Tuesday, December 28, 2010


He was brought in toward the end of her shift at the overnight walk-in clinic. It had been slow, the usual aches and pains and one sprain that needed to be X-rayed to rule out a fracture. The man the police had brought in an hour or so ago lay on a gurney with its head end somewhat elevated. He stared at the line where the wall met the ceiling.

When the doctor on call came in she looked up from the paper work she was filing in. All he had to do was say “nurse” and she began to recite the patient's history while he prepared to examine the man on the gurney, as much of the history as she knew.

“Someone discovered him slumped on the steps of the library, approximately three a.m. Saw he was unconscious and called ERS. No response to regular stimuli, no sign of trauma or alcohol or drugs, so paramedics and police brought him here. Dumped him.”

“Regained consciousness?”

“About ten minutes ago, after I had called you. He doesn't seem to respond to the usual sound or pain stimuli, only reflexive responses of the pupils to light. Both equal but slow.”

“His name?”

“They think he's one of those street people, the homeless but a new one. They haven't had to deal with him before. You know how those guys are; no I. D. or anything. This one, all he had on him was a library card with the name Thomas Duhammeloc. He didn't respond to his name when I tried to speak to him earlier, but the police did promise to look through shelter records for us.”

The doctor approached his patient. “Mr. Duhammeloc? Am I pronouncing that right? I just want to check your signs to prove you're OK. May I call you Thomas? Or do your friends call you Tom?” The pulse, respirations and blood pressure were within normal limits but the patient showed no response to the doctor's voice or the touch of the stethoscope, nor did he respond to requests for a deep breath. The doctor turned away and began to make his own notations in the man's file.

“Just monitor him for the time being. I'll make arrangements to have him transferred and seen by a neurologist in the morning.” He turned back to the patient and noticed a broad smile on the face, even though the eyes still seemed to be focused on the juncture of wall and ceiling.

Doctor and nurse chatted for a few more minutes, and the doctor prepared to leave. Then a voice came clear and strong from the man on the gurney.

“My mother calls me Richard.”

Monday, December 27, 2010

Once Bitten

I have to blame my sister. None of it is really my fault.

My sister Anna was the one who decided to hold a birthday party for one of her coworkers at our house, to hold it on an evening when our parents were away, of course. She was the one who decided it would be girls only. And she was the one who invited Raisa, the girl who had moved to our town a few months ago.

Raisa. The Ice Queen as she was politely referred to in some circles. The Russian Bitch. None of the guys of my acquaintance had been able to date her, not even so much as to accept an offer to buy her a coffee. No man had got close enough to her to chat her up, and the best had tried.
I don't know how Anna became her friend. They never hung out together at work, but Anna seemed to know a lot about her. My sister claimed she had a gentle, shy personality and that beneath her unremarkable clothing was a smart woman with a trim body. It was none of my business why she didn't want anything to do with my friends. And besides, I was moving in on a sultry Latina who knew how to laugh. Loud and musically.

For some reason I was alone that evening. The girls, pardon me, the ladies spilled from the containment of the rec room and spread through most of the first floor with giggles and gossip while music blasted away downstairs. In the local pub, I knew, I would find people I didn't want to see; I locked myself in my bedroom with a DVD and earphones. When I resurfaced after midnight, things sounded much more subdued. I went down to see if there were any munchies left to snack on.

Some of the guests had departed; others were preparing to leave. Anna happened to corner me in the kitchen by the fridge.

“David. I need you to drive Raisa home.” It wasn't a request; it wasn't a suggestion. When Anna has a plan in mind she gives orders that can not be argued. I shrugged my shoulders, made a face.

“Just save me a chunk of that fancy birthday cake. Oh yeah, and any of that giggle juice you guys haven't consumed. I'll have it when I get back.” If I had to spend time with the ice queen, there needed to be some reward.

I waited while Anna and Raisa giggled and said their goodbyes, then led the way to my car. I opened the passenger door for her. She slid in quite primly and said thank you in a soft voice, as if remembering the manners her mother had taught her. I went around to the driver's side, buckled in, started the car and looked over at her.

“So, where to?”

She never even looked my way. She recited an address and asked, “You know how to get there?” I didn't deign to reply.

There was no real conversation during the drive, no matter how hard I tried. Any remarks I made about the party, birthdays, my sister, her employment were met either with a quiet “mmm” or complete silence.

Her destination was a split level on a side street. I guess that, like many of us, she still lived with her folks until there was something permanent to move into. I parked on the street and like the gentleman I am, rushed around to open her door and assist her from the car. And then, like a gentleman, I walked her to her door and waited while she found her keys.

It was then, standing behind her as she fumbled with the key and the lock, that insanity grabbed me. I put my hands on her waist and pulled her toward me. I like to pretend that I don't know what came over me but that's a lie. I could see myself bragging to all the guys that I had kissed the Ice Queen, and lived to tell about it.

