Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Ungrateful Arms"

The grey sky outside is still lit by the afternoon sun, though it's filtered through the grey cover like a filthy window.  Trees bow and sigh, moving in the wind like fish caught in a current, their leaves glittering scales as the first raindrops patter upon them.  The air smells heady and humid, like grass and dirt and life, and the pre-storm squall blows it into my modest home.  Tossed asunder, the fingers of the curtains beckon me closer to the window. 

I've always easily fallen for lovers that could care less for me.  Not necessarily those that are outwardly malicious, but undeniably those that were callously indifferent.  And the storm is just that.  I am nothing more to her than another warm body to kiss with her raindrops, to tease with her voice and her sweet smells.  But, as is so often the case, risks are so difficult to assess in the presence of a beckoning hand, a sweet smell, and a seductive voice.  And the approaching storm has them all. So I take my coffee and my guitar and venture into her bosom, seeking the sweet peace that she peddles. 

The hilltop already belongs to her when I step outside. The fields worship her, bending in deep green-golden waves as she whispers over top of them.  She’s already begun singing her song, her first notes tapping a staccato beat on the metal roof of the porch.  I settle into a chair, and immediately her teasing begins.  A sweet-smelling breath blows on the back of my neck, tossing my hair and parting the collar of my shirt.  A raindrop kisses me lightly on the cheek.  Her voice, deep and throaty, echoes somewhere in the distance, promising to be here soon.

Samson, my huge, grey cat, has followed me outside, and even he seems to wonder what possessed him to do so as he curls beneath my chair.  After one last sip from my coffee, I place my guitar on my knee and let my fingers slide along the strings.  I don’t play anything in particular:  just a few chords, some scales, some songs I know by heart.  She doesn't care.  I mean nothing to her.  And yet, I continue to throw her my affections. 

A raindrop strikes my guitar’s wooden body.  I’ll have to dry it soon or the finish will be ruined. 
The strings are already expanding from the humid air. It’ll need to be tuned. 
Steam rises from my coffee cup.  It will soon be cold. 
Samson mews pleadingly from beneath my chair. 

But still I play.  She continues to ignore me in her approach, dispassionate to my efforts.  I don’t mind.  Because her voice, her smell, her damp, cool kiss, are all I need in that moment.  I've always easily fallen for lovers that could care less for me; but, for this moment at least, I am satisfied. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"The Beat"

My heart thundered like a jackhammer beneath my shield, pumping blood that seared like hot coffee through my aching legs and arms.  Everything begged me to stop.  My legs, full of sand after three straight blocks of sprinting.  My lungs, which turned a breath of fresh air into acid.  My head, which was starting to throb from lack of oxygen as my out-of-shape body sent it to the parts that kept me moving.   

“NYPD!  Stop where you are!” I cried.  Ahead of me, the perpetrator shoved a woman aside, sending her armful of shopping bags scattering like bowling pins.  Bystanders screamed and ran in all directions as I cried out my warning again.  With a burst of adrenaline I didn’t know my legs still possessed, I leapt the shopping bags, my trench coat flapping behind. 

I held my hat on with one hand and produced my service revolver from its holster with my other.  The perp turned into an alley so quickly that he almost fell when his shoes skidded on the sidewalk.  I gained about five feet on him before his hand whipped from the waistband in his pants and produced a gun of his own.

I was barely thirty feet from the perp when the piece appeared.  Time seemed to slow down, and my jumbled mind whizzed through the hours I’d been briefed on what to do in such a situation.  Raw, naked fear took over, and my feet stopped on their own volition, sending me pitching forward. Only after stumbling a few feet was I able to pull some useful advice from my training, and I spun behind a newspaper stand a split-second before he started firing.

Two claps of thunder split the afternoon air.  Screams rang out from, I hoped, bystanders that were simply terrified and not hurt.  Three feet from my head, the wood of the newspaper stand exploded, showering the sidewalk with splinters.

My back pressed against the stand, I listened for more gunshots through my heart jackhammering in my ears.  A happy flow of adrenaline now dampening the other symptoms of the chase, I counted off five more seconds before venturing a peek around the corner.


I dove from behind cover, keeping my head down, and dashed into the alley after the perp.  It was empty, aside from a dumpster that belonged to the Chinese restaurant next door and a rapid jangling of metal from over my head.  My eyes followed the sound and I spied the perp, and beneath his arm the file that he had pilfered from headquarters under the guys of a delivery boy.  He clambered up the last run on the ladder of the neighboring building’s fire escape, and took off up the metal stairs two at a time.

Not wasting another second, I threw myself down the alley and leapt to grab the first rung on the ladder.  My arms screamed in protest, but I forced past their voice and pulled myself up high enough to get my foot into the lowest rung.  My hat tumbled off in a breeze that smelled of mushu pork, but I quickly forgot it as I ascended after the fleeing man. 

When I reached the first landing, a clap of thunder roared in the alley, and at the same instant sparks showered from one of the steps above my head.  A metallic ping met my ears before they filled with a high-pitched whine.  I only took a second to blink through the confusion of the gunshot before I charged up the stairs after him, barely able to make out the sound of his footsteps (or mine, I can’t really tell) through the white noise.

I passed through the landing he had been standing on when he had taken a shot at me. It still smelled of gunpowder and cordite. 

When I reached the last landing, I was alone.  Holstering my revolver, I ascended the final ladder and cautiously peeked over the edge of the building’s roof.  I spotted a fleeing man, a folder tucked under his arm, and a nearby building that he was recklessly charging toward. 

I dove over the edge and cried “NYPD! Stop where you are!”, and had plenty of time to duck behind an air conditioning unit before he fired recklessly over his shoulder.  The shot didn’t even come close to me, but I couldn’t have him firing wildly.  There’d be no telling where those bullets might up. 

I charged after him. 

Suddenly the perp was airborne, leaping from the edge of the roof.  He seemed to hang, suspended, in air for days until he landed on the roof of the next building.  His knees gave way and he rolled in an attempt to reduce the impact of the fall, but it was less coordinated than he had intended.  Dizzy, he sprawled in a heap on the roof. 

It was my chance. But, once again, my body and its perfectly rational fears took over.  I skidded to a stop just short of the edge of the building, the chasm between the two like a gaping maw, ready to swallow a beat cop who was still twenty years from paying off his mortgage.  The alley below looked much further than seven stories; not that it needed to be, because seven stories would do just fine for turning me into a pile of pulp. 

Across the alley, the perp was finally starting to pull himself together.  It would be a matter of seconds before he was on his feet and running again, or he got his gun hand working again and risked his remaining two bullets on perforating me. 

So, once again, I tuned out the voice that screamed in my head to turn around, backed up twenty feet on the rooftop, sprinted, and jumped.