Category: JON

One Step Closer

One Step Closer

The morning was really good for once – until the phone rang.

She didn’t take it. Not yet. She was not going to answer that damn phone. She had any number of excuses in the back of her mind, vague, dreamily, like nothing else mattered than here and now. And everything else could magically take care of itself. You could say – think – anything to shape your world and it would do as you pleased.

In the end she took it. Her lips still tasted salty and she allowed herself a second to remember that …

“Carrie – ? Are you there, honey?”

Okay, now there was no way back:

“Mum – what is it? Has something happened?”

She almost wished for it, although her gut told her it was not like that. And her heart that it should not be like that.

But it was something that would make her perfect, salty day all dry up.

Carrie seated herself upright in the bed, with the cell phone pressed hard to her ear. She soon pulled her legs up under herself, pressing her jaw equally hard towards her knees as she listened. It had only taken 10 seconds and now she was curled up like a steel spring.

Jon did not wait long before he rolled out and began looking for his socks and jeans as if nothing had happened. He knew it was now the only thing he could do.

The quiet morning before the suburban beehive woke up was still quiet. But in Carrie’s mind storms were raging.

Why could it never be different with mum, after all these years?

“Please, could you say that again?”

Carrie had to ask because from the moment she had picked up the phone, everything had become more and more unreal.

Her mother was happy to prolong that reality:

“Look, I know it’s hard to wrap your head around, and they have hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates. But this time it is you!” 

“Me … “

“Yes! Marcus will give you a 100,000 dollars as part of the Church Universal’s yearly Give Way-Event. The only condition is that you’ll use them to improve, well, anything really. Start that business. Draw … whatever.”

“Uh … I don’t know if,” Carrie tried, but it was really too late.

“Don’t you think that it is awesome, darling?” her mother beat on. “I am really glad Marcus and I kept contact all those years. And you know, last year there was a widow who lived on welfare in Boston who received the Event Money and she has a small salon today that – “

“Look,” Carrie said, “I’m really not sure that – “


“I mean,” her mother continued undaunted, as always, “with you leaving college like that and never becoming a lawyer and then – “ she hesitated ever so slightly ” – that problem down in Florida, and all the hard work afterwards … I think you deserve it, Carrie.”

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His Last and First Breath

His Last and First Breath

“I should have died.” 

The words were hoarse and rough, like that desert he had breathed for most of a year. Over there …

“Don’t say that. Please, don’t say that.” Carrie held him tighter. “What about us?”

“It’s not that,” Jon said. “But sometimes there is a feeling of certainty … when it is your time. In Iraq, when we were being evacuated after our chopper was shot down, some of the guys from my squad were still … breathing. The medics talked like they could save them. But my pals … they just looked at me like it was all over. Somehow they knew they would not make it.”

“And you?”

“I knew that that time would not be it.”

“Why? How? How did you know?”

He shook his head. “Can’t explain it. At first, you are frightened, sure. And your body acts its best not to get hit. That’s instinct. But a part of you is just … in another place. And you know that this time you will not die.”

“It could be imagination … something your mind does to protect you.” She let him go, gently. She was searching for some kind of conclusion. 

The dishes were still out in the kitchen. The kids were on their way home. Life pushed its way back towards them. 

But Jon shook his head again. Like all of that ‘life’ was one enormous experience you could never be sure of. “Maybe you are right. But the other day – when I was drowning – then I felt for certain I was a goner. In a way that I had never felt in Iraq. And then …”

“Then you saw the boy.”

“Yes.”

2 days earlier … 

There had been rain all night, a defiant remnant of Hurricane Rosa. Jon had driven through it on the first part of his watch, and the morning sky had been like a whipped up ocean. As if the storm had to punish someone before it finally died out. 

It was always an event when they got weather like this in Arizona because everything was dry and seared most of the year. But not that morning. It had been useless driving more until it was all over. So Jon had pulled over for some coffee at his favorite diner in Gila Bend. 

There had been ample time to drink and chat but mostly just sit and watch the colossal shower outside coming down hard on the small desert town.

And wonder if he would do the same thing in 10 years’ time.

When the rain finally receded enough, he got back in the patrol car and headed out Pima towards Interstate 8, ignoring several small lakes now pooling on the road. He sped up and slashed through them with water spraying to all sides. Just like all the other drivers.

It was still overcast, but he had a feeling it would clear any moment.

Jon was about to turn on the radio to hear how bad Phoenix was hit when he crossed Sand Tank Wash. 

Usually a long empty scar in the landscape of gravel and dusty sand, Sand Tank Wash was just that – an invisible creek with no water. It didn’t exist until it rained. 

Now the Wash had emerged from non-existence with a vengeance. Jon could hear the roar of the water before he could see it.

From the road, about a hundred yards before he reached the bridge crossing, he could also see thin trees and bushes alongside the wash quivering, but not because of the wind, which was long dead. The torrent of water came down from the mountains with such force that it pulled out enormous chunks of dirt and gravel from the edges of the creek. 

Something else was too close to an edge.

Jon hit the brakes right in a big pool of water, and it looked like the car temporarily exploded in raindrops. 

Then down with the window. “Hey, lady – get away from there!” 

The bridge over the creek had a ‘railing’ only 3 foot high. And somebody was leaning over it. 

It was a woman who looked like she was throwing up down into the flood below. Or … was she trying to jump down into it and had decided against it at the last minute? 

