Born to nothing we will dream as kings and oh the kingdoms we will build. It was times like these that David Lowe would recall the last words of Harry Bradshaw but it was not the time for memories of better men and simpler times.
He stood before the union offices. The Pacific Shipbuilders inhabited a small corner of the second floor of a building that was not grand, or worth discussing. The union was not trying to impress anyone and that impressed Lowe. Part of him was jealous that the minimalist simplicity was not afforded to men who could command it with the wealth and power they had collected. David Lowe would have been perfectly happy in an old office in an old factory with a single chair for himself so those who met with him would have to walk or stand and not waste his time. After all time was short, and there never seemed to be enough.
David was to meet with Solomon Schule the president of the PSU. David liked Solomon. Once they had been friends. David had been a groomsman, but that was years ago when they were young men and ambitions took them in different directions through different means.
David opened the glass door and took the stairwell on his right. The stairs smelled of cigarette smoke. He liked that. There was a certain honesty about the stairs and the fact that their simplicity made them timeless. There are things you can’t change, and things you can’t make better. Thought David. Things like shoelaces. No matter how hard you tried shoelaces would always be around. Same for ships. The world will always need ships and shipbuilders and shipbuilders will always need men and Solomon had the men David needed.
When David came to the door of the office he paused a moment and checked his watch. He was twenty minutes early. He entered.
“David Lowe to see Solomon Schule,” he said to the woman behind the desk.
“He’ll be a few more minutes Mr. Lowe,” said the woman, she said it flatly but David could detect a touch of reproach. He nodded and took a seat near the door and waited quietly. The window across from where he sat reflected his image just enough that he could make out how he looked. His shoulders were broad and filled his suit nicely. His hair had bleached out slightly over the summer and turned a coppered blond that was done up with ease to look as if it formed naturally. Lowe’s face was attractive enough, with masculine features that made him look older than he was as a young man, and younger now. His eyes had sunken slightly and circles formed under them so that in the half light of his office when he worked late he seemed haunted.
David pulled his eyes from the window and looked about the office. He had not seen it in a number of years since he had fired a large number of workers from Pacific and ended up dissolving his contract with the union. The men who came back were not unionized and their wages were cut. That was when Solomon Shule had also dissolved their friendship. Lowe had liked Shule enough to offer him steady work as a Vice-president of labor for Trans-Pacific Shipping and with it a nice office and competitive salary that was more than the union could offer. Shule was an idealist. He stayed with the Union. Lowe liked him all the more for that and regreeted that he had lost one of the few people he could call in the middle of the night to run his ideas past. If David was in Shule’s position he might have done the same thing.
The walls were aquamarine and starting to show their age. At onetime the building had been new, the culmination of enterprise and labor to a polished final product. In its time it had been an expensive place to lease but with the loss of production the service of the doctors and lawyers moved on as well. The building was not meant to impress the men who came here. The men who were shipbuilders were not rich men, and they were not proud men. They were workers men like David had been who would sit on an I beam forty feet in the air without a harness to weld rivets to steel. They were worth every penny that Trans-Pacific Shipping had cut from their wages but the economy tanked and David couldn’t help that.
Lowe looked across the office at a painting of a sailboat on an inlet. It was a watercolor and the ship was just a pair of black sails against the light blue water surrounded by mountains. The boat reminded David of the first one he built years ago with Harry Bradshaw, when it was appropriate to dream of better times and better men.
As a boy, the lake house seemed like a foreign shore though it was only at the end of the street. The Bradshaw’s who lived there seldom poke with the neighbors but from time to time were known to ask if their guests could park along the lesser yards at their annual Labor Day event. The neighbors would let them and offered a good-mannered exchange and then the Bradshaw’s would retreat to the city and not be seen again until the following summer when they returned to the lake house.
David lived with his mother on the small farm at the end of Franklin Rd. The farm was twelve miles out of town under the foothills where the end of the lake met one of the creeks that fed it. His mother had inherited it when her father died and they moved back to Washington from Portland. Colleen had refused to sell the farm and instead hired a few men to help seed and harvest and had David help her with the day-to-day chores. One of the hired men, Carl had stayed on after the last season had ended. Colleen would smoke and drink with him late in the night and then they would make for the bedroom where David could hear. In the summer on these nights Daivd would sneak out of the house and sleep on the couch on the porch. There was a bug light on the other end so the insects did not cause him much trouble and the hot air made it easy to sleep.
After the season finished and the crops were done and his father had paid him his share Arthur moved west with Cathy to work on the Grand Coulee dam in Washington state. They lived in Grand Coulee initially in a house that looked over the gully of the dam.
Arthur liked to look out at the dam. It was a simple gray wall that plunged into the sky and at it’s lip held back an ocean. Across the brim were lights that dotted the roadway that ran over the top of the structure. Gulls and the occasional hawk would swing across the gray wall like brushstrokes across a canvas. Every hundred or so feet a stream would erupt and throw a thin trail of water into the meager Columbia river. Before the dam it had been mighty and relentless, but now it had slowed to a meager remnant of its former self.
Arthur found meaning in his work running the night shift maintenance of the turbines that turned inside the manmade mountain. He liked feeling as thought he was a part of something larger than himself like he had in Duluth. He also liked the constant roar of the water that became a silent comfort the longer he lingered in the dam. He liked that Cathy was happy as well.
Cathy had enjoyed their marriage. Arthur doted on her more than her father had doted on her mother which Cathy perceived as one of her few successes. She was happy to have a man like her father, who paid the bills and spoke to her when he came home, but at the same time contained a masculine reserve to not indulge in the pettiness of her day to day quarrels with the other wives on the street.
Cathy had managed to make a name for herself early on when they first arrived in October. Arthur had received a photo of the company house that they would stay in before they took the train from Fargo to Spokane and Cathy had been busy making arrangements for the place before they arrived. When they finally did make it to Grand Coulee she met with a seamstress that she had already been in contact with, and had new drapes put in the house. Arthur had given her an allowance to keep her busy over the winter.
It was the seamstress, Muriel Andersen that introduced Cathy to the other women of Grand Coulee. Muriel was the wife of Hank Andersen a company foreman and had marginal power in the group, but enough standing to take part. As the wife of one of the engineers Cathy was given a sort of priority many of the hourly laborers wives were not. The wives of the executives and the men with educations met at the Blatchford Hotel conference room every Thursday and played cards and planned the social calendar for the utility company as well as indulged in a healthy amount of gossip.
Helen Jackson was originally from Texas and had moved with her husband and two young sons to the dam when her husband took began to run the utility companies interests in Washington from a small office in town. They were from Houston and she possessed an instantaneous air of superiority that most of the Midwestern middle-class women could not comprehend beyond the fact that it seemed to make her the best leader of the social group. She liked Cathy.
“Where are you and your husband from?” asked Helen, in a soft drawl that was both refined and rural and seemed almost put on. Cathy had not encountered many southerners in Fargo and was pleased to be speaking with such a character.
“Fargo, North Dakota,” said Cathy. Helen was taller than her with long blond hair that seemed to have a natural curl and hung halfway down her back. Cathy could not quite place her age, she would have been in her mid-twenties or mid-thirties but didn’t look a day over twenty-four. Cathy would have been more accustomed to seeing her in a beauty pageant in a gown rather than in a sundress with a gimlet in her hand.
“You, know I’ve never been to North Dakota. I’ve seen Chicago, is it at all similar?” asked Helen.
“Not really, it’s mostly farms,” said Cathy.
“Ah, well my husband had mentioned you were from the Chicago area but he must have been wrong.”
