“Leave the fruit of your spiritual catastrophe under this spotlight.” Emily frowned from reading the sign beside the red gate. Fruit of my spiritual catastrophe? She looked down at the basket in her arms. She had one too many and Scott was irresistible one night nine months ago. Her eyes returned to the sign. “Ring thrice and leave. Your burden is now our blessing.”
“Don’t you love how the capital O in Onion is shaped like an onion—?”
“—And the neon inside it is purple?”
“It’s so perfect, yet it’s so simple: The Purple Onion.”
“It’s so perfect because it’s so simple.”
“Two steamed milks? One with caramel for the lady—”
“—And one with vanilla for the gentleman.”
“Steamers. Started drinking them whenever I went to write—well, to try to write—at Hard Times on the West Bank. Because, well, what else do you drink at a coffee shop when you don’t—”
She touched the fire to the pipe and took the sweet smoke into her lungs. The world went sideways, which was what she wanted. Anything was better than thinking. She was numb, and it was better that way.
The kitchen floor was cold under her bare feet. The sun was just rising over the mountains. She stood at the window and watched her father sitting in the garden. She was supposed to bring him a glass of water, but she couldn’t. It was so much better inside. She wanted to curl up on the cool tile and sleep.
JANUARY: To see in the New Year and to prevent her head turning and casting a roving eye, I bought her a heavy choke chain necklace
FEBRUARY: For the designated month of love, I splashed out on pearl drop earrings
A hot summer night walks into a bar and orders a drink. A frozen strawberry daiquiri with lots of crushed ice, she says. She brings with her a slight fragrant scent of roses from outside, and a dusky, green hint of the ripening cornfield across the hiway. A large neglected rose bush outside in a half whiskey barrel sits to the left of the green padded-vinyl door. Its leaves brittle, desiccated petals falling from wilted blooms, stark thorns you could make a halo for Jesus with.
“Don’t answer it,” my father said. “If people call at suppertime, they should be ignored.”
My mother said, “Donald, what if it’s one of our friends in need? Someone could be sick or hurt?”
“A rule is a rule, Gloria. Pass me the sweet potatoes.”
“Sometimes you can be so . . .” she said, stopping as she always did before she pushed my father too far. She handed the bowl to my Dad.
My dog Skippy, who was lying under my chair, began to bark and scratch at the rug.
“Shut him up, Steven,” Dad said. “He’s ruining my dinner.”
The note on the kitchen counter says, “Meet me in the parking lot.”
I live alone. Have done so for twenty years.
It looks like my brother’s handwriting.
The last time I saw you alive was on the corner of 16th and Mission begging for money which I knew was for drugs. And I thought about the time when we were around 12 or 13 and cooked some hot dogs in my backyard using Kleenex tissues for the fire and wire hangers to hold the hot dogs, but didn’t realize that sparks had caught the fence so that when we returned, the firemen were there, and the only thing that kept us from going to juvenile hall was my grandmother assuring them that our parents would deal with us severely. And I remember that I was grounded for weeks and lost my allowance for months to help pay for the fence.
There was a spider on the windshield. It didn’t move. The mid-November rain stopped 20 minutes ago and I’d forgotten to turn the windshield wipers off, or at least had forgotten to put them on the lowest setting. The wipers were going full speed and making weird dry-rub noises against the windshield, but to the spider they must’ve seemed like they were on a full-blown, vengeful, arachnophobic attack. The spider still didn’t move but it was able to dodge the wipers as if it were a stuntman in a James Bond film lying flat under a passing truck during a fight scene. I finally turned the wipers off after 10 seconds of crudely wondering how the spider would navigate this situation. It didn’t navigate at all. The moment the wipers were turned off, the spider decided to turn on its 8 legs and started moving towards the top of the windshield. The amount of real estate it had to cover given its size and depth would be the equivalent of a football player running 100 yards, end zone to end zone. Maybe this spider was Jerry Rice, or maybe it was just a spider. These are the thoughts that run through my mind when the weather seems to be even more Bipolar than my doctor claims me to be.