Friday, November 23, 2012

Tiresias (Part 2)

NaNoWriMo Update: Yeah, not going so great there.  Been jumping between projects again, but with actual results.  Overall this month, I've probably written about 10,000 words.  Either way of how this turns out in the next week (some time off of work has let me get a few more things done), I can at least be proud about the amount of writing I've gotten done in a single month.  Shaping up to be a productive month overall; I just hope I can keep it up.

Panic immediately set in after Steven figured out that he could not see.  The downtime was fairly considerable, as his mind raced along.  When he had gone to sleep, the sun was barely coming up above the buildings outside of his window, but when he woke up, there was nothing but darkness.  He flailed around in his bed as he could feel his blankets thrown away.  He yelled and thrashed for what seemed like an eternity, before falling off of his bed and crawling to his knees: it didn’t provide any orientation, and as he attempted to crawl to a phone or to the door, he slammed his face into the wall, feeling the throb of his cheek before he collapsed on the ground crying in dismay.  He did not get up for nearly an hour, curled up on himself sobbing quietly, the entire time his mind racing as he pleaded for an answer to what happened.  He never received a response.
            Without being able to see the light of the sun outside, or the lack thereof, only being aware of a relative time when he felt his stomach grumble with hunger.  He remained against the wall until that point, trying to regain his composure but failing miserably.  His hunger stirred him to action and Steven decided to try once again to figure a way to somewhere.  He could barely picture his apartment in his mind, the image already distorted from the panic and fear of losing his sight.  He did not know exactly where in his apartment he was as the thrashing and disjointed crawling was clouded by that fear that he was still trying to overcome.  His stomach turned; what if this is permanent, he thought, and inadvertently wailed slamming his head back into the wall, feeling the drywall give way.  His head throbbed in a rhythmic pattern, breaking his concentration on his condition due to the pain.  He reached his hands up, running the palms along the wall until he felt the hole he had just created.  The rough edges of the drywall greeted his fingers as his attempted to pull himself up, tearing the edges of the hole and making it larger.  He immediately wished that he had stayed on his hands and knees crawling.   From the new angle, he was even more disoriented than before.
            The phone rang, and in the darkness, or perceived darkness, Steven flailed around, attempting to find the phone.  He wept, crying in frustration as he slammed his head into the end table, feeling an oblong, plastic shape fall onto him as he groped about.  He heard the phone near him, but the ringtone died and he knew it had gone to voicemail.  He wailed in emotional agony, curling back up into a ball against the end table, and cried.  As he lies on the ground, Steven heard the phone vibrate slightly as the voicemail alert went.  He groped slowly in that direction, his hand moving deliberately in a wide fan-like motion across the carpet, trying to find the small cell phone.  He felt out, moving towards the wall and swinging both of his arms out before his fingers brushed across the phone.  He let a gasp out, jerking his hand back and sliding the phone open.  He carefully felt across the face of the keypad, straining his mind to try and remember the order of the keypad.  Why did I have to get a phone with a full keyboard, he thought, as his finger gently traced the keys.  After what seemed like an eternity, he believed he had figured out which of the small keys were the number keys.  He held his breath, and pressed three in a slow, methodical manner.  The voice on the other end told him he had guessed correctly.

