Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bitches Brew Rev 4

It’s 3am, and we are headed home from the pub. Crossing the dimly lit side street, displacing the leaves that blanket the crusty surface. Holding hands, I trail behind both reeking of cigarettes and Guinness.

I follow him through a gap in the buildings to a sort of storage room behind a house, one of three on the property that are rented out to local musicians by Elizabeth, a woman of indeterminate age, who inherited the property in a wealthy suburb of an Australian city from her grandfather.

There was an old washer across the courtyard in a closet sized room but as in many homes in the city, dryers are not common. The rough nap of sun dried towels always reminds me of my time there. There is a noticeable absence of the sweet smell of anti-static sheets that have become a subtle definition of clean for at least 4 generations in America.

He unlocks the door of the drafty unheated 2 room flat, the only furniture an old table and two scuffed wooden chairs. The air is stale and musty, a large glass ashtray overflowing on the floor near the sleeping bags that served as his bed linens for who knows how many years. The tiny bathroom smells like mildew and mold never drying completely in the winter gloom. Funny that he never smelled as bad as his possessions. I never figured out quite why.

I loved spending time there. We smoked, we talked,we listened to music, and we made love. We dreamed, we dozed, we made coffee, and we got ready.

I bought him tennis shoes since he didn’t drive. That was a good thing since he went through shoes rapidly, because he walked everywhere. I suppose he took the train sometimes to get to a gig, or to someone’s home who would give him a ride. He played all sorts of places, paid and unpaid, in clubs, at parties, on cruise ships, with a big band at an RSL club. Trumpet. Always on him, except in bed.

Before this man I never paid much attention to trumpets on their own. Saxophones, guitars, the occasional piano maybe, but never trumpets. Now it is often all I hear.

For Christmas one year I had all his work clothes dry cleaned, the tuxes, the black pants, and the white shirts. He was always grateful. I somehow knew that he has always had someone to do this for him. Good Karma I think. And certain charms that even his mates would confirm.

I had never met anybody quite like him. He was kind of a cross between a father and a best friend. Looking back at my life, many of the men I’ve loved have had those same qualities.

What was that again? I was in the kitchen cleaning up, and he was on the sofa listening to Miles Davis, a Guinness and the ashtray carelessly arranged on the shag carpet within reach.

A BLT I said Bacon Lettuce Toe MA Toe sandwich. Wow that was good! I’ve never had one of those- it sounded like a salad but it wasn’t. Come here, leave the dishes.

I smiled to myself and hung the dishtowel on the stove handle. Yes sir, I said and flipped off the lights as I left the room.

Come here, he repeated and as I rounded the corner into the living room, I saw that he had stripped down, dimmed the lights and lit all the candles.

His trumpet case was sitting open on the chair in the corner and he had hold of the curved metal instrument by the neck. He pursed his lips, blew out a few times, and brought it to his mouth. That blowing action always cracked me up, and reminded me of the sound of a snorting horse, you know that sound the somehow dry and wet and blubbery, peppery squirty not quite disgusting sound.

My legs gave way and I caught myself on the arm of the sofa, lowering myself to the ground at his feet, not the first time, and hopefully not the last. The mournful sound, the wailing the night, jazz, God I loved him.

I sat in wonder watching his face as the music moved in for the evening, taking up residence in his soul. At times I found it hard to breathe when I watched him play. On his “on” days he was a star, his off days, barely off a beat, but the fire was dimmer, less focused.

How did we ever get to this place I thought? I really don’t remember.

The music stopped, I have to go to the loo, he said and stood up abruptly, flapping his way down the hall to pee. He was average height with a bit of a belly, and the hair on his chest was turning grey. His hair was medium length, thinning in places. The cut was forgettable, and every once in a while he’d try to hide the grey by dyeing it a sort of auburn color that was endearing. His hands were stubby and thick, but magic.

He returned and lay down again on the couch. Come here, he said, Lay on top of me. Yes, you can do it, stop laughing, be quiet, no; you aren’t too heavy, quiet baby, quiet. Listen to Miles..

He was a gentle man, self-proclaimed Buddist, never mean, sometimes coarse, always playful, nurturing and needy, creative, sensitive.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan all rights reserved

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tahoe New Years Rev 1

It’s so frigging cold I thought, walking along the side of the wet slushy road. My water resistant boots had given up the ghost a half hour ago, and I was sweating despite the cold, from all the layers. My neck felt like I had a necklace of ice cubes, the square edges scraping my chapped skin as I stumbled down the road. I hate walking in these conditions. One irregular stone,a slight loss of balance, a sharp edge and I’ll be on the ground with bloody shins sticking to my jeans. My green un-calloused palms will be swollen and scraped, through the holes in my mittens. It is so depressing out here this time of year; all you want to do is sleep. I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing bright colors, like a lapis lazuli sky, just to make people smile and lighten their mood.

Glancing up I see the lights that signal my Friday night journey is almost finished. The South Tahoe Lodge, at the end of a windy driveway is beckoning me forward seductively, with an irish coffee or a kahlua coffee with real whipped cream, in front of the fire. My lapis top showcasing the pure white expanse of my winter breasts, the only skin I show in public during the winter, and only inside.

It’s starting to snow again and my nose is now frozen l try to walk upright with one of my hands over my eyes, and the other trying to wam my nose. The heat from my exertion is melting the flakes just enough to mess up my eye makeup and blur my vision. So close.

I hear a truck shifting gears as it attempts to generate enough traction to make up all the way up the hill on the slick road. I hear the wheels spinning and the loud startling clanking of stones shooting up and battering the metal body. I stop for a moment and look back to see if I know the driver but the snow is coming down faster and thicker and I can barely see two feet in front of me. They’re still trying I think as I heard the truck gears grinding, a scream of rubber,and then the crunchy sound of chains sliding on gravel and salt.

I decided to continue up hill, although the effort it took was pushing me towards my limit, more like the highest resistance on a stair machine than a stroll up the hill- but I was no good at that either. What was I thinking heading out this late? I could picture the fireplace, the beautiful pale gold sand underneath the glowing fragrant embers, tiny lights floating diagonally, reflecting on all of the metal surfaces around the old lodge, giving off a warmth of its own.

Once again I heard the truck trying to make the turn and with a determined whine, knew that it had been successful on its third try. Now I had to worry about getting hit.

To be continued

© Sharon J Corrigan All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Karma Revealed Rev 1

Leaving my car at the burger joint, I decided to walk over to the store. When the a customer approached the front door, I slipped in behind him and perched just inside on an old overstuffed armchair, faux leather.

Let the story begin.

The first sign that something wasn’t right was when Elizabeth saw him at the register waving the cashier away. She was still outside and knew he was focusing on the customers in the store, and who might see him, and hadn’t thought it through. That’s odd, she thought.

Instead of going inside, she went back to the car and eased into the driver’s seat. She knew that he would never notice her  unless she moved around.

She saw the cashier, looking scared, and very stressed, motion to the other employees and nod towards the the back rom. There were at least 6 of them on the floor and they all moved together being very careful to avoid looking at the cash wrap and the open register in front of the regional manager, Jerry.
Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. How could you do this to me?

Her heart was pounding in her chest and she felt her left arm going numb. 37 years. Thirty seven bloody years, all undone by one man. She’d ignored all the signs, she’d heard all the rationalizations and poorly fabricated lies and because she was so close to retirement, she’d learned to turn off or override her bullshit meter until this minute. Now it was over. The end.

I was standing just inside the door, invisible to both of them. I’d spent the last year developing a meditative state that was easy to slip in and out of, but muted my features enough to let me hang out in the background without attracting notice, and actually rendering part of my body invisible. Jerry was calmly pulling out both drawers and replacing the larger bills with ones he was pulling from his briefcase. Probably counterfeit, awfully careless, amazingly bold. He wasn’t even breaking a sweat I thought, no sign of anything out of the ordinary.

I scooted around in the chair to saw that Elizabeth was opening the driver’s door, and starting to step out.As I watched, she collapsed, her neck caught on the seat belt, the weight of her body suspended in midair. The impact of her door hitting the SUV in the next spot set off the car alarm. Oh shit, what can I do I thought. I’m still in the trance and will remain invisible for another 10 minutes, can I even dial 911?.

Jerry looked up from the register when the alarm first went off, startled by the sound but ignoring it once it was identified. When it continued to make that irritating repetitive piercing tune and none of the customers on the floor looked up or seemed to care, he glanced outside again and recognized her car. Now he was nervous. Elizabeth was here, but where?

I was now standing up, just inside the door trying to figure out what to-do. I was the one who had sent the fake text message that brought her out here.. She never suspected it wasn’t from Jerry, she just didn’t think that way. I had guessed this was the time of day he raided the register, when the polling systems were scanning, and the loss prevention team was pulling images from all the stores, leaving a dark gap in the security system that Jerry himself, had been involved in designing.

Now, it looked like the shock of what she saw might have killed her, by forcing her to face a reality I wasn’t sure of, until a few moments ago. A new customer approached the front door from the lot and I slipped outside walking over to her car, nailing my thigh on a cement filled pipe meant to keep the cars from running into the building. Guess invisible doesn’t mean walking through things I thought. Not like in the movies.

I looked around the door and saw that she was slowly turning blue, her breathing shallow and labored. It was a quiet time of day in retail, and the lot was mostly empty.

I saw a black and white pull in the front driveway, parking across the lot against the building next door. A female cop got out, in full uniform and looked our way, then headed in the door.

Hey, how much time have I got? I thought. It’s getting close.. I got to the corner and looked in both directions. Typical that there would be a million cars whizzing by in either direction so I had to wait for a signal or I’d get hit, probably several times before my body was visible again. I think I have time to get back to the burger joint and go directly to the ladies room.

