Thursday, November 8, 2012

            Choosing a victim is always the hardest part. People beg and plead with you, as if they didn’t know this was coming all along. People always complain about how they didn’t have enough time, as though I’ve never heard that excuse before. The woman before me was beautiful. She volunteered at an animal shelter, and she was going to get married next week. She didn’t know that day might never come.
            I had been closely following her for days now, creeping in the shadows. The stories always went the same when people spoke of me, so unoriginal. 
            “Mary Carter?” I called out from my hiding spot, though I was already well acquainted with who she was. She stopped walking and turned to face me. I watched as the smile on her face dissipated, fear instantly taking over her.
            “Please no. Please! I’m getting married next week! There wasn’t enough time!” I shook my head. Predictability was your worst enemy.
            “There will never be enough time.” I had already made my decision, pleading and whining just became annoying.
            “But what about Darren?” It was never really about the Darrens. It was about the Marys. The people who felt there was so much more to life than what they had experienced. The same selfish people who thought their lives were more important than someone else’s.
            “What about Darren, Mary?” I knew all about her. All about her past, and what she had done to get Darren.
            “I—I love him. We’re getting married. Please, take me after the wedding.” After the wedding—it was an interesting concept, but it might already be too late. After the wedding there would be another life to account for, and I wasn’t going to make the man lose two people he had the potential to love.
            “Somebody else loved Darren once too, Mary.” With a wave of my hand a mirror appeared in front of her. “Look familiar?”Mary looked as though her breath had been stolen, and I hadn’t even placed a hand on her yet. This was going to be fun.
            “Abby wasn’t right for Darren. She wasn’t mature enough. She was different.” Her reasoning made me sick. Any shred of sympathy I had for her had been lost in that moment.
            “Different because of her sickness. You stole her one chance at love!” Darren was a genuine man. I had looked into him before I found the real source of Abby’s suffering in Mary. People could talk all they wanted about how terrible and corrupt I was, but humans were the truly corrupt ones. Never had I seen a species so able to let others suffer for their personal gain. Never had a species needed to be punished more than the human race.
            “No—that’s not true!” She was hysterical, overcome by her emotions.
            “The sad part is that she lost her love, and her life. She had no more will to live. I had to come and take her.” Abby had gone quietly, peacefully. At seventeen years old she had accepted her fate. Mary was crying now, but I was indifferent. She deserved to suffer, just as Abby had.
            “But, I didn’t do anything. Darren chose me.” Darren, the poor fool, had chosen wrong. Abby had loved him the moment she met him, and Mary had seen that. Always competitive, she decided she wouldn’t stop until she had something Abby couldn’t.
            “You couldn’t handle being sidelined due to your sister’s disease. You wanted something you knew she couldn’t have. Doesn’t it hurt you to know she should have been at your wedding?” Abby was the first case that had ever gotten to me. Part of this job was remaining unfeeling, which was harder than it seemed.
            “Abby’s cancer had nothing to do with it! My parents always put her first because she was sick. I was the healthy twin! It wasn’t fair! They had a daughter who was going to live, and they focused on the one who wouldn’t.” The anger inside of me was no longer suppressible, and the wind began to kick up. In the stories people told of me, nobody ever mentioned my power to change the weather. Rain began to pour down around us.
            “You’ve had ten years to live without the burden of your sister. Ten years with no weight on your shoulders. All of the animal shelters and vegetarians in the world can’t replace your guilt. You know you helped drive the knife into Abby.” Lightning and Thunder crashed around us, trees cracking under the intense guidance of the lightning. The darkness encompassed us, until you could barely make out the buildings.
            “What will killing me do? Abby can’t come back here! She wouldn’t want this.” Oh, how wrong Mary was. Death changed people; it allowed them to see what their eyes had been previously blinded to.
            “Abby was the one who sent me here. We’ve had ten years together. Ten years to plot the ruin of your life.” People thought the choice was random, and sometimes it was. Other times, we took people at the request of others. It was completely my discretion, and Abby’s case—it had stuck with me.
            “I don’t believe you.” I could see her looking for a place to run, but there was nowhere to go. I could find her wherever she went, and we were no longer on Earth. Her spirit and I were descending steadily to a place I called home.
            “Ask for yourself.” I said, as our feet hit the ground and Abby approached me. She looked just like Mary did, but in a much more innocent and pure way. Abby was somebody who would have made a difference in the world, without ever stepping on people to get there. Mary had proven to be different from her sister.
            “Mary.” Abby’s eyes were cold, a technique I had taught her when she had first come to me ten years ago. I stood behind her, for moral support if she required it.
            “Abby, why?” Mary was crying again, and I began to restore Earth’s weather to normal. No more people had to die at my hands tonight.
            “Because you betrayed me Mary. I saw you go after Darren. I watched from my hospital bed as you left me to go be with him. You knew I liked him.” I had to turn away from Abby and Mary, because the sadness in her voice pained me. Reapers weren’t supposed to have feelings.
            “Abby, why wouldn’t you want me to be happy?” Abby’s harsh laughter made me smile. She was going to make an excellent reaper someday.
            “I could ask you the same question. But I’d bet you’d have a selfish answer. I want you to be happy Mary. That’s why you’re going back.”
            “Abby—what are you doing?” I asked, unsure of what had just happened. We had had an agreement.
            “You will suffer enough in time Mary. The child you are bearing is not Darren’s, and he will finally see you for what you really are.” Suffering is relative. For some, death is the worst pain they will experience. For others, their pain is involved in losing someone they love.
            Mary Carter, age 28. She had a child, was going through a horrible divorce process, and this was the life she had condemned herself to.
            People always plead that they haven’t had enough time. Mary Carter is proof that time can be your most fatal enemy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Surprise/ Kitchen Table assignment

