Sailors Blood

boat

I wish I could stay on this boat forever, Sabela inhaled the sea air, watching the Channel Islands pass one after the other. To the east, Los Angeles, faded and was lost from sight. The sail snapped taut, filled to bursting with wind, its triangular shape glowing stark white against a Pacific blue sky. A salty sea spray kissed her lips as overhead the cry of a seagull added texture to the scene.

“Hey sexy chica. Come take the helm.” Jay waived her away from the forward bow.

“I’ve only read about yacht sailing, Jay. I’ve never actually steered one.” Sabela’s voice was lost in the western breeze, stolen by the cry of a gull, made inconsequential by the bored look on Jay’s face.

“It’s not like you can hit anything. There is nothing out here. Just keep the sail to starboard and we’ll be on course.” Jay stepped from the station, freeing the yacht. The helm turned with the movement of the rudder, its jerky motion chaotic. Wrestling it under control, Sabela felt the pull of the water and the motion of each wave that moved the rudder, dragging at the helm. “It’s a fucking yacht not a loose hog in your abuela’s garden, Puta. You don’t need to jump on it.” Sabela tried not to blush at his words. Puta, the word echoed in her head. I’m not a whore. Looking starboard she bit her lip and checked the sail. Why did he call me that? Jay disappeared below deck. They were friends, had been friends ever since the first time he’d walked into the bar and ordered a whisky. He must have been joking.

Alone at the helm, Sabela breathed in the sea air, feeling her body relax, her worry fade. The smooth black wheel moved in a genteel dance in her hands, making her feel connected, rhythmic and vital in a way she’d always dreamed. I want this… The statement came from somewhere deep inside her, rising solidly in her mind like absolute truth.

“I want this…” the words were real, as real as the thought.

“Want what?” Jay stepped out of the hatch with a whisky in his hand.

“This!” Sabela smiled at the blue waters.

Her smile faded when Jay walked up behind her, his hips pressing into her backside.

“And I want this, Puta.”

“I’m not a whore, Jay. I’m here as your friend.” Sabela pushed him away. “It’s not cute to call me that. Besides, I’m Portuguese not Spanish so don’t call me chica either.”

“Portuguese, Spanish, Latina, it all adds up to Mexican vajayjay in my book.” Jay kissed her neck, his hands sliding around her waist.

“Well Jay, your book is fucked up! You said you’d take me out on your yacht, nothing else.” Pinned to the helm, Sabela could smell Jay’s breath, a composition of rotting gums, marijuana and whisky. She turned her head to catch the sea breeze, her left elbow coming up under his chin. She felt him stumble back, his bad scent leaving with him. “I’m not a whore, Jay.” Her words followed him as he wobbled drunkenly back below deck. He was being persistent but working a bar had taught her how to deal with drunk aggressive men.

The yacht lifted and plunged softly under her feet. Glancing at the compass it read south by southwest. Looking up she checked that the boom held hard to starboard. In the ensuing peace the joy of a full sail returned to her, lifting her heart the way the wind lifted her black hair. Even if Jay was being an ass she wasn’t going to let him ruin this day.

“I don’t think you quiet understand your situation, Sabela.” He’d snuck back silently. The blow landed at the back of her head, knocking her into the helm. Her eyesight blurred, white lights flashing across her vision. She felt the yacht jerk again, the helm fighting to list the yacht portside. Sabela sank to her knees, the boom swinging erratically overhead. “Like I said…Puta, your tan ass was invited on this boat ride for one reason. May not be the reason you planned on but…shit happens.” Sabela felt herself lifted, her body turned towards the scent of whisky, gingivitis and Mary-fucking-Jane. His breath filled her nostrils, making her retch.

