Saturday, April 29, 2017


Jenn sat in the police precinct, utterly silent. She did not shift in the cold, hard, plastic chair she had been escorted to, and her blank gaze did not move from where it had landed a half hour ago, reading and re-reading the same 5 words on a certificate hanging on the wall. A foil emergency blanket lay loosely around her shoulders, placed there by one of the faceless EMS who had arrived on the scene. Dried blood still streaked her face in some places, seemingly a product of a large, hastily stitched gash at her hairline.

She had already given her statement. That car had been new, bought a week ago to get her to and from the veterinary school that Dr. Green had offered to pay for, if she would work for him for five years after she graduated. Coming back from the night class, she’d been tired and more than ready to get home, but even at 12:30 am she was careful to obey the laws. She’d only been driving 5 miles above the 40 mph speed limit.

Jenn closed her eyes. The dark of midnight washed the back of her eyelids, and she took a deep, shuddering breath.

The light was green and she smiled to be so close to home, enjoying the cool rush of night air on her face as she accelerated through the turn. Her high beams lit on a figure approaching too quickly, and with a sound wrenched deep from her gut Jenn stepped as hard as she could on the brakes- and met no resistance. Her blood turned to ice in her veins. A split second later and she had already traveled 66 feet, barreling towards the defenseless human still standing in the middle of the road. Choking on a scream, Jenn yanked the steering wheel to the right, tires squealing, but the world had no mercy. The initial sound of impact was dull and wet, and then destruction followed on light feet. As her car spun out, headed irreversibly towards the banks of the Rainbow River, she knew that if she lived, as long as she lived, she would remember the glassy, empty eyes of one Rory Langely.

The squeal of a door and quiet footsteps did little to rouse Jenn from her reverie. “Miss Sonyac?” The policewoman’s voice was gentle. Jenn slowly turned her head to meet the woman’s eyes, her movements wooden. “I’m Danica Jules, police chief here.” Chief Jules waited for a second, to see if she would get a response. Jenn said nothing. If she tried to speak, she would cry again, and she physically had no tears left. “We’ve finished the preliminary investigation of your car, Miss Sonyac.” Chief Jules’s face twitched, as if she were going to attempt a reassuring smile and though better of it. “I have good news and bad news. The good news, is that you will not brought up on any charges relating to this tragedy.” Jenn startled enough to snap partway out of her fearful daze, the devastation about Rory and what had happened clearing somewhat in her head. “You were not at fault, Miss Sonyac,” the chief explained, “your car failed. My next question, though, is extremely important, so I need you to think very carefully about your answer.” There was a pregnant pause, and Jenn sat up a little straighter, necessity stabilizing her emotional state.

“Do you have any enemies, Miss Sonyac?” Jenn blinked, opened her mouth, shut it again, and settled into watching Chief Jules for a beat. That was the last thing on this earth she had expected.

“I’m sorry?” Jenn needed to make sure she had heard what she thought she’d heard.

“Do you have any enemies, Miss Sonyac?” Chief Jules’s face was grim. “Your brake lines were cut, ma’am, deliberately made to leak fluid until you could no longer stop and would inevitably crash. The murderer got Rory, but make no mistake about it. The original target was you.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

An Upstanding Citizen

Jenn woke up, threw her covers off, rolled out of bed, and as soon as she put her feet on floor on the right side of the bed, she knew. It was going to be a crappy day. She normally got up on the left side.

Walking through the park on her way to work, dark clouds still broiled over Jenn's head, despite the happy sunshine streaming through the leaves and mottling the path green and yellow. The mountain range of trash she slogged through, a friendly present from their neighborhood raging storm, didn't help either. Gusting out an affronted sigh, Jenn kicked at the nearest piece of trash. She really didn't feel like cleaning this up, but who else was going to do it? The city? Ha. Christ, what's the point of being an upstanding citizen if all it does is rope you into more work? She stalked into the Animal Hospital and blew past Mr. Green's friendly greeting with a muted growl. Thank god dogs don't talk.

20 bulging trash bags, 10 worn-out puppies, and four hours later the clouds had slowly cleared over Jenn's head. It feels so good to be productive, she thought as she swung the last bag over the edge of the dumpster with a clang. Walking inside and wiping the sweat off her face, Jenn called brightly, "Hey, Dr. Green? I've finished walking the dogs, what else ya got for me?"

