Malina and Petyr

An excerpt from Drowning Above Water.

“You’re so pretty,” Malina said as she ran her hands along Petyr’s blonde hair. “Your mother must have been beautiful.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t remember. But I think so.”

“I bet your babies will be pretty just like you,” she said.

They stretched out on her bed. He gave her space to move and reposition, but managed to keep physical contact with her skin. A finger on a shoulder, a heel on the back of a calf, but he couldn’t let her go. He looked at her. Her eyes were so busy; so much spinning behind them.

“Did you have babies before?” he asked. “When you were home?”

She shook her head.

“I’m sorry,” he said, kissing her forehead. She didn’t pull away from him, but she didn’t return the affection. That’s how it typically was.

“And what about you, my pretty boy? Do you have any babies?” She grinned as she said it. She knew very well he didn’t have any children. She knew he couldn’t imagine lying with any other woman but her.

“No babies. Only you,” he said.

“Yet,” she said. “You just haven’t met the right girl.”

“You are my right girl,” he said.

“Sweet, fantastic boy. So young. So hopeful. I don’t want you to ever learn.”

“You’ve done well this time,” he said. He didn’t mention exactly what he meant. But she knew. There were no pills in the tin in her purse. She had done well this time. He wouldn’t press her.

“Do you think we’ll be old together?” she said, propping herself up to look directly at him. “Grey and fat and limping? Do you think that will be us?

“Of course it will,” he said.

“No,” she shook her head.” You’ll find some heartbreaking girl…or boy, and run away together and never look back.”

He propped himself up to meet her. “Never,” he said. “I will never run away from you.”

“Then I’ll have to push you away when it’s time,” she said, pressing softly at his shoulder.

“You could never,” he said. I wouldn’t go.”

“What if you had to?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t go,” he said.

“I hope not,” she said. “You are what keeps me alive. And smiling for another day.” There was a knock at the door. Malina groaned and rose from the bed. “Make him wait outside for a minute, then let him in,” she said.

“Be careful,” Petyr said, rising to meet her.

“You be careful,” she said. “This is the easy part.” She squeezed his hand and walked off to the bathroom. When he heard that door close, he walked to the hotel room door, opened it, and made sure to close it behind him when he exited.

Drowning Above Water is the new suspense novel from Alyssa Herron. It is available at Amazon. 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

New horror fiction. 147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

 

Chapter 7

It was so hot. The blankets from their bed around her felt like a heavy shroud.  Asphyxiating like the vest they drape over torsos during an x-ray. The wool was oppressive and binding. She could feel the sweat pooling between her breasts. Her shirt was soaked. Her hair was wet from the nape of her neck to the crown of her head. The room was bright and sharp and stinging light shot in through the curtains. She squinted, and she could feel a bead of sweat trail down her curled nose and forehead.

“Baby,” Shawn whispered. Carolyn opened her eyes, but they were leaden. Her eyelids drooped, leaving her eyes open just a sliver against the burning light. “Can you try to drink something?” She felt the bed shift when he sat down beside her. She pushed the blankets down to her stomach. It felt like she was trying to dig her hands through wet sand. Shawn’s hands brushed against her as he helped wrangle the covers.

“Here,” he said. She felt his hand behind her and he helped her get into a sitting position. More of a leaning, tired position. He handed her a glass. It was cold. It felt wonderful. Instead of drinking it, she held it next to her face. “Try to drink,” he said. “You haven’t had anything all day.”

“My legs hurt,” she said. Let her try to hold the glass on her own. She managed, although it did clink against her teeth each time she raised it to her mouth. He wrapped his hands around her calves and rubbed, them. She grimaced, the glass wobbling in her hand.

“Steady on,” he said, taking the glass from her.

She curled her knees to her chest. “My stomach hurts. Like something is squeezing me. Twisting my insides. Ugh,” she groaned.

“Baby,” Shawn said. “We need to take care of you.”

“No, I just need to sleep. And my deductible is too high.”

“It’s almost bedtime. You’ve slept all day.”

“What? Shit, I have to…work,” she said, trying to roll over in the bed. She flopped to her original positon on her back, out of strength.

“No,” he said, putting the glass of water on the bedside table and softy keeping her in bed. “No work. Dae texted this morning. You texted back.”

