Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WELCOME TO INTERIM ~ By Salvatore Buttaci, Linda Simoni-Wastila, Laurita Miller and Anthony Venutolo of HARBINGER*33

An "Ensemble Challenge",
supremely met, to shine
as "Timeless Tale"
under the spotlights,

By ~
Salvatore Buttaci, Linda Simoni-Wastila, 
Laurita Miller and Anthony Venutolo

He wished his Rolex could not only tell time but decide for him which way to go.  He wouldn't be so damn lonely and maybe he'd live to see tomorrow.  Word was out he was as good as dead.  He knew the drill:  you don't play “I've Got a Secret” with the dung bags across town, trying to steal your neighborhood.  Your livelihood. You keep your mouth shut so the flies on the wall don't find refuge in your mouth, then spill out when you get back to Second Avenue Club. Explaining to Sanders he was just shooting off his mouth, didn't mean squat, just passing-time talk, wouldn't cut ice.  And Sanders was ice.

GE TIME AFTER TIME - calloocallay pic
A smell permeated the room packed with sad women and mewling kids, the scent of poor hygiene and futility. Mimosa sat in the hard vinyl seat, stewing in her own desperation. Her gaze alternately traveled from the door leading to the help she needed to the clock hanging askew over the reception room door. An hour wasted already. If she was late Devlin would kill her, if not literally then with fists that left blue-black splotches on her body. Just not her face, she prayed. She needed her face. Her hands hovered over the once-flat plane of her stomach.

The door opened. The nurse in blue looked down at her clipboard. “Mimosa?  The doctor will see you now.”

Mimosa tottered up on her stilettos, rubbing her abdomen. Her eyes smarted with a tinge of remorse.

Jules Verne's Pocketwatch? - nullalux pic
The traveling sales game was not what it used to be. Ben wandered further from home each time, going off to distant little towns just to make a few extra bucks. Towns with names like Gulpin and Cobbletown that were brimming with friendly faces but little money to spend on his shiny wares, the necklaces and bracelets of glass made by his love, his dead wife.

He hoped this one would be different. “Welcome to Interim,” the sign said. The place was small, as he expected, but it was quaint, with tidy little streets lined with well-kept shops and homes. The town square seemed to be a lively place. The predominant feature was a large clock tower, shining like new in the center of town. 

There was a small inn on the corner, as good a place to stay as any. Ben parked his car and, as he walked across the square, the town clock struck the hour.

All activity ceased immediately upon the first chime. A man close to Ben pulled a watch from his pocket, one of those old fashioned pocket jobs, and checked its time against the sounding giant. With growing uneasiness, Ben realized that every person in the square had stopped to check their time pieces. There was barely a movement until the big clock finished announcing the hour. Ben found himself checking his own watch and felt an odd sense of relief that it was right to the second.

He pounded the pavement like a cheap hooker at the witching hour. It wasn't his style. Usually, sources came to him and truth be told, it had been some time since he activated his nose for news.

TIME TICKS ON . . .  pic ala whatmegsaid
Nevertheless, the old muscle still worked and there was still enough time to get the quote, call it into a rewrite man and make the late-edition.

On the way uptown, he figured Johnny Stump - the peg-legged barkeep - would have enough information to initially get him on the right track. Time was of the essence. He just had to make sure not to waste any.

When the fist knocked him square in the snooker, he tasted blood and almost choked on his own saliva. All he could think was: Now this is gonna be a waste of five minutes.

In center field of a thought made scary by Sanders’ penchant for ugly murder, he was slugged back to pained reality.  Billy Penn, his own cousin . . . his first cousin! . . . was pummeling him, dragging him far enough from the Inn in The Square, down into the shadows of the narrow alley.  Devlin himself had pronounced enough men dead and dumped their bodies into the same dark shadows.

“You talk too much.”   Penn’s voice, hard and scratchy like sharp gravel, echoed in his sore ear.  “Mr. Beesley don’t much care for birds that sing.  He likes ‘em quiet.  Like Mimosa.  Quiet.  Pleasure for the eye, but no trouble.”

Penn did his version of the Irish jig, kicking Devlin in the ribs until, splintering like toothpicks, they caved inside his chest.  He could barely speak.  “Wasn’t me.  It was Ben.  Johnny Stump.  The newspaper man.  For crissake, not me!”

But Penn wasn’t buying.  He held the cold steel against Devlin’s pounding temple and cocked the hammer.  The face of Devlin's Rolex was cracked and time stood still.

Devlin threw on some bravado by attempting a laugh.  “Go on.  Pull the trigger.  That ain’t gonna get you answers.  Like who’s milking Beesley.  Like how his days are closing down.  Go on and shoot.”

