Honey, I’m Home

I used to have pets. They were good company but one by one they died and I didn’t have the heart to replace them. I had been single for a decade. Still youngish at 40 I wasn’t worried about it. I was lonely sure, and nights were a bit cold in my drafty apartment but I managed. I even got in the cute habit of yelling out, “Hey honey, I’m home,” every night as I tossed my laptop bag onto the hall table and my keys into the bowl.

It was a silly thing to do. It wasn’t hurting anyone and for a fleeting moment it made me feel like I was in a 50’s sitcom and my significant other would be waiting in the living room, maybe not in a dress wearing pearls with a martini but maybe with a pizza and some mixed drinks. And if they weren’t there in real life, online ordering apps handled the pizza end of it.

Friday, I opened the door after a long day of being called an idiot and all I really wanted to do was skip right to the drinks. I opened my mouth to greet my imaginary partner and sighed. What was the point? Shrugging, I ignored my black mood and called out, “Honey, I’m home! Did you miss me?”

“I did, darling,” a voice called back.

I dropped the laptop bag on the floor. The tantalizing scent of pineapple and ham pizza drifted to me in the foyer. I walked down the hall to the living room. Curled up on my sofa was a petite brunette with a pixie cute in silky striped pajamas, holding two drinks. “I made you a seven and seven. We’re out of rum,” she said and made a face. “It’s gross but it gets the job done.” she took a sip to prove her point and grimaced. “I am sooooo um, well drunk. Work was traumatic. You?”

“I-ah, it was also traumatic,” I replied wondering if I had had a stroke.

She waved for me to come closer. I did, magnetically pulled to the sofa. I collapsed next to her and she handed me the drink. I sipped it, coughing. “Gah, this is revolting.”

“Mm,” she agreed.

I gave her a sidelong glance. Her eyes were so brown they were black. Her skin was a nice medium tone like a natural tan and a hint of cleavage could be seen where she had misbuttoned the top two buttons on her pajama top. Shapely legs were pulled up under her and she had one hell of a wicked smile.

“You are my dream girl,” I told her.

Her cheeks flamed red and a giggle escaped her. “You’re in a mood,” she commented, flipping the pizza box open. “Get a slice in you before you puke up all that whiskey.”

I ate a slice. It tasted fine, not like LSD or any other hallucinogens. Not that I would know. Listen, it tasted like ham, and pineapple and lovely mozzarella.  My drink tasted like suffering which is what whiskey always tasted like to me, so it wasn’t the food.

“How long have we been together?” I asked.

Her smile faltered, “Janie, don’t ask questions like that. It makes me think you don’t want me here. Don’t you want me here?”

Something in her eyes glowed oddly. I blinked and it was gone. My dream girl smiled and grabbed my free hand. Her nails were manicured in a matte black giving me the illusion of a wolf’s claws. Her skin was warm and the scent of pizza, whiskey and something wild hit me. Her smile was wistful.

“I do want you here,” I replied. “I must have hit my head or something at work today, honey. I’m sorry.”

That pleased her and she squeezed my fingers. The black in her eyes started to fade to a root beer. She tugged on my hand until we were half in a cuddle. The shock to my system was instant. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had wanted to touch me, let alone huddle up on the sofa together. Her warmth seeped into me.

“Am I dreaming?”

She frowned. “Janie please.”

“I’m just… happy you’re with me,” I said when her breath hitched, eyes flashing black again. Whatever she was, she wanted to be with me and as she placed a gentle kiss on my cheek, I realized I wanted her to be with me too. “I can’t remember your name.”

“Janie,” she warned.

“Fine,” I said. I wasn’t allowed to ask or know who or what or where she came from if I wanted to keep her. Was I that lonely? Had I been fooling myself with my little game? Had I called something into existence? Someone? Was she a demon? Did I care?

She slid her free hand up my thigh.

No.

I did not care.

“Do you want me to stay,” she asked, a hint of points showing in her smile.

“Yeah,” I said, “Stay with me.”

Her smile was brilliant.

Honey, I am home.

End.

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Better than a Seance

“Come on, somebody has to want to use this thing,” I called out.

The party was in full swing around me. People dressed as pop culture icons milled around with the staples. A sexy witch offered a sexy marshmallow (I shit you not) a can of beer before walking over to a sexy dead girl to talk about a guy in a state trooper uniform. I slumped down against the sofa. My costume was a classic. I was a wolfman. Not that I had the head on, it had been hot and I had taken it off a long time ago.