“Wha…” Carolyn said, trailing off into her pillow. “I don’t remember.” She pulled the blankets up to her chin, despite the rising temperature around her. “Just…want…”

Shawn kissed her forehead. “Sleep. I’ll see you in the morning, love.”

 

 

Two hours later, Shawn was sitting on the edge of the chair in the hospital room. Carolyn was on the bed, curled into a fetal position. Neither of them spoke. Shawn, usually so eager to touch her, to heal and relieve with his good hands, kept still, his fingers curled around each other in his lap. A man in tight-fitting scrubs, with tattoos down past both elbows, walked into the room. Shawn stood. Carolyn didn’t stir.

“I’m Dr. Curtis,” the man said. Shawn extended his hand and the doctor quickly shook it, but his eyes focused on Carolyn in the bed. “How you doing?”

“Been better,” Carolyn said quietly.

“Here’s where we are,” Dr. Curtis said. “You’re running a fever, but the blood work shows no real signs of infection. I’ll be honest, I don’t like it. So, I’d like to get you in for a CT scan of that belly. See what’s going on. Okay?”

“Do you have any idea what’s-“ Carolyn started. The doctor stopped her.

“I really wouldn’t want to guess until we know more. Can I get you anything?”

Shawn looked at Carolyn. She waved them both off with her hand.

“All right. I’ll be back,” the doctor said and he left the room.

Shawn paced back and forth across the small room. He turned quickly, sending a bin of tongue depressors and long cotton swabs onto the floor. The echo of the metal crashed reverberated in the small room.

“Please sit down,” she said.

He knelt down to gather up the scattered debris. He looked to the trash, and looked at the bin on the wheeled-cart, but her wasn’t sure where to put his handful. Frustrated, he dropped them all on the counter next to the sink. From the bed, Carolyn shifted her hips and released a muffled groan. Shawn left his pile and sat next to her on the bed. She grabbed his hand.

“We’ll figure it out. Figure it all out,” he said. He loosened his hand from hers and then took her hand in both of his. He cradled it like an egg. Supporting her hand in his, he massaged her wrist; circles of light pressure then a firm downward force with his thumb. He slowly moved his hands up her arm, then to her shoulder. Her breathing slowed. The tightness and the tension in her face relaxed by a degree. He moved his hand to the side of her ribs. Not reaching for her breasts; this was a healing touch, not a sexual one. He curved his hand into the space between her ribs and her waist, and then back to her rib. He gave firm pressure to a tip of a middle rib.

“This should help,” he whispered to her.

“Why does it hurt so much?” she said. “There’s something wrong. Something really wrong. I’m scared.”

“Shh. Don’t talk like that. We’ll find out what this is. Have you right as rain. You’ll see.”

The end of a gurney pushed into the room with a clank or metal and the squeak of old wheels.

“Carolyn Janus? Birthday 07/22/1988?” the woman in bleached-white scrubs pushing the gurney asked.

Shawn nodded.

“Ok. We’re going upstairs to CT.”

“Should I…?” Shawn asked.

“No. You stay here. I’ll keep her safe. I promise.” The woman helped Carolyn shift from the bed to the gurney. Carolyn bit her lip and stifled a moan. The woman slammed the side rail of the gurney up into place.

“Get her right back to you,” the woman said, backing the gurney out of the room.

Out in the hall, the woman smiled as she pushed the patient on her stretcher. Carolyn could barely see the woman who was moving her down the hall. She looked above her at the woman in white. There was a tag hung around her neck. There were bright red letters, but the name that was stamped in the middle under a picture kept blurring out of focus.

“Remember me?” she asked.

Carolyn couldn’t think. It was the woman. From the bar. Pam. That was it. Nun’s name. With the drink. And the phone.

“Don’t worry, honey,” Pam said. “Like I told him. I’ll keep you safe. Both of you.”

 

 

Her head pounded. It hurt so much. Carolyn stood against the window of the hospital room and leaned her head against the pane. She wished for winter, but the glass was warm.

“Why can’t we just leave? she asked. It wasn’t the first time she had said that in the last hour. This time no one was there to hear. Shawn had gone to get her an herbal tea. She hated herbal tea–in this moment, more than usual. She wanted a glass of white wine so cold that glass had frost. No. Not a glass of white wine. She wanted a bottle. And she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she had ever wanted white wine.

