Because there’s something to be said for brave. And jumping. And working. And failing but learning. And making it through to come back another day.
Here is the first look at my current favorite Dark Yarn Production, my short story. ‘147 East 9th’
First installment – first draft.
Little horror. Little thriller. Little funny.
Little smirk from me.
She was moving in slow motion, steps and half-frames and she watched, in fractions of centimeters, the door frame scrape the skin from the knuckle of her middle finger. She saw, but didn’t feel, the blood surface above the skin. First in tiny, segmented pixel dots until they multiplied and then assembled into a line of red that crept to her wrist. Every time she turned her cheap key copy in the lock of her boyfriend’s apartment, she banged her knuckles. Every time. But she had never been in this much of a hurry. But moving so slowly. The key fell from the lock and crashed on the welcome mat. A drop of blood fell on silver and gold when she scooped them up and jammed the key back into the lock. Through the window she could still see him. Shawn. Slumped in his chair. Wrong. Crooked and stiff. Like he was immovable. Not drunk. Not sleeping. Like he was trapped in his own locked body. Finally the door gave way and she pushed her way inside to him.
Her mind went blank. They had only been dating a few months, but seemed a lifetime. It had come on hard and fast between them. She thought she had played it cool, making him wait until the third date to sleep with him. Only to come flying into his bed seven hours and twenty minutes later. By the end of the second month, she’d met his mother and had a key to his place. But right know, she realized knew nothing about this man.
“Shawn. Shawn!” she yelled. He didn’t flinch. She dropped to her knees in front of him. His neck was extended back, his eyes not just looking to the ceiling but past it. His arms were fully extended, fingers gripped on the chair. She shook him. HIs body moved in one steel piece, not in any fleshy segments. His phone was on the floor by her knees. The screen was black. Dead. She ran to her bag, searching. She gave up and turned it upside down, crawling into the pile of purse debris.
“SHIT!” she screamed, skidding change and mints and a tampon across the floor as she flailed her arm. Somehow her wrist crashed down to her hip and she felt her own phone, jutting out of her back pocket. It took her four tries with as many deletes, but she finally dialed 911, and someone on the other end of the phone started talking.
She didn’t remember saying anything in response to the words she heard. The phone was somewhere near her and she tried to listen. To the strange voice. To hear for a heartbeat. She stopped listening and tried feeling. Breathing. Shuddering. Anything. More words. Where was she? His apartment. Where was his apartment? She left him to run back to the front door. She couldn’t remember his apartment number. No, she didn’t know if he was epileptic. No, she didn’t know if he was diabetic. Or allergic to cilantro. No. she didn’t think he took drugs. Did she know? No. She just knew it looked like he was dying in front of her.
A voice called out. She leaned in to Shawn. He was immobile. His mouth was rigid, lips separated, back teeth clenched. The voice wasn’t his.
“Ma’am? You have to stay on the phone with me, okay? ” It was her phone. In her hand.
“Yes, yes, It’s Shawn.”
“Okay, ma’am. What is wrong with him?”
“I don’t know. He’s breathing. I think. But he’s just lying there. He’s not moving.”
“Okay. We’ll get him help. But first, what’s your name ma’am?”
“Who am I talking to? What’s your name, ma’am?”
She stared at Shawn, he hadn’t moved. Maybe he wasn’t breathing. “I don’t think he’s breathing. I looked closer and I don’t think he’s breathing. Oh my God.”
“Where are you?”
She jhad ust looked and she still couldn’t remember. She had walked, taken a cab and usually the R train more times than she remembered in the last weeks of her life. And she couldn’t remember his address. Where was she? She was just at the door. She scanned the room. There was mail on counter, spilling onto the stove. Half of it spilled to the floor when she reached. She hit her knees and pulled out a bill. Shawn Crown. 147 E. 9th Street.
“Shawn Crown. 147 East ninth street,” she almost screamed into the phone.
The voice interrupted her own cracking voice. “Okay, ma’am, I need you to check and see if he’s breathing. Can you get close to him? Is it safe?”
She stared at him. Safe. “Yes, he’s breathing.”
“Is he conscious? Can he hear you?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
The voice wouldn’t stop. “Is he taking any medication? Does he have a cardiac history? Does he have seizures? Illegal drugs? Has he been drinking?”
“Didn’t we just do this?” Maybe they hadn’t. Maybe she just thought they had. “I don’t know,” she said, her voice had finished cracking and started breaking.
“That’s fine. Just stay there with him. I’ll be on the phone until the ambulance arrives.”
Then the chair twitched and creaked. She put down the phone. Or dropped it. She grabbed onto the leather, needing to get closer to him but afraid to touch him.
Bent in the cushions, Shawn’s joints flexed and with a few subtle motions, he turned human again. His shoulder lowered and his head maintained its own support. His eyes had never been closed, but they had never seen. He blinked and looked at her .