I made it. Entering the room, I saw that both stalls were empty, and I grabbed the handle on the nearest one pulled it open and slipped inside. I felt a slight tingling as my body reformed and once it seemed to fade, I stepped out, looked in the mirror, and saw that part of my skull was missing. Jesus, what now I thought. I went into the main part of the place, made a run for the car, trying not to look at anyone on my way through the crowd. As I paused for a moment searching for the door, a young boy around 3, in his mother’s arms, saw me and started screaming. Everyone, including the staff turned in his direction, allowing me to exit without anyone noticing me. I jumped into the car, turned on the ignition, and headed towards the drive through lane. I was 3rd in line, and had just placed an order for 10 burgers- all done “my way” as directed on the long computer generated list created by my co-workers. Ordering alone had taken 5 minutes at the speaker, causing cars behind me to honk and edge closer: the reflection of faces glaring from the cars in my rear view mirror. I felt really foolish and began to sweat. How humiliating, I can’t believe this is happening to me, now. I was already anticipating abuse from the manager, who had lost his patience with whiney customers at least a half hour ago. One down, one more to go and I’d have to confess.

In preparation for the pick up, I reached over and stuck my hand in the open top of my handbag, grabbing my wallet, and in that process snagging a fingernail on the coin zipper, that ripped it partway off. Shit, I said involuntarily biting my tongue and causing my eyes to water. I forgot to go to the bank. This is all I need.

Hold on. If I move slowly, really slowly towards the cashier window, with plenty of space in front of me, once that guy moves, I bet I can floor it, and shoot past the cashier. I should be able to make the right and be on the street long before the guard runs out the side door. Do I dare? I’ll never be able to go back again and I love their burgers. And what in the world am I going to do about the people at work- glancing up every time the door opens, is she back yet? I wonder if missing part of my head will reappear by then. Reaching up I laid my hand on the area that looked like it was missing, and felt my head intact. This is so bizarre.

Do they even have a guard? What do they do with all the burgers people leave behind. Do the employees take them home to their families, or do they make them throw the food in the trash so no one thinks they are stealing inventory.

Now what? The driver in the car ahead of me is getting out of the passenger seat, wedging himself diagonally, squeezing through the tiny space between the door and the window. Wait a second, he’s wearing a ski mask and, holy shit that looks like a gun. He’s coming this way. Jesus, he left the car running, I can see the exhaust coughing out white toxic clouds. Did that idiot put the parking brake on at least?, I can see it now, that creep’s ratty old car rolling back and crunching my bumper. A grand at least to make it look decent.

I’m trapped, now stuck in line along with four others- sitting ducks for this creative criminal, and out of all the people in the whole wide world, he has selected us to be his focus group, his test case.

Will she cooperate or will he blow her away? I could almost feel peoples thoughts, sensing the tension in the air rising as the others realized what was going on. I watched him moving closer.

“Give me your wallet” he said and I reached over, picking it up off the seat. “Take it, take it”, avoiding eye contact, “take it, easy, here” .In an instant he is going, already moving on to the next car. I see his lips move “G I V E me your W A L L E T!”

If I was going to rob people this way I would have scripted my ask. “ GIVE ME YOUR MONEY!” Ask for what you want, god damn it. I wouldn’t really care about the wallet, I’d just want the cash. The wallet is a fingerprint trap, and I’m not stupid enough to use people’s debit cards to buy, say, a lavish lunch at Souplantation.

Talk about humiliating. Imagine ending up on the news for pulling a runner over hamburgers- then deciding to rob the hungry people waiting in line. Jesus, what guts!

I’m still sitting in the same place. I realize, with a little sigh of relief, that my money problem has been solved by this sleazy robber, who I’m going to call Jerome. I’m so sorry, I”ll say to the cashier as I pull up, I just got robbed, and can’t pay you for the burgers right now but I’ll come back later, I promise. I picture the look of disgust on their faces. Hey lady, this happens at least once a day at this joint. If you don’t pay me they take it out of my paycheck. Yeah, I already know it’s against the law, but I gotta feed my family. At least give me something I can pawn to make up for the money they’ll deduct.

Just as I finish that thought, I see a person crawling out of the cashier window and jumping behind the wheel of the robbers’ car. He too is wearing a ski mask. He puts the car into gear and screams around the corner of the building out of my line of sight.

I’m afraid to move. Where’s the guy with the gun. I hear a door slam and glance behind me to see him jumping into the car, and speeding off. I still can’t move, but now people behind me, trapped in this line, start honking and yelling out their windows. “Move your ass lady, hey let’s get moving, what’s wrong with you.”

I hear sirens in the distance, growing closer. I see them now, five black & whites turning into the strip mall and screecthing to a halt, but not here, on the other side of the lot. The guy behind me looks really nervous. I can tell he is breathing unnaturally and sweating even from here. He’s fidgety, looking around him, searching for an escape route, and realizing there isn’t one, at least not one he can use and stay in the car at the same time.

Why aren’t they over here, I think, as I watch four more cop cars arrive. There are uniforms all over the place, swarming into all of the businesses on the north side of the mall, not even looking our way. They’ve got the entrance blocked off and there are two cops talking to everyone trying to leave. And why aren’t they across the street where Elizabeth’s dead body is probably still hanging from the seatbelt, people not even seeing her, as they focus on the doorway ahead in the heat of the afternoon.

I put my foot on the gas pedal, and ease up to the cashiers window. A young girl with a name tag “Hi, my name is Maria, smiles and says that’ll be $22.50 and holds out her hand. Her eye makeup is smeared all over her face, rivers of dry tears leaving jagged gaps in her perfectly applied foundation. The neatly pressed uniform she came to work in is ripped and patches of dirt discolor the arms and shoulders, continuing down her arm on the left side. Her eyes almost glow they are shining so brightly, and her smile appears to be fixed on the missing part of my head. Nothing surprises me today, I can hear her thinking. Nothing.

I open my mouth and even I can’t hear myself speak. She leans out of the window, bending down towards the window, straining to hear my response. I can’t talk. I’ve lost my voice along with a part of my visibility. I am now completely and utterly lost. I’m never at a loss like this, I think. I can always figure something out. Always.

She is saying something to me, but I can’t understand her, I can’t hear her. I can still move though, and I glance in the overhead mirror to see the cars behind me, one by one, backing out, one of those old guys, volunteer police who used to belong to Rotary, acting as a traffic cop to make sure no one gets hurt, or rather no cars get hurt, and directing them over to the center parking lanes where a police triage maneuver is set up. I wonder if they call it triage like an ER, or if there is a special name for it in the law enforcement trade.

The sound of a siren interrupts my chain of thought and I looked over towards the store. The ambulance took the right into the lot without slowing down, almost hitting a guy in a walker , hearing aid turned off, who was just entering the driveway.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seduced by Chicken Rev 1

I was going to run in, grab the lamb and get in the checkout line. What a positive, sensitive girl I am.  In less than 5 minutes the cart was already filled with 4 bottles of wine, some rice crackers with nuts in the 5 gallon tub, and a box of granola bars and I was just approaching the section of the warehouse where the meat was displayed.

I swerved in and out of the deli section in search of the lobster ravioli they carried a few years back, and as I rounded the last corner, I caught the scent of the roasted chicken. I walked right past the giant platters of fake sushi and shrimp, the giant pies and cakes, the gallon containers of hummus, on a direct path to the hot box full of dozens of individually roasted chickens, marinated in an intoxicating blend of spices, that was nearly driving me insane. I lusted for a small piece of the crispy greasy skin.Hmmm,  I wonder if I could grab one, casually stroll down the deserted luggage aisle, pop off off the lid and grab a little bit from the side, without anyone spotting me.  I see people do that all the time with produce, and I'm going to pay for it, so it's not that crazy, is it?.  

I’m always fascinated by people that stalk the free stuff, most of it tasty in a bite, but disgusting in a meal. Too much salt, too much sugar, too much oil, too big, too dangerous. How gross to have pizza, hot dogs, giant drinks at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning.  At the warehouse store. That's not me, I always think.  I've got such self-control, I know if you bring some of that stuff home, you'll end up the next day laying in wait near the roller door, open sesame, open sez me! I do need the 30 rolls of toilet paper, the giant bottles of mustard, and the 500 count Calcium with vitamin D, and that roasted chicken.

Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Bitch Rev 2

I love attending gardening workshops. Learning all the quirky little things about growing a perfect rose, or remounting stag horns from people with passion, or to be more precise, an obsession.

It was mid way through the day when I spotted a friend over at the plant sale, another reason these day long workshops are so fun. Great deals from people’s back yard cuttings or specialty nurseries.

I called called out “hey, Sarah” and she looked up and smiled. I headed in her direction through the narrow aisles. I was maybe six feet away when I saw another woman, who I will call Jessie, that I don’t particularly like. As I continued walking Jessie met my eves then turned her back and blocked the pathway with her cart- diverting dozens of people including me into a different section of the maze. The look she gave was so unexpected and so mean it took my breath away. Fuck it, I thought to myself, and headed back towards the entrance and out to my car. 

There was still over 45 minutes till the start of the new workshop and this simple encounter had totally ruined my day, and killed my good mood. I turned over the engine and backed out- so upset I almost nailed a bridal party, in full gear, that had just arrived for a ceremony on the bay. The box lunch I had tossed onto the back was sitting open on the seat. The sandwich had quickly become soggy and the brownie looked like a blobby mud bath, slowly melting in the thermal hot box my car had become after sitting in the lot. I hit the switch for the air conditioner and waited for the wave of cool air.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Upper Body Strength Rev 1

I have no upper body strength. I mean no significant upper body strength. I can lift a 11 year old 55 pound dog into an SUV, I can lift a 48 lb bag of dog food long enough to pour it in its airtight container in the garage. I can haul potting soil or mulch from the car into the yard, and it turns out, I can stay on top of a camel while it is standing up or sitting down without landing on my head or ending up on my ass in the sand. I know, I’ve done it. I’ve watched a bunch of other people do that too, many heavier, and much less fit than I am. Maybe the camels have been trained so if peopl’es butts leave the saddle/blanket thing, it stands up or sits down faster.