“Arthur studied there at the University,” said Cathy wishing she had been to Chicago so Helen would find her interesting. She wanted to tell a joke or a story but had none. She wanted to keep Helen next to her so she wouldn’t seem so alone in the room.
“Ah, that must be it.” Helen paused a moment then thought of a new conversation to have that Cathy would be able to contribute to.
“Your husband is quite the charmer I hear. And handsome too, have you two been married long?” asked Helen.
“A few months only, though we’ve known each other for years. Have you met him?”
Muriel came up to them and nudged Cathy.
“Cath, we gotta go, the babysitter says my kids actin’ up.”
“Okay,” said Cathy looking at Helen again for a sort of reaffirmation.
“We I’ll need to have you and your husband over for dinner sometime,” said Helen.
“Yes, we’d like that. Or for you to come to our house, Muriel just made us drapes,” said Cathy.
“That sounds wonderful,” said Helen turning and commanding another conversation.
In the car ride back to Muriel’s Cathy talked about the day.
“I really like that Helen Jackson. She’s so nice and kind, like a movie star.”
“She’s alright,” said Muriel. “I’ve never had a run in with her though.”
“What do you mean?”
“She likes to get what she wants. Let’s put it that way.”
By: Dylan Lenz
In’58 when the copper mine was still the chief source of industry for Duluth Minnesota, Arthur Lowe fell in love with Gladys Fischer one hot evening in mid-July at a company picnic. Eventually the heat became commonplace and ignored along with the damp cotton shirts and perspiration that collected on the guest’s foreheads. They had met once before, Gladys was a secretary for Joe Howtz, a company manager from Detroit, Arthur was an engineer from a farm outside of Fargo and had to report to Joe a few times a week. They spent the next morning together.
It was that morning in Gladys’s apartment that was over a travel agency in Duluth that Arthur began to appreciate the woman he knew so little about. Gladys was beautiful in a way that Arthur had only experienced when he was in Chicago for school. It was the kind of beauty that gets replaced with fuller cheeks and a good temper the farther you get from the urban sprawl. Gladys was thin with dark hair and a thin nose. Her legs seemed to start at her shoulders and all about her was a delicacy that deserved a reverence beyond the brutality of the night before.
She made him breakfast and he looked over at the plants she kept by the back window. They were all green and full. They reminded him of the plants his mother kept in the room his father had added on to the farmhouse. The room that remained green even after winter buried the house to it’s neck in snow. When Gladys placed the plate on the table in front of him he held her hand and kissed the back of it. Her skin was soft but worn like his and he realized how she was older than him. They made love again that day.
The rest of the summer passed quickly with Arthur spending most nights with Gladys. She was from Michigan and had come west with Howtz. She had spent her childhood summers on assorted lakes in small cabins and Arthur arranged for them to do the same. They took a short trip into Canada and fished and took photos and made love and ate at a small diner on the trip there and the trip back.
In September Gladys left with Howtz who had been promoted. He had offered her a raise and to pay for her accommodations in the city, and explained how it would be better for her to see her family more often. Arthur was happy for her and he replaced Howtz and was given more money to stay in Duluth. He planned to save for the year and see Gladys at Thanksgiving with his parents then move her to a house in Duluth where they could live.
Once Gladys had moved to Detroit she called Arthur and told him things were over. She was with Howtz now and was happy to be rid of him. Arthur did not really understand and drank wildly for three days and did not go to work. In the spring of ’59 he resigned from the mine and went to home to help out on his parents farm. He began to date Cathy Downs who lived two farms away from Arthur.
Arthur Lowe told Cathy he loved her. He did not. It was in the late spring after they had just turned twenty-six and seemed very much in love, and seemed inseparable that he told her this. They got married mid-summer, though there was no rush because Cathy Downs was not pregnant and there was no real reason for them to be married besides their public perception. Arthur did not tell Cathy about Gladys Fischer.
By: Dylan Lenz
He assumed Abilene would save him, but those novice notions left with his footing. There was no grandiose gesture, she did not rush in at the last moment just before the chair stumbled on palsied legs, leaving his own to shake and grasp at nothing. Instead the whole precession was matter-of-fact. He was left suspended a few feet above the cracked wooden planks that lay like crooked teeth across the hotel room floor. Below his lifeless body that still swayed slightly as the rope groaned under his weight, lay the wooden chair who’s casters held fast now that their work was done.
He had wondered if the soles of his feet would fell the same pain they did when he would climb absent stairs, or let them hover over the edge of his roof. The pain that is more a frustrated fear of falling, that leaves when you don’t think about it. His feet did have that same pain, but it was quickly gone as his fear of the emptiness of God was realized.
David had chosen that hotel for two reasons: first, it was there that David had first seen Abilene, and second, because he did not want to tarnish his mothers home with this…thing. David had planned the event carefully. He had made the appropriate arrangements incase Abilene did not come, saving his mother the trouble of distributing his limited estate, and arranging burial. He bought a double plot so Abilene could be buried next him if she wished. The graveyard was where her father was buried, which David had found out during their time together.
They would drive out of Guthrie to visit her father’s grave, then stop at a cousin’s house for lunch, and then return to her apartment. David loved those trips, just him, her and the open road. He had forgotten the cousins name, it had been painted on the side of her mailbox, but he could not see it anymore.
By: Dylan Lenz
A Guide to Loving Your Neighbors
I will wake up early, before the alarm. I will go there in silence; my purposeful steps will not move the loose gravel and weeds across the drive. I will see her there, working away, her slight figure hunched over some complication in her hands. Again I will be quiet and quiet I will remain. I will have rubbed dirt on my arms so I will smell like the garage and the yard, then I will wait and watch without worry. I will stand behind her, hidden by the car.
She will turn at some point and see me. She will jump, but not scream. She knows me; she will smile politely and show me the true depth of those wrinkles. She will ask what I want, the smile never leaving, and I will move closer. Once in reach I will shove her head against the concrete floor, hard. When she fights I will over power her. She will lie on the cool ground, still breathing. I will start that ’79 Cutlass and return to my house.
She will not wake but I will watch. I will sip my tea and kiss my husband goodbye. He will walk to the train and drink the coffee from his thermos. I will call the children to wake as I cook breakfast. They will rise and dress in silence. Their voices will be horse as they greet me at the table. We will say a prayer and I will clean my plate, ravished from my earlier deeds. I will drive them to the bus stop and hug them tight. They will wish me a good day, and I will smile, knowing it will be.
I will watch the bus depart then return home. I will clear the plates from the table and wash their place-mats, covered with peanut butter smudges and toast crumbs. I will load the dishwasher and wipe the counter. I will look outside across the back alley and see her garage door ajar.
I will walk over to her house and knock at the back door for appearances only, and then go to the garage and rattle the knob. It will be locked to look as though she intended to leave. I will go to the big door that she would pull open each morning, and force the rusted pulleys to let me in. I will smell the exhaust and rush to the car to turn the key. I will touch her throat, then her wrist, then dial 911. I will wait twenty-seven minutes for the ambulance and another twelve for the police officer. He will seal the garage and take my statement. I will be the good neighbor. I will be comforted and have my arm rubbed by the crowd that will have gathered. I will keep a hand on my heart when they load her in the back.
When home, I will make another cup of tea and treat myself to the extra tablespoon of sugar. I will watch television. I will warm up leftovers, roast beef with turnips and asparagus. I will call my mother and tell her what happened. She will be shocked and amazed, then call all of my sisters to gossip.
The children will come home and do their homework, then go and play in the yard. My husband will come home and tell me about his day. I will mention mine, and he will hug me tight. We will sit at the table and my husband will say Grace, my children won’t peek. Later I will tuck them in and kiss their heads.
