She came to him as he read. Always a book that smelled. “I liked them, but can you change a few words.”
“Change? Which ones? Why?” He didn’t put the book down. She knew from experience that he was in fact paying attention. He could converse and read at once, and honestly focus on each. Still, it bothered her.
“Like this one, the bit about your core.”
“You don’t like ‘core’? I think it’s well-chosen.”
“It sounds scientific. Love is in your heart, not your core. It makes me think of geology class.”
“See, that’s good. That’s a metaphor. If that’s what comes to mind, our love is like a planet then. Large. Solid. Life-supporting. Etc. ‘Heart’ is a dead metaphor. It is so used that there’s no room for ambiguity. You might as well say ‘I love you a lot’.”
“Also apple core. That’s trash.”
“Trash with seeds. One day our bodies will be consumed, but the love is there. Seeds also suggest children.”
“I still don’t like it. If you say ‘core’ I am going to quote Nicholas Sparks.”
“Then I will not love you and will not say ‘core’ because I won’t marry you.”
“What if the priest asks you first?”
He puts the book down. “Any right-thinking priest would declare such a union null and void.”
“Fine. You can keep core.” He put the book down. That’s all she really wanted.
Category Archives: Martin Brick
Private Moore’s wounds bothered him, naturally. Even when the painkiller was administered his legs felt strange, bigger, heavier, not really his. So he appreciated when anyone talked to him. Anything to distract him from thinking about the feeling of his body.
The chaplain knew that was part of his job. Nothing heavy. Sure, the wounds and losses steer soldiers toward questions of an existential nature, but his job, as he saw it, was to postpone those thoughts. Keep them comforted, thankful, aware that people care.
And Moore appreciated the chaplain for this. They talked baseball. They talked small town burger joints. They talked open Kansas fields and capping jackrabbits with at .22.
“I’m glad to see you’re doing well,” the chaplain said, wrapping up.
“Father, something’s bothering me.”
“Alright. What is it?”
Moore leaned confessionally close. “When the nurse changes my bandages…. I, uh, my body reacts…”
“Oh,” the chaplain responded non-judgmentally. “That’s not something to be ashamed of.”
“But, it’s not intentional. I’m not trying.”
“There is a difference between what we do, and what we think, and how we act. I mean, sin is thought. Sin is intention.”
Moore looked unconvinced. Fell hushed. Even more close-lipped when a blue scrub-wearing young man approached and checked his chart.
“I’m just about done here, Doctor,” said the chaplain.
“You’re fine. And I’m not the doctor. Just here to change this soldier’s dressings.”
The chaplain looked back at Moore. “If I were you, I wouldn’t say anymore to anyone.”
Lizzie kicked my ass playing quarters at Bert’s party. I say damn she’s lucky and she says of course, she’s Irish. I’m Irish too, and after jokes about getting lucky she wants to prove her luck at the OTB because she’s amazing at picking ponies. Puts everything in my wallet on Murphy’s Law, the most Irish sounding horse, and when it wins at 50-1 we are flush. We take a room at the Crown Arms, and it feels like we can talk for hours, because we do. She loves dogs and I say I do too, and hear all about her dream of a dog day care. We’ll start one together. Then we break for sex that I thought only existed in movies, but maybe that was the pot. Anyhow, Room Service satiates our munchies. At 4 am we jump the fence to swim in the closed cool. No suits, but it’s pretty dark. Security catches on, so we hide, naked, in bushes for an hour. And this goes on until a day later I realize I missed work and I’m tiring of listening to her dreams, because I know she’s just a stoner who’ll never have it. Thankfully the money’s almost gone, so our holiday will end. I hoard the last of the bourbon, then pass out. Wake up to her jumping on the bed. Guess what, guess what? She went to the OTB and hit it again. Isn’t she just the luckiest? Aren’t we both just the luckiest?
“Why’s your apartment smell like incense?”
“I asked Rhea over.”
Don cranes his neck into the living room. Deeming it safe he whispers, “Crazy new age lady?”
“Yes, she… She wants to help with Mom.”
Rhea does indeed. Candles. Incense. Ouija board.
“Come on, Jen. I know you don’t believe that shit.”
She doesn’t. Or didn’t. But desperation leads to conviction, and as she explains to her brother, “If ever someone needed to talk to the living, it’s Mom, with the way she went.”
So the three of them gather around the table in a darkened room. Don didn’t understand why it had to be darkened. They put their fingers on the planchette.
“We’d like to speak to the spirit of Helen Bauman. Helen are you here?”
“Are you going to ring a bell with your toes,” Don taunts. “I’ve seen the Houdini documentaries.”
