And the process perplexed them
It was an ongoing nightmare. The writers could not agree. One considered character, plot, and outline, paramount. The other could not have cared less: to hell with constraint; the only thing convention appeared to achieve was discombobulate creativity even as it emerged. At this point the writer allegiant to protocol proffered a solution. He suggested putting their words on the line. To wit, write a story illustrating nuance. That is to say, a tale contrived accordant to their preferred methodology…
All The Things You Wish For
Cole was driving home from a friend’s house having gone there to ask if she would re-consider. That evening Cole took Lucy to the Habana de Cuba. On their second Mojito the conversation took an awkward turn.
‘If this is about asking me to move back in,’ Lucy said. ‘Forget it.’
Cole said, ‘Please try and understand.’
‘I tried to accept that the person I loved…’ Lucy said.
‘It isn’t normal to keep an eyeball in a jar full of whiskey.’
Cole said, ‘Was it the eye? Or that I lied about throwing it out?’
‘The lie,’ Lucy said. ‘I’ve been through this shit before and once it starts it doesn’t stop. Keeps going until there’s nothing left.’
‘If I told you I dumped it once and for all. Would you re-consider?’
‘What if I could prove it?’
‘How?’ Lucy said.
Cole put a receipt from the city sanitation facility on the table in front of Lucy.
‘I might think about it,’ Lucy said.
Cole was nearly at the dump. When blue and red lights flashed behind him. The cop looked in, wanted to know what the hell was in the jar.
‘Eyeball,’ Cole said.
The cop looked more. ‘Eyeball!’
Cole shoved his license and registration out through the window.
‘Yeah,’ Cole said. ‘People eat all kinds. Pickled tongue, liver, brains. Why not eyeballs?’
The cop handed Cole his documentation back. Along with a piece of blue-coloured paper.
‘Fix-it ticket for the tail light and your licence plate light’s cracked,’ the cop said.
At 2:15 am Cole drove down the side access road at the rear of the city dump. A guard emerged from the security hut. Cole held a folded fifty dollar bill out through the window.
‘Gate opens at seven. But Rufino gets here at six,’ the guard said.
At precisely ten minutes to six Cole approached the gate.
‘What time were you here?’ Rufino said.
‘Last night. Right before close,’ Cole said.
The bulldozer driver motioned at Rufino. Cole indicated the bin next to the chain link fence.
Rufino said, ‘I go on break in ten. You ain’t got it by then, you are shit out of luck.’
Cole pulled a box from the dumpster. Hand-made and brass embellished. He took it home and placed it between a Remington bronze and a silver-framed photo. Poured whiskey and stared at the words chased into the plate.
‘What’s up with Exodus 21:24?’ the engraver said.
Cole said, ‘An eye for an eye.’
The engraver wanted to know if Cole professed religion.
‘Some days I do. Some I don’t,’ Cole said.
Cole was almost home. When a dog ran in front of his truck. The house where it escaped from, once witnessed a bizarre event.
It seems that the father-in-law paid a visit. And became concerned about the lack of respect his son-in-law showed towards his daughter. One spring morning the old man asked for another piece of toast. The son-in-law yelled at the old man to fix his own damn toast.
The elderly gentleman excused himself and walked outside. He went into the woodshed and removed an axe from the chopping block. He covered it with his coat. And went inside to warm his hands beside the stove. The son-in-law became enraged at the sight of the old man next to the stove. And straight away ordered him to sit down and stop disturbing breakfast.
The father-in-law loosened three green buttons and a brown one with a chipped-off corner. Then walked behind the son-in-law and lowered the blade squarely on top of his daughter’s husband’s head. The old man put a portmanteau onto the rear seat of a jet-black Oldsmobile 88 with a busted windshield. And slowly drove away.
Two months into Cole’s prison term a colleague from the First Mercantile bank where Cole used to work paid him a visit.
