Sinker.

sinker
ˈsɪŋkə/ noun
noun: sinker; plural noun: sinkers; noun: sinker ball; plural noun: sinker balls
  1. 1.
    a weight used to sink a fishing line or sounding line.
  2. 2.
    BASEBALL
    a pitch which drops markedly as it nears home plate.
    “he throws a sinker as hard as 92 mph”
  3. 3.
    a type of windsurfing board of insufficient buoyancy to support its crew unless moving fast.
  4. 4.
    US
    a doughnut.

The two went for coffee and sinkers. She was hesitant at first but he was calm and convincing. The sun was setting before they reached the diner and once inside they talked a long time. She pushed a limp rag of donut around her mug with a small steel spoon, watching it sink before fishing it out to let it sink again. He told her about his life. About his family, his work, the car he wanted to buy, the sports he followed. Lies, all of it. She listened with a distracted, uncomfortable air as though not quite at home in conversation. The night gathered softly about them, the rows of windows fading from paled silver into imperfect mirrors which cast only their own images, returned to them bathed gold and yellowed and caught twice, not quite aligned with not a sight from without. He asked the man behind her not to smoke so close and she said she made no mind of it as her father smoked constantly. He asked her opinions on culture and she considered him impressive in his knowledge. Two men seated at the bar watching a baseball game occur across the country broke into a heated argument and she said she ought be home by now. He convinced her to walk with him and so they did, out the diner where they stood a while in the lot, leaning against the bumper of a truck and looking out over the city. He touched her bare arm and she felt the soft brush of his warm fingers against the cool evening air.

She didn’t tell her father about him. To her mother she told only that she had met a nice man and they had talked outside a diner. And that only because she had half-mentioned it in a distracted moment. He sister later told how she could tell something had come over her, but knew no more than that.

The two met again, as they had devised, a week later, outside the same diner. At his suggestion they took a walk down towards the seafront where they drawled up and down the arcade then further out the city towards the cliff sides where they watched recreational fishermen labor line after line far out toward the horizon. He told her she was pretty and she blushed as young girls do, unprepared. He touched again her arm and she tasted fresh mint and something foul like rot in his mouth. He said they aught take a walk up a path he knew where they could look down over the city and the ocean. Up winding concrete stairs left cracking and salt bitten where thick sea brush and weeds crawled between small cracks, widening them. Darkness bit and out away from the lights and the people it was cool and quiet. She felt his hand rest on the back of her neck, his thumb wrapped about, just barely nudging her esophagus, another sinker set for the ocean bound in fishing lines and weights.

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Centenarian. (Part One).

centenarian
ˌsɛntɪˈnɛːrɪən/ noun
noun: centenarian; plural noun: centenarians
  1. a person who is a hundred or more years old.

I should doubt to have thought, for all my long years, that I might live to see the bones of a dragon.

 

Leaving, we set fires beneath the curtains. First those in the bedroom then those in the hallway, the living room. The Foreigner showed me how to ball four sheets of paper into a mash that would smoulder for ten minutes before bursting into flame. We set two such sculptures beneath each curtainstem, hurrying out the back gate and over the fence. The Boy was stood upright in the driver’s well of the car, door open, scoping for us. He hissed hurry and we jogged the last few paces. I thought of The Dead Woman’s eyes, still splayed open on the bedroom floor. I wondered what the flame might do to those eyes. We clambered in and The Boy went to drive away. The Foreigner put his hand across the car and gripped the wheel.

Checks? he asked us. I patted my pocket. Opened the back centre seat and eyed the boot. Mentally ticked. Ticked.

Checked, I said. The Boy fidgeted, agitated.

Checks? The Foreigner asked again. The Boy mumbled he hadn’t left the car. The Foreigner’s finger swept across the dash, intimating the fuel-gauge, mile-counter. Stamped his foot in the well.

These are your checks, The Foreigner said.

Checked, fuck, checked, The Boy blurted.

Good. Go.

We pulled away. Lights set to low, sweeping out the track onto the street. Down the street and away, pulling onto other streets that rolled and rolled out to the highway like rivers running to  the ocean. The boot began knocking but all three of us ignored it. The Boy didn’t say a word, just sweated, sat forward in his seat, squinting every corner for imagined pursuit. I scanned behind as we crossed the overpass. A miniscule spectacle of sparkling orange in the distance behind.

