Episode 17: Tuesday – Jackson

Episode 17

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Jackson smiled as he stared at the monitor, not even listening to Jody’s shrill voice. 

Yep, I think it’s about time for Jody Blake to become someone else’s problem. 

He didn’t like being threatened or bullied and that’s exactly what Jody was doing. He felt like muting the sound (which he wasn’t listening to anyway) and just watching the contortions in Jody’s face as he went on about Jackson’s responsibilities towards him and all the money he’d stuffed into Jackson’s bank account and the suspicious nature of his and Roy’s office conflict resolution courses coming out at the same time (“without any warning”) and how he owed at least a little support to his clients and how there were other people out there who could design the courseware for him and maybe even do a better job and maybe for less money and maybe they would offer more customer support. 

Time to take control.

“Well,” said Jackson, “if that’s the way you feel, I can recommend some other designers, people I know whose work is on a par with mine. But I don’t think there’s going to be much difference in the pricing. In fact, I’ve been giving you a preferred customer discount for some time now because of our long term relationship.”

It was hard to tell if Jody’s jaw dropped. His round face, round mouth and lack of a chin made it difficult to determine where his jaw was. But his eyes said it all. He thought he would have Jackson cowering at the thought of losing his business, probably had fantasies about him making all sorts of apologies and finally agreeing to post a rebuttal of Roy’s posting. But it wasn’t working and now he was silent, staring unbelieving at Jackson.

He wore a suit and tie for the meeting. A suit and tie for an online meeting while he was sitting in his kitchen. Jackson wondered if he was wearing pants. Jody’s mouth began to move. 

“Is this how much you value my business?” It was almost a plea. “All these years and you want  to refer me to someone else?”

“Well, Jody, if you’re not happy with my work and you feel that I’m not offering enough support then maybe you would be more comfortable with someone else.”

 “No, Jackson, that’s not what I was saying.” 

Starting to worry are you, Jody? 

“I just think there should be a little more support when it comes to accusations about the integrity of my courses.”

Beads of sweat blossomed on Jody’s forehead, made all the more visible by the Friar Tuck baldness. 

You’re afraid of having to start all over with a new designer, aren’t you? The unfamiliarity of it. The unpredictability of coming out of your shell of comfort and starting all over. So who’s in the driver’s seat now?

“And I wish I could help you with that, Jody, but that would be unprofessional of me. I can’t side with one client over another. That might even set me up for legal action.” Jody was practically squirming. “So, if you were having your courses developed elsewhere, they might be able to help you. And like I say, I can refer you to some very good people. And I can refer you to a consultant I know who is excellent at media rebuttals.”

“No!,” he almost yelled. “No…that’s not what I’m saying. Or…yes…maybe I could speak to your consultant. But…yes…I understand…and I wouldn’t put it past that bastard to try to sue you. I think we can work things out.”

“You said you had an idea for another course.” Jackson watched as relief settled over Jody’s face like the tide washing out. 

“Yes. I’ve been giving this some thought for quite a while now. It’s based on my extensive experience in building working relationships in…”

They discussed his ideas for half an hour and Jody said he would send more detailed information by email.

Roy’s posting at BetterThanCollege wasn’t brought up again. 

***

Jackson had mixed feelings about his face-to-face with Jody. Things had worked out in his favor but he had a feeling that Jody’s reaction to Roy’s posting and his insistence that Jackson do something about it was more than just a little overblown. In the past, the two had seethed for a while over attacks from the other but the vitriol generally wore off quickly when they settled into working on their next course. But Jody had gone way overboard this time, expecting him to actually work against one of his clients. He was ready to drop Jody and he’d hoped deep down that Jody would have done it in their face-to-face. 

He ate lunch as he scanned the news sites. Ham and cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. That had been his lunch menu every day for as long as he could remember, which was most of his adult life. He lived in the NOW like a mystic who was far from believing in mysticism. He lived each moment of his life focussed on each task and activity according to an unbending routine. Every moment had its irrevocable slot in the timetable of his days.

Even his relaxation periods were written in the stone of a Gantt chart, a detailed list of projects broken into objectives and time-allotted tasks to achieve the objectives covering every moment of his day from waking to sleeping. He had exactly thirty minutes for lunch and a browse through the news. He never bothered with the weather. It meant nothing to him. He mostly checked the business and education sites. Mainstream news generally didn’t interest him but a headline in one of the general news sites caught his attention.

Arial 33

There was something about the headline that drew his finger to the hyper-linked text and he started reading. Some kid named Timothy had read a book about a girl who hanged herself after her hamster died and then cut his dog’s throat and cut his own wrists.

He suspected there was a lot more to the story than that. The kid was probably having some serious emotional problems, or on drugs. He’d cut the dog’s throat with a knife. 

What kind of normal kid cuts his dog’s throat with a knife and then cuts his own wrists? And how does a ten year old kid even think of that? And where were his parents while all this was going on? And why did they let him read a book about a girl who kills herself? 