Penn fired.

The nurse gave Mimosa a cup and ushered her into a cramped bathroom. Mimosa filled the cup and held it to the light; dark, filled with secrets she hoped the last five days had diluted.

The johnny was clean but thin, the belt frayed. Mimosa held the edges together over her ample chest and perched on the edge of the patient table. The doc was squat, his nicotine-stained fingers grubby as he clutched his pen and clipboard; not a practitioner of his preaching.
“What brings you here?” the Doc asked.
Mimosa rattled off her symptoms: extreme fatigue, nausea, a weird trembling sensation below her heart.
“Last period?”
“Four months ago? Easter maybe?” 
“Sounds ‘bout right,” Doc grunted. “Your urine’s loaded with pregnancy hormones.”
But Mimosa knew this fact already; what she didn’t know was who was responsible for getting her into this state, and when. And if Doc could divine that piece of information from her piss then she could make some crucial decisions.
“How far along?” she asked.
“Don’t you know who you slept with?”
She stuck out her lip, made it tremble just so, and cast her eyes down to the floor, swinging one stilettoed foot. The problem was there were too many she’d slept with, a hazard of the job.  The johns, of course, dozens of them this Spring – the warm weather brought them out like roaches. There was Devlin, who owned her, and Penn, his crueler mongrel cousin. And then there was her fastidious, masked lover who finished their fucking with a slam, leaving his brand on her cheek. He was excellent income, a regular with money and power, so his comings and goings were always hush-hush. But one morning when snow had kept her off the streets, she recognized that ring on the hand of a proper-looking silver-headed man defending his actions on C-Span. Beesley, the name on the running marquee said, Chair of Ways and Means. She didn’t know whose ways or means, but she knew he was an important politician. She kept her secret close.
What she wished was that the father was her high school sweetheart. She’d run into Ben one night at Johnny Stump’s after Devlin had given her another black-and-blue. He was a salesman now, hawking watches and jewelry, but she’d fallen all over again for his sweet drawl, his slow touch, the gentle sadness rimming his eyes. He lullabyed her with sweet somethings about wide-open land with gardens and animals. In the end, though, they parted, he to sell his pretty baubles, she to sell her body.  But Mimosa treasured the silver watch he’d given her.
“What else did my pee tell ya?” Mimosa said.
Doc ran his pen down the clipboard. “You smoke, have a urinary tract infection, are borderline diabetic, and use narcotics on a fairly regular basis. Not good for the child.”
“Gotta treat my pain,” she said, and when he asked where her pain was located, she thumped the middle of her chest. “Here.”
She reclined on the table and put her feet in the stirrups. After he was done his poking and prodding, Mimosa asked, “So how far along am I?”

“We’d need an ultrasound to determine dates,” Doc said. “And this is a free clinic which the government, in its infinite generosity, has not provided. But from your symptoms, the examination, and the concentrations of hormones partying in the cup, I’d wager good bucks and say you’re well into your second trimester. Is this your first?”

She remembered the pain that tore her asunder, that made her sob to Jesus she’d be good again, give up the racket, hell, even go to church. She remembered Mama hurrying the crying bundle away, wrapped in a towel, how she’d never seen what she’d delivered onto the bathroom floor between her own knock-kneed legs. Remembering, Mimosa dabbed her eyes with the hem of the Johnny, surprised she still hurt. But then something in her hardened.  “I don’t want it to be.”

“You are too far along for an abortion,” he said. “At least, a legal one.”

Too late, too late. Mimosa sank back against the table, the paper rustling under her, to consider her options: do another back-alley or find her way to Interim. 

The old man behind the desk at the inn seemed surprised but pleased with his new guest.

“We don’t get many visitors around here”, he explained

“I don’t see why not, it’s a lovely place.” Ben wrote his name in the register and accepted the keys to his room. “Any suggestions about the best place to try my sales? I’d like to get started as soon as I can in the morning.”

The old man chuckled. “I like your attitude. Wasting time is something we don’t tolerate around here.”

A little melodramatic, Ben thought, but took the man’s suggestions and thanked him. He planned to return to his car for his sales kit and suitcase, but a quiet evening in a quiet town was made for walking.  He took a left and along the rows of shops and houses with pretty window boxes until he heard the big town clock signal the half hour. Again the townspeople glanced at their clocks and watches, but with less urgency.

Ben turned and walked back toward the inn, then on again to the far end of the square, toward the clock tower. This seemed to be the heart of the town. Dusk closed in on the summer evening, yet children played and neighbours chatted in the shadow of the tower. Ben sat and watched the young couples stroll by, the kids playing tag among the trees. He missed these things, the easiness of small town life.