Too Little, Too Late
Walking through the red oak door felt strange to me. I had come in and out of that door a million times before, but somehow this time was different. Something about the house seemed strange, too quiet. Pictures hung along the wall revealing old teenage crushes, and I held my husband’s hand tighter. This was going to be my breaking point, and I could feel it. Walking through my mother’s house felt like you had just stepped into a crayola box. She had never been a fan of white walls; instead she chose pastel oranges and blues for a more homey feeling. As a teenager I had never quite understood the difference between white walls and colorful ones, but today the difference was clear. For people who had loved this house so much, it seemed so much different now. Distant voices could be heard from the kitchen, and as we stepped closer, I realized my brother was speaking.
“Molly, help me get the islands. More people should be arriving shortly,” Finn said. My brother Finn had always been the more level-headed out of all of us. He stood at about six-feet, something he had received from my father, and he just looked like a stereotypical guido. He had chosen to embrace our father’s side, and we had all respected that. I left my husband and quickly walked to the basement, where the islands had been long forgotten.
Finn waited until we were in the basement and wrapped his arms around me in a tight hug. “I’m glad you came.” It was the first time we had spoken in what seemed like years, and I had to admit that I was relieved.
“I’m glad I did too.” I said, patting his back before we released each other from the hug. My mother had always done whatever she could for her kids, and this was the least we could do for her. I slid one island in place in the table, and then I turned to my siblings once more. “Had anyone heard from mom at all? Did anyone even know she was sick?” My voice was shaking, and I started to look around to avoid everyone’s eyes.
Almost immediately, I was overcome by what I saw. My three brothers and their wives respectively sitting around the table, looking at all of the pictures my mother had kept. It made sense that they were in the kitchen, rather than the living room. That kitchen table had been our livelihood, our solace. Many nights it had held half of the neighborhood, sitting and playing board games and eating whatever food my mom had decided to make that night. My mother didn’t have a lot of rules while we were growing up, but when she asked you not to do something, you didn’t. Nobody messed with her; she was a small, stubborn Irish woman, and she had a strong stance against drinking. My mother married a hard working Italian man, who quickly succumbed to alcohol. Watching my father slowly drink himself stupid broke my mother’s heart, and her spirits. She had become a shell of whom she was once, except when it came to her children. She made dinner every night and had it at the table ready to go by 5:30, and God help you if you were a minute late and you didn’t call.
 “Molly, you’re here!” my older brother Cian said, returning from the bathroom. We had not seen each other in three years, and it was good to be able to look at who he was now, instead of outdated pictures. Cian had piercing blue eyes, and thick brown hair that he used to wear long. He had traded in tie-dyed t-shirts and ripped jeans for a more business-like approach, and it suited him well.
“Of course I’m here. She was my mother too.” I said, upset that he would even think I would miss this. The past tense of the word got caught in my throat, and I saw everyone visibly flinch. My mother was not a saint, and everyone knows that the end is going to come eventually, but you didn’t ever try to sit down and contemplate it. “Was anyone with mom when she…passed?” I asked, hoping someone would say yes. The silence in the room was uneasy, and I broke into tears. My mother had had four children, and none of them had gone to see her before she died. The thought of her dying alone after all she had done for us, made me feel empty inside. She had put herself between her children and her husband during any number of his drunken tirades, and she always made sure we had what we wanted. Nobody had ever asked what she wanted.
 “That was what we wanted to ask you about Molly…did you know that she was in the hospital? She called Margaret andme last week!” My brother Robert spoke next. Robert was reserved; he had kept to himself through most of our childhood.
“No…Someone from the hospital called me and said they had a woman by the name of Eileen O’Connor admitted a day prior, and that she had not made it through the night. I wasn’t really focused on much else.” I said. Once again, my eyes began to leak hot teardrops.
 “So, mom had a will as we all know.” Cian spoke up, and we all nodded our heads, though none of us could really bring ourselves to speak. It was hard to think about, how she had just been calling us yesterday and now she was gone. It was funny, how one day someone could almost seem like an inconvenience, and the next you were crying when they were gone.
Sitting at the kitchen table we listened as my mother’s material wealth was redistributed among her four children. None of us said a word, simply listened to Cian reading the will and held onto favorite pictures as memories flooded back to us like movies, playing in our minds. We heard keys hit the counter and we all turned around suddenly, to find our mother standing there, a horrified look on her face.
“I don’t have enough potatoes to feed all of you.” Her voice made us all laugh, as one by one we got up from the kitchen table and hugged her hello. None of us really knew what was going on, and curiosity seeped through her crayon-colored walls like the heat from a hot summer day.
“Mom, why are you—” Cian stopped and cleared his throat. “Alive?”
“What do you mean why am I alive? I just called you two days ago. You thought I died because I didn’t call you for one day?” My mother’s eyes sparkled with realization. “The hospital called you about Eileen O’Connor. You thought they meant me.” She placed her groceries on the counter and sat down next to us at the table. She explained that there was another Eileen who lived across town a bit. Her hands drifted to the photos, and each of us in turn did the same.
There were pictures of us from the time we were infants, all the way up to now. My mother had kept every photo she had ever taken of us. “Finn, look at you in this one.” I laughed as I held up a picture of my brother dressed up as Barney the dinosaur.
“Molly, what about this one?” A picture of me in red lipstick and a pair of my mother’s heels, and I was all of about four years old. The central theme of all the pictures seemed to be the kitchen, most of them taken either at, or in front of the very table we were sitting at. My mother stood up and began to walk around the kitchen, silently preparing dinner as she always had. None of us got up, none of us even so much as blinked. We were there together, at what had been our favorite place at one time.    
At 5:30 sharp, we sat down to eat dinner, and it felt as though we had never left.


