Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Word on Rip Van Winkle

I opened the door to the liquor store and was met with a fist jabbing into my face. My body stumbled backwards in surprise and then turned to see the culprit sprinting down the street with a bottle of Rip Van Winkle in his hand.

"Go get him, Mr. Evergreen!" yelled the store's proprietor.

"You're damn right I will, Jay." The bastard and I twisted and turned together through the city, until I finally lost him in the the park below Only Way. "I was going to drink that!" I shouted into the trees. I tried to pick out any sign of movement from beyond the fog that layered the ground. "Where the hell did that fucker go?"

"Ah, but aren't you the best man alive at solving riddles?" I wheeled around to face the source of the voice, as an old man appeared through the trees holding a 12-year-old boy by the hand. They looked normal enough at first. The man was wrapped in a long green wool coat, and the boy was slipped into a light blue sweater. As the pair came closer though, I discovered that the old man's eye sockets were empty, and that the boy's mouth was sealed shut by duct tape. I froze, and the old man laughed. "I bet you haven't been called that in a while, have you Barnabas?" The man advanced confidently, almost as if he was leading the boy instead of the other way around. His voice sounded like two slabs of granite being ground together. "Or should I call you Robert?" I flinched, and his smile grew wider. Then suddenly he paused, losing his smile in thought. "No no no, not Robert. Robert’s not the one I want. Robert's the boring one. Wait. I know." His grin came back. "Christopher." I yelped with surprise, and the old man sighed as if he was scratching a long ignored itch. "Ahhhhhh yes, that's what she used to call you, isn't it? Christopher Teller. She was the only one that got to call you Chris. And she used to sing you a song. All the time; her favorite song..." He began to sing, a grin still painted across his face. Auld Lang Syne. And he sang it in a British accent.

"No!" I screamed. I dropped my cane and pressed my palms against my ears to block out his voice, but that didn’t stop my mind from forcing me into a memory I didn’t know that I had. It was of a woman’s face. I crumpled to the ground, and the boy started crying. The old man sang the entire song, and when he was done, he held out the bottle of Rip Van Winkle.

"You'll need this," he said.

He was right.

Friday, November 4, 2016

A Word on Coffee

8:00am - I slowly rolled out of bed, made my way into the kitchenette, and grabbed my only coffee mug. I turned on the faucet, and nothing came out. "Damn."

8:45am - I pushed through a mess of bodies, curving my chest around a cardboard cup of coffee to protect it from the crowd. Connie's, the local coffeehouse, was one of the few places in town that still had water. Unfortunately, I hadn't been the only person to figure that out, and it was as if a number of townspeople had decided to overrun the place. I wouldn't have gone near it if I hadn't needed the caffeine. Every once in a while, a business asks me to give a presentation or assess something on-site, but I happen to be the only businessman that wakes up a reasonable time in the morning, so I rely on coffee to help me up.

I headed into Howell Park in search of further privacy, finally taking a sip of my coffee, as I tapped my cane against the dirt path. I almost spit it out. Compared to the coffee that I make in the apartment, I might as well have been taking a bite out of the cup that the coffee came in. I took a breath to harden my resolve. Caffeine was caffeine. I was about to take a second sip, when I noticed that someone else was on the path. It was a young girl (she couldn't have been older than seventeen), and she looked as if a small wind would have caused her to shatter into pieces. At first I walked right past her. It was obvious to me that something truly upsetting had taken place, and I have dealt with more of that in my life than any man's fair share. Nowadays, my policy is to keep to myself, and I happen to be damn good at it. But that's when she spoke.

"Um, have you seen a man named Steve? He hasn't been home in a few days. He's a medium height, and a bit chubby. You probably would have seen him in a white button down and some khakis. He has a perfect comb over, if that helps." I turned and stared at her for a second. She had a British accent.

"Oh, ah, is Steve missing?" She made a face at me, and I kicked myself. "Is he your dad?" I asked.

"Host dad," she replied. "I've been staying with him and his wife."

I just stood there for a moment. I felt helpless. Out of my depth. I held out the cardboard cup. "Do you like coffee?" I asked.

Finally, it was her turn to look flabbergasted. "A lot, actually. I was never much of a tea person."

"Take it." She took it.

"Thank you." She took a sip.

"You're welcome." I walked away as fast as I could, leaving her as she made happy faces into the drink.