I love to sail. I decided it would be really cool to crew on the Star of India, a tall ship moored on the bay in San Diego. I signed up for an orientation session, which was held one evening on that ferryboat that houses the maritime museum. On the designated night I arrived, and found the room filled with about 300 people, many of them retired military. I sat through the presentation, realizing that the crew has to climb way up there to work with the sails. I’m not afraid of heights per se, but I’m not “sure footed” so I think that I probably am not the right profile for this volunteer gig.

The thing that cinched the decision was the requirement that you must be able to hang by one arm for some period of time, like 2 minutes. it didn’t sound like much, but I knew it was impossible for me. I would dislocate my shoulder, at the very least, if not my back. On top of the physical requirements, you also had to volunteer every week to maintain the ship, and then the real crew would vote to decide who gets to crew when the boat leaves its berth once or twice a year. I doubt if I can be a happy worker for that long with someone else telling me what to do in my spare time.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Confidence Rev 1

Johnny turned fifty last week, and has added a few pounds to his girth since his marriage to Vidanya three years ago. Always clean and neatly dressed, but he is beginning to pop a few buttons, so he always carries a chain of safety pins in his pocket. At a glance you wouldn’t know that he is bi-polar, legally blind and has never been able to hear or speak. He lived in a world of visual memories frozen in time, serious gaps in common sense, and vibrations without sound. He does know how to write but I’m not sure if his knowledge is from school, before he lost his sight at age 12 from an illness.

He met his wife on the internet, the fifth girl he’d been engaged to since he decided he wanted to start his own family. He’d lived with this mother since birth. His marriage didn’t have a significant impact on his living arrangements other than the sweet soft smell and touch of the woman who now shared his bed, and the squirming and wiggling of his young son as he tossed and turned in his sleep.

He worked in a factory. People there always answered his questions and helped him find things if he asked. Since he couldn’t speak he wrote on a thick pad of paper with a big black marker, one of dozen he purchased each month. I assume he buys them by the case, but maybe he isn’t aware that is possible, and no one has thought to tell him.

His eyesight was getting worse, if that was even possible. For years he had made his way on foot, crossing busy intersections without fear, and without a white cane. He had been told that no one could tell he had any limitations because he had always moved so confidently

He knew the names of all the people he had worked with for the last 20 years, but very little about their lives at home. He was lonely sometimes , like when he was in the middle of a meeting , but wasn’t quite sure why it was taking place. He always enjoyed the food that was brought in, particularly by the ladies in accounting. He was sad though, that he hadn’t had a real conversation with a human being (in the same room at the same time) since he was a teenager. Until he found his wife, that is.

She was from a small village in Russia where winters are bitterly cold and there is no work, no food, and no money. Four years ago her best friend’s new boyfriend took pictures of both of them and said that he loved having photos to show his friends when he travelled. He told Vidania that he had some wealthy friends in the United States who were looking for wives, and he would see if any of them wanted her. She had polio as a child, and as result she had a noticeable limp. If the war hadn’t happened that would have been her only flaw, but now she had a horrible scar on her left cheek from a stray bullet, disfiguring her once perfect profile. Her parents died just before the war, trying to escape, but she had hidden from the guards and made her way back home. She survived by cleaning houses and the occasional respite as a nanny for the one hotel within a hundred miles of her tiny village. She travelled for hours on the bus every day just for a few dollars.

©2010 Sharon J Corrigan

The Encounter Rev 1

She stepped into the train and headed right, up the stairs to the mezzanine. Every seat section (two facing a wall and 4 sets of 4 seats facing each other) had a least one person in them, but she wanted to sit here, the quiet part of the car at this time of day. In the back of her mind she considered whether she should try upstairs, then decided there was plenty of room here, and it was pretty calm- no one on a cell phone, no loud raucous laughers, just readers and sleepers.

Where should I sit?

Back left: An engineer type, dark pants, and ill fitting rumpled, white shirt partly un-tucked, over a bulging middle aged belly, black belt, dark tie and dark zippered jacket. Cheap shoes, faux leather, lace up, probably from a discount store, home styled haircut, cheap glasses, small brown bag lunch, peering at me expectantly. PASS

Back right- Young girl, long blonde hair, manicured nails painted pink, short skirt, 4” platforms, tattoos peeking over the top of her blouse and around her ankle. Cell phone in hand, busily texting- fingers sliding right to left. Large leather bag with gold hardware. Sound of phone vibrating “Oh My God!” high pitched childlike voice, loud, too loud. PASS

Center left, middle aged woman in an off the rack suit, blouse buttoned up to her wattle and finished off with a big floppy bow. Sensible shoes and panty hose too pale for her coloring. Reading glasses, kindle, tote bag and apple. Earrings made by a friend, not a designer. She looks up, smiles expectantly, YAWN

Center right: strikingly handsome man, impeccably tailored, shirt starched to sculptural excess, expensive tie, Italian shoes, and nice watch. Hmm- why is he on the train. This train. Commuter train. On his way to somewhere he isn't supposed to be, or a politician. Why today? If I was in a different mood I might try to “engage” him in some banter to spice up my afternoon, my ego, and this story.

Front left- man about 40, lean- almost haggard, muscles straining at his shirt, filthy feet in flip flops, levis torn and crusted with dirt, blonde hair, shaggy around the edges, mustache, reeking of cigarettes and beer, eyes closed, stretched out, bacteria from his feet contaminating that corner of the car . His sweatshirt was flung across the seat next to him, and his backpack and 5 beers were sitting precariously on the fourth seat.

He sensed her coming as she headed up the stairs and then stopped, hovering. The sheer force of her brutal mood, like the resistance encountered on electric doors, was so palpable she was almost invading his space from several feet away

Excuse me she said, moving in the direction of the seat that was occupied by his beer. He was still a little groggy from the first six pack and not in the best of moods. Peering at her legs through squinting eyes, he locked his knees to prevent her passage. In the silence a thudding sound rang out as her thigh collided with his knee as she attempted to step over his legs. She fell unevenly onto the open beer he was still holding as he dozed, causing it to tip over and soak the floor at their feet. She smelled like flowers, he thought, as he roughly shoved her off his hip.

What the fuck he screamed. There are plenty of seats in this car, sit somewhere else. He wasn’t really looking at her, he was really speaking to the other passengers in this area. I was just getting some rest, sit somewhere else lady. Leave me in peace.

She landed hard in the aisle, one arm now in a funny position, probably broken, at least sprained. She didn’t try to get up, just sat there as the minutes ticked by , at his feet whimpering, the wet floor soaking the side of her skirt, her eyes staring up at him beseechingly childlike.

Oh shit, he thought, and struggled to his feet, wiping his hand on his dirty jeans before extending a hand in her direction. She clutched at it with a powerful grip and managed to pull herself off the floor, dropping onto the seat where his feet had been happily resting moments before.

She still held onto his hand. Her blouse had caught on the headrest during her fall and there was a jagged tear near her left breast, exposing a red lacy bra and that soft sweet spot on the side of her body that always caused his heart to race, on those few occasions he had been provided with the opportunity to taste a woman. He forgot about the other passengers and pulled her across the aisle, laying her gently down on the seat next to him. Her eyes never left his face for a moment.

He had no idea what he looked like after all those hours of digging ditches and then the after work booze up that ended a workday in mid-summer. He was exhausted, and really not up to taking this on, but it looked like the fates had something else in mind for him tonight. His left arm was falling asleep- the tingling moving up from his fingertips to his elbow to his shoulder. He glanced over and saw she was now fast asleep, the neckline of her top gapping open even further in this position, giving him a clear view of her nipples, and he felt himself getting flushed. I need to find a head he thought, and tried to untangle himself from her grip, to no avail.

His second plan was to try to scoot her over gently moving her head onto the window and the back of the seat, and tilting her body in the same direction. He swung himself over into the opposite seat, his breath now audible to the other passengers, his body lusting after the unconscious woman. Her skirt had been pushed up almost to the top of her thighs and he could tell she was not wearing underwear. Jesus, he said softly and reached across to caress the edge of her hem. The minute he touched her he remembered where he was and immediately leaned back again in the seat, his hands resting in his lap.

He was beginning to feel aroused, and uncomfortable just sitting here, embarrassingly uncomfortable, so he crossed his legs and stretched his arms above his head, twisting his torso back and forth like he was stretching after his interrupted nap. All of the other passengers were occupied, doing their own thing, except the older woman who was peering at him disapprovingly, and averted her eyes as his stretch and scan maneuver passed over her area of the car. Maybe she’ll get off at the next stop, he thought, not really clear in his own mind whether he was thinking of the old lady, or the unconscious woman he was trying not to jump on.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her eyes open, a look of confusion and panic which leapt across the aisle toward him like a runaway train. She pushed her bad arm on he seat cushion to lift herself into a more comfortable position and winced as she realized it was badly hurt, and was useless for the moment. She reached back with her left arm and maneuvered herself into acceptable passenger mode, glancing down as she did so and seeing the torn blouse, and her skirt, stained and still damp from the fall. She looked at him with shock and disbelief, tears welling up in her eyes, and then the childlike fear crept back into her gaze. Her mouth opened, and then closed. No sounds, no words, no questions.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fired & Out Rev 1

All that compromising for nada, nothing, not a damn thing. All the money I wasted on meds to help me cope and sleep, all the trips to the work therapy group (dedicated employees with asshole bosses or supervisors). I’ve put up with so much crap the last 40 years. My mantra “I understand” has gotten me through some tough situations. But it didn’t work this time.

She’s such a bitch, he thought as he headed out the door, not even noticing the “good nights”, “see you tomorrow”, or” Jim, Jim, wait up!” He pulled out his keys, and pushed the remote button. Nothing.

He realized he was standing in the parking lot of his former employer and his car was gone. Oh shit! Perfect! he screamed, and sat down on the curb, tears streaming down his cheeks. He sat there sobbing quietly, just out of view of the employees clocking out for the day. If you asked him what he was thinking, or what happened during that time, he would give you a blank stare, slowly focusing and responding with “what? And then fading away again, back inside where it’s safe.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and saw the blonde panhandler who had been holding court on the median strip the last few days. What’s wrong honey? she said quietly. He looked up at her silently, thinking that she had an awfully nice pedicure for a panhandler.