The bed was wet underneath me like so many nights before. I didn’t need to think before I realized the urgent scream was my own. Her eyes were half-open, but I could tell they were focused on my face. This had occurred every night since I had been home. I stood up, sick of the images that were consistently playing in my mind.
“The doctor said it’s normal.” Her voice was full of drowsiness. She was my number one fan for a recovery, even though nobody knew if there would be one.
“That doesn’t mean it really is.” Nothing could convince me I would ever be normal again.
“Jack, what do you want me to say? No one has gone through this before, and we’re all just trying to help.”
“You don’t have to say anything. And you can’t help me if you don’t know what I go through. That’s like diagnosing a disease before ever asking the symptoms.”
The sigh that escaped her lips was frustrated. We never used to fight.
“So tell me. Help me see it. Please, I want to help you.” So much in her voice was exactly what I had heard during combat. How was I supposed to tell her that I would never condemn anyone to the things I had seen? People talked about those of us who went away coming back with no emotion, but there wasn’t room for it.
“What do you want me to say? I wouldn’t wish anything I saw on my worst enemy.” Her hand brushed the scar hidden under my shirt. Since I had been home, her hand found that same spot a million times. Similar to a child, returning to the same questions again and again, waiting for the right answer. Every scar has a story, and mine was one for the books.
“You were different, before,” she said. Easier to love. The words were written all over her face, but she refused to say them.
“What am I supposed to do? You want to hear the stories? I’m damaged. Do you want to be too?” Betty had always been there for me, and it was hard to talk to her like this. I remembered being with her before deployment. We would talk all night, and I watched her eyes twinkle and her dimples show whenever she laughed. It seemed so long ago, when it had really been only a few months. Her eyes didn’t sparkle, and her smiles were forced now.
“Tell me, Jack. What did you see over there? How did you get that scar?” Curiosity peaked in her voice, something Betty had always been good at. When she was interested, you had her full attention.
“I saw evil, Betty. Things we could have never imagined happening. It was horrible.” I closed my eyes and a million sights rushed back to me. Rows of lifeless bodies lay out in front of us. Hundreds of faces, but never any names. I pulled the shirt from my body, revealing the scar on my stomach. The gasp that escaped her lips was familiar to me. All of the nurses had done similarly as they were trying to fix me up. Deep and infected, it had taken months to heal. It was now a painful reminder of what had happened over there, and I was one of the lucky ones.
“This—people did more of this?” She said, hushed. You did more of this. Her blue eyes were full of judgment, as though I had had a choice.
“That’s not the evil Betty. Scars are just a part of the battles. I can’t describe to you what I saw, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Evil has many definitions.” 
We couldn’t save them all. We tried. We gave them food, but…their stomachs couldn’t handle it. They were dying from overeating.
“Why can’t you just help me understand? I just want to help you! Don’t you want to get married? Don’t you want to have a family?” The more questions she asked, the more uneasy she became. She was finally realizing. Thirty years old, we were supposed to have a family. We were supposed to grow old together, and go dancing.
“You think I want to be like this? You think I don’t want to have a normal life? A regular job? I’m not trained to do anything but fight in wars. I lost the best years of my life, and what do I really get in return? Shipped back into society as useless as I was before!” I closed my eyes again, envisioning those I had tried to save. “Entire families had been wiped out.” My eyes shut, and I saw faces of people who I would never meet again, but would see over and over again.