The mother was quoted as saying, “He was a normal little boy. His dog just died and we bought him a new one. He seemed happy.”

You let your ten year old read a story about a girl who kills herself right after your son’s dog dies and he has a surrogate to replace the one he loved? 

“Good luck with your next baby.”

He moved on to an article about 9 Trends in Modern Education, but he noticed that he felt a vague chill after reading about the boy’s suicide. Something wasn’t right about that.

 

Episode 16: Monday – Jack

Episode 16

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“Time to invoke the Fourth Prerogative.” Panther’s words flowed from a panel of black cars with headlights forming spotlights on the road into Panther’s mouth in the next panel. His eyes were wide but determined. “They’ve pulled out of Knitsburg and they’re on Route 1,” said Leopard as he tracked them on his cell phone with an app he’d developed that tapped into government surveillance satellites. “They’re less than thirty miles away.”

“God knows what they’ve done in Knitsburg,” said Panther in the next panel, which showed the group circled on the floor. In the following panel, a close-up of Bobcat showed her saying, “Nothing good, I’m guessing. Probably poisoned the water supply or something equally as insidious.” 

“But the Fourth Prerogative?” said Cougar through a closeup of his face looking both worried and awed. A dialogue balloon led into the next panel with the tail pointing to Panther. “We have no choice.” 

On the next tier of panels all seven faces formed a circular pattern looking into the reader’s eyes, their expressions dead serious, and maybe a little frightened. The gutter between this panel and the next was bridged by a square dialogue box leading unto a panel showing the tops of their heads, faces bent down looking into their cell phones. The dialogue box had Panther saying, “We need to synchronize and begin.” 

In the next panel, Jaguar says, “But we’ve never done this before. We don’t really know what we’ll be unleashing.”

Jack smiled as his pencil flowed from panel to panel. He still wasn’t sure what the Fourth Prerogative was, but he knew it was something fraught with danger for the Tyranny and possibly for the Unseen themselves.

 It was time for a break before finding out what this formidable weapon was. It had to have something to do with their cell phones. He knew this by instinct. 

Something in their cell phones, a powerful app against evil. 

He brought out his laptop, turned it on and went straight to his mail program. There was a slight tremor in his hands and his stomach was tight. His heart quickened when he saw the email from her.

Arial 30

Jack’s heart pounded.

Arial 31

And another few pages that Jack read eagerly, sometimes reading lines two or three times.

Arial 32

 Of course we can. He noticed that she hadn’t mentioned the time, but it was always the same, so he would see her at nine. And the man in the baseball cap wasn’t one of them. He was just a creep giving her a hard time and if he hadn’t chickened out, he would have been there to protect her from him. This time he wouldn’t run. He would stay and meet her. Finally. 

***

Argyle Street cut through an old part of the city not far from where Jack lived. In fact, the buildings and streets were much like Jack’s area: lots of trees, wide streets and older but well maintained buildings. The Argyle Coffee Shop was on the bottom floor of a four story red brick building. Like all the other buildings on the street, small shops and businesses occupied the main floor with flats and condos on the upper floors. A fenced area outside the Argyle surrounded tables and chairs but the cold air had driven the customers indoors.

Jack stood by the entrance to the patio staring into the windows of the coffee shop. The tables inside were like the ones outside—round with just enough surface area for a cup of coffee and a laptop. They lined the walls leading deep into the building. About two dozen people talked and drank coffee, almost all of them couples. Vine sat near the back, alone, her tan rain coat hanging from a coat rack on the wall by the table. Her black turtle neck sweater contrasted vividly with her bright blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. He’d never actually seen her close up but from a distance he could see that she had almond eyes, light brows and an almost pug nose. 

He looked around the street. Street lights muted the autumn colors in the trees. There were no alleys here, but most of the buildings had steps outside leading to basement apartments—perfect concealment for anyone watching him. Everything looked good. No eyes burning hatred through the gates and grates along the road. 

Tonight. I’m going to meet her tonight. I’m going to do it. Finally. 

He looked back inside the coffee shop. She was still there. 

Of course she’s still there, fool, she’s meeting you there in a few minutes. 

A black SUV turned onto the street a block away. Jack froze on the spot, watching it approach. It seemed to him that it might be going far too slowly and there was something suspicious about slow driving black SUVs. He kept his eyes trained on it as it approached. He was partly crouched, ready to spring into a run. He could make out a dark haired woman’s vignette as the SUV drove by. His heart beat returned to normal and his shoulders stooped as his breathing relaxed. 

Just a woman out for a drive. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about. 

He walked up to the door and paused.

What are you doing? You only know her from emails. No. Stop it. Not tonight. What would Crosby do? Fuck Crosby. You’re going to meet her. It’s going to be OK. You love her. She’s not one of them. She loves you. It’s time.