Relax, The Foreigner said. Relax, it’s done already.

 

The Buyer was waiting for us on the bluff, leant against his SUV, shadowy forms shifting in the blackened glass behind him. He stepped away as we approached, our headlights picking out his tan suit in the sallow desert. The city glowed with a heavy curtain of neon beneath him. Like a dome; a sheet of luminescence chained to ten thousand twinkling anchors.

Sit, The Foreigner said as The Boy went to open his door. You stay here.

The Foreigner moved smoothly from his seat. Lithe, like a cat, the car door closing softly behind him. The Boy shifted uncomfortably. Fidgeted in his seat, the boot knocking a rhythmic beat behind me, The Boy subconsciously matching the beat with his foot against the floor.

I don’t fucking like this, he said. I closed my eyes and counted in my head. Listened to the insistent knocking. I don’t fucking like this one fucking bit, he said again. I leant back, opening my eyes and examining the fuzzing headliner above me.

If we’re just – The Boy started Why don’t you shut the fuck up and let your brain quiet? I interrupted. If we’re in trouble I’ll tell you we’re in trouble. Up to then all you need to do is nod. Right? And drive the fucking car. Christ.

The Boy went back to silence. Outside The Foreigner and The Buyer had bowed to each other and now stood in conversation. The Foreigner gestured The Buyer and The Buyer nodded. The Foreigner turned and came back. Pointed at me as he crossed around the car. I clambered out and went with him to the boot.

Good? I muttered.

Of course, he replied.

We popped the trunk and The Old Man rolled over to face us, his misty eyes scanning fruitlessly, his body shrinking away from the cold desert air that washed over his naked skin. The Foreigner grabbed him under his arm and lifted him out the boot, suspending him a moment in the air like some hollow doll, easily swung, before dumping him into the dirt with a start of dust. He whined through his gag, tears rolling out his white, pearlescent eyes. I gripped him beneath one armpit and the foreigner beneath the other and we lifted him easily into the air, carrying him across to where The Buyer stood waiting like some expectant heathen deity. The Old Man’s felt like paper beneath my grip; barely present. I speculated how far I could throw him. Wondered what his end might look like were I to pitch him off the cliff; how far he might fly. I swept his feet back as we deposited him and so he landed in a heavy bow, his bound hands useless as his wet, sticky face went to the dirt. The Foreigner pulled him back by the hair, exposing his belly, and intimated with a knife I hadn’t seen him draw the design of a dragon, tattooed across The Old Man’s chest. The mark was almost faded, a mess of deep reds and blacks, hints of yellow across the withered man’s antique and ochre skin. The Buyer squatted to examine it. Ran a finger up and down it it. The Old Man shivered, whining, his head tossing like a blinkered horse. The Buyer looked The Old Man in his shifting eyes, scanning for something in those dulled, blinded orbs. Nodded to himself, not quite smiling. Stood and drew a pistol. Shot The Old Man through the upper teeth, severing the spinal chord. The Old Man keeled at me, gaping. I dumped the body to the dust in disgust, my arm and shoulder splattered with blood, bone and matter. The Buyer smirked an ugly, mean smile at me.

Good job, he said.

Good job yourself. We could’ve done that in his house, I spat. Done him clean like the woman.

Everything has a purpose, The Buyer purred. I have my reasons.

I ran my tongue over my teeth, picking the flecks of gristle from them. Spat them onto the body.

If you wanted him dead you aught have paid me to kill him, I said. Would’ve been cheaper.

You know where you’re going? The Buyer asked The Foreigner, his interest evaporating instantly off me.

Of course, The Foreigner nodded.

Then get to it, The Buyer said, turning to return to his car.

Hey, I said. He turned to look back to me, raising one slender, dismissive eyebrow. Money, I said plainly, holding out my hand.

The Buyer stood a moment, looking at me with slim, steely eyes. A shadow shifted in the SUV behind him but I blocked it out, keeping my attention square and focused, not letting my eyes flutter.

Money, I said again.

The Buyer rolled his eyes. The Foreigner took me by the shoulder.

I have it, he said. We’ll split it when we’re done.

