Friday, February 11, 2011

The Empty Bed

What could Julia do? Bernard had been the love of her life, her every breath, her heartbeat, her sweat, her longing, her anger, her everything. She felt lost when she woke in the morning to find his side of the bed empty and cold. At first she imagined Bernard at the corner market buying fresh oranges and strawberries and maybe smelling the flowers before paying Carlos with not only money, but also with the kindness of his smile.

When he did not come back after this thought, Julia had to concoct another to excuse his absence. Maybe he went to the record store down the street, she thought to herself, he was just talking about finding that Miles Davis record from a festival in 1969. She imagined Bernard cradling the produce under his arm gently while he fingered the covers of the old records, smiling and nodding when he found something satisfactory and familiar. Julia could almost smell the must of the vinyl and hear that soft sound of pressured air as the records leaned into each other.

Bernard still did not appear after this thought. Julia began to worry a little now. She rose from the warmth of her cotton sheets, her old faded nightgown sliding over her knees where it had crawled up to in the night. She let the floor get sturdy under her feet before putting on her slippers. Julia felt the nervous tremble in her hands begin and hoped she could keep herself from a state of panic.

The lazy morning sun was piling in through the sheer curtains and Julia walked to the window and pulled one aside. The street below was bustling with early morning commuters and children off to the last days of school and old folks that had no other place to be. She scanned the area feverishly for sight of Bernard. There was no trace of him. Julia turned from the window and went to the kitchen to start the coffee. Bernard will want coffee when he returns, she thought.

Julia sat at the kitchen table, the coffee in her mug now cold as she stared at it. It was nearing noon and still he had not come home. Her face looked more aged than it should be at 62 and her thinning hair lay in ragged, dirty strands about her face. Something caught her eye from the center of the table. It was a paper or a card with Bernard’s name and face. Julia reached out but did not touch it. She was unsure of what it could be, or what it could mean. Her arm hung suspended in air, frozen in fear, until at last the tips of her fingers felt the laminated paper beneath them.

She pulled it closer to her face. There was Bernard staring at her so handsome in his wavy chestnut hair and warm smile. She touched his face, his teeth, his eyes, his curved nose. Julia read the words:

“Bernard Jones, loving husband, lay to rest in the arms of God. April 19th, 2010. He is survived by his wife Julia (Martin) Jones.”

“No,” she cried, “no!”

The shiny paper fell from her hand onto the floor. Her arm dropped into her lap like a weight. Julia began to cry.

“How could you leave me Bernard? I loved you from the attic of the world, from that ivory tower you rescued me from. I loved you wider and deeper than any ocean. I loved you. How could you leave me?”

There was nothing but the sound from the street to answer Julia; nothing but the wind blowing the curtains inward; nothing but the pounding of her own heart and the dripping of water into the sink. There was nothing.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Haggard & Halloo 8/10

The Philosophy of Heat

Bart and Zaria both lie limp on the blanket under the oak tree at the park. Their books creased open onto their chests recording their ragged breaths in the blistering summer heat. The air is thick as sauna steam and Zaria’s head is pounding with dizziness. She can feel the sweat rolling from her skin and collecting onto the back of her green tank top.

“How hot is it Bart?” she asks almost too slowly so the words sound cryptic.

“Dunno sweetie, ‘bout a hundred I think.”

“Oh. It feels like we are burning in hell.”

“For your sins or mine?”

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Not From Here Are You?  Special Jury Award

A Dead Man's Chest

Chad was keenly aware he was trapped behind the fallen rocks. He had felt the rumble as he paddled deeper into the coastal cave. The light from his helmet scattered fractals into the dark churning waters barely lighting up the carved walls. There was history in here and maybe treasure too, but he had come for history. But that seemed less important now.

It took him several minutes to right himself after the boulder broke from the ledge above the cave causing water displacement to smash his kayak against the cool pointed formations. He had kept himself from curling under, just barely, but he had done it. The light had been weak before the opening was sealed but now he was left with only a thin shining from his head lamp. Chad allowed himself to panic for just a moment. His throat was dry and the air now torrid despite the lack of sun.

He had to find another opening before the batteries from the lamp ran dry. Chad hated to defile nature, but considered in times of life or death, being ecologically sound mattered little. He pulled the small can of spray paint from his pack and marked his starting point. He prayed he would not paddle in circles. He prayed for a ray of sunlight. He contemplated all this praying as the stilled waters were cut by his hand hanging over the side. He had come for history. He realized he might be writing his own.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs & Bodypaint

By the River

Martina sat agitated under the oppression of the Mississippi river. Her blood boiled in the August night, but not specifically from heat. An American named Frank joined her table at the cafĂ© by the rolling, muddy river. He made small talk and sounded like a Yankee. Frank’s interest in Martina escalated when her French accent touched the air. He studied her face in the syrupy setting sun and how she carried her head and the shine of her chestnut hair with strands jumping loose in the heat.

She winced at his harsh English spewed forth to bait her with conversation about the history of the Louisiana Purchase and whether or not Napoleon did a disservice to France by giving up the port of New Orleans. Frank’s tone was condescending and vile as if he single-handedly supported the acquisition on his shoulders when he wasn’t even an embryonic thought at the turn of the 18th century. His arrogance made Martina livid. She cut him with her tongue and the sharp corners of her knowledge about the dealings of her own country. Both of them were overheated in patriotism.

By the time the fireflies arrived, they were silent and breathing heavy in the dark. Martina wanted to send him to the guillotine. Frank felt like he held the ability to deport her opinions to his back pocket, invoking John Adams Alien Act. He was unsure why he found his lips on hers and even more puzzled she allowed it.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs &  Bodypaint (winner of the Doorknobs section)