On The Outside Looking In (Pt. 2)

22 Jul

ox cart

 

Link to Part 1: http://ryanimpink.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/on-the-outside-looking-in-pt-1/

 

The naked man had not moved, save the jostlings of the cart over the rough terrain. It would be difficult to tell that he were alive if it weren´t for sporadic labored breaths. Makmood had taken a sheet off of a basket of apricots to cover the man so he would not suffer any more burns from the sun than he already had.

The cart dustily rolled its way into town and made its way to the first of a series of military checkpoints. The driver bowed his head to the soldiers as he slowed to cart to a stop.

“Good morning gentlemen” the driver said.

Makmood, without taking his glance off of his new friend offered a hand in the air and a “Hello”.

Four soldiers flanked the cart, as per protocol. “What do you have in the cart?” the tallest of the soldiers asked.

“My usual, apricots and nuts for the market. And a beggar!” he said with a chuckle as he amused himself.

“And who is that?” the tall soldier said with a horrified look on his face.

“Who?” the driver asked, puzzled by the question. He had forgot about their earlier heroics.

“Is that man dead? Uncover his face at once, beggar!” The soldier ordered Makmood.

As Makmood pulled back the sheet there was a loud gasp from all four of the soldiers.

“You two are under arrest!” the tall soldier declared.

“For what?” the driver asked with a cold feeling in his stomach. His mind was scanning for reasons for this declaration. He had paid duties on the apricots. The nuts were from a new vendor. Could they be contraband? Makmood had a cool calm to him. It´s hard to rile a man who has nothing to lose.

One of the soldiers, dumbfounded, with a single tear rolling down his eye gasped “Sheik Masoud, what have they done to you?”

Makmood realized what was going on and piped up “Gentlemen, we found him on the road many miles back. We saved his life! He was unconscious in the sand. He would have baked in the sun. We just gave him a lift. In fact, we had no idea who he was. It was our honor to help this man, be him a sheik or be him a lowly beggar such as myself”

The tall soldier, who appeared to be the leader of the squad, seemed to buy Makmood´s story, at least momentarily. But there was protocol to follow.

“Beggar, I would like to believe you but there are rules to follow. We will have to take you to the magistrate to see if your story checks out and to record all of these happenings” the soldier said.

“Will there be lunch?” Makmood asked.

“If everything checks out, sure” the soldier said.

“Great” Makmood said.

“No! Not great!” said the driver of the cart. “I´ll lose a day at the market! My family will go hungry!”

“Easy, man, you have apricots and nuts. They surely will not spoil. You´ll have tomorrow” the soldier said.

The driver shuffled, dejected, towards the magistrate building with his cart in tow. Makmood rode upon the cart elated knowing where at least one of his meals was coming from.

 

Link to Part 1: http://ryanimpink.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/on-the-outside-looking-in-pt-1/

On The Outside Looking In (Pt. 1)

21 Jul

“You’re better off living in the hole looking out to the palace than in the palace looking at the hole”  Karl Pilkington

 

palace

 

Makmood was born with deformed legs. Just beyond the knees were  flipper like flaps of flesh. He joked that we was born too late. If he were born a few hundred thousand years earlier, he´d do well as a water born creature but as a desert dwelling creature, they didn´t help him get around on the sand very well. Makmood made his way through life on the kindness of strangers and his community. He was a beggar. He felt he was fortunate to have meat on the table every night so for him, he had it all.

Sheik Masoud on the other hand was born a perfect physical specimen of a man. He was a natural athlete, a natural scholar and had angular good looks. Growing up in a royal family, he had access to everything, the best schools, the best athletic training, the best health care, etc. Masoud was not born perfect though. His deformation was unseen to the naked eye. It was in his brain. He suffered from crippling depression. He had everything the world had to offer at that moment at his very disposal, yet wanted none of it. At night he would slide his feet, adorned in satin slippers, across the marble floor to the edge of the second story balcony of his palace and look. His eyes were met with tiny flickers of light coming from tiny holes in the rock faced mountainside. He would curse the wretches whom occupied these primitive dwellings before turning the curses onto himself.

*   *   *   *   *

Makmood was hoisted onto an oxcart bound for the town square where he would try to earn his day´s wages by evoking sympathy in passer byers. On the way to town, he saw a man face down in the sand off the side of the road. The man was completely naked and his back was slightly sunburned. The driver had already seen the man and began to slow down.

“What do we have here?” Makmood asked the driver.

“Probably just a drunk who couldn´t find his way home last night” replied the driver.