Dr. Green walked out of the back room, having changed out of his scrubs and into normal street clothes.

"We haven't got any appointments today, so I'm actually going to close up shop early and then go help clean up my neighborhood. You're free to go, my dear. Will I see you at the Little Mermaid showing tonight?"

Jenn shrugged. She wasn't that big a fan of Disney movies, they were all so trite and sexist for the most part. She didn't really want to chill at her apartment alone either, though, now that she was over her foul mood.

"Maybe." Satisfied, Dr. Green's shining bald head disappeared out the front door, a faint "See you there!" floating behind him. Chuckling softly, Jenn pulled out her phone and hit number one on her speed dial. 

"Hey, Scarlett? Yeah, sorry I was such a pill this morning. Anyway, you wanna go with me to see the Little Mermaid in the park tonight?" Hanging up, Jenn bounced lightly on her place, collected her bag, did a last check around and then loped easily towards home.

She couldn't keep the corners of her mouth from lifting. If I died now, she mused to herself, I'd die happy. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Jukebox Moves

Jenn lay awake in her bed underneath the window, the silvery light from the moon sliding in trails down the pane with the fat raindrops. snic-BOOM. Jenn glanced over at her digital alarm clock just as a white flash threw the room into glaring relief. It was 4:27 am, but she wasn’t unhappy with the obscene hour. Thunderstorms were her favorite weather, had been since she was a little girl. She loved their furious power. Reaching up, Jenn cracked the window just a touch to hear the thunder better, and then settled back in to listen and watch. “She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers,” she murmured to herself, the words familiar in her mouth as the lightning once again drove spidered fingers across the sky.
14 hours later, the storm was still raging, battering against the windows of Jenn’s apartment. Jenn hadn’t done much- read a little, tidied up the messes that were left from last week when she was down with a nasty case of the flu, and placed a few calls to pet owners to check in on how their animals were doing- but she was hungry, and she was sick of cooking at home.
I should take Scarlett out to dinner as a thank you for checking in on me last week when I was so sick. Actually, I wonder why I haven’t heard from her today. She always drops by when the weather’s like this.
Jenn threw on something a little nicer than the sweatpants she was wearing and trooped the 10 steps over to Scarlett’s door.
“Yoohoo! Scarlett! You in there?” No reply. Huh. Is she okay? There’s no way she’s out in this, not with how little she likes it in the first place.
“Scarlett!” Jenn tried the door. Locked. Well, it’s not like that’s much of a problem. “Scarlett!” She yelled again. “If you don’t open the door in ten seconds, I’m gonna pick the lock!” That oughta get her moving.
1…2…3…………10. Jenn jimmied the lock and stepped inside.
It turned out that Scarlett was miserably sick with the exact same thing that Jenn had had last week (oops), but Jenn unwrapped her from her blanket burrito and dragged Scarlett out to dinner anyway. She needed a good distraction.
2 hours later, Jenn slowly slid down the side of the jukebox, laughing so hard she couldn’t keep upright anymore. She and Scarlett had finished with dinner quickly, both of them ravenous, and they’d spent the last hour and a half feeding the jukebox with more and more quarters as they tried to one-up each other in a competition of who had the worst dance moves.
Currently, Scarlett was doing some amalgamation of a tentacle wave with her arms, the stanky leg with her left knee, and a hula-hoop sway with her hips. Even better, she was performing each part in slow motion, as she tried to match her movements to the mournful piano cascades of the classical song Jenn had chosen.
“Uncle, uncle!” Jenn wheezed from where she had collapsed on the floor. Scarlett shot a wicked grin her way and kept dancing. “I surrender! I cannot match thy level, O Master of Dance!”
After a relatively serious conversation over dinner, Jenn had felt like they needed some levity, and, with the restaurant entirely empty except for them, they were free to be utterly ridiculous.
Riotous laughter dissolving Scarlett’s faux-concentrated mien, she left off dancing and dropped giggling next to Jenn on the floor. They sat there for a while, catching their breath and occasionally falling back into unprovoked fits of laughter. It’d been an exceedingly long time since Jenn had been anything resembling silly, and she was pretty sure it was the same for Scarlett. Unfortunately, it was getting late, and Scarlett was still sick: time to take her back home.
Sighing, Jenn stood up, and then held out a hand to help Scarlett. “So,” she asked teasingly, “Are we besties now or what?”
Scarlett ignored Jenn's hand and stood up on her own. Hurt, Jenn began to withdraw it, but Scarlett stuck her nose in the air a la Draco Malfoy and, quick as lightning, reached out a pompously serious hand to shake Jenn’s retreating one. “Besties.” She confirmed.
They laughed the whole way home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cupid and Jewel Green Suits

