Friday, November 30, 2012

Julio

Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 6:00 p.m., November 29th, 2012

“They’ll make you look so handsome. So trendy!” Before he could object, Anita pulled the only pair of glasses he’d owned for ten years off his face and snapped them in half. Then she shoved the new pair on, adjusting their frames with her too-long fake fingernails. “Now they’ll see you as up-to-date! Not just some old man,” she said. “No more rejection for you.”

How could more rejection hurt him? Julio had already rejected himself, and the new glasses certainly didn’t give him any confidence. He bowed his balding, egg-shaped head towards his egg-shaped body in shame. The frames were a little too round to be egg-shaped, and thick. Bulky. It was not a flattering combination. They sat heavy and wrong on his nose. They weighed him down like his failure.

Julio knew what the interviewers would see: a pathetic old man trying to look young and making a terrible mess of it. He might even look sleazy, like someone that tries to sleep with women half his age. (Not that he looked like he might succeed in sleeping with women half his age.) Anita thought she was helping him, but Julio knew he was past help. He didn’t have the tech-savviness to be hired. He didn’t have the advanced degree. He didn’t have the restless ambition of youth. No glasses could save him now.

Remember how I said the word count of my novel would go up and up and up? I started editing the chapters I already have last night, and the word count actually went down. I suppose that's a good thing, though. Kill ALL the word puppies.

I assume lots of you like geeky things. Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Firefly, etc. For all your Holiday season gift needs, you should check out Leta's Etsy store Um What So Rad! She has geeky mugs of all varieties. However, she is going on vacation tomorrow, so if you want your mug shipped by Christmas you have to order TODAY. Go. Do it now! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Edwin

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:20 a.m.

“Do you see that cemetery?”

The boy stopped staring at his feet and looked up at the strange old man who had asked the question. His chin was tucked close to his chest. His face sagged, but he had a good amount of hair for someone his age. His tie was flipped over backwards.

“Me?”

“Yes, you! Who else would I be talking to? You see that cemetery?”

It was difficult to not see the cemetery. It was huge. “Yep.”

The old man leaned closer, as if he were about to confide a dark secret. “I live on the other side of that cemetery.”

He must be senile or something. “Oh. Nice.”

“When was the Great Chicago Fire?”

The boy thought for a second. He was never good with dates. “I dunno. Like the 1790’s or something?”

The man’s bushy eyebrows rose with incredulity. “No, boy! Chicago wasn’t even founded until the 1800’s.”

“Oh…maybe 1876? 1876 sounds familiar.”

“Much closer. It was 1871. You know, Chicago proper didn’t used to go much further north than Fullerton. So these cemeteries used to be outside the city. Which makes sense, when you think about it.”

“Yeah, I guess. Don’t want the dead inside your city walls.” The boy thought that the old man didn’t belong inside the city either. Downtown was too modern, too busy. The old man wasn’t dead, obviously, but he was a relic from another time. The boy could picture him living in the cemetery, drinking from the little mossy ponds, sleeping inside a decrepit mausoleum. “Huh. I didn’t know that. Thanks.”

The old man placed his veiny hand on the boy’s shoulder. “My pleasure. I’m Edwin, if you ever need me.”

“Right. Edwin.” Oddly, the boy felt like he just might need Edwin in the future. He decided to keep the name of the doddering historian in mind.

Went to trivia last night. It was fun, but now I am quite tired as a consequence. Rule of Trivia: Don't Overthink Pearl Jam. It's a good piece of advice. You can't go wrong.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brian

Seen waiting for the Red Line to 95th at about 8:20 a.m.

They weren’t supposed to happen at all, you see. The doctors told Mary that nothing could grow inside her. The doctors told me that I was shooting blanks. We used to hold hands and smile sadly at each other. “What luck!” one of us would say. “That’s just like us, to both be messed up,” the other would reply. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so painful, if we hadn’t felt so worthless. “Well, at least we have each other,” one of us would say, and then our hearts would break all over again, simultaneously.

That summer I took Mary on vacation to California. I thought it would help to get our minds off it. We strolled through Venice Beach, gawking at the street performers with their giant snakes, and their fiery hula hoops, and their body glitter. There was an old woman sitting on a bench reading palms. She was bundled in scarves and several layers of skirts, and large baubles dangled from her earlobes; she was the very stereotype of a sideshow fortune teller, missing only a dimly-lit tent and a crystal ball. It was a total rip-off—ten dollars per palm—but Mary insisted.

Mary held out her hand, and the old crone dragged her dirty fingernails along the lines that I so loved to kiss. When the woman spoke, her breath smelled of garlic. “You are a lucky girl, my dear. Your greatest wish will soon be fulfilled.” Mary looked up at me, a hope glistening in her eyes that I hadn’t seen in years. Before I could object, the hag snatched my wrist and twisted it towards her. After staring for a moment, her face grew grim. “You don’t know what you want. You think you do, but you don’t.” I tugged my hand away from her and put my arm around Mary’s waist. “Right, right. ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ I get it. If you think you’re getting another ten dollars out of me, you’re crazy,” I told her. We walked off to get some ice cream, and Mary scolded me for being so mean.

As it happened, the old woman was perfectly correct on both counts. A few months later, Mary went to the doctor. She came home with a present for me—a little black and white picture showing not one, but two tiny lumps. She sat on my lap and kissed me. “It’s a miracle, Brian! It’s what we’ve always wanted.” I didn’t know what to say, so I downed the rest of my wine and brought her up to bed.