“Might be” Makmood replied and added “regardless, we´ve got to get him out of the sun. He won´t last long like this”

“Makmood, you´re always trying help people when it is you who needs the help!” the driver said.

“Well, I´ve been blessed so I feel I owe it to the world to do my best to help others less fortunate than myself”

The driver tried to hide his puzzled face for fear it would insult Makmood. How on Earth could this guy think he is blessed? And how could he possibly be of help to others in his condition. He is a beggar. He lives off the generosity of others. He lives in a cave carved out generations ago by primitive people. These thoughts spun around the driver´s head in a circular motion until Makmood uttered “I will need your help helping this gentleman. Certainly I cannot lift him onto the cart myself.

The driver thought quietly to himself “I guess it is easy to offer help when it is not your own back you are offering” as he hoisted the unconscious man unto the cart.

 

*   *   *   *   *

Liquid Werewolf

12 Mar

werewolf

 

For Rick, reality seemed as slippery as a bar of soap in a prison shower. It didn´t help that Rick was altering his consciousness on a daily basis. He would celebrate good occurrences by “going deep”, as he put it. He would escape the bad movements by “tuning out”, as he put it. But this had to change when he met Pamela. He was in love with her and Pamela did not approve of such behavior. He loved the feeling she gave him more than that of the substances, at least for now. Of course that feeling will fade and the sudden urgent hit of the substances will call him back. Not to mention the high will be increased by his abstinence making it harder to say no. But for now he is towing the line.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon while lying in bed after a hardy fast food lunch that made them sleepy, Pamela hit Rick with some shocking news.

“Rick, what do you think about kids?” she asked.

“They are great. Far from me” he answered. His words felt like a well placed punch in Pamela´s stomach.  “Why?” he asked.

“No reason” she said, trying to hide her real emotions.

Over the course of the next few months, Pamela did everything she could to hide her ever growing belly from Rick. Besides what he said on that rainy afternoon when she tried to tell him the news, deep down she knew he´d be a lousy father. He was 35 years old and living in a room in an old woman´s house. Their deal was, he´d keep the grass cut and the rent would be cheap.  The grass was knee high.

Pamela´s belly got to the point that no garment would hide it. She was nervous. She had a strange attachment to Rick even though she knew she could do much better. In her heart she knew she had to do better for herself and her unborn child. She wanted to have a dialog with Rick and she thought that maybe a few beers would loosen him up so she picked up a 12 pack on her way to Rick´s house.

When she arrived she offered him a beer. A wave of fear washed through Rick´s stomach. It was as if a self aware werewolf saw the first sliver of a full moon.

“Oh, I shouldn´t dear, I just took a Tylenol and that´s not good for the liver” he said, proud of his own quick thinking.

“Just one, hun. I´ll have one with you” she insisted.

“Just one” he said.

That first beer went down his throat as if it were honey descending a silk lined golden tube. It tasted so good. The slight alteration in mood felt so familiar. The air smelled better. The future seemed to not matter yet so much brighter at the same time. If one beer made him feel this way, another would make him feel that much better.

“Pass me another on, hun, that hit the spot” he said. He was careful to form the words perfectly. He did not want his tongue to defy him. He knew that it was already becoming a little rebellious.

“Sure” she said as she past him another.

He drank it down even more greedily than the first. The bright warm feeling starting to turn a little dark with this beer. The future seemed to matter even a little less, though the brightness was gone. The switch was thrown.

“We really need to talk” Pamela said not knowing that the chemistry of Rick´s brain was changing like a hot summer afternoon with a storm rolling in.

“Sure, babe, pass another beer” he said.

“Ok, but take it easy, you don´t want to get drunk, do you?” she said jokingly.

He didn´t pick up on the playfulness in her words and said “What is it to you if I get drunk. We are together for a few months and you already want to control me?” he felt an old anger that has been with him for years. “I want a cigarette”.

“You smoke?” Pamela asked with a shocked expression on her face.

“Sometimes” he said as he reached passed her and pulled the third beer from the box.

“I didn´t know that” she said.

“Yeah? Well, there are a lot of things you don´t know about me” he said with a face that was not hiding the sourness he felt in his soul. He chugged the beer without even taking a breath. He reached for the fourth.

“What´s going on here?” Pamela asked.

“You told me to” he answered. This really confused Pamela.

“I have to go” Pamela gathered her things and went for the box of beer when a hand grabbed her wrist and pulled it away.

“You can leave that” Rick said.

“Ok” she said with tears in her eyes.

