Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Christmas tree lighting

Sep strolled down the aisle of the IKEA, humming christmas carols in his head. His cart was already part-way full with presents for his parents. Now, he just had to find a suitable one for Leek. Because even though that feeling of fear and excitement still accompanied his name, Sep wasn’t going to leave his only friend because of a stupid feeling. That wasn’t how it worked. As long as no one ever knew, everything’d be ok.

But now someone did know, Maxwell Talus, the man from the murder party. Sep hadn’t seen him since, but there was a sinking feeling knowing that he wasn’t the only one who held the keys to his deepest secret. He tried to push it to the back of his mind. But it kept resurfacing. The only reason he was at christmas shopping at 11:00 pm is because he’d left the Winthrop Christmas tree lighting as soon as Maxwell had made his appearance. Now, he eyeballed miscellaneous gifts, searching for a good one for Leek. A random sock puppet-No, a set of stained glass cocktail glasses-No, a desk-No. Sep came a shelf with a little stuffed dog. On its paw it had a red: “press me” button. So, Sep did. “Everybody dance now…” The dog started to sing and dance. Well, the dog didn’t sing. An automated voice message inside it did. But, regardless, Sep was laughing out loud at the ridiculous tune. Yes, this was the right gift, no doubt about it.

He made his way to the checkout, and zoomed through the short line. As he was walking out the door, a man in a Grinch suit sprinted past him carrying what seemed to be a lamp. Yeah, Sep thought, it was definitely sad to be at the IKEA by himself with only insane Grinch shoppers around. He decided that even a sighting of Maxwell, and some bad food at the christmas party would be worth it for a change of scene.

He showed up at the party 15 minutes later. Everyone was standing close to the tree, watching it with bated breath, as if they were half a expecting a murdered man to pop out of it like the last time they’d all been together.
“Hey,” Sep said turning to the tall man next to him. “When is this supposed to start?” The man turned around. It was Maxwell. Sep blanched.
“11:30, so any minute now.” Pause. “And I’m sorry for writing on your hand at the party. I was curious about why you looked so preoccupied. I didn’t mean to, you know,” See into my mind, and uncover my deepest secrets? Sep thought angrily. “Yeah,” Maxwell finished. Sep looked down at his hand and saw the faint mark of a pen.
“You can still hear my-?”
“Yes. You might want to wash your hand with some stronger soap.”
“No kidding.” Sep turned away. Maxwell grabbed his shoulder.
“And Sep?” Sep glared at him and raised his eyebrows.
“You might want to chill about what you were all freaked out about at the part. It’s really not a biggie. No one here is going to care.” Sep nodded curtly. But inside he was soaring, if Maxwell didn’t care, that was one less thing he had to worry about. Now he could just sit back and watch the tree lighting.

Maxwell had been right about at least one thing. The tree was beautiful.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Murders and Memories

The lights snapped back on. Everyone in the party was silent as they stared at the dead body. Sep grimaced. He recognized the circus master who had prophesied in the trailer last week. Except the thin sheen of sweat that had covered his face then, was replaced with thick red blood. Behind him, someone gasped.

That gasp threw Sep away from the dead body, and back 11 years ago.

He was in 7th grade, staring at the same boy he always stared at in class, when the boy had turned around and hissed into his ear: “Why’re you staring at me? Huh?,” His warm spittle hitting the side of Sep’s ear, “What, are you gay?”. The last word hit Sep’s chest so hard, forcing out a gasp. He felt like he could hardly breathe. He managed to stammer, out so excuse about only weird people being gay. The kid in front of him faced the front again, a smug smile stretched across his face.

And then the scream pulled him back out of his nightmare, and he was back at the stupid murder party, which he’d really only gone to, to avoid playing basketball with Leek. Because now Sep was feeling the same stupid feeling he’d felt when he was in 7th grade, and he was not going to let that happen.

He stared miserably at the girl who’d screamed.

The boy comforting her, Maxwell, who’d marked his hand with pen when they entered was looking at him.

“It’s okay,” he mouthed.

Sep jumped. He knew.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Blue Winnabago

Sep wasn’t sure how he had ended up in the inside of the baby blue winnebago. He was walking home from work, the long way, past the trailer park, when he saw the same circus master from last week’s show, lying in the mud. Trouble always seemed to find him, at least that’s what his mother had always said. He was now staring up at the lavender curtains and dancing lights that adorned the trailer. The same circus master who had introduced the circus last week was standing in front of him. His buoyant stature that he had carried last week had been reduced to the frail shell rotund shell of an old man.

