Friday, December 16, 2011

Aliens Among Us

The illegal aliens are everywhere and they all look the same with their abundant hair and grey-violet eyes. Their skin is shiny, greasy even. I find them disgusting. Just look at how they walk with that little bounce. And talk, blah, blah, blah, zzzzhrg. Everything with that zzzzhrg from zzzzhrg-ville. They steal our jobs, being able to lift 150 pounds at least, even the skinny ones. And seduce our teenagers with their drug music, which is beyond the pale. Who knows what their babies will look like, half-human, half bouncy walk. We'll find out soon enough.

Just the other day I was sitting in my favorite cafe when one of them walked in, holding her illegal alien brat. It had snot running out of its nose and wet yellowish stuff dripping from its grey eyes. They don't believe in wiping anything! The gall, coming into my cafe. They should know where not to go, you know? Well, if you say anything, the "Let's All Get Along" police will slap you with a fine. But that doesn't mean you can't give a look. I gave her a look alright.

Then her kid toddles over and she's smiling at me like "Isn't it cute" and I should go all gramma over it, cootchy-coo. I just pull my paper up so I can't see her or the kid and start reading about zhald, which is that alien spice we all like so much. Makes everything taste great, good for the heart too. Why we can't just import that zhald and trade them our old tires and leave it at that I don't know. Why can't they stay on their planet or over in Utah where they landed?

That kid comes up real close, under the table, and starts pulling at my pant leg, wiping its germy little hands on me. Who knows what diseases it's carrying. I don't buy that "successful quarantine" promise one bit. So I give it a sharp kick, not obvious, just turn my toe into it, somewhere soft, and I'm wearing narrow leather shoes with a pointed toe. It makes a quiet little yelp and crawls back to its mommy. Imagine letting your kid roam all over a restaurant, bothering folks who just want their latte and the morning paper, no interruptions, thank you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Little Rice Pot

They'd had the little rice pot for ever. It cooked rice perfectly. It was a gift to them, second-hand, from an old auntie who had travelled the world. It had a few dents on the outside and the cord was patched with black electrical tape. Still, every time they plugged it in, filled it with rice and water and pushed down the switch, it's orange light glowed on and it percolated away, making a quiet, bubbling, steamy sound.  Within an hour, the switch popped up and the cover could be lifted to reveal a pile of nutty rice, each nugget steamed and soft, chewy and filling, whether white, brown or basmati. They ate rice once or twice a week, alternating with artisan pastas and exotic grains, until times got tough. Then it was rice every night because in those hard times, rice was still affordable.

The children complained at first, they all complained at first, "Not rice again!" No matter how the mother tried to disguise the fact with colorful sauces and cheesy toppings. After months of this, they were down to just rice with salt and oil, and nobody said a word. They'd heard of other times like this: long lines, everyone thin, a holiday made over an orange or a bit of sugar. This hard time was no better, and many said it was much worse, and would never end until they were all dead. The teenage girls were unbearably thin, the babies looked like ghouls. Boys were fierce and active with sticks and rocks, always trying to catch something that could be roasted or smashed. One night there was no more rice but the mother pushed down the rice pot switch anyway. She had a notion of heating up water in it and boiling off the last invisible bits of rice essence into a broth that might have some nourishment. When she lifted the lid and saw the familiar mound of steaming rice, she didn't say a word, just dished it up to her family, afraid to break the spell.

Night after night they ate while others around them starved. They fed friends secretly, and wayward hungry children. Their house was full and when things started to get a little better, there were lots of hands to help till the gardens and bring back sacks of food and jugs of oil from the day-long lines. The family and those dear to them prospered and life went on. The mother hid away the little rice pot, which she knew to be magic but hoped would never be needed again.  Many years later, she tried to explain its value to her middle-aged children, who thought she was nuts and reassured her until she believed them, that she wouldn't need it at the exclusive senior community that would be her new home. They held a yard sale and sold off all the old pots and pans, rusted tools, battered suitcases and out-moded fashions from their parents' home, due to go on the market in a week. The little rice pot was purchased for a few coins by a young couple from another country who were desperate to stay here and didn't have much money.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Snake

The snake lived somewhere in the house. Tommy had seen it crawl under the carpet, and shimmy beneath the blue shag in little undulating waves until it disappeared.  This was just a few days after Chloe's hamster had escaped and was presumed dead. They had a funeral for it in the backyard, with a bouquet and cardboard gravestone made by Chloe. She spent all afternoon at it, being the creative kid in the family. Tommy assumed they'd fake bury the missing snake soon. He didn't believe it was really dead though. It was too smart to die under the stinky old carpet.