That night Rick went on a bender that ended three days later. When he finally passed out in a burned out house on a pissed stained mattress in the seedy part of town, Pamela had already crossed the country to lay her head on the silk pillow in the luxurious guest room of her sister´s home.

Giving it up

18 Feb

art_or_insanity

“That´s it, you either give it up or give me up! I´m outta here if you don´t stop it” April said.

Bruno could not hear her because of the Wifi signal that buzzed in his head and scrambled his thoughts. At least he thought it did. A long with many other things that were going through his mind that indeed were not true, at least not in this dimension. In fact, there was nothing for him to give up. He was having what his doctors called episodes of psychotic behavior and he was blaming his actions on heroin use. The truth was, Bruno doesn´t even drink coffee, let alone do drugs.

Bruno was in a semi-lucid state for the moment. He had to think of a way out of this. He loved April and didn´t want to lose her. On the other hand, due to past experience, he knew that this could go on for at least another few weeks and up to a few months. He didn´t want her to know about this side of him, yet. He had an idea.

“April, I choose you. I´ll go to rehab” he said.

Tears welled up in April´s eyes, “Oh, I love you. You´ll get through this. I´ll be there for you” she said.

Bruno had no money. During this last episode, he lost his job and spent every last dime of he had in Atlantic City. When he is in this state he is more likely to engage in high risk behaviors. April was not that bright, so it was easy to get her to believe things.

“Give me 70 bucks so I can get a bus ticket” Bruno asked in a commanding tone.

“For what?” she asked.

“For bus fare to get to rehab” he answered.

“Oh yeah, of course. Here´s $200. I made good tips last night” she said and handing him a crumpled up wad of bills with pride that swirled in her stomach. “When are you going to go?” she asked.

“I think I should go immediately before temptation makes me change my mind” he said. What he really meant was, before he loses his feeble, finger tip only, current grip on reality.

“But if you go tonight, I cannot see you off. Make it tomorrow” she whined.

“No, it´s gotta be tonight” he said.

“Ok. Where are you going?” she asked.

Bruno looked around for an idea. Eureka. A bag of gold fish crackers. “Pepperidge Farms” he said looking at April crooked to see if she bought it, he nervously added “it´s a government run thing, free even” he said, now convinced she believed him.

After a long embrace, April said to Bruno, “Get better”

“I will” he answered.

On his way to the bus terminal, where he intended to buy a ticket to Akron, Ohio and wait out this episode with an aunt, the city started to turn into a jungle. “Oh shit” he whispered to himself as he felt reality become rather slippery.

As the cab pulled up to the terminal, Bruno was already planning how he would enter without getting attacked by the jaguar he saw following them for the past three traffic lights.

He skillfully made it through the front door of the terminal and as he wheezed deeply to catch his breath he said to the cashier, “One ticket to Atlantic City, please”

The Typewriter

15 Feb

images

 

 

Clack, clack, clack went the sound of his typewriter. Frank was furiously pounding away on the vintage keys that set him back a small fortune in a little boutique shop in a gentrified, once artistic part of the city. A small mountain of cigarette butts spilled out of one of the empty cardboard coffee cups that surrounded his work space. He was writing for hours but nothing of quality found its way to the endless reams of paper.

“It´s all shit!” he screamed, though the only sentient being to hear these words were his cat and his neighbor. The walls were paper thin in his tiny one bedroom apartment in a converted candy factory in another gentrified, once artistic part of the city.

Frank had some success of late selling a few stories here and there but the well seemed to have dried up. Everything he came up with was derivative of something he had already read or had already written. He had recently gone off his mood stabilizers in hope that it would spark some hidden creativity.

With a deft sweep of his arm, the typewriter went flying across the room. It would have taken out the cat if it didn´t have such keen reflexes. He sat there staring at the typewriter, upside down on the floor for some time.

Clack, clack, clack. The keys of the typewriter started moving by themselves. Frank sat up straight. The clicking stopped. He slowly walked over to the downed typewriter and turned it over. He saw a sentence on the page after where he had stopped.

Just keep going.

Those three extra words on the page he hadn´t written. Frank was perplexed. Surely this wasn´t for real. He decided his mind was playing tricks on him and he decided to go to bed for the night.

When Frank awoke he walked over to the typewriter on the floor. He looked at the page and there were more words.

You suffer for your work. Now others must suffer for your work. Make them pay and you will reap the profits.

“What does that mean?” he asked himself out loud. He felt stupid for saying these words because he knew exactly what it meant. He needed new life experiences to draw from as inspiration. He knew that hurting people would evoke deep emotions that he could use to write.

