Monday, August 31, 2015

Scraps and Unused Ends #4: Tooth Troubles



 Since I usually put up my stuff that is... emotionally demanding, shall we say, I thought I might lighten it up a little this time with a short I wrote quite a few years ago after I got a tooth pulled.  

This one is dedicated to my Mom, who has had some recent tooth troubles of her own.  


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Tooth Troubles

            On Wednesday, the pain in my tooth became unbearable, so I had it pulled.  The dentist let me keep it.  I didn’t want to let it go-- this thing has been part of me.  When the numbness went away, I was so relieved that the pain was gone, I laughed out loud. 

            On Thursday, I awoke to find the tooth lying on my pillow, next to my head.  “How did you get there?” I asked the tooth.  I put it back in the little box that the dentist gave me, and thought about it no more.

            On Friday, I awoke to find the tooth balanced on my nose.  I could only see it if I looked cross-eyed. 
            “What,“ I asked the tooth, “are you doing there?”
            “I didn’t know you could speak Tooth,” said the tooth. 
            “I can’t.” I replied. 
            “Well I can’t speak People either” said the tooth.   “One of us must be dreaming.” 
            “Sounds about right,” I said.  “Well I should probably wake up now.  I’ve got to go to work.” 
            “Wait,” said the tooth. “How do you know I’m not dreaming you?” 
            “Teeth can’t dream,” I replied. 
            “Don’t be so sure,” said the tooth.  I went back to sleep.  When I awoke again, the tooth was gone. 

            On Saturday, I awoke to find the tooth again on my nose. 
            “What are you doing there?” I asked the tooth again. 
            “Listen,” said the tooth.  “We gotta talk.  I’m mad at you.  You did me wrong, brother, real wrong.   
            “What?”  I asked the tooth. 
            “You had me pulled,” the tooth said.  “That hurt my feelings.  Now I’m homeless, and I don’t have a job.  After all I have done for you, you fire me without any notice?  You’re a jerk. 
            “Wait,” I said to the tooth.  “You were hurting me.  I had to have you pulled, I couldn’t stand the pain anymore.”
            “Great,” said the tooth. “Think only of yourself.  Now what am I supposed to do?  I’m useless.” 
            “This is stupid,” I said, more to myself than the tooth.  “I need to wake up.” 
            “What for?” said the tooth, “It’s Saturday.  You don’t work today.  Plus, I’m dreaming you, so it’s me that needs to wake up, and I don’t want to. 
            “Teeth can’t dream,” I said again. 
            “Well,” said the tooth, “I know quite a few molars that would be very surprised to hear that. I’m glad you are such an expert on teeth. 
            “Listen,” I told the tooth, “I’m sorry.  I only wanted you to stop hurting me, not put you out of work.  Can’t you get another job?” 
            “In this condition? Not likely.  You see this hole?  No one will want a cavity-ridden tooth in their mouth.  It’s all over for me.” 
            “Well what can I do now?” I asked the tooth.  “I can’t put you back.  There’s no hole anymore.”          
           “Hmmmm,” said the tooth, “I’ll have to think about this when I wake up.” 

            On Sunday, The tooth was back on my nose. 
            “I got it,” the tooth said. “Make me into a necklace.  Then I’ll have a purpose.” 
            “What?”  I asked. “That’s ridiculous. I can’t have a tooth necklace, I work in a bank.”
            “You could wear me on the inside of your shirt when you’re at work, then on the bus home you could pull me out so I could get some air.  Maybe we could have a chat as well.”
            “I can’t speak Tooth while I’m awake,” I reminded the tooth. 
            “So what?” the tooth said.  “I can still hear you, and that makes a difference.” 

            On Monday, the tooth was in the box when I woke up.  I took it to work, and on my lunch hour had it made into a necklace. 

            Now, I have the tooth with me all the time.  It’s just hanging around my neck doing nothing for me except maybe embarrassing me from time to time.  I think of getting rid of it a lot- especially when it falls out at an inopportune time, like on a date, and I have to make up some story about why I have a tooth around my neck.  But then I think of how mad it would be if I got rid of it, and how embarrassed I would feel if the tooth confronted me.  It hasn’t appeared on my nose for a while, so that’s good.  Yesterday on the bus, a woman leaned down to tie her shoe, and a tooth on a chain swung out of her blouse.  She caught my staring and for a moment, I was going to ask her about her tooth troubles, but then, I didn’t.  Tooth problems are personal affairs, and no one’s business but your own.


