Pretty Short

Birdman

Sometimes the wind blew so hard, it blew scraps of paper, wrappers and dust from the gutter – clear up to the twenty-fifth floor. You wiggled your toes through the railings, and you saw the birds go higher. You watched them wet their wings in the clouds.

You knew you were going to fly. It’s all you ever wanted to do.

Your old man dragged a stool out to the the balcony, to be with you. He stretched his legs long and said, That’s good, son. So get yourself a plan. You need to study X and then you’ll get to Y. Might take a while but that’s the way to Z .

You turned to look at him and thought you saw the Z he got to. You saw the blood in his eyes and the dirt in the crease of his neck, but you never saw a bird with a plan. You just saw them fly.

But Marcus said:

This is how we get you there, fly boy. This is the fast track.

Marcus will have you a private jet in no time, with a pilot, and rye whiskey in a sharp cut glass, scything through sky.

You took the gun, because he took the wheel. He said it was fair. And fair was fair for the white boy in the suit, the one that had to mess with the fine balance of things, the transition between earth and air.

So now.

You dig for worms in the exercise yard. The others watch you and spit, slit-eyed.

Hey birdman, they say, you’re cleared for takeoff. Go ahead and fly.

Sure, your nose is in the dirt, but it won’t be there long. They think they know you, but they can’t see under your skin. There’s a feeling – like bubbles under glass – just above your shoulder blades, and back in the cell, if you reach back around your neck, you can feel two lumps, smooth as eggs. You touch them and they vibrate, low and mellow, living things that breathe with you. They quiver and itch. This time around, they won’t melt off your back. Marcus, you can rot in hell, wherever you are.

Carson squats over the bucket in the corner. You see the white sinews of his thighs. His voice is all naive and quizzical, but his eyes are the flint of no good.

You got fleas, birdman?

It feels right to hold his head in his own shit. He can rot too.

That was three days ago. You won’t get out anytime soon. Three days they’ve watched you on their CCTV. Your screams are reedy, and repetitive. You’re hopping around in their strait jacket like a baby starling in traffic, and they sip their coffee and throw their heels on the desk. You hear what he’s sayin’, they grin. Listen.

You’re back with your dad, struggling against him, high above the city. He won’t let you go. You’d pull him over with you, just to be given a chance. But you’re too weak still, and he pulls you back from the edge.

Now you know it’s the truth, but you’re talking to blank walls.

These wings are real. These wings are real.

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Pretty Short, Trifecta Challenge

The Green Line

Your ex has a weak case. Flimsy, my lawyer says, and gives a little snorty laugh into her coffee mug. The mug advertises her services as a ‘Law Diva‘ and she sets it down on a photograph of a baby, made into a mouse pad. The bubbles on the surface of the coffee pop softly, one by one.

I can’t lose my son, I say.

Don’t worry, she says.

Her mobile phone rings. She makes an apologetic noise and swings her desk chair around to face the window. I can see the top of her head, stiff with hair spray.

Well, she says, did you take her temp? She snorts again. No, I can’t come home now. I have three more clients.

Outside the window, a crane hauls something heavy upwards.

***

Let’s take the tube to the end of the line.

His eyes widen.

Where does it stop?

I don’t know. Let’s find out.

He stands in front of the colourful map, chin straining upwards, straight blonde hair falling back from his face, and chooses the line that goes furthest away.

It’s not to scale, I say. But green is his favorite color, so that’s the line we choose. I buy him a packet of crisps and a Mars Bar, because he asks.

Don’t you have to go to work?

I shake my head. He munches thoughtfully. I help him push through the turnstile.

When we get there, it’s what I expected. I think I may have been here before. We cross a car park and over a triangle of grass, dotted with broken-off saplings, each inside its own battered wire fence. On the other side there’s a brick wall. I lift him onto the top, holding him round his waist while he dangles his legs over the other side. He points at things: a church spire, a shop window, a bright red sports car.

This is the best day, he says, with a slow starting smile. Where do we go now?

[xnihilo]

http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/

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Pretty Short

Crack (2)

Et voila! says Jonnie, with a flourish.

The place is pretty sweet. You step out of the elevator. One of those key lock elevators that open into the apartment, like in the movies.

The ceilings are high and molded. There are tall sash windows with leaded panes. Yes, you feel like you can maybe taste air again.

Then he leaves you.

There’s a gallon of milk and three microwave dinners in the fridge.

Far below, mangled swings in a playground, a liquor store and a sign. ICE OLD EER.

Voices through the wall – Fuck you. No, fuck you.

You fumble for your phone, then you realize he took it. Your laptop’s on the table.

Unauthorized webpage.

Jonnie’s there, smiling.

Everything okay?

He lays a cool palm on the back of your neck. He switches off his smile and the overhead light, picks the keycard back up from the counter, and he’s gone again.

The setting sun makes drops of blood out of the glass roses, across the polished oak floor.

No, you say to the closing doors, in the darkening room. Everything’s not okay.

That night, the sound of chains and ropes cranking unknown bodies up and down. The bed facing the elevator and you can’t decide which way to lie in it. Head down, head up – you’re always vulnerable.

There’s a crack in the dark paneled elevator doors. Something not adjusted quite right. As the elevator passes, light flickers and dances across the sheets in odd random beats.

So you lie on the floor.

The ceiling starts to crawl. Gargoyles erupt from the molding.

Open your eyes. See burned fingers pry the elevator doors apart. A woman. Blisters on her lips, a narrow thread of blood across her cheek. Her eyes fall into her head like sinkholes.

Looking into them, you see chains, going down forever.

Jonnie finds you, in the morning, curled around yourself as if to protect a child, and he takes you in his arms. He rocks you back and forth, touches your cheek.

And he leaves you, just one more time.

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