Vignette: “Let’s play a game”

“Let’s play a game,” she said. She had worn the right dress for this — the blue cotton one with buttons down the front, a tie around the middle, and a hem too high to be office-appropriate.

He smiled, leaning back on the bed and licking his lips at the thought of what might be coming. She was something in this light, in this heat. In heat, in general.

“I ask a question, and you answer it. If I think you’re being honest, I’ll undo a button.”

All he could think about was what might be under the dress. All she could think about was how much she wanted to pull the thong out from between her asscheeks and itch under the lace of the bustier she was wearing.

“Sure,” he said, not even asking what kind of questions they might be.

“Favorite place you’ve ever been?”

“Turkey,” he said. “You asked me that on our first date.”

“I asked you about your favorite place that you traveled to,” she said, hiding how impressed she was that he remembered one of her mundane ice-breaker questions. “Favorite place in general.”

“Is it pandering if I say ‘right here, right now, with you?'”

“It won’t earn you a button.”

“Then I’d probably say in the garage, working on my dad’s car with him when I was a kid. We’d spend weekends restoring this old T-Bird he bought for $500 from some guy in Fresno.”

She smiled at the thought of him smudged with grease and handing tools to his father, half submerged under an old Thunderbird. Then she cleared the thought of him as a child out of her head while she undid the second-to-top button of her dress.

“What, not going in order?” he asked, hoping the gap would give him a peak at her skin.

“My game, my rules. What are you scared of the most?”

“Snakes,” he said. “You know, wild ones. Pets are fine.”

“OK, Indiana Jones,” she said, undoing another button, this one at the bottom of the dress.

They continued like this for nine more questions until only one button — the one just below her breasts that kept it all together — was left.

Here it was, the point that she both feared and couldn’t wait to get to. The reason she suggested the game in the first place. She let his eyes scan up and down her torso, taking in what he could see of the black lace bustier and matching underwear. When they finally landed at the light pink bow now visible between the edges of her dress, she asked the final question.

“Do you love me?”

The way his twisting, falling stomach somehow echoed in his face told her that he had lied in his answer to the second question.

 

 

 

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Vignette: In search of an idea

My left shoe’s heel is worn down to the nail. Now when I take a step just the wrong way, the even click-clack-click-clack that usually accompanies my gait turns into a click-clack-tonk-clack-click-clack-plink-clack, and I’m reminded how much tile is in this office every time I walk down the hall to an uneven backbeat.
But sitting at my desk is hardly an option, because even though the click-clack-click-clack of the keys beneath my fingers remains consistent, the ideas they’re spelling out go click-clack-click-clack-plunk-plunk-plunk-plunk as I type and backspace, type and backspace. “Write something fresh,” I tell my fingers, but they don’t want to cooperate.
They’re not sure whether too many people have written about the way Christopher Nolan’s characters tend to die midsentence, like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “Harvey, listen to me, some–” BOOM. Or in the middle of Matt Damon’s villain monologue blocking out Matthew McConaughey’s warning not to BOOM. Or Ellen Paige being slammed by flying café debris while asking Leo DiCaprio why, if this is a dream, they BOOM. And they know too many people have pointed out the director’s fascination with dead or murdered wives, despite his own spouse being his producing partner on every project.
So instead they try to remember the typing patterns that wrote the letter to Pixar asking if Bonnie in Toy Story 3 was supposed to be an older version of Boo in Monsters, Inc., long before a more developed “Pixar universe theory” surfaced online.
They try to replicate how they wrote about the parallels between the Republican National Convention in July and the plot of Space Jam.
They rack their fingertips against the desk, wondering what click-clacking had at one time composed 2,000 words under the title “Bang Bang: The Sexuality of Gun-Slinging, Sword-Fighting Women of Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise and Kill Bill.”
They even tried to replicate the exact path they took across the keyboard when crash-typing the social and political messages behind the hero flying a nuclear bomb away from civilians in the finales of two of 2012’s most successful films, Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises.
But the choreography is gone from their memory, and the dance steps are out of practice, so all they can do is replicate the sound of my shoes in the hall. Click-clack-tonk-clack-plunk-plunk-plunk-plunk-click-clack-click-clack.

Vignette: “Promise me”

“Promise me just one thing,” she said over the crunch of Pringles between his teeth. She waited for the swallow, the contemplation over eating another.

Then she took advantage of the way his heart was facing her as he reached for the tube to strike it with her arrow:

“When you’re done with me, please tell me in no uncertain terms.”

Blink, and you would have missed the micro-hesitation of the chip en route to his mouth as he was forced to consume her words first.

