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Gandy Lamb Feb 2019
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
The repetition symbolizes the cycle of life.
Dorothy A Apr 2012
The first time that Evan laid eyes on her, he told himself that he was going to marry her. Embarrassed by his own fantasy, he quickly dismissed that thought as fast as it came to mind, telling himself what an idiot he was. Yet, from time to time, in spite of his reasoning, the thought would invade his skull.

What a dumb idea anyhow! It was just lame, teenage fantasyland! Girls did that kind of junk all the time, saying they were going to be Mrs. So-and-so, and thank God nobody could read his mind to know what he was dreaming up! Like she would marry him! He felt like a dumb ****, great in athletics, but far out of her league. Not even having the courage yet to ask a girl out on a date, and now he was already thinking of marriage! Pathetic! Really! Only a freshman in high school, he felt he should know better, lacking the good common sense his dad always tried to drive into him and had himself.

Ginny Delgado belonged with the smart kids, the brains of the school, although she seemed to stick more by herself, away from any stereotypical clique. Evan had first seen her in his biology class, and he remembered when other students wanted to copy off of her test papers. She never allowed any of that to happen, though, even if it would gain her popularity, false popularity but attention just the same.

It was a surprise to him that Ginny seemed to have few friends. Mostly, girls who were nerdy and smart did not seem very attractive or put together. Ginny seemed to have it all. She was smart and pretty, but she never identified with any of the girls who thought they were hot—and all other girls were not—and so she stood apart as one who shrouded herself in guarded aloofness.

And now here he was at his 20th high school reunion, one he really did not want to attend, but talked himself into going anyway. Perhaps, he could shoot the breeze and run into a few old buddies, his basketball friends. He didn't think that much of Ginny since he graduated from Fillmore, much less anybody from all those years ago. There really wasn’t any reason to reminisce once high school was behind him. School was not misery for Evan Stewart, but it wasn’t a time where everything seemed magical and carefree, not like for some students who looked upon those days as some of the fondest memories of their lives.

It was the class of ’92, and a huge banner displayed across one of the walls read, “Welcome back, class of 1992! Fillmore High School rules!” There was a good turnout, and Evan recognized a lot of people, although there were fewer that he knew by name.  

Sitting under dimly light lights, around a bunch of round tables, Evan now sat with the other alumni, stuck in a crowded hall with music blaring away from the early nineties. He had his overpriced meal. He had his few beers.

But what now?

He was almost bored to death. He was beginning to watch the clock more and more, scanning the room to see if he could possibly find reason to stay longer.  But then something happened that he never expected to happen, never even would have imagined it.

And, suddenly, his heart started to pick up its pace.

Was that her?

Evan thought he had made out the vague shape of a possibly familiar figure, an amazing and sudden surprise. Was that Ginny Delgado?

He wondered if he was seeing things as he intently stared across the room at the shadowy prospective of Ginger Delgado. But with the low amount of lighting, it just might not be her but someone he never even met before. How awkward would what be?

If it was Ginny, she was sitting next to a guy who seemed obnoxious and full of himself. Even from afar, he appeared to be a guy who would be in everyone’s face, with wild hand gestures, talking away and giving nobody else a chance for a word in edgewise.  If that really was Ginny, was that her husband? What a trip that would be! All the sense he once attributed to her would have to have gone out the window, if that were the case.

Sitting at Evan’s table were several of the other guys that were also heavy into high school basketball. Most were married and came with their wives—nobody was alone as Evan was—and now they all tried to act like they were thrilled to be all gathered together to show off their accomplishments. They were all passing around stories of life after high school, after basketball—some with talk of their college days, their wives, their kids, their jobs and careers—plenty of drinks to go around, and some toasting to the good, old days and to even brighter futures ahead. Evan was never married and did not have any children, so he felt he had much less to say. Most of those guys were not even very interesting, even though they tried to make it out that they had achieved so much in their lives. They may have been out of shape and past their prime, but all of them tried to act like they were the same as they were twenty years ago. None of what they all said impressed Evan at all, even though he tried to be interested.

He kept looking at the woman across the room, and the more he looked at her, the more he was convinced he was spot on about her. She had to be Ginny! He should just get up now and have the guts to ask her! But what would she say? Yes, I am Ginny Delgado, and this pushy **** next to me is my husband?

Though he was twenty years older, Evan felt just as awkward and as scared as he did in his freshman Biology class. It was better to just let the issue be. He’d rather save face than look like a total fool.