The first resounding chime of the hour brought the square to a standstill. Townsfolk fumbled for their timepieces. Even the children raised wrists to faces, checking the minutes on brightly coloured watches. Then from beneath the tower came a wailing sound, much louder than the peal of the clock chime.

A young woman stood with one hand against the tower wall. In her other hand she held her watch, a delicate pendant style attached to a chain around her neck. He was attracted to the necklace, it looked like something he sold. In fact, the woman looked like Mimosa. She held the watch to her ear then shook it viciously and listened again.

“Noooo. No, no no.” She searched the faces, all still now and watching her with passive concern. She said nothing, but her expression pleaded for help. Ben was about to step forward, when two men pushed through the crowd and took the woman by the arms. They wore dark suits, official looking. They stepped through the crowd with authority and marched the woman away. Ben heard her whisper, “No, please” as they passed, but she didn’t fight or cry out. But he knew then it was Mimosa.

After a moment the square returned to normal, with gossip and laughter ringing off the high clock tower. He caught bits of conversation as he walked.

“. . . seemed like such a nice girl . . .”
“. . . sad to see . . .”
“. . . it was her time . . .” 

Ben remembered the old man’s words as he rushed to his car: “Wasting time’s not something we tolerate around here.”

He was leaving town, and he wasn’t wasting any time.

The newsman knew that he needed to get in touch with Mimosa. She was the key to his story and all he needed was a quote from her.

But she was scared. And the clock was now his enemy. The tipster said she was hiding at some cheap flophouse -- away from the creep that knocked her up. It could only be one place and he knew it all too well.

A finske was all it took for the Clyde behind the front desk to squeal. Everyone had their price, he thought, ascending those creaky steps.

Winded, he approached the door -- 6C -- and knocked. No answer. After a minute, the door wailed a scary creek open.

"It's me," the newsman said. "You said you'd tell me who did this to you."

Mimosa didn't say anything. The newsman looked at his Timex. It was taunting him.

"Senator Beesley . . ." she said. "Senator Johnathan Beesley." That's was it.

"You did the right thing," he said. He patted her on the cheek and headed for the nearest payphone, hoping there was enough time for the late edition.

We welcome back Timely Wonders

AUTHOR SAL BUTTACI speaks out:  "I am pleased to be part of the writing community, here AT THE BIJOU and elsewhere.  Writers I have met have been supportive and exceedingly talented, and when I get the opportunity to collaborate with them, that's just added whipped cream on the cake!

Sal can be visited at SALVATORE BUTTACI There's plenty more in store on Sal, the Author and his influences, right here AT THE BIJOU's salute to ***100 AUTHORS OF SEPTEMBER*** as well as Buttaci Faves that have become our readers' raves: From Barrymore to hot Carlotta to a Hidden Box ~ Sal's talents never are (hidden!).  

Oh yeah -- He is still flashing his new book at Amazon.com:  Flashing My Shorts to the delight of those who dig short-shorts.

AUTHOR LINDA SIMONI-WASTILA ~ She's a soft swash of poetic dream and a tough-to-the-gut writing machine. Crunching numbers by day and conjuring words by joyous nightfall she reams a plethora lately:
Linda's short, Second-Hand Video-cam just published in Blue Print Review. Her poem UNCTION was noted as a Top 50 Best Poems in the April Poem-A-Day Challenge by Robert Lee Brewer of Writer's Digest. Do venture into her short story ANOTHER THURSDAY NIGHT which appeared in the May issue of The Shine Journal. Watch for two poems coming up in October at CAMROC PRESS REVIEW. On the peace and balance side, our deep-heart spirited Linda just finished up a month of gratitude an raised $150 for hospice and the local crisis center.
LINDA, scurrying to my AT THE BIJOU office door where the light's on most of  the night "Hi Kate! And here's another, hot off this morning's press: PARTLY REVEALED, a poem of mine up at THIRTEEN, the best of 52/250 Flash a Year!"
ABSOLUTELY*KATE, grinnnin' large ~ I'm grateful Linda, not just for getting to link this new ink to today's super-duper presentation of your Fearless Fab-Foursome's Feature sensation . . . but . . . my spirit is enriched by how it nodded in time to "the soft creases trample" (lovely line!), at the full reveal a mirror map glimmers. This was absolutely splendid ~ Please pour a cup of tea or glass of wine and drink it in folks. And then . . . 
AFTER THE LEAP right out of your red velvet seat, plays to fanfare AT THE BIJOU. This engaging tale demonstrates Linda mesmerizing soft-strong thought --  at that place where sensations gather in one lump to your throat.