            “I’m going to hold your eyes open and shine a light directly into them, alright?”  The voice came on suddenly, after Steven had been sitting by himself for what seemed like an eternity.  He jumped, and the doctor put her hands on Steven’s shoulder reassuringly: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”  Steven felt her pull gently at his eyelids, and he tried to hold his eyes steady.  He didn’t feel anything, and heard no sound other than the doctor sounding like she was experiencing something peculiar.  “Your pupils are dilating appropriately.  And you can’t see anything?”
            “No.  I can’t.”  Saying those words drove the reality of the past few days home to Steven, and he swallowed hard, deep into his throat, the words almost getting caught in the process.  He felt tears roll down his cheeks, and ne did not care that the doctor could see it.  He was still terrified.  He felt her hand rub his shoulder again, but he found no real comfort in it.
            “We’re going to have to run some more tests.  MRIs definitely.  I’m sure we’ll be able to find the problem.  You’re going to be alright.”
            “Ok.  Thank You.”  The doctor told him she would go schedule the tests immediately, and Steven heard he leave the room.  He was once again alone with his thoughts.  The near silent hum of the fluorescent lighting mingled with the smell of a hospital: the sanitary, scrubbed clean smell that reminded Steven of the proclivity of disease and reinforced the fragility of his entire existence.  His loss of sight had taken something from him that he didn’t even know he could lose; it ripped away any semblance of normalcy that he still maintained, replacing it with the cold, lonely darkness.  Steven sat, feeling a complete sense of terror, that same feeling that had not stopped in the time since he woke up to discover his affliction.  It welled up in the depths of his stomach, causing a feeling of nausea.  He attempted to endure to the best of his ability, but the quiet sobs still echoed through the room when a nurse entered.  She gently rubbed his back, and helped him into a wheelchair.  Her voice carried a sort of sing-song quality to it, and Steven found it incredibly comforting as he was wheeled slowly through the halls of the hospital towards radiology.  The nurse pushed him into the room, where another doctor explained the procedure in the quiet inflection of his soft voice.  He directed the nurse to help Steven into the MRI machine, which muffled their voices and Steven was left alone inside the metal cylinder. Without seeing his surroundings, Steven could envision the machine holding him close inside its metal exterior.  His mind flashed backwards to his childhood, and the last time he was trapped inside the magnetic embrace of an MRI machine.
His father gripped his small hand firmly but with a sense of tenderness.  He smiled down at Steven in an attempt to be reassuring, but the young boy was still terrified beyond all belief.  He was disoriented and dizzy, his mind racing at a hundred miles per hour but also sluggish and his thoughts hard to concentrate on in a wicked dichotomy caused by the fastball sent straight into his eye.  The bruise over it was substantial, the eye swollen shut behind the purple sheen the skin had adopted; tear streaks were still visible across Steven’s cheeks, especially the left one, which was clearly too tender to be touched.  Steven’s baseball cap was slid far over his face, and his father kept shaking him at intermittent intervals to ensure that he was responsive: he was, but barely.  The nurse ushered them into radiology.  The minute that Steven found himself inside, panic began to grip his young mind, forcing its way through the muddled thoughts.  He tried to thrash viciously against the restraints, wailing in a pitiful cry for his father to help him.  The man stood on the other side of the window, listening to his son crying inside the metal tube and feeling a growing sense of impotence within him, unable to do anything due to the machine running and the potential intervention of the hospital staff.  He chewed his lip viciously, blood beginning to form in the corners of his mouth as he heard his little boy cry in terror.  The tests were finished, and proved that nothing was wrong with Steven past the concussion; the problem warranted intervention of more in-depth testing, but no additional problems were discovered in the young boy.  His father feared that he would not be the same after that day, and he was correct in that assumption.  In his concussion-addled state, Steven had experienced a level of isolation and fear he was not prepared to deal with at the age of ten.  Inside the darkened sarcophagus, Steven felt every doubt his young mind could conjure up, even in the few brief minutes that he was encased inside.  As he sat once again inside one of the machines, his mind drifted back to that day thirteen years ago; and although blind, his mind’s eye re-conjured the horrific images that he had invented all those years ago.
It was loneliness that struck him first, deep within the MRI machine.  Despite being spoken to only a few moments earlier, Steven knew full well that the doctors and his father were behind the glass in the other room, leaving him alone inside something he did not understand: in the rush and explanations, no one had explained to the boy exactly what was going to go on inside radiology.  That uncertainty left a level of anxiety in an already disoriented mind, which did nothing to calm his nerves.  He remembered the baseball, and his father getting him into the car, as well as vaguely waiting in the hospital.  All those were blurred, and coupled with the blank spots in his memory, caused the young Steven to be forced into the machine in an already damaged state of mind.  Inside the machine, time slowed to a crawl as the isolation began to creep inside, sending a spike of anxiety deep into the center of his mind.  Every sound the machine made around him was a symbol of imprisonment and an impending doom that crept across his skin, forming goose bumps so intense that nearly every muscle in his body shuddered along with his skin.  Formless phantoms crept into the darkness of his peripheral vision, concepts of fear that only a ten-year-old boy could adequately understand.  That sense of abandonment was the chief anxiety, as Steven remembered every time he turned around in the grocery store to find his parents missing, was left at soccer practice late due to a miscommunication; the only real difference is that this time, he felt like that abandonment was intentional, especially knowing that his father was right behind the glass with the hospital staff.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