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 I really like this one because it seems to have a hidden meaning.  It might, I suppose; you're the reader, you tell me. 

It is a nice piece, if a little strange, and one that I can actually read to my kids, which is hardly ever the case.  I would love to see it made into a picture book.
 If there is an illustrator out there that wants to collaborate, I have something else that needs pictures, too.  Please contact me; maybe we can work together.

Still Writing, 
RP

Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, comment here, send me an email dissent.within at gmail dot com.  If you like what I do, let me know, but more importantly, let other people know.  The best way to support writers is to share their work with other people that might also like it.   




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Floating Corpses

When I was five or six, we went swimming in a reservoir near Walla Walla.  We were splashing around as is customary in these situations, maybe building a castle, maybe diving for rocks.  You can visualize it I expect: summertime swimming at the local pond, nothing really serious.

And then this guy started screaming.  He was out on one of those air mattresses, a clear one that had the holes just the right size for a can, about the size of a queen bed, just floating around, when a human corpse floated up and hit the bottom.

This is really true.  I remember it a little, but not much; I was kindergarten age, remember?  I remember wanting to see it, but being afraid to.  I remember some people on the shore yelling to the guy to tow it in and him refusing to touch it.  I remember being hustled out of the water, and we didn't stick around long after that.

And I have this image in my memory of a pale hand and a gold watch, but that may just be my imagination.  I think about it sometimes.  I never learned how the body ended up in the water, if he, and I am sure the body was a he, was drowned or had been sunk there, hidden there.  I suppose it doesn't really matter, not to me; I just have a slightly interesting story to tell, it wasn't my body.

How long was it there, lodged under a rock maybe, or weighed down by a chain in the cold dark, just waiting for the gasses to build enough, or the restraints to break, or the body to decompose or get eaten by fish...  It was just there, waiting, and then unexpectedly it rose to the surface and ruined swimming day for everyone, not the least of which was the guy on the mattress just chillin in the sunshine, and unprepared for any corpse-related activities.

I have had to open myself up recently to unwanted intrusions into my life, into my safe little cocoon.  I have found myself expelled from my shell and now, here I stand under the bright clinical lights blinking and soft and pink.

I am online more because of the impending release of my novel, interacting with people, and at first it was fun, it was happy summertime fun in the sun.  But now things I had wrapped in chains, had sunk to the dark cold bottom, have begun to break free, and they are floating to the surface and they are ruining my swimming time.  What you are reading now, this space here is a safe place where I can be honest and open and say the things that I really want to say.  Here is my space; this is the inside.  Out there is the outside, and it is bright and painful and terrifying and dangerous.   

I am private, understand.  I have no desire to be a public figure or part of any community.  I just want to tell my stories, and stay hidden.  I don't want floating corpses in my life, and I certainly don't want to tow them to shore.  I'm not going to touch those fucking things, no way.

But this isn't realistic given my goals and plans.

It isn't healthy or productive behavior; it is a child's impulse.

A while ago, my dog left the bottom half of a squirrel on my living room floor.  I remember looking at it, and wondering who the hell was going to take care of this, isn't there an adult to call in?  I looked around the house, and I realized that it's me.  I'm the one that is going to have to take care of it.  You can't leave a dead squirrel on your living room floor waiting for someone to pick the thing up.  You can't leave floating corpses in the water either.  You have to tow them in, or you will never have happy summertime swimming fun ever again.

Don't take this the wrong way.  I want to hear from you, I really do.  I want you to contact me on Twitter, or on Facebook, I want you to email me and comment here.  I want to hear from you.

Listen.  I want to hear from you.  Yes, even you, you damned floating corpse.

Still writing,

RP
19 August, 2015

The usual after word:  Twitter @RDPullins, On Facebook, like my Antiartist page, email me.  dissent dot within at gmail dot com
Thanks for all the people that have given me a boost, Scott Thompson (@sthompsonauthor) especially.



 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Edges



This is a short fiction piece that I wrote a couple of months ago in the office when I should probably have been working.  Sometimes I have a very hard time letting go when the words want to fall in the right order as they did for this one.  My publisher does this thing where authors are encouraged to contribute writing to the blog, or for the website or whatever, and they have a monthly prompt, usually just a single word.  This one was for July and the word was "Edge." 

