Saturday, September 21, 2013

I Am Now Officially A Published Author

Well, after years, no decades of self-doubt and writing writing writing like a lunatic.....I have finally accomplished my life goal.

I have not one but TWO books available for purchase on Amazon.com!

Suburban Feral : A Collection of Poems by Stephanie Stebbins

and

The Burn House : And Other Stories by  Stephanie Stebbins


I can't believe I finally did it!







Thursday, July 25, 2013

Appreciated

I make no excuses or fancy titles up for what I do to pay the bills. I clean offices in a manufacturing plant. It's not a job anyone would aspire to, I think, but I like it, it pays well, and sometimes....well, sometimes good things happen there.

One of my duties is to clean the large bathroom in the main factory. It is HUGE, it has 15 stalls, and it is the part of my job I look forward to the least every day.

Believe me, your back starts screaming at you pretty loudly after you've bent over the seventh toilet to scrub it out. By the fifteenth, you hope you can still bend.

Today, as usual, the day crew had done the bare minimum in there so I was stuck resupplying toilet paper, changing out the sanitary napkin dispenser paper bags (which I put on not one but TWO pairs of gloves on for), climbing up the ladder to change out the automatic paper towels, scrubbing toilets, cleaning sinks, cleaning mirrors, mopping, etc etc etc.

Just as I was finishing up, one of the ladies who works in the plant and comes in that bathroom during my shift, came up to me. She smiled and she said, "I just wanted to say thank you for cleaning our bathroom. You do a really good job and we appreciate you."

I smiled and thanked her very much for the compliment and waved as she walked out.

And then, I promptly locked myself in one of the stalls and bawled for about 15 minutes.

You see, what I do is a thankless job. People often get annoyed that I'm in their way while I am vacuuming or trying to empty their trash, or worse, they don't even see me. I'm an invisible no one.

But when someone takes the time to stop and thank you because they know and see you work hard, it means more than anything. Better than a million bucks.

I was thanked for a thankless job tonight. This I will remember on those nights I come home with my back aching or my heart hurting from the looks of disgust people can give someone who does my job.

Just that simple kindness, that tiny little thing, reinstated my faith in humanity.

So, if you work a thankless job like I do, THANK YOU.

I appreciate you.


Monday, March 25, 2013

I Have A Confession To Make

I am a Craigslist.com curb alert addict.

Yes, it’s true.

It started out innocently enough, just browsing craigslist for jobs or things for sale, or anything that peaked my interest and then I stumbled across….”Free”

FREE? You mean people are just giving things away? Just putting them out and posting where they are so you can come get them?

WHAT?!




In the short couple of months that I have been obsessively refreshing the free section on Craigslist I have acquired:

One damn fine dresser that perfectly matches our bedroom furniture

A china cabinet that needed minor repair (a hinge replaced voila good as new)

A TV stand that matches the furniture in our bedroom

An entertainment center for my daughter’s room

Two Futons

A (huge) crate for the dog

A full set of wrought iron patio furniture

A bench for the foyer (for stacking shoes)

An entire bag of clothes in my size that are practically brand new and nice

Six shopping bags full of NutriSystem diet food (frozen dinners)




And I will never, EVER have to buy firewood again.

That’s right. All free.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some curb alerts to search ;)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Burn House

It was an ordinary day, the day we found the burn house. We were driving down the desert road, exploring. It was our first time in the desert. Where we came from, everything was green, lush, and humid. The new lay of the land seemed infinitely interesting.

We came across a long road that was flanked by giant red mountains on each side. We drove and drove until we came to a turn-off with an arrow sign. There were two women there, dressed in bright blue tribal dress holding spears. You remarked that it was strange to see two white girls dressed in some kind of native-yet-not-their-own gear and I laughed. We drove slowly past them with the windows down. They didn't say anything, they didn't even look at us.

We decided to follow the arrow.

We came across a parking lot at the end of the arrow road.  There was no sign or anything but we decided to park and check it out, anyway. We were on an adventure, after all.

We found a path and began to walk down it. I said I thought maybe it was a hidden hiking trail and you got excited. I began to wonder if maybe we should have brought our walking sticks when we came upon it.

The sign said, THE BURN HOUSE. RETREAT ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE. THERE BE SNAKES, CROCODILES, SPIDERS, AND OTHER SUCH SCARY THINGS. BE WARNED.

