The Small River Man

I came upon the small man in a dream.

He squatted by a river teaming with fish. As he looked into the rippling waters, I asked him where he came from and he said, “It is a closed system. There was nothing before and something since. The idea was strong, intense and consuming. It took root in the soil of imaginings and grew by way of hopes and dreams, emotions, gradually taking form. This is the eye of man. It sees all in front of it, none behind and certainly not into tomorrow. It’s frightened by things it does not understand, is wary of new events, yet trudges on in hopes of finding sameness, a lack of pain, some joy, perhaps a feeling of enlightenment. Happiness even. It marvels at small acts of physical manipulation. It doesn’t know what’s best for it. And it dies, leaving behind that which it has created.”

“Do you mean to say I was born of an idea and am the eye of man?”

He looked at me with his white and tearing eyes, unable to make out my form and whispered, “Do you have a dime?”

I pushed him into the water and walked on.

Island Girl Part 10

(Warning sexual content, some violence, PG 13)

The headache started as soon as he lifted his head from the pillow. Pain behind his eyes. He turned on his back and sat up. He was alone. Sunrays cut through the room. Dust danced in the rays. His eyes felt the stab of his drink. He walked to the bathroom and relieved himself. In the kitchen he stuck his head under the well pump and soaked his head in the cold water until the back of his skull went numb. He grabbed a kitchen towel, then walked back into the bedroom. Both pillows on the bed were troughed. The covers on his side were ruffled and out of sorts, the other side was still tucked in. He walked into the kitchen and searched the floor to find evidence of blood, a struggle, fresh death, and found none. The table and chairs were still in place, the pots and pans, freshly scrubbed the night before were still stacked in the rinse tray by the sink.

He stood on the porch and scanned the yard. The woodpile appeared undisturbed. The wind was calm. The bay looked clear and smooth as glass. A lobster boat hovered near shore. The lobsterman pulled lines. Gulls circled and squawked above. He turned to go back inside, but stopped when he saw a splotch of red moving around the corner of the cottage. Her red jacket.

When he got to the garden, she was covering a spot with fresh dirt. She stood and wiped her hands on her jeans. Her face was white, with two patches of red on ether cheek.  

“What are you doing?”

“Feeling better?” She said it without a hint of sarcasm, or real concern.

“Where’s Bill?”

“There.” She pointed to the fresh dirt.

He frowned. “You buried him?”

She nodded, her mouth drawn, fighting grief, a tear forming in the corner of her eye.

“He’s dead and you buried him in my garden?”

“You told me to.”

“I did?”

She nodded, then went to him and pressed her face against his chest, holding him tight. He pushed her away, looked at the fresh grave, then turned and walked back toward the house. She followed close behind.

“What else could we do? You don’t want to go to jail.”

He turned on her, his teeth clenched, but couldn’t bring himself to look at her, that red face streaked with grave dirt, and tears. He walked quickly down the path toward the water. She followed close behind.

“We both know it was an accident, but they’d never believe us. You had sex with his wife. They’d see right through that. It’s first degree murder.”

He walked to the water’s edge and stood with his hands in his pockets, looking out at the bay. The lobster boat was moving off. He thought of his traps, and how yesterday his biggest concern was whether to pull the traps and now he was a murder. An adulterer killer.

“I did what had to be done. You know that,” she said.

He shook his head and stepped into the cold water.

“What are you doing?”

He took a few more steps, the freezing cold instantly numbing his legs, then he dove in head first. He swam straight out, away from the dock, his head coming up only to take a single breath. He swam until he saw a green lobster buoy and stopped and treaded water. His legs were numb, his arms stung from the cold. His throat was tight.

“Garrett!” She yelled, but he didn’t turn toward her.

She went to the dock, released the lines and pushed off as she jumped into his boat. Taking up an oar, she paddled out to him. He turned and watched her as the oar rang hollow against the side of the fiberglass hull. When she got close, she tossed him a life vest. “You need to come back. I need your help. Please. What are you doing?”

He took hold of the vest and placed it under his chin, his teeth chattering. He said nothing and didn’t look up at her, as he turned toward shore and kicked.

She picked up the oar and started to paddle back to the dock.

He crawled up onto the rocky beach and collapsed.

She tied the boat and stood on the dock, just above where he lay. His feet were still dangling in the frigid water.

“You’re going to get hypothermia. Get up.”

He lifted his head toward her and coughed. His eyes stung and his head pounded. His fingers didn’t work anymore. When he got to his feet, he fell toward the house, but caught himself before his knees collapsed completely. Each step was a controlled fall forward, up the hill, stumbling as he went. His knees finally buckled when he reached the porch steps. He turned and sat, watching her, as she came toward him.

“It’s our secret,” she said. “I’ll protect you and you’ll protect me. We both know what really happened. It was an accident.”

He squinted at this stranger, this pariah who’d come into his life and said, “I don’t know you.”

“You didn’t mean to do it. You were trying to protect me.”

He looked doubtfully at her, water dripping from his hair down onto his face and neck, his skin red and stinging from the cold.

“He beat me. You saw what he did. The bruises.”