Smiling softly, Jenn leaned back against the cinderblock building in the shadow of the eaves and watched the brightening townspeople swarm the flower sale. She had a hell of a green thumb- growing up on a farm in Montana was good for that and caring for animals, if nothing else- and it had seemed for a while like everyone she met needed a little something to brighten their life up for a bit. Although absent-minded Scarlett in her neon sports bra was certainly quite bright, this morning, she mused wryly.

 But flowers always made people smile, and they were good things to share, to connect people, so Jenn had spent every extra minute she had and a couple she didn’t these past few weeks up in the greenhouses on top of The Victorian, coaxing multitudes of flowers to shake out their plumage and take flight. It was nice to make a little extra money, sure, but mostly she wanted to watch the smears of color like wayward paintbrushes weave and bob down the streets, purple and orange in one direction and redyellowblue in another, as the weary people who carried them sparkled their way home for once instead of dragging.

Something out of place in the corner of Jenn’s eye tugged at her attention. It was a man with a familiar face, dressed to impress in a pinstripe jewel green suit with a maroon pocket square. But it wasn’t his outfit that caught Jenn’s attention: somehow he pulled it off, and quite frankly, the colors were rather at home within the riotous whirlwind of flowers. It was his face, instead. He was frowning, sort of, looking chagrined, indecisive, and rather constipated as he perused the flat of flowers in front of him. What was his name? North? East? Sal, I think I remember Sal… I mean, he lives in my building, at least, I know that!

Stepping forward from her place tucked away in the shade, Jenn embarked on her rescue mission.

“Hi, Mr….” He startled when she addressed him, as if unused to attention from strangers, then recovered.

“South, Hal South.” Oops.

“Mr. South.” A friendly grin. “Are you looking for something in particular? Need any help?” His eyes darted over to a young woman idly tripping her way through the display, and Jenn winced imperceptibly as the figure narrowly missed knocking an entire shelf over.

“Well, I just met Olive Rodriguez, and-” here he blushed faintly. “I thought it might be nice to buy her some flowers.” Inwardly, Jenn snorted. What is with me and these love stories in this town? First Harvey, now Hal, good God I’m like Cupid or something. Outwardly, she was all cheerful help. Here goes nothing.

“Oh yeah? Did you have something in mind? A color, perhaps? You seem like you would be good with color.” Hal shrugged helplessly.

“I’m good with color, I’m just not good with- with girls.” Jenn cast a critical eye over Olive. A little sleep wrinkled, maybe, but otherwise decently attired. Pretty. Nice enough from what she knew of her. Seemed like she’d lose her head if it wasn’t attached to her shoulders, though.

Turning nimbly, Jenn plucked a fiery sunflower, a lemonade snapdragon, and dusky-red sea lavender out of the silver buckets they were in and presented them to Hal with a flourish.

“She seems like a warm colors kind of girl. Bet you she’ll love those.” As a faint, “Have you seen my contact? I lost my contact!” floated from Olive’s direction, Jenn couldn’t resist. “And the sea lavender means remembrance, too.”

Jenn didn’t stick around to see the hand-off. But for the first time in a while, she whistled as she walked towards her night shift at the vet’s.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Taka taka taka taka HOOOOOOOOOO

Taka taka taka taka HOOOOOOOOOO

Taka taka taka taka HOOOOOOOOOO

Jenn had come down from the rooftop greenhouse at 1 am, sunk gratefully into bed and straight into a deep sleep. When the train passed through the city at 4, even dead to the world, it still had the power to send shivers down her spine. She dreamed of winding through a life, all its victories and failures, but as if she were a patron walking through an art gallery, only seeing and never touching. 