We looked at each other and let out a giggle. Maybe this was some new hidden attraction that only the locals knew about. We loved haunted houses and things that scared us. We ambled on.

We should have turned back. We should have never followed that arrow in the first place.

We came to a long wooden bridge and began to walk across. It was like a bridge I had been on before, ancient and smelling of old wood. It was long and as we walked we sang silly songs we had learned at camp, a million years ago.

At the end of the bridge, we found ourselves in front of a large bonfire. Blue-orange flames licked humongous logs from trees that seemed to be from forever. The smell emanating from that fire was slightly smoky yet there was something undefined, something I had never smelled before. We stopped to take it in for a moment and walked on.

Suddenly, the path opened up and we saw the town.

It was like a town I had only ever seen in books. Something from Grimm's fairy tales or pictures in history books of towns from the Dark

Ages. Beautiful cobblestone streets with little houses and buildings, not a skyscraper or any kind of modern architecture to be seen. 

There was only a large, ornate church smack dab in the middle of it.

I had to stop and let out a gasp. It was exactly like what I always imagined these villages looked like.

But, there were no people anywhere to be seen. None. It would have been the perfect time to see a tumbleweed blow through. Instead, a sudden icy wind blew across the nape of my neck and I let out an unintentional shiver.

Suddenly, movement.

Out of my periphery, I thought I saw something. I turned and standing not but three feet away from me was a woman.

She was just standing there, looking at us.

After a moment, I raised my hand and my hello was caught on that strange wind.

She didn't move for a second, and then, a creepy smile spread across her face.

She came forward and I could have sworn that when she moved there a slithery, slushy sound in my ears that I could not quite put my finger on.

She stood before us with that same creepy smile and when she spoke, the sound was suddenly inside my mind, burrowing and tunneling through my brain like a hot arrow shot from far away.

"Oh, hello. I see you have found The Burn House. Come, come. Enjoy."

I opened my eyes from the wince of pain her voice gave me and looked at you. You were smiling from ear to ear, like you were seeing the most beautiful thing in your life. You were practically vibrating with urgency to follow this woman. There was absolutely no hint of apprehension, fear, or pain on your face. I looked back to the woman and was struck again by the strange sound and absurdity of her face.

You voiced your eagerness to yes, absolutely, view The Burn House and began to follow her. I held back and when the length of our clasped  hands was reached, you let go and kept following her.

I had no choice but to follow you.

We walked down the cobblestone road until we came upon a small house. It was different from the other houses in that I saw an air conditioner hanging from the window. I had time enough to just register that before we were through the door and standing in a room that seemed impossibly large compared to what I had seen outside.

And the people, my god. There were people, EVERYWHERE.

Some were dressed in fairly modern attire all the way down to what seemed to be primitive animal skin.

Suddenly, I did not want to be there. I wanted to be anywhere else but there.

The people were all smiling like the woman and then they began to sing, "Welcome....welcome..." and that wet burrowing began again in my brain and I was falling, falling into the black, into the void
into
the
nothing...


                                                     *    *    *

When I awoke, you were standing over me. I blinked and let out a moan. My head was pounding, pounding, pounding like there was a New York City construction working jack-hammering in there. I rolled over a bit to look at you, again. And then, your smile spread out like water spilled upon a table and I knew.

I knew you, the you I knew, was gone.

"Hello, my dear. I am glad you are awake. There is much you need to learn."

I scrambled up and away. As far back as I could. I would have melted into the wall had it been possible.

At that moment, a man walked in. He was very tall and wearing a cloak that seemed to be made of the night.

He came to my side and laid his hand on my arm, and it felt like there were a million ants crawling inside my skin. I violently pulled my arm away from him and let out a scream.

He smiled that same smile all of the people here seemed to have and began to speak.

"You will love it here, my darling. We are a simple people and we live off of the land, just as the creator intended. We know you have special talents and skills that will blend in masterfully here. We are preparing your new home now. We are glad you will be staying here."

Oh, the pounding. The POUNDING. When he spoke, it grew and grew until I was almost blind.

"The fuck I will," I yelled as I jumped up and headed for the door.

I didn't see any hands or arms around me but I was instantly thrown back against the wall and that cloak, it was swallowing me alive oh

god
what....