The snake was exhilirated and in a panic. He was incredibly strong and fast once free from the cedar shavings and glass walls of his sun lamp-warmed cage. The heavy carpet stretched tautly above his head, and rubbed along his spine as he squirmed along. Odd shafts of light poured down from tiny holes above, and air. He hit an impasse where the carpet met the wall. He rested there for a long time, until the scent of rotting hamster inspired him to back up a bit, jack-knife, and surge forward in an opposing direction. The carpet tunnelled open before him like a benediction. At the end of the dark chute lay the hamster remains, covered by a swarm of ants. The snake fed there on hamster and ants alike, then lay in a torpor until a soggy patch of carpet beckoned, it's spongy underfibers rich with water spiked by sugar and red food coloring.

The snake lapped at the syrup and a surge of energy caused him to snap like a whip. He burst through the sticky carpet, it's worn fibers soft as moss. He was above now, in a cavernous black space, small red and green lights blinking in the distance, representing slumbering electronics. He slid easily along the carpet and onto a cool, slick floor. The tiled kitchen offered interesting crumbs and spills to feed on, and a playful cat. The snake sped away from the feline's needling claws, back onto the carpet and through a far away open door in a wink. This room was smaller, with a row of potted plants displayed on a bench before a raised window sash, gentle night breezes blowing through.

The snake coiled up a pile of laundry onto leather sofa cushions. From there it took a flying leap, and was able to mount a side table, slither from the edge of that to the window ledge, and then along the ledge to the plant stand. One plant in particular beckoned to him, her arching succulent branches bearing red and white spread blossoms. The snake considered the screen window for a moment. Was that a tear in the corner? Should he venture out into the night air? A memory of the cat gave him pause. A truck thundered by on the highway outside, a distant siren sounded. The snake flowed to the plant with the wide, arching leaves. He rose up and swayed for a moment, gazing at the splendid plant lit with moon glow, then tipped his head and entered over the ceramic lip that held fragrant soil. He dug in beneath the frothy dry layer of spanish moss and pulled up his tail behind him. He curled around the base of the plant and found many crunchy beetles to snack on.

The plant provided beautifully for the snake. Her fruity blossoms attracted beetles and the occasional small mouse. Caretakers watered her regularly. The snake ate and drank his fill. By day he wrapped himself snugly around her trunk, and napped. By night he coiled round and round, his tail whipping out dried leaves and bits of soil as he circled prey. He never wanted to leave and never had to. In the end, he fed his towering, flowery home. Tommy and Chloe, now gangly teenagers, stroked the leaves in passing and whispered "grow you beautiful old thing, keep growing."

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Change of Clothes

    When she awoke, she stepped out of bed and into her fleece-lined slippers. She pushed her arms into the plush turquoise sleeves of a robe and belted it. She made coffee and read the paper. Then she stripped off robe and pajamas and wriggled into a black, spandex yoga outfit - flared pants and a sleeveless crop-top that exposed her navel. She unrolled her mat before the television and followed the tiny yoga instructor on screen for a dutiful 20 minutes.
    Utility sweat pants were next, topped by a large, shapeless t-shirt and cocooned in a wrap-around bibbed apron. She tied her hair up in a scarf and grabbed the telescoping duster. The house cleaner came Mondays and Thursdays, but there was always something that needed dusting in the far corners of the cathedral ceilings that towered above her throughout the house she'd won from her ex-husband.
    Her work clothes bundled up and stuffed in a laundry hamper for the house cleaner, she stepped into a steaming shower and applied various gels, soaps, conditioners and lotions. Then out for a skin-nourishing regimine of creams and anti-aging potions, while wrapped in a terry spa towel.  Black leggings, a black turtleneck, both with designer labels, tall leather boots, supple gloves a confusing shade between grey and lavendar, an artisan woven red coat that billowed open over her shapley form vanished in it's black sheath. She pinned a large, circular red hat to her head, as round and protective as a parasol and grabbed her metallic red clutch. She would go to town and shop for a bit before lunch. with friends at the Hotel ___.
    She wore the silk, hand-painted scarf out of the store, keeping the receipt and tissue in the clever little blue bag that bore the exclusive boutique's imprint. Lunch was a salad, bread spread with something rare pounded into olive oil, and a bottle of white wine shared with two fellow divorcees, in town for the theater. They air-kissed a brief good-bye as they were to meet again in the lobby, pre-show.
   At home, she slipped into her robe and lay on the sofa, a gelled mask over her eyes. She napped for two hours and then began preparations for her evening out. A quick step into the shower, her hair protected by a cap. A vigorous towel-down, more creams and a spritz each from three different colognes, in three different places. Layers of make-up were applied to smooth out her skin tone, hide wrinkles and highlight areas doomed by the night and dim theater lights. Silky undergarments, a lovely dress, jewels in her ears, rings, a necklace, stockings, a difficult choice of shoes, and finally, a small velvet evening bag that held her credit card and keys. A long tailored wool coat, gloves, and fluffy scarf got her out the door. The play was interminable. The house packed. A drink at intermission granted her the courage to continue, the drink and the promise of an intimate meal afterwards, at the new brasserie off the plaza where gentlemen friends of friends were engaged to meet them.
    Their coupling was brief. He retrieved his clothes from the tangled pile of garments on the floor and dressed in the bathroom. She pulled on a nightgown and clutched her robe shut. He was gallant at the door, then gone. She turned off lights and smoothed the sheets, slipping between their satin softness. She pulled the down comforter over herself, tucked it up under her chin and lowered the silk sleeping mask across her eyes. The familiar bed clothes her last change for the day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Condo Couple