“So…” Sep scooted uncomfortably toward the door. The circus master’s fleshy palm stopped his shoulder.
“You came here to listen. Listen.” the circus master commanded.
“Listen? Sir, with all due respect I came here because I saw you lying in the mud outside of your trailer. All I did was help you up.”
“But you did listen, you came to me,”
“Yes, I did. But I’d quite like to be leaving now. I am supposed to be meeting some friends at 6,” Sep said tapping his watch, “It’s 5:45. That gives me 15 minutes to run home, grab my ball, change, and-”
“Then I guess you’ll never know, what I have to tell you,” the man said, a satisfied hollow smile stretching his shiny skin tight.
“Ok sir. If you need me to call someone I can, but if you are not in any physical state of harm, I am going to go,” Sep stood up. The man stared straight ahead. He’s probably just waiting for me to sit back down, ask if he’s ok, Sep thought, i’m not falling for that. He opened the door, pausing at 3 inches when he heard the old man start to ramble again. What had happened to the jovial circus master who had shouted out praise for the circus just 7 days ago, how did he become this chattering wisp of a man?
“I’m not a wisp,” the man said sadly. Countering Sep’s thoughts. “You don’t understand. You don’t see the stars like I do. I can read minds through them see the future,” He paused. “I see them for you,” His eyes glazed over a little.
“For me?”
“For you. For the two girls at your apartment who go to the greenhouse, and draw and talk. For your friend, for you.
“Some things are better off not worth knowing,”

“And I don’t believe this is one. I’m not sure if you understand, this matters. Something wrong is going on at the greenhouse, and now it involves you,”.

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Cotton Candy Night

Sep stepped out of Leek’s truck, exchanging the loudness of Leek’s blaring radio for a different kind of loudness. The kind of loudness that happens when a bunch of happy, excited people jam into a small space. The kind of loudness that happens when Sep, Leek, and 300 others line up for the circus.

Sep stood next to Leek and scrutinized the tiger face paint he had meticulously helped Leek paint on an hour ago. Sep and Leek had decided to go full on circus hype, complete with tiger striped face paints. (Well, it wasn’t really full on, seeing as the only thing that they had done to offset their normal jeans and t-shirt was the paint. Nevertheless, they were pretty proud of their feline faces).

Sep had met Leek a week ago. And completely by accident. He had been wandering again after work, and couldn’t resist the pull of the Winthrop park. It had been on his mind, the blood, the note, the police. Just as he couldn’t resist the allure of the park, he couldn’t resist the thrill of the game when he saw the court, clean of blood, even if the game was only free throws by himself.

He had been on throw 38, needle-like-concentration driving him to make just one more throw. It had been a perfect shot too, when BAM! A hot chocolate colored hand reached out and smacked the ball down. “Not bad,” said the voice belonging to the hand. And with a “not bad” a friendship was started. A friendship where Sep was now invited to play basketball with Leek and his friends on Tuesday afternoons, a friendship that made Sep regret his decision to move to Winthrop a lot less, and, a friendship, that apparently took Sep and Leek to the strange new circus that had arrived in town. (With a lot of convincing on Leek’s part, Sep had been reluctant, but Leek’s childhood memories and the promise of a free ticket soon persuaded him).

The line slowly trickled into the cluster on plum and white canvas tents. Sep and Leek were some of the last to get in, and their growling stomachs, and salivating mouths told them exactly which act they had to go to first: the cotton candy stand.

Apparently a lot of of the other circus goers agreed with them, and Sep and Leek waited in yet another long line. Sep looked at Leek, “I’m beginning to think the circus is just a trick to get people to wait in lines,” he complained, “I’m pretty sure I could get better cotton candy at the grocery store across the street!” “Sep,” Leek said with every ounce of seriousness he could muster with the flashing light and music dancing around them, “If you think there is any cotton candy the rivals the one at the circus, you are severely mistaken,” Sep looked at him skeptically. Leek took this as a right to convert Sep to the cult of circus cotton candy lovers, “It sweet, fluffy as a cloud, and it tastes pink! Even the blue kind!..” (Leek then proceeded to account in detail the wonders of pink-tasting cotton candy). When he finally finished, they were up next. Sep thought he might have agreed with Leek if not for the two girls in front of them who were taking forever.  

They were wearing matching crimson blazers, and dark jeans. The blond one with the nose ring was interrogating the cotton candy spinner, and holding up the line. “Is it possible to have half and half, blue and pink?”, she kept asking. The bored reply from the spinner was the same, “No ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am”. The girl's dark haired friend tugged at her sleeve. “Give it a rest Caroline,” she stepped in front of her friend, “15 blue ones,” she said decisively, ignoring Caroline’s indignant look and scolding: “Sail!” . The cotton candy spinner shook his head, ever so slightly, and got to work meticulously spinning the candy.

By the time Sep and Leek had gotten their two pink clouds of fluff, the only tent that wasn’t full to it’s capacity was the biggest tent, the one advertising: “Magic twins”. Leek was pretty angry about this, (he had wanted to see the lion tamer) but Sep reminded him that he’d better count his lucky stars: at least he hadn’t gotten blue cotton candy like the red-blazered girls.