“Ayn zawjati? Mayar. Ayn zawjati?” He saw her. The girlfriend with the light brown hair standing in front of her. He may as well been looking through a microscope at a petri dish of scabies. He studied, curious and searching, but found nothing of what he thought he wound find.
“Shawn,” she asked. Because now, she really didn’t know. She heard knocking and the open door catch on the hall runner as the door was pushed to the limits of its hinges. She watched a man and a woman in baby blue shirts and navy cargo pants kneel beside Shawn. She stepped back, out of the room. Their black boots had left sprinkles of dirt on the floor. She’d have to sweep that later. Shawn hated when people wore shoes in the house.
The ambulance crew loaded him onto the tiny collapsing wheelchair, belting him in like a toddler in a booster seat. He didn’t say anything else, but kept his eyes open, staring around the room as if he had never been there before. The two in blue who were fully upright, rattled words and observations back and forth, talking to each other as if no one else was in the room. They were jolting him out the door before one of them mentioned over their shoulder, that she could follow them if she wanted.
And then it was silent. Her purse lay on the floor empty, with its inside bits strewn for yards. A plastic mint container had been crushed under a boot or a wheel and white powder dotted the floor like rained-out sidewalk chalk. Something on the chair where Shawn had been trapped when she found him was wet. Her first and only thought was that she had to clean it.
She went into the kitchen and looked under the sink. Nothing expect an empty mouse trap. The peanut butter on the foot plate was hardened into a plastic knob. On the sink there was a bottle of dish liquid. She grabbed that and a handful of napkins from the top of the refrigerator. She turned on the faucet and ran everything in her hands under the water. Fully dripping, she then ran back into the living room.
Turning over the dish liquid, she covered the wet spot on the chair then dropped to her knee. Circling with the napkins, she managed to turn it from a wet spot to a white, nubby, frothy spot, speckled with bits of paper. She turned over the napkins, to see if any color had come away with her rubbing. There was nothing. Just soap and wet. Without thinking, she smelled it. Soap and wet and something else. But she had no idea what. She dropped the napkins and stood.He was on his way to the hospital. She had no idea which one.
Had to get outside. Get to the street. Find markers. Living in the city. Look up. Look around. Figure out where she was and then maybe where he was. She had no idea. Might as well have been a decade ago, when she moved here from Florida. Phone. Where was her phone? She looked down and her hands were empty. She ran back inside and saw it, sitting on the wet cleaning attempt. She swiped it across her jeans. She looked up again. Nothing. She typed, reduced to googling nearest hospitals like a common Pennsylvania bus tourist.
St. Mary’s. Closest. Probably where they took him. She could get there. Taxi. She could get a taxi. She remembered how to do that. She thought. And then she did. And made it all the way out of the lower east side and toward, whatever neighborhood was next. St. Mary’s. But he wasn’t there.
Walking up and down the sidewalk in front of that hospital, she realized she could have called. Either the hospital, or even the ambulance crew. But she has no idea what ambulance service it was. And she didn’t think it was protocol to call 911 back and ask. So, where the hell was he? Then she felt the pressure of a pair of hands and the warm, wet rolling down her back.
“Sorry. I’m sorry,” the boy’s voice said. She turned and saw two college-aged kids standing behind her. The girl of the pair had no shoes, bloody hands and was leaning forward at the waist, puking onto the sidewalk. Her mind slowly informed her what had just happened to the back of her shirt. She started gagging.
“Yeah, she’s…sorry,” the boy of the pair said. He straightened his partner, to a more or less upright position, and walked her inside.
All her brain was good for at the moment was to tell her that she needed to get home, shower and try this whole thing again.She did not do medical and fluids and, no. Home. Taxi. She could do that. Then find him.
It took longer than her brain had initially told her. Her keys were not in her purse. They must still have been sprawled somewhere on Shawn’s floor. She waited for fifteen minutes to get the super out his door and up the two flights of stairs.
She flung off her shirt and threw it in the kitchen sink, on top of the cereal bowl. She yelped when the spoon spun out and hit the stainless steel. Then it was quiet. Pristine quiet. Why was she standing in the sink in just her bra? Yes. Shawn. Hospital. Vomit. Blood. Shower.
Tepid shower. Hot shower was not in the cards. She let the water run, and run, hoping that the water temperature would somehow circle around from lukewarm to cold and back to hot. It didn’t. And then she couldn’t find her clothes. And then there was a knock at the door. She turned to water off, listening to the quiet. This time, she heard a key turning in the deadbolt. Then she heard the door opening. Then she ran. Right into him. And screamed.
“Carolyn!” Shawn held her at arm’s length.
“Oh my God,” she sank down to her knees and he held her up, his hands slipping against her wet, naked skin.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he said, settling next to her.
“What are you doing here? I was trying to get to the hospital. I didn’t know where you were. I didn’t know where they took you. And I went to the wrong place. And I didn’t know if you had epilepsy or did drugs-“
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “You should never have seen that.”