"Yes. The FUCK exactly you will." That snaking, skulking, worming was making caves inside my brain now and the cloak was over, above, around me and I fell again into the night, the sleek, serpentine darkness.


                                                 *    *    *    *

I don't know how long it's been now since I've been here. I tried to keep count for awhile but days ran into nights and weeks ran into months and years and all I know now is I've been here since forever.

I've been here since the beginning of time.

It's the same thing every day. We wake up, we go to the church and sing, then we work, then we eat, then we work, then we listen to the cloak man at the church some more, then we sleep.

I realize now that I have been abducted by a cult.

A very strange cult.

I can't even begin to explain the beliefs to you. You wouldn't believe me even if I tried.

 I am very good at pretending. When they began my change-over, I pretended I had gone over. I had spent a lot of time watching you so
I knew exactly what to do.

They don't suspect a thing.

But, today. Oh, sweet glorious today, I will make my escape.

Every day, after supper, they take something in a van away from here. I don't know what it is and I don't know where they go but I do know this:

As they load the van, they keep it idling in the driveway. With no one watching it.

First, there is something pumped into the ditches beside The Burn House and after that, they load something into that idling van and
leave.

I have been watching this for, well, forever.  And, today I am going to take that van and get out.

Away.

I'm going to drive and drive and not look back.

So, here I sit in one of the ditches, waiting. I hear the pump begin and suddenly, I am being covered in some kind of beige pinkish glue that smells sourly like old pork chops but I don't care, I don't care, I don't care.

All I care about is the sound of that van starting and idling.

And then, there it was.

I slipped around in the goo and poked my head up a little.

Nothing and no one. But, the van, oh the van it was on and the door was wide open...

I ran and ran like my feet were on fire and I was in, door slam, foot on the accelerator, gone.

GONE.

I screamed out of the driveway and down the street. People began to come outside and stare at me and the sound started to wriggle in my mind but I had long ago learned that if I recited my ABCs I could block it out.

And so, I was flying down the street, screaming my ABCs at the top of my lungs, and
   
no one chased me.

They just stood there and watched me go.

And every single one of them was smiling.

                                           *    *    *    *

I had been driving for at least three hours. I was almost out of gas but I hadn't seen anything for miles and miles and miles.  I don't think I would have stopped if I had.  The stench from the goo I was covered in was making me dizzy and I was shaking like I never had before.

And suddenly, there you were, in the middle of the street. I was headed straight for you.

I swerved to miss you and then I was turning over and over and over. Flipping into the air in a death spiral. As I hit the ground, I only had time enough to begin to wonder what you were doing there before I was knocked completely out from the impact.

                                            *    *    *    *

When I finally cracked open my eyes, I knew where I was before I could even see. I knew that smell. I knew it from so many days, nights, months, years.

I was inside The Burn House.

I looked around and found that I was strapped to a table next to two other people I had never seen before. One was either asleep or dead while the other...

Oh, the other

The other was wide awake and screaming. The hoses I had always seen were hooked up to some kind of pump, snaking up to and connected to his belly button and it was on

and it was sucking

and I saw that pink beige solution being pumped out and away in those and as it did, the other became flatter and flatter....

I whipped my head around and saw the cloak man standing in the corner, smiling.

"You were warned, girl. You saw the sign. It said to stay away from The Burn House. But, not you. Oh, no. You had to see, didn't you? Well, now you will see...and I am going to show you...."

He grabbed my arm and all at once, my mind was filled with images. A crash, creatures slithering out, finding people and taking them to the ship and hooking them up to the pumps and hoses, then they put on their skin, and they had been doing this, they had been doing this since forever.

They had been doing this since the beginning of time.

I saw the village built, I saw the people, all of the people, over and over again coming here and being put to work, being tricked into believing they were serving a creator, believing they were in a better place, and then I saw some of them being pulled into this house, The Burn House, and I knew. I knew the ones being pulled in here were like me. The ones who wouldn't, couldn't change over.

The ones marked to be the creatures' new skin.

He let go and put his face directly into my line of vision and spoke to me without moving his lips. He spoke inside my mind, "Yes. I told you that you were never leaving here. You can't. You have been chosen to be my new skin. My lovely, lovely new skin."