‘He got it,’ the friend said. ‘Once he had your desk. No one else stood a chance. And the weekend after you go inside. Everyone gets an invite to some damn party he’s throwin.’
Cole looked at the visitor. ‘Was she there?’ Cole said.
‘Mary fuckin’ Poppin’s. Joan of fuckin’ Arc. Who the hell do ya think I mean?’
‘Motherfucker,’ Cole said.
One time, Cole was walking back to his cell when he was attacked. He had switched off temporarily thinking about his up-coming transfer to maximum-security. Without warning an arm wrapped his throat. The attack ended as fast as it commenced. Cole looked up and saw a face he recognised pulling a sharpened toothbrush from the back of his assailant. Two days later Cole and the guy who saved his ass were walking around the exercise yard.
Spike said, ‘Why you didn’t fix that cocksucker before the heat showed up?’
‘Trusted the son of a bitch,’ Cole said.
Cole and Spike had circled the yard twice and were back level again with the weight stack.
Spike said, ‘Read a book one time about a cop being stalked by a hit man. This motherfucker works it out, see. He works it to where what he does is, start a ruckus on the yard. Then he fuckin’ stabs himself to where they take him out on a medical.’
Spike drew a breath.
‘Except. He’s got it figured to where his home-boys on the outside can hijack the fuckin’ van. The kicker is he’s got a nurse held hostage to keep him alive.’
Spike and Cole moved out of the thin shadow lining the wall and into the last strip of sun.
Spike said, ‘Way I see it is, someone sets it up to stab himself to where he gets out to go after a cop. Why can’t we get a motherfucker in?’
Cole read the note Lucy taped to his front door. It said she would visit tomorrow. And if she knew in her heart Cole made good on his promise, she would change her mind. Cole pulled the jar out of the box and realised he had run out of whiskey. He placed the jar back into the box and removed the ignition key from off the hook next to the kitchen door.
On his way home from the liquor store Cole stopped at the Green Frog market. Usually he purchased his groceries from a discount store. Tonight, however, he felt inclined towards a steak dinner. Arriving home, Cole put the steak into the refrigerator. Poured enough whiskey in the jar to float the eyeball. Took a long hit and set the jar back in the box. Then settled into his cane-backed rocking chair and studied the words chased into the brass plate.
The next morning Cole took the box down from the shelf and walked outside to his truck. Realising he had left the ignition key hanging on the hook, Cole placed the box down on the rear bumper and went back inside.
Lucy arrived early, planning to cook Cole a surprise breakfast. She began walking up the driveway when the neighbour’s dog ran past pushing her against the side of Cole’s truck. At that point the box fell off the bumper, dislodging the jar and causing it to smash against the driveway. The dog came down the driveway towards Lucy. Then stopped and began licking the cement.
Cole walked back down with the key and saw Lucy staring at the dog.
‘You’re early?’ Cole said.
Lucy pointed at the dog. Cole grabbed the leash and locked the dog in the basement. When Cole returned a neighbour was enquiring about the dog.
‘Ain’t seen it,’ Cole said. ‘An’ if I do, it’s on a one-way-ticket-ride the hell out of here.’
Lucy stared at Cole and walked towards the street. Cole walked back towards his house. He removed the steak from the refrigerator and cut it into pieces. Then fed the steak to the dog.
The writer who cared not one whit for convention, did not sleep well at all. It was one of those nights that appear never to end. You awake and consult the clock. It reads 1:45. And you realise there is yet night enough to embrace sweet sleep. And dream of halcyon days spent beneath summer suns or sheltered in a shack with a rushing rain drubbing on a rusty roof. Alas, summer suns and rusty rains did not seduce the one who set sail sans compass and map. That worthy dreamt of eyeballs in whiskey jars. Sweet revenge. And promises broken.
Peter Nash is studying for a PhD at Griffith University.
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Vol 23 No 2 October 2019
General Editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Julienne van Loon & Ross Watkins
Creative works editor: Anthony Lawrence