The Three Jesi(i?) Turn Water Into Wine (A Short Story)

The light haloed around his head, buzz buzz bzzt. His hair glistened. His white robe reflected the light, buzz buzz bzzt. He raised his arms, palms up.

My sons, he said.

Siddown, falsie, said Ted, rising from his chair, all orange-rock-Ben-Grimm-clobberin-time. He bumped the table bearing the cups of water and banged his head on the low-hanging light, buzz buzz thunk.

Blaspheme! said Phil. He kicked his slipper, the one with the faded red stain, at Ted. The slipper smacked the far wall, the one with the  decades-old coagulated driblets of baby-puke green paint. Ted wrapped his hands around Phil’s throat, gurgle, gurgle my son, gurgle.

Now Ted, said the Voice, you have to let Phil go.

Gurgle, gurgle, said Phil.

Ted, you should be glad that The Boys are on break. We don’t want a repeat of yesterday now do we? said the Voice.

No, Fathah.

Then please let Phil go.

Yeah Fathah, said Ted.

Gurgle hack, said Phil.

They returned to their metal chairs. Phil rubbed his throat.

Ted hated this shit and he hated having to prove the capital-T Truth and he hated the metal chairs and he hated the stupid fucking low-hanging light with its buzz buzz bzzt and he hated the mirror because that meant he had to stare at those two assholes twice as much: Phil, fucking falsie with his Richie Havens-wannabe bullshit beard and Roger with his hands in that weird egg-holding thing and his omms that popped out between pack-a-day retired-but-not-really-hooker breaths.

Omm.

Please continue your discussion in a calm and civilized manner, said the Voice. We can do that, right? Now please. Deep breath. In. And out. There. Now, continue.

I–, said Phil.

–I, said Ted.

Roger said nothing.

Roger, why don’t you start? said the Voice. You’ve been very quiet today.

Roger said nothing.

Yeah, comeongetonwiddit Rogah, said Ted. Settling shit today. Got work todo.

Like what? said the Voice.

Cahpentry stuff, Fathah, said Ted.

Mahpentwy schtwuff, Fafah, said Phil.

Ted rose. The chair squeaked. He bumped the table. The water rippled.

Gentlemen, said the Voice. I think we need to take a minute here, to reflect.

Ted sat. Pause button on clobberin’ time.

Dr. Steve stuck his thumbs into the corner of his eye sockets and rubbed. In the weeks since “The Discussions” started, he hadn’t slept, save for five minute flashes during the two o’clock hour on his office couch, the TV volume low. He worried about reverse mortgages, his testosterone level and if the future version of the Hoveround would, in actuality, hover. He wasn’t sure about the physics of it all, but he doubted that his low-volume afternoon commercials would answer, or for that matter, do anything to allay his futurist suppositions and he knew, he just knew, that Janice was fucking one of the guards. The big one. She stopped returning his calls and he had tried oh how he had tried to play it cool. New approach, new approach, he reassured himself at least once every 45 seconds. New approach. Play it cool. Play it cool while this was going on, the most important work of his life, closing the Three Jesi(i?) file. Close Jesi(i?); get Janice; Hoverround into the sunset at the Grand Canyon. He had the workflow worked out.

Dr. Steve leaned into the microphone.

OK, gentlemen. Why don’t we try the water exercise again?

I like that one, Phil said. He stared at the cup of water. He moved his hands, all late 19th-century conjurer. If he had a poster, he decided, one of those big ones that Mike and Frank paid the big bucks for, it would say Phil the Magnificent and feature a lovely female assistant named Roxy; Roxy with a y, very important that y. No -ie’s for Phil the Magnificent.

Falsie, Ted said.

Come on, pick up, pick up, the Voice said

Ted looked at the mirror and at the heavens and said, Fathah?

Nothing, nothing. Please continue.

Phil threw the water at Ted. Clobberin’ time unpaused.