Jon got out and ran across the road, barely pausing to switch on the patrol car lights. The woman stood upright at the sound of Jon’s voice. She was twenty-something and frantic with fear.

“My son is down there!”

Jon hurried to the railing. “Where? Where?!”


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Warriors

Warriors

1986 – Wilmington, Southern Los Angeles


That was then …
 *

“Admit it, David—you saw your no-good brother steal that car.”

Gray light filtered into the room, and the smoke from the Detective’s cigarette seemed to add to the general murk in his coffin-sized office. David Reese did not look up. He already knew very well what he would see and he did not wish to see those small, cold eyes of Detective Felt.

In fact, none of the kids who were caught by Harvey Felt wished to ever sit in The Chair again—or the ‘Electric Chair’ as his colleagues referred to it, exchanging knowing glances over their stale coffee when he hauled a new underage suspect into his office for questioning.

The A/C had broken long ago and the smell of old cigarette buds from the pool of ash in Felt’s mud-brown tray at the center of his metal desk appeared to have seeped into every nook and cranny on the wallpaper. It seemed as well to have seeped into the ruffled papers sticking out from black file folders, and even into Felt’s half-open shirt. He didn’t seem to care—about that or anything else except getting another little trophy.

David had to fight himself not to hyperventilate, to look calm.

Fight, fight, fight …

“Come on, David,” Felt pressed, with the same determination as a construction worker turning a screw until it absolutely cannot be tightened anymore. “– Jonathan does not deserve your loyalty. You were the lookout. You saw everything. It’s that simple. Admit it.”

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Like The Wind Through My Tree (II)

Like The Wind Through My Tree (II)

The next afternoon after work I decide to go by the gym, anyway. But after the time I know she has been here. Or usually is here.

Forlorn concrete boxes on the edge of some dusty Arizonian town – that’s the gym and the nearby pool. They are as shitty as they look, but they have what people need.

To come here. Often.

They have it.

I step through the doors and then remember I haven’t brought any gym clothes.

“Hey champ!” Dylan calls from his cave behind the desk.

“Hey – uh – I guess I am getting old. Forgot my clothes.”

“Why did you come in then, champ?”

“Got nothing else to do, I guess.”

Dry laughter. My best attempt.

“You here to see Carrie?”

Dylan goes right to it. He has his lucid moments. Not sure I like that …

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Like The Wind Through My Tree (I)

Like The Wind Through My Tree (I)

“That’s the problem with being in love,” Hammond said, “most guys don’t want to admit it.”

“What makes you an expert on that?” I quickly shoot back and chow down some more fries. And cola. And then more fries.

Anything to concentrate on … just concentrate on eating.

Hammond leans over the diner table, conspiratorially:

“I have figured it out,” he half whispers. Not low enough so it’s completely certain she doesn’t hear. Even with all the noise from the rest of the noon-time diner.

Asshole.

“What have you figured out, amigo?” I say, but keep my eyes where they are supposed to be:

The food …

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The Finland Station

The Finland Station

Girl:

The sweat is everywhere.

It’s in my hair, on my brow, cheeks, throat.

It’s under my arms.

It’s in creases and folds of where my jogging trousers touch my legs.

It’s between my breasts.

Crotch …

I ignore it.

I push – lift – push – lift – push … and keep going until it feels like my arms are going to break.

I try not to look at everyone in the room.

It’s not as if I just committed a sin or something, though.

It’s a gym. We’re all used to each other’s war cries. And the smell of sweat. The smell that doesn’t get better when it’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit of scorching merciless Arizona-sun outside.

In here it would be a boiler, if the fans weren’t running wild. Great big rotor blades making the whole ceiling turn, like they want to heave this suburban concrete-carcass turned fitness center into the heavens.

Fat chance.

I look at the others, without looking. I don’t want to be seen. Just alone.

Glistening sweat, war-cries, bulging muscles, bulging fat, big asses, skinny asses … it’s all there. It doesn’t look back and I am glad.

I want to be alone.

But I have to move when a lady sometime past her 50th b-day over and asks politely if she can use the machine.

“Uh, yes, ma’m. Sorry for sitting here, counting the stars.”

“That’s okay, dear. Was it a tiring workout?”

“It was hard enough. I put on a bit of extra weight – on the machine, I mean.”

We both smile politely.

“That’s good, dear. That’s good,” she says, slams her skinny ass in the seat and puts on some extra weight, about 10 pounds more than me. And begins lifting. I try not to look.

Damn. I’m only 26 but I already feel 26 years older than that lady. It’s not as if I don’t run around. It’s not as if I don’t move. You should try waiting tables all day in a Flagstaff road-side diner.

But it’s not as if I’m getting any skinnier. Still a few lumps too much around the belly and hips. Others might call me a hysteric. ‘Typical women’, you might cry. But I’m not. I’m not one of your ‘typical women’.

I really don’t care about the pounds. It’s as if I’m trying to wash something off. That’s why I keep at it, after a long day at the diner, when I really should just worship telly.

Those two Latinos are watching me. While they pump all the iron in the gym. Thinking about pumping the little blonde? Probably. I’m still good-looking enough for a mag or two. Others would say slim. Only I can see the extra lumps. So, yeah, they think it for a second:

‘Is she in on something – with us?’

If only they knew. If only they found some of the shit on the internet from my past life. I don’t think they’d be so eager not to conceal their staring.

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