The next thing he knew, he started to get cold, and realized that night had fallen and he was still sitting on the curb, on his own. I didn’t even see her leave, he thought, and using his hands pushed himself to his feet.

His legs were asleep and prickly. He rocked back and forth, shifting his weight from one leg to the other, until they returned to life. His new black work shoes, ordered from a catalog, were gone. So were his jacket and his wallet. He looked in the bushes behind him and found a trolley pass, along with his empty wallet.

Good Karma he thought and began to laugh hysterically. Brushing the dirt and gravel from the seat of his pants, he wrapped his arms around his torso, running his hands up and down his side, to try to get warm.

My car, he remembered, my car is gone. As he returned to reality, he headed up the street, in his socks towards the trolley station. As he passed the brake shop, he stopped suddenly, remembering that he had lost his car to the finance company months ago, and had been riding the trolley ever since. He’d dropped some of his baby fat too, with all this walking. He chuckled to himself at the thought of anything related to his body being described as baby, by anyone.

Can’t wait to tell my wife the bitch won, and I’m out of a job, probably shortly out of a house, maybe out of a family. What about his pets. How would he ever feed them?

He stopped again. A sharp rock that pierced the formerly white athletic socks that were now covered with dirt and grime. How much food is left in the house for us? Is there any money at all in the bank? I need to remember to call and have them issue a new check tomorrow, to replace the stolen one. Maybe his son in law could float him some money for a day or two. He was working, and the two of them had been living in his house for over two years. Wish he had a cell phone so I could call him. Wait, where’s my cell?

He realized in his rush to get out of the building after his visit to HR, that he had left his personal cell phone on the computer stand in his office. Did I turn in my key, he pondered? Should I head back, see if I can get in, see if there is any change in my desk, and then head home, or to Clancy’s first for a beer, if he can come up with some change?

It’s only 7:00pm so it’s not too late. If I can’t find a security guard to get my phone, should I use the key? Will they think I’m breaking in to vandalize the place? Will the guard even give me my stuff without getting authorization from the CEO, who barely knew I was alive when I worked there, and probably has no idea I exist at all. HR will think I’m up to no good, thanks to the bitch and the ”set up” that had caused all this grief.

God, my eyes itch. Is it spring already, allergy season. Thoughts were racing through his mind, random, seemingly unrelated. All he knew was he needed his phone, he couldn’t leave without his phone, so he reversed direction and headed back towards work, or his former work.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Flying Away Rev 1

I have to be in Houston by noon tomorrow she thought. Better book a seat- so I know if I have to leave tonight. She grabbed her coffee and headed inside to the spare room where the computer was. We have to get wireless installed she mused silently to herself for the hundredth time (at least).

Working as a flight attendant since the days when they were called stewardesses she had her life down to a structured routine. She bid for jobs that took her on the road from Sunday to Wednesday if possible because her husband worked retail and had Thursday and Friday off. She also liked lunching with friends in LA or San Diego on Saturdays after her morning yoga class and the farmers market.

She pushed the power button and heard the familiar tune as the computer woke up from a night of rest. Quickly opening the browser the flight schedules appeared on her home page and she saw with dismay that all of tomorrows early flights were fully booked and she would have to hustle to make one this afternoon. Is my uniform pressed? She thought.

It had been a busy few days with dinners out and a concert at Humphrey’s – a band from the early 80s. She’d also had a bit too much wine on Friday night so she was moving a little slower this morning despite her best efforts. A sigh of relief escaped her lips as she remembered planning to leave on a moments notice almost subconsciously when she got back from her last trip on Wednesday night.

God I’m exhausted she thought and my hair needs a trim. No time to do that, she said to herself as she pulled her bag out of the closet. So many years of making this same trip made packing a breeze. She grabbed her toiletries bag, a couple pairs of underwear, her running shoes, bathing suit and her workout gear, and tossed them into the bag. A quick trip down the hall to the bathroom where she checked her makeup and then quickly down the stairs to the garage and into the car.

It really is a pain to have to wear a uniform when she wasn’t on duty, but at least she didn’t have to pay for the flight. Merging onto the 15 south she exited at Friars Road and sped quickly past the stadium to the center where her husband works managing a furniture store. She pulled up in front and opened the door to the store, seeing that he was with customers – and caught his eye as she dropped the car keys on the sales desk, and then headed back towards the door, blowing him a kiss on her way.

He smiled with affection and excused himself, walking rapidly towards her and giving her a big kiss and asked where you headed? Caracas she answered smiled at him and left the store. Grabbing her flight bag out of the car, she made sure the door was locked and headed for the trolley station. Fortunately this time of day the trolley ran every 15 minutes and when she got to the train depot, she hopped on the airport express bus right away- getting to the plane with 15 minutes to spare.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Yard Sailing Rev 1

We pulled up in front of the first house and got out. The house was a rundown ranch style structure with peeling paint on the wood trim. The double garage door was open and a small man with a big smile looked at us as we approached and shouted welcome. At this feet were two small children in diapers crawling on a thick pink fleece blanket. Look around; give me a shout if you see anything you like. Jenny walked over to a table in the corner and was picking up small items and then setting them down again. Since she looked more bored than excited I didn’t bother to see what they were. I was looking at the sleeping bag covered with books to see if there were any cookbooks I didn’t have- although in reality I have more than I need at home already.

Jenny looked at me and we both said thank you at the same time as we headed back to the car. I hope the next one has some more interesting things, she said, and I nodded my head in agreement.

A lone blue balloon was tied to the mailbox at the second address at the end of a very long very steep driveway. We parked carefull; turning the wheels to roll into the curb, if the brakes should fail while we were shopping.

It was getting hotter as the sun rose in the sk,y and I still had several layers on, from the chill of the morning when we started out. Breathing heavily we struggled up the driveway and finally saw the house, the front door ajar. No signs or sounds of life beckoned us forward so we slowed our pace, thinking perhaps we had misread the address and stumbled into someone’s yard who wasn’t expecting visitors.

Jenny was a few steps ahead of me and she called out Hello as we stepped onto the porch. A strong woman’s voice answered with Hello echoing our greeting come on in.

The house was very dark and the curtains were heavy velvet and covered with a thick film of dust. Beaded strands hung in every doorway at least 3 off the main room. An older woman wearing an odd heavily embroidered peasant dress appeared through the center archway and the beads slapped the wall on either side as she passed through them

Look around she said in a small tight voice. She gave me a funny look and glared at Jenny. We gave each other a look and silently agreed to stick together while we were inside this strange house.

The woman disappeared back through the door that she had entered and the sound of the beads on drywall began singing..

Let’s look in here, she said, and we went gently through the beads and the archway into the left room. It was really quiet in the house but we both felt like we were being watched. The room was filled with shelves of varying thicknesses and lengths and every shelf was crowded with thick white candles every other one had been lit. They were unscented so the only smell was that of burning wax.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Pool Boy Rev 2

She was lying by the pool, marinating head to toe in Coppertone, her sticky thighs splattered and glued to the vinyl ribs of the lounge chair as the elastic in her bikini bottoms snapped, sagged, and slipped through the cracks. On her back, her saggy tired breasts looked like balloons slowly deflating, and a quick dip in the pool had left her hair frizzing up like Ike Turner in suspenders. The sand invading the pathway to the pool left a gritty mess on the top steps at the shallow end. Her makeup was running, leaving ochre smudges on the white towels the pool boys carelessly tossed at the guests as they scurried back and forth like bait on a hook. The slurping sound of bodies sliding into water was accompanied by the sound of the bartender starting yet another daiquiri- ice clinking violently against the walls of the blender, sliced by the whirling metal blades.

I, finished off the last of the rum, scattering tiny red umbrellas, and watched as the tropical breeze sent them spinning round and round in a hypnotic dance.

Another towel Troy, I demanded as my favorite pool boy passed. I saw him glance at the 3 empty glasses and wince slightly. How dare he judge me, I thought to myself. Troy, Troy, I need it NOW!

He hurried away, pretending not to hear, and in his haste stepped right on top of one of the umbrellas, piercing his foot and causing him to shriek like a girl. He went down hard, landing on his kneecap, and she heard another yelp. Holy Buddha he screamed, tears streaming down his bronzed cheeks.

I flopped over onto my stomach, stopping mid way to tug at my bikini, one side then the other, so I wasn’t hanging out. I would give him 5 minutes to recover or I’d call the captain about his attitude. I need another drink too, and it’s just too hot.

3 minutes. 2 minutes, one, and he’s on his feet, one of those adoring young girls splashing water on his face, and handing him a stack of towels from the tray nearby.

Miss Julie, here your fresh towel . Would you like another drink? She hoisted her shoulders off the lounge and twisted her body to face him, her sun scarred breasts rolling back and forth inside the tiny top. Her face was red and blotchy and creased from lying on her stomach. From this angle the loose skin on her belly looked like an abandoned air mattress. He noticed that one of her eyebrows was funny, missing the part on the outside that usually swooped down, but he tried not to stare.

Julie felt a little disoriented as she attempted to open her eyes, and focus through the haze created by the sun and the rum. She started to respond, then her eyes rolled back and her arms gave way. Troy heard her skull hit the metal frame and he dropped to his knees,trying to catch the attention of one of the servers. When he turned back around, she was rapidly losing color and her breathing was irregular. He grabbed a pitcher of ice water from the sideboard and poured it over her head in a futile attempt to rouse her. Her body arched backwards in shock, sending her rolling partway off the lounge, still unconscious in a very odd position, and he began to panic.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cava & Flowers Rev 1

Winning the lotto had changed so many things in his life. Joey however, was a gift from the old days, and they were celebrating 20 successful years in the import business this May, and 30 years of companionship. Neither man was gay, they would both describe their sex drive as ambivalent, but they had given up trying to convince their families and friends years ago. It didn’t matter.