    The condo was paid for by her third husband, originally for her shopping trips in the city. Now she lived there with her fourth husband and though the closets were stuffed with clothes and the doorman nodded to them with a "Good day ma'am. Good day sir," when they ventured out, dressed to the nines, she knew they were in trouble.  They had a "cash flow problem" as J.T. liked to say, and there was nothing left to sell, unless she tried consignment.
    The furniture was too heavy for them to lift, and knickknacks would be too obvious. Imagine bumping into a neighbor with the silver golf trophy cup of husband number two? What would she say, "Oh just taking this old thing to be cleaned?" Or she could wrap it up like a gift, explaining that she was on her way to a cousin's birthday party, a cousin who lived just around the corner so no taxi, thank you.
    Taking her clothes to a consignment shop would draw comment as well. Was she carrying her own designer labels to the dry cleaners? Couldn't she arrange a pick-up, or have the maid do it?  Perhaps if she dressed in layers beneath her raincoat, she and J.T. could go for a stroll, stop at the shop and she could change out of a few things in the dressing room, them discretely hand them to the cashier...but what if they thought she was stealing the very items she smuggled into the store? Beryl spent most mornings running various scenarios through her mind, trying to hit on a way to get cash flowing again. They were hungry and there were only so many ways to serve crackers, especially now that all the caviar and tapenade and champagne were long gone.  She had built an amazing stockpile over the years of husband number 3, devoting an entire walk-in closet to gourmet canned goods and luxury bottles, all tucked away for the rainy day that began when she was 60 via cosmetic surgery but 75 in actual years.
   Of course she knew when she married J.T. that he had nothing. In his city, and with his handsome middle-aged though older features, he was a popular gigilo. J.T. looked good and played cards well which ensured that they were still invited, for awhile, to the opulent parties of her married girlfriends. Though dependably wealthy and in their dotage, these girlfriends dreaded an attractive divorcee in their crowd.
   She and J.T. would rob Marielle Dupois' apartment when she was at the opera gala, and her maid, slovenly and seen in furry slippers when sent down to the doorman to fetch packages, would be home alone. They would insist that Beryl had left her spectacles there when two months previous Marielle had had them up for cocktails, trying to tease out their financial situation. Beryl had refused so many spa and cruise invites that obviously she must be in straits. And Marielle, of course, would like to know as she'd be happy to lend a tidy sum until husband number three or was it number two's trust was settled. Beryl knew that Marielle would like to file complaints with the condominium board, all manufactured of course, complaints about late noises, bad smells, the unkempt foyer and in her lawerly, patrician way, evict Beryl and J.T. so that her beloved gay nephew Alphonse could move into their condomium, directly beneath hers.  Then Marielle would get her place redecorated for free and Alphonse would arrange photo shoots with glossy architectural magazines giving Marielle yet another step up into the celestial nethersphere that heiresses with loads of money dwelt in.
   Once inside, J.T. would enamor the maid while Beryl flitted about, stuffing cloiseneed boxes, errant jewelry, small objets d'art and hopefully, some cash into her billowing gown.  At a signal from J.T., loudly "Dear, you must have found them by now!" with a flirtatious "blind as a bat" aside to the maid, Beryl would fish her reading glasses out of her bosom and declare them found, in the library, "...just as I remembered!"
    The maid, however, was street smart and knew what they were up to at the get go. She planted herself firmly in the inner hallway and wouldn't let them past the marbeled table that held a bountiful silver candy dish. Beryl managed to snag a chocolate ball as they were shooed out by the maid. Back home in their dim livingroom, only one bulb allowed to light at a time with paring the energy bill in mind, Beryl and J.T. shared evenly the last can of tuna. J.T. ran a finger along the inside edge to get a final lick, then pitched it down  the garbarge chute.  Beryl's stomach growled and the idea hit her at the same time. "J.T., let's pay a visit to the basement!"
    They had to wait their turn in line but it was worth it. J.T. hoisted two damp and fragrant bags over his shoulders. Beryl dragged one up the basement stairs and luckily, because it was so late, they didn't encounter a single soul through the elevator ride and feverish scurry into their condo.  They sorted muck and trash from nuggets of edibles...a chicken carcass with plenty of meat and fat still clinging, cheese that could be scraped of pungent mold, stale bread and more.
    As their health and strength returned with better nutrition, J.T. devised a clever way of catching Marielle's discards. The maid's habits were predictable. Each morning they sipped their tea made from once-used bags and listened for the scraping sound of the chute door opening just one floor above.  By shoving a steel baking sheet along boards jammed across the chute, J.T. could catch bag after bag. This saved them the trip downstairs and the nervous mixing with other hooded and hungry tenants. The civility of the line might not hold one dark night, and there could be fighting.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How You Got Here

