The guy living to my left screams at his girlfriend. He plays his music loud. The songs are never familiar, just bass thumping and siren-like wailing. I’ve seen his girlfriend in the hall. She’s pretty and nice but looks worn down, her verve brutalized by this guy, this harsh city. She needs sunlight, someone to say nice words to her so she can lift her head, brighten her eyes. I want to invite her into my apartment for coffee and hearty soup. But I’m afraid of this guy, his voice, his muscles, his tattoos, his t-shirts like blood-spattered inkblots. I’d invite her over, explain to him, it’s not what you think, I’m a soup-making guy. But he looks like a guy who wouldn’t believe.
An old friend knocks on my door. We shake hands. He hands me a religious pamphlet, says he’s converted. Have you considered eternity, the coming day of reckoning, he asks. That’s heavy, I say, stunned by who he has become, then ask, how are you, did you and Gina get married? He says, face stiff, I’m great, and no, Gina’s gone. The pamphlet is glossy, the cover picture a Hubble-like supernova. I’m not sure what religion he’s pushing. You want to come in, I ask, catch up on old times? I can’t, he says, I have to knock on doors, spread the word. As I’m closing the door, he says, I’m pure now, no longer drinking, and I think, another friend, long gone lost.
Category Archives: Christian Bell
Flat lands, flowing wheat, blue sky. The only souvenir we got were these postcards, free rest stop goods. We went to Indianapolis. They stole our team, Dad kept saying. He would’ve cried seeing the Colts logos if he weren’t seething with anger.
Wish You Were Here!
Clear sky, foamy surf, untouched beach. An obnoxious relative, likely drunk, is bragging about how the sand burns your soles, how laidback each day is, how margaritas magically appear before you wherever you are. Meanwhile, here, it’s -34 degrees and snowing eighteen inches per hour. Mom says, nope, don’t wish we there, striking this relative’s name from the Christmas list.
Crow Native American
Faded black-and-white photo of somber Native American male. His hair braided, his eyes penetrating time. Doesn’t this guy look mean, the sender wrote in blue cursive. What do you think, dipshit? He probably blamed the photographer for the slaughter of his people, the end of their lifestyle, his relatives succumbing to drink. Man, now I’m talking like my father.
The Last Postcard
Solid black. The last postcard, kept in a secret place in the postal system, ready to be sent to the person who breaks the system. It’s your fault, the postmaster general will write, it’s you that’s ruined everything. Because of Seinfeld, the postmaster general must be Wilford Brimley. I’m comfortable with that. Postal apocalypse—it’s the right thing to do, and the tasty way to do it. Dad, though, would want Clint Eastwood.
The last time I shouted at my parents, they made me leave. Mom cried. Dad pushed me out the door. Their dog growled at me.
Zitana, my psychic advisor, was old school. Crystal ball, gypsy clothing, stiff Tolkienesque speech. She looked ancient but was mentally keen. I wasn’t sold on psychics. So, why see her? Well, because of Mom, of course.
Last week, Zitana gave me six losing numbers. For the MegaMillions, she said, untold riches await you! I followed her advice. Not one number came up.
Occasionally, she was right. She said once, you will soon meet someone special. Four months later, I met Lara. For five months, we were ferocious. Then she ditched me for her financial advisor.
Dad disliked Zitana. He said, you’re wasting money. They would argue. When a stroke killed Dad, Mom said, Zitana predicted this! Mom, though, never relayed this dire forecast.
So I returned to Zitana, bogus numbers on newspaper, said, not even close. She was at her desk, Maury on rabbit-eared television, half-eaten cheeseburger Happy Meal before her. Her usual garb had been replaced by jeans and Disneyland sweatshirt.
Unconcerned about her character breach, she studied the paper. Well, I didn’t mean this week. Keep playing.
On Maury, a woman had nine children by eight fathers. When will I win, I asked. The crystal ball doesn’t reveal that, she laughed, biting her cheeseburger. Otherwise, I’d be in Tahiti.
Mom died ten years ago. Pharyngeal cancer. I never knew if Zitana had predicted it. Near the end, unable to speak, Mom handwrote on paper, don’t forget Zitana. So, I haven’t. Maybe one day, those numbers will hit.
I told my wife, don’t eat the crab, remember what happened July 4th, but she shrugged, couldn’t resist. Then she complained of feeling hot, lightheaded. Then the hives came. Then she had trouble breathing. So I gave her Benadryl, rushed her to the hospital, told the scared kids, I’ll call. I went through two red lights, wanted some credit , but she wasn’t watching. Inside, the breathing’s better but still labored. She’s seen immediately. Doctor came by, asked, why’s she eating crab if she’s shellfish allergic? He had thick black glasses. His chiseled physique and perfect tan threw his career choice in your face. We didn’t know, I said, omitting, do you think I’m stupid? He asked about vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety. He mentioned anaphylaxis. He asked about drug, bee, nut allergies. The nurse administered epinephrine. My wife had an electrocution moment. Then she’s fine. The nurse hooked up an IV, said, you should be fine. Before calling home, I said, you look good now, but damn that was scary. Why am I having problems now at 39? I shook my head, looked at her. She was scared, like the first time she was pregnant. I refrained from saying, I said don’t, and did you see me maneuver through traffic. I remembered our wedding reception. I tasted the crab cake, pulled her from greeting people, said, you have to try. And she did. Now, I said, forget crab, we’ll try other things. I wrapped my arms around her. Then she cried.
Tell me you’re wearing a ——-
What? Who is this?
Just tell me you’re wearing a ——-
This is lewd, This is offensive. This is disgusting.
If you’re not wearing a ——-, please hang up, put one on, and call me back. My number is ###-####.
Is this ——-? I told you not to contact me. Do I have to call the police again?
No need for guesses. Just answer the question, please.
If this is my stepfather, I’m going to puke.
Look, are you wearing a ——- or not? I have other calls to make.
I could just hang up. Why don’t I hang up? I have this problem—I can’t hang up.
You’re compelled. You’re smitten. A yes or no—that’s what I’m looking for.
I’m home alone. I just vacuumed the couch. After I eat a sandwich, I’m going to scrub the toilet.
I could make assumptions from this response but I need hard yes or no confirmation.
I could be lying either way. What if I just lied?
Look, I know we’re total opposites but we could be good together. We could meet at the local —–, grab a drink, get donuts, fantasize.
Wait! Let me sing a song. Let me put my love into you, babe. Let me cut your cake with my—
I’m hanging up. Goodbye.
Wait! What you’re wearing now, is there skin showing? How about showing some —-?