And as the hose cut into my stomach around my belly button, I began to scream. I screamed until it turned to gurgling as my life oozed away in a putrid, sludgy mess down the hose and into that ditch.

The cloak man picked up my skin, shook it out, and smiled. In one fluid motion, he was out of the old and into the new.

It was a perfect fit.

Confliction

My grandmother is an immigrant from France.

During World War II, so the story goes via my father and my grandmother, my great grandfather (my grandmother’s father) was violently opposed to Hitler and the Nazi Party. So much so that he decided to plan and blow up a Nazi train that happened to travel through the small French town where my father’s side of the family comes from. He carried out his plan, blew up the train, was caught, and then very bad things began to happen to the family. Because my great-grandmother feared that something terrible might happen to my grandmother, who was only 13 at the time, she put my grandmother into a convent to keep her safe.

We don’t know what happened to the rest of the family. She never saw them again.

My grandmother lived and worked at the convent safely until she was 19 years old. At that time, she met my grandfather who happened to be in France as an United States Army soldier. They fell in love, married, and my grandfather brought her back home to the United States. They had four children and were married up until he died when he was 54 (and I was 7).

My grandmother is a very proud, headstrong woman. She is set in her ways and she is not afraid to tell you exactly what she thinks.

I know this because she hated my mother and wasn’t afraid to tell me how much she did any chance she got.

Growing up with my grandmother was difficult. I don’t think she ever really loved me. Not in a way that is your typical insecure person about everyone, I mean, she was cruel and mean to me a lot.

When I was a baby, she used to pinch my legs just to make me cry. She said she did this because, “I didn’t cry enough” and she was trying to teach me a lesson, that there was always a reason to cry. She used to make my mother change my diapers outside on the concrete patio, no matter what season it was. She said I stunk and she couldn’t stand the smell.

When I was about 5, she slapped my mother in the face with a plate and was screaming at her about how she wasn’t doing the dishes right. To which, so the story goes via my mother and father, I stood all of my little 5 year old self up on a chair and screamed, “HEY! FUCK YOU, GRANDMA!” Of course, this language and bad behavior was the fault of
my mother, and absolutely not because fuck was my father’s favorite adjective.

When I was 12, I decided to talk to my grandmother about my thoughts on faith and beliefs and it happened to slip out that I thought I might be an atheist. The response to this was being locked in her hallway closet until I said I believed in god. (Pretty stupid to try and discuss religion with a Roman Catholic who lived in a convent for 6 years).

When I was around 14, I absolutely refused to go visit her, anymore.

On my sixteenth birthday, she showed up with my aunt for my party. She wasn’t invited and no one knew they were coming. That night, my mother had had enough of her being terrible to me and went OFF. This was met with my father punching her square in the face and my grandmother telling her she deserved it. On my sixteenth birthday. During my party.

When I was 19, my parents had been divorced for two years. My mother had come out and was living with her partner, Mary. I was living with my soon-to-be husband and my newborn son. She had come to visit my father and he was calling me constantly to at least come say, “Hi” to my grandmother and show her the baby. My father was the king of manipulative guilt so finally, I pulled myself together, warned my man what to expect, made a silent pact with myself to make sure that she didn’t get her hands on my baby, and went over to my dad’s house. Within fifteen minutes of walking in the door, she had already started in on how my mother was going to burn in hell because she was “aqueerlesbian” and when I asked her to please not talk about my mother like that, she slapped me in my face and called me a whore with a bastard child because I had my son out of wedlock.

I didn’t see her again until my father’s funeral when I was 26 years old. Ten years ago. I had made a promise to myself that no matter what she said or did, I would be patient. I would be calm. I would hold myself together because as the oldest child, I had to make all of the decisions. I didn’t want to, but that was the way they said it had to be. I had to make the decision to take him off of life support because his brain was dead. I was the one who had to set up the funeral. I was the one who had to go through all of his paperwork and tie up all of the loose ends. She was fine with everything and didn’t fight with me. She didn’t say much of anything, really except thanking me for doing everything that I could and being there. After the funeral, I left on good terms with my family.
Why?

Because I knew that now that my father was gone, I never, ever had to speak to them, again.

And now, yesterday to be exact, I found out that my grandmother has had a second stroke.

It has put me in a weird place because I don’t know what to do. Part of me is just numb, while the other part of me feels like I should do something for her.