“My tan ass…has made other plans.” Lifting her fist she landed a weak swing into bad teeth. Jay stumbled back, his eyes alight with rage. He swung at her again but missed, his fist connecting with the rear hatch. “You said we were coming out here to sail!” Sabela’s voice and body rose as the yacht pitched, sending her stumbling into the guardrail. Jay came stumbling after, fists raised, landing a second punch to her forehead. His body collided with hers against the thin cable. The yacht bucked and turned. Overhead the boom jibbed to full portside, pitching Jay down the guardrail when the vessel tacked right. Sabela ran to the helm, cranking the yacht into a hard left.

“You fucking Mexican?” Jay stood clutching the cable rail, his drunken face reflecting a dawning uncertainty.

“I told you, I’m fucking Portuguese…” Jay stepped towards her, but the violent starboard tack pitched him overboard. …and I told you, I came out here to sail! In the ever growing distance, Sabela watched Jay vanish silently under a swell.

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The Temptation of Sweetness

forbiden fruit
My favorite place in all the world is Ashbury’s peach farm, not because his dog is friendly or his gun ain’t loaded, but because his peaches are so juicy they drip down my chin and stain my T-shirt yellow. You’ve never tasted a peach so sweet as an Ashbury peach. You can eat the windfall, or the fresh pick and you won’t find a worm in any of them. I think they must be like Eden’s peaches. You know, the kind Eve skipped over when she got a taste for apples. If I were her, I’d have stuck with peaches.

I’m sucking on a peach, thinking on Eve and her master transgression, when I see Ashbury’s Hell Hound come sneaking up. It ain’t no Pit but it’s still got bite. I’m about to get treed when I see James Ashbury and he’s smiling real big.

“You gonna call that hound dog off?” I got one foot in a tree, both arms hugging the trunk, my half eaten peach stain’in my T-shirt pocket. I feel his eyes on my bare legs moving up to my peach stained shirt.

“Maybe I will.”

“Or maybe you won’t!” I yell, climbing up onto the first limb, my feet dangling over the old dog’s head. Looking out on the orchard I marvel at the acres on acres of peach trees. Looking back down I see James and that smile of his. He’s cute enough but his father’s no friend of mine.

“Mazy Reed, why are you always stealing our peaches?”

“Because, James Ashbury, you grow the best peaches in the whole county?”

“Well, you’re right there. We grow the best peaches in ten counties. Now, why don’t you hop on down here and I’ll tell you what’s even sweeter than our peaches.”

I spit a pit down at the dog. I wait and watch to see what James’ll do next. That boy’s eyes don’t leave me. Neither do the dog’s.

“You gonna call that hound off?”

“Yes Ma’am.” To prove his word he whistles the dog away.

I don’t leave the tree ‘til I’ve had another peach. It’s no good getting caught if you haven’t eaten your fill. Slowly, I slide down the trunk ‘til I feel the cool grass and hard dirt under my bare feet. The sun light’s all soft and yellow coming through the heavy leaves above.

“So you gonna tell me what’s sweeter than peaches?”

“Well…” James drawls out. He’s cute. Damn, he’s cute. I remember him when he was a senior in high school. I’ll be a senor this year but none of the boys in school can compete with James. He’s fine.

“Well?” I ask, “You said you’d tell.”

“That’s right. I did.” He walks slowly up to me like I’m some sort of wild animal that might take fright. Then he leans in, and ever so slowly, he kisses the juice off my neck.

“Now, you behave!” But my words don’t come out as serious as they were meant to.

“I’m behaving,” he whispers. His lips make their way to mine. It’s a sweet kiss, a peach flavored kiss, the kind of kiss you dream about all your life but never really think you’ll get. It’s the kind of kiss that goes on so long that you lose your breath and forget everything you though you knew about life and living and kisses. When it ends, you just want it back again.

“Mazy, do you know what’s sweeter than a peach?”

“This.” I kiss him before he can say more. It doesn’t matter what he’d of said ‘cause he’s mine now. Just like his peaches, I’m gonna have all his kisses, when and how I like ‘em. Pulling back, I look into his soft brown eyes; eyes that reflect acres and acres of heavily laden peach trees. It’s all Eden, all over again because truth is, it was never the sweetness of the fruit that led Eve astray.