He got to his feet and walked slowly into the cottage. The almost empty whiskey bottle was still on the counter near the sink. Pulling it up to his mouth, he slowly let the liquid fall down his throat. It burned him and he embraced the cool sting.

“Stop it. You’ll be sick,” she said.

He looked past her, and went to the bedroom closet. On the top shelf, behind extra blankets, he found a full bottle of whiskey and broke open the seal and took a long slug. She reached for the bottle, but he held it high above his head. She was a blur, a figment of his imagination. A pest, a demon buzzing him like a wasp.

After a few minutes, she gave up, and sat on the bed and watched him as he took another gulp.

“You’re killing yourself.”

He staggered into the kitchen. She followed close behind.

“I can cook eggs. You want scrambled or over easy?” she asked.

He gathered kindling and tossed it into the fireplace, then stuffed it with old newspapers. After tossing in a lit match, and watching it catch, he sat back on the sofa and stared at the flames. It melted into an unfocused, orange glow. There, he saw his daughter, his wife helping her walk for the first time. His little girl was full of energy and laughter. The fire warmed his skin, and he felt his beautiful wife wrap her arms around him, his little girl by her side. What were they worth, their lives? Two and a half million dollars, according to the airline and the lawyers. Two and a half million pieces of paper he could burn just as easily as those twigs. And it would be gone. Transformed into so much smoke and ash, just as they had been.

Rose banged around in the kitchen, and it drew his thoughts away. He felt the horror of the killing rip through him like a knife running into his chest. He took another long swig of whiskey. He wasn’t coming back from this one, he knew. He was lost, and that would be that. He’d die alone. Fall into a thorny bush and let the birds peck at him, until they found his bones, aged and bleached by the sun. There’d be no funeral. No mourners. He’d estranged himself from the world and now he was absolutely alone. The way he wanted it. Left alone on his island. Floating in a bottle of whiskey.

“Eggs are ready. Coffee. Toast. Come eat.”

She knelt at his feet and placed her hands on his thighs. He looked at her through the haze of grief but saw nothing. “You’re tired. Come and eat. You’ll feel better.”

He looked past her to the flames.

She got up and returned with a hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar, even though she didn’t know how he took it, and gently placed the warm mug in his hand. The heat of the cup felt good and he drank a few sips, then got up.

He went to the bedroom and stripped off his wet clothes and put on clean sweats and went to the kitchen table and sat down.

They ate. He felt his blood warm. “What about his boat,” he said, looking down at his half-eaten breakfast.

She smiled reassuringly at him and he thought her a silly girl. He could read her phony concern a mile away.

“I found it near the path to the hill, near some rocks. It’s a small skiff. He’d pulled it almost out of the water. I covered it with branches.”

He sneered at her. “You covered it…”

“I cut bushes.”

“What do you know about covering things?”

“What do you mean?”

“Branches die and turn brown, don’t last long. We need a better way to hide it.”

“Why don’t we sell the boat at the marina?”

He stared at her, the stupid look on her face made him grind his teeth. “Yes.” He nodded, knowing it was a dumb idea, but he didn’t care. They’d figure it out and come to take him away, but they’d find him dead. “You should go do that,” he said.

“I don’t have any -”

“Go to your sisters. The police will be here soon.”

“No, they won’t. Why would they?”

“Jack will tell them.”

“He doesn’t know anything.”

“That doesn’t matter. He knows what happened the first time they found you here.”

Her eyes hardened into a cold stare, a look he’d never seen from her. “I’m not going alone.”

He sat back in the chair. She went around his back and placed her hands on his shoulders and rubbed them. He didn’t trust her, but didn’t really care, either, and half hoped she’d slit his throat. She gently rubbed his neck and scalp. He closed his eyes and let her do what she wanted. She kissed his ear, then his cheeks, his lips. She rubbed his chest and kissed his throat and chin, then looked into his eyes. “I liked it when you were inside me. You stared into my eyes, and I liked that more than anything.” They kissed deeply. “Look at my eyes, Garrett.”

She led him into the bedroom and slowly removed his shirt, then his sweats, letting them slid to the floor. He stood naked in front of the bed and she ran her fingers down his legs and across his chest, then she held his hips. After a few minutes, she let him go and he slid back, onto the bed. She let her clothes fall to the floor and climbed on top of him. “I want you,” she said. “I want you to look at me and like you did before.” She moved slowly up and down, grinding herself onto him. “Look into my eyes.” He stared into her bluish-white eyes. After a few minutes, he flipped her onto her back, and felt himself melt into her. They moved in unison, breathing deeply together, sweat drenching their bodies. When his climax came, he closed his eyes and moaned, but his wife’s face popped into his head and he opened his eyes and rolled off of her. He crawled to the other side of the bed and stared at the wall, eventually slipping into a deep sleep. 