I mean, despite everything, she IS my grandmother. She is part of me. She is where I come from.

It’s hard for me to cry for someone who was so cruel to me my entire life.

Yet, it’s hard for me to not feel sorry for her because she is what little family I do have.

You’re supposed to love your family, no matter what, right?

You’re supposed to cry when something bad happens to them, right?

At 36 years old, I am still not sure how I feel about the woman I respect for her struggle, yet fear and loathe for what she did to me, her one and only granddaughter.
This is my truth.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I Sent An SOS To The World






I found a message in a bottle once.

I was walking along the shore, looking for interesting shells and picking up trash along the way when I literally stumbled over it. I thought it was just another piece of beach trash, some beer bottle left by partying teenagers or something like that.

I then saw the cork, and decided to open it.

The cork was somewhat damaged so water had seeped into the bottle.
The only thing I could make out was the name, Stephen.

This seemed profound to me at the time because Stephen is the male equivalent to Stephanie, which is my name.

My mind began to whirl as I thought about what the letter might have said. Perhaps I was meant to find it and this Stephen was my long lost twin, sending me a letter from some far off wondrous place, hoping fate stuffed in an old Michelob bottle would bring us together.

That very day, I decided to pen a message of my own and send it whipping through the waves to my twin. My kindred. This guy with my name but not my name.

"Dear Stephen,
I got your message in the bottle. Here is my address. Please write to me. I hope we can be pen pals.
Sincerely,
Stephanie"

I never heard anything back.

It occurred to me today that with the technology of the internet, millions upon billions of people can send out their own messages in bottles at lightning speed to all corners of the world any time they would like. I mean, isn't that what we are doing sometimes? Sending out messages in bottles to see who will respond?

I like to think so.

Have you ever sent or received a message in a bottle?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jaded



There is a couple I have seen all over my city since last summer….begging.

Their signs say things like, Homeless. 2 kids. No jobs. Please help. God Bless You.

And the thing about it is, I wish I wasn’t so jaded that the first thing that comes to mind is that they are scamming people.

That’s what thirty six years on this planet has done to me. My first feeling toward them isn’t empathy or sympathy. It isn’t sadness. It isn’t any of those things most people would feel.

It’s: “How the hell did they get from X parking lot to Z parking lot in 5 minutes? They either walk really fast or they live in their car.”

It’s: “I bet they don’t even have any kids.”

It’s: “Fucking junkies.”

It’s: “Those are some pretty nice clothes/shoes/coats for homeless people. I work two jobs plus writing gigs and I still don’t have stuff THAT nice. Maybe I should be homeless.”

It’s: “Psh. Homeless, my ass. I bet this is like their job. Just going from shopping center to shopping center begging all day.”

And, it’s terrible.

I hate myself for it.

It makes me feel like I am turning into everything I never wanted to be.

I don’t want to see the world through these eyes. I want to believe in people, again. I want to believe that there aren’t people in this world that WOULD scam people like that.

But, I can’t. Because, I know.

And seeing that couple angers me because it just reminds me that I am no longer that person that believes.

In anything.

I give them a dollar every time I see them, anyway.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Kind Of Mother Raises A Marine?

I was sitting in the parking lot of the Marine base, waiting for my son to finish his Young Marine program. As I sat with my dog keeping me company, I began to wonder

What kind of mother raises a Marine?

I have never thought of myself as a strict mother. As long as they kept their grades up, both of my children were free to do whatever they wanted. I didn’t overly push them to do things, I let them choose their own path. They could pick their own clothes, what kind of music to listen to, they could go to church or not (my son is the only one who is religious out of the 4 of us) ….basically, the world was open to them to experience in the best way possible. I never lied to them and I always talked to them about anyandeverything. I let them develop into their own unique and individual selves.

Did I make mistakes along the way? Sure. Every mother does.

I did my best to instill in them to be a leader and not a follower.

I taught them responsibility.

I never treated them like they were not valued or insignificant just because they were children.

And, most of all, I loved them with my whole heart.

Yes, I am absolutely terrified of him going into the Marines. My husband has been in the Navy since we were very young so I know what my son is in for.

But, this is HIS future. This is what he chose.