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Edges

I am nine years old.  I look at my feet on the edge of the roof, the toes of my shoes poking out over the gutter.  Below is my brother, older, and the architect of this plan.  I look behind me at the homemade parachute, cobbled together from an old bed sheet and clothesline, and beyond that the open window that I had climbed out.  I am hoping for my mother’s head to appear there, shout at me to come inside, what the hell am I thinking, but the window stays empty.  It looks nice inside. Warm. Safe.

I am thirteen.  I stand at the door of my bedroom, my hand resting on the knob.  I can hear them out there, him and his harsh grating voice, rising and falling in volume erratically, hateful poison words spilling out, her quiet weeping, pleading.  I turn and look at my bed, simultaneously wishing I hadn’t woken up, and hating my own cringing cowardice for wishing that.  Out there lies madness and pain.  All I have to do is go back to bed, all I have to do is clamp my pillow over my head, try and fail to sleep.  All I have to do is- and out there in the light and hate comes a sound, too familiar, a quiet meaty thump, then a breathy whimpering wheeze.  My left hand closes on the knob of the door.  The right, into a fist. 
 
I am twenty-two.  Resting in my palm is a small unmarked pill, a little bigger than a tic-tac, the effects of which haven’t been made entirely clear to me.  I look at the guys standing in the circle around the campfire.  They all are looking at me, expectantly, having already swallowed their own pills.  Behind them, lit sometimes by the orange flickering light, is the forest, dark and cool.

I am nine.  On the ground below, my brother shouts up at me to just jump, don’t be a little pussy, it’s not going to hurt, that’s what the parachute is for.  My toes are sticking over the edge, and I focus on them, not looking at the impossibly long distance between them and the back lawn.  I look at my brother.  I trust him.  I believe that the parachute will work.  I don’t know it yet, but one day he will be gone, and this is how I will remember him, his upturned face angry and impatient, calling me a pussy, telling me its OK to jump, it’s not going to hurt.  I don’t know it yet, but I will tell this story years and years later at his wake, drunk in my ill-fitting suit, his few friends standing around me laughing and saying yep that’s just him, I can see it now.  And standing on the roof at nine years old, more than faith that it won’t hurt, more than believing that the parachute will open, is my overwhelming desire to not be a disappointment to him, for him to not think of me as a little pussy.  I look back at the window, at the safety and warm light in there.  I close my eyes, bend my scabby scrawny knees, and I jump.

I am thirteen, and I rush out into the light, where he is standing over her, his face contorted in rage, shouting at her why do you do this to yourself, his monster’s mouth spilling poison and lies.  I don’t know it yet, but he will die, much as I wished him to, alone and unloved, bloated in an anonymous motel room, found by the housekeeper, collected by the county, but this is how I will remember him, standing over her, shouting.  She is on her knees on the carpet, doubled over making hitching gasping sounds, her face streaked, her eye makeup sliding down her cheeks, one arm cradled around her stomach, the other holding her weight off of the floor.  She looks small and broken, pathetic, a sick animal.  As I rush, he turns to me, he knew I was coming, and he steps back out of the way, and as I pass he shoves me on the back of my neck, and I crash through the glass top coffee table.  I land in the shattered fragments, my heroic moment over before it even started.  I bleed from a dozen places, from my head and my arms and hands.  I sit there dazed and he comes over, he squats down, rests his elbows on his knees.  He looks almost sad.  His face is right there, an arm's reach away, I could hit him, just once get a shot in, but I don’t, I can’t.  He tells me that I have no more balls than that dumb cunt over there.  Worthless, he says, the both of you.  He stands up, and walks over to her.  He toes her with his boot.  Get your shit together he tells her, Fuckface is going to need stitches.  Fuckface.  That’s me.