The Spaghetti Strap Dress

Green spagetti strap dress
Just like me, cotton has its own personality. I like the way it breathes against my skin. I like the way it smells, my perfume and natural scent mingle with the finely woven threads. I like the way cotton feels when it glides onto my body. It fits like a second skin the moment I slip into it. At first it’s strong and cool but contact makes it soft, warm and sensitive to every curve of my body.

The dress lies pressed and pleated across the worn back of a kitchen chair. None of my chairs match. Like me, they’re second hand, a little worn but amazingly beautiful; graced with an elegant patina that comes with experience. Pink, turquois, the third is red while the fourth is a green so worn it’s really just the memory of color pressed into oak.

I dress next to the ironing board. It’s old too, but not as old as the chairs. The board lies across the top of my kitchen table, only feet from the 50’s aqua colored fridge that never dies. Glancing at my reflection in the darkened window I see my silhouette; a nude strapless bra and panties glimpsed for a moment before the cotton dress drifts over them.

The dress slides, slipping towards my knees. My arms shimmy through the green and white spaghetti straps that add youth and elegance. I face my reflection, still and ghostlike in the dimly lit kitchen. I smile. My Laugh lines grow through the black and silver curls that frame my face. My body is strong. Long legs look out under the knee length hem; well defined shoulders give way to arms that have held and loved many people.

This is my night. Tonight I’m forty-nine, strong, happy, at home to myself, to my life and ready to celebrate the day of my birth. I pick up my bag and walk through the front door to the waiting cab that will take me anywhere I want to go.

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The Dance between Light and Dark: In Story

A dance between light and dark the storyHow many days have I laid here lost between sleep, thirst, hunger, wakefulness and regret? To awaken, to truly open my eyes to this new day feels too heavy, too painful. The rocks beneath my body have left permanent imprints in my flesh and yet I dare not move arm or leg, hand or foot to find comfort. Pain is the sole reminder that I’m still alive. A light lingers in the corner, illuminating one small space in the endless darkness. It finds me where I hide in memory so heavy that to really see its glimmer I must open my eyes and then open my eyes again. Hell’s road may be paved with good intentions but its exit is barred by the lies of false prophets and a forked tongued god.

“You don’t have the right to live!” the voice croons gently in my head, every syllable a bullet in the brain. “You can’t ever go home!”

“What is home?” I question, but the voice interrupts.

“You’ve made your bed!”

I fall back into my bed, into a darkness that does not sleep, the voice coming and going, a murmur one moment, a scream the next. The hours pass in slow monotony until I recall a playground with a swing set. The memory is bright, its light pierces the dark that swarms like flies around me. I am warmed by the memory, my body jerking on its sharp rocks, my eyes opening to the corner where a glimmer still waits.

I remember more bright days filled with sunlit kisses and hugs that lasted all day. I remember smiles that lit my world and the warmth of my grandmother’s kitchen. I cry when I remember her, so beautiful with her silver hair and bright blue eyes. Shifting on my rock I raise my hand to catch the spark of light. How glorious the warmth feels on my fingers, its gentle rays sliding to me from no discernable place. I watch the play of light over my skin but my hand is dirty and the shame of filth is too great to bare. The game ends and I am lost again in regret. Grandma scolds me, her voice imperious with contempt,

“The dirt of childhood is easily washed. Yet, the filth and sin of the fallen can never be cleaned away.”

“Did she really ever say that?” I ask the room but my mouth doesn’t move. The thought lives only in my head. Grandma never spoke like that. Lifting my hand again I catch the light, determined not to lose it this time. Always in my heart there is a place for forgiveness. I forgave the one who hurt me, I forgave the people who watched but said nothing, I forgave the doctors who patched me up and handed me back yet where is my forgiveness?

