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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just Another Day on the Job

                Jenn was wrist deep in a cat when the lights blacked out. “Shit!” Her boss shouted, then stumbled to the door as things clattered to the floor. Jenn froze stock-still. “I’m going for a flashlight!” he yelled from a now-distant room. Lovely, she thought. She was about to do emergency bladder surgery on a cat worth more than her entire apartment building… with a flashlight. Still rigid, she heard the distinct sounds of Dr. Green bumbling his way back to the operating room. A dim yellow circle of light preceded him. “Found one!” He crowed his victory, then shone the beam promptly in her eyes. “Oops, sorry.” “S’alright. But maybe let’s finish this surgery?” She reminded him with a bit of urgency. “Ah, yes.” His mood was in no way dampened. “Mission save the Ashera, underway! I’ll hold the light. Just tell me what tools you’ll need.”

                Three hours later, Jenn stood at the doorstep of the animal hospital and tried unsuccessfully to work the knots out of her shoulders. The cat was thankfully stitched up, still sedated, and settled in her own cage. The surgery had gone as well as could have been expected, given the circumstances. Jenn huffed a snort of laughter that was swallowed by the empty street. Maybe Dr. Green had been right when he'd told her cheerily “Insides are insides. Doesn’t matter if you’ve only ever sliced open a cow before. You’ll know what to do once you get in there.”  He was a few crayons short of a box, that man. But he’d hired her with no credentials, just a farming background, so she didn’t really mind.

                From the other side of town, a train whistle pierced the darkness, long and low. Jenn wondered if it was the same kind of freight train she’d hopped to get here. She still had bruises on her back from sleeping on those apples. Shaking off the thought, Jenn set off towards the place she now called home. A mile and a half walk, seven flights of stairs and then she could conk out on her $5 blow-up mattress. Hopefully she didn’t get lost on the way.