“Families?” Like ours. Theirs no longer existed, and ours never would. “Who would do something like that?”
“Who was doing it didn’t matter Betty. What mattered is that is what people are capable of. That’s the world we’d be bringing kids into. I can’t handle that. I can’t allow you to stay with me in hopes of a normal life. I can’t be normal, and I will never tell a soul what I saw.” Behind my eyes was nothing. I was dead inside. “People always thank me for my service. They don’t realize how much of me is still over there.”
Betty’s eyes were focused on my face. “Jack…what are you saying?” Betty had aged since I had left. Not in the obvious ways. She had worry lines, and this sad look about her. So different from the girl I had known before I had left. I was the cause of her pain.
“I’m saying that I’m damaged. I already told you.” I couldn’t expect her to understand.
“I’m damaged too. I waited for you. I got newspapers every day. I heard the people were dying. I kept thinking maybe it was you. But you’re here. We just have to get you back into the swing of things.” I was alive, but I might as well have come home in a box.
“I can’t be that guy anymore Betty.” I sat down on the bed next to her for the first time since I woke up. I touched her face, and she winced. She kissed me, something we both could have enjoyed before.
“I know. I knew from the minute you walked through that door you had changed. I can’t give up Jack. There’s too much of me invested in this already. We just have to learn to fix each other.” My heart softened as tears formed in her eyes. I was behind those tears. I was making her cry.
“You deserve to be happy. You deserve a family, a nice house, someone who doesn’t wake up screaming every night.”
“And what do you deserve?” I had broken her spirits. She didn’t have any fight left.
“I deserve to know I didn’t hold you back from that happiness. I’m not going to be the cause of you missing out on your life. I love you, Betty. Always have, always will. But I can’t be who you need.” I kissed her forehead, something I had done so many times before. So many see you laters, but this was a final goodbye.
“I waited for you Jack. I didn’t move on. I sat here and hoped and prayed you would come back! Do you know what it’s like to open the paper every morning and pray your lover’s name isn’t in there? Why can’t you just let us be happy? Why can’t you just stay?” The hope in her eyes crushed me, I wanted to climb back into bed and never leave. She turned away from me, her back rigid with the rage building within her. “You selfish pig. Fine, leave.” Her eyes appeared almost as dead as mine. I turned to walk away, and I heard her get off the bed but before I could turn her fist was on my back.
“Jack, you are the biggest jerk I have ever met in my life. How could you do this to us? Why can’t you just get over yourself? You’re not even a soldier anymore!” Her screams were loud, but I could barely here them. I was physically standing in front of her, but I was too far gone. I couldn’t feel guilt like she wanted me to; I was doing the right thing. I turned to her again, as I was leaving.
“You’ll know where to find me. This new guy—He’ll be better for you than I ever was, I promise.” I gathered my things and left without another word. Soldiers like me, we were lucky to have escaped with our lives, but we were prisoners of our minds. Betty never would call me again, but as a former soldier I understood what I had had to do: taking prisoners was only fair during the war, once the war was over you had to let them go. I may have been a casualty of war, but Betty didn’t have to be.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hell Hath No Fury