I called out again, trying to get someone to notice the ouija board on the coffee table. The thing was ancient, the varnish chipped and the letters fading a bit. Some mobster had dropped an empty can of beer on it like it was an elaborate coaster. If I didn’t move fast, others would follow and no one would even notice it was a cool thing to talk to ghosts on Halloween Night.

Standing up, I slinked over to a couple and whispered in his ear, “Hey, why not have a seance.”

When his response was to shove his tongue farther into the girl’s mouth, I whispered in her ear, “How scary would it be if we contacted a ghost?”

She shivered.

To be honest, I think it was because of that guy’s tongue and not my neat idea. I wandered away, rolling my eyes. The music kicked up a notch. It was all thump, thump, thumping with electric instruments. Lights flickered along with it and people flickered, slowing and speeding up in the flashes. The partiers got into it and the living room became an impromptu dance floor.

Huffing, I went outside to get a breath of fresh air. I slumped down on the steps next to a girl in all black. Her conical hat was off to the left and her fishnet stockings were artfully torn. “Ah, a sexy witch,” I muttered, thoroughly over it.

“Thanks,” the girl answered brightly. “I wasn’t going for sexy though, I was going for authentic. Because I am. Authentic that is, not sexy generally. Thanks for that.”

I opened and closed my mouth a few times. “Ah, um, well, you are and you are welcome.”

She giggled. Her bright gray eyes sparkled in the moonlight. She leaned back and I got to see just how long her legs were through a split in her not-meant-to-be-sexy black dress. She caught me ogling and snorted. I rolled my eyes.

“Hey, you want to get a seance going?” I asked.

“Why? I don’t need one to talk to you.”

I huffed. “It’s not about talking. I want to possess one of those dumbasses for the night.”

The witch’s eyebrows went up. “You’re Kevin.”

I nodded, beaming at her. She was not only a sexy witch, she was a smart one too.

“You’ve been dead for like-”

“Ten years, yeah,” I interrupted. “You weren’t lying about being an authentic witch. Is that why you can see me?”

She nodded and gave me a once-over, flattering.

“Should I help you move on or something?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I agreed, widening my eyes at her, “you can help me into that guy over there.”

I pointed to a guy who looked a bit like me. He was thin, tall, and dressed as a mummy. “Then I can buy you a drink.”

“The drinks here are free,” she remarked and glanced over at the guy, “What happens to him?”

“I get to be him for a night,” I answered. “I get to hang out at the party. I get to drink and have fun. He gets the hangover. Come on, help a spirit out.”

“Do you know who that is?”

“Random guy, who might be me for a night? No, I don’t care. I want to eat chips and pizza. They ordered from my favorite place. Come on, please? I only get until dawn. Don’t make me beg.”

“No, shut up. I’m telling you that’s Carter Greene.”

“So?”

This was exasperating! Why wouldn’t a witch want to help me possess someone? I am proof of the supernatural and no one ever got hurt. It was just one day to them and it meant the whole year to me. One night of life to get me through death…

“He killed my cat,” she said her voice dropping low and dangerous.

“Do you want me to contact your cat on the other side or something? I can do that for you,” I offered. “I hang out with my neighbor’s dog. He was cool in life and he is super creepy in death.”

“This is your lucky night Kevin,” she said tone sultry.

I perked up. “Is it? I hope it is. Why is it?”

“Because I know a spell.”

“You’re a witch,” I replied, “aren’t you supposed to know a lot of spells?”

She laughed. “I like you.”

I flashed her a grin. She was great, really great and it looked like I was getting my wish. I could already taste the cheese and sauce. “I like you too.”

“Great, because after tonight, you’re going to owe me one.”

“Okay,” I agreed easily. I was a ghost. There wasn’t much I could offer. Company? Might be nice to have someone new to talk to after Halloween. Of course, she’d have to come here to the O’Briens. It was where I haunted after all. “Sure. One favor.”

“Let’s go.”

Inside the dance party had broken up into small groups of hard drinkers. My witch led me into the kitchen where she mixed two rum and cokes. She drew a symbol on one with runic swirls or something and whispered into it. The cup glowed green. I didn’t get it, was the spell to make whoever drank it want to start a seance? She gave me a wink and walked into the party on the hunt for Carter.

He was smashing a beer can against his forehead. We rolled our eyes at him. Squaring her shoulders, my witch stalked over to him and turned up the charm by acting sloshed. Bumping into him, she slurred, “You’ve got to help me, Carter.”

“With what, Brin?” he asked, steadying her.

“Mandy made me two drinks,” my witch said, holding up her cup and then the enchanted one. “I’m so gone. Can’t waste it.”

Carter’s smile was predatory. “What do I get for helping you?”