He opened the door and stepped inside slowly, eyes darting back and forth at the people sitting along the walls, forming a wall-less hallway leading toward her. Her head was bent over. She was reading something. He walked closer, breath shortening with excitement, stomach curled into a big heavy knot.

She’s so beautiful. What does she see in you? You’re a big fat nothing. But maybe, just maybe

He was just a few feet from her table. She was still reading and hadn’t seen him. He saw what she was reading. A cell phone. 

What’s she doing with a cell phone? Who’s on the other end? She’s supposed to be with me. Who’s she texting? Them? She’s texting them?

He walked right past her table to the back of the coffee shop and into a hallway that led to the washrooms and the fire exit. He opened the door and ran. 

Crosby was right.

 

 

 

 

Episode 15: Sunday – Jackie

Episode 15

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Jackie often wondered about the other tenants in the building. In the years that she’d been living there she’d never met any of them in the halls or outside the building on the steps and it seemed strange to her. She figured that, like her, they were hermits. But she wondered what they did, what they were like, what their flats were like and if, like her, they felt completely out of touch with themselves. Maybe in this building she was surrounded by soul mates, people who would understand the hellish prison she was to herself.

Or maybe they were invalids but then there would likely be special access features in the building, like a wheelchair ramp leading up to the front door. Or maybe they were just antisocial people who hunkered in their rooms and avoided all things human. Sometimes she liked to imagine they were asleep, hibernating for a hundred years. Or a thousand.

OK, Jackie, enough of the crazy thoughts. Get back to work. You have a play to write.

The Beautiful Ugly was something she’d thought of in one of her moments of angst and today was the day to start on it. She lay in bed in her bright blue writing pajamas with her computer in her lap. Steam curled from a coffee cup on the bedside table. She loved this part of writing a play, when everything was a mystery. All she had was a bare bones idea about the shape of the play. She didn’t even have a plot. All she knew was that the play was going to be about her and she had one line from which the entire play would emerge: The ugliness of her life flowed like sewage under the tissue of her beauty.

She read the line several times.

Not bad. Pretty much sums up my life. Now, how to build a story around this? It’s about you so, what about you? What about sex?

Her fingers started to fly across the keyboard as she jotted down notes about a sex scene from her own life.

She was fourteen when she met Darren. He was handsome and muscular and a few inches taller than her. She’d always thought of herself as beautiful but the beauty turned to ugly when she looked at herself in a mirror. They’d felt an immediate attraction, something deep and primal and delicious. He seemed nervous, shy, almost looking guilty as he bent his head down and kissed her on the lips. He said, “You don’t mind?” She said, “Of course not.” He said, “You’re OK with this?” She said, “Why would I not be?” He said, “Well, it’s just that other people…” She reached up and put her arms around his neck and kissed him hard on the lips. She felt his hand go down the front of her jeans and that’s when everything turned sour. She knew there was something wrong. There was something out of place. Something wasn’t right. She stepped back from him, staring hopelessly in to his eyes and ran from the room.

That should make a good scene. How to get the mirror thing across on the stage though? That will have to be another scene. Maybe the opening scene.

She reached for her coffee mug and held it under her nose, reveling in the aroma of coffee before sipping it.

Oh my.

She was always surprised when the coffee tasted as good as it smelled. She put the cup back on the table and started writing.

SCENE 1

Opens with Kayla leaning both hands on bathroom counter in front of mirror,      staring at herself, facial expressions of disgust, discomfort, anguish, breaks into tears

KAYLA:      (still staring into mirror) Who the fuck are you? What are you?                                  (sobs) (screams) Go away! Just go away! Fuck off and go away!

And that’s it for today.

This was the way she wrote her plays: some quick notes to set the stage, which almost always suggested the first scene, write the scene and then get away from it and let her subconscious work out the rest of the story. It worked and she knew that when she came back to it, the words would flow and the play would almost write itself. She believed that the stories for all her plays were already hidden deep in her subconscious mind. They just needed a little nudging to get them out where she could see them and turn them into another play with a limited but enthusiastic audience and just enough money to scrape by.

But she was happy with that part of her life. It was the rest that made life a confusion of being. The not knowing what it was, not knowing why she wanted to crawl out of her skin every day of her life. It was there in front of her every day, but just beyond her ability to see it. Or maybe her unwillingness to see it.

She put the laptop aside and rolled out of bed.

A stroll around the park. Yes, a stroll around the park would be relaxing and get the creative juices flowing nicely.

She walked to the wall and traced a pattern onto an invisible pad that opened the door to her closet. She walked into it and considered her choices. It was a Tomboy selection: jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, sweaters, running shoes—and all of it except the shoes was black. She considered herself the ultimate Goth.

After changing into a pair of jeans, a black turtleneck sweater and orange running shoes she walked to the short hall leading to the door and sat down on a chair beside the entrance to the hall. She stared out the window, watching as the light faded into darkness and watched the darkness until it was time for bed.