AUTHOR LAURITA MILLER ~ Well, she started off as the gal down the street in our neighborhood theatre district. You know -- the one that everyone liked to see coming (and some hid from). Then one day her psyche felt so comfortable spinning able fables she turned the tables and lingering Laurita moved right on in AT THE BIJOU! We never changed the locks - told her instead any curtain colour in her dressy writing room is fine and dandy with us. Laurita Miller is an entity unto herself. Some, as myself DO believe she's mastered out-of-body transport to actually date Poe on preordained Friday nights. We don't know where they go, Laurita and Poe, or what they discourse on their course, but we've all experienced the out-of-mind way our lovely Laurita emanates words, impressions, scene-settings and oh! such memorable characterizations to linger ... and stir ... and linger the more. You'll linger too -as her writing swirls extra shadows and shimmer 'round what your mind fancies.

For more enigmatically sweet, scary prismatic sides of Laurita -- writer woman on the muse: View the plop of her BRAIN DROPPINGS < right here.
Her hits AT THE BIJOU are still playing to packed crowds:  THE NEIGHBOURS and THE FETCH. Pull up a red velvet seat, reach into your popcorn and ENJOY!

AUTHOR ANTHONY VENUTOLO ~ A regular AT THE BIJOU who polishes off the mezzanine bar and pulls out the top shelf hootch, closes the joint at a quarter to three. How very fortunate we are to know the way he slings his words around our world. From Vegas to Joisey, hootch to hipster, this cool cat's where it's at whether he's diggin' it down Bukowski's Basement or scorin' heights with the wild range his late night keyboard tends to tip tap type out -- in top style. He's jive and he's genuine; noir dans la nuit; poetry and prose on the non-pretentious upswing. I tell ya, this guy flashes fiction faster than the RatPack can break into any side pocket. Ant can go grit and soft and taunting and tender ~ sometimes in the very same sentence! 
We're runnin' feature films (and Talkies!) of all Anthony wrote 
 AT THE BIJOU > right here. Pull up a red velvet seat and ENJOY


The generous talents taking this AT THE BIJOU challenge, from prolific Harry B. Sanderford, tempestuous Zelda Martin, our compass rose amongst roses by any other name - sweet Sugar Wendy Staley . . . to Goddess Mother of Brilliant Authors, Lady Jeanette Cheezum, Hollywood's Richard M. Johnson (even rallying a chum) . . . to this day's sensation, the Fearless Fab-Foursome Feature ~  strong anchor of insight - Salvatore Buttaci, light and loving, deep and daring Linda Simoni-Wastila, lingering magical-mysticool Laurita Miller and coolness personified - Anthony Venutolo's heat of the beat of knowin' the streets . . . we are all fortunate indeed as we hoist the mains'ls in September of HARBINGER*33, the quantum book as well as manifesting destiny of 33 stellar Authors who shall be read more . . . and more, surpassing mere horizons . . .  as we set off on the voyage of just what happens to 33 talents who chose to take all fellow shipmates the higher as they page their dedicated craft . . .  Join me please,  in pleasing yourself, with all of these stellar H*33 Authors' writings you can divine,  plus of course within the upcoming HARBINGER*33 book and sensation, sure to shake some shelves and shiver some timbres.

SAILING DESTINY ~ Laurita Miller design

~ Humbly

~ Absolutely*Kate


Linda said...

I like the Director's cut! Lots of bells and whistles. Thanks for running our crazy little story -- we had a grand time writing it! Peace...

Laurita said...

Lookit us, all fancy! Thanks, Kate, for giving us you *ahem* time. Writing this was a blast.

Lily Mulholland said...

I nearly ran out of time reading this psycho-surreal tale. Fortunately it bent back upon itself and so did time :) Excellent stuff!

Wendy said...

Just like a clock can take time into its own hands...you fab four have taken penning a clever timeless tale into yours.

I'm going to read it again...I love it!

Harry said...

Seamless collaboration! What a great story, Noir in a Twilight Time Zone! You four were already indivually faves of mine. This piece only makes me more of a fan! Super job!

Salvatore Buttaci said...

I'm a little late coming to read this story the four of us had a ball writing! I just happened to ask Laurita if it ever got to the Bijou and she directed me to it. I had so much fun, I'd do it again one day!
Any takers?

Anonymous said...

I am so happy that Sal asked about this story. I was in Europe and missed this. I admire how well the four of you blended this together.
But lets face it you four are really great writers.