The Boys burst in, chests puffed out, nightsticks at ready. Flush-faced Numero Uno–that’s right–Numero Uno and don’t you forget it–punched Phil in the nose. Number Two wrapped his arms around Ted and pulled him to the chair. Numero Uno picked up Phil. The chairs squeaked.

Phil rubbed his nose. He looked down. He noticed that both slippers were gone. That disturbed him. The floor was cold, like metal, and Phil didn’t like having cold feet because Phil didn’t like robots, not one bit, and robots had cold feet. The notion that Ted and Roger could be robots had crossed Phil’s mind more than once. He decided that was ridiculous because robots couldn’t talk, at least as we understand the concept of “talking.” The ridiculousness was reinforced when sparks didn’t emanate from Ted, because robots, as everyone knows, do not like water, not one bit; robots, in fact, disliked water as much as Phil disliked robots. He was sure, however, that Roger was a robot. He was in stasis mode. That hand thing. But then again, he didn’t want to say anything. Didn’t want them to think he was crazy.

Speaking of which.

Right on his desk? said Number Two.

Right on his desk, said Numero Uno.

The Boys sat under the bulletin board, the one that had birthdays and Photobooth pictures of the inmates. Birthday hats and balloons. The edge of the bulletin board bothered Number Two when it dug into the spot behind his ear but he wasn’t going to admit that in Numero Uno’s presence. Because, you know, guy stuff.

Wow, said Number Two.

I know, right? said Numero Uno.

Where was he?

Where you think?

No.

Yep. Right in that little room of his. Little Dr. Steve in his little Dr. Steve room.

No.

Right there.

On break, like just now?

Numero Uno put his hands behind his head.

Wow, said Number Two.

New approach, new approach. Wut we hve meens wl7d 2 me, typed Dr. Steve into his phone, the one he’d had for two years past the upgrade date, the one with the cover smashed and the flippy part that squeaked. He hit send and stared at the purple screen. Janice loved it when he said things like that. He knew it.  New approach, new approach.

Phil the Magnificent rubbed his nose. He made sure that Roger was still omming and in stasis mode. He was. Phil grabbed Roger’s untouched flowery Dixie cup. He closed his eyes. He waved his hands. He sniffled. He scratched his nose. A plop. The water turned red, rosé-red. Phil’s eyes burst wide.

Look! he said. Look!

The buh-deep came through the air and the Voice said, No, no you can’t. Not now. Can’t live without you.

I did it, I did it! said Phil the Magnificent. He waved the cup of wine-water in Ted’s face. Who’s a falsie huh? Who’s a falsie?

Ted punched Phil in the gut.

C2nt live wo u, typed Dr. Steve. Send. New approach, new approach.

Numero Uno and Number Two burst through the door and grabbed Phil and Ted. Water spilled to the floor. It soaked into Roger’s slippers, schlurp schlurp. Roger didn’t move. Stasis mode.

I did it, I did it I-! said Phil the Magnificent before Numero Uno’s nightstick offered its salutations.

Buh-deep.

A rage scream choked by sniffles and snot through the speaker. A chair through the mirror. Shards scattered across the floor. Dr. Steve climbed through the broken window, his eyes bloodshot and wild. New approach, new approach. He lunged at Numero Uno and pulled him off Phil. Dr. Steve and Numero Uno’s feet went into the air, crash splash, they landed in water and mirror shards.

I did it, I did it! shouted Phil the Magnificent.

I knew it, I knew it! shouted Dr. Steve. He punched Numero Uno*. Again and again.

Roger rose from his chair. Squish squish went his rosé-red-water-soaked slippers. Buzz buzz bzzt went the light that haloed around his head.

You guys are fucked up, said Roger.

* and don’t you forget it.

 

©2013 Tyler Weaver

bedtime (a short story)

He closes the door.