Davey and Dale are six years old now. Six years old and I’ve never learned to love them. I’m not a bad father—they’re my children, and I do my duty towards them. But everything went wrong when they came along. I took a job I didn’t want so we could afford a nice house. Mary quit her job to take care of her precious twins. They’re all she talks about. She got fat. I don’t mean to be shallow, but she did. I’m not holding up too well, either. My hair gets whiter every year. That would probably happen anyway, but I feel like it only started when they were born. I can’t help correlating the two. They’re so rambunctious, and curious, and messy, and they never stop. They never stop. I can’t remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep.

When I think back on that day at the doctor’s office, when he told me I couldn’t have kids, I feel nostalgic. When one of the twins grabs my hand and calls me daddy, I feel nothing. Regret, maybe.

Sad story. Sorry about that. It happens. Had fun playing video games at Ben's last night. And now that all my grad school applications are in, I CAN START WORKING ON MY NOVEL AGAIN! Hooray! Watch that word count, people, because soon it's going to go up and up and up. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

La Fuega

Seen waiting for the Red Line to Howard at about 7:45 a.m.

La Fuega woke up in her chilly apartment, steam billowing off her red hair and red cheeks. She sighed as she stretched, and little tongues of flame lashed out from between her red lips. She slipped on a comically threadbare robe—it was purely for modesty, not warmth—and shuffled over to her calendar. “3 p.m.” she said to no one in particular. “3 p.m.” Her voice was quivery with anticipation.

Today La Fuega (Tabitha to her friends) would officially be inducted into CAPES. She would finally belong to an organization where she could do some good with her freakish mutation. All her life it had been a problem. Her mother died giving birth to her; when Tabitha emerged squealing from between her legs, her mother’s temperature spiked to 110 degrees. Before she had learned to control her heat, Tabitha frequently burned holes in her clothing, the upholstery, the carpet. She set her childhood home on fire twice. When she kissed her first boyfriend, she scorched his tongue right off.

Once she tried to commit suicide, but the noose she made burst into flame and dropped her, dejected, to the ground. The cursed torch that burned within her ribcage wouldn’t let her die.

Everything changed one cold evening a few weeks ago. Tabitha had been walking back from the grocery store when she heard crying. She lifted the lid of the nearest dumpster and found a wailing baby boy. This baby hadn’t killed his mother; his mother had tried to kill him. And he certainly couldn’t keep himself warm. Tabitha set her groceries down and scooped up the infant. She wrapped her arms tightly around him, and brushed his forehead with a kiss. She rocked him back and forth, fire pulsing through her veins.

“Well that’s certainly an interesting way to help the kid.”

Tabitha turned to find a thin man with a thin face staring at her. “I don’t know what you mean.”

He grinned. “Oh, come on. I’ve never seen anyone burn as bright as you.”

Tabitha almost dropped the baby. “How the hell do you know that?”

“You’re not the only one with a gift. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the Great Seer.”

“Right. Because that’s a name.”

“Can’t give away my real identity. That’s not how superheroes roll. You know, you could do a lot of great things in this city with a talent like that. Especially during our miserable winters.”

Tabitha blinked and shifted the child, who was sleeping soundly. “Superheroes. Superheroes?”

The Great Seer picked up her groceries. “Look, you’re going to have to take that kid to a police station or a hospital at some point. Let me walk with you and I’ll explain everything.”

Because she didn’t know what else to do with her life, she agreed.

Now Tabitha was finally happy. Now she had a purpose. She was La Fuega, and she was not a freak, not a nuisance, but a hero.



Another CAPES story! Dedicated, as always to the lovely Leta, since they are her favorites. If you want to read more stories about the Chicago Avengers & Protection Encouragement Society, just follow the CAPES tag. And if any of you think La Fuega is too close to the villain Solaris from this story, you are wrong! Solaris is full of radiation. La Fuega is full of literal fire.

Guess what? In just a little bit, I am going to head to the post office. There I will send off the rest of my paper grad school applications, and then I will be OFFICIALLY DONE APPLYING! Then I'll just have the long wait for an answer to deal with, but at least I have the holidays and my birthday to distract me. This evening I will celebrate by playing zombie video games and eating pizza with Ben. Because I'm a mature adult. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Archaeological Dig of a Memory

Seen on the Metra Train to Evanston at about 8:15 a.m.

The ghosts of their fingertips linger on the frosty windows. The roar of the train is loud, but their silence is louder. Oily sweat, strands of hair are smeared on the orange naugahyde seats. So many artifacts of a commuter civilization long since departed.

Today's story/prose poem is crazy short because there was nobody else in my Metra car. Except my dad, of course, but I can't very well pretend to know him, seeing as I've known him my whole life. You know how it is. I used the word "naugahyde" because my dad said that was the material the train seats were made of. When I looked it up at work, though, I discovered that naugahyde is actually just a brand of fake leather. Still, I liked the word, so I kept it. My apologies to Metra if their seats are not truly made of naugahyde.

I hope you all had a lovely and delicious Thanksgiving. Mine was very nice. I went on a grad school applications submissions binge, so all my electronic applications are finally complete! I just have to send in a few more paper copies of things, and I am FINISHED. Then there's just the waiting...