3/22/2012

Love in 160 Bites

(Note: I originally posted this over a year and a half ago, so I'm hoping that it will be new to most of you.)

Down at dVerse Poets Pub today, Gay Cannon invites us to play around with limericks. She even provides an excellent lesson on how to write one.

What follows is my first and only attempt at a limerick. You may find the punctuation or the rhythm a little wanting, but there's a reason (in addition to my lack of experience). I wrote it for Monkey Man's weekly 160 challenge, where the idea was to write something using only 160 characters, including spaces. I posted each of the stanzas, each 160 characters, over five weeks.

After (almost?) pulling off a limerick and meeting the 160 requirement to boot, I was pretty darned proud of myself, I'll tell you. I welcome this opportunity to share it with my friends down at the pub. Thanks, Gay.

Image source: Flickr
Photo by  thierry llansades


Love in 160 Bites

There was this old dude from Duluth
A bit grozzled and long in the tooth
He looked in the mirror
And shuddered in horror
And thought: when did I lose all my youth?

The old guy decided to travel
Before all of his parts came unraveled
So off to the Keys he went
And he got a small cottage to rent
Then to the nude beach he ambled.

There came an old gal from Chicago
Who met the old boy in Key Largo.
On the beach they were nude
But neither were prudes
And their eyes had gone south a while ago.
 
Their attraction was quick and immense
In her eyes he was handsome and intense
So when he offered his arm
Plus all of his charm
She was smitten and had no defense.

They had a big summer wedding in Duluth
They’d fallen in love, that’s the truth
With no clothes and no shame
They took the same name
He got back his youth forsooth!

3/21/2012

Speaking in Tongues

 
Image source: WikiMedia Commons
Photo by Joshua Veitch-MichaelisLeamington Spa, England

Over the crest of a hill of great effort lies a word garden of dreams. The garden has many beds filled with buds of potential and bright yellow promise. Its gardener tends it (except when he doesn’t), fertilizing the shoots of new growth with bullshit and the occasional smile, then watering them down with venom and sometimes cheap wine. 

Hopeful passersby who stumble upon the garden pause to listen to the language of flowers and the sales pitch of their gardener. Both wax poetic but with words that are full of holes. “Here,” the gardener says. He hands them a lush bouquet of purple platitudes and false promises from one of the beds hidden in the back of the garden, along with his secret formula for success packaged in a mouthful of emptiness. “Take this formula and fertilize your own potential and promise, and they are sure to grow.”

The bouquet speaks the language of friendship but the words are in code.  They actually mean: “I really don’t give a damn; don’t you fuckers know that?”  Sadly, the passersby don't know that. They come from a place where the bouquets speak sweet truth and friendship means caring. The realization that they’ve been duped crashes down hard. But everyone wants to believe in dreams, don’t they, and the word garden looks like fertile ground for growing seedling dreams into blooms of success. So some (the hopelessly na├»ve ones, perhaps) will return to the garden again and again, hoping that the gardener and his bouquets might really mean it next time. Fortunately, most of them will eventually figure out that the garden produces nothing but disappointing pipe dreams and heartache.

Meanwhile, back in the garden, the buds of potential never open and the promise reneges. It isn’t long before broken dreams wither and die, quickly choked back by crabby grass, cockspur, and deadly nightshade.  And the gardener grows bitter like the weeds in his garden, wondering why no one comes by anymore. Alas, he never understood the language of his own flowers when they told him with their dying breath (in code, of course) that the only thing that grows in gardens fed with toxic waste is loneliness.

***

Linked in at the Tenth Daughter of Memory

3/13/2012

A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow: Epilogue (Part 3)

What follows is is the conclusion of the promised Epilogue to my River of Mnemosyne story, which, I'm thrilled to say, won the challenge!

If you haven't already, please read the first chapters of the story before you move on.

Chapter 1:  Prologue: The Briefing
Chapter 2:  Pride and Extreme Prejudice
Chapter 3:  The Monk
Chapter 4:  Sagittarius
Chapter 5:  A Misplaced Identity
Chapter 6:  Shit Happens
Chapter 7:  Family Ties
Chapter 8:  Tartuffe
Chapter 9:  Non, Je Regrette Rien
Epilogue (Part 1)
Epilogue (Part 2)


Epilogue  (Part 3)


Image by porbital
 
“Holy shit!” Mercedes turns to Chase as he sets down the two suitcases and lifts the strap of a smaller bag from his shoulder. “Did you see this?”