(I hope you’re having a great Sunday coffee break. This brings us to the end of the second week of The Weekly Man and closer to the mystery that binds these people together in a very shocking way.

Soon.)

 

Episode 14: Saturday – Jac

Episode 14

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He woke to cold wet bedding. He hated it when he sweated the dream. Images of exploding eyes and steam spewing from children’s ears still lingered like a gruesome hangover of the inner mind. But this was good. This was his inspiration. This would be the food his masterpiece would dine on.

He’d thought it out from beginning to end, working out every detail in his head. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with this novel; he knew the characters and the story. It was all fleshed out in his mind and he was ready to start the writing today.

Today.

It was like he’d been looking forward to this all his life. He’d never understood why he had the dream. He’d never been to India and the dream had started even before he could read and scour the internet for information.

One of the things he hoped would happen from writing Circus of No Hope was, maybe the dream would finally go away. Maybe by writing it, he would exorcise it. Maybe he would never have to wake up to a cold wet bed again.

***

Lots of emails today. He looked at the subject lines and knew that no one had anything good to say to him. A. Fan was back. All he had to say this time was:

Arial 27

“Good for you, A. Fan,” he said out loud. “You are so full of shit.” He never worried about the threats. He knew the A. Fans would never find him. He was barricaded by too many levels of internet security. They couldn’t trace his email. They couldn’t trace his publisher because he was his publisher and he had layers of security surrounding the publishing, the royalties, the contact information—everything.

A subject line caught his attention:

Arial 28

He opened it.

Arial 29

Something that Jac had learned long ago was to not hit the panic button too early. First, he didn’t know if the email was on the level. It could have been sent by someone pretending to be a kid who’d just killed his dog, someone like an adult who wanted to mess with his head. There were plenty of them out there. Best strategy at his point: Ignore the email. Don’t even respond to it. There was no way to know if it was on the level or not and he had a sense that the writing style seemed like an adult writing as a child. He decided to slide this one off the table until he heard more—if he heard more.

He looked at his daily notification telling him all the places where his name had been mentioned. He liked this app. It allowed him to find out what people were saying about him, where his work had been reviewed and where he was making an impact. It seemed that he was making a big impact in parent and family forums. He didn’t have to read any of these to know nothing good was being said about him.

He saw a blog in the list, The Word and Its Many Meanings. He clicked the link. It took him to a cookie cutter blog with a bright sunny background of a pasture and an obnoxious font that pretty much erased the background theme. The top posting was titled HE MUST BE STOPPED. IMMEDIATELY. Apparently, he, Simon Pierce, was the one who needed stopping. He was a soul-poisoning demon who was at war with humanity and the author of the posting was suggesting that the world rise up and carry him out to an ocean of oblivion.

This nutcase is trying to get someone to kill me.

He looked at the comments section. Nothing. He browsed through the other postings, all of which appeared to be rants about the human race being on the precipice of disaster but some kind of supreme being was going to save everybody if we all just listened to his word. And the author really had it in for plastic. None of the postings had comments.

So nobody’s reading your bullshit, whoever you are.

He was tempted to write something in the comments section but decided it might be best to just ignore it.

Enough mail for today. Time to write.

He opened the folder labeled Circus. There was one document in it. Of No Hope. He liked the way the folder name segued into the document name. He opened the document. The title at the top of the page read Circus of No Hope.

And that was it. Nothing else. He put his fingers on the keyboard. He stared at the title as images of screaming children and burning clowns raced through his mind. He could almost feel the heat and smell the burning flesh. He sat for over an hour with his fingers on the keyboard and the space under the title was still blank. He shrugged his shoulders and took his fingers off the keyboard.

Maybe later. Maybe the words just aren’t ready to flow.

He knew they would come eventually. They always did.

***

Later that afternoon, he stared out the window at the people in the park and the ones filling benches on the sidewalks around the park. The trees were losing their leaves, the green giving way to patches of red, yellow and lime. He never watched TV or went to any news or entertainment sites. He never engaged in chat sessions or anything else that might bring him into contact with other people at any personal level. Friends died or moved away or deceived you or did something that would cause you pain. He remembered the only friend he’d ever had. He was ten years old at the time.

Jac’s life was different than other kids his age. He was home schooled by his mother and spent most of his time around their house in a rural area miles from the city. It was a big house in the center of several acres of woods and unused pasture. His memories of that time were vague with the exception of almost crystal clear memories of a big bedroom with high ceilings and his very own fireplace. He spent most of his time in his bedroom and most of that time was spent with the son of their next door neighbors, Alex. Next door was over a mile away.