Jenny offers an icy glare, but then the piece moves. YES.
Jenny wants to know if it’s really her. “Ask her favorite food.”
A – R – T … Artichoke hearts. Jenny’s eyes go wide.
Don is still stone faced. “A man comes up to me, says you and dad are hurt. He’s a friend, and he’ll take us to the hospital. But I’m suspicious…”
Rhea looks puzzled. Jenny too. But the planchette moves. A – S – H…
Jenny gasps. Their password. Never trust a stranger unless he knows…
“Okay,” Don admits. “Now you can ask her about what happened.”
Neil answers anyway.
“Hey, you.” It takes a moment to register, though who else would it be? Jessie calls daily.
“I’m stuck at the airport. Thought of you.”
He actually spotted the sound of her connection first. Words emerge suddenly, the first fragment of sound shaved off. When she stops there’s a moment of buzz, then perfect silence. Little gates opening and closing on each side of her utterances. He listens to this, not to her tales of clueless students, of some pompous ass at faculty senate.
He remembers old long distance, the kind with constant static, like snow underfoot. It cost 25¢ a minute. That was the long distance Dixie used 25 years ago.
Jessie describes an article she’s writing. She’s young, really energetic about scholarship. Smart, bold, applying for tenure early. She’s beautiful. The article is boring – theory driven – while Neil’s an old-time reader-response guy. They met at a conference. Amazing sex. Should she keep something or other in a footnote…? They’ve got a semi-casual long-distance relationship going.
Dixie only rarely called. Said, “I love you, I miss you, it’s cold, I’m wearing your shirt.” Three expensive minutes.
“Marry me,” he told her once through that snow-static.
“I need to do the Peace Corps.”
“I’ll wait,” he said, and tried, but the distance killed them.
“I might not have cell coverage where I’m going,” Jessie explains.
“Okay. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
Dixie would say, “Isn’t it ‘absence’.” But Jessie moved on, talking about currency exchange.
“Kids,” my aunt shouted from the back of the house. “Time to come in.”
“Aw nuts. Already?” I complained but started back.
My cousin Lefty didn’t move. “Come on, we’d better…” I began, but paused, looking to him for guidance.
He was right-handed, so his nickname was just the beginning of things that didn’t quite make sense. Another was that he was younger than me, but clearly in change. But since I moved from the city to rural Indiana he helped acclimate me to wide-open playgrounds of cornfields and woods.
“First,” he instructed, “don’t say ‘aw nuts.’ Who are you, Charlie Brown? Say ‘shit.’ Say ‘damn.’”
“Second. When were we told to go in?”
“When it’s dark.”
“Right. And is it dark?”
“I don’t think it’s dark.” I believed this. It didn’t seem dark. That was the other thing that was hard to get used to. We were right on the border of the time zone, so it got dark late. Mom would say, “It’s bedtime,” when just five miles to the west it was an hour until bedtime. Didn’t make sense.
“This is adult dark. When you’re inside drinking coffee, talking about sick people from church, sure it looks dark.”
“It’s not dark if you’re in it,” I told him.
“Exactly. You’re learning.”
“Boys. Come in.” This time it was my mother. “It’s dark.”
We both giggled. We’re far enough into the corn that she couldn’t see us.
“You going in?” Lefty asked.
“Shit no,” I told him.
She asks with what animal he most associates. The wording of her IM trips him up. That’s different from your favorite animal. That’s different from what animal you think you’d be.
First to come to mind are the obvious cool choices. Tiger. Panther. Bear. The carnivores. Hunters. But those are all cliches, the things un-inventive tough guys request in a tattoo parlor. Then he eyes her profile photo, contemplates her tight, suggestive but still classy clothing, imagines that she might well be the type to wear leopard-print undergarments.
But she also wears glasses, and lists “books” as an interest, so he thinks in the opposite direction, of “thoughtful” animals. There’s a chance she likes dolphins, but hell if he’d associate with a dolphin, no matte how sexy the woman. Owl might work. Connotes wisdom, but is still a raptor. A creature of the night. Mysterious. Seems kinda old though.
Maybe something simple like dog. Not pretentious at all. Suggests loyalty. He’d like her to imagine him as loyal. But how many guys would say dog? It lacks originality. Better than wolf though. Cliché again.
Funny thing about wolves, people think “lone wolf,” but they mate for life. Not that he wanted to bring up mating for life – needy. But for kicks, he considers penguin, with that whole sticking with the egg thing. Or vultures. You discount vultures, but they’re loyal lovers. He saw this special on Animal Planet…
A message appears: “I take that as “turtle” ;)”