She waves him over to the sitting room window. She has pulled back the sheer drapes.

“Look!”

She’s looking down on the Grand Concourse below where people are hurrying about their business, oblivious to the couple watching them from far above.

“What is this place?”

“It’s called The Campbell Apartment,” Chase replies. “Though he never actually lived here, an early 20th century financier named John Campbell built an office here in Grand Central. This suite was added after his death.”

He gives her bare bottom a gentle slap, and says “Come on. Let’s get dressed. I’ll show you his office. We can get a drink and I’ll tell you about the rest of your surprise.”

***

After a shower, accompanied by more fun and games, Chase leads Mercedes to a door in the sitting room she had taken for a coat closet. He opens it and Mercedes is surprised to see a staircase in front of her. Soft music drifts up to greet them. Chase offers his arm, and the couple descends to a small space below, a balcony set up with several small bistro tables and chairs. Below is a handsome wood-paneled lounge with a bar and several comfortable looking couches.

“This is where Campbell had his office,” he tells the astonished woman at his side.

“Pretty nice digs,” Mercedes comments as she takes in the space, her eyes wide.

“Let’s go down and get that drink,” Chase says. “There’s no dart board, for which I’m grateful since I’m a lousy player. But you can get your beer if you like. I recommend you forego the brew for a martini, though. They make an excellent one.”

After their drinks are delivered to table in front of the small couch where they sit side-by-side, Chase tells Mercedes about the schedule for the following day.

***

They make a stop at Saks on Fifth to buy some suitable clothing for the day’s events – neither Mercedes nor Chase had taken much to Marrakech – then the limo heads downtown. 

“After you drop us off, please take our garment bags back to Grand Central,” Chase tells the driver. “You can leave them with the bartender in The Campbell Apartment. ”

Chase and Mercedes are dressed in the conservative summer-weight business suits they bought at Saks. The bags contain the clothing they wore to the store, as well as evening wear for the gala that night. 

When Chase told her about the ceremony they were attending as they had dinner the previous night, Mercedes was overjoyed.

“Oh, Ed! That’s a great surprise! How did you pull it off?” 

“I wish I could take credit,” he responds, “but I had nothing to do with it. I didn't know anything about it until I got the invitations for you and me to attend.”

He leans over and kisses her. “But I knew you would be thrilled, and since I had every intention of jumping your bones…”

“You were going to bribe me?” Mercedes pulls away and looks at him with almost credible indignation, but the smile hovering at the corner of her mouth gives her away.

“I would never have done that. I didn’t tell you until after I had my way with you, did I?”

“No. No, you didn’t.” The smile bursts into full bloom. “But I think you are mistaken. Who had whose way with whom?”

 Chase thinks to himself that he hasn’t ever seen Mercedes smile so much. He decides to take that as a good sign.

After the limo drops them at the entrance to the beige stone building, they pause on the sidewalk and look at the words carved into the mantle above the double wooden doors. 

Tears spring to Mercedes eyes. Though he worked in this building only a short time before the precinct moved to new digs, nearly all her father’s career with the NYPD was spent in the 1st Precinct. How appropriate, she thinks, that the ceremony they are about to attend is being held in the New York Police Museum, now housed in the original 1st Precinct headquarters.

Chase takes her hand and leads her inside.  They board the elevator and ride to the third floor.  

When the doors open, the hallway to the left is filled with members of the NYPD, all in full dress blues. The sea of blue parts as Chase and Mercedes walk to the doors to the Hall of Heroes. The exhibit is closed, its renovation due to begin in the near future. But today, the exhibit room portal is open wide in welcome to its community of cops, gathered to honor one of their own.

The 1st Precinct captain, a man Mercedes has known for years, steps forward and kisses her cheek. 

“Mercedes. I’m so pleased you could be here. This is a day too long in coming.”

“You know I wouldn’t have missed it.” Mercedes smiles through tears at the grey-haired man and accepts the arm he holds out to her.

“Come, both of you. We have seats for you up front.”

He and Mercedes walk to the front of the room, where a photograph of Grigori Karpov, aka Phil Brin, rests on an easel. Chase follows, and takes the chair beside Mercedes.

As they wait for the ceremony to begin, Chase looks around the room. The walls are filled with brass plates bearing the names – too many names -- of the NYPD fallen.

The room falls silent as Captain McInerny takes the podium.