In an effort to whip myself into shape, I'm participating in the NaNoWriMo of November.  I have an idea that's been brewing for a while, going to see where it goes over the next month.  I'm going to try to write everyday between now and the 30th, and see what comes up by the end of the month.  If I actually finish it, I'll be ecstatic, but I'll be just as happy seeing how much I have done and moving on with it when the month ends.  Stay tuned, I'll probably post stuff on here.  As of day one: 1,167 words.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tiresias (part 1)

            The light dimmed momentarily as the refrigerator clicked on, casting a brief, exasperated shadow across the sleeping form of the young man who was sleeping on the small bed beneath it.  He stifled a yawn, stirring in the bed before reaching up to the wall and switching the light off.   Outside, traffic crept across under the noonday sun.
            He stayed in bed for another several hours.  He shuffled slowly into the bathroom, relieving himself and then staring into the mirror.  A frown crept across his face as his vision blurred.  He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and picked through the clutter on the counter until he found eye drops.  A few drops fell into his red eyes, and he blinked rapidly.  He shambled back towards the bed and sat down, looking at the alarm clock.  He lay back down and closed his eyes.  When he got up twenty minutes later, his vision was clear again.
            His cell phone rang while he was in the kitchen, cooking over the stove.  He walked across the studio apartment and answered with a slow, quiet hello.
            “Steven, it’s your father.”
            Steven rubbed his eyes slowly in quiet frustration, before betraying a sigh into the phone: “Hey, Dad.”  He walked back into the kitchen.
            “Did you get the money your mother and I sent you?  You didn’t call.  Your mother wanted you to call after you got it.”
            “Yeah, I got it.  Yesterday.  I haven’t cashed the check yet.”
            “Ok.  Anything new?”  His father’s voice rang in his ear, as Steven thought back through his memory, searching for an answer he knew that he didn’t have.  He could see his father’s face, sitting in the living room of the family home, the look of hopefulness spread across his face as his mother stood looking on from the kitchen, her face as expectant as his father’s.  She was probably holding a magazine or book in her delicate hands, her usual afternoon ritual.  He knew what her reaction would be.
            “No.  Nothing new,” he stammered, as he heard the audible sigh coming from the other end.  He could see his mother’s face in the kitchen doorway, her head hung low as she returned outside to the patio.  He hurriedly told his father he was about to eat, to general silence.  He hung up the phone, returning to the simple meal overcooking itself on the stovetop.  As he sat down in the overstuffed chair to eat, his vision blurred over again.

            The shadows expanded across the street as cars sped past in the evening, the distant sound of engines coming steadily from the freeway.  Steven sat in the chair adjacent to his bed, staring at the television across the small, single room of his apartment.  He stared at it, in near disinterest, but slouched down the in chair in near immobility, his eyes blinking slowly, near a dead stare.  The early summer sun bore down through the apartment’s one window, sending heat radiating through the small space.  It was not yet hot enough to demand fans or air conditioning, but hot enough to draw the small beads of sweat across Steven’s forehead.  He turned absentmindedly from the television set and stared out the window.  He squinted against the harsh, orange light of the sun as it began to descend across the buildings.  His sight went black, a bright afterimage burning through his retinas as he rubbed his eyes before readjusting to the television in front of him.  The sound of dull laughter echoed from it, the studio audience reacting to the sudden jape flung from the portly protagonist.  Steven sighed, checking the time on his clock.  It was only a bit after five.
            It was a life completely devoid of purpose.  The sullen looks out the window to a larger world that he only dreamed of while laying alone in his bed at night in the tiny apartment only served to further push his mind further down the spiral of despair that seemed to grip him at every passing.  He barely ate, slept too long, and routinely did absolutely nothing, leaving his apartment for a small amount of time each week, to cash his check from the government and pay his rent.  All through this, he occasionally found that his sight was deteriorating, but he paid it no real mind at all.  His father wore glasses, and his father had as well, so Steven expected that someday soon, he would also be forced to wear something to correct his vision.  He did not expect that when he woke up one Saturday afternoon that he would be blind.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapter 1