Face plate against strike plate. His fingers grip the cold metal, cold sweat coats the doorknob. He tugs. One two three four. It doesn’t open. It doesn’t sway. The words come out in the whisper of his exhale: the door is closed. He releases the doorknob. He steps forward, one step, two. His hand brushes the corner, his fingers fall into the indentations in the drywall. He stops. Her reading light illuminates the way to end the day; the sound of pages turning invite the escape.

He steps backward, two step, one. His fingers grip the cold metal. He tightens and tugs. One two three four. Left hand right hand. He breathes. The door is closed, he exhales. He releases. He steadies himself.

He grips the doorknob.

One two three four five. Five will set him free. Five will let him sleep. One two three four five. Cold sweat. Cold metal.

She calls for him, come to bed.

Coming, he says.

One two three four.

He opens the door.

He closes the door.

Face plate. Strike plate. Fingers and cold metal.

One two three four.

Forget something? she asks.

Light was on in the hallway, he says.

One two three four. He releases. Hand against the corner. Cold sweat seeps into drywall.

Come to bed.

Just a second.

Pages turn.

He opens the door.

 

 

June (A Short Story)

 

I tremble.

My bones creak and I pull myself up from the porch, splintered wood releasing itself from my paws but I won’t whimper. The Biteys follow me to my guard duty. The Round-Leg Metal Dog clicks and clacks and turns off. It floats over the road when it walks. Its Master holds the leash inside it. Its Master doesn’t even have to chain it to a post. SitStayGoodDog until it’s time to go for a walk.

I snarl.

I used to go for walks inside them, inside other Round-Leg Metal Dogs, but not for a long time. Not since MyFriend left. Not since JuneShake. Not since the old smells grew taller and brought new smells with them and my eyes clouded over and I couldn’t see but I could smell everything like I used to when I would protect them. They don’t need my protection but I still smell everything: the air from Round-Leg Metal Dog, the brown spit on the ground, last night’s rancid scraps, the bees nesting and buzzing in my chewed-out ball, the crust around my bowl, the rust hole that makes my water spill onto the porch, the smell of my own blood from the Biteys maybe I’ll name them like MyMaster named me: sometimes GoodJune. Sometimes DammitJune. Sit Stay. Fuckoff. No shake. Not anymore. I like to shake. I miss to shake. GoodJune.

The new face, the Round-Leg’s Master. That old thing still kicking? he says. He laughs and spits. He puts out his fleshpaw. I growl. I’m still kicking. He keeps reaching. I snap. He slaps. Stupid old dog. I grab his fleshpaw with my teeth, the droplet of chew spit that missed and dirt, the shale and ham and flesh and bone and blood. MyMaster yells, JesusFuckingChristJune. He hits me again. I let go. DammitJune. I whimper. I lay back down. I see MyMaster walking with him and they disappear into the cloud.

I used to see as far as the world is wide before the cloud, all the way to the end of the road and back.

• • •

They say I’m cross.

The blue turns black and the night smells come out. The bad ones howl and whine and circle the house and the sheep. I sit. I stay. The Biteys swarm and bite and the splinters splinter each time I roll over into my own little slice of comfort. I keep myself warm against the cold metal of my chain of my tether. When I roll it clinks and clacks and I hear it bend. Snap. Someday snap.

MyMaster opens the screen door and stumbles out. He holds himself up with the wood and metal stick. DammitJuneDammitJune. You make me do this. You make me I just. He points the metal stick at my face and puts the wood up to his eyes. He hides behind it. I look up, up at the dark metal stick, up at his trembling fleshpaws and at the water from his eyes. Ohforfuckssake he says. He puts the metal stick down. Onemorechance he says. He pats me on the head with his wet fleshpaw.

GoodJune. Onemorechance. GoodnightJune.

• • •

LoudChicken hoots and hollers to tell all of us that it’s time to get up but I know that already. MyMaster shuffles by, throwing the straps of his overalls over his shoulders and grumbling and he pats me on the head and I pull and he says DammitJune not another one don’t break another one spent more money on chains for you than on the chickens that hoot and holler. They were good chickens.