A nurse came in the room, pushing a computer on a wheeled-stand. At least Carolyn guessed she was a nurse. The woman in the navy scrubs never said.

“Marilyn?” the woman asked.

“Carolyn.”

“Oh,” the woman said, starring into the computer screen. “Were you in a different room?”

Carolyn shook her head. Jesus. She would seriously kick this computer and its pusher down a flight of stairs for that wine.

“This place,” the maybe-nurse said, sighing and taking a huge slug out of travel mug that sat on the small ledge wrapped around the front of the monitor. The mug was orange and as big as the computer screen. The woman slurped down the coffee as she clicked, somehow all while staring out the room’s window. “Oh, no, here it is. Ok. Doctor signed off on your discharge. Go ahead and change and I’ll print out your papers.”

“Is anybody going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“He didn’t come talk to you?”

“No,” Carolyn said.

The woman sighed louder and swallowed another mouthful from her mug. “There is it. Follow up visit in two weeks. Number will be on the papers.”

“But-” Carolyn growled.

“If there was anything, it would be in here. But it’s not. So, I’m sure you’re fine.”

“Sure. Cause I feel fucking fine.”

“Your papers will be at the desk,” the woman said, pushing her computer out of the room.

Carolyn flung up her middle finger at the empty doorway. She yanked off the hospital gown, and walked over to the tiny plastic closet in the corner, wearing only her underwear. The elastic band adhered to the sweat on her back.

Shawn stepped into the doorway, holding her tea and wearing an eager, sympathetic smile.

“What did they say?” he asked.

The steam rose through the hole on the plastic cover of the drink. She imagined the liquid melting the cup, distorting it around Shawn’s hand. Hotter, and hotter and hotter, until the tea dissolved every molecule it touched, until there was redness, and pain and…

“Bloody hell,” Shawn yelled. He dropped the cup on the floor and the tea pooled by his feet, hot vapor rising like a mist. He stepped back and reflexively brought his hand to his mouth to cool it. “Don’t know why they serve it like that.”

He grabbed a handful of paper towel and bent to clean the mess.

“Leave it,” Carolyn said.

“No, I can’t. I’ve made a wreck of the place. Someone could fall or-“

“Take me home,” Carolyn said. “Now.”

(Alyssa Herron is the author of the new suspense novel Drowning Above Water. It is available at Amazon.)

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 4

New horror for your Friday the 13th.

Happy Haunting.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

“Johnnie Walker Black. Rocks,” Carolyn said to the bartender. She sat at the bar and waited. She didn’t know where to look. It had been years since she had been anywhere alone without her phone. She saw an ancient and possibly apocryphal black phone on a lower shelf by the bartender with the long braids. Who would she call? She didn’t know anyone’s number. And she was too stunned to do anything but look straight ahead, seeing her pale reflection in the mirror behind the bar. The woman she saw looked like a ghost.

The word sounded ridiculous. Ghost? Is that why her doors slammed and a make-believe girl hijacked her phone? She stared past the bottles to the mirror behind the bar. Her face. Her short hair. No crazy horror movie blood streaks. No absent reflection. No forced reflection of a goblin or bewitched little girl scout with poisoned Samoas. Just her and her drink. And the woman who was now sitting next to her.

“Johnnie Walker. Neat. You got blue label?” the woman asked. The bartender raised his eyebrow.

“I know,” she said. The bartender shrugged and walked to the back of the bar, reaching on tiptoes for the blue-labeled bottle on the highest shelf. “Every time,” she said. “You think they’d start keeping it lower.”

“Maybe they don’t want it to get broken,” Carolyn said.

“Then they should tread more carefully,” the woman said. “It’s really fucking good scotch.”

“Yeah it is,” Carolyn said. And she didn’t know why she said that. Or why she had even ordered it. She never drank scotch. But she was now.

The bartender placed the really fucking good scotch in front of the woman. And not gently. The liquid tilted and swayed in the glass.

“He’s a shitty actor. I saw him in Medea in some trash theater in DUMBO. He was a lousy Jason. No wonder she killed his kids.”

Carolyn was quiet.

“That I can forgive. Not everyone has talent just because they want it. But not taking care of good scotch? That’s inexcusable.”

Carolyn smiled, still not wanting to talk.

“You’re not an actor, are you?” the woman asked.

“No,” Carolyn said.

“Pam,” the woman said, holding out her hand. “I know. Nun’s name.”