            “I get this job, and everything’s gonna get better.  I just know.”
            I turned toward the speaker, immediately staring at a face younger than mine.  Some black kid, fresh out of high school grinned at me, his dark lips stretched across his white teeth showing a genuine excitement I would not have expected.  He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolded it, and thrust it into my hand.  I looked at it: “What’s this?”
            “It’s my resumé! Went to the library and had one of them ladies there help me with it.”  He pulled it back out of my hand, folding it up carefully before pushing it back inside his pocket.  “I’m sure you want this job too, my man, but I don’t think you gonna get it.”
            “Maybe.  But what makes you so sure you’re going to?”
            “I just got that feeling, you know?  Everything’s gonna look up, I know.  Just like they say in church: ‘God’s always looking out for you.’ I think He’s got my back this time!” He turned, looking back at the long line that snaked behind us, going up the block and disappearing behind the gray concrete building we were standing in front of.  I knew what it was going to be like, standing here, waiting for an interview.  But this made me realize I did not comprehend exactly what was happening.
            It was a powder keg: hundreds of men and women standing in line for roughly two dozen jobs.  I knew, like me, that most of them had no experience and no chance of getting it, but were here out of the same desperation I was.  Behind me, the black kid continued talking to specifically no one.  I smelled cigarette smoke as up the line, a grizzled man with grey streaks across his black beard was staring intently at me.  Well, through me, rather.  At the black kid, who just wouldn’t shut up.
            “Go home, boy.  This is men’s work.  You ain’t got no shot here.”  He left his position and walked back, almost directly in my face as he breathed smoke across my pressed and ironed shirt.  I craned my neck to stay away from the line of spit that flew from his mouth as he barked at the kid behind me. “I’ve welded for goddamn 20 years.  Plenty of these guys have.  Just get the hell out of here.”
            “Hey, I got as much a right as anybody! I’m gonna get one of these jobs!”  I shuffled to the side of the two men, still somewhat between them, but not completely out of the situation as it developed.  The smell of desperation clung to all those around me, and as if we were all back in elementary school, anticipating a fight; a circle of applicants surrounded us, curious as to what was going on in line.  I half-expected someone to begin chanting the time-honored ‘FIGHT’ as the grizzled man confronted the kid.  The crowd grew denser as the young man pointed a surprisingly gnarled, mangled middle finger towards the beer gut in front of him; “I’m not gonna leave.  I’m gonna take this resumé, give it to some boss in there, and then I’m gonna get me a fucking JOB!” His finger jabbed forward, catching the grizzled man in the gut, before withdrawing quickly as the kid flinched.  I had to give him credit: he did not want to actually start a fight.
            The rotund, grizzled man dropped his cigarette and stamped it out quickly with his work boots.  I could tell the seriousness of his venture here: dark blue work shirt, complete with matching pants, meticulously washed and ironed by what I only assumed was his wife; a man like that does not do his own laundry.  He breathed out the last vestiges of smoke from his lungs, scowling deep, the wrinkles in his faces creasing in a drastic matter: “You think you’re owed shit, huh? What, you waltz out of high school like two months ago? Now you want a big boy job, huh? You ain’t gonna get one, get the hell outta here!” He barked the words at the kid in front of him, his arms shaking wildly, knocking into my shoulder as he threw them back attempting to emphasize what he was saying.  There was a large, oval scar on the top of his left hand; I was fairly certain I knew what it was from.  He was not lying about his experience, and I looked around at the rest of the crowd that had gathered.  The two men were making an anxious group of people worse: everyone wanted a job there, and everyone feared they weren’t going to get one.  I knew my chances, and started to move through the crowd, no longer paying attention to the heated words between the two men.  When I got past the crowd, yelling started and I knew immediately what it meant, and so did the lone squad car sitting across the street.  The officer sprinted out, yelling into his radio as he began to shove his way toward the center of the crowd.  I crumpled my own resumé, made without the assistance of the ladies at the library, and threw it into a storm drain.  As I walked down the street, I could still here the faint sounds of yelling in the midday heat.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