“Goodnight mom.” They will say from their beds.
“Sweet dreams.” I will reply from the door.
In bed I will make love with my husband. He will kiss me deeply and I him. I will go to sleep soon after and not wake once.
Then again I could go back to sleep and wait for the alarm, then wake and cross the alley. She will be in her garden and will greet me with the same genuine smile and show me the true depth of those wrinkles. I will apologize for my son stealing all of her roses. She will tell me not to worry and tell me some story of her own son, now in his sixties, doing the same years ago. She will be the good neighbor. She will comfort me and invite me in for tea. I will go home and send my husband and children off to their days. Later I will return and we will go out for lunch in that ’79 Cutlass. It will be her treat, and I will smile and again apologize.
She will drive us back, then rush to the house for something. I will look out at her garden absent of the flowers that are now in a vase in my dining room. She will return and load my arms with potatoes and jams. I will hesitate but she will insist. I will return home and make a cup of tea, treating myself to the extra tablespoon of sugar.
When we take out our trash we will wave. She will wish me a goodnight, and I will smile, knowing it will be.
By: Dylan Lenz
David stopped and looked back at the detachment. They stopped too, looking at him for an idea of what to do. David had none and only pondered why he would even have signed the papers. He was convinced it wasn’t him who signed his name. For David the idea that at times like these a mans potential is met and that his greatness comes about, is false. David was not great, he could not move.
James came from the back of the line while Briggs watched the entrance to the small shop they were pinned down in.
“Something wrong?” James asked. “You need water?”
“No,” said David.
He looked down at his brother. James was made for times like these, not the heat, not the war, but this. There was somehting about him, somehting that woke him up before the rest of the men. Something that made him completely devoted to his every action. Maybe it was his growing up with Colleen when she was still fucking Carl and didn’t give two shits about James. Perhaps it was just who he was. Then again, perhaps it was the fact that he wanted to be someone in something larger than himself. He gave David hope. He gave David a reassurance for why they were in the fucking desert looking for someone who wasn’t even there.
David pushed his back from the wall. “Let’s go. Hunter watch our six. Briggs how many claymores do you have left?”
“Bring it up,” said David.
By: Dylan Lenz
The Richmond Church stood like his father had, sound; an unmoving fixture of the small town. Yet his father was not Jesse, and David was not the David from that story, nor would he ever be. The church was composed of the same red brick that adorned the rest of the buildings on Main Street, and like the rest of the town the church house hid it’s age. Some passersby by might assume it came up in the fifties when they found oil in the next county, but Richmond was there long before, and would stick long after. Stick where it stands, on the corner of Main and Highway 36, casting shadows over those who still make their way through to Whitney, though they had been coming fewer and fewer lately.
David Bauer stood at the edge of his property and looked up the road to where it met the highway about a half a mile from where he stood. He lived three miles from Richmond and knew it was going to take him about ten minutes to get to town, so he let himself amble back to the house. He looked at his watch – church was set to start at Nine o’clock, it was eight-thirty.
David climbed the front porch steps, the second one still squeaked like it did when he was a kid and he made a note to see to it later on. Inside, he stood before the hallway mirror and tied his black tie in a half-Windsor knot, unbuttoning the top button of his white cotton shirt. The shirt was already getting damp, it wasn’t quite summer yet, but the heat was setting in and the safflower was already getting too dry. He pulled a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wiped his brow careful not to mess his hair. He folded it back into a square, replaced it in his breast pocket and stood up straight, looking himself over.
His eyes were his fathers now, the thin crows feet that pulled over his summer skin added a few years to his face. His body had become somewhat softer since he left school, he stood straight and for a moment his shoulders were still broad. His long frame and light hair hunched forward and he let out his breath. He was thirty-one now though he didn’t quite feel it. He knew he had become his fathers son. In fact many days when he would go to town one or two of the older folk would mistake him for his father. He didn’t mind it all that much anymore.
Frankly, Richmond hadn’t changed much in the six years David was gone. His father was gone now, they put in new street lights and re-paved a few roads, but for the most part Richmond stayed the stone in the brook.
The morning after graduation he had moved out East to Boston for school. His father drove him to the bus station, but Arthur didn’t say much the way there, he just pulled two suitcases out of the back of the old farm truck, left them on the sidewalk and said goodbye. They shook hands; his father looked him in the eyes, nodded, and then drove off. David waited at the greyhound station another hour before the bus showed up to take him as far as Fargo.
David’s father had given him the suitcases, he had said they were his father’s from back in the thirties when he left the Dakotas and came further West, stopping in Montana then coming to Idaho a few years later. The story went that he came West after a girl. No one knew if he had found her. Arthur had told David the suitcases were for a young man, that he didn’t need them anymore. Now they sat upstairs in David closet, one inside the other, tucked up on the top shelf under empty shoeboxes.
November 1st I decided to turn over a new leaf of sorts and start waking up early everyday to getmore accomplished. So now when I’m greeted by the cold hardwoods and drafty corners of my apartment at 5:40am, I have something to get done. I go to boxing at 6am, 3 days a week and don’t have any other apointments until 9am usually, so I decided to try NaNoWriMo this November. I don’t have high expectations, I imagine that whatever I write will be rushed and need A LOT of editing, however I made a goal. Yet I can not bring myself to actually work on the project, at least as intently as I imagined. I start writing and then somehting comes up that I deem more important and I get distracted. My apartment is clean. My laundry is done. My kitchen is spotless. My family has been called. My girlfriend satisfied. Now it’s Saturday and I have to actually get down to business. I have to spend the day writing to catch up so I can meet the goal.
So here is to Satuday at home, writing 10,000 words. Let’s see how well that works.
#24 Colworth Dr.
By: Dylan Lenz
As of mid-August the lawns of Colworth Drive had paled to a dull tawny except for the few neighbors who had little regard for the watering instructions of the city. These few lawns remained green and stood out to passersby, all knowing these particular neighbors were poor sports when it came to the rules of living in a dryer climate. Other neighbors resented them; while they revered their yards they found themselves rather displeased with their own incapacity to simply dismiss the posted regulations and feared the fines that could be distributed by the city. Little did the law-abiding inhabitants of Colworth realize, these laws were seldom enforced and, even if they had been, the prestige of a well-kept front-lawn would outweigh the discouragement of a ticket.
Frank Woolner and his wife Debra often would walk from their house on Colworth Drive to the end and down Jefferson Drive where the houses became estates and the driveways were gated. The Woolners were not the sort of neighbors who watered their lawns over their allotted time, but were never quick to complain about those few who did. Though some nights they would walk down Colworth gazing into the windows and open garage doors of their neighbors and assign dollar values to the things they saw. This was their time away from their house and family and both Frank and Deb enjoyed these strolls with an unsaid air of superiority they had let themselves become accustomed to.
The Woolners were not materialistic people, in fact they were the opposite. They used only what they needed and often bought used to save the environment the unneeded consequence of the American shopper. They frequented neighbors garage sales, and thrift stores, and auction houses finding the best deals they could, in turn they also had the most eclectic collection of appliances, furniture, and art in the neighborhood. Something the Woolners were again quite satisfied with.
The Woolner house was modest; they were a single-car family though they could afford much more affluence had they chosen it. Frank Woolner worked as a lawyer for a small firm but was paid a very comfortable salary. Debra had her degree in Fine Arts but applied it only as substitute teacher at the local junior high, to the dismay of Carol, their daughter. Debra had intended to have her own career, but had married young and stayed home with Carol. By the time Carol was old enough to be left alone Deb found herself and her degree somewhat dated. Carol didn’t resent this, as she could have. Instead she took it upon herself to fulfill her matronly duties to the best of her abilities, and plan the vacations the Woolner family took each year. Deb Woolner out-did the other mothers of the neighborhood and though she was on pleasant speaking terms with all of them, the Woolners were kept at arms length.