“Why do you think I’d be done with you?” He asked, popping the Pringle in his mouth and letting it rest there. He waited for it to get soggy, except her request had left his mouth dry. How did she know that he knew he couldn’t let go, long after his hands had given out? It was like the cliff side of her had formed itself like handcuffs around his wrists, refusing to yield no matter how hard he tried to wrench free.

#NaNoWriMo2017 Day 27: “Dread and Adoration”

He thought — and then red wine made him say it aloud — that he shouldn’t adore her so much. He dreaded how it would end for him.

The thing about adoration is that it fades fast, like a half-formed idea that’s forgotten among the hustle of a day only to reappear in the dead of night when he rolled over and smell her perfume on his skin, or hear in his head how she somehow could pronounce “literally” as “litchrally” without sounding pedantic. All he’d think about for the next 30 seconds of wakefulness was her: Wonderful, riveting her.

But dread? That’s what kept him up the rest of the night after her perfume had faded and voice had quieted. He studied the book of everything they had said, done, planned, agreed upon, disagreed upon, bonded over or fought over in hopes of calming or confirming his fears that this was a paperback beach read of a relationship. So many nights he stayed up reading and hoping with every page turn that he would find a passage that proved this wasn’t just an author’s cruel joke of a novel meant to make smart readers feel outmaneuvered.

Just as he rounded the 10th or 11th chapter — he had lost count of how many nights he had spent on her porch, on her couch, in her bed — he realized that he had to make a choice. He could keep running his eyes along every curve of every letter of every word, hoping to find a single phrase pointing to this relationship not being a waste of time.

Or he could leave this book, unfinished and unwanted, for someone else to try to decipher late at night. Best wishes to whoever cracked her spine next.

#NaNoWriMo2017 Day 23: “Tightropes”

All these people were walking a tightrope at one point: Balancing in a line on a line until the cable forked and some went left and some went right. And as they struggled even harder to make it on their own lines, they noticed the other lines and declared “mine is better” or “yours is better.” Some pushed, some were pushed, and almost everyone fell off.

And the joke of it all? If they had just looked ahead instead of at each other, held hands instead of shoving shoulders, they would have seen that all the tightropes came back together into one and tethered into the same endpoint.

#NaNoWriMo2017 Day 15: “Self-Abduction”

I know from the smell of Narcoleptic Sam and the torturous scream of the tracks under my feet that this is the Blue Line and I’m headed northwest — probably between Division and Damen. I know this even though I’m blindfolded and guarded by two giant men who yank me around like two dogs “share” a chew toy.

But it’s not the smell of piss-soaked sweatpants or sound of earsplitting rails that gives our location away. I know where we are because this rather public abduction was entirely planned by yours truly.

I’m paying my captors $3,000 a piece to drag me, blindfolded, halfway across this city at 1 a.m. and throw me in a confessional during the tail end of midnight Mass so my father thinks I’ve confessed to the only boss in our family higher than him: God himself.

The last thing I need anyone thinking is that I’m suddenly remorseful for killing dear Saint Jimmy, who’s not even related to us but gets the right-hand seat at Sunday dinner while I, the head of the table’s own flesh and blood, am banished to the kitchen, draining discarded wine bottles and running my fingers along the edges of still-warm pots and pans in hopes of catching a taste of glory being served in the other room before it hardens to a crust that Loradonna will have to scrub twice as hard to clean away. That’s why I have two men hauling me around in the open so the midnight dwellers think “Ole Jack has really put the screws into his kid this time,” and Dad thinks someone else has it in for one of his own.

And it’s all going according to plan until we arrive at the church and a Goliath I haven’t paid lays waste to the two schmucks I have, then drags me by my hair up five flights of rickety stairs into the bell tower where I used to smoke during Mass when I was a kid and pushes me out the window.

As I fall, still blindfolded, time stops while I wait for the ground to meet me. I chuckle to myself, thinking that this will really put a surprised look on Dad’s face. I can’t wait to haunt next Sunday’s dinner to hear the stunned silence at the table, similar to the quiet just after Saint Jimmy’s body washed up on Foster Beach. None of Loradonna’s fretting over whether there’s enough butter out for the rolls; none of Katydid’s complaint at the calorie count in the food she so happily eats for free.

None of Dad’s mirthful laughter, which I could swear I hear above me, growing more distant as I fall.

Vignette: “Parasite”

Over the weekend I removed my brain from my skull, opened it like a handbag and turned it upside down, shaking every memory, thought, impulse, question and answer about us onto paper. Every what-if and why-that; every I-should-have and you-should-have and that-should-have-never-happened fell onto the page in spiderweb writing crawling with ink splotches.

When I finished, I slammed the words into a book to squash them dead, then set to work whip-stitching my brain closed again before placing it back into my head. I thought that was enough until, with one 11-word message, you found the spot where the thread was weakest and wormed your way back inside.