“Are you a nun?” Carolyn asked.

“Yes,” Pam said. Carolyn stared at her.

“Get out of here,” Carolyn said.

“Sacred sisters of booze and tobacco,” Pam said. “So, not an actor. Are you a nun?”

“Not yet,” Carolyn said. She rubbed her shin it was still sore from the crack it took earlier.

“You from the neighborhood?” Pam asked. Carolyn nodded, not giving anymore. Creeped out or not, she was still a minimal-information New Yorker. “Me too. Haven’t seen you here.”

“Look. Before you…I’m not interested.”

“I’m not asking,” Pam said. “But I’m interested.”

“Okay,” Carolyn said.

“Okay,” Pam said. She nodded to Carolyn’s drink. “Phone’s ringing.”

“No, it not mine. I forgot mine-“ Carolyn stopped. Her phone was on the bar, next to her drink. She knew she hadn’t brought it with her. She knew it. But there it was. And it was ringing. A standard old-fashioned phone ring.

“That’s not my fucking phone, “Carolyn said.

“Nope. Not a nun,” Pam said. “Well, honey, it ain’t mine.”

“I could have sworn that I left it-“ She stared at the phone. It stopped ringing. Carolyn took a swig of her drink, draining half of the glass.

“I like you. Too bad you’re not interested,” Pam said. She slowly sipped her own drink. A drop lingered at the corner of her mouth. Pam licked it away with a tongue so dark it looked purple.

Carolyn held her glass in two hands. Gripping the glass helped steady the shaking. She raised it to her mouth, then stopped. The phone next to her started ringing again, but not the old-fashioned ring. Now it was the tinkling, pecking music she had heard before at home.

“You should answer it,“ Pam said. “They really want to talk to you.” The music continued playing.

Carolyn stood. “What are you doing?” she asked.

Pam took another deep drink from her glass. But this time, she didn’t raise the glass to her mouth. She held it in her hand by her chin. From there, she stretched out her long tongue, definitely a deep purple, and dipped it into the amber whisky. She held it there for moment, then curled it back to her mouth, bringing a splash of the drink with the long, spiny tongue.

“They want to talk to you,” Pam said. “They’re going to talk to you. Now answer the fucking phone.”

Carolyn was terrified. She knew that if she tried to run, tried to even move, this woman would hurt her. That tongue, with its points and barbs would be down her throat, ripping the soft tissue and filling her mouth and lungs with her own blood. The plunking of the far away piano continued.

“Answer your phone, Carolyn” Pam said. She put down her drink and turned, facing Carolyn directly.

Carolyn had no choice. She put down her drink and picked up the phone. It looked exactly like hers. The chip out of the top right edge. The rainbow crack curving over the left lower corner. Pam stared at her.

“Hello?” Carolyn rasped.

“Mummy!” the young voice called to her. “Mummy, are you coming to get us? It’s so dark in here. We miss you so much.”

“Who is this?” Carolyn said through chattering teeth.

“You have to go home. You have to take care of Daddy,” the child’s voice said again. “We’ll see you there later.”

“WHO IS THIS! What are you doing?” Carolyn yelled into the phone. The bartender with the braids looked up at her. Just as quickly, he looked back down at the pile of pages he was reading.  The voice in the phone was gone. She could only hear darkness.

“You’d better get home then,” Pam said. She reached past Carolyn and took her drink. She downed the rest of it in one swallow. She licked her lips. “Don’t worry. I’ll get your drink.”

Carolyn looked at her hand. The phone was gone. She looked at the bar. It was barren except for her empty glass.

“I’ll keep this. Don’t worry. You’ll see me again when we need you,” Pam said, smiling. “Kiss that handsome man goodnight for me.”

Carolyn didn’t think. She just ran out of the bar. She looked back as she passed through the door. The woman was gone.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 3

 

 Chapter 3

 

The apartment door slammed shut, but she didn’t hear the deadbolt. He always turned the deadbolt. Even if he was just grabbing the mail or picking up their Thursday night avocados. Or limes. He never, ever remembered to get limes. This was something that was adorable at first, then bugged her to no end months into to their coupling. She had eventually accepted and come to find endearing that he would forever forget the limes. Because he secretly didn’t like them. But he always remembered to bolt the door.