They had just arrived in Barcelona last night; one of their favorite cities in the world. La Boqueria, how could any other market in the world compare to that bustling building full of vendors, and colors and tourists and locals and smells. It always felt like a homecoming and he could find his way to Las Ramblas and the entrance to the market, even if he somehow lost his sight or his mind. It was a haven, a delightful journey away from the rest of the world. Driving into town from the airport sitting on the sticky back seat of an old taxi cab, gazing out the window at the crypts built into the hillside, at the enchanted steeples of the old cathedral, shop front after shop front of gorgeous shoes and handbags and flowers.

On their last visit they scored on a truckload of Mallorca pearls, the big chunky ones so in fashion now. And silver was coming into its own-the shops filled with trendy new designs and 60s classics.

Everywhere they looked the plazas were full of people of all ages walking arm in arm, chatting in small groups greeting their friends, walking their dogs, or following a tour guide speaking into a walky talky, a herd of poorly dressed Americans from one of the cruise ships in port.

They stopped into a local cafe and ordered a cava, instructing the waiter to serve them at an outside table. The glasses came first, and then a bottle, opened with a flourish tableside and then placed into a bucket of ice just behind them.

We didn’t order a bottle they protested, and the waiter just smiled and shook his head, and nodded towards a little hobbit of a man standing in the doorway. He was barely five foot tall and was completely hairless, not just his head, but his entire body. He had two curious prominent upper teeth which gave his face the look of a rabbit, the eye tooth on one side was missing and he looked like he had been in some sort of horrible accident years ago, the scars thick and swollen together in vertical lines on each side of his face.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Romeo & Juliana Rev 1

Hey! She called down from her balcony. What are you doing back so soon?

Oh my god. He’s a Christian. Not just a Christian, a reborn, bible thumping, I have an overwhelming need to convert you, I’m going to hold you hostage until you agree, Christian.

Sandy burst into a raucous laugh. Well, Christians aren’t so bad. But for you….maybe not your soul mate.

We had decided to meet to get to know each other better, and had agreed on a wine bar near the trolley and his office. I was there first, and ordered a prosecco for myself. I planned to pay my own tab, unless he insisted, and to get something to eat. He walked into the cafĂ©, and joined me outdoors at a small table. The waiter dashed over “What would you like to drink?” and he said coffee. Coffee. Coffee at a wine bar. I felt like an alcoholic. This is not beginning well.

He went on to explain that his ex wife had cleaned him out, and he was living in a house with six other guys in their 50s near the border. He was totally broke, and didn’t have a car right now, just used public transportation. In my mind this was going from bad to worse. Was he going to expect me to pay for his coffee?

How in the world we started talking about religion, I can’t even guess. I certainly didn’t bring it up, but once the subject was on the table, he was unstoppable. He was so aggressive about it that I decided to add fuel to the fire and said I always avoid sitting across to or next to people on the train who are reading the bible, because I think it’s creepy.

It didn’t seem possible that he could get any more pushy about the subject, but that did it. Her lept from his seat yelling, what if they were reading the Koran? Would you sit across from them quietly? What’s wrong with the bible? Why do you hate god.

All the other restaurant patrons were now at full attention, looking at his man standing on the street yelling at me about jesus. I wanted to hide under the seat, but I just motioned to the waiter to get me a second prosecco, quickly.

He was the perfect man, on paper. My age, attorney defending mothers in child support cases, rn a not for profit in Idaho creating low income housing, worked as a consultant overseas, graduated from Berkeley, former politician. Smart, short but smart, and very attentive.

We met at a picnic for an international group, hosting visitors from the former USSR, and he followed me around all afternoon. We had so much in common. Little did I know.

Eventually I escaped and I heard he found someone to marry. Good for him.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Freeway Personals Rev 1

I should’ve had the a/c fixed and gassed up this morning, Sarah thought; well, there’s no sense dwelling on it now since I’m going to be either stuck here in traffic, or stranded at the side of the road- a mile or two from the Genesee exit. There are no gas stations nearby, so I’ve really got a couple of hours to kill.

What’ve we got here? She wondered aloud. I’m bored.

The car just ahead was about two months overdue for a wash., although it was a late model Lexus. The rear bumper was covered with stickers” Hang up the damn phone and drive” “Jesus loves unborn babies”, “My child was a royal screw up at Billings Elementary. The back windshield continued the diatribe “You suck, I’ll eat baby deer if I want to", next to a large rifle shaped sticker screaming “Shut the F### Up!"

Oh boy, I thought, here we have a real winner. Is it a man or a woman, how old is they? Where do they work? The driver of the Lexus turned her head and Sarah realized it was a woman. Oh God no. Her face reflected in the rear view mirror, zeroed in on Sarah, sending a look that almost cracked her windshield. Avoid eye contact, she thought. Pretend to be singing with the radio and bob your head around.

Bet that bitch is single or divorced. Wow, what a prize she would be on Angry soul.

Brunette Lexus driving siren with a yen for the printed word and a ride though the suds at the car wash seeking her chamois man. No experience necessary. Hearing or vision impaired men 18-80 strongly encourage to respond.

Oh boy, wouldn’t I love to see that meet up. She glanced up and saw that the Lexus lady was focusing her negative energy on the car in front of her now, wildly gesturing and driving in a crazy weaving motion, slamming on her brakes just sort of the bumper ahead of her. Indiscriminate rage.

Let it go, yoga breathe.

Who is next to me. It’s kind of disturbing because they are driving at the identical pace, and I sense it’s a creepy guy who will probably follow me off the freeway and into my community and I’ll have to drive around for an hour until he gives up. Shit, I forgot about the gas tank.

Anyway, how will I describe him? Pleasantly plump, rosy cheeked charmer with full street credentials seeks a compatible partner for movies, conventions and unnatural sex acts in my parent’s bedroom during their weekly dinner excursions to Denny’s for the senior special. Any female, any age, welcomed with open arms.

Oh God, I’m giving myself the creeps.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Made in China Rev 1

Made in China

Do you want to go to disco? The guide asked me as the group returned from the day trip on the river to our hotel in Guilin. It was bitterly cold, the week before Chinese New Year and the 500 room hotel had 495 vacant rooms. I’m a solo traveler but I seldom venture out alone after dark, preferring instead to launch myself into the awakening dawn and spend the day exhausting myself with vibrant images of other cultures.

No I said. I have an early flight and I’m worn out from the cold. He bowed slightly and moved quietly through the front door of the hotel- not pushing, no expectations, polite and resigned to another night alone in his tiny cement room down the 3rd alley- where the smells of the city were frozen into his flesh.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Sleeping with Dogs Rev 1

Sleeping with dogs begins when you are quietly reading or watching TV or paying your bills and they are sprawled out nearby legs in the air, sometimes running in place or twitching, and making funny little sounds. Then in an instant they smell another dog outside, or a bird, or a rabbit and they are on their feet in full protective mode, racing from one end of the house to another, barking barking barking.

Moments later they are back in their spot snoozing away.

At my home 8:00 is bed time. Just like the alarm in the morning, my dogs know how to read clocks and they let me know when it is time. Daylight savings and other time changes throw them off by an hour either way, and sometimes they just feel like playing in the middle of the night for no reason I can figure.

So I’m sitting calmly and have two dogs sitting right in front of me, searching my face, and letting me know it’s time to turn off the computer or the TV and head for the bedroom. If I choose to ignore them, they will take turns jumping onto the couch, and onto my lap, or using their noses to disrupt my writing or to try to get me to stand up.

They use a similar technique to get me to let them out to pee, to remind me if I haven’t fed them, or when it’s time to refill the water bowl. The little one is especially good at the pee thing, and if I got up and let her out, she would go outside instead of the pads I have set up in the garage.

So I turn off the TV, pick up my cell phone, plug in my net book to charge, turn off the lights and head into the bedroom, first the small bedroom light, then the hallway light, then the bedside lamp.

I have to immediately position the two pillows in the center if I plan to watch TV, and get the remote within arm’s length. The minute I slide under the cover, they are both leaping onto the bed and heading towards me to be petted. Joey likes to have his back scratched, back hear his tail. Pumpkyn loves to have her little nippies petted softly. They both go into a trancelike state when I do this right. Eventually they are ready to settle down, and usually try to get as close as they can to me on top of the covers, one on each side, near my feet. My feet are trapped, and I can’t turn over so I have to move one near the top of the bed and one near the bottom and lay diagonally.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Hook Up Rev 1

Fred and Kathy both opened the doors of the SUV at the same time, stepping down to the sandy earth one foot at a time. The three younger kids were imprisoned in their car seats; two in the second row and one in the back. The older two were wedged in between, wearing exasperated expressions from the ride, the heat, and the fact that they had to waste their summer at the beach in Southern California when all their friends were staying on the lake or heading to that expensive resort in Canada just across the border near home.

Fred lifted up the hatch to get at the newly purchased beach chairs, shoved in the back behind the seat. He handed two each to the older kids and then began pulling the canopy from the roof where it was secured with several bungee cords.

We should've left the motel earlier, he thought, as he surveyed the stretch of sand lining the ocean front. There’s got to be over a thousand people here already. How the heck am I supposed to find a place to put this thing up? He watched as his two older children trailed after his wife, boldly weaving a trail between families, teenagers, surfers, and sand castles being erected by what looked to be some sort of youth group, looking for a place to land.

Kathy finally stopped where the dry sand resists the tide, looked back at him, and waved. Penny and Todd  put down the chairs trying to stake out a space large enough for the canopy, and in an effort to disguise the fact that they were here with their family.His daughter plopped down on one of the chairs in the center and dug her cell phone out of her pocket.

Kathy and Todd headed back to the car and as they got closer, Fred walked slowly towards them holding the canopy on one shoulder and lugging a 20 pound chest filled with a large ice block and two six packs of soda with his other arm. He grimaced as his virgin feet hit the hot sand. He groaned inwardly as he realized  how long it was going take to reach their base camp. Oh well, he thought, this is what a husband and father is supposed to do, right?. Put up or shut up bucko, he thought, as he continued his journey.