We are done, I said. Find him and bring him was what we agreed. I found, I bought, now you pay.

He has your money, The Buyer said, turning. And you’ll get it. When it’s done. And it’s done when it’s done.

I didn’t see you pass no money, I said. My heel lifted an inch, considering a step forward. I thought better of it. Rested back. This isn’t what we agreed, I said.

No, The Buyer said plainly. It isn’t.

Come, The Foreigner hissed. You’ve crossed a line. You want your money; come.

I thought about arguing. About going for the gun in my waistband. About how good a human shield The Foreigner might make. About whether The Boy would wait for me or flee. I thought a moment before turning on my heel and following The Foreigner’s lead as he lifted the dusty, naked corpse of The Old Man who peeled like sticky toilet roll out the earth as we hoisted him.

The Boy had a gun drawn, held beneath the dash in sweating hands. The Foreigner slapped it out his hand as we climbed back in, muttering to himself in his own language. The Boy caught my eye in the rearview.

We in trouble? he asked. I shrugged, eyes flicking to The Foreigner and back. The Boy nodded once. Steeled himself and sparked the engine. Creaked into reverse.

The Buyer watched as we pulled away, stood where we left him, The Old Man rolling back and forth in the trunk and the earth bouncing up and down out the rear windscreen. I thought again of The Dead Woman’s open, empty eyes, staring sightlessly in the burning bedroom.

Puffery.

puffery
ˈpʌf(ə)ri/ noun
noun: puffery
  1. exaggerated or false praise.
    “his puffery actually was not far from the truth”

The Hippo gnawed out a long, gestating breath which fell heavy across the room. In tall towers gilded silver did such beasts puff themselves into ruinous tribal effigies, towered like totems matched foot to shoulder with those below. Heaving like some beached beast of the sea he stretched and strained in his confinements, his weight a great and gruesome millstone dragging like gravity, as though his meaty form were some leg of flesh set to the centre of an overburdened table where it slipped between the seams, dragging the cloth and all that was set down with it.

I matched shut my leaded lids and let between my lips slip a sigh as soft as silt, which drifted like a cloud between unknowing ears. To care, to care was a hatred I harboured within myself. For in all the wide world there is not a segment set with more care and delicacy than any other, and none less so than this beleaguered Hippo.

But, lo, in such moments the mercenary hearts of mutinous men glow shimmering beneath a reckless light. And with breath did the glowering Hippo push, in arrogance, a cursing life into effigies of clay which clung to that aberrance, and, lo, such did they applaud. With renegade puffery whose cacophony was as  a multitude of falling hooves hammering against stone, pulped to dust.

The Hippo leant back, a slack and sickening smiles stretching taut between his cheeks, his bulging body a wrecking ball that strained and settled and strained again like the shifting form of antique stonework carved into the living earth. And he smiled as they adored and simpered and sought favour and fortune and dug into the folds of him like men of the mines gnawing for gems of amethyst or jet. And he boasted again of the simplicity of things and spoke, drawn out, like spilling honey, on the worth and want and value of plaudits, even as lift him they did to their crippled, broken shoulders, no worth or want in a word, only empty flattery dragging down, down, down.

 

Suadade.

saʊˈdɑːdə/
noun: saudade; plural noun: saudades
  1. (especially with reference to songs or poetry) a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.
    “her songs are based on love poems and evoke a melancholy known to the Portuguese as saudade”

I came by his house late into the afternoon. He was alone, it seemed. I sat across the row in my car and watched his wearied, watery face as he carried black, straining bags out his pegged door and out to his truck. A small girl rode loops on her bike. Her father shouted her for supper. The sun began setting and so after a time the truck was loaded, and he threw a tarp across the bed and secured it. Then he set himself back on his deck and just sat, staring at the neat lawn beneath his feet as the sun slowly shrank behind him.

We sat there, both, a long time, he staring nowhere, I accounting him. Two women pushing a stroller crossed the road to speak to him. One put a hand to his shoulder. He grasped it with a polite, devastated kind of gratitude. They held their palms to their hearts as they backed delicately away. Platitudes. Theatrics of unknowable feeling. The world turned a slow, spectral blue. A man smoked a cigarette two houses down. Returned inside, framed by gold as he crossed the windows. A pickup rumbled down the road. Disappeared, its note fading with the daylight.