“Baby?” she called. Their place was not exactly the biggest. Their place. She still stumbled over that one. Their bed, in their place, was at the top of an unforgiving ladder that could only be called “stairs” in the most generous of circumstances. But for two bedrooms in the East Village, you made compromises.

It was quiet. Maybe it wasn’t their door she heard slamming. Probably the Indian couple next door. Those boys could bang some doors. She leaned over the bed, remembering this time that she couldn’t stand fully erect to put on the clean pillowcases, or she would bruise her forehead on the slanted back wall. More East village compromises. Then she heard the door close again. Definitely their door. And then their lock clicking. She put down the still-naked pillow and walked downstairs. As she cleared the last two steps, facing towards the wall and clinging onto the railings on both sides for support, she heard the door unlock and swing open.

“Shawn?” she called. But she knew he wasn’t there. No way. She walked toward the door. When she got within two steps, she felt the air exchange inches from her face. She realized she was sweating. Phone. Needed her phone. It wasn’t in her back pocket. Bed. Pillows. Upstairs. She slipped and cracked her shin against one of the steps. Blood dripped on the dark, faded wood. Get upstairs. Get the phone. She finally got to the top. It wasn’t by the pillows or anywhere on the bed. Then she heard it vibrating from downstairs. Back down, slipping on the last step. Finally upright, she ran across the room and grabbed the first and biggest thing she could hold. Smashing his guitar over the head of whoever was opening and closing her door wouldn’t do much, but she felt better having it in her hand. Where was her phone? She heard it vibrating. Maybe on the counter but the door, she ran to it and grabbed it. She looked up when the door slammed shut again. Full-view, eyes open. She saw the door. It was closed but then it independently swung open, paused as if someone stopped it with their foot and then kicked it shut. Her phone stopped vibrating. And it was suddenly in her hand. Everything was quiet. Then her phone rang.

It was a song she knew, but couldn’t name in this moment. Old and tinny. Something from a black and white movie with fainting girls and men in fedoras and waistcoats. Then it faded, the notes dimming. They were replaced with the sound of a child, young, when boys and girls have the same voices. The child was talking. The same accent as Shawn.

“Hello. Are you there? Someone? Can anybody hear me? I don’t know where I am. I’m…I need my mummy. Is she there? Mummy?”

Carolyn stared at her phone. The screen was black. Nothing. She pressed the power button, the home button, nothing. The phone stayed dead.

“Mummy, I’m so tired. I want to go to sleep in your big bed. Rub my hair so I can go to sleep. Tell the scary goblins not today. Mummy…sleepy…” The child’s voice stopped.

“Carolyn,” she heard, and she finally looked up from her phone. It was the same accent, only a grown man’s voice. She jumped and screamed when she felt the hand on her shoulder.

“Love, what are you doing? What’s the trouble?”

She spun and saw Shawn standing over her. She grabbed him, wrapping her arms around him and squeezing. “Someone’s here. In the house.”

“Who’s here? One of your work mates. Is it Dae?”

“I don’t know. I can’t see them. They are here. And there’s a little boy on my phone.”

He took the phone from her hand and examined it. He pressed the home button and the screen lit up, showing apps and a wallpaper photo of a rosemary scone she had baked in their kitchen. Like there always was.

“There’s no boy on your phone,” Shawn said. “And I don’t think anyone is in the flat.”

Carolyn grabbed the phone from him and put it down on the table. She rubbed her hand on her leg after she dropped it.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Why don’t you go lie down? I’ll bring you in some tea.”

“Fuck your tea. I’m not staying here,” she said.

“Lynnie…”

“No,” she said. She walked past him to the next room. He heard her scoop her keys up from the table. Then he heard them drop onto the floor. She swore again and picked them up. Pushing beyond him in the doorway, she walked past the table where her phone was lying. She looked at it, but refused to touch it. She didn’t feel Shawn pulling at her hand as she rushed out the door.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

My book Drowning  Above Water is out and lives at Amazon. It’s been a thrilling, terrifying, depression-inducing, anxiety-inflaming, relationship-testing, love-finding journey. I barely made it to the other side.

So of course, I’m considering with still-shaking hands what words are coming next.

There are two options: a collection of my poetry and spoken words pieces or the noir novel that won’t stop slinking around the shadows of my brain

But, it’s October, and that is Halloween and horror and magick and I have a scary story that needs told.

