A Belly Full – short story

Alex was tired of cold feet, sleeping in the van with the cat, and constantly moving across country.

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Alex, a bartender with an attitude, strode into the local restaurant. No one noticed. The old geezers at the counter recognized the sound of those big old city boots and grunted. They read the paper. Drank black coffee with two sugars. Ate eggs on toast. The usual. Not that Alex would know. Or care. Alex did not like living in Hot Springs, Wyoming. Not one bit. And no one noticed.

Life sucked when you were an itenerant bartender, driving across the States, following the seasons, the snow in this case, soon to become the sun. Alex was tired of cold feet, sleeping in the van with the cat, and constantly moving across country. And why? For work? A pay check? There was free camping by the river or on the reservoir. Amazing birds, silence, and a decent dose of loneliness. Thinking about it though, there was BLM land all across the West so why not head south? To New Mexico? Or Marfa, Texas? There’d be good work and sunshine. Not a bad idea. Tempting.
Alex sat at the counter near the Grumpies. – Coffee please, with cream, no sugar. Thanks. And cake. Chocolate cake.

They looked up at that. – Is it your birthday?

– Yes. And I’m celebrating.

The men with the red ball cap put down his paper. – Is that right?

– Yep.

The silence lingered. The cake was brought out. And the waitress stood there. The Red Cap looked at Blue Cap and nodded. – We’d like some cake too, Rita. Don’t tell our wives though.

She laughed, a short harsh sound. – I wouldn’t dare. They’d blame me, tell me off in front of my other customers. Oh, no, what goes in your mouth, stays in your mouth. I’m not telling.

– Ice cream too, please, said Blue Cap with a toothy grin. He was a skinny little retired farmer, muscles still showed beneath the white tee shirt and leather vest. His jeans were clean but soft with age, as were his blue eyes.

Red Cap nodded. – Vanilla if you have it. And you, Alex? Want to share?

– You know my name?

Rita and the Caps nodded. – Of course. It’s a small town. You work at the new Brewery over the river, don’t you? You work with my son, James, the ex-football player with the broken nose? His half-sister is in the kitchen too. Carla? My kids, mostly. Good ones, stuck around, didn’t move to Laramie like the neighbors’.

Alex was surprised and sipped the coffee, adding more cream to the black tar.

Blue Cap continued. – Yes, we took bets on how long you’d last. My son thought only a couple of weeks. Carla now, she has a crush on you, she bet it’d be all winter.

– She did?

Rita laughed and slapped him gently on the shoulder. – You hadn’t noticed her? Always bringing you extra lunch outside? Or soaking at the springs when you were there? We did!

Blue Cap reminded Alex. – It’s a small community. We worry…

– About our young ‘uns leaving. The influence of outsiders like yourself.

– Oh.

Rita plopped down a big bowl of ice cream and three spoons. – To share, she said.

Alex waited, not sure of the etiquette but the men dolloped big chunks of solid ice cream on their cake. Alex did the same with a wide grin.

– This is great. Who made it?

– Rita made the ice cream with milk from my own dairy, said Red Cap. – And the cake was Carla’s. She wants to run her own kitchen some day. She’s learning. She’ll make it happen. She usually gets what she wants.

The men chuckled and ate in silence. Alex looked around, licking the spoon clean and sighing. It wasn’t so bad. Friendly folk in town after all.

– Oh, and happy birthday. How old are you?

– Twenty-five, said Alex.

– A good age to settle down.

The men chuckled again. – Nice cake, eh? Special ingredients. Carla’s own recipe.

Alex wiped a finger across the plate. – Yes, I’ll have to thank her. Excuse me. I’ve got to go to work…can’t be late for my shift.

Alex pulled out a twenty but Blue Cap shook his head, – on us. Happy birthday, Al. Say hello to my girl for me.

Alex nodded, thankful for the simple conversation that morning. – I will. And thank you.

– Our pleasure. Think of it as an investment…

Alex didn’t know what he meant but ambled off to the other side of the river with a full belly of hope.