A Round-Leg Metal Dog pulls into the driveway. I pull and pull and tug and the splinters dig into each pad but I will pull and be useful I will be protecting and GoodJune. Onemorechance. I pull and pull and tug and tug and even the Biteys get out of my way and today snap.

I run and run and I run past MyMaster DammitJune and past his fleshpaw with the overall strap holding on by a thread and to the gate. I jump and hit my belly against the cold metal and my claws scrape and make a bad noise and flake rust to the ground and into my hair against the Biteys that fly with me like a raincloud that makes me bleed. Scrape scrape scramble scamper. But I won’t whimper not June DammitJune.

The Round-Leg Metal Dog breathes and its Master crawls out. I will protect MyMaster. I will show how useful I am. I will protect him. Onemorechance. I bare my teeth, even the hole where the one is missing and the other was glued back on. I still taste the glue. It was a treat. It gummed up my throat and I licked and licked and they laughed and laughed stupid old dog but now I will protect and show MyMaster I am useful I snarl Onemorechance and MyFriend says JuneShake and I stop.

JuneShake.

I shake.

©2013 Tyler Weaver

A Perfect Family (A Short Story)

 

She sits next to the three-month-old magazines and watches people scurry amidst the sound of keyboards and cash machines, the scritch-scratch of pen against deposit slip and the impertinence of the child clinging to his mother’s leg. Thank you. Good morning. Have a good day. How’re the kids.

The banker approaches her, dutiful solemnity in his step. He rests his hand on her shoulder and helps her up from the chair. He looks at her with that now all-too-familiar look that says I’m terribly sorry for your loss, but you should have stuck with me in high school.

• • •

The train passes. The crossing gates rise and beckon him through. He puts the truck into gear and drives across. He laments the old girl’s fading shocks.

He pulls into the school parking lot. Empty, like every morning at this godforsaken hour. He pulls the phone out of his pocket and rests it on the passenger seat.

Between bites of sausage biscuit and coffee, he stares at the brick temple of triumphs past. He is the embodiment of the great small town epic, the star athlete who married the head cheerleader and gave back to the community via Jesus and real estate.

He smiles at their photo taped to the dashboard, his perfect family: his beautiful wife, their radiant bliss more than making up for the children absent from their life, the one thing they couldn’t have.

She let him have her in the parking lot after their last game. Aerosmith played low. The tape clicks drowned Steve out. She said it didn’t count without a ring. He put his class ring on her finger, four sizes too big. She gave him hers. It cut off circulation to his pinky. Their rings scratched the inside windows of his Cavalier.

They opted for necklaces later.

He takes another bite. The phone buzzes. He puts the truck into gear.

• • •

The banker leads the way.

–– Watch your step. Had two people fall down yesterday. Feet slipped right out from under ‘em. I think we’ve got a cracked stair under there.

She clutches the railing.

–– I just can’t imagine what you’re going through right now. Tom was ––is––a good friend.

She nods.

• • •

He adjusts the sign in front of the house. High winds last night. It’s their third viewing. They’re going to put in an offer. He can feel it.

–– It’s got everything you could ever want. Perfect for entertaining. Fenced in yard. Privacy.

He brought her here a few times. The other her.

He guides them through the signing. They sit at the tiny breakfast table. Sign here. Initial there. The wife inspects the hinges on the kitchen cabinets. He adds “replace cabinet hinges” to the conditions.

He shakes their hands. He tells them he’ll let them know as soon as he hears anything.

• • •

The banker turns the wheel to the vault. The door opens with a lurch. Boxes line the far wall. A table in the center.

–– Pretty rough game the other night, huh? Can’t believe we lost. Not even fair. They can recruit. Makes us the best public school in the state, doesn’t it? Tom would have––

She hands him the key.

• • •

He drives past the school. He pulls out his phone.