It was the best night’s sleep she’d had in a long time.

Huffing, Jenn blew another strand of hair out of her face. The three dogs she was walking all yanked her in different directions, and she wasn’t having too much luck corralling them down the main path in the park. One bounded back to her, running in circles around her, and she sat down hard, tangled up in the leash and completely immobile. The dog, Al, slurped its tongue up her stunned face, and in that moment, all Jenn could do was laugh.

On the ground, in the midst of boisterous laughter, the blind man found her. He was eerie, in the way his wizened figure cast shadows through the gloom, but a plug had been pulled inside of Jenn, and even his spooky silhouette couldn’t stem the rising tide of slightly hysterical hilarity.  

He muttered something, his voice rustling like dead leaves in the wind, but she couldn’t hear him over the sound of her own voice, bright and sharp in the muted fog. He trembled violently when she didn’t acknowledge him, and then shouted, “So, you mock my blindness? Let me tell you…” He trailed off threateningly, looming as best he could with his diminutive height. That finally shut Jenn up. Suddenly serious, she looked up at him from her place on the cold, wet concrete, still stroking Al’s head.

“Thanks, sir, but I make my own luck.” Jenn untangled herself from the leash, stood up, and in five paces had left the man behind in the fog. The dogs were docile the entire way back to the vet.

“Jenn?” Dr. Green poked his slightly glistening, balded head through the crack in the door. Thwack!

“Shi- shoot! Yeah, Dr. Green?” Jenn stood up from where she’d been putting food in the last cat’s cage, rubbing her head.

“Jenn, am I crazy?” He looked slightly perturbed.

“Not that I’m aware of, sir.” She answered quizzically. He had a lot of idiosyncrasies, sure, but he wasn’t quite off his rocker. Jenn thought his quirks made him interesting, anyway, now that she was used to them.

“Well then, I must go see the otolaryngologist.” He was quite sure.

“Sir?” She was not.

“Oh, nothing for you to be worried about, dear, there’s just this ringing in my ears. It started at precisely 12 ‘o clock today, and it hasn’t stopped since.” His faintly perturbed look had reappeared. For the second time that day, Jenn was overcome by the urge to laugh. “Are you quite finished? I might have melanoma in my middle ear, and you are laughing!” It was the first time Jenn had seen him peeved.

“No sir.” She had tamped her laughter down to the occasional giggle. “It’s just that… your ears aren’t ringing. It’s the bells at St. Mary’s. They normally ring on Wednesdays, but today they haven’t stopped tolling. You’re free from middle ear melanoma.” She cracked a grin, amused at herself. “It does remind me of that book by Hemingway, though.”

“The bells at St. Cecilia’s, dear?” He was back to his normal absent-minded contemplation. “Yes, yes, of course. Say, did you see that scarlet woman?” Jenn startled to attention, shocked to hear the amiable Dr. Green use that term, and more than a little irritated by it.

“Excuse me?” Her tone was biting. He startled, now, and then realization slowly dawned under her frosty gaze.

“No no no no, my dear, that’s not what I meant! Not the euphemism! An actual scarlet woman!” He gestured wildly.

Placated but now confused, Jenn answered the best she could. “Well, yes, Scarlett’s my next-door neighbor, so we’ve seen each other in passing. Why?”

“My dear, that’s still not quite correct. I mean the woman, dressed all in scarlet, who’s wandering around downtown. She’s asking all sorts of funny questions, she sounds like an uncertain fortune cookie. But anyway, what reminded me was that bit you said about Hemingway. She just stopped me on the street this morning, and asked, cool as you please, ‘For whom does the bell toll?’”

Unbeknownst to Jenn, for the second time that day a shiver traveled down her spine.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"It's me"

Jenn hummed to herself as she unlocked the door to her apartment. She’d gone to the park on her first day off in months- mandated by Dr. Green- only to find Harvey taking up her normal bench. She’d meant to turn away, find another spot, but… he’d looked so forlorn, sitting there with a blank sheet of paper. Never mind that he was in love with their curmudgeon of a concierge. Jenn knew all about loving the wrong person. It was part of why she was here and not there, anymore.