Instantly, at the touch of my hands she turned. The keys dropped to the ground and her mouth opened to protest. I covered her mouth with mine. I believe there was about a ten second delay while I enjoyed the feel of her lips against mine, while I caught a hint of the scent of her hair. Then she reacted.
She clamped my lower lip between her teeth. She bit down. Hard. I tasted my blood.

Afraid to pull away, I growled. She let go and stepped back, panting, her eyes flashing and what seemed like curses beginning to form in her mouth. I couldn't help it, honestly. It was automatic. I slapped her across the mouth.

Whatever response I might have prepared myself for didn't happen. An intense glow lit her eyes. She grabbed me by my collar and pulled me toward her, mashed her face on mine, her mouth pressed fiercely on mine. I stood helpless as she ground her body against me.
What saved me was a noise from inside the house. She heard it too, and pushed me away. She snatched her keys from the ground and attacked the lock, hissing at me over her shoulder.

“You must go. Hurry. But call me. Anna has my numbers.”

She disappeared into the darkness behind the closing door, and I scurried back to my car. For a long time I sat there, awash in confusion.

Then I remembered the large chunk of birthday cake. The bubbly chilling in the fridge. My take-charge, know-it-all sister. And some words of explanation, perhaps.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beauty Displayed


To take advantage of a short cut to the building where I needed to be for an appointment, I slipped through a small tulip garden sheltered by thick evergreen hedges. In that corner secluded within the expanse of a larger city park, I came face to face with the serendipitous nature of beauty. Although not by design, my approach must have been almost soundless. I was struck motionless by the pleasing sight of a young lady on a south-facing park bench, awash in light, soaking up all the available sun.
Unaware of my presence, she sat with her face turned upward as if gazing into the source of heat and light. Her eyes were closed; her long chestnut hair hung down over the bench’s back. Her hands seemed to be clasped behind her, a pose that arched her spine and thrust out her bosom. Her hips flared out from her waist; her legs were spread in a most unladylike position. And oh, yes. She was as naked as she could be while still wearing clothes.
Following the example of her face, her breasts rose proudly from the exposed expanse of chest; a sweater and blouse were wide open and held away well down her arms from the rounded shoulders. After the dip at the end of the rib cage, her abdomen rose gently to a low mound around the depression of her umbilicus. Her skirt was gathered loosely below her waist, exposing as much of her legs to the sunlight as if she’d been wearing a bikini. Low-heeled shoes remained on her feet. Her knees were bent as she perched on the edge of the bench and her thighs were wide open, unhindered by the folds of skirt tucked onto the seat behind her. The panties she wore were a pastel blue, lighter than the color of the sky.
I know now what it means to be struck dumb. I understand the feeling of being frozen in time. I would swear that for a small eternity nothing moved, no birds sang, no wind whispered. Afraid to fracture this frail tableau, I remained standing perfectly still.
I don’t know that she was beautiful, nor was it important that she wore very little. I stood simply amazed by the play of light and color on her skin. The shadow cast by the rise of one breast enhanced the cleavage between the two; the other breast glowed in empathy. Like castles guarding hilltops her nipples stood proud in the April morning air, steadfast on the long slow rise and fall of her breasts with her breathing. The taut expanse of her abdomen called to mind visions of gentle virgin slopes waiting for the plough. The muscles in her calves and thighs were well defined, as if she could be a runner. No tremor disturbed them as they held the limbs in a tight V. Heaven, as I said before, was a pale blue.
With her eyes still closed, she removed her hands from behind her and stroked her thighs, almost as if she was massaging the heat and light into her skin. A shiver, brought on by a cool breeze that tweaked her nipples, ran across her chest with the majesty of an undulating earthquake. She opened her eyes and looked directly at me.
There had been no time to improvise an excuse for peeping. I expected fear and anger, shouting and a scramble to cover up but that didn’t happen. She looked into my face. She looked directly in to my eyes. I don’t believe anything was said. Becoming engulfed in the smile that filled her eyes kept me helpless, unable to move, to speak. Peripherally was I aware of her fingers carefully buttoning her blouse and sweater. Somehow my brain registered “no bra,” and filed that information. Then, in one fluid motion, she rose from the bench and picked up her bag. Her skirt instantly settled about her knees. With a still brighter flash of smile, she nodded her head towards me in greeting, as strangers will. And disappeared.
I felt as if I had been standing there for hours, as if my life had undergone a complete turn around. My chest was tight; I found I was holding my breath and quickly let it out. I wanted to run after her but had no strength to follow her. I had to sit down; I needed to reconstruct my life
With long slow rhythmic breaths my body regained its equilibrium. This mind, however, will never be the same.