A boy, just about nineteen, t-shirt and jeans and sneakers, looks through the window of a diner. Sees the girl for him. She’s a waitress ’bout six foot tall. And blonde. Then again her hair’s not blonde but white. As white as a white washed fence. She looks up from the order she’s taking and sees him gazing at her. He turns away from the window. She is not for him. Just not for him. They never are. The girls, that is. So he returns to his walking the late night streets of the city. Under a bridge and down an alleyway he walks, thinking of nothing in particular. The girl in the restaurant comes to mind. But she’s not for him. What would she see in him? After all, he’s got a broken nose and freckles sprinkled all over his face and his red hair. Every one saying he’s an ugly he beats to a pulp. They’re not saying it anymore. But he knows he is what they would be saying if they were not afraid. The night keeps his face out of the light. So she’s not for him. And he’s walking down the Not-for-him Street. “He’s nothing but trouble,” his dad has been saying for years and years. His mom not saying it, but she’s thinking he is. He is hiding out in the nighttime streets of the city where anyone can hide from his fears and his loneliness. So what if she’s not for him. How’s he ever going to know if he don’t turn around and go. Back to the diner and the girl with white hair he saw in the light through the window. So he sheds himself and heads on back to the maybe-it’s-possible in a diner off the main street of the city. On he walks, walking off the tough, shedding his fear, ready to give loneliness the old t.k.o. He trudges on but maybe she’s really not for him. How’s he ever gonna know if he don’t go ask. His dirty sneakers and blue jeans and t-shirt find their way back at the diner just as the night turns off and it’s just about daybreak. She’s getting off her shift and she’s just leaving the diner when he rounds the corner and she’s sees him coming to her. But he’ll pass her by. One thing for sure. He’s not for her. He’s not for her.
April is National Poetry Month. Here’s a story to celebrate the month.
The first class of the second semester of American history was filling with college students and would be full soon. Michael’s eyes slowly looked around the classroom. A few faces he knew, but most he did not. There was one in particular he’d never seen before. Across the room in the corner was a blonde, an older student in her early thirties like himself. She had a pony tail and an orange sweater. When class was over, she gathered up her things and left quickly.
The next time he saw her in the class she wore green. Her hair hung loose and fell to her waist. She sat in the same corner alone and away from her nearest classmate. On her desk, her laptop and her books walled her against any intrusion from her fellow students.
After the class, he overcame his hesitation and walked over to her. She was pushing her laptop into her backpack. “Do you come here often?” Michael asked, pouring what little charm he could muster into his words.
She gave him a look that said she didn’t much care for his charm, then she said, “Not sure if I do, but my hair does. ”
Not able to come up with an entertaining comeback, Michael said nothing. His eyes followed her as she rushed out into the hallway. His mind raced for a way to stop her and engage her in a conversation. He had nothing. This was not a good way to start off a relationship with a woman he wanted to have a relationship with. Not a good way at all. This wasn’t even a good way to keep one going. Hopefully he would come up with something next time that gave him a half-ass chance.
The next time he walked into the class late. There she was over in the corner in her usual place, her laptop open, her books stacked on the desk. She typed fast on the keyboard. He dropped into the chair at the desk beside hers. She glanced over at him and gave him a leave-me-alone look. Her eyes matched the blue of her dress, then they went back to her laptop screen.
At the end of the class, he leaned over toward her, parted her books and asked, “Would you like to go dancing?”
She showed him her ring. “I have a husband.”
“We can take him along with us. He might even learn a few new dance steps. I’ve been told I’m a good teacher.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Before he could come up with something for that comment, she was gone.
When he saw her again in class, he sat at the desk next to her again. Asked, “Just coffee then?” She was in her orange cashmere, her hair in its pony tail.
“Coffee always leads to sex,” she answered.
“Then don’t take your coffee with cream or sugar.”
“I only drink it black.” She opened her laptop cover.
“Never heard of black coffee leading to sex.”
“Now you have,” then she went to her notes. But this time she smiled.
At the end of the class, she turned to Michael. “You like my hair?” she asked.
“That settles it. I’m cutting it and dying it green.” She seemed to be enjoying herself.
“Can I show you some trees?” he asked.
“What would you want to do that for?” she asked.
“So you’ll know what color green to dye your hair. You can tell from the leaves. Besides I like trees.”
She sighed the kind of sigh that said that she might enjoy the trees. She packed up her laptop, then said, “Let’s go. And no tricks. I’m on to you. Understand?”
“I thought you were,” he said, following her out of the classroom.
Walking out onto the campus lawn, he pulled up beside her and said,”We could be soul mates, you know.”
