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Monday, 24 October 2005

Limelight

Colin promised me that after four years in the limelight, he'd retire. It's been fourteen. And we still live out of a suitcase and call a van home.

That's show biz, I guess.

I'm a writer. I don't call myself an author because that would imply that I've actually published something. But I make time to write every single day.

For the last two weeks, ever since that empty gig in Cleveland, I've been writing the same thing in my notebook. It's more like lines--the type of repetitive sentences that the teacher would make me write for doing a "thumbs down" to the brown noser whenever he answered a math question or sauntered up to the front of the classroom to claim another honour. Back then the line was, "I will not give a thumbs down to Kevin Snochiez." Now the line is, "I will leave Colin before I turn forty."

It's a got a ring to it.

I've stopped trying to change him. The little guy feels naked without his guitar. And the only time his smile seems genuine is when he's jamming a new blues riff with his friends.

I don't know what it is about the name Colin. Ladies, if you ever have a baby and you don't want him to fall in love with a guitar, then don't name him Colin. Go with Chase, Cassidy, or Cobra even, pick ANY other name that starts with a "C". Leave Colin be.

I mean it.

There have got to be dozens of Colins doing the blues circuit in Canada alone. Colin James and Colin Linden come to mind first, but I could name a half-dozen others. No point though. The end result is the same.

Getting back to my woes, I bought a new notebook at the dollar store yesterday, while Colin and the boys were eating at the Denny's. I can't stand that greasy crap. I'd rather eat a salad in the van. Anyway, the new book has a big, bright, cheery flower on the front. I'm usually not one of those "frilly-girl" types, but this one caught my eye. It screams, "Joy," and that's what I need to finally write my novel. I'm gonna start planning the plot today. In the new book. On page one. Where all the good stories have to start.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Restore

I set myself the goal of three months to restore the ship. Seemed like enough time to get the parts I needed. Ninety days of tracing short circuits and swapping loose couplings and I'd be off Forbi for good.

I had enough cash to keep my rent up until then. Good thing, since my scum-lord would eat me if I couldn't make rent. Nasdool sent regular comp cheques for wrecking my back in the "incident". They paid a lot of us off. We traded money for our silence; a good deal in my books. I'm no stoolie. Besides, I was probably partly to blame for what happened.

The screaming haunts me at night. Len and Brod, they worked on level eight in my sector that night. I was up to my elbows in coolant, swapping out a bad seal on the forechurners when the turbines started to fail. Without circulation, the air up on six and higher got ripe fast. Len and Brod didn't wear their gear regularly, none of us did. The stuff weighed over a hundred pounds and even with the point-six-gees factor, we couldn't maneuver into tight places suited up.

So they rabbited.

I heard the alarm and scrammed out from under churner three. Brod secured a line, hopped the railing, and started to rappel down to safety. I saw Len up there, and yelled at Brod to pick him up.

His line couldn't hold their combined weight. I knew, but I figured the load reqs were understated. I was wrong.

I watched my friends fall, saw their panicked faces, heard their last screams of fear. Then the chunk of railing that Brod used to secure his line landed on me.

Monday, 10 October 2005

Cozy

The old leather chair by the fireplace was so cozy that I slept in it often. So many times, in fact, that I lost all track of the days.

I was between jobs. The kind of between where food comes out of a can and the heat comes from trees in the neighbourhood parks. If someone came to the door, I wouldn't answer. If the phone rang, I ignored it. But it didn't ring any more since I let that bill slip.

Eventually the cans ran out and the wood got used up, so I had to admit that the world held what I needed--a job. I washed my best clothes in the sink, dried them in the sunshine, and headed to the local hire-front.

I'd passed it on the bus on my way to my old job. It was a storefront on the run-down side of downtown, with a big glass window painted with the slogan "Work Today, Get Paid Today." Luckily, the place was still in business.

I picked the only red plastic chair and sat down. A lady behind a Plexiglas window slid it across and said, "Please register."