Carol was fourteen and in the last year had adopted a taste for the fringe ideals she encountered in the punk albums she had rescued from one particular garage sale. Previously Carol had been a well-mannered girl, precocious, patient, and well-spoken when it came to encounters with those over twice her age. Now she was convinced that social isolation would ruin her. She had begun to have sex with a seventeen-year-old boy named Oliver Allen who, according to Frank and Debra, was directionless and not going anywhere.
Carol was sure to keep him away from her parents after their first encounter of the boy at a dinner near the end of the school year. Frank had been vigilant and Debra remorseful after they had all eaten together back in May. Though the boy had been polite and respectful of their home, the fact that he was three years older than their daughter and that he would be moving to Columbus in the fall to pursue a music career with his band ‘The Nightmare Flowers’ made it resolute in the Woolner’s minds that Carol was not to see him anymore. Frank made sure that Carol knew it had little to do with the ridiculous name of his band, though he did stifle a chuckle when Oliver had said it aloud. Carol in turn hid her relationship with Oliver and made sure that he dropped her off one street over instead of letting him be seen on Colworth Drive.
In the early summer an event shook the inhabitants of the neighborhood. In June, a week after the schools let out and the parents had begun to tailor their schedules to accommodate their restless youth, a pipe burst on Colworth Drive. The pipe that fed water for lawn irrigation and two of the three fire hydrants on the street was damaged and caused a flood across the road soaking the Woolner’s dry lawn. The pipe burst on the edge of the Jackson property. The Jacksons were middle-aged lawn-waterers with a young son, Brian.
The water came in swift gallons carrying topsoil and mulch as far as ten houses down. The city came out and capped the pipe after Deb Woolner called the problem in during the early morning of June 10th. The man the city sent to fix the water pipe could not explain how the pipe actually broke. The pipe was in good shape and had been buried to spec.
Only seven houses on Colworth Drive lost lawn water the week that the city spent repairing the water pipe. They dug up part of the Jackson yard, though James Jackson made sure it was known that he would not be paying for the damage out of pocket. He assured those who would listen that the alterations to his well-manicured front lawn would look better than before and would cost the city. In the end he filed an insurance claim and Marla Olsen, who was close with Patricia Jackson let the neighborhood know that it was a handsome figure, seeing as James was a high school friend of his insurance agent.
The July 4th weekend was the first distinct instance of vandalism on Colworth Drive. Despite their wavering tempers the neighbors would pull together for specific national holidays and sit at the end of their driveways allowing small groups of visitors to stop and talk and share in the comings and goings since they had last seen one another. At ten o’clock, when the sun would fall, the neighbors would watch as young fathers with younger children lit fireworks from the empty lot between the Jackson and Woolner properties.
Lot #24 had sat vacant since 1978 when Mr. Gerald Colworth subdivided his farmland to make way for new developments. Though the lot was the first to be sold, and the most expensive in it’s day, the family from Minnesota who intended to build on it had never shown up. The current ownership of the vacant lot was anyone’s guess and because no one came to visit it and because there were no fences to keep anyone out, a few of the fathers in the early 90’s decided to seed it with grass and take turns maintaining the lot each week.
James Jackson had set a wooden crate upside-down in the middle of the grass and placed a large fountain firework in the middle. His seven-year-old son Brain was given the honor of lighting the firework and used a BBQ lighter to do so. When the fuse was lit the two stepped back to the curb where the other families stood and watched as the first sparks of the twelve-foot tall firework spilled out on the dry grass. As soon as the first spark touched the ground the grass erupted into flames and spread fifteen feet wide and six feet high.
The children sighed in awe while their mothers pulled them further away and the fathers ran to the Jackson house to pull a hose and extinguish the fire. James Jackson threw the bucket of water he had filled earlier in case of an accident on the flames but it only caused the flames to erupt further.
“It smells like French-fries,” said Brian Jackson as his mother held his hand and stood on the Woolners’ drive way.
Patricia Jackson said nothing to her son and instead watched her husband lead the efforts to extinguish the dry grass and lone fountain firework that had tipped over but was still throwing gold sparks across the lawn.
Debra Woolner as well as a few other neighbors were on the phone with the Fire Department. Debra explained to her cordless phone that every time they sprayed the flames with water they would shoot higher into the air. She listened for a minute into the phone and then ran across the street to her own husband as well as seven others that were carrying buckets and hoses to keep the burn under control.
“FRANK!” Deb called over the panic, “FRANK! Don’t pour water on it!”
Frank turned to see his wife; his brow damp with perspiration reflected the gold flames and sparks. His eyes were wide. “DEB, WHA? – GET AWAY FROM HERE.”
“Frank! The Fire Department says it’s probably an oil fire, just make sure it doesn’t spread.”
Frank nodded, motioned for Debra to go back to the house then turned and told the others.
The fire-truck came fifteen minutes later but by that time the fire had burned out and the ground had been adequately soaked. The fire crew sprayed the entire lot again and removed the remains of the wood crate, now charred black and missing its center. The neighbors pulled towards one fireman as he explained what would happen to the lot and the investigation that would ensue.
“It seems like the ground was soaked with cooking oil, about five-gallons or so. We got it out and made sure there are no hot spots that might flare up later on. Do any of you know who owns this lot?” Lt. J Astrud asked the crowd gathered around him. They all shook their heads. Astrud took a step back onto the curb and looked out at the wives and children on the other side of the street. He asked again, louder the second time, but no one answered. Astrud nodded once and then marked it down on the clipboard in his hand. “I need a name to file the case.”
“I’ll do it,” volunteered Debra Woolner, stepping forward from Frank. “I called it in.”
“I can do it, Deb,” interjected James Jackson.
Astrud looked up from his clipboard and looked at James but motioned for Deb to come to him. As the group began to disperse, knowing there was little else to be heard, Astrud took Deb’s name and number and told her he would call her if there was any further information.
Later on James Jackson made note to his wife Patricia that he found it strange to see, or rather not see, Carol Woolner or her elusive boyfriend at the gathering that night. Patricia said nothing as she lay in bed and made a note to call Marla Olsen from across the street to further investigate the absence of the Woolner girl the next morning.
The second and final act of vandalism that summer was seen as soon and Faye Dunway drove Alex Dunway, her son to his 6 a.m. football practice on the morning of July 14th. Again it involved Lot #24 and it appeared the morning after an officer from the city posted a sign for the Department of Unclaimed Property Offices of US States and Territories. The Woolners had walked past it the night before and read that the lot would be added to the County Land and Title auction next week due to unpaid property tax and abandonment due to unfound next-of-kin for a deceased’s title and debt.
The vandalism was a large exhibition of graffiti that expanded along the fence that ran alongside the Jacksons’ back yard, across the back fence of the Saban’s back yard, and stopped as soon as it met the corner of fence that Lot #24 shared with the Woolners. In large black and yellow letters that were ill-formed and were likely a juvenile attempt at graffiti in the middle of the night, read the words ‘THE NITEMARE FLOWERS’.
Patricia Jackson noticed the cars slowing in front of her house and decided to stand outside to see what the neighbors seemed so interested in. James had cut the lawn the night before, but Patricia was uncertain why so many seemed to have such an interest in her yard this morning. In a robe and slippers she peeked out the front door and saw the corner of the graffiti from the front step. She took seven more steps onto her drive way then went back inside to wake James and let him have a look. On her way to the bedroom she grabbed the phone, ignored the cool air of the open front door and began to dial Marla’s number.