Alex and Jac played games like Snakes and Ladders and Fish and I See With My Little Eye. Alex almost always won, but Jac didn’t mind; he played the games just for the pleasure of playing. He had a feeling that Alex played that way as well but he had an ability to focus that fascinated Jac. When they played Fish, it was like everything in the world disappeared and there was only the cards and the game. He rarely spoke and when he did it was with short sentences, just enough to get his meaning across. He remembered his mother referring to Alex once as autistic. At the time, Jac wasn’t entirely sure what that meant but he was sure it had something to do with Alex’s ability to focus so deeply. They were friends for about a year.

One day, Alex didn’t show up. Jac asked his mother about it and she told him that Alex wouldn’t be coming over anymore. When he asked why, she said that it was complicated and left it at that. Jac clearly remembered crying and feeling like, suddenly, he was the only person in the world.

A few months later, his mother died and Jac lost and remaining interest in owning anything or growing close to anyone.

 

(So…how will Jac deal with being himself after Timothy’s letter? And will he ever out-grow his childhood?)

(BTW, have you just finished writing the first draft of the next great novel? Sorry, but you’re not finished yet. Now, the real work starts…you have to revise and rewrite before you set it free to conquer the literary world. Click here for my approach to novel revision.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 13: Friday – Jacques

Episode 13

(New to The Weekly Man? Go here. Reading on your phone? Go here.)

The laundromance. What better place than a laundromat to inspire romance? Jacques wondered how many thousands—millions—of couples around the world had met in a laundromat. How many lifetime relationships had started over soap bubbles and clothing spinning in dryers? It was a personal place, a place where you revealed yourself on an intimate level. Others could see your taste in clothing, your bedding, your skivvies. At some level you almost knew the person using the washers next to you. Jacques had seen a few relationships start in the time he’d been frequenting laundromats. They’d start with small talk, grow into full conversations and then he would see them coming to the laundromat together, their laundry merged in shared baskets and garbage bags.

He’d written thousands of pages of notes over the years. He was ready and armed with all the details he would ever need to create a sense of setting so that his readers could actually feel like they were there listening to the rumble of industrial size washers, the sound of buttons clicking in the dryers and the chi-chang of quarters slotting into the machines. He wanted his readers to smell the detergent and the bleach. He knew every detail—the bulletin boards with their badly spelled notices, the laundry carts scattered around the building and the heat generated by the machines.

And there was the silence of the people. Jacques guessed there was something about a laundromat that invoked a hush. People talked in low tones or they didn’t talk at all. Maybe it was an uncomfortable withdrawal from so much of their personal stuff being visible—even for just a few seconds—as tattered and soiled underwear was quickly rushed into the washer. Quickly or not, it had been exposed in a public place.

Of course, this didn’t apply to the budding romances. They talked quietly, almost conspiratorially, to block out the rest of the world and make their cozy shared space something for themselves only.

He saw the laundromat as a place of regeneration. People lugged in their dirty clothing and left with baskets and bags of newness. There was a sense of relief as they walked out the doors. They were no longer under scrutiny and their laundry was done. Whew.

Not too much was going on today at the Wheeler Wash. A large woman buried herself in a copy of the National Enquirer, frowning and shaking her head, eating a chocolate bar and washing it down with no-name soda. An elderly couple folded clothing and bedding slowly and meticulously and placed it into square red hampers. They didn’t say a word to each other. They didn’t look at each other. But they were like a single machine, not getting in each other’s way, taking one article after another from the table and folding as though they’d done this so many times that talk wasn’t needed and they didn’t have to look to know the other was there and what the other was doing, where their hands were, what article of clothing they’d just taken. They just knew.

Maybe he would use them as incidental characters in one of his books, props in a story about someone else. He didn’t think there was a place for them in his current book. He already had his main characters and all the incidental ones. He had the plot, the location—laundromat, of course—the theme (things get dirty, things get clean) and the backstories. The backstories were crucial. These were the lives of his characters up to the point where they came into the book. The backstories were the landscapes and horizons, the caverns and hollows, the oceans and skies of everything each of his characters had felt, smelled, heard, tasted and seen in their lives, every thought they’d had, every tear and smile. Before Jacques wrote the first word in any of his novels, he’d thoroughly worked out the backstories of each of his characters enough that he trusted them to do and go wherever they wanted, even if it meant changing the plot.

He even knew their fantasies.

You could learn a lot about someone by getting into their fantasies and then comparing the fantasy with their real lives. Fantasies evoked victory or defeat, acceptance or rejection. The successful CEO who perpetually fantasized living alone on a desert island wasn’t smiling inside.

Jacques’ latest novel had three main characters: two men and a woman. They converged on the Washing Green laundromat on a Saturday morning. The female, Hillary, was getting over a bad relationship with a man who turned out to be an asshole but with whom she’d had her first orgasm. One of the male characters, Jeffry, had just been busted by a woman he worked with as a panty fetishist and he’s dreading Monday morning when everyone at work will be giving him that knowing look, giggling and winking to each other behind his back. The other male character, Baxter, is a jock who’d recently become impotent after finding out that he was sexually abused by his mother when he was a child.