Brin leaned in and whispered in his ear. Carter took the cup she offered and downed it. Done, he crushed the red cup and chucked it at a girl in a unicorn onesie. The girl ran from the room and Carter laughed darkly. He reached for Brin and pulled her close. The urge to punch him flitted through my form as he sealed his mouth over my new friend as if he were a vacuum hose. Brin slipped an arm around him, holding him upright as a blurry image of Carter fell out of his body and crashed to the carpet, looking hazy and indistinct.

Brin’s finger crooked at me.

I looked at Carter. I looked at Carter’s body. Oh, ho, no way! Brin’s expression became strained and she crooked her finger again and indicated the body. I didn’t need to be told a third time. I flitted forward and slipped into Carter’s skin. It was like sinking into a dirty bathtub. It was slimy and gross with leftover dark thoughts. I filled up the dark corners with my spirit until I clicked into place and took over the kiss.

My arms tightened around Brin. I gentled the pressure on her mouth from bruising to gentle and she reached up to touch my face. We separated by inches, smirking at each other. I glanced to the floor to see Carter fading away.

“Brin,” I whispered, “What did you do?”

“Uh uh, you owe me a drink and a favor,” she said and placed a finger over my lips.

“Is this…”

“Permanent? Yeah, come on,” Brin’s grin was brilliant as she took my hand and led me into my new life.

end.

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The Apple Thief’s Friend

The deer was not majestic.

Behind the chain link fence, the deer had his tongue out in a blep. He was scrawny and undignified. Lane eyeballed him and he stuck his tongue out at her before blinking. Lane, dressed in deer patterned leggings and an oversized sweater, held her white bucket tightly. It was loaded to the brim with gala apples.

“No,” she told him.

The deer tilted his head and licked the fence. Lane rolled her eyes at the deer. She pointed to the ‘no deer in the orchard sign.’ He was unimpressed and stomped a delicate hoofprint into the wet ground. Nose twitching, he tilted his head toward the gate.

Lane’s sister approached her with her own bucket brimming with Granny Smiths. “I’m going to make a pie and some turnovers before I let Mom turn the rest into apple butter or oooo jam! Whatcha doing?”

“Talking to this deer,” Lane told her sister.

Allison was in black leggings but her sweater was a smaller version of the one her sister wore. She did her hair in the same braids as Lane even though hers was cornsilk to Lane’s fawn-colored hair. They had the same green eyes but Allison was not one to talk to deer.

“Deer don’t have vocal cords,” she remarked.

It was just like Ally to be literal and factual and scientific. Lane ignored all of it and pointed to the deer who was still scrawny, still undignified, and still offering her an unobstructed view of his tongue. Lane huffed.

“He wants to get into the orchard,” Lane remarked as the deer bobbed his head as if in agreement. “I’ve told him deer aren’t allowed by indicating the sign.”

“Deer can’t read,” Allison countered.

“It’s a pictogram,” Lane argued. “See,” Lane said to the deer as she pointed to the cartoon version on the sign, “This is you, and this is no. Savvy?”

The deer stared. Blinked twice.

Allison shook her head. “I’m going to get some Winesaps too. You coming?”

“In a minute, I’m in the middle of something here,” Lane said.

Allison bounded away with her bucket of apples. Lane stared at the deer. The deer stared back.

“I’m not letting you in,” she told him.

He blepped.

“Seriously, you can’t come into the orchard, it’s not allowed,” Lane insisted.

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No, stop.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate, paused, he pawed the ground, and looked back again.

Lane looked to the heavens. When she looked back, the deer was still there. The deer was still staring. He was still poking his tongue out at her adorably with his scrawny undignified person. Lane opened the gate, stepping back out of his way. He bowed.

“Yeah, you’re welcome. If anyone asks, I was never here.”

The deer slipped into the orchard and disappeared into the trees.

The End.

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Benny Tells Lies

“I met Michael Jackson before he died,” Benny said, embellishing the story. He had seen the King of Pop on a corner and waved at him. “He was super nice and let me listen to his new song. He did the moonwalk for me and they interviewed me for a national paper. It was cool.”

Maya nodded. “Cool,” she remarked.

Benny sighed. Nothing he said ever impressed Maya and he so wanted to impress her. She was gorgeous with her rich russet skin and large grass green eyes. Her hair was in long braids down her back and she had dressed conservatively today in a harvest gold dress with a floral print. Her expression wasn’t pretty, however. She looked irritated. He had no idea why. He’d tried telling her about his stint with Nirvana in the 90s and she hadn’t even acknowledged him. Sure Kurt hadn’t let him play guitar on stage, but he had done a soundcheck once when the sound guy was in the john. He had regaled her with tale after embellished tale making himself seem whimsical, intelligent, caring, and just plain amazing. Still, she never fell into his arms. She never loved him.