James dressed quickly after seeing the vandalism on his fence and strode over to the Woolner house with the intention of speaking to Frank about his daughter and her boyfriend. Brian had mentioned a few months prior that Carol had raved on the school bus about Oliver Allen’s band and that he too wanted to become a musician. James quickly curbed the dinner conversation, not wanting his son to lose his direction with his academic and athletic careers. Later he found the band online and found that ‘The Nitemare Flowers’ played grindcore metal. James closed the website after hearing the first five seconds of a song.
Debra came to the door fully dressed with a cup of tea in her hand. The Woolner house always had had a strange smell to it, as though it were an older house, not one built by James’s father’s contracting firm in 1980, the one James now ran. In the summer it reeked of cigarette smoke that had found its way into the wood, although neither of the Woolners smoked; and in other months it smelled of stale plastics that had been left in the sun then stored without ventilation. James Jackson assumed it was the mixed array of antiques and vintage furniture that the Woolners collected, but would joke with his wife on occasion that it was Deb & Frank’s inability to keep a clean house with all the ‘work’ they did.
James greeted Deb quickly and then asked if Frank was awake yet. Deb called Frank and then stood behind the door inviting James in.
“No, thanks,” said James, trying to hold his breath. He was a sturdy man, six-foot with a little extra weight around his stomach that came with middle age. His arms were solid as were his calves and they bulged slightly in the work clothes he wore. His chest was broad and his hair cut tight behind his ears. In high school he had played varsity football, but didn’t make the cut when it came to university scouts. He had been a defensive lineman, but wasn’t big enough to compete in the NCAA. He ended up working for his father until Fraser Jackson died in 1998 and left the company to James.
“He should be down in a minute,” said Deb.
“Can you have him come outside?” asked James giving her a soft look.
Deb smiled then nodded as she brought her tea to her lips and then closed the door until it was just ajar and went back to the kitchen.
Frank came outside a minute later, in a loose fitting night T-shirt and a pair of kahki shorts he had pulled on over his boxers. He was a little taller than James and much thinner. He had spent his youth behind a desk and had taken up cycling to stay in shape, but he still appeared slight against his neighbor. He greeted James with a smile though his eyes were still glazed slightly and his voice was hoarse.
“Good morning,” said Frank.
“I wish it was Frank,” said James matter-of-factly. “But I think you are going to need to have a conversation with your daughter.”
Frank looked up with his full attention.
“Come look at my fence,” said James, leading Frank to the edge of his lawn. Frank looked up and again stifled a laugh as he saw the name of Oliver’s band across the fences of Lot #24.
“Isn’t that that name of your daughter’s boyfriend’s band?” he asked. “And Notice how it ends as soon as it gets to your house?” continued James. “Something has to change here, Frank, I mean first a fire and now graffiti. This may not be Jefferson Drive but this is a nice neighborhood.”
Frank paused a moment and looked at his neighbor who was motioning out towards the empty lot. This was not the first time he and James Jackson did not see eye to eye, and likely would not be the last.
“First of all, you have absolutely no evidence and no grounds to base the notion that my daughter had anything to do with the fire last week. So don’t even try to pin that on her. Furthermore, Carol hasn’t seen that guy since May, and besides she is at Deb’s parents house until Sunday so there is no possible way that she was the one responsible for this.”
James began to interrupt, but Frank continued. “Now I will have a conversation with Oliver about this and see what he knows and even talk to his parents, but I don’t appreciate you waking me up at seven in the morning on a Saturday so that I can hear your little theories on the vandalism that is taking place on that lot.”
With this Frank strode back into his house and left James in the center of Lot #24, somewhat speechless and somewhat annoyed with the way Frank Woolner had spoken to him. He waited another minute before returning to his own house to explain an edited version of what occurred to Patricia and in turn Marla Olsen.
Frank spent the morning talking to Carol on the phone and then eventually the mother of Oliver Allen who drove him over in her ’92 Honda Accord for a conversation with the Woolners. At this time Oliver explained that he and Carol had been seeing one another still, and that he was madly in love with her, but not so much so that he would write the name of his band on the side of a fence for her.
“It’s not even spelt right,” said Oliver as he drank a glass of grape juice that Deb had placed in front of him. “We spell it ‘Nightmare’ with a ‘gh’, we used to spell it the other way, but it was already taken by some metal band from St. Paul. And I know people do these kinds of things when they are in love, but I swear I didn’t do it.”
“Do what?” asked Frank.
“You know, big stuff, impressive stuff, for the girls,” explained Oliver. Frank and Deb rolled their eyes. Oliver’s mother Emma put her hand on her son’s leg and looked at the Woolners.
“Frank, he didn’t do this. One, I know my son, and he doesn’t lie about this kind of thing, not to me. And also I know that last night he was with his friend Matt in Ardsberg until five this morning.”
Frank looked at Deb and then back at Emma Allen. He smiled then stood thanked them for coming. He apologized to Oliver and shook his hand. At the door Oliver lingered a moment so Frank could not shut the door.
“Will Carol still be back tomorrow?”
“Do you think I could see her if she’s not busy.”
“Goodbye Oliver,” said Frank as he shut the door. He smiled as he walked back to the kitchen.
That night Frank thought about the fire and the graffiti trying to make sense of it. He stayed up and walked around the block then came back to the front of Lot #24 still charred black in the middle and colored around the corners with the bright graffiti on the fences. Frank went back inside and looked up the Greggs County Debt & Title Liquidation auction, then called his boss and asked for Monday off.
The Greggs County Debt & Title Liquidation is held on the second Monday of each month and typically features a multitude of investors trying to snatch up contracts for country tax collections. When county taxes go unpaid the debt is sold and the buyer is given the opportunity to try to collect the owed property tax for the next six months. If the original titleholders still do not pay by that time, the property is forfeited to the debt holder at a fraction of the market value. In 2006 it had become a good business venture for those with the excess capital to purchase the county debts and try to collect the county tax revenue. Selling the properties once the market flattened out in 2008 was another story and fewer and fewer people came to purchase the tax debts.
The Debt & Title Liquidation would run form 9pm to 4pm with the last hour devoted to the sale of abandoned properties and estates. Few people stuck around after lunch once the tax debts were sold off. This Monday only James Jackson and Frank Woolner remained as the only abandoned property on the market came onto the slide show projected at the front of the room.
The photo of Lot # 24 on Colworth Drive revealed a large burn in the center of the lot and the graffiti on the fences that lined the property. Underneath the photo specifications as to building codes and zoning regulations were explained along with the measurements of the lot and water and drainage requirements. In the corner of the slide was a black and white diagram of the other lots in the suburb and notes about water & mineral acquisition.
“The following property is listed under Greggs County bi-law #45889 ‘failure to pay county taxes from years 1985 to 2011. The property’s title has been classified as abandoned due to lack of response from last recognized title holder and will be sold at auction today. The lot measures .87 acres with additional holdings of water and mineral rights for the adjacent 20 acres as noted on the bottom of the slide. We will begin at $1000,” said the justice of the peace who presided over the small room.
James looked back at Frank with a hard look and raised his hand.
“Thank you, we have $1000, do I hear $2000?”
Frank raised his hand. The two men went back and forth until the justice of the peace began to move in ten thousand dollar increments. James Jackson stopped bidding at $112,000, his face red and a small amount of perspiration around his temples. He looked back at Frank as the Justice of the Peace looked if Frank would bid any higher.
“One fifteen.” said Frank.