–– Great news: they accepted. Have a good night’s rest and we’ll get everything moving forward tomorrow. That’s right. Yep. Hinges too.

He smiles and hangs up. He adjusts his tie ––his favorite Indians tie–– and puts in the CD. Steven at full blast.

He drives the truck onto the train tracks. He puts it in park and takes his foot off the pedals. The train whistle screams. The crossing gates scrape the hood and bed. He clutches the necklace.

Amen.

• • •

The key fits. The banker places the box on the table.

–– I’m terribly sorry it all came out this way, Alison.

–– Thank you.

She opens the box.

Her class ring.

A five thousand dollar bill. A ten thousand dollar bill. Brother and sister. A perfect family.

A note:

IT ALL COUNTS.

 

I Can See (A Short Story)

 

The bell dings.

He eases into the booth. Jesus. Another one with a cold. Hannah greets our sniffling guest.

–– One for you?

–– That’d be great. Thanks.

She walks away. The limp happened in the first riot. Tragic day.

–– The coffee here is absolutely sublime. You’ll enjoy it.

Any opportunity to spread the brilliance of our little town. Our tragic, triumphant little town.

He exchanges the usual pleasantries. Thank you for agreeing to this. Such a tragedy what happened to this town. Yes, yes.

Hannah sets the coffee before him. He takes it with two sugars and milk. Two plops. Just can’t understand why one would besmirch perfection like that.

–– The usual, Max?

–– Just another coffee please, Hannah.

The sound of coffee being poured is so wonderful, isn’t it? Like a caffeinated waterfall.

Our guest flips through the menu.

–– You know, I’ve heard great things about the noodles in this town. I’ll take a bowl of them.

––They are quite good.

–– One bowl of noodles. Got it. You sure Max? Nothing for you?

–– Not at the moment, thank you.

He glugs his coffee and finishes with a self-satisfied capper, a smack and an ahhh. Coffee is meant to be savored, not sucked in like a penny into a vacuum.

–– This is good. Damn good. Wow.

–– Hannah’s the best.

–– Tastes like it.

He wipes his mouth. The napkin edges rough over his chapped lips. He coughs. A sniffle. Should really take care of that. Lazy boy.

–– Two Tylenol Cold every three hours will clear that right up. Awful weather for a cold.

He smirks, a small laugh comes through. A cold is a serious affliction. Spreadable. A virus. No laughing matter.

–– You mind?

–– Please, go right ahead.

He coughs. Again. The click of a button. The recorder whirrs that unmistakable sound of analog recollection.

–– Things are really going well here. I wasn’t expecting that so… soon.

–– We’ve endured a lot, but we’re a strong community.  We care for one another.

–– I can see that. You were… someone the people of this town saw something in. It was rebuilt. You were elected mayor…

–– In a landslide. Yes. It’s like the saying, “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” But I’m no king. I simply gave them the strength to do it. I told them they could do it. And they believed it. They put it into action and rebuilt their lives and adapted to their new normal. I guided as best I could. It was them. Which paper are you from again? I speak with so many.

–– The Sentinel. The blindness wasn’t immediate was it?

–– For some. Yes, for some it took hold right away. The Sentinel? Haven’t I spoken to you before? You seem familiar.

–– I don’t think so. This is my first time here. You’re my first interview, actually.

They send a sniffling greenhorn to talk with me?

–– Really? An honor, I’m sure. Where was I?

–– The blindness that took over the town. It wasn’t immediate, correct?

–– Yes, yes. Correct. For some it was. For others, it was gradual. A week, maybe less. But no more. It never got to me. I don’t know why. Perhaps the grace of God? Maybe this was my calling, my true purpose.

He shifts. He’s uncomfortable. He’s landed in this town of blind small-town bumpkins clinging to their religion in times of tragedy. A biblical epidemic of blindness. Wouldn’t you cling to something? To anything? A story of survival against all odds pulled through by the grace of God. Everyone loves those stories. Especially those that would call us small-town bumpkins.

