Sunday, October 4, 2015

Flood stage

photo by joan sorolla

Out the back door of the hotel, rain slashes at awnings over shop doors. I can’t be contained any longer. The Shakespeare Theatre is dark, all the actors huddle in the back; some lovers, some tragic, all humorous. They are no different than any of us. The streets are empty, but for rows of parked cars devoid drivers. The storm is here. The flood is coming.

The grocery store shelves newly vacant. Running water chatters out gutters on building corners into streams along the curbs. I cinch my backpack a little tighter, blow a rim of rain off my lip. The bricks speak of slavery, dead brothers and sides forced by birthpangs of a nation. I slip by a dumpster in the alley behind a first story tavern – Thursday night’s remnants, in brown glass, heavy on the hops.

Ghosts in a ghost town. Spoons on cereal bowls. Sips of coffee. Shadows are waking in windows & moving. They pay little attention to me. A patrol car slows, letting me cross - corner to corner, then rolls on. Weather babble on the police band radio loud enough to hear through the door glass. A wedding planner. A coffee shop. The post office.

 “Can I use your phone?”

She surprises me, tucked between places. Her pups, big and white stretches his leash, leaping at my face. She’s messed up – probably meth, by her rotting teeth. Blond hair knots matted to her head. Starter jacket soiled&slick. She was pretty once, before using; before being used. Over-used.


I thumb the password&hand it over. It’s a quick, hushed plea for help, a ride – a little argument, promises of last times& she hands it back.


We make small talk, smaller. She’s nervous. I have no cigarettes. Her pups name is Gage&she grows silent. The rain makes up for it, takes our place. A truck pulls up. A thumb motions to the bed, behind the cab. Gage jumps up on the tailgate&she follows him in. She draws him close; hugs his neck – getting wetter, as the truck pulls off.

I skim the edge of the college, the empty truck bays out back a furniture store – returning to the hotel. The rocking chairs on the porch wiggle with the wind. I drip on the tile. The doors shush closed – keeping the city’s perfume at arm’s length.

I carry a little, on my collar – past bellhops in stiff jackets, into the elevator.


  1. You establish the mood here exceptionally well, that emptiness.... It's right in me...

  2. The keys of our containment are often found in alley's empty shelves and addicts. No storm could ever keep me locked away either. As usual a tasty slice of life.

  3. A great read and thanks for sharing. Greetings!

  4. The first half reminds me of the aftermath of a nuclear disaster... Life interrupted. The girl makes me realise how lucky I am and that there are always people worse off in many ways and who have travelled far more difficult paths than I.

  5. Hi X.. this reminds me of the inside stories of the homeless told by Katrina's brother during his 'stay' as a homeless person in California.. but there is a caring in that survival environment that sadly does NOT carry over nearly as much in our modern society.. than before.. when most everyone experiences more rigor of finding the next meal.. and even the next spigot.. or cup of water in hands as God's chalice to feel the rain of life giving flow of blood through veins of human..

    The hands are a chalice of both giving and receiving..
    and sadly
    cell phones
    glad to hear
    you lend a hand
    and a heart to remember
    a dog.. a loved one's name..
    where now love lives
    much greater
    in dogs
    as realistic AS
    that is to all the
    miles my eyes and
    feel see now.. my friend...

  6. Slice of life, slice of death--what is as forlorn as that endless rain, the dirty grey flood it brings that floats--or sinks--all boats...I feel cold and wet after reading this, as if the hotel is only a ghost.

  7. This is great! I especially like the way you introduce the bad-weather-bacchanal with this line: "I can’t be contained any longer."

    And these:
    "She surprises me, tucked between places."
    "my face. She’s messed up"
    "We make small talk, smaller."

    I love the name Gage. It reminds me of Pet Sematary and that creepy scene where the little boy comes back from the dead to needle his momma.

    "I drip on the tile." Ha.

    "The doors shush closed – keeping the city’s perfume at arm’s length." ... Ooh, yeah. The perfect ending. Really strong piece, X.

  8. It has been a long time since I have read your prose X. I remember you posted a story several years back that impressed the heck out of me. You really do an excellent job of drawing your audience in, of making them experience it, I can smell the rain on asphalt, taste it on my lips and the image of woman is so tragic. She sinks into the bones


  9. Life can be so hard...used, over used...if only....things could be different...things between the back of the rain, in the dark.

  10. "...sides forced by birthpangs of a nation... and I wonder why that line stood out to me of all of them except the rotten teeth that are not always made by crack, sometimes poverty rots your teeth.

    And in all the ugly I saw the beauty and the big heart that wrote these words.

    Great one.

  11. X - these are indeed amazing words. Sometimes they were filled with beauty, at others I winced and tried to move away from what they made me feel. You have culled a lot of emotion here in one place. Overwhelming but excellent!

  12. A beautifully realized little story--very human and compassionate and very vivid and sensual--not in a sexual sense but that we feel it reading it--so well done--your acceptance of humanity catching. k.

  13. The photo goes really well with your story ~ the rain, darkness, and the person walking alone down the street, a slice of life so realistic ~ depicting addiction and poverty with compassion.

  14. i really bow before your storytelling skills - love how you bring the girl and the whole atmosphere alive - love that you let her use your phone and even waited with her in the rain - you have a beautiful heart for people X. and that shines through in every word

  15. Oh, wow, how you SEE people, in your travels, and make us see them too, the hardship and pathos - and courage - of their lives. She and the dog in the back of the pickup in the rain. Oh my goodness. I am worried for them both.

  16. This is how stories should be written, a glimpse that could be part of a longer story or just by itself. The story of the girl with her dog might me want more, even though her story probably have been told a thousand times or never.

  17. Well I am not surprised by your prose skills as you always a good storyteller ~ I like how you described the city, the girl being pretty once before being over used, and making small talk smaller ~ Its been raining here too, off and on but very cold ~ I see you have been productively writing, smiles ~

  18. You have set a fine rainy day scene here and have given enough details about the characters to have me wondering about their backstory.

  19. Ah, the city's perfume... You made me smell it. My son's name is Gage, so of course that made me smile. This felt like a scene in a movie, vivid, moving, noir.

  20. Love the prose, details are poignant and haunting, the haiku easily would fit here, at the end....catching up...

  21. Love the prose, details are poignant and haunting, the haiku easily would fit here, at the end....catching up...

  22. It sounds like you're visiting my old town. I picked up an addict once. Pregnant hitchhiker. Deeply disturbed. Disturbing. Last ride given to a stranger. A user. Abuser. I couldn't stop thinking about how pretty she was until she began to talk. Maybe she used your phone. I picked her up years ago, but your post reminds me of countless hers. Is it terrible to admit that l feel bad for the dog?