Frank always had a violent streak that he used to punish only himself. He had never even thought of hurting anyone else but he figured that this must be a sign from above. Frank decided he would go to the park late at night and do some harm to homeless people. This way, he could do what the typewriter told him to with minimal risks with the law. Frank was also a coward and a weakling. A sleeping homeless person would offer the least resistance.

That night, Frank filled the pockets of his parka with a small bottle of rubbing alcohol, some rags and a box of strike anywhere matches. He also slipped two mini bottles of vodka he had obtained from his last flight into the breast pocket for a little added courage. He then set off for the park.

He found his first victim. It was a woman sleeping under a makeshift tent made of a cardboard box. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out one of the mini bottles. He was not a drinker and could barely get the vile liquid down his throat. A little even made its way back up and he had to swallow it a second time. He took a deep breath just to keep it down.

From behind him he heard a voice say “Having a party and didn´t even invite me?” Then he felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck, saw a bright light then nothing. The metal pipe that had just smashed his brain stem cut off communication from his brain to his body. The homeless man slipped of Frank´s parka, then the rest of his clothes. He was left unconscious and stripped to his underwear in the harsh cold in the middle of the park.

When Frank came to he was in a white room with bright lights. His hands were restrained with fur lined leather cuffs. He looked to his right and he saw his case worker, John, sitting on the chair besides him.

“How do you feel Frank?” John asked.

“Terrible. What happened?” he asked.

“That´s what I would like to know. The only facts I have are, you were found in Jefferson Park in your underwear, barely breathing. You had alcohol on your breath. A nice homeless woman saw you around midnight and got the attention of a nearby police officer” he said. “Have you been taking your meds?”

“Well, uh, no” he sheepishly answered. “But…”

“But nothing Frank. How many times do we have to go through this. You must take your medications”

“Am I in trouble, John?” Frank asked.

“No, of course not”” John said with genuine concern in his voice.

Off the hook again. Frank thought. Mental disease has its advantages. This will make a great story.

 

In the Salt Mine

13 Feb

minecart

 

Deep in the Bavarian salt mines is where Rolf spent most of his waking hours. It didn´t matter that he felt dead in the dry darkness. He had mouths to feed. His body was deteriorating exponentially in his later years. The end was near for Rolf and he knew it. He welcomed it. His demise would not even entail many teary heartfelt good-byes. He barely knew his children. He spent on average twelve hours per day in the salt mine. He wouldn´t miss the finer things in life. He never knew them.

His day was greeted with a cup of harsh black coffee in a tin cup and a thick piece of tasteless bread with sour tasting butter. His lunch was not that much better and his dinner was absent most days. He didn´t have a notion of what a weekend was so that was one more thing he could not miss. Even the sun was something that he barely knew. Every once in a while, when he remembered to do so, before descending into the black square hole of the mine aboard the rickety wooden mine cart, he would consciously feel the rays of the sun on his skin. It was so warming that it sent chills in other parts of his body. But even this he did little of because most days he was getting screamed at for the duration of the descent. The conversation was usually about quotas.

One day he was toiling away trying to make his quota for the first time in 4 days he heard a faint noise in the distance. He grabbed a torch and went to investigate. As he got closer, the noise became more audible. It sounded like human groans, very weak groans and not those of a man. As he got closer to the source he saw a little boy pinned under a flat rock of heavy salt. The boy was near death. He must have been down there for some time.

Rolf leaned close to the boys face to see if he was breathing. Breaths were very shallow and few and far between. With every breath came a low moan. To Rolf´s horror he heard some material slide. The walls were caving in a little more. He attempted to lift the rock off the boy but it was too heavy. He could easily break the rock by striking it with his pick but he risked further injuring the wounded child.

He thought to get help when the child said “Don´t leave me sir. It´s cold and I´m scared. The shadows are circling us. They are calling me. They seem to stay away with you here.”

So that was that. He could not even think of leaving the boy after hearing that. But if he didn´t do something quickly, they would both spend the night in the mine and surely the boy would die.

Rolf caressed the boys head and leaned again the smooth mine wall. As he leaned back his torch started to flicker. Damn, it was running out of fuel. He maybe had 15 minutes of light left and he had no idea what to do.

“Sir, don´t let it go dark again, I don´t know what the shadows will do. I´m so scared.” the boy said.

Rolf heard more sliding. This shaft was collapsing even more. The light went out prematurely. They were both left in the dark. The boy left out what he could of a scream but it was so muffled and weak that it sounded more like a prolonged cough.