Somehow, Jacques had to get them to help resolve each other’s problems and start a romance between two of them without any of them saying a word to each other.

For this, he had the laundromat on his side.

The laundromat was a sentient being that gets into the minds and bodies—where memories are stored at the cellular level—of its customers and tells their stories. That was one of the rules of a laundromance, it had to be narrated by the laundromat. It was never easy but he’d done it a dozen times and his current novel was coming along nicely.

He was getting bored watching the old couple and the National Enquirer woman. He packed his notebook in his backpack and decided to get a coffee before heading home to go through his email.

***

Oh shit.

It was like being run over by a bus. He couldn’t believe that he’d done this. He read the email a second time.

Arial 25

He felt his blood turning cold as he checked his Sent folder.

Arial 26

   Oh shit.

(Uh oh…what has Jacques done now? And how is he going to wiggle out of this one? Tomorrow, Jac’s life is threatened by someone he’s never even met. Again.)

 

 

Episode 12: Thursday – Jacky

Episode 12

(New to The Weekly Man? Go here. Reading on your phone? Go here.)

He knew he would be seeing Krista Coleman as much as possible and he mused that this might be his first relationship. He’d come close with other women but nothing had ever worked out and he had no idea why that was. But Krista was beautiful, intelligent, natural…and she seemed to be as interested in him as he was in her.

“I love the picture of the tulips,” she said. “As soon as it arrived I had it framed.” She giggled. “The framing cost more than the print.”

Jacky laughed. “Framing itself is an art. In fact, I’ve seen frames on older paintings, you know, the big gold gilded ones that are sometimes bigger than the paintings. Some of those frames are more interesting than the paintings.”

It was Krista’s turn to laugh. “Honestly, though, I didn’t mind paying for the frame. It’s slate gray and suits the picture so well.” She leaned forward put two fingers lightly on Jacky’s left hand. The gesture made him catch his breath. “I have it in a special place in my living room, right over the couch.”

“I feel honored. And slate gray seems like the perfect color for it. You have good taste.”

She giggled. “I’m an interior designer. Good taste is mandatory.”

He was drinking German Chocolate Cake coffee—his favorite. She had a Green Chai Latte.  Her fingers were still on his hand and he put his other hand on top of hers. She smiled and leaned closer to him. His stomach churned with excitement. He felt just a little dizzy. She was so beautiful and her smile…

“So, Jacky,” she said, “why just pictures of plants growing out of sidewalks and streets? Do you ever take pictures of plants growing in pots?”

“Plants in pots are domesticated plants. Plants growing through concrete streets are wild and free—like the difference between house cats and lions.”

“What a beautiful way to put it. I would never have thought of it that way. I mean, free plants and enslaved plants.” She put her free hand on top of his other hand—they were holding hands across the table. His heart raced.

“You told me that you find them within a few blocks of the mall. Really?”

“Yep. I bicycle around looking for them. I usually don’t have to go far from the mall or where I live. You’d be surprised at how much of the city has been reclaimed by nature.”

“And where do you live?”

Oh, that beautiful smile. Those seductive blue eyes.

“On Joslin Street, right across from the park.”

“I know that park. That whole neighborhood is so beautiful. All those old red brick buildings. I’ve always thought that I’d love to do some interior decorating in one of those buildings.”

“I think most of them could use it.” He was beginning to feel giddy. “The insides are ancient. At least, they are in my building. But they’re kept up well. No cracks in the walls or water streaks on the ceilings. Kept up very well.”

“I’d like see the inside of your building sometime.” That smile. “I mean, you’re the only person I know who lives in that area. Do you have a view of the park?”

“Wake up to it every day. Especially beautiful this time of year with all the trees turning color.”

“And you don’t take pictures of the trees? They’re wild and free, aren’t they?”

“I’ve thought about it.” He felt her hands press down on his and his pulse quickened. “But trees are a whole different thing from the smaller plants. There’s something about trees. They don’t break through the concrete and asphalt like dandelions and other weeds. We either cut them down or build around them. But I can take some pictures of trees, if you like.”

Oh, that big beautiful smile.

Her eyes widened. “Would you? Would you really? I mean, I could pay you for them.”

“No!” He didn’t mean to say it that loud. She pushed back slightly, surprised by the tone. “No. I won’t charge you for them. They’re for you. Let’s say, you’ll be inspiring me. So, they should really go to you.”

She leaned back in, laughing. “Why Jacky, I feel so special! Thank you.”

Krista Coleman…you are so special.

He twisted his hand to look at his watch. It was getting close to the hour. He would have to leave soon. He didn’t want to, but he had to.

“Listen, Krista.” He pressed her hand a little harder. “I have to leave shortly but I’d really like to see you again. How about coffee…” He glanced at her cup. “…and tea again?”

“Yes,” she suddenly seemed all bubbly. “I’d love that. And I guess it is getting late and I’m keeping you from your art. But I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you.”