As he approached Penny, he overheard her say quietly "I’ll meet you tonight" and briefly puzzled over who in the world she could be talking to, since they did not know anyone within 2,000 miles, but quickly refocused on the task at hand- erecting the canopy.

He was just securing the last supporting pole, when his wife approached with their youngest daughter Zoe cradled on one hip. Kathy had ordered a beach cover-up in a leopard skin stretchy fabric from a catalog and was also wearing gold sandals with tiny heels that the same catalog declared were in style for a tropical vacation this year. She looked very pretty but a little dressed up for this southern California beach town

He looked around at their neighbors and noticed there were two scary looking teen boys just north of them, and on the south side a woman with a very small bikini, a deep tan and the look of a morning after. A pack of cigarettes and 2 empty beer bottles lay in the sand next to her,  a disposable lighter tucked inside the cellephane box wrapper. Kathy is going to love sitting next to a smoker, he thought, but it’s too crowded and too late to move.

His daughter Penny was a pretty girl of 13 but she looked young for her age. They had enrolled her in a private girl’s school last year, where a uniform was the standard dress. She was still a bit of a tomboy, and remained on good terms with boys in the neighborhood she had known since kindergarten. She had never given them a moment of worry, but seeing her in this setting, so scantily clad, he was feeling a bit uncomfortable with the obvious physical signs that she was growing up.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw his wife waving at him. He could tell, even from this distance that she was wondering what was taking him so long.  He headed back towards the car to get the last of the supplies so they could all begin their vacation.

To be continued


The Green House Rev 1

Thank god for the trolley system, they thought as they hopped off at the corner of Leucadia Blvd and Orpheus. For the last decade since the oil ran out and gasoline fueled cars became obsolete, local and state government agencies had finally been forced to work together to deliver a workable transportation system..

Heading south on Orpheus, they spotted the first flag, waving wildly in the ocean breeze and silently announcing an open house. Sally waved her right wrist over the scanner near the front gate and Paul did the same- allowing them to enter the property together. It was so nice to be able to look at the place without a pesky real estate agent hovering on every word.

The pathway through the vegetable garden looked like gravel but was soft and spongy- obviously some sort of recycled material. Every window on the front of the house was a different shape and size, but the placement of each opening had been carefully planned to give it a balanced aura in the late morning sun.

The front door was at least 18 ft tall and was actually 2 doors that were painted a pale green that almost disappeared behind the moss and vines that helped to insulate the structure. The doors opened automatically as they approached and a motorized awning descended and expanded to shelter the entrance from the sun helping to keep the cool air inside the house. It was marvelously quiet in the entryway- the walls gave off a hushed calming glow and the textured flooring seemed to flow into the horizon like the ocean.

Passing under the first archway, the house seemed to transform into an entirely different shape.

I’m trying to decide if I like that transition or if it’s a little creepy. Sally murmured quietly to Paul. I think I like it but it’s a little unsettling. I’m used to walls that are rooted to the foundation but in this home they seem to move in a very intuitive way that feels womblike. He looked at her thoughtfully from a distance of about 20 feet and wondered if she was seeing the same thing he was.

She paused for a moment and then took a seat on a red upholstered bench hanging in the corner. He strode purposefully across the remaining distance and sat down next to her. What do you see he said?

She softened her gaze and let her mind drift slowly from side to side trying to focus on the shapes that seemed to move along with her glances.She didn’t seem to be able to visualize herself on the bench she knew she was sitting on- but she decided to try to describe what she was feeling and not to get distracted by that thought.

I feel you in the air inside the house. I sense where the kitchen is, where the lights are and how to activate the doors and windows. It’s strange but it all feels very intuitive and comforting. Its home. We belong here.

She felt him turn his body slightly towards her and heard him say quietly. I see you too, in the air in the garden and in the structure itself. I can visualize coming home and knowing without seeing or hearing a sound that you are there waiting for me, that you’ll always be there. He took her hand and they moved further into the room towards a circle of light that shifted as the tress outside moved in the breeze.

The walls seemed to part in front of them

To be continued


Red Light District Rev 1

I just dropped by for a glass of wine while I was walking the dogs. When Ginny is home and her front door is ajar, it’s like a red light for a prostitute, Bar’s open, companionship welcomed.

I told her I had to pee, and she waved me towards the bathroom in the hall saying “Excuse the mess; I just got home from a trip.” I closed the door behind me and took care of business.

I’d had garlic for lunch and it had upset my stomach. The taste was still lingering on my tongue, and the smell on my fingertips. Maybe I’ll use a bit of toothpaste and brush the inside of my mouth. It might also make my fingers smell minty which would be an improvement over the garlic.

I pulled opened the left drawer and found it was full of bottles of nail polish and used emery boards. Odd to put that in the top drawer I thought. The second drawer was stuck and almost came out of the cabinet as it opened. I let out a gasp fearing that my neighbor would suspect what I was up to if it hit the floor.  How embarrasing! It held boxes of condoms in every size and texture.

Switching to the right side of the vanity, I decided to start on the bottom since the organization of these drawers defied any sort of logical order. Hair accessories and some Band-Aids were haphazardly arranged in a curious circular tray. No luck here, one more to go.

Sliding open the top drawer I was stunned to see a gold plated gun- lying alongside a bag of white powder, a dirty spoon and a syringe. A piece of tubular strapping material from a patio chair was wadded up in the corner.  Oh My God. My heart began to race and I quickly slid it closed taking care to do it as quietly as possible and then faced the door, closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

Get me the hell out of here, was all I could think ,but I knew I had to somehow exit the bathroom, sit casually on the couch and try not to gulp down the glass of wine.Pulling the door open, I saw Ginny draped over a chair, now dressed in an oversized mumu, and she was waving me to a seat on the couch opposite her.

I’ll apologize now for the wine if it’s no good. It was really cheap at Trader Joes so I thought I’d give it a try. I smiled slightly and grabbed the glass by the stem as I sank into the couch trying to hide my new discovery by avoiding full eye contact.

To be continued

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Footprints Rev 2

Dry sand erupted beneath my flip flops as I trailed the dogs down to the waterline at dog beach. Spadefuls crunching and scattering like handfuls of rice on a hardwood floor, a few grains detaching from a the herd

Off like the wind, paws slapping the wet mucky quicksand along the shoreline, the rising tide receding into the horizon scattering crystal bubbles in a random pattern overlapping and repeating as they slalomed across each other’s tracks .

Tiny knatty insects diving into ribbons of kelp washed ashore during the last high tide, round and round like a miniature tornado. The pups joyfully leap into the spongy slippery piles of ocean greens and roll around wriggling their bodies until the pungent smell permeates their fur. Then they are off, greeting the other canine visitors, dashing into the pack with uninhibited yelping and whooping, veering south to the abandoned Starbucks muffin someone left behind. Score!

Footsteps above me, creaking planks giving way as others cross over the bridge to the cove, miniature waterfalls of the gritty sparkly sand creating intricate designs on my belly through the gaps as I nap. Under the boardwalk.

Just across the highway, ponies are exercising, trotting in the morning sun, warming up for the races later in the day, hooves slapping the earth with a muffled thud , a metallic echo bouncing off the hills behind me when the shoes hit a rock or a random piece of a bridle discarded by a careless jockey.

Nightmare from the night before, footsteps behind me in the wrong part of town, marking time, matching my pace, speeding up as we enter the commercial district. Workers gone for the day. Bodies, poles, cars, buildings throwing shadows, heart pounding, the jarring sound of static on a car radio as I cross the intersection, getting closer now, and out of reach of the sirens that could bring safety to my night. Scanning the sidewalk for shelter, a phone booth, an open door, a coffee shop, a kindly stranger.

Passing a old warehouse the sound of flamenco dancers staccato rhythms on vintage floors create a hollow repetitive symphony. Crossing diagonally the clicking clacking pounding, scraping, bruising controlled violence of the river dancers with shiny cheeks and grinning, leering freckle faced masks. Shaking walls, trembling windows launching bass vibrations into the air like a low rider cruising for trouble in East LA.

And then, a hush , leather toe shoes brushing the floor, landing perfectly, gracefully, delicately,deliberately, talking flight. Tendons screaming, muscular calves strain as skill coaxes the body into graceful, precise positioning to be embraced by a partner.

And so it began...


Martinique Rev 1

It’s a warm tropical night in Martinique. I’ve been here for 2 days and the weather has been perfect, warm but with a breeze and cloud cover. I spent today with James and Scott, life partners and business partners in a hair salon, in a suburb of Milwaukee.

I’m not too sure about Scott’s background but I do know his mother is alive because he mentions her frequently. James is classically handsome, an Adonis, chiseled features and a great body. His father is supposedly the last of the mafia dons- although his hair is blonde, and he looks more Scandinavian than Italian.

I’d met them on the plane from Miami to Guadalupe. Air France- free booze on the Club Med express. They were trading hair cuts for beads, the currency used at the club for call drinks, and extras.

The disco was open tonight and Scott and James and I , and Lila from NY, Debbie from Dallas (no, not that Debbie), Brad from Redondo and the brothers from Newport- were all getting primed in the boy’s pavilion room, one of only 6 rooms at the resort with a double bed.

My hair was being teased and sprayed and piled high on top of my head. Smoking cigarettes and East Indian “tabac”, I was feeling a bit giddy, a bit silly, and a bit wild. My first journey onto the nude beach today had resulted in a bit of sunburn, everywhere. Kerrie with a K from Palos Verdes in a white gauzy dress, arrived today with a case of Taittinger and a monogrammed silver ice bucket to keep the bubbles flowing for my new group of friends, and helped erase the tenderness of the fiery burnt flesh of my privates.

To be continued….


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Late for lunch Rev 1

I was running late for my workshop and decided to try pulling in the QUALCOMM driveway because the building where the meeting is held shared the parking lot; at least I think it does. I sometimes shoot right past the left turn, even with the signal, because I miss the sign and don’t know the name of the street. As I reach the crest of the hill I knew that the strategy had worked.