Jenn shook off her reminiscence like a dog shook off water. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure. Elizabeth Bennet always was a favorite of hers.

So. Jenn cast a critical eye around her kitchen, grabbed a banana and a bottle of water and flopped down on the couch. She was almost asleep when the knock came at her door.

“Whoizzit?” Jenn called blearily as she extracted herself from the blanket she’d been lying under and stumbled to the door. A very large eye stared back at her through the peephole.

“It’s me.” A voice called unhelpfully from the other side. Jenn opened the door to Harvey. He was holding a crinkled piece of paper in his right hand, and he shoved it nervously at her. “I wrote you something.” A little bemused, Jenn took it from him, and then stood there for a second. I thought he was writing poems for Ms. Davis? A bit of her confusion must have shown in her face, because Harvey began to explain. “Well, my writer’s block, you know, it didn’t go away when you helped me. But after you left, I was thinking about how nice it was of you, you know, to stop and help, and then, well. It kind of just wrote itself.” He gestured shyly at the paper in Jenn’s hand.

Jenn couldn’t stop the small smile from escaping. Harvey beamed at her in response. In for a penny, in for a pound. “Harvey… I’ve got some bottled water and leftovers in the fridge. Would you like to come in?”

Five minutes later, they were seated at her small kitchen table, talking over dinner, still musing over Harvey’s writer’s block.

“So are you over your writer’s block completely, then?”

“I don’t know if it’s really writer’s block. I think…” Harvey hesitated to say it. “I think… I think I’m just burnt out. On Ellen.”


Friday, October 7, 2016

The Letter

“Oof!”  Jenn turned from slipping the letter into the slot in the post office and slammed straight into someone. Sturdy and relatively agile, she stayed upright, but the other person was not so lucky. He met the tile floor in a tangle of lanky limbs. A pen and a notebook went flying.

The man (boy? He couldn’t have been older than 20) scrambled upright before Jenn could offer him a hand. He towered over her, the definition of a beanpole, and she tilted her head back to offer him a sincere apology. “Sorry. I didn’t know you were there.” He blinked nervously down at her, opened his mouth as if about to say something and clapped it back shut. He shoved his glasses up the bridge of his nose self-consciously and began to pick at his cuticles.

When no reply was forthcoming, Jenn shrugged, stepped around the jittery kid, and headed out into the sunlight on her way to work. It was unusually busy on Carrier Ave. Streams of people flowed north toward Duffy St., her neighbors among them, looking almost… panicked. If she didn’t know better, she would say that they were running away from something. Weird.

Jenn was crossing Canal Street when she noticed she had a tail. Sending that letter had already frayed her nerves, even if there was no return address, and her temper was on a short leash. Fed up, she stopped short and whirled on her shadow, itching for a fight. “What the HE- what are YOU doing here?” Jenn went from furious to bewildered in a second flat.

It was that same weird kid from the post office. He startled, a deer in the headlights, then seemed to recover himself. Waving his pen and notebook as if they would protect him from any forthcoming wrath, he said, “I’mworkingforSouthernLivingandIneedyoutotellmeyourstory.” There was an expectant pause, as he waited for her answer. Jenn stared at him, uncomprehending. “What?” He colored. “I’m here to interview you. It’ll be published in Southern Living.”

Jenn’s heart rate skyrocketed, and she jerked instinctively backward. Her nerves frayed further. She’d be damned if this kid was gonna get a word out of her. Not when she’d worked so hard to leave all that behind. “No!” she snarled. “Leave me the hell alone.”

“Hey!” he protested. “It’s just a couple questions about where you come from!” He’d materialized some cahones from somewhere, apparently. But that was the last straw. Jenn grabbed his wrist in a bruising grip. “Sweetie, apparently you don’t understand the meaning of the word no.” She talked slowly, as if to a small child. “You cannot interview me. Do not try and follow me. Do not try and get anyone else to interview me. If you do try, I will call the police. And wouldn’t it look great for Southern Living to be fighting charges of harassment?” He stared at her, shocked speechless. “Good. I’m glad we understand each other. Now run along.” She released his wrist and gave him a little shove in the opposite direction.

When she looked back, he was still standing in the middle of the road, rubbing his wrist.