5/20/15 Stories in Water

Stories in Water



It all started with the screech of tires, a thump, a gasp, and the cracking of ribs. A lump in Theo’s throat as his mother fumbled frantically to extricate herself from the car. His breath leaving a receding fug on the living room window from where he watched the scene unfold.

It was a little thing–the last-time breath the dog ever took–and Theo didn’t cry. He was never much of weeper. He always felt his mother did enough for the two of them. In many ways it was similar to the day his mother finally realized Dad wasn’t coming home.

The light rain pattered the pavement as Theo ran down the driveway. His mother only stood over her, the little pooch, just stood over the white dog and watched. When Theo bent to run his hands through the fur, they came away oily and wet, smelling of life.


Can we take her inside, he asked, looking up at his mother, whose eyes were rimmed red.


How did she get out? was all she said.


Theo slid his arms under the cooling body and he hoisted her up. He walked slowly back to the house. Theo placed Dottie in the small dog bed near the fireplace and sat with her as his mother parked the car along the street. He noticed she didn’t come in for a long time.



Dottie was gone the next day. Theo woke up to find his mother had left, presumably with the dog she had killed. The small dog bed, that Dottie had so often occupied over the years, drew his eye as if the body were still there. Then, two weeks after the incident Theo arrived home from school to find his mother beaming, Dottie curled in her bed. But she wasn’t the same.


Do you like it? his mother had asked. Her freckled cheeks were a bit too shiny and something glossy was hidden behind her eyes that were framed by her straight raven hair–dyed with some noxious smelling stuff the week before.


She looks like she’s sleeping, was all Theo could say.


I know, I know, cooed his mother. I wish we could have saved her.


Theo nodded. He understood the weirdness of the situation, and the weirdness of his mother. It was like when she had surprised him on his tenth birthday with a stethoscope and a pair of elbow length latex gloves.


Now you can be a surgeon, like your father, she had told him.


He humored his mother every day of her life. He loved her too much to tell her the truth–that he didn’t want to be a surgeon, he didn’t want to see Dottie anymore. He humored her because she did her best; it was just unfortunate that her best was much worse than other people’s.

Even though Theo didn’t want to see Dottie like that, he still held a morbid curiosity for his dead pet. Where had she gone? Was it possible that she was still in there? Somewhere? In the middle of the night Theo crept down the hall, stethoscope around his neck, and press the diaphragm to the place he knew her heart had once been. The silence within was strangely comforting; how could he find something so sick and twisted to be so beautiful?

5/4/15 Kyla and Kittie

Kyla is a dog person. When I told her I liked the old-school Volkswagen Beetle it almost ended our relationship. She has a keen sense of style and design that provades her life; everything from her half-moon earrings, to her mojito pitcher and checkered glasses is calculated based on aesthetic. She loves Art Deco architecture and when we’re walking down the street she’ll commonly point to an alley with faded, weather worn bricks and rusted piping running down the buildings like raindrops.

“Look,” she’ll say, “what a cool alley–go stand near that doorway.”

Then she’ll tell me to put my hat on, or take it off, or put my hair up, or let it down, depending on the scene she’s seen in her mind. Then I’ll be her model for a couple minutes and the moment will be over but there will be a little snap-instant of that moment saved in her camera or phone and maybe–just maybe, I think–the NSA will pick it up and know that she is taking pictures of me.

Kyla is a dog person. But not like I’m a dog person. I have a hard time walking down the street without petting every dog I see. Kyla likes dogs. Likes dogs.

She hates cats. I found this out when I house sat for some friends who have a great dane and a cat. The dog is the embodiment of nice. She is quiet, dopey, and always in a good mood, whether for cuddles or for playtime.

The cat has taken on the meanness the dog would have had and kept it for itself. She hisses when you walk by, swipes at you, with claws that are mercifully declawed paws, and stands in front of the bathroom so you cannot pass without a fight. At night she is constantly at the bedroom door pawing it in a rapid fire pa-pa-pa-pa-pa that wakes you. When you open the door to tell her to go away she hisses, but she is pawing the door in order to be fed, so if you want anymore sleep for the rest of the night you need to feed her.

