Monday, April 12, 2021

drinkdrankdrunk: "Excerpts From Fragments Of Samantha" by Christopher Johnston

Fragment: January

The night that I left, the wind was blowing.  It was really high up in the trees.  Wafting the limbs up and down.  I guess they were waving goodbye.  The snow falling, toppling in waves from the hidden sky, wound and stitched its way into and through the branches, wrapping them with a mantle of lace.

Like my grandmother’s tatting, the stars and snowflakes she gently crafted for our Christmas tree.  I loved them as a child.  We always knew what the box contained underneath the burgundy aluminum foil paper she preferred, and the little red ribbons and bows.  The card she deftly drew, usually featuring Santa or a mischievous, colorful elf, maybe even Rudolph blinking, bigger than the other reindeer, waiting patiently below our chimney!  But I didn’t realize until a few years after she died what an enduring gift she had given each of us.  For our trees.  That box was among the few I had secretly stashed in my trunk the night before I drove away, sped dangerously along slippery, switchback streets into whatever twisted future I would have.

Anyway, I knew I had to get going before he woke up, saw me gone, felt me … missing … physically.  I had check out months ago mentally, emotionally, spiritually-–in every way but bodily-–the  mistake that kept me there longer than I should have remained.  Months and months.  But I had to watch this beautiful symphony play before me at least for a little while.  Soaring to accompany my exit through the white curtains.  Ha!  So I stood there in the dark.  Motionless in the midst of all the movement.  Inhaling the fresh winter night.  Drinking in the chilled breeze.  Listening to the river running under the ice, whispering “Farewell! Remember me!” as it passed.  I still will always love that place.  That brief time.  Relegated to memory concise but quick.  Perhaps fleeting, but I don’t know yet.  I’m still young.  Yes?  Ha!

Fragment: Coffee Lovers

They both lean in close.  Over the table.  Over their steaming coffee mugs.  She smiles.  Broadly.  Lifts her cup to her mouth but lets her fingers touch her cheek as the mug dangles under her smile.  Or maybe the wee glass mug of dirty espresso.  Dirty chai.  Something dirty.  Her eyes and his look down at their fingers.  Interlaced.  As if they were the first two humans to touch.  And not in anger or aggression.  The first to love.  No one else has experienced this.  Ever.  No.  One.  Because they are no longer two.

Let me switch pronouns now.  Pull myself out of the distance.  I pulled my hair up. Back.  Scrunchied it in that cute, sweet, come-hitherish way only I do.  I looked into his eyes.  I thought there was nothing more magical than the coffee foam heart pulsing, steaming in the decaf mochas between us.  How could there be?  How could there be?

We lifted our interwoven fingers in unison.  Palms pushing into one another, melting into one extended limb.  We lock foreheads.  We lock eyes.  We lock lips.  No key, I think.  There is no key to unlock--Suddenly, something flies into my eye.  A mother and her screaming toddler spawn follow directly behind the squishy frog toy she had thrown into my face.

Liam dissolves into laughter.  I rub his wrist, massage his forearm, kiss his flexing fingers, but something had changed.  Bliss had been baby bashed.  I got up to get a drink from the iced water urn, knowing every man’s eye in the shop lasers in on my ass, in my tight little skirt, the supple white lines of my stocking-laced thighs interrupted solely by the black lines rising from my buff new riding boots he had given me my for my birthday.

Well, every man’s eyes but Liam’s.  He was focused on the other little “darling.”  Entrancing his eyes with her chewed-up sippy cup, wailing to the stamped-tin-ceilinged heavens.  Apparently, he desires a new kind of screamer.

I sit.  I look into my mug.  The heart starts whirling in blinding circles, morphing through a disturbing evolution, from wobbly heart … to tornado … to baby cradle … to flat tire … to Hangman’s Tree … to withered leaves swirling away from a cracked and spalling tombstone … I can just make out a decaf epitaph:  Here lies the latte, er, late Samantha’s slightly used and battered body, her heaved heart, her suffocated soul …

(starts to sing from Joe Bonamassa song “Drive”) “Put on an old blues song … Let all my troubles be gone …”

Fragment: Dancing Shadows/Bad Woman Blues

I saw her shadow first.  Limber, large and looming.  On a garden wall.