Rolf heard whispers in the darkness. At first he thought they were his men coming to help. But he quickly realized otherwise. He went to feel for the head of the boy but it was gone. So was the rest of him. The boy was no longer there. Now the whispers increased. He was surrounded by them. He left out a scream but nothing came out.

*   *   *   *

Meanwhile on the surface the owner of the mine was giving a statement to the constable.

“Around 4:30 it looks like the whole west wing shaft collapsed” he said.

“How many survivors?” the constable asked.

“Well, looks like everybody made it out to safety, except Rolf. Poor fellow. He was deeper than the rest, probably due to not making his quota for 4 days. He was really trying to get it today. Looks like it cost him”

 

 

Twice Defrocked

9 Feb

jesus

 

Jen and Robert decided that they were going to adopt. After years of research and straddling the fence on the issue, they decided to make this life altering decision, though they had no idea how life altering the process would be. One of their biggest hang ups was about religion. Jen was a devout Catholic, as devout as an American could possibly be. Rob on the other hand had an almost irrational hatred for the Catholic Church and all Christian doctrine for that matter. This caused many arguments about how they would raise the child but they came to the conclusion that they would let the child decide for itself when the time came.

Jen´s life was an open book to all who knew her whereas Rob´s life had much mystery beyond the 6 years that they were together. He told Jen that he was a victim of severe abuse and escaped his home at age 16 so he didn´t like to talk about that. Then, with fake documents, he entered the military and served in Iraq which was so traumatic that he didn´t like talking about the either. When Jen met him, he was working as a toll booth operator on the NJ turnpike. He used the veil of abuse to hide his past from her.

They decided on an agency and went downtown to get the paperwork rolling. Rob was very nervous on the car ride. He was visibly nervous.

“What´s wrong, hun?” Jen asked.

“Nothing. It´s just this is the biggest decision of our lives and I am a little nervous” he answered.

“Don´t worry, it´ll be all right. We are ready for this” she said. “We are not going into this all willy nilly. We are totally prepared for anything that is thrown at us.”

“Are we really?” he said before going silent.

At the agency, the couple was handed a thick folder full of informative brochures and forms to fill out. They were briefed by an agent for over an hour. It was surprisingly pleasant.

On the way home Jen said to Rob “I have a good feeling about this”. Rob just nodded.

They sent the paperwork away and waited. The agent told them that it could take up to one month to hear anything. During this month Rob was agitated and very short with Jen. He wasn´t eating and could not get through a whole night without waking up many times.

The day came. A letter from the adoption agency arrived in their mailbox. Rob was leaving work early trying to beat Jenna home so he could intercept the mail. On this day, someone called off so Rob had to stay an extra hour to cover the shift until a replacement came.

When Rob got home Jen was on the couch crying.

“What´s wrong?” he asked.

She slowly looked up. “Who are you?” she said between sobs.

“What?” he said, his mind now spinning trying to think of the motive for such a question. He knew the question would come one day but he needed to know what she knew so he could spin it in the direction he wanted.

“The agency said that the Social Security number you gave does not exist” she said.

“Maybe I wrote it down wrong. Let´s just resubmit the paperwork” he said, his voice shaking.

“I double checked all the information. It was all correct. Why is it saying that you don´t exist?” she said, her anger rising.

Rob knew this was the end of the line. He had to come clean. He knew this adoption would be the undoing of everything. He stalled Jen as long as he could over the past few years. He knew there would be background checks. He knew his new life would come to an end. He couldn´t stall her anymore. She was adamant about this adoption.

He thought about his options. Tell her another lie to get through these next few moments, pack a bag, flee and start again? Take his own life as to not cause any more suffering than he had already caused? Tell her the truth and see how she reacts? The weight on his shoulders was great. He had been living a lie for so long. He made his choice. Truth.

“Jen, 10 years ago I was a priest. I was a damn good one. I helped so many people. But I could not fix myself. I had appetites. Horrible appetites. No praying in the world would make them go away. I had others pray for me. It didn´t help. I started acting on these appetites. Then people started whispering, the whispers turned to chatter until the chatter turned to screams. I had to move. The church moved across the country. The appetites followed. I couldn´t help myself. My God wasn´t strong enough to stop me! They moved me again but the people already knew why I was there when I arrived. I couldn´t stay. I paid some gangster 10,000 dollars to create this new life for me in New Jersey. Since we´ve been together, I have not acted out once! Please believe me. I love you.”

Jen saw through the fog of shock enough to mutter two words, “Get out.”

 

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