*** ***

He gasped when he opened his eyes. Covering him, a hazy shroud of light, a sheet backlit by the sun in front of his eyes. He coughed and cleared his throat, rubbed his neck. He’d dreamed he was drowning in mud. It was dark, and he was caught in a storm. He was trying to see if the girl was lost, in his boat perhaps, caught in a violent storm, when he fell off a cliff banking and slid down toward the raging ocean. He gained footing somehow, but when he tried to crawl back up, the water and mud kept pushing at him, a torrent of rain making him lose his grip, his feet slipping. When he looked back up, the mud troughed into his mouth, and he couldn’t breathe. The water and the filth filled his mouth and spouted from his nose like a fountain. He felt himself losing consciousness. His chest was about to explode, his throat was growing like a croaking toad, and he couldn’t hold it back any longer and finally took a deep breath in. That was when he was sure he’d died, and saw the bright light and that’s when his eyes popped open and he’d woken up. He couldn’t see clearly for a few minutes, it was just the bright light. Then the window came into focus. And when the blurriness had gone completely, he saw her standing by his desk. She was fully dressed and wore her red jacket. She leaned back and he heard the draw snap shut.

“Good morning.” She moved to the foot of the bed and smiled at him. He turned and followed her with his eyes, waiting to see what she was going to do. She crawled onto the bed and straddled him, her knees on either side.

He let her hover there, watching her eyes wonder around his face, like she was seeing him for the first time. She pulled the covers down and gently rubbed his stomach. He didn’t care. He was dead. He’d died in his dream and wasn’t sure he’d come back. She ran her fingers down his leg and between his legs. He felt nothing. She was just a girl. A girl on a dead man. The spell was broken. A tsunami of guilt and rage had stripped the illusion to its bare essentials. She was a human being. A girl with strange eyes. What did she want? Why couldn’t he feel anything?

“I can make breakfast,” she said, and jumped out of bed with the enthusiasm of a child.

He lay quietly on his side, staring out the window. The sky was light blue with wispy clouds. That meant more wind. The boat would rock and his fingers would freeze when he pulled his pots.

“I want to go into town,” she said, from the kitchen. He heard pans clanking together, water running, the kettle whistling. “I need a few things. Some clothes.”

What was she thinking? She buried her husband and now she wants new clothes? Of course, to get rid of any evidence. She should burn her clothes. Wipe away any blood in the cabin with bleach.

Or he could go to the sheriff, tell them it was accident. First, he could dig up the body, clean it up. They’d never know she’d buried it. That would look bad, them burying the body. The cool earth would keep it fresh, though. That was a good thing. They wouldn’t be able to determine the time of death. They’d see the bruises on the neck. Perhaps his larynx was broken. How could he explain that? Perhaps he’d push him out into the bay, let his lungs fill with water. Or he could push water down into his lungs, force fluid down there. That would make it look like drowning.

“Go. Take the truck, the boat. I’m staying here.” She poked her head in through the doorway, her eyebrows raised, like a kid being told about a birthday present. He said, “Well, you don’t have to get so excited about it. I told you you’re free to go. Take my shit, I don’t care anymore.”

She thought for a minute, her eyes locked onto the ceiling, like she’d seen a small bug and was trying to figure if it was a spider or a fly. “You still have Bill’s boat. If you need it, I mean. It runs really well. And fast. It’s a good little boat.”

“Thoughtful of you,” he said, thinking it was a sarcastic remark, but he didn’t care enough to make it sound that way.

She stood staring at him. “You should get up.”

He forced himself to sit up. His head throbbed, his eyes stung, his stomach was on fire.  He needed a shower and a shave, his hair was all over the place. “I’ll take a shower. Leave what you cook for me on the table.”

“Oaky,” she said.

He went into the bathroom and threw-up in the toilet. He grabbed a drink of water from the bottle he kept by the sink for brushing his teeth, and turned to the shower. The water was cold, very cold and he hated it. He rinsed as best he could, lathered up and repeated the rinse. He was still chilled from yesterday and felt his skull would split from the cold water.

By the time he was dried and dressed, she was gone. She’d left some coffee, scrambled eggs and toast. All cold, but well season. The coffee was still warm. He ate quickly, thinking about moving the body. He hated to see it, but had to make sure it was really there. He pictured the face, cold, pale, wet maybe, dirt filling the hollows of the eyes. They’d be closed. No, open. The dirt in his eyes. That made him squirm. Would he be bloated? It had only been a few hours, or had it been longer? At least twelve hours, he figured. Long enough to putrefy. Another reason to put the body in the water. Maybe the sharks would take it? He’d let it sink into the deep, they’d rip it apart. He pictured the deadly fight with Bill, felt his hands on his neck, the warmth of it, the blood running through the veins beneath his fingers. Had he really choked out another person?

He found the whiskey bottle on the floor of the bedroom, half empty. He took a long swig, wiped his mouth and took another mouthful, then capped the bottle and tossed it onto the bed, then thought better of it and placed it on the bedside table. He didn’t want any leaking from the cap.

He stood on the porch and looked down at the bay. His boat was gone. The land birds sang and the gulls squawked over the water, fighting over every crumb of some ripped-up dead thing. Just as he anticipated, it was windy and the cold made him tense. He went back inside and got a warmer coat, then stopped to look at the whiskey bottle sitting in the sun on the bedside table. He wanted to drink, but told himself to wait. He should have told her to get more. But really, he just wished she’d never come back.

