The Cave

Posted: September 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

“The Cave”

Stay awake long enough, and you come to a point where you dream while you’re awake. Your body makes the same sleep cocktail every day whether you use it or not. Severe insomnia causes hallucinations; people see the Virgin Mary in their toast, and swear their dogs are talking to them in a voice that sounds like James Earl Jones.

Bat-shit crazy may sound like a free ride on ‘shrooms, but I had no desire to go there myself. With new sleep medication, hypnosis, and meditation, sometimes it felt like I was asleep when I was awake.

A few days ago I went for a ride, and after a while the lull of the road made me sleepy. It took all my concentration just to keep my eyes open. A gravel strip appeared along the edge of the road in the distance—a good place to pull over and get some rest.

My door yawned like a tired dog, as I gave it a shove and climbed out. Tilting my head back, I cracked my back—stretch my legs. Above me, a gull circled in the crisp blue sky.

A trail opened before me, winding through gravel and into the weeds to a set of stairs. The weathered lumber steps disappeared over the crest of the hill and begged climbing.

Near the top, the sound of waves breaking carried over the hillside. You just can’t get that close to the ocean without wandering down to it. You have to stand beside it, and feel its raw power. You have to pay your respects.
Sure enough, as I reached the top, her roar spread to the horizons

Hardly new to me, an image of this beach emerged from the slumber of my memories. I had been here before.
A path appeared in my mind, and I knew that if I followed it, I’d find a place where the water carved a little cove into the rock. A skinny trail wound its way to a cliff, and if I found the courage to climb, I’d find a cave.

My eyes fell shut. The sweet smell of wood smoke led me into the cave. The wood from his fire crackled and popped. A warm gust of air blew by me, and I felt his presence. Without even opening my eyes, I knew he saw me.

“You came back?” A voice as mellow as a wine barrel spoke to me.

My eyes opened to the blue glow of his crystal ball. He sat behind it—cross-legged on the ground, looking up at me, smiling. His boney fingers stroked his long white beard. He adjusted his wire-rimmed spectacles and studied me carefully.

He nodded, as if he had come to a decision. “You must die a thousand times within this life.”

“Excuse me?”

He snapped his fingers, and my eyelids fell shut. When I opened them, the dark gray ceiling of my bedroom hung above me.

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Anaranjado

Posted: September 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

“JORGE!” A muffled voice garbled his name. He turned his head toward the sound and molten lava trickled through his ears. Apart from the voice, the silence deafened him.

A falling feeling came over him, but it lacked a sense of gravity. He tumbled through infinite nothingness without ground beneath his feet, without sky above him, and with nothing to stumble against. The voice came from a physical place, but nothing else did.

A pair of hands dug into his shoulders, poking their thumbs into the muscle of each of his arms. The grip—firm yet gentle—seem to say “you’re okay. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

He felt the weight of his head—swooshing, swirling, and bobbing around. The motion didn’t exactly wake him up, but it brought him closer to “the surface”. He felt a sense of impending connection—a return to a place he belonged. Home.

“Stay with me, Jorge.” the voice garbled again—but closer, louder.

He drew in a deep breath, and caught a whiff of sweat, cigarette smoke, and tortillas . He knew the familiar scent, but he could not remember from where.

The hands braced him again, then rocked him from side to side. His head bobbed right, then left, and then right again. As his head drifted back to center, he opened his eyes.

Two puffy eyes—with black marbles for pupils—stared at him from a square face. The nose crooked and broken. The muscles in his cheeks and forehead looked like they could come through his skin.

Fear and confusion collided within those dark eyes, completing the message that his voice could not. “Jorge, we have to go!”

For the first time, he heard the voice clearly—its deep and raspy texture. Its roughness suggested that the speaker knew his share of confrontations. Jorge couldn’t remember anything else but a word—a name. “Rico?”

“We. Have. To. Go.” His panicked voice made it clear that whatever had unraveled continued to unravel.

“Go?” his voice rattled within his chest as he spoke.

“Jorge, he’s going to die!”

“Who?” He drew in a slow breath, and caught a whiff of something else—beyond the sweat, the cigarettes, and the tortillas . It took a second for the bitter smell to register with him. Blood. And not just a nosebleed.

Rico launched himself forward, in an attempt to block Jorge’s view, but it was too late. A pale puddle of a young man lay quivering on the floor. A hunting knife sunk into his chest, pulsing with each beat of his heart.

