FREE PLEASE TAKE :)

At first glance, I would have described her smile as mysterious or haunting, but it was her eyes that made me think that. They were tunnels of ice-blue light ringed in shadow, arresting and unsettling in the way they gauged the depth and breadth of my soul. They were eyes that ferreted out pretenses and unearthed jealously-kept secrets.

Her eyes were haunting, yes, but her smile was self-satisfied.

I saw her in the underground subway tunnel, propped against the hand rail. The tunnel was empty, save us, and I had to pass her to catch the late train home. The incongruity of her there, small, alone, and seemingly fragile, slowed my approach. I was far bigger than she. I could have easily dashed her to the ground, broken her into jagged shards, but she raised my hackles and stilled my steps. Every instinct recoiled as if she were a snake or poisonous spider.

A red sign, cut in a saw-blade semicircle, was held above her head:
FREE
PLEASE TAKE
🙂

The words FREE and PLEASE, hastily scribbled in ballpoint pen, had been doubled back on and scribbled over: FREE PLEASE
There was something about the configuration of the words and the emphasis on the first two I didn’t like. A cold finger played down my spine and jangled discordant notes sang along my subconscious.

The woman’s steady gaze held mine as I stood, transfixed.
The one corner of her mouth, quirked just slightly upward, seemed to curl further in amusement. I see you, the smile implied, I know you.

The woman was blond, her hair pulled back into a bun or ponytail in the back; I couldn’t tell. Young. No older than thirty. Attractive in the slight, sickly, wan way of Eastern European models. The longer we stared at each other, the more I began to notice the yellowish-green hue surrounding her right eye. The less that coloring seemed a shadowed hollow. The more it revealed itself the remnants of a healing bruise.

Despite my every nerve clamoring warnings over this encounter, I leaned slightly forward to better take in the shadows of her face. Were the shadows to the right of her nose and along her cheek bruises as well? Were there stains of fingerprints below her right ear, riding her throat?

FREE PLEASE

How could this fragile creature challenge me with that small, patient, curl of the lip? How could she brazenly hold my gaze and mock me with her Mona Lisa smirk? My gaze jerked back up. Her eyes were diamond bores, drilling past a polished marble exterior, deep into my psyche. I could feel them reverberating deeper, growing closer and closer to my darkest core.

I recoiled from the small pastel portrait sketch leaned up against the handrail and fled the tunnel toward the sound of an approaching train. At the platform I flung the catalogue I’d been holding into a nearby wastebasket and wiped that same shaking palm across my sweat-greased face.

The pages rustled open to a page visited most often as hot air rushed into the tunnel. The same delicate, blond Eastern European woman, her face circled in my red Sharpie, seemed to wink as the pages of Alone Angels fluttered wildly. I’d ripped off the mailing address from the front of the catalogue, but I’d missed my title and first name in my haste. ‘Dr. Haart’ flashed on the front.

Flutter. She winked. Flutter. Dr. Haart. Flutter. She winked. Flutter. Dr. Haart.

The train screeched to a stop and I, Dr. Haart Jekyll, fled into it, away from the accusatory stare and knowing smile of my chosen bride.

 

I wrote this in response to a post in Art Abandonment, a Facebook group I belong to. It was shared from another Facebook group called Weird Second Hand Finds that just need to be shared.

Maybe I haven’t written in a while and I needed to lance that growing boil or maybe this subject’s face just spoke to me, but the story came almost fully realized as soon as I saw it.

Pride & Privilege

I pay for this account and haven’t written a god-blessed thing in, let me just check my calendar . . . . forever.

So I’m posting some creative thing I’ve done lately so I don’t feel like a money-wasting failure.

I Write Like . . .

I saw a writer friend post their results of this test and had to find out for myself who I write like. I typed out about a paragraph of text about a man getting off a train in an obvious state of both trepidation and expectation about a meeting. I think the use of ‘train’ had something to do with the result because . . .
DISCLAIMER: I’ve done this test before, years ago, and got Stephen King. On any given day, depending on what I’m writing about and mood, I believe we can get any number of results.

And, yet, I”m thrilled. 😉

I write like
J. K. Rowling About J. K. Rowling | Analyze your text

Not the Words of One Who Kneels

This was written in 2016 as a prompt challenge. The first sentence is the prompt.   And, in case you want to hear what ran through my mind (in a loop) while writing the story, it was this:

 

Not the Words of One Who Kneels

“I’m going to disappoint you. But you know that already.” I winked, flashed my winning smile, and finalized the contract with a flourish. The weight of the silver pen gouged the paper as I dotted the ‘i’ in Iscariot. It was clearly a quality writing implement.  I slipped it into my suit pocket, leaned across the desk and extended my hand.  “I appreciate the opportunity and am really looking forward to working with everyone.”

***

That was then, and this is now.

Looking back, I see I wasn’t the best fit for my team, but working with them also wasn’t as difficult as I’d originally anticipated. In any group, there will be some back-biting – some head-butting. There was squabbling over who was most loyal, the most dedicated. You can’t work and travel with the same people without tempers flaring now and then.  And, at the end of the day, everyone in the group was a hundred percent behind the product. The marketing was flawless because they truly believed in it.

Jaded as I can be, so did I.

The boss’ son was my immediate supervisor. That can be a real headache too, but this guy was cool. Okay, maybe a little over-earnest and definitely too idealistic. More “crunchy granola” than I usually care for. But likeable, definitely likeable. And don’t get me wrong, he had some impressive leadership qualities. We would have followed him anywhere.

This part is going to sound ungrateful, and I don’t mean it to be, but our budget was laughable. As treasurer, I happen to know this company’s resources are off the charts. Which is why it rubbed me the wrong way we weren’t treated better.

Everything from the transportation to the meals and accommodations was handled poorly. We operated on a shoestring budget. Less than a shoestring. It wasn’t just maddening, it was disrespectful.

I say this because our project was huge—a game changer. When so much hung in the balance, to be treated like that was insulting.  And I want to make it clear that, at heart, I’m a humble man. When I say my part in this project was pivotal, I’m not bragging, just stating fact.

They knew my potential when they hired me. You’d think, based on that, they’d have taken the time to listen to some new ideas I had. Ideas about extending the availability of the product, raising its visibility beyond the regional level.

You can imagine my frustration when my calls to corporate were systematically ignored.

They only saw potential in a shock and awe approach. Saturate a small market with a limited edition release, then pull it and let word and demand spread before a second release. In a way, it felt like the company had set us all up for failure. Like they were cheating the consumer.

In the end, I did what I was hired to do. I signed the contract, after all. Judas Iscariot is nothing if not a man of his word.

I’m not with that company anymore. People assume I went to work for the rival, but I didn’t. Despite the bad press I got, I’m a man of honor. When I quit, I took myself completely out of the workforce.

I’m in limbo, so to speak—and to tell you the truth, after all I went through, I don’t have the heart for corporate life anymore.

What sticks with me, though—what I can’t get past—is how my supervisor got screwed in all this. Yes, we were hired to be the fall guys for this debacle, but it was his father who sent down the order. His father who set it all in motion.

Even now, this is what sticks in my craw. I ask you, how can a Father do that to his Son?