He went around to the back shed and got the long shovel and the wheel barrow. He’d wanted to plant a garden, grow sunflowers, maybe. Those were his wife’s favorites. Large yellow sunflowers, brown in the center.

Around the back of the cottage, he found the soft spot where the dirt was freshly turned over.

He couldn’t help but check the broken antenna. It was in sight, bent down, the wires hanging loose. He’d fix that right after he got the body dug up. He leaned on the shovel and looked at the loose dirt. How had she dragged that heavy body out and buried it all by herself?

To Be Continued…

Island Girl (part 8)

After a few minutes of staring at the bathroom door, the cracked and faded white paint ignited memories of summer nights spent with his wife in a similar cabin, on a similar island not quite two miles from where he lay. His wife’s soft features backlight from the window, her gentle smile, her delicate hands and long fingers as they found his. The familiar sensation of mounting sexual anticipation caused him to harden.

He heard water trickling onto the shower stall and it brought him back to the present. After a few minutes he hollow ring of the metal enclosure softened and he knew she stepped under the spout.

Her teasing had ignited strong desire, it ran through him like a thirst. But it wasn’t a desire for sex as much as a desire to travel back to a better time. It had been years since he’d been sober when making love to a woman, and now, in the next room, as she stood naked under that dribbling stream, as he imagined her skin glistening with foamy soap, it was all he could do to keep from going to her, ripping the plastic shower curtain aside, and taking her. Then he wished it was his wife standing under that stream, and shame came upon him. She was a stranger.

He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. Grief shrouded his heart and today. The desire for love thrust him back into loneliness. It ran through him like a current. Beaten down by memories that bit at him, he closed his eyes and felt the embrace of his wife. Her body warm and soft in his hands. The soft smell of her perfumed skin, familiar and perfect in his memory.

A bang against the shower stall caused him to open his eyes and stare at the wall in front of him. He could call the police, have them come to the island, but for what? She hadn’t broken any laws, and it was her word against her husband’s any abuse had taken place. He’d observed no bruises on her, except on her head. She could have hit that on anything. She was well-developed, no sign of an eating disorder or malnutrition. She appeared perfectly normal in most ways, except one. And that abnormal part, the compulsion to come back to his island and present herself to him, not only made him wary, but enlivened him, jolted his nerves and he feared the entanglements she might bring. Why should he get between a man and his wife? It didn’t matter if he beat her or not. Didn’t it take two to ruin a marriage? But he knew that was wrong. It only took one. The abuser.

The scar just above his left hip ached, and he moved onto his back. It had taken fifteen stitches to close the semi-circle of wounds, when he’d woken up from a blackout. It was in the alley behind a dive bar on 57th street, early last year. He bled in the cab on the way to the hospital. The driver kept looking in the rearview, his eyes wide, trying to see if that was actually blood, and swearing loudly about the clean-up he’d have to do.

The doctor at the hospital didn’t really care how it happened, but he had to ask anyway. Garrett didn’t remember, the truth at the time. Later, as he sat in bed, as the lidocaine wore off and his wound began to ache, he remembered the bet he’d made, with a drinking buddy, that he could pull his pants down and run across the alley, touch his hip on a lamp post and make it back to the bar in under ten seconds. He smiled as he remembered the look of surprise on his friends face when he’d actually pulled his pants down around his ankles and ran across the alley, his penis flapping, legs stretched far as possible, hindered by the pants. Then he remembered the fall and the sting of broken glass as it pierced his side. He thought it was funny until the pain set in and blood began to soak his shirt. When he looked up from his fall, still sitting in the alleyway, the small crowd that had gathered to watch the fool do his trick were gone. He was alone, pieces of glass from a smashed bottle of schnapps embedded in his side.

Now, as he lay waiting for his uninvited guest to exit the shower, it seemed ten years since that incident, instead of ten months, and he realized how closely he still teetered on that line he dared not cross. The booze would end him the next time he fell, of that, he was sure. If he started drinking again, especially here on the island, the one place he felt safe and himself, he didn’t think he could stop. 

The door to the bathroom opened, and she stood naked in front of him. He stared at her breasts, white-lined at the top where her bathing suit ended, then her dark nipples, slightly erect in the coolness of the room, at her stomach, flat and smooth, the skin darker then he’d expected, the small bellybutton, slightly protruding outward, and just below that, he followed the line of her inner hip through the tan lines there, down to her dark, neatly trimmed pubis. She smiled slightly and walked toward him. He sat still, his hands by his side, as she moved to him and stood close, her breast near his mouth. He pulled her close, sliding his face across her breast, his hands moving around, down to her hips. He held her there for a moment, his mouth on her tummy, breathing in her fresh scent, then turned his head away. “No,” he said, and pushed her back. She took a step away, looking him in the eyes, her expression openly confused for a moment before going blank. He turned his back to her and stared out the window. The yard was quiet. The breeze moved the tall grass. A chipmunk moved along the woodpile and disappeared in a crevasse of wood. Rose sat next to him and dried her hair with a towel.