Jorge gagged, slumped into Rico’s arms and nearly collapsed to the floor. “I got you, cuz,” Rico said, as he slid his arms around him. A moment later, his knees gave out and only Rico’s stout frame and thick arms could hold him up.

The white linoleum floor gleaned below him. Scattered books. Loose papers. A broken pencil. A dropped knapsack. A calculator.

“Vamos.” Rico towed him toward the Emergency Exit. Darkness crept into the edges of his vision. The hallway became a dim cave—the light at the end miles away.

“Ya gotta stay with me, cuz. We’re almost there. Almost. There.”

He shuffled forward, but—more than anything—he wanted to run. He knew, as he passed through the hallway, that he was in the center of something horrible. And he was somehow connected to all of it.

Farm Scene (nothing funny)

Posted: August 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

farmscene

The Outfield

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

1994

youngclayton

At four years of age, I wore my blue overalls–Oshkosh B’gosh. I felt like a farmer, running around all afternoon “Ole MacDonald”. With my toy tractor and plastic rake, I played on the patio, while Mom pretended to be busy in the kitchen. I wasn’t sure how long it took to make a meat loaf and mash potatoes, but one thing was pretty clear: it required her soaps playing in the background.

About one o’clock in the afternoon the voice of Ed Prentiss boomed through the window: “like sands through the hourglass, so are these the days of our lives”.

“Howdy, there… partner,” a low voice echoed off the patio.

A man with a thin red beard and bright blue eyes stood before me. His shadow stretched all the way across the patio and I remember thinking that he must’ve been a giant. Wasn’t at all afraid of him. He looked like he belonged there, like he was coming home.

“You’re durdee,” I said, taking a good look at the red dirt that covered his pinstriped baseball pants.

“You’re allowed to get dirty when ya play ball.” He dropped his duffel bag on the patio, took a knee. He kept an eye on me, as a hand fumbled around inside his bag. He faked surprise as his fingers curl around a lump inside of the bag.  “Looky what I got.”

“Whad?” My voice reached a pitch usually reserved for magic shows.

In one swift motion, like a gunfighter drawing his pistol, he pulled his hand from the duffel bag and raised a clean white baseball into the air. He held the ball out for me to take. I tried to grab it with one hand like he was doing and almost dropped it.

“Better use both hands,” he said.

“You gonna teach me how to throw?”

“If ya want.”

I sat there marveling the ball for a full minute, before I heard the patio door slide open.

Mom stood just inside the door with her hands on her hips. A frown furled her pale face. She didn’t seem too happy to see him. “Sweetie, you stay out here on the patio and play. Mister Glove Love and me need to have some grown-up talk.”

“Looks like I’ve been summoned,” he said, as he stood up and took off his ball cap. A long thick mane of curly red hair fell to his shoulders.

“In here,” Mom said to Mr. Glove Love, motioning him into the house.

The door rattled shut and I began rolling Mr. Glove Love’s ball around the patio. I’d roll it up against the side of the house and wait for it, as it bounced and rolled back to me.

It seemed like I was out there forever, rolling that ball around, when I noticed Mom’s raised voice bouncing around inside the house. I could tell she was yelling, but couldn’t make out any of the words. Every now and then, Mr. Glove Love would get in a word or two, but it was mostly just her…yelling.

A little while later Mr. Glove Love stepped out onto the patio again. He didn’t seem quite so tall as he had earlier. His eyes had narrowed to slits.

“Looks like we’re gonna have to postpone our game,” he said, as he crouched down to me.

“Posspone?”

“It means we’ll have to do it…” His eyes darted around the backyard, like he was looking for something. “…some other time.”

He unzipped his duffel bag, took the ball from my hands, and dropped it inside.

“Sweetie…” Mom was in the doorway. Time to come in now.”

Mr. Glove Love zipped his bag and patted my head. “I’ll see ya, kid.”

He stood up, grabbed his duffel bag, turned away, and looked out into the yard again.

“Bye-bye, Mr. Glove Love,” I said.

“You take care of yourself… And be good to your mother.” He spoke without looking back at me. He slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and lumbered off the patio. At the corner of the house, he turned, and disappeared from sight.

“Come on in,” Mom called again.

“Mom, who is that man?

“No one, Sweetie. No one who matters.”  She sniffled, doing her best to hide her tears from me, but I could tell she had been crying.

I ran to her and threw my arms around her waist. She pulled me away from her and closed the door behind me.

“It’ll be alright,” she said, but she didn’t mention Mr. Glove Love again for years to come.