Kyla first developed a healthy fear of Kittie. But this changed one day when Kyla and I arrived back at the apartment. The hallway is long and carpeted and there is seldom anyone in it. The doors are all red, except the one that goes into the recycling closet, and the elevator. I unlocked the door, 316, to find Kittie standing at the door, waiting for us.

“No,” says Kyla, slightly higher than her typical voice.

“Kittie, go on,” I say pushing my foot out in front of me.

Kittie hisses and turns away. She walks down the little entrance way and then stops. I proceed.

“Tell her to get in her corner,” Kyla says.

I put my foot out in front and close to Kittie, again she runs further into the apartment. When we come into the kitchen Kittie is sitting in the gap between the couch and the well.

“Go away,” says Kyla.

I go forward to try and shush Kittie into her favorite corner. Kyla is directly behind me and as I try to influence Kittie in one direction she decides the other direction, past me toward Kyla is a more sensible route. She springs over my foot and darts past me, toward Kyla, who lets out a scream. Instead of scaring Kittie away, Kittie stops and looks at Kyla who turns her scream into a wail.

I buckle at the waist in fits of laughter, Kittie slinks off to her closet and Kyla, gasping and sputtering with freight collapses on the couch clutching her chest and laughing. Kittie is gone, but I am there and as Kyla laughs I see a tear run down her cheek. I wonder about what this experience can teach us about the nature of fear.

5/1/15 Coffee and Crazy

Some people aren’t meant for this world. Or that is they’re stuck in between this one and another. You can imagine how difficult that would be for anyone.

There was a man on street corner talking to himself the other day, minding his own business. I watched from the safety of a coffee shop as the man sipped his own coffee out of a paper cup. People walking by him gave him room. They didn’t know what to do.

Above the sky was azure, but down here we were only insane. All of us, in some ways. The barista’s behind me made coffee after coffee. Americano. Latte. Doppio. Extra milk. Soy. Americano. And it started around 7 am and would continue until 7 pm. This was an ordinary day. The only man who understood that this was wrong–or perhaps, the only man who felt that this was a waste was the crazy man outside.

I watched as two police officers approached him. I was unsure whether they had been called or if they had just happened by. I suspect the former, but really I couldn’t see what they might do. This man wasn’t breaking the law, and he certainly wasn’t dangerous–or it didn’t look like it. He was just standing on that street corner talk to himself. What he was saying I couldn’t tell.

At my computer I usually use my headphones, but for some reason I took them out that day. I have a difficult time focusing if I hear other people talking. Maybe because they all seem insane to me. Or they are just projections of these things we call self. Though I don’t know why any part me would like an mocha.

“Hey, how are you doing today?” I heard the blonde barista ask. She had a big smile and wasn’t naturally blonde–hardly anyone was around Seattle. I would be if I got more sunlight, but with as much gray in the sky as green on the trees there wasn’t much chance of that.

“Mocha, extra chocolate,” said a man’s voice.

Outside the cops had taken the crazy man across the street and were patting him down by their cruiser.

“Would you like anything else with that?”

The woman next to me ruffled her paper. She was fat and smelled faintly of cats even though the place itself smelled more like coffee–she was gross.

“Take you out for some drinks?” asked the man.

I was determined not to turn around. I waited to hear what she would say.


Just then someone turned on the grinder. The blonde’s words were lost in a violent crushing and shopping of beans.

I didn’t turn around. I sat with the cat smelling lady watching the police cuff the crazy man outside. They had emptied his pockets. There had been nothing in there except lint–it seemed, now they pushed his head down and he ducked into the back of the patrol car. Across the room and behind me the man who had asked the girl for drinks took a seat. He stayed. Maybe because she said yes. But then his coffee was made and he got up and when he left I couldn’t understand what he was feeling.