–– How did the people cope?

–– What do you mean?

–– They went through so much. Such a sudden shock. How did they deal with that?

–– Each person dealt with it — and deals with it differently.

–– Maybe I should talk to them.

–– I don’t know about that. Is this really pertinent to your story?

–– I’m sorry. I have a friend who survived a terrible accident, and I’m hoping that by talking with you and seeing this town that I can offer him some form of solace.

–– I see. What happened to your friend?

–– A car accident. Terrible, really. His wife was killed. His dog. He was broken. Blinded. He blamed himself.

–– A tragedy. You can never get over it, but you can overcome it. I see people do it every day. They thrive in the face of adversity, even without their sight.

–– Wow. Yeah. I never thought of it that way.

–– Was it his fault?

–– No. But he was never the same. He retreated from life. He hid inside himself.

–– I see. I’m terribly sorry to hear about that. I hope we can give you the empathy you need to help him overcome his affliction.

Why would you interview someone for a renowned publication and turn it into a psychiatry session for yourself? Selfish shit. Sniffling all the time. Why do reporters all have colds? They don’t take of themselves. Clearly.

–– Why do you hide your face?

Ah yes. That. They always love this.

–– Because I want the outside world to see me as they do, a voice, guiding them. I want them to understand what we survived. What we endured. My mask is a way of letting you out there never forget.

–– That’s great. Really is. Our readers will really respond to that.

Another sniffle and cough. Good God man, take care of that. There’s a napkin right in front of you. Place it to your nose. Blow. Not difficult. Don’t want another cold, especially this time of year. Summer colds are the worst.

Hannah sets the bowl on the table. The aroma of the broth is sublime. Pity he can’t smell it with all that stuck up there. You do know that smell is integral to taste, yes? He schlurps. Again.

–– You know, the noodles really are fantastic. Hasn’t changed a bit. Remember how we used to eat these as kids, Max?

Pardon?

–– Pardon?

–– Nothing, nothing. Just brought back memories. Grew up in a town just like this. Where were we?

–– Your readers will really respond to that.

The coffee’s getting cold.

–– Right, right. The mask. Did you start wearing it right after that day?

–– I had to assemble it. Piece by piece. But slowly, it came together, just as the town came together.

–– So it’s like one of those quilts?

–– Precisely. Just like one of those quilts. We have an amazing sewing group out here, you know. They meet every Thursday. Remarkable their triumph over adversity. Like nothing happened.

–– Like nothing happened.

He twists his fork into noodles, screeching against the side of the bowl.

––  This is really great stuff. Thank you. I have just one last question. Is there anything we didn’t talk about that you’d like to mention?

My favorite. Even the idiots ask that one. Then again, they all sound alike. Human interest, blah blah. Triumph, blah, blah. Coping, blah blah.

–– No, no. I think we covered everything. I just want to remind everyone that you can do anything you set your mind to. Look at us. Look at this town. Did we cower when things got rough? When the epidemic hit? No. We grew stronger, more resolute. We will survive. And we will thrive.

–– Wow. That’s perfect. That’s fantastic. Thank you.

–– Of course. It’s my pleasure.

He turns off the tape recorder. He shakes my hand. His palms are moist. Must be the coffee. They always brew it hot (almost too hot sometimes). He and Hannah whisper. She’s not happy. You can bet that the sniffler tried to stiff her (like that? Ha). Happens all the time. He sniffles again. Jesus. They think just because someone is in a position of power that they have all the cash. He’s your brother, try again, she says. Yes, we’re all brothers in this, aren’t we, Hannah? He whispers something.

Oh really? I can see more than you can, dear boy. I can see more than they can. I always have. I always will.

Hm.

The bell dings.

He eases into the booth. Jesus. Another one with a cold. Hannah greets our guest.

–– One for you?

–– Perfect. Thanks.

She walks away. The limp happened in the second riot. Tragic day.

–– The coffee here is absolutely sublime.