 

 

Sheeplifting: a short story with Harold the Handsome

“Go on, Harold. Go pee.”
The writer opened the door and checked the street for traffic. It was quiet. “Go on, I trust you.”

Harold was an old dog, well, not exactly old, just the far side of middle-aged. He was a good dog, honest and reliable. The writer wandered back inside and sat at the desk and stared at that metal bland object she loved more than him. He was bored. He decided to go get himself a treat.

Harold walked down the hill to Main Street. When the voice at the corner said Wait, he waited. When the beeps began and all the humans walked, Harold walked. He walked past the temptation of the popcorn maker, the bagel maker, and trotted past the booze seller and into Shaw’s, the grocery store. He’d never been inside before. It was all rather exciting. The doors opened when he stood there. The cashiers smiled at him. The other humans petted him. He was a big boy, with thick black fur and a red bandana. He looked pretty good and he knew it. His tail wagged, sweeping from side to side, and so he strolled past the carrots and spinach and towards the butchers in the back. He sniffed and found heaven.

Rows and rows of dead animals. No hunting needed.

He stood there, did Harold, nose sniffing deeply, jowls dribbling, and tail picking up speed. He stood on his hind legs and peered into the fridges. Sheep. Cow. Pig. Chicken.

Which should he pick? Sheep, he decided. You don’t come across them often, not something he gets to chase for himself. He chose a decently sized lamb chop with bone and clamped his teeth into it and drooled. He lay down for a quick chew.

Yes, it was good. He took it with him as he strolled back down aisle three, wondering why the writer always made him wait outside. He had just stepped through the magically opening doors when a voice stopped him.

“Wait!”

Harold is a good boy. He waited.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

A hand clamped onto his collar and in surprise Harold yelped. He dropped the meat. The hand let go to pick it up.

“I’ll have to call your owner. Where are your tags, dog? Don’t you have any? Should I call Animal Control to take you? Come here, dog. Poor thing, don’t you have a home?”

Home? Harold thought of home. He bared his yellowing teeth and then ran. Oh boy, did Harold run. Up Main Street, along State Street, waiting at the crossing like a good boy and then home up the stairs to his home.

His writer hadn’t moved. She glanced up at him standing in the doorway.

“Did you go pee?”

Harold turned around. He’d forgotten about that. He walked back downstairs and thought about getting a treat.

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Jazz Prose Poetry? Who me?

Why yes me. I loved it. That combination of drums and band with the beat of my words and it worked and it gave me an idea and a desire to create more to collaborate to combine sounds and images and words and movement and I don’t know who or when or how but it’s there, I’ll do it.

In the meantime, listen here to a rough recording of the first of many more to come:

Soundcloud/ Sleam Leamy

Flash Fiction: I Don’t Notice

I don’t notice my dog growing old,

the way his eyes are cloudy

or how his hips stiffen up and how

hard it can be to stand up.

I don’t notice how he falls

down the stairs in the

dark or how he stumbles

when he leaps across a

small creek or how he struggles

to jump up into the truck.
I don’t notice when he doesn’t

join me in bed during the night

prefering to stay on the

couch alone with an old bone.

I don’t notice when he’s still

there in the early morning

and I put the kettle on, trying not

to panic, watching him for a

tail wag or an open

eye or something

anything.

Please breathe

Please wag

For me

For us

I’m not ready

And he opens his eyes and I notice how he lights up seeing me next to him on the couch with my mug of coffee starting the day together like any other.

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Twenty-one Days to Change a Habit

Flash Fiction:

Can I go twenty one days? It seems like an awfully long time. I thought about three weeks and what it means, not as Mr Gerard Faulkner wanted me to consider it (as a time to respond the changes in the condo association ordinances number 201:45B and 201:45C) but as a dry time. I sat there at the new neighborhood monthly maintenance meeting at the up and coming golf club restaurant with a pint in hand, listening and throwing in my two cents worth, that is – not much–but I was speaking up every so often so my neighbors thought I cared as much as they do but I don’t. I don’t. I have to show up or I’ll have them screech to a halt on their way home down the cul-de-sac past the gatekeeper’s original home which is now my home and I’m no gatekeeper by any sense. I can’t be bothered and so I’m not bothered except I am but I don’t say anything because like I told you I don’t want them to stop and yell as me as I sit in my front yard sniffing my family heirloom roses as if the new development hadn’t magically appeared after Mom and Dad died. I’d sold the farm for a good price not thinking I’d miss the fields or the view of the Lindon Hills over past Mrs. Jarrod Hunkers place half a mile a way but I do miss them, Mom and Dad, and the farm and the fields, and the view and even Mrs. Jarrod Hunhkers who’s never forgiven me and neither have I and so I drink to keep it all in and I drink to shut up and I drink to be social and what would happen if I stopped?