“There is no space in this building, indeed in all of New York City, more sacred to the New York Police Department. As the plaque on the door says, this exhibit is ‘a memorial that commemorates those officers who have given the last full measure of devotion beyond the call of duty while fulfilling their sworn obligation to protect and serve their city’.”

The captain pauses for a moment to look over at Mercedes.

“Today, we are here to honor a man who did just that. It is an honor that is long overdue. Until now, the man we knew as Sergeant Phil Brin went unrecognized as the hero he was. The reason that could happen is because very few knew the risks he took to help clean our house. 
“Thanks to Phil Brin, we learned just how dirty the NYPD house had gotten. As most of you know by now, the force was infiltrated by an element of the Russian mafia known as Zodiac. Given the events in New York over the past decade, I think it’s safe to say that Zodiac contributed to the death of many of the people whose names are on these walls.
“Sgt. Brin, whose real name was Grigori Karpov, was a member of Zodiac, not as a criminal infiltrator of the NYPD but as an undercover agent of the Russian government. Because of his Russian heritage and the fact that he was already a member of the NYPD, he was recruited by Russian intelligence to help identify and stop Zodiac.
“The information he’d gathered was turned over to us. It was through his efforts that we were able to arrest and prosecute the criminal element that had insinuated its way into the NYPD.  Those efforts cost Phil Brin his life.”

McInerny walks to one of the walls filled with name plates, and uncovers the latest addition. The small brass plate says: 

Grigori Alexei Karpov
(aka Sergeant Phil Brin)
2002

As those gathered in the room applaud, McInerny goes over to stand before Mercedes. He hands her a small velvet box. Inside, she finds a green bar covered with a field of tiny gold stars. 

“Mercedes Karpov, I’m pleased to give you your father’s Medal of Honor. This is the highest award the New York Police Department has.  I only wish I were able to present it to him.  As you’ll see on this Certificate of  Commendation,” McInerny opens a leather folder and hands it to her, “this medal is ‘awarded  for acts of gallantry and valor performed with knowledge of the risk involved, above and beyond the call of duty’.”

Chase watches Mercedes accept the medal and citation, tears streaming down her smiling cheeks. He can’t help but remember the first time he saw her, standing dry-eyed at the edge of her father’s grave. He knows that this is the final element of what she committed herself to achieving on her father’s behalf that day.

Mercedes shakes Captain McInerny’s hand and thanks him. Then she turns to Chase and wraps her arms around him in a hug.

“And thank you, Ed,” she whispers in his ear. “This was a wonderful surprise.”

As Chase returns the hug, he thinks about the ring in his pocket.  He'd slipped down to the first floor jewelry department in Saks while Mercedes tried on evening gowns.

“Oh, I’m not done yet,” he whispers in reply.


The End (the real one)




A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow: Epilogue (Part 2)

What follows is Part 2 of the promised Epilogue to my River of Mnemosyne story, which, I'm thrilled to say, won the challenge!

If you haven't already, please read the first chapters of the story before you move on.

Chapter 1:  Prologue: The Briefing
Chapter 2:  Pride and Extreme Prejudice
Chapter 3:  The Monk
Chapter 4:  Sagittarius
Chapter 5:  A Misplaced Identity
Chapter 6:  Shit Happens
Chapter 7:  Family Ties
Chapter 8:  Tartuffe
Chapter 9:  Non, Je Regrette Rien
Epilogue (Part 1)

Epilogue  (Part 2)

 Image by porbital

Chase and Mercedes descend the airstair just aft of the cockpit to the tarmac below where the limo waits in the late morning sun, its rear door standing open in welcome. They climb into the back, and after the driver stows their few pieces of luggage, the car leaves the small Teterboro Airport and heads to the city.

As Mercedes had said earlier, it was a good thing it was a long flight. In the hours since she awakened, she has had enough time to come to terms with everything she’s recently learned about her family. Chase thinks it’s possible that she may even understand why he didn’t tell her. 

Interesting to Chase, the thing she cares most about is that her father was not the terrorist the Nemesis Group thought him to be. The rest of it she easily dismissed with her usual sarcastic aplomb. 

Great-granddaughter of Grigori Rasputin? “No big whoop.”

Distant cousin of a notorious contract killer? “Isn’t everyone?”

She’d just killed that cousin? “Yeah, well, he fucking had it coming.” 

The fact that said cousin had killed her father and was bent on doing the same to her was a whole other story. 