9:15am - I sit in my silent car with the key in the ignition, still just as goddamn tired as when I woke up, while I hold back tears. I need a drink.

I can't drink.

I cry.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Word on Southern Living

8:45am - I woke up to a drum roll on my door and groaned. I was too tired to wonder what kind of maniac would knock with a ferocity clearly formulated over years to rouse people from their beds and force them to reactivate their cognitive processes, so I instinctively checked the clock instead. "Come back in two hours," I shouted. As a rule, I don't do anything before 10...

10:45am - The knock came again; I stifled another groan, and I opened the door. My bespoke navy suit suddenly came face to face with two tan trench coats. One of them covered a man in a ratty green shirt with thin white stripes who reached out a hand and declared himself to be, "Simon Worthington from Southern Living," in a slow serious tone. At 6'1, Worthington stood exactly at my height, and the camera around his neck pointed directly at the center of my chest. I put on my dimples and gleamed, as we shook. "Barnabas Evergreen," I said. The second trench coat surrounded a man in a light blue shirt who stood about two inches shorter than his friend and held a pencil and clipboard in his hands. "I'm Chris," said trench coat number two, "May we come in?"

"By all means," I said, gesturing in towards my apartment. Worthington walked past me and sat in the large arm chair directly in front of the door. Chris followed close on Worthington's heels and stood just behind and to the left of his partner. I countered by sitting on the couch against the right wall and angling myself towards my visitors, holding my cane perpendicular to the ground and resting my hands on top of it.

"Tell us something interesting."

"What?" I asked, raising one eyebrow. Worthington's request caught me off guard.

"Our magazine is doing a piece titled '15 Southern Towns Making a Comeback', and yours is on the list." Chris cut-in energetically. "We have to get something from every person in this building. Mr. Simon just wants to cut to the chase, so that we can move on with our lives."

My charm turned a little wry despite my efforts. "I have more secrets to tell than you could possibly imagine," I said pointedly. "You're going to have to be a bit more specific."

Worthington suddenly smiled and quickly slid in with a reply. "I didn't ask for secrets, Mr. Evergreen. We're here from Southern Living not Vice. I'm looking for a cushy story that makes people smile. Human interest is not what people like you and I would consider interesting."

I smiled wider and nodded. Worthington was alright. "Tell your magazine that I'm an experienced immigrant businessman turned entrepreneur, who's trying to get his consulting firm off the ground. Every day brings new struggles, but I'm a hard worker striving for the American dream, and I've found that self determination is the pinnacle of satisfaction. I love living here at the Victorian, and there's no better place in which to have a home office."

Chris scribbled furiously and then frowned. "You're an immigrant? You don't have an accent."

"I lost it a while back," I said. Chris went back to scribbling.

"I don't suppose that you'd let us take your picture, Mr. Evergreen," Worthington said. "Might be good for your business." He took his camera into his hands and held it up.

"No thank you, Mr. Worthington."

"I didn't think so. At least it was worth a try." Worthington stood, turned on his heels and walked out. Chris took one last look around my living space and followed suit, still scribbling. I closed the door behind them.

11:30am - I take a deep breath. People are exhausting. Unfortunately, I have to keep up appearances, or I would lock the door and pretend that there had been a nuclear apocalypse. What I wouldn't give to be the last man on Earth. I haven't cared about anyone other than myself in a long time.

I need a drink.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Word on The Victorian

The power went out while I was working today.

Wait, that sounds too calm.

The fucking power went out while I was WORKING today. If I thought that this building's power was going to go out every five seconds, then I wouldn't be putting up with Oscar the roach and his family of thousands, an air conditioner that only pretends to work, and an elevator that appears to be solely for decoration. I have two criteria for my place of residence: 1) It must be a short walk away from a large supply of alcohol, and 2) It has to have electricity. I would use parchment and quill pens if I could, but I'm a business consultant with a home office, not Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson was an asshole.

I pace around, tapping the end of my cane against the wooden floor nervously. I run my thumb over the series of short parallel lines engraved into its rounded handle. The symbol for running water. And everlasting life.

I comb my left hand through my short black hair. Paired with my blue eyes, high cheekbones, and winning dimples, my black hair is quite the charmer. Too bad my computer doesn't run on charm...I guess I'm done for the night. Thanks universe, you always find the right way to screw me over.

I need a drink