“I’m afraid not. My last three soul mates I killed off. And I don’t want to be guilty for a fourth death. I’m like Maggie on ‘Northern Exposure’. Guess that’s why they call me Maggie.”
Michael had a name for her now. “I’m Michael.”
A few days later, she was not in the classroom when he arrived. He went to their corner, unpacked his laptop and summoned up his notes for the class. The professor arrived and took his place at the podium.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have some news,” he began. “Maggie Street, one of our students, will not be with us today. She is in the hospital. The police are holding her husband for questioning.”
A stunned silence swept through the class.
“It’s pretty clear what happened. Her husband came home last night. Took out a .45. Walked into the house. Shot her in the head. She’s in a pretty bad shape. Not sure if she will live or die. Give her your prayers if you do that sort of thing. Otherwise send some good thoughts her way.”
For the next week, Michael waited in the waiting room in the hospital everyday after class. Late in the week just before visiting hours were over, a woman in her late fifties walked over to him. Her hair was gray. “I’m Adele.” She offered him her hand.
He stood up, took her hand and said, “I’m Michael.”
“You know my daughter, Maggie?” she asked.
“I do. We are in the same class together.”
“Thank you for coming. I’ve seen you here every day for the last seven days.”
“How is she?” he asked.
“She woke up hungry as a bear this morning. The doctor says she will be fine.”
Michael went to say something, then stopped himself.
“She has no brain damage, thank God,” the woman continued. “With a lot of work, she will be back to normal. At least that is what the doctors say. It’s a miracle.”
Michael breathed his relief.
“Would you like to see her?”
“No,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure…you know, that she was going to be okay.”
“Well, she is. And thank you,” Maggie’s mother released his hand. “I have to get back to her.”
That night alone in his tiny apartment Michael wrote a poem, the first he’d written in a long time. He wrote:
“I dropped the poems into my bag.
They were Neruda, and only Neruda.
I went to show them to you,
but could not. I could not.
When I see your face,
I think Neruda.
When I see your hair, your lovely hair,
I think Neruda.
For you are the summation of a poem,
of all the poems of Pablo Neruda,
and only Neruda.
When I first laid eyes upon you,
it was like my first kiss.
It was as if I was reading
Neruda for the first time.”
This one is for Valentine’s Day and all the true believers in love and romance.
When I was in college, I had the Experience, or should I say the Experience had me. She was twenty-two and I was nineteen. She was studying for her masters in anthropology but her real major was adventure.
I was at a party some of my friends had given. She shimmered in, a warm glow flowing into the room. As she made her way toward me, it was as if a moon beam was falling toward a lake. I knew how the lake must feel, waiting in anticipation. Suddenly there she was, telling me her name. It was Hemingway. It wasn’t that her father liked the writer. Her mother just liked the name.
I was head over the precipice, my heels unable to hold me to the ground. We talked for a bit. Then we left, her magic leading me onward the way that Tinkerbell must’ve led Peter to Never Never that first time when he longed to stay a boy forever. We went out that door and stood in the middle of the street kissing for a half hour under the full moon. Right there and then I understood why that Prince went in search of Cinderella though he had only her one shoe by which to find her. How could he have not?
Over the next twenty days my life was filled with life. We were inseparable. We went sailing, canoeing, kayaking and surfing. She even got me to parachute out of a plane. But the scariest time was when she took me hang-gliding. During the day we did a new something-or-other that she had always wanted to do. At night we made love, sometimes wild and passionate, other times tender. It was as if heaven had somehow come down to earth and surrounded us with all its wonder.
Then she was gone. I woke up in the bed in my apartment early on the day after Valentine’s. I turned over toward her to kiss her a good day, a smile on my face. I was the luckiest man on earth. But, instead of her dark brown hair with even darker brown eyes, I saw a note.
Thank you, Trent, for all the wonder. It has been a grand adventure these past weeks. I love you but this can’t go on. I can’t take anymore of this happiness. When I met you that night, it was to be the last night of my life. It was only an accident that I came there. A friend had called me up at the last minute and asked me to come. I was about to end my life when I walked through that door and saw you, the most beautiful face I had ever seen. There was so much magic in it. I could never have imagined how beautiful life could be. But now I know and I thank you for what you gave me. Hem.
I searched for her but never saw her again. After a year of dead-ends I finally gave up. It was then that I realized that Happily Ever Afters don’t exist. But fairy tales do.
Friendships had never been easy to come by for Jane. Then she met Eleanor Whitaker. It was a Wednesday and she was late for work. She barely caught the bus. The bus was already packed with only one seat left. That was beside a white haired elderly woman wearing a white cashmere sweater.
“Would you like to join me?” the woman suggested.