“Why don’t you like me, Maya?”

“Ben,” Maya said, her tone saying she was annoyed and about to disappear back to her desk. She was only talking to him now because the coffee hadn’t finished brewing and Maya loved her coffee. Benny knew that and had taken the last of the coffee, so she would get one from the fresh pot and maybe stick around and talk to him for a moment. “You’re full of garbage. You haven’t told me one true thing in the five years we’ve known each other.”

“That is so-I always tell you the truth,” Benny argued. Well, he did tell her kernels of truth. He just liked to add icing on top to make them better and more impressive so she would be impressed.

Maya rolled her eyes. “Tell me one true thing right now. No lies, no embellishments. Just pure, unadulterated truth.”

Benny frowned. “I always tell you the truth.”

She poured herself a cup of coffee before it was done percolating. Benny stood there listening as the coffee awkwardly pinged against the bottom of the maker. Coffee was spreading from the base to the table as she poured. She eyed him the entire time, daring him to call her out for making the mess.

“Admit you took the last of the coffee so you could terrorize me with one of your garbage stories, and maybe I’ll thinking about downgrading my hatred of you, to a rich dislike.” Maya dared him as she reached for the creamer. She had to reach past him because he had moved it farther away so she would have to reach past him. He had put new cologne on. He was convinced if she got a proper whiff of it, she would like it, and in return him. She leaned back and sneezed.

Benny worried the cozy on his paper cup. “I knew you wouldn’t want to drink the dregs.”

“Hm,” Maya said. He was blocking her way out of the room. “But you didn’t start the new pot. You waited for me to start the new pot. Yeah, think I’m going to stick to a deep-seated hatred of you if it’s all the same.”

“No Maya,” Benny protested. “Come on! I like you. Why won’t you give me a chance?”

“Because you tell lies, Benny,” Maya answered. “You tell lies and you make my life more complicated and annoying just to tell me these stupid lies. You never stood a chance, Ben.”

“But-but,” Benny sputtered. “I once saw Death eating a fudge pop!” he blurted.

“Eat a fudge pop, Benny,” Maya said in a nasty tone. “Talk to me again and I’ll call HR.”

“But that wasn’t a lie! Maya! That was true! I did! A woman had a heart attack at an ice cream truck and he took her fudge pop!” Benny chased after Maya.

Maya went to HR. Benny was outside holding his box of supplies by the end of the day. That night found him sitting on the Trenton Bridge looking down at the murky, polluted waters. A man in a black tracksuit walked up to him.

“Hey,” Benny called out to the stranger. “Do you like hoagies?”

“Sure,” the man in the tracksuit replied, slowing to a stop. “Why? Do you have one? I gotta tell you, I haven’t had a single thing to eat in forever. I can barely remember what it was…”

“No, well, I don’t have one on me. I was just going to say, I invented them. So, you can thank me for that,” Benny said, trying to perfect his breezy tone. There was something unsettling about the man in front of him. He had a shock of brown hair, nice features for a guy but his skin was a sick milk color. “I mean, you don’t have to thank me…”

The man leaned against the bridge’s rail and eyed Benny up and down. “Hoagie inventor, huh? Worked at the naval yard then…? Or are you just lying, Benny?”

“I-I no, I did work at there and it was after this guy Hogan, Irish guy and we…” he trailed off as the man stared.

His expression was a mixture of disappointment and disgust. “Seriously, Benny?”

“What-?”

“You want your last conversation ever to be about some urban myth about how hoagies got their name? Ugh, why do I even bother!” the man rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers, “Oh wow! I remember now. The last thing I ate and it was years ago now, was a fudge pop!”

End.

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A Night in Northern Liberties

redsunrising_ortlieb

Thursday. Last Thursday now. I’m too busy a bee to get things down on paper seconds after they happen. And by busy, I mean I went home and passed out. Where was I? Last Thursday, Heather reminded me for the 400th time that we had concert tickets for Red Sun Rising. My memory is crap when it comes to anything time related. So she even created a Facebook Event to remind me to pick her up and take her to Northern Liberties. This is entirely necessary or I would have been on the couch watching Almighty Johnsons on Netflix. But Heather is a clever girl and I picked her up at 7ish. I’m not punctual either. Not sure why she puts up with me… I am an easily distracted friend.

After a half hour of driving and a further half hour of me bitching about not being able to park downtown (even though we were clearly in Northern Liberties,) we parked on 5th and Green. Heather stared at the sign and said, “You sure it’s Green?”

