Cross Country

Cross Country in Kiss MachineCROSS-COUNTRY by Carl R Brush–ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN KISS MACHINE–THE GOOD-BYE ISSUE


Forget about me, Nate. I’ve been telling you that all the way from British Columbia to Quebec. I told you the day you chased me around the Vancouver Island Ferry so long I almost jumped into the Pacific to get away. I said it again in Banff the night you damn near broke your ass slipping and sliding down the icy hill yelling for me to come back. And again, just before you left me stranded outside the Cornerstone Bar in Moose Jaw. And I said it last night when our intimate French dinner in Montreal turned into a stinking row. Now I’m putting it in writing and taping it to the mirror where you’re sure to find it. Forget about me. Us. Period.

And forget about chasing me. I could be on a train to Vancouver or a bus to Winnipeg or hitchhiking to Stratford, Ontario. You’ll never know and don’t deserve to, so just forget about it. Oh, and you can forget about pleading with me to explain, to help you understand—that’s only a tactic to get me to say something you can use for a word-knife—Boo-hoo. Baby has needs? Need a lullaby with her bottle?—Remember that? Well, forget it.

Here’s a short list of other things you can forget about:

The thrill (that’s what you called it, Nate) of watching my long blonde hair tumble out from under my ski hat.

Your right hand on my left breast as we cuddle in bed on cold nights. In fact, both your hands can forget about both my breasts altogether.

The coffee I bring you in the morning and the nightcaps in the evening.

The heart-shaped notes and cards I leave in your pockets.

And you will have to forget your more exquisite daily provocations, like the constant references to my failed auditions (never the parts I got, let alone my performances) and the size-four skirt you bought (wrapped and ribboned) to “help me with my diet goals.”

And most important of all, forget the rhythm of our so-called love life—the over and again sturm und drang of separation, rift, and “heart-gashing loneliness”—you actually wrote that one. Forget also your stalking and pleading and pledging until I relent and we unite for another go-round. We’re not playing that any more.

And while you’re forgetting all that, I’ll do some forgetting, too. I’ll forget how to give in to your whining. I’ll forget how to sacrifice my own happiness on the altar of your emotional panhandling—Carol, I’m so sorry. Carol, I didn’t mean it. Carol, I won’t ever again.

God, now that I see it laid out on paper I wonder how you ever lured me into this trip in the first place. But never mind. Now that you’ve finished reading this, Nate, tear it up. All of it. The letter, the us that was. Forget about it all.

***

Forget, Carol? If you could see me now, standing on the frozen bank of the frozen St. Lawrence, you’d be mad enough to boil the ice off the river because I’m not destroying your letter, am I? No, I’m folding it. Carefully. And tucking it into my wallet. Right behind my driver’s license. Another memento of these theatrics for which I love you so dearly.

And if you could see me now, I’m sure you’d wonder what was going through my mind as I walk up the hill away from the river, but I wouldn’t tell you. I’d let you follow and figure it out for yourself, if you can.

Perhaps you’re thinking I’m depressed and heartbroken, perhaps contemplating a drinking binge or even suicide. Clichés from our past, my Carol. Your love for drama catching you up again.

I enter the train terminal. You’re in suspense. Will I take the bait? Will I try to follow you to one of those places whose names your letter dropped like come-hither endearments from your succulent lips?

Perhaps you’d act surprised when you saw that my ticket takes me east instead of west, but your astonishment would be all show. Like the skilled performer you are, you might, for a moment, convince even yourself that my purchase is the act of a confused mind, affirmation that you were right to abandon me. Us.

But I don’t have to search to find you, Carol, because eventually—no, soon, I think—we’ll meet. Seemingly by accident, at the very destination we had in mind when we started this journey. Give it any label you want—serendipity, unintelligent design, destiny. We’ll spot each other on the street, or perhaps in a coffee shop. Or maybe you’ll look down from the stage and see me in the audience. However it happens, I’ll join you, or you me, in St. John’s, our love’s Newfoundland. We’ll find ourselves, in your romantic words—surely you remember them, Carol—as close to the rising sun as we can get and still be on home soil.

So now, Carol, you watch me head toward track three where my coach awaits. You’ll vow never to follow. As you must. Then, as you also must, you’ll begin your own unwilling, unwitting voyage toward our new dawn.

Millard and Me

Millard and Me on a mug

MILLARD AND ME by Carl R Brush–APPEARED FIRST ON FLASHFICTION.NET AND THIS COFFEE MUG


When I moved onto Greenville Lane, Millard welcomed me with a steady supply of Bourbon-and-sevens—light on the seven. Like any well-mannered guest, I accepted his offerings with gratitude. In the warm shade of his patio, he dipped a pinky into the afternoons fourth libation, tasted, smiled, and embarked on another drinking story.

Some guys’ll quit the sauce and others won’t. take Frankie Balducci lived down the street next to your new place. Little guy. About five-five and you never saw him but his hand was wrapped around a beer. Cancer got him a couple of months back. Just our age, too. Well, he took off one night drunk like always in this Plymouth he had and run a motorcycle cop off the road. Killed him. It wasn’t like today. Oh, there was a big to-do and all, but they didn’t lock him up for life. He got a fine and probation and lost his driver’s license and he did quit driving. But drinking? Nossir. Got himself a bicycle and went around on that, but he hung out Dutch’s bar like always till they got fed up with him carrying on about how wasn’t none of it his fault. Then he went over to Meyer’s till they threw him out of there too.

One night I was driving off to get some KFC or White Castles or something and I seen him wobbling down Westside road on that bike with the beer trying to steer one-handed and he run wham—Millard’s palm slammed the table, sloshing Bourbon on my lap—into that big oak tree on Ridgeway Drive. Poor guy flew off into the street, but that beer bottle just spun around and never broke or nothing. I run over, handed him the beer, and helped him up. Offered him a ride, but he wouldn’t have it. No, no, don’t need none of that. He stumbled over and picked up the bike but that front wheel was so bent it wouldn’t roll a foot. I said come on Frankie let me take you home. But he said I’ll get the damn thing myself. So I said all right and went on. On the way back—I remember now I got KFC ‘cause the bucket spilled on the seat and Connie was madder’n hell about the grease spots. Anyhow, Frankie was carrying that bike under one arm—still had the beer—staggering down the street.

Millard drained his glass, dug a roll of mints from his pocket, and thumbed one into his mouth. Got to pick up Connie from work. Want to come? He passed the mints, fumbled through his keys. Better cover up, he said. You know how they get about a little afternoon conversation. I hesitated, weighed my eagerness to hear Millard’s next story against the pain of Margaret’s you’re-late-for-supper-again lecture. I knocked over my glass reaching for the mints, swiped at the puddle, and hurried to catch Millard, who was already halfway to the garage.