The Bus Ticket

Her eyes lit up. Blue. Pale. Her skin was dirty, skin weathered, chin sunburnt, and a huge genuine smile that broke you open again. Again. Linda, you’d chatted a few times on Main Street over the months. Her and the backpack, talking of camping in the park out of sight. “I’ll be alright, won’t I?” she’d asked and you’d said yes. You think she was.

You waved at her this morning. She was walking slowly up State, the farmers’ market out in force. She stopped at your voice. She lit up seeing you. You chatted, glad she was okay. Then she asked you for money for a supposed ticket. Instinct kicked in and you said “no, I can’t help.”

But you gave her $3.25 in quarters from your front pocket.

“I’m going home to my mom. I need to catch the bus today, that’s what she said. She worries about me for some reason.”

“They do that,” you joked.

You talked about how much the bus ticket was – $35, how much she needed – $8 total, and perhaps she could ask at the market? Feeling shy today, she muttered.

She again asked for your help. You lied. You fucking lied to her.

In your back pocket was $25 in cash. You never have cash. You’d just bought and eaten a fresh ham and cheese croissant for $4.50. She’d only asked for another $5 for a ticket home to her mom and you’d lied? For fuck’s sake, Sleam. You chatted a bit more, crossed the road together and then she walked to the bus stop anyway.

You walked away.

The sun beat down.

Hot day ahead.

Your cool apartment.

Fans blurring the edges.

Fridge full.

Cash in pocket.

Croissant crumbs on your tee shirt.

And

You’d lied to Linda.

You walked around Bear Pond Bookstore, tempted by another collection of essays that you don’t need. You walked out. Linda sat on a concrete bench in the shade of an Ash tree, stretching out one leg, pack at her feet. You called her name and gave her a fiver.

Her face lit up. You chatted together. Again.

You walked away, crying. You? You… No, me, but you knew that, right? Yes.

I had lied to Linda.

Wishing her a safe trip home, I turned home and began to cry again because I’m so fucking angry at the world and life and me me me and for fuck’s sake, someone asked for help and you didn’t want-that is, I didn’t want to be responsible for anyone and I couldn’t shut down and so my heart broke again and I cried. I am now. I’ve been there: Broke. Homeless. Reaching out. And helped by strangers for their own reasons.

Linda gets to see her mom.

I wish I could see mine one more time.

Shorts

What if I told you

What if I told you that some days I’m scared to write? And others I’d cry if I didn’t? What if I told you that attention makes me want to walk the hills with notebooks and pens stuck in the truck at the bottom of the trail. What if I told you that I love to write but when I don’t, my world wobbles, days drag out, and a damp depression creeps in like a mold? What if I told you that even when I’m listening to you, making great eye contact, smiling, making jokes with you, I’m also wondering how Ernest would talk to you, and what would Janice say right now? Where would she sit? Would she want to chat to us or would she stay away, distracted by someone behind us? What if I told you that my head hollows out when you tell me the same old story of what you ate for breakfast, watched on TV, saw on the drive over, blah blah blah. What if I told you that I don’t get it, the usual conversational flow of back and forth, yet some times it feeds me a spark, an idea, and then imagination takes it out by the hand and sets it as free as a kite in a breeze tethered lightly by my attention. What if I told you that when a tropical storm slams that kite into the air and if I blink or nod or respond to you in any way, I’ll lose sight of that flash of color in my mundane life of eat, sleep, walk and write. What if that kite flies in a sky and no one looks up?