James’ face faltered a moment as he stood and left the room. He purposely brushed past Frank as he made his exit and strode out the door.
The watering habits of Colworth Drive remained constant throughout that summer until Frank Woolner decided to stop by each of the lawn-waterers’ homes and explain that he would be limiting their water use to the allotted time in order to stop deviation of water from the creek that allowed their lawns to not completely burn. The lawn-waterers had heard through Marla Olsen that this was part of the reason the Jackson’s had sold their house, though they were unaware of the details and not particularly displeased with Frank, as it was well within his rights as holder of the water and mineral rights of the neighborhood.
Additionally the Jacksons claimed they had run out of room with their house on Colworth and wanted more bedrooms and a swimming pool, but their lot was simply too small. No one was terribly sorry to see the Jacksons go, except perhaps Marla Olsen who somewhat enjoyed the petty gossip Patricia would let her in on.
All the neighbors changed their opinions of the Woolners as soon as Frank began tearing out the fence between his yard and Lot #24. He hired a few of Oliver Allen’s fiends as well as Oliver himself to help landscape the empty lot into a small park with a simple jungle gym, gravel pathway and benches for parents to sit and watch their children as they played. Frank and the teens poured concrete and added a tennis court to one edge of the lot. The park bled into the Woolners own back yard where their vegetable garden formed something of a barrier that stopped people from coming too far into their backyard, though they wouldn’t mind if anyone did stray onto the grass. Frank made sure the park stayed green as long as the seasons would allow, though he only watered his own lawn with the same reserve he had had prior to the purchase of Lot #24.
It’s mornings such as these that I feel it all. Mornings with late starts. Mornings where the sheets are kicked off the bed when I wake. Mornings next to her, but for a moment I forget her name. Anxiety spills out for just a second before I try not to think about it. I have theories about these days. I suspect that its connected to that spell I spent ingesting chemicals to feel some sort or reverence for my surroundings. I never felt reverence, just ended up 135 pounds and burnt out. I feel light today.
By: Dylan Lenz
About the state of Michigan there is something noble. Arthur and Colleen were not from Michigan, and had never been there. Many times he had promised to take her north to see the majesty of the Great Lakes, but had never seemed to get around to it.
Arthur Lancaster was a distributer for a shoe company based in Anaheim, California. It was a small company that made fine leather shoes, all crafted just outside of Los Angeles by American hands. In reality it was mainly illegal immigrants who were employed by the company; cobblers by trade with little work to the south. Nevertheless the patriotic sentiment was still there and the company had experienced steady growth.
Arthur, at thirty-eight, became the head of distribution for the company and was responsible for most of the Midwest. He traveled constantly, but didn’t mind. He was paid rather handsomely and enjoyed his job. In addition to the apartment that he paid rent for in Denver, where Colleen lived, Arthur Lancaster also owned a home in Chicago, and with it a wife and two children. His family saw him only one week each month.
Colleen was twenty-nine years old when she met Arthur. She had finally decided that she would leave Lakewood, Colorado and make her way to Los Angeles. Years prior she had aspired to be an actress of sorts but found the only paying positions came with taking her clothes off, something she did not like to do, though there was one December where things were particularly hard. So, after a string of jobs she couldn’t settle into and a notably bad breakup with a man named Rosco, she convinced herself she was still young enough and attractive enough to follow that aspiration.
They met on a flight from Denver to Los Angeles. They sat next to one another and talked nonstop throughout the flight. When they landed he asked her to share his hotel room. She had had no other reservations booked.
The two became lovers the same night they met and stayed in Los Angeles for nine days while Arthur worked and Colleen saw Hollywood. She went to casting calls, met with a few minor agents, or at least their assistants. She walked along Venice Beach. Arthur took her to Disneyland then called a friend who knew of a film project where Colleen could be an extra. Colleen became very much in love and though she knew Arthur was married, and though it was established he would not leave his wife, Colleen dreamt of marrying him.
On the ninth day in Los Angeles Arthur explained he would be leaving and had made arrangements for the hotel to keep her for a few more days until she found an apartment. He told her that he would see her again in six months, sometime in midsummer, when he would return to look at the Fall line.
“Where do you visit most often?” she asked.
“Chicago. To see the kids.” Arthur said drinking a cup of coffee and seeming only mildly interested. “And Denver, we have a warehouse in Denver I have to oversee.”
“Can I come with you?” she asked. She was sitting across from him at the table in the hotel room, naked, except for her hair that was swept over one shoulder covering her right breast.
Arthur looked up from his newspaper and smiled at her. “Not Chicago.”
“Well Denver then,” decided Colleen.
“Colleen,” began Arthur, sitting up and taking off his reading glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. “You just flew out here.”
“Yeah, but I kind of hate it. It’s not for me.”
Arthur paused and let his gaze fall a moment before he replied.
“You’ll only see me a few days each month at best.”
“That’s fine,” said Colleen. She stood and kissed him then hurried to the bathroom to shower and pack.
Colleen was given a small budget at the start of each month that would allow her to eat well and pay for the small apartment she had rented. Enough money was left over for her to go out if the occasion arose, but in those first few months she was so busy perfecting the aesthetics of the place she had little time to socialize.
She had found an apartment in Baker, a neighborhood just south of Denver that was home to a number of up-and-comers, but was still mainly inhabited by low-income hold outs who were not quite ready to leave. Despite the efforts of gentrification by the young professionals looking to renovate and recreate the small neighborhood into Manhattan style lofts and brownstones, the fringe remained. Once the professionals flooded out by 8:30am heading to work, the haggard looking inhabitants came to life.
Through barred windows, Colleen looked out at the street. Often she was curious about the day-to-day lives of her neighbors, all of who kept strange hours and would show up with different backpacks and different bicycles each week. She had chosen the place because it was well within the budget Arthur had allowed for her, and was near enough downtown for him to get to his meetings on time.
Colleen also liked the idea of being able to partake in the bohemian ambiance the middle class had brought to the neighborhood. She would often explore the thrift stores and coffee houses getting ideas for the apartment, and from February until April this was a fine way to spend her time. Arthur would show up for a few days each month, typically near the end, and they would stay in each evening, as soon as he got home from work.
He never let her pick him up from the airport. Usually his company did that. However, once work was done Arthur would take a cab into Baker, stopping only at a florist or a grocer to buy flowers or food, and madly kiss Colleen while they both professed their unrelenting love for one another. Then they would take off their clothes, their mouth’s never leaving the others, and make their way to the bedroom.
Colleen was attractive enough, as she had suspected when she left for California. She had auburn hair that reached halfway down her back. Her skin was pale and without flaw. Her body was tall and thin so when she lay down and inhaled quick deep breaths, while Arthur remained under the sheets, her back would be thrown into a shallow arch that pushed her ribs forward until they protruded under her breasts. Arthur would wait for that moment when they began to make love, then move his arm under her and push himself up to kiss her holding his chest to hers.
Colleen would not think while in bed with him. She had waited for Arthur all month, and did not dwell on how much she had missed him. Instead she was consumed by his presence. Constantly, she pressed her body into his until he came, with a simple smile of satisfaction, and then threw herself to his side and pulled him to her breasts. He never said much the first day.
“Do you like it?” Colleen asked from the doorway. She was dressed with a glass of water in her hand. Arthur looked up as he pulled his socks on.
“Like what?” he asked.
“What I’ve done with the apartment.” She smiled looking around the bedroom.
“What have you done with it?” Arthur asked, still sitting on the bed, fastening the clasp of his watch.
Colleen’s grin wavered slightly and she walked to the bed placing her hand on the headboard.
“I got this old door from a reno down the road and painted it, and mounted it. I think it does the trick,” she said.