“Do you deserve any?” The heavy question breaks through my thoughts but the voice isn’t mine, it’s an evil thing; it’s not me.
“You aren’t real. I am!” my words rattle the room. The light brightens. I cup it in my hands to hold it close. The closer I hold it the brighter it becomes.

“You are love” the light speaks softly, “born of love, in love, of love and so loved that you shine always, always, always even in the darkness…” I rest back on my hard bed but do not close my eyes. This truth must be absorbed, held, understood in order to feel real. The dark voice returns, shouting out edicts and condemnation that I refuse to hear because the light is with me, it is all I see and all I chose to think on. It’s soft whisper resonating gently through my soul.

“I am love, born of love, in love, of love, so loved…” and lifting my head I roll to my side, moving through the pain to my knees until the light encircles me. It is warm, loving, never failing in its comfort.

“Light be with me always.” I speak my words as a prayer feeling the darkness shrink away with many whining, whispering complaints. That dark voice, with it’s imprisoning words of judgment slides to an incoherent echo. The light draws me in and I am comforted by its softly spoken words.

“Turn to me and I am there. Find me and you find the way home. hear me and know that I am the light of love as you are the love that seeks the light.”

With these words the light and I are one kneeling being, free to stand, free to walk, free to find care, to find comfort, to live and laugh where the voice that judges the fire walkers and the fallen is silenced and blinded by its own darkness. I’ve walked the long cindered mile. I’ve taken the stony path and slept in a bed of my own making but these bruises, scars and burns have molded me, hardened me, opened me up and made me strong in the knowledge that love awaits me and brings comfort to us all.

Let the white light of the Universe
enfold, protect me
and bathe me in its healing love.
Let this journey be a tool
to bring peace of mind,
love, joy and kindness back to my life.
Cleanse my soul of hurt and bitterness,
resentment, vengeful and judgmental thinking.
Give me balance and serenity
to face each trial with faith,
an open mind, love and kindness.
When I get lost, let the sun shine down
white light to show me the way back
to the path of Love.
Amen.
A Prayer By Susan H.

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A Succubus Plans Her Day

We weren’t allowed to scream. To have done so would have rendered us rebellious, unladylike and rude. We weren’t allowed to show our shoulders, talk back to boys or be defiant. Only in rage did the women in my house raise their voice. Only in rage could you hear the anguish shoved down through centuries of dissimulation, our silenced dreams recalled in high pitched tirades, spoken so loud that the walls shivered. We were all good girls once, poured into tight dresses and tighter shoes. We said our ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous,’ did our make-up and remained girl like, lady like, picture-perfect, while the years of pent up rage and humiliation turned us slowly into passive cannibals.

I ate my first husband with a smile. He was probably a good man, but I didn’t wait to find out. The second one was cruel, he went down as smooth as butter, sticking to my ribs like a well cut gown. I’ve worn him long and well, his money, his name, his house in the hills, are all visible signs of my victory. I’m stuffed on victory, rolling in it. No man ever made me scream in child birth. No man ever made me change a diaper. No man ever made me grow old in silence.

Long hours stretch before me begging to be filled. Maybe I’ll buy a new dress today or maybe I’ll buy five? Maybe I’ll stop by a café and drink coffee with a friend, or maybe I’ll go to France or Morocco and find a new man to eat? Maybe he’ll be tall and handsome? Maybe he’ll be rich and plain? Or maybe he’ll be cruel in that especially delicious way, sliding down my throat like sweet cream on a hot day.

My rage is a palatable thing that no longer tastes of bile or blood’s corroded metal tang. It is sweet like pudding and revenge. It is the friend I turn to, the confidant who always has an answer. It is my alter-self and my master plan. My rage has given me a long memory. It recalls rooms filled with the silence of clocks that slowly tick out the interminably long hours of a pointless life. It recalls the shackles of obedience, the lie inherent in a false smile and years of unending, unendurable servitude.