I climbed out my rental and stretched. He looked over to me. I matched his gaze. He looked away. A child sang a nursery rhyme in a garden somewhere. I crossed over to him and stood at the verge of his lawn, watching him. He  looked up at me. I asked if he was moving out.

“Why? You want to buy the place?”

I didn’t answer. I asked if he was moving out.

“Not right now,” he said. “Maybe some point soon. You want to buy the place?”

I asked if they’d talked about it. If they’d discussed him moving out. If the decision were made or not.  He took me in. Looked me up and down. Slowly, like a man appraising a drop into murky water.

“We know each other?” he asked. I said we didn’t. He glanced up and down the deserted street.

“You want to sit down?”

I sat, crossing the lawn. Each step felt like a profanity which cut two directions. For all my soul I wished it were other.

And so we were shoulder to shoulder, looking out across the low, flattened and cluttered plain of his desiccated life. I asked what he’d been packing away.

“Clothes,” he said. “Mostly clothes, going to charity or a thrift store or whatever I pass first.”

We went to silence again. A car pulled up across the way and a pretty young girl climbed out the passenger side. Went around to kiss the driver. They giggled together. The door of a house opened and a middle-aged man stood in the threshold, looking out. The pretty girl disengaged from the car and the man waved a stony greeting as the car pulled away. The girl followed the man into the house. The door closed. It was dark by then and we sat side by side on the darkening porch of his house, watching the street without, his windows sole unlit on that dusky autumn evening.

“I know,” he said finally. “I know who you are. She talked about you.”

Even in the darkness I could see the water running down his cheeks. I sniffed once. Twice. Tucking away, as I was well versed, all the immeasurable weight.

“She wrote you before she went. Did you read it? I thought you might come before she left. I’m sorry you didn’t get to say goodbye.”

I leant back on my elbows. Looked up. Four or five faded stars speckled the deep, deep sky. There was no moon. No hint of familiarity in that dark and devastated reach.

“I said goodbye,” I told him. “I said goodbye many years ago. I already got to say my goodbyes. There was – ” I faltered. Paused. Coerced my thoughts.

“There was a time I  thought I couldn’t live without her. Like my body and mind would shrivel to nothing in her absence. And when she left, when she had to leave, when we had to be apart, then I thought I might die. With all the meaninglessness of it all.”

I paused again.

“Excuse me,” I spat passed his lawn onto his driveway. He shrugged. “Excuse me,” I said again. “But I didn’t die,” I continued. “Life… life just keeps on. No matter how big the hole feels, it won’t kill you. And there’s the sick irony of it. A car’ll kill you. A stone, a fall, they’ll kill you flat, but a gaping, raw-edged hole dug right into the core of you… you’ll live passed that a thousand times over. Its like our bodies betraying us. Disregarding all that hurt like it just doesn’t exist. I’m rambling. We… I got to say my goodbyes, did my healing other the last eight years I did my healing and my hoping and my everything else and I… and now it’s done. Done with absolute finality.”

He looked out over the dark street. Spat on his own lawn.

“It’s done,” he said. “But it’s not over. We still have to hurt.”

I nodded as sagely as I could manage, blinking fiercely.

“Does it get easier?” he asked. I got the sense he wasn’t asking me. I didn’t bother answering. Didn’t have the heart to tell him it never did. That the deep pain never really left. Only ever got quieter.

“I keep dreaming about her. Dreaming this whole ugly, broken thing was only a dull imagining,” he says. “And then in that half-waking transition I’m stumbling in the dark trying to keep a grasp on her. But she’s like smoke, disappearing out my grip. And then I’m just cradling sand or ash or fine, disappearing silver water that fades off my skin into vapour.”

I closed my eyes, pumping tears from their edges. Some things are universal, even in translation. Need blending want and hurt and helplessness. Melancholia and suadade, listlessness, tension that never lets loose.

A car pulled up the street and turned into a drive. A late-night jogger passed somewhere behind the house, the dull, slapping footfalls their only announcement, approaching, passing, retreating. We sat a long time in speculative silence, both bound in imaginings of the same vanished face, never to return.