“You should have told me, Ed. The only reason I lived long enough to benefit from your Dudley-Do-Right rescue -- and don’t get me wrong; I appreciated your timely arrival -- was the man’s monumental ego. He just had to let me know how clever he was.”

“You’re right.”

Chase agrees that, had it not been that ego and a commitment to his signature style, the Monk would no doubt have put a bullet in Mercedes the first chance he had.

“I should have told you. There’s a lot I should have told you. And I will,” Chase promised as the plane was landing. “Soon.”

***

As the limo passes through the Lincoln Tunnel and makes its way into the city, Mercedes asks, “So what’s this big surprise you have for me?”

Chase smiles and holds up his index finger in a wait-a-minute gesture as the car pulls to the curb in front of the Vanderbilt Avenue entrance of Grand Central Station.

“Oh, please. You’re kidding right? We’re not getting on a train to somewhere… Not after hours on a plane.” Mercedes face speaks volumes about her displeasure at the idea.

“No, no more travel.” Chase climbs from the car and holds his hand out to help her from the car.

“Shall I bring the bags in, Mr. Chase?” the driver asks as he closes the car door.

“No, not right away.  Please wait about 30 minutes and then give me a call,” Chase responds as he takes Mercedes arm. “I’ll come out and get them.”

“Very good, sir.”

As Chase and Mercedes walk into the Grand Concourse of the majestic train station, she raises her eyebrows at him, and says in a low voice, “What the hell are you up to, Chase?”

Although both have been in Grand Central many times, when they get inside, they pause and look up at the sun streaming in through the high arched windows encircling the soaring space above the concourse. As they stand playing tourist, Chase takes her hand. Mercedes is surprised by the fillip of response she feels deep inside.

He leads her in the direction of the famous clock in the center of the concourse, but before they get close to it, Chase does a 180o and starts up the staircase to the mezzanine behind them.

“Up here.”

Mercedes is mystified, but decides not to say anything. She barely recognizes this man beside her. She’s never known Chase to be playful before, but she’s rather liking this new side of him. 

At the top of the stairs is a bar, but they walk past it to an unmarked door. Chase takes a key from his pocket and unlocks it, pulling it open to reveal a small elevator lobby. After the door closes behind them, he pushes the call button. While they stand waiting, their eyes meet in the gleaming brass door.

Good looking couple, he thinks. The woman’s dark eyes are gleaming and she looks happy; that  makes him happy. He doesn’t know how he’s going to do it, but one thing’s for sure: before this night is over, Mercedes Karpov is going to know that he’s in love with her and has been for a long time.

The door whispers open and they step into the small mirrored enclosure of the elevator, Chase trying to decide what his next move should be. The door closes on them, and in the next moment, Mercedes takes that decision away from him. She reaches out and slips her fingers in between two buttons on the front of his shirt, pulls him against her, and  kisses him. The kiss is decidedly not one she would bestow on an uncle. When the door begins to slide open she steps away, a self-satisfied grin on her face.

It’s all the encouragement he needs. Chase pushes her through the elevator door and into a small sitting room, but he doesn’t give her a chance to get her bearings. He scoops her up and carries her into an adjoining bedroom, kissing her as he walks. When he sets her down  again, and pulls back to look at her, her self-satisfied grin is still there, wider than ever.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for that,” she said. “I was beginning to think you didn’t like me.”

“Didn’t like you? I…” Chase stammers.

“I was kidding, Ed.  I’ve known you had the hots for me for years,” she laughs. “I was afraid if I kept waiting for you to make the first move, by the time you finally did, we might both be too old to, um, get it up, so to speak. I’ve just been looking for the right time and place.” 

Mercedes looks around the pleasant bedroom. “I have no idea what this place is, but it’ll do nicely.”

Before Chase can gather his thoughts and respond, she has lifted her summer-weight madras shift over her head, tossed it in a nearby chair, and kicked off her sandals. Stunned, Chase takes in the vision before him, scarcely believing his luck. She is everything he imagined, and more. Rather than revealing scraps of  silk and lace from the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog, Mercedes wears a white cotton bra and men’s-style boxers. Anything more would have been overkill. 