Hell Hath No Fury
I have some questions for you that I may not have been able to ask before.
If I close my eyes and think back I can still feel your breath or your tongue against my neck.
I can still feel your hands creeping up my sides, your dick between my thighs.
I remember the smell of liquor on your breath; clearly hear the conversation playing back and forth.
Is that how you get all the girls?
Do you get them a little tipsy;
tell them you’ll get them a sweater                                    if they’ll walk up to your house with you?
How would your mom feel if she knew?
When I see you on the street
my heart jumps for a quick beat
as I pray to God you didn’t see me too.
And if you come up to me to try to embrace me,                                                        I hold my breath.
I can still feel your breath or your tongue against my neck.
When I was a little girl my parents told me monsters weren’t real, and I understand now.
Monsters look a lot like you.
                                                            You proved what happens when people get too close.
fuck you for trying to steal a piece of me that I am reserving for someone better.
I will never be okay—but you won’t be either.
when you see me I recognize that you know what you did.
I’m fine. You didn’t break me
I don’t give you the credit for being the reason I will never trust another man.
I’m a stronger person.
Calling you a man is just a little too extreme.
Men know the difference between right, wrong.
   Sure as hell knows the difference between yes and no.
You’re nothing but a little boy who was trying to play with fire
 your hand caught in the flames.
I’m woman.
 I’ve learned to accept that sometimes the people you think you can trust the most are the ones who are going to watch you fall the fastest.
Stand on the sidelines with tight little smiles as you go up in flames,
when you emerge they have nothing to say.

Too High a Price

Too High a Price
The day that car hit the telephone pole,
The cross wrapped around the telephone pole,
One lost little girl, one lost soul.

The car hit the pole with a terrible crash,
The power went out with a crash,
His face hit the wheel, hers the dash.

He drank too much and tried to drive,
She went along for the drive,
If she didn’t she may be alive.

Her mom screaming on mother’s day,
She lost her daughter on that day,
There’s nothing anyone can say.

An entire town left in shock,
The entire town left in shock,
Life is like a ticking clock.

Maddie and Brittany died within a year,
We lost two classmates in that year,
A town and family’s biggest fear.

The funeral brought around sadness,
People overcome by sadness,
And a mother consumed by madness.

A mother’s anger left unheard,
A daughter’s voice left unheard,
She left this world without a word.

Dismemberment of a Life

Wedding vows are garbage now
bride and groom in love too soon
 twist in fate, a broken promise
 Little baby in a harness.
Daddy’s leaving, mommy’s drinking
Look at how the ship is sinking.
Happy homes, and broken roads
look at how the story goes.