“Do you need more money?” asked Arthur with a smile.
“Why would I need more money?” asked Colleen setting down her water glass on the bedside table.
“So you don’t have to bring home someone else’s garbage,” said Arthur standing up.
“It’s not garbage, it’s an antique. What’s wrong with that?”
“Do you like it?” asked Arthur.
“Then I like it,” he said grabbing Colleen by the waist and pulling her toward him. He kissed her softly, and then turned to leave.
“I made breakfast,” said Colleen.
“I want to pick something up while I wait for a cab.”
“I know a great little café; right around the corner. They all know me there. I mean, I go in so often to eat the scones. They’re amazing..”
Arthur stood in the doorway to the bedroom a moment, as though he were thinking about it.
“No. That’s okay,” he said.
When he was gone Colleen sat at the small desk she had found at the thrift store and looked at the pencil cup she had filled for Arthur incase he wanted to sit and do some of his work at home. He had never sat there. She turned the chair and looked across the small apartment that she had spent the last few months putting together.
The apartment was one of 10 in the building and located on the first floor near the entrance. It had a large bay window that looked out over the street and stairway that led into the small lobby. The building sat halfway between Broadway and Dayton and faced a barbershop that never seemed to be open. It was small, only a single bedroom with a single bathroom, a kitchen with a breakfast nook, and a living room. She had used the little money she had saved for Los Angeles as well as the little bit of furniture money Arthur had allotted her to furnish the apartment. Each item represented hours of searching for what would fit just right.
The small sofa she bought at a department store because Arthur didn’t like to sit on someone else’s old couch. She had stacked old steamer trunks for a TV stand after spending an afternoon dreaming of traveling with Arthur. Then she bought a television incase he wanted something to watch. She found a red rug that looked Persian and spent a hour-and-a-half picking rice out of the fabric that the previous owner had spilled on it. She had built a bookcase that she had ordered and filled it with her things as well as old books that the city library was giving away. She read magazines and met local artists at the cafés and in turn covered the bare walls. Colleen loved the apartment, and was curious why Arthur had not been as enthused. It was theirs.
Once the apartment was finished Colleen had little to do so she would walk to the library once every few days and bring home a number of films to watch on the television stacked on her travel cases. Near the end of April she made friends with Lawrence, the super for her building, after the pipe burst in ceiling above the bedroom. She was forced to sleep in the living room and became very aware of the comings and goings of her building.
Lawrence was in his late sixties and owned the building with his brother who lived in Montana. Lawrence kept costs down by doing the work himself and enjoyed staying busy now that he was retired. Each day for a week he would come over and work on mending the pipe and drywall while Colleen would watch television. Around lunchtime she would make Lawrence and her something to eat with a pot of coffee, then sit and talk with him while he took his break.
One afternoon, while Lawrence was applying the last of the plaster to repair the ceiling, a man knocked on Colleen’s door. She had seen him before, a number of times getting the mail, and once he held the door for her when she was bringing in her groceries.
“Hey, is Larry here?” he asked.
“Yeah, just a second,” she said.
Colleen walked to the back of the apartment and found Lawrence still on top of the ladder.
“Someone’s here for you.”
“I don’t know.”
Lawrence stepped off the ladder, brushed his hands on his jeans and went to the front room where the man waited in the hallway. He stepped outside and spoke with him for a few moments then returned to Colleen who was making coffee in the kitchen.
“That was James. He’s in 202, right above you. The water burst right through his floor, ruined everything. He had insurance though.”
“What got ruined?” Colleen asked.
“A bunch of books and his bed. Some clothes,” replied Lawrence sitting down and picking bits of plaster from his hair. “I’m going to have him help with some of the little stuff that goes wrong around here, so I don’t have to drive out on the weekend.”
Lawrence finished that day and left Colleen alone for the next week until Arthur came again. They spoke about traveling in the fall. Arthur planned to take one of his vacation weeks and spend it with her, the other week was for his family. Colleen asked about Michigan. Arthur agreed.
When Arthur left two days later Colleen again remained. Denver had warmed, it was nearly summer and she found herself restless. Arthur had left her money to buy new clothes so she began to acquire a number of spring and summer outfits at the small boutiques in the neighborhood around the apartment. She continued to stop at her favorite café for scones and tea each afternoon so she could gossip with the owner, who she had become rather good friends with.
“Really Colleen, you should work here,” said Carol changing the filters on the machine. “You’re here enough as it is, and Arthur keeps you on a tight leash. And Sara just quit.”
“You’d really have me?” asked Colleen from her stool on the other side of the counter. From time to time she had helped out, fetching pastries, running to the grocery store to buy more milk. She enjoyed the customers. She was good with people, or so she had been told.
“Sure,” said Carol. “You start Monday.”
One evening in July after Arthur had left for Kansas, Colleen heard a knock on her door. It was James.
“Want to come out with a few friends? We’re going to The Empyrean to see Damien Jurado.”
Colleen hesitated behind her door.
“You need to go out more, all you do is wait for him,” said James.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you just wait around for that guy to show up from his wife and stay a few days. Then he leaves and you don’t go out for a week except to get books or movies.”
“I go out,” said Colleen half-heartedly. Part of her was troubled by the fact James knew so much. She was far less observant about the others that lived in the apartment building, besides the occupants of 109, who had her convinced they were selling drugs, though despite her suspicions Lawrence hadn’t been able to find anything in the apartment during his inspection.
“Come out tonight then,” said James.
“It can wait, trust me, he’s really good.”
“Damien Jurado. He’s from Seattle.”
“Fine,” she conceded. “Give me a minute.”
Colleen went back into the apartment and picked out a conservative outfit for a bar. It had been quite a few months since she had been out. She had gone to dinner at Carol’s house a few times, and helped her cater a business meeting downtown at one of the big law firms. Her stomach felt strange as she left the house.
James and Colleen met up with his friends at The Empyrean, which was a small coffee house with a liquor license on Durthman Avenue. The moniker was all black, and scribbled in what looked like white chalk read, “The Empyrean Coffeehouse, Since 1967”. Inside, the crowd that had gathered packed themselves into a room to the side of the main entrance. The owners had torn down the wall between their coffeehouse and the adjacent unit that had been a storefront. Now it featured blacked out windows and a sound booth in the upper corner. The place could only hold a hundred people elbow to elbow and was nearly full.
James sat down at a table on the café side where a few of his friends had saved them a seat. He introduced the table and explained they were all students at Denver College. They all introduced themselves to her individually and explained their area of study. When they in turn asked her what she did for work James spoke up.
“She’s a mistress,” he said with a smirk.
A few grinned while one or two asked her what it was like. Colleen’s face went red as she tried to correct James.
“I work in a café and do some catering,” she explained.
“Yeah, but mainly she’s a mistress,” chirped James again grinning into his glass as he took a sip.
Colleen threw him a glare.
“I’m going to go,” she said standing and pushing her way towards the door.
James followed her.
“Hey, easy. Hold it a second,” he said catching up outside.
Colleen turned. “You’re a jerk. Really.”
“Well it’s true, isn’t it?”
“You didn’t need to do that,” said Colleen. She started walking again.
“Colleen, I was trying to help. You’re twenty-nine years old and you’re waiting around for a guy who is never going to leave his wife.”
She stood there quietly for a moment. She looked down the street back at The Empyrean. She did not cry.
“How do you know that?” she asked.
James paused a moment and took in a breath. “Larry likes to talk.”
“Have a good night,” she said.
“You’re not coming back?”
The next time Arthur came back was in August. Colleen had planned their trip to Michigan for the fall. She tried to show him but he kept pulling her toward the bedroom.