And, I suppose it is natural to worry.  But, the thing I worry about the most is,

Did I do this right?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dear Customers,

Dear Customers,

    Your racist/sexist/homophobic jokes aren't funny. When you tell them to me, don't expect anything back but a blank stare as I wonder why your momma didn't teach you how to act in public.

    NO. NO I WILL NOT double bag your pack of gum or your one greeting card. WTF.

    I don't care about your life. I don't care about why you have to use your card instead of cash. I don't care about whatever stupid small talk you want to make with me. I'm sorry if this is the only social interaction you will get today but MOVE YOUR ASS. There is a line and my manager is clicking his fingernails on the register behind me while you blather on. I don't want to be rude so I will smile and laugh etc at what you say but I truly, TRULY don't give a shit. Pay for your purchase and go, thanks very much, have a great day.

    I am very married. YES, VERY. No, you can't have my number. No, I don't think you're cute for flirting with me, I think you're creepy.

    Actually, I AM busy. Just because you caught me standing at my register, trying to catch my breath doesn't mean I "look like I need something to do hurdy hur hur." I have a WHOLE LIST of shit waiting for me to do when I come in PLUS more added on throughout the day PLUS ringing you out. I have PLENTY to do, trust me.

    GET OFF YOUR PHONE.

    Control your children. That one is climbing the shelves, that one is opening candy, licking it, and putting it back, that one is running down the aisles with the balloons and letting them go, and if that other one doesn't stop screaming/crying/saying "Mommommomomooooooooooomomomomom," you are going to personally witness me lose my shit.

    Is that a service animal? No. Then, HELL NO you can't bring it into the store. I don't care how small it is, how cute it is, how it just fits in your purse, etc. It's a dog. It shits. And who do you think is going to have to clean it up? Exactly. Fuck your ankle biter. Keep it at home/in your car (with the window cracked damnit).

    I am a human fucking being, not a robot.

    Really? I can't even finish my sentence before you say, "No." It's called upselling, fool and what tiny miniscule perks I DO get with this shitty-ass-shit job revolves around that. The more stupid featured product or donation thing I sell, I MIGHT get a fucking $5 gift card. It's not great, but when you get NOTHING, it's something.

    I am AT WORK. You are la-dee-da shopping.  I'm not here to be your pal and listen to your shit. How would you like it if I came to your job and started bugging the shit out of you while you try to work?

    I am on break. I get ONE break a day, for 10 minutes, I don't even get a lunch. ASK.SOMEONE.ELSE.

    Sure, it IS my job to put shit back that you changed your mind about but you can hand it to me instead of hiding it in the candy or on the wrong shelves. Do you know one night I had to stay until TWELVE FUCKING THIRTY (I was off at 9) putting shit back where it goes, etc. Seriously, just hand it to me.

    I don't care if it's just one thing, you are going to wait in line just like everyone else. Don't start hanging out beside, or worse, behind my register thinking I'm just gonna ring you up real quick. NOPE. Get your ass in line, King Shit.

    The sink is not a toilet.

    No. No, there isn't more in the back. If it's not on the shelf, we don't have it. It's not a never ending cavern of whatever the fuck you want back there. It's a room. And no, shit isn't going to magically appear if you ask another cashier, my manager, and the store manager, too.

    Don't touch me.

    Just because I wear a name tag does not mean you can speak to me using my name like we're buddy pals. I don't know you. I don't know your name. It fucking creeps me right the shit out when you start using my name like it's going to make me feel better about myself or something. I'm ok with me, I'm not ok with you.

    Don't give me tips on how to do stuff. They train us to do something a certain way for a reason. Don't like it? Oh, well. When you start your own company, then you can do it however the fuck you want. As for me? Yeah, I'm just gonna do it the way I was trained to do it.

    Call corporate. Go ahead, call 'em. Here's the number. Do you know how much BULLSHIT they hear from people all day? Oh, yes. Absolutely they are going to take your complaint about us not having a product/having too much of a product/upselling/not having any certain denomination bills/WHATEVER as completely seriously as possible. No, really. They care about YOU.

    Sincerely,
    A Retail Worker Who Works Entirely
        TOO Hard For VERY LITTLE PAY

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mistaken Identity

“Hey, Charlie! Hey! Hey, Charlie!! FUCK YOU, CHARLIE!”