“Put something on,” he said.

She silently got up and slipped into her clothes. He ached to touch her, could feel the want, like a sucking monster inside. It took hold of him and he thought for a moment he would go to her, but he let the monster stir, but die of neglect. His eyes never left the window. Thin clouds moved slowly toward the West.


Now fully dressed, she walked to the door and stopped to look at him. He felt her stare and looked up. She smiled, then walked out the door, leaving it slightly open. He sat in the room for a long time watching the clouds, the bushes angered by the wind. When finally he got up, the sun was almost directly overhead. He’d been sitting for longer then he knew. He stood in the doorway and watched her as she shuffled cards at the kitchen table.

 “Why did you come back?”

“I didn’t come back. I escaped him and this is where I ended up.”

“I can’t have it.”

She held the few remaining cards in her hand and looked at him, her eyes pleading. “He beats me.”

“Beside the point.”
“He’ll kill me.”

“Where are the marks?”

She threw down the cards and pulled the hair apart on the left side of her head. Just above her ear, the scalp was red. A curved welt revealed through her spread fingers.

“He did that?”

“His belt buckle.” She stared defiantly at him. Tears filled her eyes, but she wiped them with the back her hand and dealt the cards. When all the cards lay in a pile on the table, he sat down across from her. He sorted his cards until they were in a neat stack, then he threw down the king of spades from the top. She threw down the ace of diamonds and smiled. “You owe me a truthful thing about yourself.”

He nodded at her, staring into her strange light-blue eyes. “Go ahead, ask.”

She offered a slight smile. “How did you like it when I touched you?”

“You never touched me.”

“You wanted me to.”

“Did you want to?”

“Not really,” she said, looking demurely down at her hand. She shuffled the cards again.

The wind picked up and something hit the side of the cottage. He went to the windows and looked out, following the trail with his eyes down to the dock. The bushes and trees swayed in the strong gusts. White caps dotted the bay. “The wind has shifted.”

He’d leave his traps for another day. He turned to her. She sat with her back to him, looking at her cards. “I was going to go into town to buy some supplies. You can come, tell your story to the sheriff.”

She scoffed. “Why don’t I just hang myself?”

“Well, why the hell did you go with them, then?”

“They’d blame you. I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Maybe. But, you can’t stay here. Don’t tell the sheriff, it’s up to you, but I can’t help you.”

“Did I ask for your help?”

“Don’t be an idiot.”

She stood and threw the cards onto the table. The wind hit the cottage again. A loose windowpane trembled. After a few seconds she said, “I’ll go to town, but I’m not talking to the cops.”

“Fine.” He reached for the list off the table, but she snatched it up and began reading.

“Why an aluminum pole?” she asked.

“Ask your friend, Jack.”

“He’s Bill’s friend, not mine.”

“I thought they were brothers.”

“What does Jack have to do with the pole?”

“He tore down my antenna.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because it’s broken and he’s the only one who could have done it.”

He reached for his coat hanging by the door, then went to the back shed and got another jacket for her. She put on the blue windbreaker. It fit loosely around her frame and made her look small, fragile even.

He walked quickly, deliberately fast, like he was trying to get away from her. She followed him down the path leading to the boat, He held the small craft steady as she got in. Once settled, the wind blowing their faces red, their hair waving in the wild breeze, he pulled the starter and the engine coughed, then started, blowing blue smoke into the air. He reversed the boat, the waves slapping the stern, water spaying them. Finally, he thrust it into forward and they were off.

“How do you know which way to go?” she asked.

“I follow the path in the water, he said. ” She turned and smiled at him. He smiled back. “Can’t you see it?”

She turned back, and looked straight ahead, her face in the freezing wind, and said nothing else.

The small whitecaps rocked the boat and she held on, her hands gripping both gunwales, as water spray dampened her wind-tossed hair. She sat rigid, like a dog in the wind, he thought, staring straight ahead, never daring to move or look around.

When they reached the harbor and tied up at the public dock, he saw her hands were stiff and her face was cherry red. She rubbed her hands together and flexed her fingers. As they walked to his truck, he looked around for men who might be waiting for them, but saw no one of consequence. The small shack in the parking lot was dark. The man overseeing the operation was sitting with his legs up on the porch rail drinking coffee and chatting with another man, with whom Garrett was vaguely familiar. He waved to them and continued walking to his truck, the girl close behind.

They said nothing as he drove them into town, his old pick-up comfortable, if not a bit rocky. “You need new shocks,” she said. He grunted and kept driving without saying anything. They stopped in front of the Sheriff’s office. The girl looked straight ahead, as if they were waiting at a light. After a few minutes, he turned to her. “Do you want to go in?”  



He put the truck in gear and they headed to the hardware store.

After loading the truck with the new aluminum tubing and cable and other supplies, they headed for the grocery store. In the check-out line, as he was paying for their supplies, a tall man with dark hair walked into the store. He stood at the door, near the checkout and waved to Garrett. When the six bags were loaded into the cart, Garrett stopped next to Jim. “Jim, how are you?”