Jane nodded yes and took the seat. “I’m late for work,” she said, still trying to catch her breath.”
“I used to hate that. I lost a lot of jobs being late for work.” Jane wasn’t in the mood for talking. The woman was. “I don’t have to do that anymore. I’m retired.”
Jane looked at the woman. “Yes,” then she went back to what she was thinking. How she was going to have to finagle her way with her boss?
“You know what I finally did to prevent getting fired,” the woman said.
Not really curious but trying to shut her up, Jane shook her head and turned away from the woman.
“I cast a spell,” the woman said.
Now curious, Jane turned back to the woman. “Did it work?”
“Did it ever? And it was my first one too.”
Short Story Prompt: “Twilight of the Superheroes” by Deboarh Eisenberg
Y2K. You remember it, don’t you? I know I do. It was before all sorts of hell broke out in the twenty-first century.
One moment, December 31, 1999 at 23:59:59, everything’s a-okay. Next, January 1, 2000 at 00:00:01, it’s not.
At 11:59:59 pm, you’re kissing your wife of thirty years. Then click, the clock turns to midnight, and you were kissing a stranger. She looked the same, sure. She had the same voice, sure. But she was not the kisser your wife was before midnight. Not by a long shot. She was a stranger.
Most of you didn’t try to find out what happened. You were afraid that you might be going over to the dark side or losing your mind. Or maybe you were just afraid. Some of you did ask, “Did this happen to you?” When asked, most people looked at you a little strange. But there were a few that admitted it. Yes, they felt that it did.
The thing is that it happened to almost half of the earth’s population, to both the 99% and the 1%. You would have thought that it would have been on the news since it happened to so many. It wasn’t. Most wanted to ignore it and get on with their lives. They accepted that maybe, just maybe, it was they who were the ones that were off.
Of course, there were those who thought it was a religious experience. That indeed the Messiah had come to claim his people and you weren’t one of them. That Jesus had returned. That Krishna made an appearance.
So what really happened? Were you on drugs or was that a bad case of Hawaiian punch you drank? Or was it the Rapture and you got stuck with some sinner-replacement for that lovely lady you’d fallen in love with at eighteen?
Well, Uncle Bardie has news for you. Now I must tell each and everyone of you that it is a secret, and that is secret with a capital CRET. And, yes, a little se. That’s shhhhh in some language. I am not sure which. So please, oh, pretty please with sugar on it, keep it on the q.t,
I spent a couple of days in the 24th dimension last night and I narrowly escaped. But here I am to reveal the Revelation. To give you the Inside Dope. Are you ready? Of course, you are ready, You wouldn’t be reading this far if you weren’t.
It’s The Immortals. Yep, them guys. Or should I say Guys. You see, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Even further than Darth Vadar Land and the Death Star, it was at the Beginning. Yes, that Beginning. Big Bang and All. At that moment before wrist watches and cuckoo clocks and Big Bens and atomic clocks and grandfather clocks. Even before sun dials. At that moment, The Immortals worried.
What did They worry about? Being immortal, The Immortals worried that they would become extremely bored. There would be a sameness to things. People born. People die. And that was all. They thought about the Sims. You know how you put the Sims on cruise control. You come back a month or so later, they are Sims doing Sims things. They are not doing Halo things or Minecraft things. They are doing Sims things. They are doing exactly the same things they did when you put them on cruise. We all know how boring that can be.
Well, that was what The Immortals were facing. Since this was well before Halo and World of Warcraft and Mine Craft, they had to think outside the Box. They put their Immortal heads together and they thunk and they thunk. Immortals do that a lot. Finally they had a plan. We could call it Plan 9 from Outer Space but I think that has been taken.
So here was The Plan. Once every millennium, millennium is Latin for millennium, you know, once every millennium, they would create a fluctuation in the Time Continuum. As each new millennium comes into existence at 00:00:00, half the souls on earth are zapped from their bodies. They are frozen in limbo for a millennium. Those souls are replaced by souls from a previous millennium. Since the new millennium may need more souls than those of a previous millennium, souls are split into multiples. So you may end up with a partner who is a piece of Cleopatra soul. And it might not even be the sexy Cleo you get. You may get the bossy Cleo, or the suicidal Cleo. Or even worse. The Cleo who likes to play with snakes. I don’t know about you but I don’t care much for snakes.
So there you have it. One moment you’re with your best bud, Al, and the next you’re with Genghis Khan. He wants to rape and pillage, pillage and rape something bad. And you know what that spells. The Music Man said it best. “It spells trouble. That starts with t and rhymes with p and that stands for pool.”
So get out your pool cue. It could be a very long millennium.