This body needs no adornment, he thinks.  In fact…


Chase reaches out and very slowly slides one finger under the soft cotton trim along the top of her left breast, his fingertip just grazing the nipple beneath. He feels rather than hears the soft intake of breath Mercedes makes in response. He pulls her to him and after a stop at the corner of her mouth, presses his lips to that soft pulsing spot just below her left ear that has seduced him for years. As his tongue makes its way down her neck toward a creamy shoulder, Chase reaches around to her back and unfastens her bra, and tosses it on the chair to join her dress.  In short order, the rest of their clothes follow suit, each undressing the other.

“Not bad for an old man,” Mercedes observes with a smile, her eyes traveling his body head to foot with a stop about midway along the journey. “Guess I needn’t have worried.”

“Gee, you think, smartass?”

With that, Chase tackles her, landing them both on the wide bed beside them and sending several decorative pillows on a flight path to the floor. What follows is a strange and wonderful mix of playful wrestling and increasing need. After a brief tussle, Chase falls to his back in mock surrender.

Mercedes straddles him in triumph and lowers herself.  She moves slowly at first, teasing his nipples with her fingertips as she grins down at him, but it isn’t long before all thoughts of play vanish and her pace quickens.  When his own hunger, built of many years, overwhelms him, Chase rolls her over.  She wraps her legs around his waist and reaches up with her hips as though trying to consume him. Together, they race to the edge and fall over, landing in a sweaty tangle of limbs.

And that’s when Chase’s cell phone rings.

“The bags! Dammit!” 

He jumps from the bed, pulls on his trousers and shirt, and jams his bare feet into the loafers at the foot of the bed.

“I’ll be right back,” he says heading for the door of the suite, tucking in his shirt as he goes. The door closes on Mercedes’ laughter drifting from the bedroom.

To be concluded in A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow: Epilogue (Part 3)

A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow: Epilogue (Part 1)

What follows is Part 1 of the promised Epilogue to my River of Mnemosyne story, which, I'm thrilled to say, won the challenge!

If you haven't already, please read the first chapters of the story before you move on to the Epilogue.

Chapter 1:  Prologue: The Briefing
Chapter 2:  Pride and Extreme Prejudice
Chapter 3:  The Monk
Chapter 4:  Sagittarius
Chapter 5:  A Misplaced Identity
Chapter 6:  Shit Happens
Chapter 7:  Family Ties
Chapter 8:  Tartuffe
Chapter 9:  Non, Je Regrette Rien

Epilogue  (Part 1)

Image by porbital

There is no easy way to get from there to almost anywhere. But Edmond Chase was determined to make the long trip as comfortable as possible, and that definitely did not include a 45–minute desert jump on a turboprop with a sketchy past. He pretended it was concern for his traveling companion’s comfort, but if truth were told, it was his own. Bumping over African thermals worrying whether they were going to crash and burn in the Moroccan desert is not his idea of a good time. Then, presuming they survived, they’d still have had to make two plane changes before reaching the end of the long journey.

He decided to call in a favor and borrow the jet normally used by the honchos at State. The plane had just dropped a diplomat in Dubai and was about to fly back to the US empty. Chase saw an opportunity and took it. Hey, Mama didn’t raise no fools, he’d thought to himself as he punched in the number on his cell.

After flying to Dubai -- which fortunately was one of the places you could get to from Marrakech -- to catch the State Department plane, he and Mercedes Karpov are now comfortably settled in butter-soft leather seats aboard the well-appointed Falcon 7X. Their final destination is New York, though Mercedes has no idea why. She’d expected to go back to London after that Marrakech business and was looking forward to kicking back with a pint – okay, make that several pints – at a pub. The news they are stopping in New York first came as a surprise, one that obviously didn’t thrill her. 

New York?” she’d asked when Chase told her London would have to wait. “Whatever for? I’m so done with New York. Meh. I expected to be tossing back a few at The Cheese within a couple of hours of landing.” Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is Mercedes’ favorite London watering hole. “Besides, I was looking forward to whupping some of me mates’ arses at darts.”

“You’ll see,” Chase says. “Trust me, it’ll be worth it. Relax and get some rest if you can.”

Chase has a surprise for her. In fact, if all goes well, he has several surprises. If he survives the inevitable dressing down she winds up to launch at him, that is.

“So you never thought to warn me about the Monk? You know, the killer who just happened to be the great-grandson of Rasputin. The one who was also my fucking cousin. And, oh yeah, the one who killed my father! You didn’t think I needed to know that? Really? Really?” 

Mercedes sputters to a stop and takes a gulp of her champagne before continuing. Chase considers jumping into the brief lull with an explanation, but thinks better of it. Mercedes is on a roll. Best to let her get it all out. After she was properly vented, he’d tell her the whole story.