“Yes,” I said. “There is the sign. Here, look at it. You better remember it because I won’t.” (I use a GPS for everything. I have no idea how to get places, just a preternatural feeling of what direction my apartment is in.) Heather assures me that she has pinned it on her Google Map. I don’t have a smart phone. I have to trust these words. I should not have trusted these words. For I was dealing with buzzed Heather at this point, a double rum and coke in. Blithely, we continued on our way to the Ortlieb.

Unlike the big bars up in Far Northeast, the bars “downtown” are cooler somehow, smaller, divier and full of mysterious corners. They are in fact: cooler than the ‘Burbs. The Ortlieb is no different. Outside boasted a few bearded guys smoking cigarettes. Inside was all hot, warm reds and browns. The wall sported a bull’s head draped in the American flag. The bar was long with a brass rail and full of people drinking. The first booth was open. Heather slid in and sat on the red leather tufted booth side. I sat on a high stool. I’m short. This made me feel like a kid in a high chair. I’m mostly used to this feeling by now. Heather’s tall and seemed to fit the adult sized furniture.

The Ortlieb is not wide but stretches long and in the back is the venue. We haven’t been here before and I hope it opens up, since the bar is a bit cramped for me. I head to the bar to get us rum and cokes, which is the drink choice of champions. Trust me.

I stand at the corner being blatantly ignored. That gives me time to observe a few people around me. The girls to either side of me seem friendly. I smile. They smile. A young guy walks up and trades what might be an acid tab for a Yuengling. I raise an eyebrow and my twenty. The guy notices me and drinks are served! I debated getting us multiple drinks but my hands are tiny so I leave off. The drinks are a decent price. Bartender is a friendly young guy in a white tee.

Back in the booth, we discuss our flagging careers, since we both work in the same dead end data entry job, and our friends, family and random bullshit. It’s girl bonding time and we don’t give a shit who’s around us. The table to our immediate left is a bunch of older guys all in black band tees and jeans who are not interested in being friendly. Heather notices the band is at the table past the older guys. I goad her into getting her picture taken with them. She isn’t drunk enough to be brave yet.

The opening band’s music gets to us all the way out at the front of the bar. They’re good but doing covers. I never did find out who they were. We were there to see Red Sun Rising, that was it. Oh and maybe harass my brother who works in a bar ten blocks or so down. I made the mistake of teasing Heather about nursing her drink. She pounded it. I bought us more.

“These are so strong,” she says, “That I can’t tell which one is Coke Zero and which one is Diet…And I don’t care.”

“Mine is the diet,” I say with the air of an expert. “I think. It isn’t making me sick. It’s all rum though…so no way to tell. Do they put the lime in the diet? Or the lemon?” I ask, eying the citrus in our drinks.

“Lime,” Heather tells me. “Because sometimes limes are on the Diet Coke cans.”

This is as expert opinion. I agree and get us more drinks. At the bar the the brunettes are still there. The bartenders still have an aversion to me. It might be my devilish red hair. Relax everyone, it’s Vidal Sassoon! One bartender actually points to the other and says, “He’s got you.”

But he didn’t.

I amused myself by talking to the girls. I told them the band was swirling around talking to the crowd and were a few tables over. Girl on left says she’s seen them but hasn’t talked to them. A band member, I think it was Dave McGarry approaches her and asks, “Have you been in the back room? Are you going back there later?” Her shocked face entertains me. He charms her and I finally get more drinks.

Heather and I amused ourselves with people watching before heading to the bathrooms and the backroom after the band disappeared. Both of us come out of the bathroom angry that the dryers didn’t dry our hands and the soap was especially soapy. We get ‘O’s drawn on us as we get out tickets scanned and I give the guy shit about the tiny weird ‘O’s. He smiles and says, “It’s for Ortlieb but this marker sucks. The other guy took my good marker.”

Aaannnnd we were into the venue. Which if I’m honest looks like an old paneled library with a lot of red fabric on the ceiling. The stage at the end has red bunting that faces the band? So we see the sad wrong side of the fabric which was a bit orange-y. There’s a drink rail and an open space the size of my living room. We were about to be packed in like sardines.

Tall people start surrounding me. I will never understand why tall people always move to the front. I am 5’ 3.5”. Why do you feel the need to make me feel like I’m in a forest of redwoods? The guy to my left actually says, “Let me know if I’m blocking you and I’ll move. This margarita was $5. That’s good.”

All is right with the world. Also there’s a hot guy around my age to Heather’s left. But since his son is in front of us, I decide not to hassle him for being cute. The lights dimmed and the band came out. We were practically in their laps. The venue is that intimate.