Picking up my handbag I catch my image in the mirror. Hollow eyes see hollowed cheeks and elegant collar bones that protrude beneath the thin straps of a little black dress. Beautiful I am and beautiful I will remain though my eyes are sharp, cold, dead and haunted in a way that only a cruel man could overlook. And he’s out there somewhere…viciously vulnerable…made tender by lust…rendered delicious by desire.

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The Zing Effect

I never play the odds. My mind won’t lead where my heart cannot follow. The only time I’m all in is when I feel that special zing of excitement flow through me like a pulse of vibrating electric current. When I feel a good zing it doesn’t matter if I’m backing a sure thing or a three legged pony; I’ll anti up just to see where the game takes me. He wasn’t a three legged pony and he was no sure thing but the cut of his suite, the way it fit his shoulders…yum. I didn’t even need him to turn around to know he was for me. The zing was flooding all through me. I felt it in my chest, flooding to the tips of my fingers. My soul whistled a cat call out through my heart yelling, Honey! I’m right here. No sooner did the feeling fill me but that man turned right around and saw me.

It’s funny the way souls attract. I’m very aware of the moment my soul gets all excited about another person’s soul. It’s the zing that gives it away. It’s the zing that shouts out, Hey you! And that’s why I never play the odds. The odds would tell me he’s sophisticate and I’m self-educated and no way-no how is such a pretty bit of man ever going to notice the woman behind the counter in the polyester uniform. Yet he does because souls don’t care about the superficial. Some say fate holds all the cards, yet I know there isn’t an obstacle in the universe that can counterpoint a good zing. My man lifts up his bag and walks to the counter. I stand my ground, my smile offering unlimited serenity in a sea of manmade madness.

“Ma’am?” he starts off real slow, his eyes down cast, his hand resting on the counter over his ticket. “I’m supposed to catch a flight out to Chicago but the schedule over there says the flights been canceled.”

“Let me check that for you.” Taking up the ticket I type a little and look a little and the zing just keeps on keeping on. On my second glance up I catch his eye and smile. He has pretty eyes; the kind that sparkle all kinds of color all at once. A boring person would call them hazel but I know they’re flecked with gold and bits of emerald green and sea foam grey all jumbled up together. He has nice, nice eyes. “Well…” I drawl out the world a little, my eyes fixed on the computer screen. “It would seem that O’Hare’s shut down due to a blizzard. There are no flights scheduled to Chicago for the foreseeable future.”

“So I’m stuck!”

“You could look at it that way. Or you could think of it as a fortuitous extension to your sunny trip to L.A. We have palm trees and movie stars instead of wind-chill and snow drifts.”

“I could look at the upside.” He nods his head with sober resignation.

“Do you have somewhere you can stay?”

“Not as of yet!”

“Well I know a great little place that always has room for a friend. If you like I could give them a call.”

“That sounds nice.” He studies me a bit. “Your voice is familiar.” His smile is slow and hesitant, the kind of smile that seeks truth and spreads gratefully when it finds it. “You’re from Louisiana aren’t you?”

“New Orleans.”

“I’m from Baton Rouge.” Our eyes catch again and hold for a lingering moment.

“Louisiana’s home.” I shrug and smile enjoying the lingering connection like powdered sugar kisses. “I’m off work in 15 minutes.” The words tumble out from my lips as soft and slow as a shared secret. “Why don’t you meet me in the restaurant around the corner and I’ll buy you a lemonade. It’ll be nice to catch-up with someone from back home.”

“I’d like that.”

When he walks away the zing just gets stronger. I feel it in my knees, in my fingers. Even my toes feel ticklish. The zing is why I never back the odds. Logic and the laws of probability won’t allow what just happened. But a good zing? Now that’s physical proof that God’s got you by that hand and he’s leading you to the sweetest part of the cake. I like living a life of possibility, I like dancing in the unpredictable. I like the joy I feel when life offers me a new adventure all wrapped up in sizzling surprise. Best of all, I like the magic that happens when two old souls attract and say hello all over again.

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