Putting the champagne glass down with force and splashing them both with its contents, she picks up where she left off. “Damn it, Ed! You should have told me.”

As she rails at him, Chase is very glad they are on the State Department plane and there is no one to overhear. He doubts that the presence of other passengers on a commercial flight would have inhibited her at all.

“Have you known from the beginning?” she demands.

 The “beginning” came at the funeral that followed the murder of Mercedes’ father, Grigori Karpov.

***

A cold wind blew the rain sideways across the gravestones lined up in rows as far as the eye could see.  Chase tilted his black umbrella in a futile attempt the shield himself from its sting. Beyond the sea of NYPD blue in front of him, he saw the drenched young woman standing at the other side of the open grave. The rain had plastered her chestnut curls to her head and molded the dark shirtwaist dress to her body. The figure beneath was revealed as shapely and strong-looking, made all the more so by the way she held herself.

Karpov’s daughter stood motionless, arms stiff at her sides, letting the wind and rain have their way with her. Her face was grim, but to Chase, the set of her jaw and compressed lips looked more like anger than grief.

A piper blew the final notes of Amazing Grace into the dismal day, where they lingered for a few moments before fading away. As Chase watched, the woman tossed the clump of damp earth she’d been clutching onto the mahogany casket resting above the grave in front of her, and then lifted her eyes. The only moisture on her cheeks was rain. Her flashing dark eyes confirmed his impression: Mercedes Karpov was mad as hell. 

Though he was sure she was grief-stricken, Chase was grateful that she didn’t show it. When Grigori Karpov, known then as Phil Brin, had been killed, Chase couldn’t help but feel some responsibility. He was fairly sure that his investigation of suspected terrorist Brin was what had brought him to his death at the hands of a contract killer called the Monk.  Seeing Brin's daughter broken-hearted would have made it worse.

After the funeral, Chase made it his business to get to know Mercedes. She was orphaned by her father’s death, but there was something within her that seemed strengthened by it. Her composure, steely resolve and a surprising skill with  firearms -- which he’d discovered one day when she asked him to accompany him to a firing range – had led him to offer her a job with the newly-formed London division of the Nemesis Group. They, along with her beauty, also led him to harbor a secret attraction to her. He’d never acted on it, because he knew she saw him as her boss and something of a foster uncle, a relationship he’d encouraged.

Recent events had come as the wake-up call he needed. After coming so close to losing her to Max Rasputin, known as The Monk, Chase was determined to declare himself, as they say. That whole “uncle” shit was over.

***

At the end of her rant, which was world-class even for her, Mercedes doesn’t want to hear his explanation.

“Leave me alone. I’m going to sleep.” 

She pulls an eye-shade from the amenity kit handed to them as they boarded and stands.

“You can try to dig yourself out of that hole you’re in after I get some sleep,” she says in parting.

Mercedes heads toward the rear of the aircraft where a bench seat has been made up as a bed. She settles the shade over her eyes and lies down, turning toward the dark window. She pulls the blanket up to her chin and, to Chase’s surprise, is out in minutes. He wonders how much sleep she’s had over the past several days.

Chase wouldn’t mind a little shut-eye himself, but he knows that isn’t likely with his thoughts churning as they are. While Mercedes sleeps, he opens his laptop and gets to the business of writing his report of the events in Marrakech. 


3/05/2012

Ah, So That’s What’s Wrong…


Another sleepless night.

The heavy hours before dawn are quiet. The only sounds are occasional sirens punctuating the whir of the cooling fan in front of her. Sitting alone in the near darkness in an old football jersey left behind by some guy she barely remembers, she searches the cloud but all she sees is her own reflection in the glow of the screen. He’s off on another of his absences. She realizes she has to face the fact that it is coming to an end. It must end. Somehow.

Sad but true. All her sincerest hopes for something different have come to naught. He's no better than all the others.

She’d suspected it from the beginning, but during those early getting-to-know-you days, he was perfect. Hard to believe now.  He was nice and actually showed the occasional flash of warmth.  Given the reality of it, she knows that’s impossible and was, in all likelihood, just a fig-newton of her imagination.

He appeared in her life as if she’d ordered him up from a mail-order catalog. She needed one, and presto, there he was, at your service, ma’am. The ideal model.