Yes, I met the dancer’s dark silhouette before I met the dancer.  Her well-proportioned contours were greatly exaggerated in height–-a couple stories tall, almost to the roof of the courtyard-–but still graceful.  Flowing.  I couldn’t see her at first because it was so packed.  I ended up behind some trees and shrubbery, entranced for a few moments before I could get a glimpse of the body casting the haunting shadow.  I’d been enticed into the garden from the lobby by this seductive shadow through the French doors.  The Spanish guitar music wafting in was equally enchanting.  Enough to make me set down my mango daiquiri and plate of harissa and walnut-stuffed baby eggplant.

Yeah, the hot chili pepper paste was hot, but a dancer doing a pas de deux with her shadow in an early autumn garden was hotter.  Phew!  I am not susceptible to hypnosis, but I was mesmerized.  The scents in the air, the trickling water in the fountain, the jangling notes on a 12-string acoustic guitar …

After her shadow came to rest, after the line of admirers all got to squeeze her hand or hug her supple shoulders, I got up the nerve to introduce myself.

Concerned about her health, her shape, her top-form athleticism, she let me buy her a virgin daiquiri.  Fortunately, that was the only virgin in the room.  The filthy rich arts patron who paid for the party invited her to stay in his suite in the hotel for the weekend-–without being filthy enough to invite himself to stay with her.  Doubly fortunate:  Her hunky, hirsute, and swarthy Argentinean guitarist and his wife, freakily figure-eighting an almost nonexistent black chiffon and lace cocktail dress, were staying in an Airbnb downtown.  So, she–-Marissa--invited me to join her in this vintage palatial joint built in the 'burbs back in the '20s.

That night I fell into bed with a beguiling shadow dancer.

Emmmm, M definitely put the cherry on my chocolate cake.

Yeah, I woke up singing.  “Good girls always lose. I got the bad woman, bad woman, bad, bad, bad woman blues …”

                        SAMANTHA laughs heartily.

Fragment: An Seabhac

I feel like a squirrel being eaten inside out by a hawk, my father said.  This all came rushing back to me as I sat outside Becca’s house in Shaker Heights.  It was late fall.  Brisk and breezy.  She asked me to meet a guy from Dominion to get her gas shut off.  She’d sold the house.  She and her husband Russ had moved to San Diego.  They hadn’t been able to sell it, so it was being foreclosed.  They didn’t care, I guess.  I could never do that.  Anyway, the guy was two hours late.  I had to leave the engine running to stay warm.  Bounced around on the radio.  I should have brought a book, but I didn’t think it would take this long.

Bored.  Bored.  Bored.  After a while, I made it to extremely bored.  A circling hawk, wings outstretched as it pinioned on the wind, caught my eye.  It was beautiful to watch.  It had air supremacy.  Then I watched the mailman.  Then I watched a landscaping truck pull up.  Three guys jumped out, deployed their riding mowers, weed wackers, leaf blowers.  Excitement.

Then I saw the hawk again.  This time it meant business.  It wasn’t just circling.  It was fully employed in tracking some poor little creature.  It dove behind a house.  Then it came whipping back toward the street, close to the ground, with something not so little in its mouth.  Jesus.  A squirrel.  I didn’t think they ate anything that big, but the hawk was huge.

It landed in front of a brick bungalow across the street.  Right in front of their porch.  Had the family exited their front door, they would have achieved new levels of grossness, I’m sure.  I was sooo ewww disgusted, and I was several houses away.  How quickly my hawk-watching devolved from airy beauty to brutal death.  One of those Discovery Channel programs about shark feeding habits that you can’t take your eyes off of.

The poor little squirrel had no chance.  My hope was that it died quickly.  Those talons holding it down while it briefly squirmed in the hawks heartless clutches.  Ripping the squirrel’s stomach open with its butcher’s hook beak, tearing out its little guts, gobbling them down.  Ugh.

Then it reminded me of what my dad had told me, there in the hospital.  Between the stomach cancer and the surgeries.  How the prodding, poking, pulling, all the procedures made him feel like he was lying helpless in a field being picked apart by a hawk.  I started to cry.  Thankfully, someone at the house backed out of their driveway, and the hawk flew away.  I didn’t envy whoever found the poor, damned squirrel first, disemboweled.  Blech!

(beat) An irony seeker are ye?  My dad’s family in Ireland called him “An seabhac.”  The hawk.

Thanks, gas man.  You useless, late motherfucker.

Christopher Johnston is a playwright and journalist from Shaker Heights, Ohio USA.  I am quite happy to feature his work on drinkdrankdrunk!

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