“Got a day off, been busy otherwise. Who’s your friend?”

Garrett turned to Rose, who partially hid behind him. “This is Rose. She’s my wife’s cousin, from Boston.”

Rose nodded at Jim. He reached to shake her hand, and his gun became visible under his jacket, on his belt. Garrett saw her bristle at the weapon and said, “Jim’s a Deputy Sherriff.”

“Off duty. Right now, I’m just a guy getting food for the family.”

After a few minutes of small talk, Garrett said, “Well, good to see you, Jim.”

They nodded at each other and Garrett and Rose walked back to the truck. She slammed the door closed as she got in. Garrett loaded the back with the bags and closed the tailgate and got in on the driver’s side and turned the key. “We can get lunch over there if you want.” He pointed to the Woodbine Café, a place he frequented on trips to the mainland. She looked straight ahead and said nothing.

He turned to her and she looked at him for the first time. He saw fear and hate in her eyes, and he knew she was going to accuse him of setting up the chance meeting with the Deputy in the store. “I didn’t know he’d be there,” he said, wanting to cut her off before she said anything. “Besides, you’re on the mainland, you need to go. Find your family and stay there, they can help you.”

“What do you know about my family?”

“Look, I told you before-”

She got out, slammed the door shut and walked down the sidewalk to the street corner. She stood under the Woodbine sign, and bummed a cigarette from a young man as he passed by. They talked as he lit her cigarette. She seemed flirty, like she’d go anywhere with him and Garrett didn’t like what he was seeing. He shut off the truck and walked over to them. Rose turned away as he approached. He touched her shoulder. “Let’s get going, Rose.”

She looked at him, while closing one eye and taking a deep drag of the cigarette. The young man felt the possessive vibe from Garrett and silently turned and walked into the Woodbine.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Nothing. I’m not doing anything.”

“Get in the truck.”


“Yes, just get in.”

She tossed the cigarette and he placed his hand on her arm as they walked back to the truck. They sat silently, the engine idling. She turned on the radio. A rock tune blared from the speakers. She turned it up. Garett leaned in and shut it off. “I don’t know what your game is, but latching onto the first person you see isn’t a healthy thing to do.”

They let the irony of that statement sink in, then he added, “You lucked-out with me. I only want to help you. But others, they’ll hurt you, use you…” he involuntarily looked at her body and she got the message. She sent a message back. She knew the power she held over men. It was obvious.

They sat in silence for a while and when he took a breath to say something else she said, “He’s not my husband.”


“We’re not married. Only in his head. He’s got a fantasy that he’s married to me because he said so. But we’re not married.”


“I just want to make that clear. He has no hold on me.”

“He shouldn’t hurt you, either way.”

They sat staring out the front windshield. He wasn’t sure what to do, drop her off somewhere or take her back to the island. A cold front was moving in. The clouds were high and thready. People dressed in fall clothing walked the sidewalks, cars stopped and started, smoke rose from tailpipes. He couldn’t think of what else to say that wouldn’t spoil things, in his mind. He wanted her, and he knew he could have her. All he had to do was listen to what she was saying. Desire flamed up in him and he glanced at her knee. She wore jeans, but he they were thin. He wanted to touch that knee, slide his hand up to her thigh, feel the soft flesh there. These thoughts surprised him. He knew it was wrong. The whole thing was wrong. It was like she was a gift. One that could make him feel so much better, fill his emptiness, but he didn’t trust any of it.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. After a few minutes she added, “My sister lives in Portland, but she’s gone away with her husband for a week. They went to Florida on vacation. Guess I’ll go there when she’s back.” She turned to him and he saw her hopefulness. “Otherwise, I have nowhere else to go.” She touched his thigh, and smiled. “Besides, I can help you chop wood.”

She adjusted closer to him, and he could feel the heat of her. For a few moments, his crushing loneliness was replaced by her warmth.

“Let’s just go,” she said.

He nodded and put the truck in gear.

Dreaming Wide Awake (An excerpt)

The soft touch of her hand caressed the back of my neck as I sat upon the bed in the dim light of the evening lamp, a cool breeze coming from the open window, the street noises occasionally echoing in the halls of my room, the dull low rumble of the city layered below. Shivers ran down my spine and the hairs on the back of my head stood up. It was a perfect spring evening with the scent of cross pollination in the air. Budding trees held new shiny leaves just outside the window. She leaned into my naked back and her warmth met mine in perfect contour. She melted into me. I felt the dread of loneliness then. The emptiness of being one, alone, not sharing, no one to care what happens in my world but myself, and sometimes even I don’t care, capitulation being a long tradition running through my life. Scattered pictures of her embrace echoed in the darkness of my dream.

Island Girl (Part 7) PG 13

 It was mid-tide. The wind was calm and the sky was clearing. Some high thin clouds drifted slowly across the horizon. The nearby island, Crafts Peak, was clearly visible, about two miles directly off shore. He stood on the dock and surveyed his boat. It looked unmolested. He climbed down into the vessel, prepped the engine and it started right away. After letting it idle a few seconds, he killed it and sat back against the seat, closing his eyes. The gentle sway of the boat, the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze, soothed him. The rhythmic slapping of the water against the dock brought him a sense of peace and calm.