This is 147 E. 9th Street, a short story. I’ll be releasing it over the next few weeks right here. Come along.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

The woman moved in slow motion, steps and half-frames. She watched, in fractions of centimeters, the door frame scrape the skin from the knuckle of her middle finger. She didn’t feel the blood surfacing above the skin. It seeped 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. And yet somehow, she moved like she was stepping through a river full of silt. The key fell from the lock and crashed onto the welcome mat. A drop of blood fell on the jumble of silver and gold metal. Curling her hands around the pile of dropped jagged edges, she scooped them up and jammed the key back into the lock. Through the window she could see him. Shawn. Slumped in his chair. Wrong. Crooked and stiff. He looked immovable. Not drunk. Not sleeping. He looked 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 it 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. She knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. But right now, 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. It was the strange, calm voice of a woman. It was telling to put her ear to his chest and listen for breathing. She couldn’t hear anything. The sound of her blood pounding in her ears was louder than the world. A tiny pair of wheezing lungs had no chance at being heard. She stopped listening and tried feeling. She put her hands on his chest. Breathing? Shuddering? Anything? The woman’s calm voice said more words. Where was she? His apartment. Where was his apartment? She wasn’t sure. 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?”

“What?”

“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 had just looked and she still couldn’t remember. She had walked, taken a cab and usually the R train more times than she could count in the last weeks of her life. But 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 into jarring angles 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 have been looking through a microscope at a petri dish of scabies. He studied, curious and searching, but found nothing of what he thought he would 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 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. New York City meant transport chairs instead of stretchers. 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 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 laid 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.

 

(147 E. 9th Street will continue here soon. My novel Drowning Above Water is available now in paperback and kindle at Amazon.)

 

Birthday

 

Courtesy of Butterwood Bakery

September 30th.

My book’s birthday.

Finally together after years of drafts and lost phrases and tossing aside and picking the pieces back up only to lose my place and start again from the beginning, I got there.

It’s also my birthday.

I am not who I thought I’d be at forty. I’m not where  I expected geographically or metaphorically.  I’m not what I thought I’d be for sure. Sometimes, I’m surprised I’m here. But I am, and I feel like I should know more. Have things handled. Have moved beyond the same things that drowned me year after year. Still falling below the surface. Still trying.

My book is a lot like me.

Okay, it’s exactly like me.

Rambling where it should shush. Speeding past parts it should probably examine more closely. Much too vulgar and revealing than anyone needs. And ye goddesses is it sad. It’s a small story that tries to take up as little space as possible. It vacillates between whispers and shouts with barely a spacebar to bridge the gap. It’s resistant and stubborn. It shrinks from a compliment and believes its own negativity. It doesn’t shout to be notices but desperately wants the people touching its pages to feel something special when they look inside the cover. It knows it’s not a novel that’s going to be on stages and take its place beside giants. It’s ready to sit in a corner waiting. But still ready, because the story is important to the right reader. It is exactly the book I should have written. Maybe it’s the one I needed to have written. And I did.

So,  maybe I should learn to love it.

I just might.

Happy birthday, book.

Make a wish.

 

Drowning Above Water is now available in paperback and kindle at Amazon.

 

 

 

Her Feet Stopped

 

Drowning Above Water  is a story about our journeys-the courage it takes to start them, and what we might lose along the way.  This is a excerpt from the novel, a picture of Malina’s journey.

 

 

Finally, she saw the door and she let her feet stop.

The doctor’s front door stood as it had years ago, but it was grey now. She couldn’t remember if it was grey when she had lived here as a girl, playing house.  Or maybe it was white and the darkness and street lights were making their own color palette, mixing and creating colors to get the visual they wanted. But the grass was green.  That was certain.  Not blue.  Not brown.  Green. That’s where she knelt down.  She had passed tired. She had passed sore and blistered.  Every toe and the soles of her feet were sloughed and bleeding. There was nothing in her stomach.  It had been hours since she’d eaten or drunk anything.  Her stomach squeezed and kneaded in its own acids.  She didn’t have the energy to throw up another time.  She shook and spasmed on the ground.  While she didn’t fall down,  she didn’t remember lying down either. The only thing she knew was that the ground was cool and the blades of grass were both soft and bristling against her cheek as she buried her face in the ground. Then came the feeling of drenching wet in her nose as the rain poured down from the sky.