Red Sun Rising starts with “Push” according to Heather. I know lyrics to most of their songs but for some reason I’m light on the names. What I’m not light on is the charisma that lead singer Mike Protich brought to the tiny stage. The band did not hold back. They seemed as excited and happy as the crowd as we all jumped around, singing, dancing and bumping into each other. Sometimes I lost sight of the band because I’m short and tall people were taking advantage of their camera phones. But most people were too into the music to care about recording it.

Comfortable and friendly, the guy on my left commented on the heat. Heather commented on the heat. We felt very closed in and people wished for open doors and fans. It didn’t stop them from dancing or reaching out to Mike when he out his hand out to us, we returned the favor. I got the feeling he was some sort of psychic vampire and he was living off our positive vibes. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t sure how many sexy incubi lived in Akron Ohio, so it was good for him to get out and make friends. Maybe with Gavin Rossdale? That one was definitely living off charisma stolen from me at Feastival I took my cousin to years ago (Wednesday, December 12, 2001 at First Union Center.)

I took my large green pea coat off and slung it over one arm. I wasn’t as uncomfortable as the rest. I lived for tropical weather and worked in greenhouses previously. It’s the cold that is my mortal enemy. I was happy to be warm.

The energy in the room was growing as they worked their way through the album. I clearly remember them doing “Amnesia.” I listen to that song every single day at work. It’s on my Spotify playlist. I went crazy and sang loud as hell. It was nice to get out of my head for a few minutes. “Emotionless” also riled the crowd into happy bouncing and clapping.

I was sad when the music stopped. It was like being cut off from all these people and being alone again in your own head. Heather is normal. So probably was just thinking, “How do I get a picture with the band?”

We stood around chatting and this guy I know from my days of dating the drummer in “the Jawn” walked out and started rolling up cables. I’ll be damned if I could remember his name. He might have been from the Great SOCIO? No idea. I went to a lot of band shows then. It was a good time. I was sad for a second, reminded if my ex. But I shrugged it off and laughed at myself for feeling like this ‘random guy’ was a good memory in a weird hipster sweater.

People did the job for us and started asking to take pictures with Red Sun Rising. I was on it. I moved forward and said, “Us too.” An impossibly tall woman said she would take out picture if we took hers. I obliged and took two lovely shots of her. She took a great shot of Heather with the band. I am not pleased how I looked in it. (Vowed immediate diet, which I am currently on..thanks a lot bad camera angle!)

Heather and I made our way out into the cold air where we immediately began enacting “Dude Where’s My Car?”

Now remember, I told Heather it was at 5th and Green. Heather started heading off in what I thought was the right direction. I have no sense of direction at all, so I am fucked in these situations. I have a system of memorizing turns and landmarks that I did not employ because I had brought a navigator.

My navigator was drunk.

We were initially going in the right direction. But it was taking too long. Also a guy from the bar who seemed friendly in a creepy way was trailing us. I kept an eye on him until Heather said, “This way,” and led us across the street. “I thought you’d appreciate getting away from that creeper.”

“He did seem creepy,” I said.

He was probably fine. We weren’t taking any chances. Northern Liberties isn’t the greatest neighborhood. I ask her to check the pin, and gave her the cross street. She makes a joke that that probably isn’t where the car is. I am undermined. I refuse to give in. “5th and Green. We looked at the sign. I thought you pinned it?”

It’s not in here, too many pins. Google maps hates me. I put too many pins in.”

“Can you look it up? 5th and Green,” I repeat.

“Are you sure that’s the cross street? I don’t remember Green…” I don’t know if she is kidding.

Minutes pass. I remember nothing of the landscape. We head toward a bar with an awesome robot sculpture out front. I stare at it. “I would have remembered that!” I say, pointing.

“I don’t think this is the way to Green,” Heather says. “No big deal, we’re on 5th. We can always go back to the bar and start over.”

She teases me about the cross street as we pass a lady and a dog. I ask her. She says it’s one block over and points. We go that way and I am extolling the trustworthiness of dog owners. I shouldn’t have. She sent us in the wrong direction. We wander for awhile. I am confused. Why won’t the magic Google Maps thing take us to 5th and Green? Are there multiples?

I sit down on the steps of St. John Neumann and remember I may have sung there once when I was in the chorus in high school. Ugh, no I am not thinking about high school…I repress the memory and look around. “I’m scared. I recognize none of this.”

Heather does magic on her phone. “That is Girard,” she says and points.

“Where is Spring Garden? That’s where the car is.” I say. I am confused by her smart phone. It seems to be deliberately leading us astray. Technology hates me. I think it’s trying to get revenge on me for that time I dropped my old flip phone on concrete and it exploded.