Going to the sheriff didn’t hold the same appeal as before. Did he really want to involve himself with this strange girl? Any problems they had was between her and her husband, if he really is her husband. And what of Jack, hovering around them like a fly. Had he really damaged the antenna? The best thing would be to steer clear. He knew she was agitated the first time he’d laid eyes on her, knew she was trouble, snuggling up against him in bed, daring him to make a move on her, it was transparent. She could have accused him of molestation or rape. What’s to stop her from claiming that now? She could be telling her husband lies about him and it would be her word against his. He leaned over the side of the boat and saw a crab scurry into the shadows beneath the dock. It was a reminder to check his traps and reset bait. But first, he’d check the radio.

The hissing static was louder than before. No signals strong enough to dial in, they just weren’t reaching the receiver. He shut off the radio, and walked into the kitchen. He sat at the table and started writing a list of supplies he needed from town. A trip to the mainland took half a day or longer, and he going. The longer he stayed on the island, alone with his thoughts and memories, the more he resented the outside world. Stepping off his boat onto the public dock, going from quiet simplicity to the chaos meant he left himself open to be affected by others. Their lives intersecting with his, no matter how small the consequence, he hated that they could impact him in some way. On the island there was no one to affect him at all. He wasn’t held up in traffic, cut off by someone late for work, didn’t have to stand in line in the stores. He didn’t miss cars, traffic, people, or the internet. The first few weeks on the island, he craved news from the outside world. Along with booze, he missed the internet, using a cell phone, and listening to the nightly news. He craved media interaction, much like a wino craved wine, and came to realize he had an addiction to social media. Now, he saw it as massive waste of time and energy. Another form of impulse control, an overload of information he didn’t need or want or want to need. It was a waste of his time. If he wasn’t pulling traps. Making a fire, cooking, or working with wood, what was he doing? Nothing. He’d been conditioned to the relentless blathering of a tumultuous society. He looked up from his notebook and stared at the bottle of bourbon in the middle of the table. The rich amber color appeared darker in the sparse afternoon light. He thought about the girl and his stomach did a little turn. She’d have him drinking in no time. He’d get a taste for her and when she left, he’d want to drink her out of his head. Her beauty and youth would drive him to drink because he was weak and could never keep her, this he knew. She would become one craving too many. He thought of her lying next to him, warm and naked against his back, feeling her soft breasts against him, smelling her skin, and her hand reaching around for him. His wife interrupted these thoughts, and his stomach turned over again. She was always there, just beneath the surface. Watching from that doomed jet plane, sitting next to his baby girl as they breathed their last, strapped into a tin can full of strangers.   

The day they died, texts from his wife, reminding him of the airline and flight number, were accidentally erased, as he frantically searched for them on his cell phone. He sat in the bar and watched the news as it unfolded. Half drunk, heart pounding, blood flush in his cheeks, the lilting unreality of it tearing through his brain like a buzz saw. They could have been on that flight.

 His hand rested on the kitchen table, inches from the bottle of bourbon, he remembered racing to the airport, his heart pounding as he swerved frantically through stalled traffic. Then he was in the terminal, having no memory of parking or walking the long hallways, like he’d just willed himself in front of the airline spokesperson. She stood straight, staring robotically ahead, not making eye contact, her crisp uniform and red lipstick-stained teeth belying her horrifying message. What could she add that they didn’t already know? The smoldering wreckage was all over the media. He stared at the spokesperson’s mouth as she formed the words, but her message was unintelligible to him. Yards from where they stood, the biggest part of his life lay crushed and burning. How could this happen? Why didn’t he stop her from leaving? She’d been reluctant to go. All he had to do was ask her to stay. But he didn’t.

He moved sluggishly toward the sink. He ran the cool water over his hands. He closed his stinging eyes, and put a cold cloth against his pounding head. No longer caring about his list or the broken antenna, or going to the mainland, he walked slowly to the sofa and stared at the empty fireplace. The black coals and soot mirrored his mood, and deep down, his soul, if he had a soul, charred and blackened by the sin of regret, the sin of waste. He had wasted his life, striving for things. The perfect job, money, more power, that great new car, that corner office, big house. Who cares? What was it all for?

He laid back on the sofa and placed the cloth on his eyelids. His wife and daughter hovered above him, smiling and lovely, their mouths forming silent, familiar adorations. Then they were gone, and he was alone again, deeply, listlessly, alone. A breeze from the open door had swept them away, and chilled him. The chortle of birds outside reminded him of where he was. They bickered, as he faded into deep sleep.

His eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light. A dark figure draped in a black hoodie loomed over him. He quickly sat up, and the girl jumped back. They said nothing for a few seconds, each eyeing the other. After his heart slowed, and he was able to determine it was, indeed, the girl who stood before him, he said, “What’s going on?”

“You’ve got to hide me.”

“What happened?”

“I escaped. Please, they’ll kill me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I jumped ship, again. They’ll come for me.”

He sat up. She stepped back into the shadows, her hand quivering in front of her mouth.