I stepped out of the van at 11:58 and ran across the lot towards the entrance. Our vans always smell funny. It must be something EVS uses to try to clean the upholstery or carpet. It’s like all the drivers have been working at Jiffy Lube and forgot to wash their hands.

I asked the ladies at reception where to go this month and I see the group admin coming out to close the door at the end of a hallway. She sees me coming and hands me a name tag with a smile, as we both go into the room. They are just getting started with the program and everyone already has their lunch.

In the past, when the meetings have been held at this location , the back counter is usually full of sandwiches salad and cookies but it's nowhere in sight so I catch her eye again and she nods towards an open doorway on the opposite side of the room. In order to get there, people have to stand up and move their chairs so I can squeeze past. If I wasn’t so hungry I’d let it go.

As I finally complete my arduous journey across the room, I see a table along the south wall, two aluminum chafing dishes in the center, the rank fuel smell of sterno lingering from the greasy residue coating the metal above the can, clouds of steam from a bubbly liquid in one, and the smell of burned pasta in the other

Two lonely paper plates, several mismatched sets of plastic ware, and a couple of napkins that looked suspiciously like they had already been used and discarded, surrounded the pitiful remains of the meal. That looks disgusting, the thought momentarily distracting my attention from the speaker in the next room warming up.

I held my plate in front of the tray with the bubbly liquid and sighed. The only hot food remaining featured a watery looking cream sauce with peas and carrots and, in retrospect, chicken, and submerged in the muck was a gummy piece of dough at least 12 inches long, which had begun its journey that day as a flaky crust, but was now reduced to an indigestible lump of flour and water and butter.

©2010 sharon j corrigan

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cashing Out- Tales from the Retail Floor Rev 1

Let me introduce myself. I’m a single mom with a kid who is just about to enter high school. My ex is pretty consistent with the child support but it’s not really enough to cover everything I need. I’ve been working at this warehouse store for a year now. I have a bachelor’s degree but I got married right out of college and pregnant within six months.

He’s long gone now and the store is within walking distance of my house and my hours are perfect match for John’s school schedule. I put on a few pounds before I went back to work, and have a tendency to wear pants with elastic waists, running shoes, oversize tops and little makeup or jewelry. Right now I’ve also got on a Chargers jacket that my ex left behind in the hall closet.

Everyone I work with is very nice. In Australia they’d call them battlers, people who know that they have to work hard to survive. That they can’t forget for a second, or get sick, or take a two week vacation and still have the money to pay the rent.

I just got to my register. Its only ½ hour after opening and there is a long line of shoppers ready to check out, some with flat bed carts loaded six to seven feet high, local restaurateurs or the buyers for local buffets. The bar guys with carts full of generic booze to fill up the name brand bottles, so they can charge more. It’s still Vodka after all, and most customers can’t tell the difference.

There’s the mom with the 12 foster kids, but since it’s a weekday only 6 are with her; The ones too young for school. Multi bag loaves of white bread, giant boxes of frozen fried shrimp, hot dogs on a stick, frozen burritos, frozen pizza. Even at this store the bill was astronomical. And you always had to keep an eye on the kids, who despite the bulk packaging, still managed to put things in their jackets or in their mouths. They were always holding sample plates heaped to the brim, even in the checkout line. I’m sure she cuts her grocery bill by bringing them in for tastings a few times a week.

There’s Elmer and Shirley, the senior couple from the corner house The lawn has died and they are either too sick or too broke to take care of the exterior and the yard. Elmer is munching on a cheese ball as Shirley looks on disapprovingly, while unloading the cart full of women’s clothing. He eats, she shops, they’re in a rut and bored.

Now we’ve got Gianni, that gorgeous 30 something man who owns the upscale Italian restaurant in the village. Too bad he’s so short and small framed. He’d never look at me twice. If he’s not married, I bet his restaurant is packed every night with women decorated to attract his attention.

My next customer is a very small older woman who doesn’t meet my eyes. She hands me her membership card and moves towards the end of the counter holding a roll of bills almost as big as her head. Across the aisle towards the exit I see a very large man watching her who looks young enough to be her son. He looks very irritated and very threatening and impatient. I see her raise her eyes towards him and quickly lower her head again. When I tell her how much she’s spent, she bursts into tears and starts screaming.

To be continued


Saturday, June 26, 2010

In and Out Rev 2

The smell of polish surrounded the chair where she sat awaiting the top coat on her pedicure. Shiny blue toes rested on the cushioned sliding stool that Tommy used to place himself in the proper position for the job. Today the conversation revolved around iphone apps. Marissa, Tommy’s wife, had the new iphone and she wanted Sandy to help hedr locate the webcam.

There were three ladies sitting side by side in various stages of the beautifying process, all with iphones. The sweet feminine smell of the heavy moisturizing cream used for the massage part of the process helped to balance the chemical smell of the polish remover. The salon was dimly lit with traces of gold in the landscape mural on the wall, in the decorative silk orchids and on Marissa’s hands and reading glasses.

Oh shit its 5:57. Sandy looked at the clock, checked her phone, and realized she had to get to the car, make it through traffic, 3 stop signs, and a signal, find a parking spot, and run all the way to the far end of the library to make it to her meeting, and all within the next 3 minutes.

I’m glad I ate those sliders at Alphy’s tavern she thought. Only $10 bucks and way too much food, but it did help to sop up the glass of malbec I ordered to wash it down. Pulled pork with BBQ sauce, the smoky tomatoey spicy sauce running over the edge of her palm, as she maneuvered her arm in an attempt to control it. The second a burger, probably Angus, Ok but not extraordinary. I prefer the flavor and texture of veggie burgers these days. The 3rd some sort of roast beef with mushrooms. The shrooms and small chunks of the meat scattering over the tabletop as she finished it off.

There were only a few customers at this time of day. There was some sort of sporting event on the video screens but the sound was turned down, and music filled the air with the magical lyrics and melodies of Landslide, but not the Stevie Nicks version. I needed some veggies and happily finished off the lettuce garnish that adorned the center of the plate.

As the barmaid brought the bill and Sandy watched the plate head towards the kitchen, she thought how obvious it was that the chef had been watching too many food network shows. The outer rim of the plate had dribbles of some sort of orange sauce with bits of parsley evenly placed around the entire rim. Technician, not artist. Not bad, but not a bite to crave the next day.

She had bought a 4 new pairs of sandals last week and had been wearing a different pair every day. As a result both feet showcased ugly red blisters. Tommy had put medicine on the wounds while he was finishing up with another customer and she was waiting for the polish to dry enough to leave.

So 3 minutes to go, Sandy thought as she watched Marissa help Tommy as he slid the funny disposable slippers on her feet, leaving the foam toe holders in place. She signed the debit receipt and dashed out of the salon. It was the day before the full moon. The sky was heavy with June gloom, a coastal weather condition that is similar to fog but normally above the ground, blocking direct sunlight and lending a taste of moisture to the air. Don’t put your shoes on yet, he shouted as she ran out the door, into the chill of the evening.

Backing out during a lull in traffic, Sandy made a right and headed for the library. It was still daylight and the air was fragrant with the smell of the ocean, and onion rings from the drive through on the next corner. She waited, third in line at the signal. The light changed and she made the turn, hearing the crunchy sound of the car rolling over the tracks as her bottom bounced upward, and back into the upholstered seat, she slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the motorcyclist who appeared out of nowhere at 4 way stop.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bag Lady Rev 1


What’s in the bagzzzz he said, laughing at his own corny line. He pointed in the direction of the rolling metal shopping cart and tilted his head slightly towards this mysterious woman named Pat with a goofy sort of grin.

These? She said loudly in a deep dusky voice that caused everyone around them to stop in the middle of their conversations, glance at Pat and each other a bit nervously.

These bloody bags are how I carry my burdens from place to place. These bloody bags are heavy and fragile and easily pierced by angry words.

Tim began to feel a little edgy at the force of her response and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He met the eyes of a woman in the next row of seats who shook her head slowly and then grabbed a large cross hanging from a thick golden chain around her neck. Lifting it slightly, she moved it quickly upward, touched it to her forehead, her heart, then tapped both her shoulders, and brought it towards her face, pressing it firmly against the lushness of her lips for a small moment, then closed her eyes and braced herself as if she anticipated some sort of violent impact.

The woman called Pat leapt out of the seat at the next stop and pushed through the line of people waiting to get off the trolley, bumping a young boy on the stairway, who went sprawling onto the platform face first.

Tim looked around frantically trying to recall, and then to understand what had just happened,

The woman with the cross was gone. Everyone was gone. He was left alone in the car with that shopping basket full of God knows what.

Perfect, he said aloud. The perfect end to a horrible stressful day. I’m beginning to think it’s my karma. Things just keep on getting fucked up, and I’m not doing a darned thing! He pulled himself out of his seat, and pushed the emergency button, just as the trolley began moving towards the next station.

Chapter One “And then she touched me”

She rolled up alongside the wood framed trash bin and reached into her shopping basket, pulling a hard candy from its wrapper and popping it in her mouth.

Tim had just arrived and taken his normal seat in the shade, between a 30 something guy with a dew rag, and an Asian man who smelled like egg foo young.

She was dressed head to toe in white linen with red stiletto pumps. It was obvious that she had a pedicure within the last two weeks, but she was overdue.

Under her long country-style dress she wore old fashioned pantaloons, also white with seaming every three inches or so horizontally. Around her neck was a straw bonnet, the kind you see in documentaries about the Amish in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Her grocery basket was filled with plastic bags. He had seen her several times before. It was never clear if she was homeless has dementia or was just eccentric. Her hair was that shocking unnatural shade of red favored by type A women of a certain age, but instead of a choppy short cut it was obvious she had been growing out her hair for years, maybe even decades.

He got up from the bench when the blue line approached the station, blocking his view of her journey for a moment. He pushed the button to open the doors and as they slid apart he saw her climbing the stairs of the doorway opposite him, her back arched downward to give her additional strength to pull the cart into the car. He took a few steps towards her and reaching down said politely “allow me”. She stumbled slightly as he invaded her space for a moment but their eyes met briefly and they both smiled realizing it was OK. She wasn’t crazy and he wasn’t going to rob her.