I stood and approached the window. A clipboard with a wrinkled piece of paper was covered in the scribbled names of trampled men. I printed my own. The letters looked scattered and jiggly, like I'd trapped my elbow in a washing machine. I hadn't written much in a dog's age.

I sat again in the red chair and leafed through battered magazines. I looked at the pictures mostly, reading wasn't something I fancied. Some of the faces looked familiar; a president here, a movie starlet there, burned-out buildings in wore-torn cities. The news was old but familiar. I could have been reading last week's or last century's events. No matter. Big things only happened to big people. And I was a member of the insignificant micro-people. The ones who society pretends don't exist.

Did I exist? I wasn't sure any more.

Tuesday, 4 October 2005

Wide

Her hips were wide--big enough to birth a decent baby but not so large that they wouldn't fit into the seat of a Mustang convertible. Not that Bill owned a stang yet.

He watched for her from his Chevette on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. He would wait outside the Starbucks on Pico then follow her in.

She didn't order the same drink every time. She had a short list though: Caffè Americano, Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino, and Cinnamon Spice Mocha. Three drinks on which to build a foundation of living the good life.

For three months Bill had been building up the courage to ask her out. He wasn't much to look at, with his receding red hairline and his freckled cheeks. His over-abundance of arm hair was a particular sore spot on his self esteem-o-meter, but he chose long sleeves to mask the issue. The second Thursday in February was the perfect day for the big nudge. If she said yes, he'd spend Valentines Day with a woman for the first time since his mom took him for ice cream in the fifth grade.

Bill waited inside the Starbucks, holding a copy of the L.A. Times in one hand and his sunglasses in the other. He leaned against the door frame, doing his best to be ready to approach her and also not block the entrance for the other morning patrons. He didn't want to offend the employees, or they might ask him to leave, or worse ban him from the store.

She stepped through the door, wearing a pink skirt and a brown leather jacket with a striped scarf.

He took a deep breath.

She dropped a penny.

He lunged to grab it before she could.

"Here." It came out slightly louder than he'd planned as he thrust the penny towards her face. "I'm Bill. What's your name?"

"Thanks, Bill." She turned her attention to the Starbucks menu board.

"I didn't catch your name," he said.

"I didn't offer it."

"I've seen you in here. I thought we might get together for a coffee sometime. Here, or anyplace you like. Maybe tomorrow, I know it's not your regular day, but--"

"No thanks." She left the line up and hurried out the door. Bill never saw her again.

Monday, 3 October 2005

Clean

Since I moved to Nabdona, I've never felt clean.

The indigenous people cleanse themselves with hot sand. They warm the granules over a fire or in an electric oven and then scrub their skin raw. I don't prepared the sand myself. Kejru and I usually visit the sand bars.

During our welcome tour, the guide brought us to the Hacclad bar--a huge pit filled with fine granules and epithelials. I shudder whenever I imagine the countless pieces of patrons brewing and ripening in the pit. The bar itself was built over hot vents, so the sand is kept at a constant temperature. Sifters turn the contents every hour, and particulates drop through screens in the base to be "reclaimed". Kejru summoned the courage to ask how they are reclaimed and what they are turned into, but he did not share his knowledge with me. I thank him every day for that.

The sand is warmer, more penetrating, than bathwater could ever be. But the feel of it is nothing like a liquid. When chatting with my new friends and neighbours here, I've tried to explain what swimming felt like. How the water filled my ears, damping some sounds and amplifying others. How my body floated, what buoyancy did to my human spirit. But they cross their stalks or exhale in short bursts, both ways of conveying their puzzlement. I didn't think to bring images. I left in too much of a hurry.

Kejru had been sentenced to death or removal. He had used up the goodwill that Earth had to offer. A Bpooni, he skipped from planet to planet unloading cargos of exotic furnishings in exchange for hospitality and cultural exposure. He said that home decorating is the only true ambassador. That to share and explore with a people, one must adorn their living spaces then bask in the ambiance.

I fell for his tales of adventure. And when they caught him shooting uwenqs into his veins, he was convicted on the spot. Interstellar drug dealers are unwelcome in our solar system.