“Arthur, stop it, let me show you these,” she said smiling.
“Later,” he said slipping his hand under her shirt.
“No, just look at the map. Just for a minute,” she pleaded wiggling away from him.
“I’m tired,” he said. “I’ll take a look in the morning before work.”
Colleen stood back and smiled at him then kissed him and walked with him to the bedroom. They stayed up for another hour.
The next day when Arthur returned from work Colleen was not home but had left a note on the table.
I have to help Carol with a catering job tonight. I’ll be back around 10:30.
When Colleen arrived back at the apartment a little after midnight, Arthur was still awake.
“I thought you said ten-thirty?” he said when she came into the living room.
“It went a little late and we had to do the clean up,” said Colleen leaning over Arthur to kiss his head.
“James stopped by.”
“Really? What did he want?” Asked Colleen moving to the bedroom to change her clothes.
“He wondered if you wanted to go out with him and his friends to a party. I told him you were working tonight.”
“Hmm,” said Colleen half listening.
“How do you know James?” asked Arthur. He stood from the chair in the living room and walked to the bedroom.
“He lives upstairs. I went to a concert with him and a few people last month. He sometimes helps the super with repairs.”
Arthur said nothing. He walked to the kitchen and poured a glass of milk. Colleen dressed and then got into bed waiting for him. After a few moments she went to the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said.
She sat down across from him.
“What is it?” she asked again.
Arthur was quiet. He looked down at his glass of milk then back up at Colleen who was staring at him.
“I’m here for three days and only get to spend a few hours with you each month and you can’t seem to take a night off work when I’m here?” His voice began to rise. “And then while I am sitting here, all alone trying to figure out your stove, some guy comes to the door to see you.”
Colleen said nothing but had started to cry.
“I mean, what am I supposed to think Colleen? I pay the rent and the bills here, I give you what time I can, and you’re off fucking some guy when I’m away.”
“I’m not,” she pleaded. Her voice was broken. “He just lives in the building.”
“Really. And I’m sorry about work, I just thought you would be tired and could use sometime alone so when the shift came up I took it.”
Arthur stood and went to the bedroom without a word or glance at Colleen. She sat at the kitchen table trying to cry as quietly as she could incase James was upstairs and had heard what had happened. When she stopped she went to bed and got in next to Arthur. She kissed his neck and ear but he didn’t move. She turned back to her side and began to cry again. Arthur left for San Antonio the next morning.
On September 9th Lawrence knocked at her door.
“Hey,” He said with a smile. “I’m going to need to get the rent.”
Colleen looked ashamed. “I don’t have it. Arthur didn’t leave me any money last month. I get paid on the fifteenth though, I can get it to you by then.”
Lawrence smiled at her and nodded. “Anything in here need fixing right now?”
“No, but would you like a cup of tea?”
“I’d love some.”
Colleen made tea and sandwiches and then brought them to the front room so they could admire the passersby from the front window.
“You guys have a fight?” he asked.
“You call him?”
“I don’t have his number.”
“What do you mean you don’t have his number?” asked Lawrence.
Colleen just shook her head and looked out the window at one of the pedestrians.
Lawrence was quite a moment and didn’t look away from Colleen. “There’s something strange about men. Something evil. We don’t see it at first most of the time, or at least we try not to. But it’s there, waiting to show. Some wrong someone did us way back, something our father’s always said. Most of us lock it up in compartments, bury it deep, hide it, along with other things. When we see it though, see that side of ourselves, well, we don’t like what we see.”
Colleen never went to Michigan or the Great Lakes. James found her later that week.
By: The Brothers Grimm
Every year, a king’s apple tree is robbed of one golden apple during the night. He sets his sons to watch, and though the first two fall asleep, theyoungest stays awake and sees that the thief is a golden bird. He tries to shoot it, but only knocks a feather off. The feather is so valuable that the king decides he must have the bird. He sends his three sons, one after another, to capture the priceless golden bird. The sons each meet a talking fox, who gives them advice for their quest: to choose a bad inn over a brightly lit and merry one. The first two sons ignore the advice and, in the pleasant inn, abandon their quest. The third son obeys the fox, but when the fox advises him to take the golden bird in a wooden cage rather than a golden one, he disobeys, and the golden bird rouses the castle, resulting in his capture. He is sent after the golden horse as a condition for sparing his life. The fox advises him to use a wooden saddle rather than a golden one, but he fails again. He is sent after the princess from the golden castle. The fox advises him not to let her say farewell to her parents, but he disobeys, and the princess’s father orders him to remove a hill as the price of his life. The fox removes it, and then, as they set out, he advises the prince how to keep all the things he has won. It then asks the prince to shoot it and cut off its head. When the prince refuses, it warns him against buying gallowsflesh and sitting on the edge of wells. He finds that his brothers, who have been carousing and living sinfully in the meantime, are to be hanged (on the gallows) and buys their liberty. Theyfind out what he has done. When he sits on a well’s edge, they push him in. They take the things and the princess and bring them to their father. However the bird, the horse, and the princess all grieve for the prince. The fox rescues the prince. When he returns to his father’s castle dressed in a beggar’s cloak, the bird, the horse, and the princess all recognize him as the man who won them, and become cheerful again. His brothers are put to death, and he marries the princess. Finally, the third son cuts off the fox’s head and feet at the creature’s request. The fox is revealed to be a man, the brother of the princess.
Every year, a king’s apple tree is robbed of one golden apple during the night. He sets his sons to watch, and though the first two fall asleep, theyoungest stays awake and sees that the thief is a golden bird. He tries to shoot it, but only knocks a feather off.
The feather is so valuable that the king decides he must have the bird. He sends his three sons, one after another, to capture the priceless golden bird. The sons each meet a talking fox, who gives them advice for their quest: to choose a bad inn over a brightly lit and merry one. The first two sons ignore the advice and, in the pleasant inn, abandon their quest.
The third son obeys the fox, but when the fox advises him to take the golden bird in a wooden cage rather than a golden one, he disobeys, and the golden bird rouses the castle, resulting in his capture. He is sent after the golden horse as a condition for sparing his life. The fox advises him to use a wooden saddle rather than a golden one, but he fails again. He is sent after the princess from the golden castle. The fox advises him not to let her say farewell to her parents, but he disobeys, and the princess’s father orders him to remove a hill as the price of his life.
The fox removes it, and then, as they set out, he advises the prince how to keep all the things he has won. It then asks the prince to shoot it and cut off its head. When the prince refuses, it warns him against buying gallowsflesh and sitting on the edge of wells.
He finds that his brothers, who have been carousing and living sinfully in the meantime, are to be hanged (on the gallows) and buys their liberty. Theyfind out what he has done. When he sits on a well’s edge, they push him in. They take the things and the princess and bring them to their father. However the bird, the horse, and the princess all grieve for the prince. The fox rescues the prince. When he returns to his father’s castle dressed in a beggar’s cloak, the bird, the horse, and the princess all recognize him as the man who won them, and become cheerful again. His brothers are put to death, and he marries the princess.
Finally, the third son cuts off the fox’s head and feet at the creature’s request. The fox is revealed to be a man, the brother of the princess.
By: Dylan Lenz
David was alone. Or, at least that’s how it started out. There was a time when he had great expectations for himself. That was a long time ago though, and most days he was resigned to sit up late, press his forehead against the glass of his bedroom window and contemplate there not being a thin line keeping him from falling out. If he did fall out it would not hurt, or so he reasoned. It would not change anything. No one would feel the impact of him hitting the ground. No one would know. David’s bedroom was on the first floor.