I’m twenty-two.  At first there’s nothing.  We wait, we shuffle around the campfire.  The guys talk, joke, lie.  The fire flickers and dances and casts strange elongated shadows on the trees behind us, and still nothing happens.  Then, something, a little something around the edges of my vision, the dancing shadows somehow sharper, the voices clearer in some undefinable way, and then a rush of everything, an overload, a wave that rises and pours through me, and my breath flies in and out, too long between exhale and inhale, the heat from the fire washing over me, through me, like warm water, like love, and still the rush comes and the hairs on my arms stand up and the swelling in my chest filling with every breath, and I look at my companions and they are inexplicably beautiful, angels, the orange light shining on them, illuminating them, and I realize that we are all beautiful like this, all the time.  I open my mouth to speak, to tell them this important discovery, and I find that words have left me, and all that comes out is a sound of marvel, a wordless question, just consonants, and still the rush comes crashing through me and it is then that I become afraid that I might die, and I remember the cool quiet dark of the forest, the safety of being alone, and I turn and I walk into the dark.  Behind me is laughter and warm orange light and companionship and I turn my back and walk into the silent darkness and the voices of my friends fall away and it is only then that the rush levels off.  I look around and everything is black and blue and silver, the lines of trees and branches too sharp, too real, and I feel something crack open inside myself and I fall, and it pours out, everything, and I can feel the tears tracking down my cheeks, and I turn my face to the sky, and the silver light of the moon envelopes me and I cry, openly and without shame, and for the first time that I can remember, since I was a child, for the first time I feel loved.  Somewhere inside I secretly recognize the artificiality of this, somewhere deep I know I will awake from this dream and nothing will have changed, but even still I know I will want to feel this again.

I am nine.  The earth rushes up and crushes my legs into my chest, knocking the breath out of me so I can’t even cry out, my teeth crash together and everything goes grey and quiet for a moment, and then pain comes rushing in, I taste the hot penny taste of blood, and finally I start to breathe in great gasps.  I don’t want to, but I start to cry, the tears coming, shameful, unwanted.  My vision clears and I see my big brother standing over me, looking disappointed.  You didn’t spread your stupid arms, he tells me, that’s why it didn’t work.  He shakes his head, and leaves me there with a bloody mouth and little breath with which to cry.

I am thirteen.  I’m sitting on the clinic table as the cuts in my hands and arms are cleaned and stitched, my mother saying over and over that it was an accident, that I was horsing around and fell.  I sit.  I don’t hiss when they clean my wounds, the sharp alcohol sting, the soft voice of the nurse saying that’s it, you’re going to feel a little pressure, almost done here, and the pinch and pull of the suturing, all the time my mother elaborating on the imaginary incident.  I keep my mouth shut, just listen to her over and over, the word accident over and over, an empty echo, and that is when I begin to hate her.

I am twenty-two.  I wake up damp and bone cold and completely alone.  I remember feeling overwhelmed and walking into the dark, I remember kneeling and crying, I remember everything, but what I can’t understand is how could they let me go? How could they not come looking for me?  The sky is white and painful and my clothes are heavy and uncomfortable.  I feel grey, washed out, used up.  I stand up and start to walk, away from the people I thought I could call friends. I don’t know it yet, but I will find a road, will make it back to town.  They will call, say they looked for me, and maybe that is true, but I will never find out.  I will never give them the chance to apologize.

It is my twenty-eighth birthday.  I walk away from the funeral home, I will let them bury my mother alone, and, still in my suit, I walk straight to the bus station.  I buy a ticket to a city where I don’t know anybody, where nobody knows me, far away from my hometown with the ghosts and memories and unwelcome triggers.  The bus pulls up, the door opens.  I stand on the edge of the curb, look at my shoes, toes poking over the edge.  I am leaving, and I swear it, this time I will never come back.  The bus driver speaks, but his words mean nothing.  I look up from my shoes and see that his face is kind, if not a little impatient.  Are you coming, he says, are you ready to go?  I look down again, take the step off the edge.  Yes, I say to the kind-faced bus driver.  Yes, I say.  I think I am ready to go.

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I had this idea that there are moments in our lives where you get to decide whether or not to jump, distinct from events happening to us when we have to either take it or adapt.  It doesn't always happen, and it isn't always clear at the time, but we find ourselves on edges sometimes, and we get to decide.

In my own life there have been a few that I can identify, and sometimes I jumped, and sometimes I didn't.

Mostly when I didn't I wish I had.  But I can be forgiven, right, for a little cowardice?  I'm scared of heights.

Still Writing, 

RP

Thanks for reading my stuff, whoever you are.  If you like what I do, please share it with your friends and neighbors that also might like it.  That kind of thing helps us indies a lot; in fact, we are counting on it for our success.  If you want to, please feel free to comment here, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @RDPullins, or email me dissent dot within @ gmail dot com. I am always super glad to hear from anyone. Thanks again. Bless.