Of course we mated with your brown furry creatures and that is how, eventually, your people came to be. For you to arrive as you are now, took successive generations and ages of time...for us it has been a brief interlude, just a breath in and out, a dalliance and then we travel on, no regrets. Endless amusement. On to the next flirtation, seduction and passage of our genetic materials.

This is what we do.

We chose the furry creatures out of consensus, more or less. Some of us were taken with the underwater behemoths so there are some errant strains, but they didn't go too far. The pleasures of warm skin covered with soft and bristly hairs, energetic muscles and gripping skeletal structures were not to be denied. There was a frenzy of coupling at first, then a quieter more sensual time, and now only the occasional meeting, fraught with nostalgia. Oh those moonlit nights when we were new!

It is time for us to go soon.

You are beginning to ask questions. You have identified a missing link.

Monday, March 30, 2009

There Was an Old Woman

    There once was an old woman who was given a second lease on life. She was 92, widowed and her children were long grown and gone. She was taken aside after her annual check-up and made an offer.
It turns out, she was told, that she was a rarity, a women who was breastfed and breastfed her young in turn; who had O negative blood; and who had never had major surgery, nor taken hormones in any form. In addition, she had a thick and elastic skin. Though her wrinkles were deep, her skin wasn't papery and bruised like so many of her old friend's. She'd always hated her spongy skin. It hung in folds from her bones, even when she was thin and the sun turned her brown as a nut.
    She was taken to an upper-storey office with a wall of glass, gold-handled pens and a stack of papers to sign. She was offered, at no cost, a complete bodily organ transplant, or CBOT, something everyone knew of from the news but assumed was only for the extremely wealthy. On the contrary, this new procedure was strictly practiced where the odds for success were greatest, amongst O negative blood types who were breastfed, etc. It was hoped that after study of these first recipients, techniques would become available for the greater population. The extremely wealthy were, in fact, funding these procedures by purchasing places in the waiting list for more generic CBOTs in what all hoped would be the near future.
    The old woman pondered her options for about 20 minutes and then agreed. She had always had a sense of adventure, and though she was elderly, she still felt like a girl inside. The procedures were lengthy though completely numbed with the best opiates and analgesics. She enjoyed the meals on trays, the white sheets and spa treatments. After a year, she was able to return home and live out her new lease on life.
It was fascinating watching the human drama play out into history again. And the new inventions, like shiny toys, amused her as they repurposed the arts, fashion, transportation and diet. She might have been lonely, but she was older now and her social needs were much simpler than when young and lusty. She played cards with neighbors, kept a succession of small dogs, and fostered, from afar, several children who needed help with tuition and doctor's bills. And so another 90 years passed.
    The CBOT techniques were now commonplace and much more advanced. Most people had them at the age of 50 and so retained a much more youthful appearance during their extended lifespan. When she elected to undergo the procedures a second time, she was one of the few inhabitants of Earth that actually looked something like their 180 years. She became a bit of a freak show and ventured out in opera gloves, a turtle neck, large sunglasses and a poncho.
    It was only a decade into her third lease on life that CBOT was transformed into a prenatal intervention that prevented ageing, and death, forever. Now she was truly an oddity. For the next few decades, opinion wavered between adulation and condemnation. Some were uncomfortable with reminders of the past fate of humans, and wanted to round up the very old woman and her like and penalize them on an island far away.       
    Others felt that the wisdom of the ancients should be venerated, even worshipped, and she was often disturbed by their spontaneous groupings outside her home, and the desire of so many to touch her gray head and wrinkled skin. Towards her 275th year, she was taken aside after her annual check-up and offered a new option -- a lease from life. There were many variations possible, due to revolutionary advances in cyrogenics and replication technologies. She pondered this offer for about 20 minutes and then...