Sunday, August 25, 2013

I believe, too...

It was past midnight and John had no idea where he was. Not stumbling but still numb and dumb, John didn't recognize the neighborhood. Littered with overflowing garbage cans and smelling of rotting food, no one else wandered the streets, except the occasional Cadillac or Lincoln. John knew enough to avoid looking into the cars. He remained disinterested in anything he saw: the loud drunk couple that sank onto the steps to make love; the middle-aged man leaning into the teenage girl, whispering, until she pulled him inside; the young men smoking and waiting like sharks, heavy slow from the night's feedings, unless they smelled blood.

John knew he was in the wrong place but he didn't know where or how to get to the right place. He walked faster, turning any adversary's hesitation into a distance too far to overcome without commitment. His feet landed hard, hot and heavy on the sidewalk. He was tired. He wanted to rest but he didn't dare. He kept moving. The heat was making him sweat. The sweating was dissolving the fuzziness, bringing him back to life.

John tried not to go in circles, crossing streets without turning left or right. Earlier he had waited for green lights. Now, afraid of stopping, he crossed as soon as he could step off the curb. He passed through rough and rougher neighborhoods that gave way to shells of buildings, empty and burned out, occupied by the occasional flicker of a fire behind the crumbling brick. Still he kept on, his pace automatic, his mind empty, his eyes focused on the next block, the next stretch of sidewalk.

The terrain tilted down and John picked up speed. He dropped into a collection of large, flat-walled industrial buildings. The roadway was cleaner. Someone, something was keeping this area useful. The streets widened and the center lanes filled with parked flatbed and container trucks. The sidewalk disappeared into a dirt path so that John had to keep an eye out for potholes filled with water that shimmered with diesel and the orange glow of the street lights. He passed a small building, a wooden one-room structure with a guard inside, sitting, asleep.

John smelled the river, an acrid, putrid chemical smell. Then he opened his arms as a gentle breeze carried the damp cool of early morning. He followed railroad tracks to the riverbank, ending in a long massive pier, barges tied up to keep them from floating off. The wood planks were softer, cooler. He passed the loads, trying to guess if they were filled with coal or sand or ash, trying to guess if they were coming or going, wondering how long they had been there.

At the end of the pier there was an old man fishing in the river, though if there were any fish alive in that industrial swill they were surely poisonous. The two men looked at each other for a brief second then faced their heads into the breeze. An oily residue condensed on John's face. He swiped his sleeve across his eyes. The sky was lightening with the coming sun, layers of black, brown, red, and orange. John's legs were pounding, his feet pulsing inside his shoes, not wanting him to remain still, urging him to go on, go into the river.

The old man flicked his pole and the bobber plopped into the water sending ripples out that reflected the sunrise in the surface scum. John watched until the water calmed itself. The sun was lifting above yesterday's thick brown haze, hidden until it rose to where the smoke was thinner and the pale sunlight could reach his eyes. John took a deep breath and gazed at the old man's fishing line. Another breath and John pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and jiggled one towards the old man.


The old man smiled, shook his head, waved the offer away with his free hand, and stared back into the river. John put the pack to his mouth, pulled out a cigarette, reached into his front pocket for a lighter. He paused as the sun grew hotter on his face then flicked the flint, tilted the flame, lit the cigarette, inhaled, exhaled, let the nicotine clear his head, inhaled, exhaled.

“There's no fish in this shit,” he said, exhaling a final puff of smoke up above his head.

The old man turned, smiled, turned back, gave the line a flick.

Without warning a broken dam of sadness suddenly washed over John. He was falling hard and fast down the dark hole. He looked towards the old man, latching on to him like a lifeline, a rock to clutch, to keep from being swept away. Emotions flashed and sputtered along with images of his wife and daughter, him leaving as his wife was yelling, his daughter crying. Drowning, he re-focused on the old man. Another wave and John heard his boss, telling him he was no good, that he was fired, had to go.

“A fucking box and a guard escort to the door,” John growled at the old man, “after 14 years.”

The old man turned and stared, not angry, not judging, his eyes calm and peaceful. John felt the tears welling, hated crying, hated being seen crying. But the old man didn't look away, seemed to understand. Their eyes locked and the tears rolled down his cheeks. All John could do, all he wanted to do, was look into those safe eyes. He looked for a long time, until his breathing slowed and the tears dried away. The old man swung his gaze back over the river. John stumbled, dropped himself beside the old man, not close but still side-by-side, facing the rising sun and the drifting line.

"I believe" by James Seamarsh, who believes there are some things worth believing.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Front Words, Back Words

After, catch, and cross words.
Guide, swear, and watch words.
Non, by, and re words.
Pass, stop, and key words.

Buzz words, cuss words,
Head words, fore words,
Broads, smalls, and backs words.
Loan, over, s words.

Bless the beasts and mis words,
Scrabbled, scrambled, fits words,
How to finish with flash words,
Thank internet ends-with slash words.

 - James Seamarsh, perhaps someday, but as of today, never at a loss for, with special thanks, hats off to

I believe...

I believe, not because I believe it is true, not because I believe it will happen, not because I believe I am right, but because without a direction, without the future, without making mistakes, there is no purpose, no hope, and no learning.

 - James Seamarsh, who still believes he is a writer, despite his beliefs to the contrary! JS annotation code