“I’d like to see you again. Can you meet me at the gallery again?”

“You’ll make a special trip for me?”

He laughed. “I’m always there on Thursday.”

She looked puzzled. “Are you going to be out of town or something?”

“Um…no. Why would you think that? How about it? Are we on?”

“Sure,” she said, still looking confused. “We’re on.”

***

Later That Evening – Krista

Finally, a guy who’s not a creep, thought Krista. Maybe your luck is beginning to turn for the better. It’s about time.

Krista Coleman’s life was anything but a happy one. Beauty, intelligence and talent, generally associated with success and a happy life, had done nothing to give her an edge over the mountain of bad luck her life had been for the last two years with three cheating boyfriends, a car crash that had cost her a fortune in dentistry, the death of both her parents a few months apart and, to top if all off, she’d just been laid off from the job she’d had for five years. Her life was currently running on fumes.

But she was still optimistic. That was her way. She viewed her life as a glass half full and now that optimism appeared to be paying off.

She’d passed by Jacky’s virtual kiosk every time she went to the Edwards Mall but it wasn’t until last week that she’d seen him there. There was something about him that she couldn’t put her finger on, something that immediately attracted her. She didn’t think it was his looks, although he was definitely a good looking man, not handsome, but good looking in a friendly, down-to-earth way. It was something under the surface of his looks, an invisible presence, a confluence of vibrations on some plane of being that she couldn’t see, but she could sense. It was almost a mystical feeling and she was ready for a little mysticism in her life.

But why do we have to wait a whole week until our next date?

***

Later That Evening – Jacky

Jacky was sitting on top of the world…well…high on his bicycle seat, and the world was shaping up to be a big happy place. He’d never met a woman like Krista. She was down-to-earth and friendly and her smile was beautiful. He could still feel her hands pressed light on top of his. Her voice hummed in his ears like chocolate icing on cake. He could hardly wait until the next date.

He wondered about that. He wondered why she’d seemed confused at the end of their date.

Could she have been nervous?

But she’d said yes. She’d said yes and he was going to see her again. And maybe, just maybe, he’d bring her home.

 

(Some Autumn images to get you into the Fall.)

Episode 11: Wednesday – Jax

Episode 11

(New to The Weekly Man? Go here. Reading on your phone? Go here.)

 

Ratlas was angry. This was something rare…anger…from Ratlas. The message was garbled by emotion but Jax was getting the basic drift. “I am offended to the bottom of the well of life.”

Offended.

“There will be a price to pay for this evil.”

A price. Evil.

Ratlas’ message burrowed into Jax’s mind like a cork screw.

“This evil sucks all hope out of the innocent.”

Sucks the innocent.

“This evil must be stopped. Must be contained!”

Stopped. Contained.

The sounds coming through his headphones grew in intensity and disparity, like melodies crashing into melodies in the streets and sewers of cyberspace. Jax put his hands over the headphones and pressed them firmly against his ears, as though this would make the message clearer. He breathed slowly, deeply, relaxing into the message pouring into his ears. Note by note, the sound of the message slowed and formed into distinguishable sounds.

“You are my prophet.”

I am your prophet.

“You will carry my message.”

I will carry your message.

“My message is one of life ending.”

Life ending.

Life ending?

Jax was confused. He spoke into the microphone attached to his headphones. “What do you mean by life ending?”

“Life ending.”

“Yes, but what do you mean by that? I am supposed to end a life or do you mean that your message warns us of life ending?”

“You must end the evil.”

End the evil.

“What evil must I end?”

“The writer.”

The writer.

“What writer is it?”

“Simon Pierce. He is evil that walks upon the firmament of the earth. He must be exterminated.”

***

Jax was in shock. The shower water was just short of scalding and the washroom was a box of thick steam. He wasn’t aware that his skin was close to burning. He wasn’t aware of the billowing clouds of steam. He was barely aware that he was in the shower.

Exterminated?

This didn’t seem like Ratlas at all, and he wondered why it would want someone killed when it could probably get to the writer just as it had gotten to him. Make him see the light and the error of his ways. But killed? There had to be another way. Maybe he could contact this errant writer and reason with him, teach him the path to saving himself.

“First thing,” he told himself, “I’ll download one of Simon Pierce’s books and see firsthand what this evil is all about.” There had to be some way other than ‘life ended.’ There was something vaguely familiar about the name that Jax couldn’t put his finger on. He downloaded a copy of Janie and Her Hamster. It wasn’t long, a leisurely twenty minute read. The book description claimed it was “a children’s book with a valuable lesson about life.” While the book was downloading, Jax browsed the reader feedback where headlines like DON’T LET YOUR CHILDREN READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!! and THIS MAN IS INSANE! blared from the page. There were dozens of them, none of them good. Jax wondered how anyone would buy Pierce’s books when so many people hated his writing. But wasn’t that the way of people, attracted to the ugly, fascinated by the perversions, in a world where reality TV sank lower and lower to find new ways to shock viewers and insult their intelligence?