Heather points back the way we came and says, “That bitch sent us in the wrong direction. It’s 6 minutes away.”

Her phone thinks everything is 6 minutes away.

We walk around in the dark, loud as hell and mostly alone. The snow and ice are thick in spots. We are beyond caring. The stress of being up for like fifteen, sixteen hours has given me a headache at this point. I really haven’t been sleeping right since we went to overtime at work. This makes me stroppy. I try to keep my temper in check. This is no one’s fault.

Drunk Heather says alcohol makes her:

  1. Giddy
  2. Truthful
  3. Loud

I agree, laughing. She decides to send this revelation to her brother. I wonder if we’ll ever get to my brother’s bar. I am debating. Do we go home when we finally find the car? Or do we go to Mark’s bar? Hell, we’re already out and I am never in Northern Liberties. Frankly, I want to see my brother. I never get to see him outside of family functions. We are stupid, busy adults. Debate over.

“Ah, there it is,” Heather says.

I still don’t see the car. Beginning to think this is all some hallucination. Somehow I got that bartender’s acid tab in my rum and diet… But there she is! My dented, side swiped, glued-on passenger mirror, dented hood and dirty Alero is sitting in the slush looking smug. We hop in like heroes on our way to rescue…ourselves I guess.

“Put the bar address in your phone thing,” I say.

“I already did, pfft, go that way,” says Heather, vague pointing.

My head is pounding. I am exhausted. I’m also happy. I like adventures. I tell her if we can’t find parking we are out and she agrees. We loop around the block and are told to go to Green…another Green and now we know why Google Maps has failed.

“There’s too many Green streets!” I yell as it tells us to turn on it after we pass it. We loop around while Heather bitches about how Green streets are awful, evil things we can’t ever go near again. Down a bit and across the street from the bar, we see a poor bastard in an adult size car struggling to get into a snowy parking space. We wait. He leaves. We pounce.

Our Alero is tiny and mighty and probably going to fall apart at any moment. (The car was a gift from my brother when my Dodge Colt died. Mark had bought a new car and no one trusted the Colt. Except me…well until oil leaked all over the engine and it basically shit the bed to car heaven. I miss you Dodge Colt.)

“Remember where we parked the car,” I tell her.

“I’m not that drunk anymore,” Heather says.

“You’re a terrible navigator,” I say with a laugh.

“Only when drunk. Sober Heather knows it’s that way,” Sober Heather says and leads us across the street and down to where the Institute Bar is.

I hear about this bar all the time on my brother’s Facebook and in person. But what I remember most is: Franklin the Cat lives here. We walk in to a nice clean bar with awesome pipe for handrails and a real industrial feel to it. It’s half empty. But that’s okay, Mark said he would be upstairs.

“What’s up Franklin?” I say to the fat orange tabby warming himself in front of an electric fireplace. He flicks an ear in acknowledgment. I speak cat.

Upstairs people are nuts. Everyone is in pseudo bike riding/running gear. They’re huddled in a circle and saying crazy shit. One says, “Oh, they’re letting civilians in now?” as we pass. I stare him down. I’m the bartender’s sister. I am better than a civilian. I’m hoping I’m comped.

Heather and I climb up on to bar stools. My brother is there and he looks loopy. “What are you drinking?”

“Rum and cokes, diet for me,” I say.

My brother nods. He knows we drink Captain Morgan. Rum and cokes are the family go to drink. Although I’m sure he’s expanded to fancier drinks now. “There’s no ice. Get your drinks downstairs and come back up.”

We did. And we overheard hipsters being oh so hipster-y at the bar. I would have punched the guy at the bar on principal-he was that annoying-but we ordered fries and that made me feel peaceful. The young dark haired girl behind the bar hooked us up. We paid and roamed back upstairs. But not before Heather got a chance to hang out with Franklin.

I didn’t hear what they talked about but knowing Heather, that cat told her the secrets of the universe and she forgot instantly. Because I handed her a rum and coke. We headed back upstairs. We reclaimed our stools and let the bullshitting begin!

My brother and I have similar storytelling styles. We are loud and melodramatic. We talked about comics, his upcoming trip to Colorado and he bitched at us for complaining about being up since 6am. Apparently he had only had 5 hours of sleep and I was supposed to pity him. Pfft. He broke off talking to us randomly to get people drinks. Tell other people there wasn’t any ice and to bring us our fries.

He spent a few minutes flirting with a girl about Italy. I love how he plays up being Italian. I play up being Irish/German. We’re American mutts and we know it. But whatever works to get the girl, I guess. She was okay looking. Eventually a cute guy with long-ish hair took her back into the circle.

