Fireworks Season

Written for April Words3, theme: Wanderlust.

“In the neon light from his dashboard, his chiseled facial features looked ethereal. It was hard to imagine that he could be manipulative or dangerous. My eyes travelled to his hands as they fidgeted on the steering wheel, and the illusion disappeared. Blood and dirt were caked beneath his short fingernails. I wondered how long it had been there, and turned away quickly as it dawned on me that the blood may not have been his own.

‘Where are we going?’ I asked, a slight tremble in my voice.

‘Why?’ he replied, flashing a smile as his blue eyes turned to meet mine. ‘You got some place else to be?’
Anywhere, I think, but I knew better than to say it out loud.

‘Of course not, Glen,’ I whispered, sliding my hand up his arm. 

‘Good,’ he said, and winked at me. ‘I’ve got a surprise for you. I know Christmas wasn’t the best this year.’

His voice trailed off, and my mind slipped back to our empty duplex, sparsely decorated for the holiday we would not spend together. On Christmas Eve, he left to buy a few final gifts with money he’d somehow acquired despite losing his job a month prior. He kissed me, and left before I could argue. 

He didn’t turn up again until early January. By then, his bags were packed and the locks were changed on the front door. We barely spoke when I let him in to claim them, and he sauntered out like I was just another piece of furniture he’d cast off in an eviction. No explanations, no begging for forgiveness. Just a light switched off.

That was, of course, until that night in June.

I suppose summertime does that to a person. It makes us hit the road looking for fireworks in nostalgic places. Sometimes, when we can’t find them, we have to make our own.

So he showed up around midnight, making all kinds of promises and apologizing for things that I am, to this day, sure were meant for someone other than me. I stood on the porch of our duplex, arms crossed, and unrelenting. 

Finally, he pulled his button up shirt back to reveal a pistol tucked into his jeans and said, ‘Just get in the car.’

And, not knowing what else to do, I did. It was fireworks season, after all.

Thirty minutes in to our rendezvous, his eyes strained as he looked out of the windshield onto the side of the highway. 

‘Pay attention, Char. Look at the trees.’

I followed his gaze to the evergreens that ran along I45. 

‘There!’ he exclaimed and jerked us over to the side of the road. He’d barely stopped the car when he threw open his door and shouted, ‘Come on!’

‘Glen,’ I began, ‘you don’t have to do this.’

He slammed his door and slid over the hood. Then he opened my door and held out his hand. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

‘It isn’t far,’ he said, ‘I promise. You can see it from the road in the daylight.’

We walked in silence for a few minutes, my hand still locked in his, and then he stopped.

‘Can you see it?’ he asked, pointing to a tree a few yards from the road.

I nodded. It was beautiful. Right there on I45, in the middle of June, an evergreen stood out from the rest. It was covered in silver tinsel and dozens of bulbs of all sizes and colors. 

‘That, my queen, is for you. Merry Christmas.’

I don’t remember how long we stood there, my hand in his, as cars raced by behind us. But he took me home in the early hours of morning, kissed my hand on what had been our doorstep, and vanished back into a world where promises are made to be broken and Christmas comes in June.

So you see, Officer, I am afraid I didn’t realize I was trespassing today. These bones are getting old, and I don’t move as fast as I did back then. It’s getting harder to drive on the highway so late at night. But summer is here, and my ghosts are coming out to play in the heat. I’m feeling a little nostalgic. Won’t you give me back my decorations and let a little old lady have one last Christmas in June?”

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Black Sock Society

For Kristina and Tim

When my head is more shiny than grey
I shall wear khaki shorts and black socks
that rest unevenly on my calves.
I shall spend my retirement
on coffee and biscuits,
and flirt with every waitress.

In the summertime, I shall wear sandals
with my black socks as I roam the town
searching for a part-time gig
to get me out of the house

and pay for healthcare.

I shall buy wind chimes for my wife,
and wear earplugs when I sneak outside
for an afternoon cigar.

If you catch me on the right day,
I will tell you a story
about a young man
with thick black hair
who walked on dirt roads
instead of sidewalks.

A man who dreamed of the future,
but rarely the past,
and chuckled from beneath his hat
to warm the chill in his bones
when first he saw a pair
of black socks peeping

from the trouser leg
of a charming old man.

Poetry: Sweet Sixteen

On moonlit back roads
a cigarette dances
between nervous lips;
the devil, she’s sure
wears a crooked smile.

She is nothing short of captivated
far too young to be out so late;
her fingerprints on a bag of shrooms,
time accelerates ninety miles an hour
to escape headlights she cannot see.
But blue eyes promise
they will not be caught,
two lanes turn to one, lines blur
the adrenaline is what keeps them high
the Main Street stoplight
flashes ahead
the smell of brake fluid
draws him back to her.

Just moments later
they pass a cop car
the speedometer
tells them they’re safe.
Back in town he swears
he will protect her
never let her go;
a few months later
blue eyes will vanish
leaving memories
tattoo souvenirs
a taste for vodka
and a broken heart
sixteen and too young
for all of these things
a cigarette between nervous lips
burning memories
and the smoke forgives
what she can’t forget.

 

Published in the Winter 2017 edition of Falling Star Magazine.