            The teller leaned back slightly so she could see exactly what she expected: a middle-aged man in the back office, crying softly into his sleeve as the bank managers tough hands attempted some reassuring pats on the man’s back.  When the door opened and the bank manager walked out, she hurriedly began shuffling through the papers sitting in front of her, making brief eye contact with the manager as he hurriedly walked past, giving her a sly smile and a wink.  She blushed, feeling the heat rising against her cheeks.  In the back office, the man continued to sob quietly.
            It was nearly ten minutes later when the man came out of the back office, eyes still red and his cheeks still stained with the tears of despair.  He made no eye contact with any of the tellers or customers, giving only a cursory nod to the security guard standing by the front door, who swung the doors outward.  Inside, the bank remained unchanged, its customers standing in a close line waiting in front of the counter, statements and signed slips of paper clenched in their hands.
            Outside, amongst the heat radiating from the blacktop, adding to the muggy nature of the day, the middle-aged man, his brow streaked with sweat, sat inside a small sedan.  There was no noise coming from within the car; the man sat, staring blankly forward, still perspiring in the oppressive heat inside of his smallish car.  It was a full five minutes before he turned the engine on, and let the fog of cold air radiate out of the vents.  He sat in the car, the engine running, as the tears began to well up in his eyes again.  He gave himself enough time to regain his composure, before backing the car out across the hot blacktop.  The traffic was heavy; it neared the end of the workday and the streets were filled with commuters running errands and returning to their homes.  After waiting at a red light for what felt like an eternity, the middle-aged man drove his car into the blended flow of commuters.
            The subdivision lacked gates; that variety was across the expansive commercial area that had grown seemingly overnight.  Those were the more prestigious houses: the lawyers, doctors, and the like, growing tired of the constant headache of urban life, flocking into the suburbs, but deciding to segregate themselves from the original inhabitants.  The subdivisions without gates were the heraldry of the middle class; the man, like many of his neighbors, had moved his family to this subdivision a decade ago seeking a safer environment.  He paused once inside the subdivision proper, seeing a newly sold house sitting at the top of the main road towards his own home.  He had passed by it daily, but now just noticed how much it had changed since he last remembered it.  There was a new, vibrant coat of paint drawn across the front; he had remembered a drab yellow, now a soothing light blue accented by white trim across the doors and windows.  There was a white wooden fence across the front, where he had never remembered a fence before.  His car sat next to the curb, and he stared in wonder at the house, drawn into its own nature.  Two small children, a boy and a girl, ran behind the fence while their mother watched from the front steps.  He sighed, and a smile crept across his face, until he continued driving home.
            A yellow sheet of paper was stuck on the door of the house next door.  The man didn’t need to stop to read what it meant, taking stock of the unkempt yard and broken windows, courtesy of the neighborhood children.  The subdivision was a boomtown a few years ago, now, quickly becoming a ghost town.  It was not the first yellow tag the man saw, and he knew, deep down in the pit of his stomach that it wouldn’t be the last.  He drove on, focusing on the road, and not on the houses around him, the tears welling up in his eyes again.
            He pulled slowly into his driveway, killing the engine and sitting motionless for a few minutes before walking out onto the pavement.  He could faintly smell his wife beginning to cook dinner, and from behind the house, the faint laughter of his children playing.  As he approached the house, he screwed his face into a caricature of happiness: his frown twisted up to a smile, betrayed by the look in his eyes.  Before he could even open the door himself, his wife came out, and greeted him; he initial enthusiasm faded when she saw the look in his eyes, and took his hands and led him in.
            Across the street, the only other person visible was sitting on the top step leading up to a modest home.  In his early 20s, the young man stared across the street at the sight of the man and his wife talking in the window of their living room.  He took a sip of coffee out of the mug sitting next to him before leaning his back against the top of the stairs.  He stared up at the clouds as they began to turn orange in the evening sky.  Across the street, the sound of crying could be heard.