“Are you hurt?”

She shook her head no.

“I’ll call the police,” he said.

“No! You can’t do that.”

“Then you’re the one who has to call.”

“I just need to stay for a few hours. I’m so tired.”

“The only place you can go from here is the water or the mainland. The police can protect you.”

She looked toward the front door. Her clothes dripped water onto the floor. He follow her eyes, and realized she was pondering when the bad men might come through his door. He moved to the other side of the room, secured the deadbolt on the door and slammed shut and locked the all windows.

 “Can I start a fire?” She asked, shivering.

“Come,” he said, and walked into the bedroom.

When she entered the room, he tossed clothes at her. She caught the bundle and stared at him.

“Get dressed.”

She stood by the bed, in the darkened room and pulled off her shirt.

“No,” he pointed to the bathroom, “in there.”

 She slowly entered the room, but left the door open. He watched her strip, her naked body gleaming in the late-afternoon sunlight streaming in through the windows. He walked over to the doorway and watched. She stared innocently back at him.

“Is this what you want?” he asked. “For me to see you?”

“You’re the one looking.”

“You’re not hiding it, are you?”

She smiled and held a tee shirt in front of her breasts, leaving the dark triangle between her legs exposed. He took hold of her wrist and she dropped the shirt. He moved his face close enough to feel her tremble, the smell of smoke and earth coming from her hair. He put his lips to the cool of her neck and kissed her salty skin.  “Is this what you want?” He asked.

She moaned softly.

“What about this?” he asked, and pressed his body to hers, his hands sliding down to her bare bottom. Her tight, goose-pimpled flesh was cool in his hands.

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

“I think you do. You know.”

He kissed her deeply, pulling her body into his. He could feel the blood rise to her skin, as the warmth came back into her. She returned his kisses, her mouth hard and cool, lips small and narrow against his. Her breath was clean and warm and fueled his desire for her.

After a minute, she pulled away, but he reached for her again, and held his mouth on hers. Her breath was sweeter than before, her mouth even more responsive.

“No,” she said finally, and pressed her hand forcefully against his chest.

Taking a step back, suddenly feeling her warmth leave him, he wanted more than anything to take her. But he simply smiled and said, “Okay.”

Her light eyes glistened with moisture, revealing perhaps years of loneliness, but they held no fear. Her breathing was rapid. Pink rose in her cheeks. She held a hand demurely over her naked crotch and bent slightly at the knees, trying to hide herself.

“Take a shower,” he said. “You’re salty,”

A slightly surprised expression crossed her face as she placed a hand where he’d kissed her. He turned and shut the door without looking back.

If you like this, check out my novel, Dream State on Kindle and Audible.

Remember the Sea

An excerpt from Dark Genius (Unpublished manuscript)

The last time Harper went out to Stone’s Island was in August, some years ago. He couldn’t remember exactly how old they were, or what year it was, but they’d gotten hold of Uncle Jim’s 15-foot Boston Whaler and headed out to explore the island. They discovered a cove on the lee side of Stone’s and pulled her up onto the rocks. Deciding to take a closer look at the estate, they walked along the rocky shore and discovered in the tide pools the headless carcass of a harbor seal, rotting in the morning sun. Instead of going to the house as planned, they took the carcass back to the boat and headed out into the shallows.

     They hooked the carcass onto a drop line, cast it out, and let it sit on the bottom. After a few minutes they pulled it up, and with it came a mass of frenzied, feeding sharks. The sharks swarmed and dove and bit at the meat, breaking the surface as they gorged. Jimmy stood in the boat and smacked the bloody water with an oar, trying to bean one of the sharks. He frantically smacked the water over and over, but failed to hit anything. The spray got into their eyes and ran down their faces into their mouths. Harper remembered the taste of the salty red water and, even now, it turned his stomach.

     Jimmy stood on the bow, feet wide apart, rocking the small boat back and forth, forcing the weight of his whole body with each push, laughing uncontrollably, until they started to take on water. Waves slapped up, into the boat. Bits of seal gut came aboard with each wave. The sharks circled and bit at the meat, swarming in a frenzy. Harper held on to the side of the boat, overcome by fits of uncontrolled laughter as it bobbed up and down, shark fins rising up, teeth mashing the seal flesh. Jimmy became brazen by Harper’s response, rollicking with laughter at his mad game, forcing the boat closer to the water with each push. Jimmy suddenly fell out of the boat, and into the churning sea. Harper had seen Jimmy swim fast before, but he practically leaped back into the boat. The image of a shark grazing Jimmy’s leg as he swam, the black shadow surging forward from the depths, was etched in Harper’s memory.

     Harper fell to the floor of the Whaler, holding his stomach; the cold water and uncontrolled laughter caused him to pee in his pants. Watching from the floor of the boat, his body drenched in remnants of seal guts, seawater and urine, looking into Jimmy’s wild eyes, he knew; He knew Jim had fallen overboard on purpose. Had carried the little adventure as far as it could go. It struck Harper as such an obtuse thing to do, and he couldn’t understand why Jimmy always went too far.