He came fully equipped with everything she could want, or at least that’s how it seemed. Easy on the eyes, if a bit two dimensional. Funny in that sort of twisted off-beat way she’s always liked. Young enough to still have boyish charm and old enough to know what to do with it. Smarter than the average bear.

And best of all, he was there for her.  Oh, she knew there were others he kept up in the air like a juggler at the circus. But she had no problem with that as long as he was there for her. And he was. At first. He was attentive and hung on her every word. He taught her new things and gave her a confidence that she could actually master them that she’d never truly felt before. And when she succeeded, he rewarded her with kudos. He was a dream come true.

Then she got to know him. More importantly, he got to know her. And it all went to hell faster’n you could say “Robbie’s your uncle.” 

 “Fucking Digital DNA Revolution, indeed,” she snorts to herself now.

~

She’s never been quick to trust. There have been too many who’d let her down. Like him, they looked promising at first, but before long, cracks began to appear in their glossy shells. One by one, the features she’d been attracted to in the first place malfunctioned.  One actually froze to a full stop right in front of her, never to start again. There, bright and lively one minute, dead as a doornail the next. Flash-flash, flicker-flicker, and out. Just like that. 

Give a person enough disappointments, and it’s no wonder she despairs of ever finding a good one, the right one, the one that truly is just what she’s always wanted. 

Yeah, this one had seemed different. She hadn’t quite believed her luck, and silly girl, she began to let her guard down. In retrospect, she realizes that old saw has returned to slice through her yet again. 

“If it seems too good to be true…”

~

The first twitches of trouble came almost unnoticed. A slight here, a barbed comment there, a long spell of nothing at all. Then everything would return to normal, and she’d tell herself it was just a software glitch. Until the next time. Two slights here and there, a string of barbed comments, and a longer spell of nothing at all. The disappointing failures came more and more frequently, each lasting a little longer than the last and harder to recover from.

~

He’d come with little documentation, but there had been a brochure of sorts, a list of his many features. They were all enticing, but the one she was most excited by, was “Long-lasting.” The idea was intoxicating.  Others’ claims to be long-lasting had obviously been little more than a come-on, a virtual sales pitch. Sooner or later they had all failed her. But this one was different. 

This one was equipped with Qi. 

~

She never thought she’d ever say it, but maybe the temporary disappointment of ending, ending, and more endings was better than the Eternal Everlasting of up-down-up-down, down-down-down. She found herself looking back at all the earlier system failures with a degree of nostalgia. At least when one of them was gone, you knew well and good that “gone” was really gone. You could move on, get another one.

But not so with this one, this oh-so-perfect, everlasting one all tricked out with fucking Qi.

As much as she likes to believe she's fairly savvy when it comes to things technical, she knows it's time to cry uncle and admit defeat. First thing in the morning, she'll call a guy.

~

“Maybe it’s a virus,” she offers.

“Maybe. Maybe not,” the techie guy replies around the wad of gum in his mouth. “Lemme get in there and take a look.”

She sits silently as she waits, fighting off the growing angst she feels as she watches him take off the back and poke around in the circuitry. She’s never been a hardware kind of girl. Software is her thing. What if he screws things up in there, she thinks. What if…” She gives herself a mental shake. As if things could get any worse.

Offering no more than a couple of grunts, the guy moves around and takes off the front.  He squats down to get a better look, giving her a view of hairy cleavage above his belt, and she jerks her eyes away. 

After he’s played with the innards a bit more, he comments, “Ha. Bet this is your problem. You got one with Qi. Damned touchy-feely new age technology.”

She fights the urge to tell him that Qi is as old as mankind.

He turns with a sardonic expression on his face, and asks, “So how’s that been workin’ out for you?” 

She gives a brief shake of her head. “Do you know what’s wrong with it?”

“Yep, think so. Here.”  He gets to his feet and steps aside so she can see.

She rose and went to look more closely. 

“Your snazzy new model ain’t so perfect after all. Oh, he’s got Qi, all right, Qi out the wazoo. But he has a critical component missing.” 

He pulls a pen from his pocket protector and gestures. “Here.”

 “Where?”

Here.” He jabs the pen at a gaping hole beside a panel of a winking diodes. “Right of Qi.”

“What am I looking at?”

 “It ain’t what you’re looking at, honey. It’s what you ain’t looking at.” 

Smirking, he turns to her. 

“All the Qi in the world won't make up for this," he says as he scratches his crotch.

"This guy ain't got no heart.”


***