4/23/15 Useless Bay

Cold feet over rough stones. The saddest part was that he’d never learned to swim. Across the the bay he could see little door lights or maybe bright shining through the kitchen windows of the houses–all homely, warm and welcoming–sparkle like unnatural candles.

They’d thrown him in as a joke but he was so far away he couldn’t see which doc he’d come from. So late now most everybody had gone to bed. Those lights were the ones people left on to keep the burglars away even though there weren’t many burglars round those parts. Still a completely dark house, he reasoned, was creepy even while you slept.

His bare feet probed the nighttime ground for barnacles rocks. Those things could cut you up real good if you weren’t careful–he’d seen it before. Lucky low tide was so low in the bay–that’s why it was called Useless. Couldn’t get a ship in here unless you’d want to do some serious digging. Excavation of the bay–now that would be a job. Luckily it wasn’t or he would have drowned.

The guys who threw them in were old high school pals. Real jokers, really. Always up for some beers and a laugh, but it wasn’t really funny anymore. Third year of college and when he came back to visit them they still called him Po’Boy Plunger because when he’d eaten a bunch of oyster at the yearly oyster celebration when he’d been 16, he’d thrown up so much it’d clogged one of the public toilets so horribly it had overflown and driven everyone else out of the mens side of the bathroom. He’d hadn’t been allergic to shellfish until that moment, he realized.

Now he was sopping wet on this spring day and dearly wishing he’d taken his mother up to go to the Snake River with her for spring break instead of seeing these guys. If he’d have done that he wouldn’t smell like salt and seaweed and whatever else was going on down below his feet–decaying fish, crabs, and bird shit, probably.

The fact that none of the guys even tried to help him out of the water, tried to figure where he’d gone or if he was already seemed strange to Paul. They knew he couldn’t swim. Knew the bay would be cold and that when they’d thrown him in it would an act of cruelty. But they probably knew it was a load tide to, and the splash and initial coldness wouldn’t be a big deal as long as he warmed up afterward. But when he hadn’t come back had any of them worried? Wondered. Paul’s phone was sitting on the table where they’d been playing poker. His extra cards stashed neatly between the leaves. Unless they took the table apart they’d never know why he was winning.

It’d always been like. They were all too stupid to know he was just stashing cards up his sleeve or between table leaves, or under his own ass. Then he’d scratch it and trade up cards for a stronger hand.

4/13/15 She Tried to Explain

Jamie had been going crazy go for a while. She’d tried to explain it, she’d tried to deal with it herself, she’d tried to smoke the insanity away with pot but it only made it worse. When she talked about it she was unable to tell anyone what it was. She would start with lines something like–

“I think I can explain it.”

Then launch into a story about a tiger and a mushroom trip. But when she stopped talking and nodded in satisfaction as though she’d finally said the words she’d been trying to say, nobody knew what she was talking about.

On the day in questions one of her roommates had called friends and thrown a small get together before going to the bars, downtown. They drank good beers and took shots of Jameson that had been floating around since christmas without any resolve. The kitchen was a mess of a place with dishes piled near the sink and food splattered over the stove. The floor was stained and marked by food and shows alike. When they cleaned it they would throw down some bleach, the spray water on the linoleum take a long, stiff haired brushed, rather like a brume and scrub it like the house had horrible teeth–though it was only the floor.

There were five or six people in the kitchen on this night. All drinking. One or two with ciders, the others with beer. All laughing and having a great time. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then a black dog ran into the kitchen, wagging her tail. The dog’s name was Nexus. Then, behind her, in the doorway Jamie appeared. She’d shaved her head some time ago on both sides and left a small amount of hair near the top, and though 26 years old, she hadn’t been able to shake the acne that spotted her face. Even if she had not been going insane, she would have looked crazy.

“Hey, Jamie,” someone said.

She leaned on the doorframe. She had a habit of wearing clothes that were far too large for her. Her eyes were severe, turning inward and it was clear she was seeing something other than everyone else in the room.

Her lips moved but no sound came out. Then, with what looked like great effort, she spoke.

“Can someone explain?”

She didn’t say what needed to be explained.

“We’re hanging out. That’s all,” someone said.

She mouthed words again, but this time no sound escaped. Then she sank down onto the floor, he back to the wall. A couple people asked her questions but she didn’t answer. She just looked ahead, unseeing and unaware, as far as anyone could tell, that the only thing that was wrong was her.

She said one last thing, “Where’s Greg?”

Years ago Greg and her were a couple, now they were good friends and when Jamie was afraid and scared of nothing Greg was the only person who could communicate with her.

“Greg is at work,” said someone.

Jamie’s lips moved then she began to shake. Her breath was shallow and nobody knew what to do.

4/10/15 This has Gotta Mean Something

The Wanderlust IPA was his drink of choice. The dimly lit bar had copper piping that marked it off from the rest of the restaurant. Near the dart boards, away from the bar, were some tall tables paired with tall wooden chairs. A couple other people were sitting in the corner chatting and drinking. She ordered a Wanderlust also, trusting in his knowledge of beers. She hadn’t really been interested beer until recently. More of a whisky drinker–to tell the truth.

They took a seat away from the bar and near the back.

“This is crazy,” he says.

“Yeah. A little.”

“It’s been, what? eight, nine years?”

“I guess.”

He’s hair that would be blonde if he lived someplace that got more sun. But since it’s the Pacific Northwest it’s just sandy brown. He has no blemishes on his face, though a light dusting of stubble on his chin and somewhat rosey cheeks.

He asks the cliche questions about why she’s back from LA. And she gives her cliche answers. The beer is good–it puts a bitter zing on her tongue. He asks what she’s doing now. Working and working. Trying to figure out what to do. He’s doing his masters in creative writing. Almost done with classes. Still finishing his thesis. He’s interesting in the way an intellectual might be interesting if they didn’t care about history. She doesn’t care about history. She cares about art and so does he. He pulls books from his backpack and reads passages of novels he thinks she might like. He reads passages from his own work. They order more beer. They talk about relationships–just the tip of the iceberg–and then stories of LA. But she is glad to be back she says. She feels like Seattle is the place to be right now.

They order more beer and she can’t remember what they talked about anymore and they order more beer.

“I just feel like guys will look too deeply into a girl being nice,” she says. They’re back on relationships.

“Yeah. I think you’re right. I’m doing that right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m wondering if I’m–well, I’m wondering if–there’s something between us maybe. I–this is going to sound crazy,” he’s a bit drunk and not as articulate, but she wants to know what he’s going to say.

“What?”

“Two days ago–three. On Friday we had a party at my house and my friend Allie showed me a picture of a book opened and a mountainous landscape for a backdrop. The caption was of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I asked Allie who posted it, and it was you. I hadn’t thought of you for years and years–we looked at your instagram and I’ve always thought you were beautiful. Then, suddenly I had your number the very next day, and now–you’re here and I’m like, wow. This has gotta mean something.”