Mark tells us they’re part of a run where they go crazy and come here to drink and talk shit on each other. Heather eyes them up. I ignore them mostly. One of Mark’s regulars comes in and his name is Mike. Mark and I are talking about a stripper he used to date. He’s still weirded out that the guys at my old work bought me a lap dance from her. I don’t know why. I’m straight. The stripper was straight and apparently we shared a birthday. I think I’m way more flexible about gender norms than my ex-military brother. She also had no pasties on, for those who care about such things. I was 27 and it was forever ago.

I turn to Heather to explain that I worked in a factory where I was the only girl. Mike, the friend gets up and tells us rudely that we weren’t talking to him so he was going to talk to other people. I tell him he wasn’t talking o us. Heather says, “We don’t know you.”

The fries were amazing. I believe they are loaded with bacon and cocaine. If so, I think I’m addicted to bacon. I down some cokes. They’re weird. Not flat, not fizzy and strange tasting. Mark shrugs, “It’s dark, thick and weird up here. I have no idea why.”

It’s after midnight and the ball is over. We have got to go home and get some sleep, so we can type our data into entries. Not that it matters. But you gotta pay the rent somehow. We leave and I say goodby to my brother and Franklin. I think Heather will miss the cat most of all.

She doesn’t understand the significance of meeting my brother. I have friends who have been around me for decades who may have seen him once, interacted with him never. It’s a unicorn evening.

We didn’t even get lost on the way back to the car. When I show Heather the rough draft, I asked her if I captured everything? She told me, “I remember most of this, but rum took the rest.”

Nanowrimo Winner with Broken Car!

It’s been a few weeks without my car and I’ve realized something very important about myself: I do not like when I can’t get to point B.

Also that I like to move around a lot but not when it’s cold. I’ve spent a lot of time indoors lately and not all of those hours were due to the enormous amount of time it takes to complete a 50,ooo word novel in a month. I have been writing until the fingers swell and then creating art until the eye starts twitching but mostly I’ve been avoiding the cold. I would love to retire to Florida at the ripe old age of thirty-five but someone needs to make my company grow and become even more infused with AWESOME!

On the work front I am attacking craft shows and banging out logos for a video company, a cake company and two bands. If you need a logo you should catch me while I’m on a winning streak. Fast turn over is complete with your files and a heady dose of sarcasm. The files are free. The sarcasm is double free. Also I’ve finally gotten my butt in gear and started reworking http://www.karenkalbacher.com. Pretty sure I should just be using it to link to here. That’s the fun and lazy way to do things, less labor intensive. We’ll see, the index page is updated..but not uploaded so tomorrow will be decision day for that loverly nightmare project. I love the old page even if it is in red and my WordPress is in pale-tastic blue. Stay tuned for updates to my awesomeness.

…And also for when my car gets back on the road.

Hey if you have a place of business that likes my art, I will hang it on your walls. Just tell me where and when to show up and how weird I can be. I’m really a fun alternative to ‘traditional’ art which I consider boring because no one uses lime green in fused with psycho radioactive green or candy apple… if you prefer normal names for SUPER COLORS!!!!

Oh and as for winning Nano – I finished a whole day early! I got my donor halo and I ordered a tee. I love writing, writers and all of you.

Welcome to the Junk Box that is My Mind…

Welcome to my latest attempt at a blog. I’ve been having some luck with my 1 fuzzy Monster Blog, so I figured why not go back to the randomness of a purposeless blog. This is where I will dump all the extra fluff that gets caught in my brain pan.

I‘m starting to think I might be reading too many stories. Not because reading isn’t awesome but because yesterday they pulled a friend of mine into the office–I have no idea why. Could have been asking them to go and get more pretzels from the Pretzel Factory, we do that a lot here–and immediately I start thinking it’s about me.

Not me specifically but me and this friend get together to bitch while he has a smoke. So obviously I thought someone had heard us talking and was on to us. I imagined tons of scenarios — most ending with me throwing a drink in a manager’s face Joan Collins Style and booking out of here to jump into a getaway vehicle– Because see it just had to be a big dramatic situation that made me both anxious and excited…like a good book. So either I am reading waaaaaaay too much or my job is waaaaaaaaaaaay duller than I think it is. (Psst & I think it’s pretty damned boring.)

Now I’m kind of sad… I really would like to quit a job by throwing a drink in someone’s face and scrambling into a getaway car… There’s still time. Just gotta leave a glass of something foul “science projecting” on my desk. Because when that opportunity arises I want to be able to  accidentally create a mutant nemesis that I can do battle with.