He pulled the cart over to the nearest bench and motioned for her to take a seat. She lowered her head and said “thank you” modestly glancing up just long enough for him to see the laughter in her eyes.

My name is Tim he said holding out his right hand. Pleased to meet you.

She looked up slowly taking stock of the man in front of her and said in a deep voice “Hi my name is Pat. Thanks for the help it’s been a long day.”

Taking a seat opposite her during a lapse in their conversation, he decided to ask about the hundreds of shopping bags stuffed in her basket. Was she an environmentalist, did she clean up public pathways, or was she just going to reuse them or recycle them. Did she use them to clean out her kitty box or?

To be continued


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Old Loves Rev 2

Oh my god
They are all here. All the men I’ve loved or cared for. Dead and alive. The men who have inspired me, motivated me, made me cry, made me laugh, every single one of them.
Can I send some of them back and keep the ones I choose. Or do I have to take all or nothing? If I have to choose I’ll take them all
The ones who loved me, the ones who didn’t the ones with gentle spirits the ones who drove me insane, the musicians and the cops, the Artists and the bankers, the sailors and the engineers they are all a part of who is standing on the threshold today , the person I am today.
Do I have to invite them all in at once or can I pass out numbers and let some of them stand outside for a day or a month or I don’t know. I’ll have to come up with some sort of a rating system for most of them but some require no thought at all.
How exhilarating to see them all in one place at one time. The most important and compelling almost seem to glow from within. The assholes fade into the cement of the walkway and become almost unrecognizable.
Do I get a wish? Can I keep a couple in the spare room and let them out when I need their special kind of magic?>
Ugh a wet tongue licks my face and as I open my eyes I see 2 dogs one on either side of me so close I am trapped under the covers. I don’t want to wake up yet. Go away.
The older one lies down and stretches out as Far as he can to try to eject me from the bed. The other one steps up on the pillow and collapses on my head. I shrug them away and I pull the covers over my head.
I miss you, I say to Keith, I play the cd all the time and I can hear the trumpet on every cut. I can see your small Buddhist bow and hear the whispered Namaste as you prepare to leave the stage.

©2010 sharonjcorrigan

Gifts of the Father Rev 1

I am bloody 40 years old, please not another stuffed animal. My father, so smart in many ways, such a smart ass in others, has once again given me a stuffed animal, a bear. There is nothing about me, my home, my lifestyle, that would suggest that a stuffed animal would be a gift I would enjoy, ask for , or know what to do with, other than give it away. I won’t even take the price tag off; I’ll just pass it on to the first child I see, with their parents of course, so they don’t think I’m up to no good. Put it on the foyer table so I’ll see it as I leave in the morning, and not have it haunting my house for weeks out of guilt for ditching yet another useless gift from my dad.

Is it a joke? I wondered? As always when these odd presents appear, I spend hours obsessing on the intention or the hidden secret behind the gift. It is soft, like a kitty’s ears, but much too small to use as a pillow, and I’d hate to see it decapitated by the dogs, so I’ve got to start it on its journey to a new home as quickly as possible.

I picked it up with one hand and tossed it in the air, easily catching it behind my back as gravity swept it on a direct path for the kitchen floor which was not very clean.

I let the dogs out, and then followed then into the yard, land gripping it with both hands, tossed it through the basketball hoop in the backyard, running to catch it before it hit the cement of the driveway. The dogs came running over as Mr. Bear flew once again, above my head and made its way through the knotted rope basket, plummeting towards earth.

I heard a scream behind me and my heart stopped, as I ran towards the hoop and caught it by the left paw, just inches shy of a wet patch of grass

As I reached out, I felt the cold chill of something metallic brushing against my palm.


The Machine Rev 1

May I help you? He said, striding towards her like panther intent on its prey. The shop was long, narrow and dark, the shelves jammed with electronics of all makes and models. There were no other customers right now, and from the hungry look, in his eyes there hadn’t been for some time.

He told her this combo machine could handle faxes, copies, phone calls and voicemail. He spent an hour with her explaining every possible solution to the issue that brought her into the store in the first place.

She had been feeling increasingly uncomfortable at his single minded attention, particularly since he had been slowly maneuvering her towards the back of the shop where she could see a door, slightly ajar, a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. He was between her and the front door and there was no way to get past him without their bodies touching.

He leered at her, growing wet rings of sweat forming under both his arms and down the middle of his chest. Then a phone rang. It was a familiar ring, but not like an American phone, two tones and a pause, two tones and a pause, over and over. He talked louder and louder until it became apparent that the caller was not going to give up, and there was no voicemail. He let out a fragrant belch that screamed “curry for lunch” and waddled around her towards the room in the back, calling to her, I’ll be right back, just let me get this.

She took a quick look at the office door, grabbed the machine, its plug ricocheting off the opposite fixtures and walked rapidly towards the front door. Reaching out to grab the safety bar she heard a loud click as he engaged the dead bolt with a wireless remote.

She turned to face him, her back against the glass of the door, her jaw tensed and her muscles locked, tears running down her cheeks as fear took control of her senses.

©sharonjcorrigan 2010

Harris Park Lebonese Rev 1

I was searching for a job before the “migration” dept knew that my employer had laid me off. I was given 2 months grace period to find a new job where the company would agree to sponsor me for an extension of my work visa.

When you’re in another country on a visa, at least in my experience, the minute your job ends, and your visa is invalid- no breaks. I was an illegal as of 12/31/92 I was living in an English speaking country on the other side of the world. I had given up the apartment I had rented for the last few years, sold all my furniture and was living in a small room behind a friend’s art gallery /coffee house. She and her boyfriend lived upstairs.

I placed a display ad in the Australian Financial Times with the headline “HELP, born on the wrong continent”, which the publication loved, and put on the inside left page right after the editorial. Unfortunately, the only response was from network marketing types and a couple of guys looking for a green card, willing to marry for the opportunity.

I don’t really remember how I found this organization, but know that I had my interview over wine at a hotel in the city with the CEO of a camping trade association, an older gent who was supposedly a former diplomat and well connected in government circles. They agreed to sponsor me, and I agreed to go work as a volunteer until such time as I was legal with the government, and my visa had been extended, or a new one approved. My former position came with a company car, and the new one, once my visa was approved, would also provide me with a car. In the mean time I was living in an arty section of the city just off Oxford Street, and it was an easy commute via bus to the train station, although I did have to change trains in a scary area in both directions from work.

The first day I worked, I thought I had gotten off the train at the wrong stop since I was in the middle of a residential area with a few shops on the opposite side of the tracks, and a milk bar (neighborhood market) on the corner. Stepping off the train, I looked again at the address, since it was supposed to be on the street where the station was, and walked back and forth looking for anything that looked remotely like a street sign to be sure.

I walked around the entire block, no street sign at either end or on the adjoining street. I learned later that sometimes there is only one sign on a street, and it could be at either end, so when you were going somewhere new, you counted the number of turns on the street map rather than look for names and hoped like hell that no alterations had been made since the street guide was printed. Nothing.

Finally I saw someone pull up in a white station wagon and wave to me, and it turned out that it was the CEO's assistant, and my new job was in an old house with a very small sign on the exterior. We walked up the weed strewn garden sidewalk to a door with a heavy duty security screen. She explained that we were in a borderline neighborhood and we always kept the door locked since it was hard to hear someone walking in from the back of the house, a rabbit warren of tiny enclosed spaces.

My office was a small room off the main hallway shared with another person, and appeared to have been a closet at one time. When I sat down in the chair in front of the computer, the doorway to the adjoining room was blocked. Interesting. In my last job I had an office about 10x12 with a glass front and no door, but this was a very intimate setting with no privacy. Fortunately I worked with 3 or 4 really nice women of varying ages, and a guy who was OK most of the time, although a little full of himself. Turns out the CEO was out a lot, so he didn’t normally figure into the day to day equation. We had a wonderful board of directors and I was considered a part of the team.

At lunch the first day I walked down to the corner on my side of the tracks, and got a hamburger and some “chips”- or French fries. I’d been living here long enough to know that the burgers would have beetroot, or beets on it, and the chips would be in a proportion more appropriate for a family of 6 than 1 person. If you can picture a paper lunch bag from my youth- in the 50s and 60s- stuffed to the brim with fried potato slices- that is what you could get for a song. That was the standard serving. They even sold “chip sandwiches” like a burger, but just French fries on a bun with mayo, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and maybe cheese and beetroot. The proprietor was very chatty and helpful, and I sat outside on a cement wall with the ants on their voyage to the water spigot and ate as much as I could in the time I had left of my meal break.

It was very hot and humid. January is the middle of summer down under and we were far away from the ocean or the harbor. Another new thing I learned when I moved here was that wearing “sunnies” were not optional; they were a necessary accessory because the sun was so intense. Talk about hole in the ozone layer. Sitting outside or even walking around at lunch was a challenge, because it was so hot, and there were no trees or shade on this street.

After a week or so, getting a better handle on my location, I walked the few blocks to the corner, and over the train overpass, making another left to the shopping area of Harris Park. I was still a smoker at this point, and this was long before the restrictive smoking laws appeared on the books in this country, so I found a local liquor store, bought some cigarettes and a few scratchies.

Each day at lunch I visited another shop, learning about all the things, and available services for sale I could find during my lunch hour within walking distance. After a week of exploring, I walked into a shop that sold wonderful sandwich rolls. They had meat of every sort- fresh roasted- lamb, beef, pork, chicken and they would slice it off the bone right in front of you, and you could add normal sandwich fixings if you liked, or ask them to add tabule and hummus in the flat bread wrapper. The owners were from Lebanon originally. My first roll from this shop was an experience I will never forget. The taste of the juicy freshly roasted lamb, and tabule and hummus – the minty, creamy, garlicky, earthy tastes perfectly complimenting each other. It makes me hungry just thinking about it. This became my latest food addiction in Sydney, and I probably went to that shop at least twice a week for my remaining year in Sydney before my visa contract expired.