She was hanging out behind the skating rink again. He always knew when she was there because every day he worked, he was greeted by the same call.

“Hey, man. Why is that crazy chick always screaming at you? Isn’t your name Brian?” His friend, Ted was waiting at the door for him.

“I have no idea. Maybe she thinks I’m someone else. I never thought to stop and ask. I don’t waste my time on the crazies.”

“Yeah, man. I hear you. Crazy bitch.” Ted shook his head and they laughed as they walked through the entryway.

He came in amidst the bump of the DJ and settled himself into the ticket box. It was the regular customers, tonight. The teenagers he would surely have to chase out of the dark corners later, so they didn’t sticky up the couches. The families looking for something fun to do on a Friday night, and then fighting over the rental skates, the song they wanted to hear from the DJ, who would take the kids to the bathroom, anything instead of what they really should be fighting about. The creepy old guys watching the teens. The couples on dates, awkwardly moving along during the couple’s skate.

And then, she walked in.

The air hung like a tense rabbit as they stared at each other.

Finally, she walked over on stilted legs and slapped the window. Her face was screaming ravens and smoke tendril madness.

“Charlie, I know who you are and I know what you fucking did. You can’t hide from me. I see you.”

He wrinkled his face in disgust as he spat out, “Whatever lady, I don’t know you. Get the fuck out of here.”

She looked him over again and said, “I…KNOW…YOU.”

Then, just like that, she was gone, out of the door and back into the misty night.

The sounds from the rink filtered back in and he went back to work. He didn’t think much more about her until it was just about time to leave and he started to get tiny butterflies flitting in his stomach.

He walked out, eyes everywhere, searching. He locked the doors and just as he was turning toward his car, a hiss in the black.

“Chhhaaaaaarrrrrrrllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee. HEY! HEY, CHARLIE! HEY! FUCK YOU, CHARLIE.”

He stopped and was suddenly resolute. This ended tonight.

He walked with a quickness unlike anything he’d ever known before over to her.

“Look, let’s talk about this. Do you need a ride somewhere? How about a meal? I can take you to my home and we can settle this. What do you say?”

“Oh, yes. A talk, Charlie. I’d like that.” Her eyes were in slits as she smiled and walked with him to his car.

When they arrived, he set forth preparing a hot meal as she watched him intently. A quick meal of eggs and bacon and they were seated opposite each other, chewing and seething.

Finally, she spoke up. “Sheila was a kind girl, you know? She might have worked the streets back in Springfield, but she was good and she was kind.  And, you took that away from me when you took her life.”

She suddenly slammed her fork down and lept from her chair. She was on him before he could swallow,
punching,
kicking,
biting.

He shook her off with ease and grabbed her face and pulled it close to him.
“Sheila was a fucking whore, and so are you.”
The knife was out in quick flash murder and just as he was bringing it to her throat,

resistance

“Don’t kill my wife, Charlie. Don’t kill her like you killed all of those other girls back in Springfield.”

He turned with loose jaw to see Ted holding his arm.

“That’s right, Charlie Moore. I know who you are and I know what you did. Two prostitutes in Denver, four in Tacoma, three in Norfolk…and finally six in Springfield.
Including my sister, Sheila.”

Charlie/Brian stared wide-eyed from the woman to Ted and back to the woman, “H…how did you know? I was so careful. So professional.”

“We had been keeping an eye on her for months. She was going to get clean, you know. She was going to start a new life. She said she just wanted to turn a few more tricks before she went into rehab.

And then, she got into the car with you.”

Ted removed the knife and began to slowly slash little cuts into  Charlie/Brian’s arm. The warm rivulets cascaded down his wrist onto the cold linoleum floor.

Suddenly, the woman burst forth into gales of laughter, “HAHA AND NOW YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, CHARLIE! HAHAHAHAHA”

And with an unerring swipe, Ted brought the knife across Charlie/Brian’s throat. The blood instantly coursed down his neck and over his chest.

Charlie/Brian sank slowly to the floor. He lay there and watched as his life poured out in spurts and stutters.

Just as he was almost gone in death’s icy embrace, the woman’s face came into his view.

“Hey, Charlie. FUCK YOU.”

And her voice carried him into oblivion.

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NO ONE CAN OWN YOUR SOUL © 2012 Stephanie Stebbins