Sep and Leek made there way inside. Despite the dingy, faded gold tent flaps of the outside, the inside was beautiful, and, surprisingly empty considering the long line heading towards the circus. Blue crystal decoration hung suspended from the ceiling on the left side of the tent. It seemed to spin and dance along with the soft music. On the right, torches attached to chandeliers were slowly rotating. Something about the soft music and spinning decor fascinated Sep, and he led Leek to the front row, which was conspicuously empty. “Sep,” Leek began, “Don’t sit there, they always pick the people-”. He was cut off by the booming voice of an excited man. “Welcome to the Ciiiirrricccuuuusssss!” He bellowed, bouncing out on stage. He was dressed in a green and blue pinstripe suit that fit his rotund body like a glove.  “Our fabulous, fantabulous, fantastic, main act will be out soon, and be prepared, these twins aren’t to be reckoned with. Fire, ice, you name it, they can create it,” his voice and performance seemed to be meant for a larger crowd, not the one of fifty sitting before him. “But first,” he continued, “We need someone to help them out,”. He walked towards Sep’s row, and with an “I told you so” from Leek, Sep was on stage. “Now the twins…” he called, gesturing as two teenage kids walked on stage. The boy’s eyes and demeanor didn’t match the grandeur of the tent and the circus master. But something seemed strange about the girl. Then Sep remembered the blond hair, silver nose ring; she was the girl from the cotton candy stand. “Hey aren’t you?” “Yes,” She answered. And then she grinned, devilish eyes sending a shiver through his body. And then the lights went out.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#1 (Apt. 606)

The day started as it had for the last 2 weeks, the sharp sound of the his iphone's alarm and a very sleepy Sep. He had settled into his routine well, a shower, bowl of cheerios (no milk), his crisp state farm office clothes. He sat in his new apartment #606, and crunched on his dry cereal. He checked his facebook, refreshing the screen, hoping for messages from his college friends. It was a transition, from a Wake Forest college student with a cohort of friends, his parents paying for his school and his clothes, to this. He had wanted independence, but he’d forgotten that moving away from his parent’s money meant moving away from Jamie, Cal, Jack, and Brent. It meant moving away from saturday pickup games, the swoosh of the ball in the net. It meant moving away from Jamie’s sister, Kim, who may have started to like him. Yes, he’d forgotten what it meant, when he applied for the job at the State Farm office, forgotten what it meant when he placed an offer to rent #606 Winthrop Place, forgotten what it meant when he moved in, put in a double bed, hung up his pictures, put his Wake Forest spirit wear into the mahogany dresser. He’d forgotten what it meant, until saturday morning, when he didn’t put on his worn kd shoes, didn’t adorn his tacky Steph Curry shirt to crack Cal up, didn’t sink the three pointer.

It was a 5 minute walk from Winthrop place to the State Farm office. It gave Sep time to think. It made living in a small, dingy apartment seem so much welcoming compared to the muggy air, pounding rain, and rundown buildings. It made him feel lucky, not to be the homeless guy camped out on the corner of Juniper and Blackburn by the sidewalk, and not to live in the abandoned apartment building by his office.

The air conditioning greeted him as he stepped into the State Farm building, and so did Catelyn. “Sep,” she said, mascara marked eyes boring into him, “Catelyn,” he returned, hurrying out of the room and to his nice safe, solitary cubical. He wouldn’t have to face her again until 5, that was a big “phew” on his part. It was funny that all he longed for when he was in the apartment were friends, but she reversed that feeling, she made him want to run away from her too-short skirts, made-up face. He wanted friends, but not like that.

The day passed, the sun slowly rising and sinking from it’s perch above the lake. Sep emerged from the haze of insurance reports into the evening air around 5:30. The rain sloshed under his shoes. Nevertheless, he took the long way home, passing by the basketball courts that sat on squarely, cemently, and emptily just off of Grayston and Brookline. Someone had left a basketball, and it was rolling lazily in the cold wind. A little orange sun, set on the gray cement sky. Before Sep really knew it, he was flipping his backpack off, his 900$ laptop (his parent’s last attempt at paying for something expensive) inside. Scooping up the ball, he whipped down the court, twisted by the basket (insert: faking Brent out), gave himself a pass (insert: Jack with the bounce pass), and then Bam! Slam dunk! (insert: Cal whooping). He skidded across the court, passing to, sidestepping, faking out his fake teammates and opponents, until he felt something warm on the ball, something, wet, slimy, thick and red. He looked down, there was blood on the ball, blood on the ground, and blood on his fingers. Sep flinched, the corners of his vision growing fuzzy, blood. Too much blood. Too much blood to be his own blood. He looked down to find more, and a note: “I haven’t got rid of me yet, I will return”. Sep’s hands shook.  He ran over to his backpack, red stained fingers smearing the bag until he reached his cellphone.

The police came quickly, and they let him go quickly too. It took them approximatly 25 minutes to proclaim Sep not a suspect. They stood, watching the park cameras, watching himself, walk onto the court oblivious to the existing blood and juke out his imaginary teams. They watch him notice the blood and note and run over to his bag. “Ok son,” The police said, “We can see you didn’t do it. If you’d just leave we need to watch the watch rest of the footage”. As if Sep wanted to be there a moment longer.

He rushed home, and flopped on the floor. He couldn’t even wait for a shower, he needed to talk. He went to the green and white app on his phone and called his mom. "Today started as it usually did but ended..."