“I thought you were dead.”
“I’m sure. Shit. I’m sorry.”
“Why aren’t you in the hospital? I mean, what the hell?”
He knelt on the floor in front of her. “I didn’t stay. Honey, I am, I can’t tell you how sorry I am that you had to walk in on that.”
“Shut the hell up with I’m sorry,” she said. “Just tell me what happened?”
Shawn blew all the air out of his lungs and ran his hand through his hair. “All right. First, I don’t have epilepsy and I don’t do drugs. What you saw was, okay, I wish I had a better answer for you. But I don’t know.”
“So why the hell wouldn’t you stay in the hospital?”
“Because there’s nothing wrong.”
“How can you say there’s…” She looked down in her lap.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t have any clothes on.”
“I know,” he said.
“Don’t step out of my sight,” she said. She stood and motioned him in front of her, toward the bedroom. Inside the room, she pointed to the bed and he sat as instructed. She reached into a laundry basket and pulled on an oversized New York Yankees t-shirt. She sat next to him on the bed. He ran his hand over her hair.
“I’m sorry,” he said. He leaned in and kissed her. She kissed him back. He slid his hand along her thigh, under the hem of the t-shirt. She stood up and took his hand.
“Not the bedroom,” she said and led him out of the room.
They sat across from each other at the dining room table. She held up her hands. “You need to say something.”
“What if I don’t want to? Ok, Lynnie? What if this is my shit and I don’t want to say something? I get that we’re together. And I get that means that I don’t leave the toilet seat up and that I can’t bring home girls from bars-“
“Unless I’m here and she’s really cute.”
“Fuck. I’m serious. Just because we’re doing this doesn’t mean that I have to let you into every single corner of my world.”
Carolyn went silent.
“Maybe I thought this was something else. Something it wasn’t. I guess I was wrong.” She stood up. He countered.
“No. You don’t get to do that. I was just in an ambulance and you were trying to come find me in hospital. At least I hope you were. I’m not exactly as the peak of health. I feel like someone threw me into a cement mixer. It’s fine and I’ll be okay. But you don’t get to turn this into a pity party for you. It can’t be some “my boyfriend doesn’t open up” bullshit gripe session. Because that’s not what this is. Now, I’m sorry if I scared you. But, you don’t need to know about this.”
“You won’t tell me anything?”
“There’s nothing to tell. I’ve had these, whatever, things, since I was about fourteen. I had the tests. They’re not seizures. I’ve seen lots of doctors, they don’t know what it is. That’s it. Doesn’t happen a lot. But every once in a while, I fall asleep and I have a bad dream. While I’m there, I see horrible things. My body goes completely mad, and then, after a while, I wake up. The end.”
“Your accent just got stronger,” she said.
“So, it’s a really bad nightmare? Like a night terror?” she asked.
“Maybe. Not that simple.”
“Have you seen-
“A shrink? Sure. Two handfuls. And a priest. And a Buddhist monk. And two different reiki body workers. And an Ayurvedic healer who was obscenely weird but she had this really awesome lavender oil. I still have some.”
“It sounds awful,” she said.
“Absolutely not. The lavender is brilliant,” he said.
“What’s your issue? Since we’re sharing. What’s in your medicine cabinet? Since we’re sharing.”
“Nothing,” she said.
“Rubbish. You have nothing at all in your cabinet? And you don’t have to tell me? Not my business. But you see where I’m headed.”
“Probiotic. Which I never remember. Sometimes I take this hair supplement. But I usually forget that too. I don’t take anything on purpose.”
“I take a lot. Every day. I always remember.”
“Yeah. You don’t know what to say. That’s why I didn’t want to talk about it. This bloody thing, it takes over everything. It’s why I had to move from the country to London. And then here.”
“I thought you liked the city?” she asked.
“It’s fine,” he said.
“So, what do I do? If it happens again, do I call the ambulance? Is there a pill or a smelling salt or something I need to make happen?”
“You’re sticking around for when it happens again?”
“I am. I’ve got more fight than you’d imagine.”
“I know. That’s why I bought you that awful drink in the first place.”
“Okay,” she said, “Gin is not an awful drink.”
“Awful. Just bloody awful”, he said. He closed his eyes and reached for her hand. By the time he took his next breath, he was sound asleep. She nudged his gently. He moaned without opening his eyes. Taking him by the shoulder, she guided him to his feet and then step-by-step, got him back to her bedroom. She tried to pull back her covers, but he slumped onto the bed before she could. The corner was nudged under his neck and head like a sad, flat little pillow. She quoted low and lugged his long legs up onto the bed. He mumbled. Then shivered. She folded the other half, her half of the comforter over him. He mumbled again. She stared. Not taking her eyes off him, she back up to the corner, kicked a laundry basket of of the way, and sat. He breathed. She watched.