Forty-five minutes later, even Jax seriously wondered if there were any hope for Simon Pierce. He did some searches on the author and his books, read about the nervous breakdowns suspected to be linked to him and read some of the reader feedback with their glaring headlines. They were mostly from parents whose children had read the book, or one of his earlier ones, and were now having serious emotional problems. There were reviews from psychologists and social workers warning people to not let their children read the book. There were warnings that adults should avoid them. Some of them contained death threats, especially from a reader called A. Fan.

This man is evil. This man is dangerous. This man must be exterminated. Once again you were right, Ratlas.

Jax had to end Simon Pierce’s life. He had to kill him. But first, he had to find him. Apparently, a lot of people were trying to find him but nobody was having any luck. It was like Pierce was a ghost or a piece of software churning out malicious garbage that was impossible to track to any sort of physical origin. But Jax had a being beyond anything the world had ever seen on his side. Somehow that being would lead him to Simon Pierce and Jax would visit him and end the evil. But first, he must read his email and do some blogging.

He read the email from Jackson Gabriel first. Other than a dozen or so spam emails, Gabriel’s message was the only real email. He read slowly and carefully and didn’t particularly like what he read. There was a definite negative tone in it. He sensed that Gabriel didn’t want to have anything to do with him. That was OK. He had more important matters to deal with and the course could wait. He responded to Gabriel’s email.

Arial 24

“And now for some blogging,” he said to his reflection in the laptop’s monitor. Maybe there would be a way to resolve what he had to do by writing about it.

As usual, the comments section of his blog was empty. He wondered about this. Didn’t his readers have questions? Shouldn’t there be a need for clarification? Shouldn’t there be offers of support? Shouldn’t there be agreement that the world was on a spiral into nightmare and the message must be spread? He thought about this for a moment and assumed that the message he blogged was clear enough that it didn’t need clarification and that the instructions in his blog clearly showed them what they had to do and that he was supported by their actions. And today he would appeal for their moral support. He would bring Ratlas’ message of the evil one to their attention and, as a mass of believers, they might do something about the insanity of Simon Pierce. That was it—let the masses determine Pierce’s fate. He firmly believed that Ratlas would approve of his approach. He closed his eyes and wrote.

THERE IS AN EVIL UPON THE FIRMAMENT IN THE FORM OF A MAN WHO WRITES WITH SOUL POISONING WORDS THAT ARE COUNTER TO THE MESSAGES I’VE BEEN BRINGING TO YOU ON THIS BLOG AND THE FLOW OF HIS VISION MUST STOP (AND I HOPE ALL OF YOU HAVE STOPPED USING PLASTIC) BEFORE HE RUINS MORE LIVES AND DESTROYS MORE SACRED FAMILIES WITH HIS MESSGE OF HOPELESSNESS AND GIVING UP ON THE INTRINSIC BEAUTY AND MARVEL OF LIFE EVEN AS THE FOUNDATIONS OF CIVILIZATION CRUMBLE UNDER OUR FEET AND YOUNG CHILDREN ARE KILLING THEIR PETS AND THIS MAN GOES UNPUNISHED AS HIS FALSE MESSAGE WORKS ITS WAY INTO THE FABRIC OF THE WORLD WITH DEVASTATIONG EFFECT EVEN MORE SO THAN PLASTIC AND GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD WITH CHEMICALS AND OTHER SUBSTANCES THAT WERE NEVER MEANT TO BE CONSUMED BY HUMANS BUT ARE PUT INTO THE FOODS TO COLOR AND TASTE THEM SO THAT THEY GIVE THE APPEARANCE OF BEING HEALTHY BUT ARE IN FACT THE EXACT OPPOSITE SO READ LABELS CAREFULLY AND AVOID ANYTHING PACKAGED OR WRAPPED IN PLASTIC AND SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WHAT MUST BE DONE ABOUT SIMON PIERCE AND HIS WAR ON HUMANITY WITH HIS MESSAGE OF DEFEAT AND HOW HE MUST BE DEALT WITH BY A MASS RESPONSE LIKE A WAVE OF HOPEFUL HUMANITY CRASHING OVER HIM AND CARRYING HIM OUT TO AN OCEAN OF OBLIVION FROM WHICH HIS SHAMEFUL WORDS WILL NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF A WORLD HE HAS FORSAKEN.

WE MUST RID THE WORLD OF SIMON PIERCE.

AND PLASTIC!!!!!

He sat back and reread his post and was happy with it. “No need for any revisions here,” he assured himself.

Maybe my readers will take care of his problem and kill this Simon Pierce.

One can hope.

 

(Will Jax become a murderer? I hope not. He’s already messed up enough. Tomorrow, things start to heat up between Jacky and Krista…but what are these other feelings they both have?)