eyes were shut.
The circus was in full swing, and I was knocking them dead with my act.
“One chicken, two chicken, three chicken, four, I bite your head off and spit it on the floor.” The chicken twitched and ran in circles, and the crowd applauded politely.
“Hey, you geek,” a heckler yelled. “I’m with PETA. You can’t do that. I’m going to sue you.”
“Hey PETA,” someone else yelled. “I’m with the ACLU. He has a right to work. We’ll countersue.”
“Hey, PETA. Hey, ACLU. Shut the hell up and let me do my job,” I said.
The ovation was deafening.
From the moment I picked up Amber for a “dinner and movie” date, my goal was to sabotage dinner and ensure the movie portion would never take place. Upon entering the restaurant, I asked for a table that would seat eight so I could feed my imaginary friends. During the course of the meal, I spoke in pig Latin, tried to auction off my date, discussed my seven wives in Utah, licked my plate and offered to lick hers. At the conclusion of the meal, I asked Amber how much money she had with her. She left in a cab.
“Do you ever miss it?”
She took a cigarette out of her bag at her feet. “Miss what?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
“So? Do you expect an answer?”
“Usually when you ask a question … “
We talked about the past – when we could smell the beach in the distance. Sometimes late at night I would dig up my dusty old guitar and think of her. Sometimes, early in the morning, I woke up and wondered where she was. The strum of a guitar could bring tears to my eyes, and I could almost remember when she was innocent.