Suddenly, the unexpected occurred, something that gave Evan’s heart even more of a stir than he initially had when he spied her presence. Was it possible? Ginny now looked like she was starring back at him, as if they had somehow miraculously locked eyes and she had an uncanny ability to notice him back, from that afar off, now being transfixed onto him!  

You’ve really lost it now. What do you think, that she really notices you and remembers you?

Ginny stopped paying attention to the obnoxious man beside her and kept looking in Evan’s direction. She even reached her hand up and gave a little wave out his way.

Timidly, Evan waved back.

Standing up, Ginny started to make her way across the room. The obnoxious guy next to her looked on after her, like he could not believe she had wanted to part company with him. Evan guessed she was not his wife—thank God for that!

No, there is just no way she is coming over to talk to you. Alright, maybe she is. Get a hold of yourself now! Stop acting like a teenager and act like you actually know something about women. Come on, Evan! Get it together! She is coming.

Evan was right. It was Ginny Delgado! But she stopped short of his table to sit a down at the table in front of him, next to another fellow classmate of theirs, a female student that he vaguely remembered, though he did not know her name.

It was almost a relief she did not come to sit with him! Yet the disappointment was equally there. Seeing her more up close, Evan knew for sure it was Ginny. She was still quite pretty, perhaps even more so now, her medium brown hair and her dark purple dress complimenting each other. Not wanting to stare, Evan couldn’t help but to shoot many glances her way, without trying to be too obvious.
          
She smiled a lot, glad to talk to another person that she knew, and probably glad to be away from the guy she was stuck with before. Her eyes sparkled, and Evan never remembered ever seeing her so unguarded. In biology class, she was quiet, like he tended to be. Now she seemed so different, seemingly freer to be herself. Evan rarely saw her smile in high school, but thought she was very serious and sophisticated.

Before long, the DJ was now playing Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven. Couples at all tables were making their way to the dance floor. Soon, Ginny was approached by some guy who asked her to join him for a dance. She shook her head, no. Nonchalantly, the man turned to the woman that Ginny knew and asked her. She gladly accepted, said something to Ginny as if to have her permission and understanding, and then took the man’s hand to go to the dance floor. Ginny remained at the table by herself, looking on at the dancers with seemingly little regret that she declined an offer.

This might be your only chance, idiot. Are you going to blow it and be a wuss? Go up to her and tell her that you remember her. Go on! It is your perfect chance. What do you have to lose? If she isn’t interested, just go then. You’ve spent enough time here anyway!

“Hi…Ginny Delgado isn’t it?”

Evan asked as he approached her from behind. He cleared his throat. His voice had sounded so gravelly, as if he hadn’t uttered a single word all night. And his heart was beating a mile a minute, and he swore it must have been pulsating through his shirt. He was glad he put his suit jacket back on, for he was probably sweating like crazy.  

Ginny looked up, seemed to look puzzled, but then smiled a little. “I remember you!” she said with growing enthusiasm on her face. “Oh, but I’m sorry. You are going to have to tell me your name again”.

“Evan Stewart”, he replied. “We were in biology class together Remember? We were sophomores.”

A succession of slow songs was now being played, and Ginny’s friend was enjoying the time with her new dance partner. She certainly was in no hurry to make her way back to the table to rejoin sitting and talking with Ginny.

“Oh, sure! I remember now!” Ginny exclaimed. “Evan Stewart. Of course! You were the tall, shy guy that everyone liked because you knew how to win one for us. You were big into baseball, weren’t you?”

“Well, basketball was my best sport. I liked baseball, too, and track”, he replied humbly. It was amazing! She actually remembered more him than he thought she would!  “

Can I sit down and join you?” he asked, his courage and confidence growing.

“Oh, do!” Ginny replied, eagerly.

He felt like he was in seventh heaven. How cool was this? Sitting with Ginny Delgado? It was a bonus to a fairly descent reunion.

“So what have you been up to for the last twenty years?” Evan asked. His face was flush with embarrassment, as if he was just a guy who happened to luck out, but had no real skill in socializing with a woman he once fantasized about.

Ginny laughed a little, putting her hand up to her mouth as if her response was inappropriate. She responded, “You want a few hours? Or should I just give you a one word response?”

Evan smiled, blushing, as he tried to appear smooth and confident. “A one word response?” he asked.

“Yes. I can say it in one word—roller coaster….oops, that is two words”.

They both just sat there as I Can’t Make You Love Me, by Bonnie Raitt, played on.  

“Yeah…I guess I could say that about my life”, Evan agreed. “Would you like me to get you something from the bar?” he offered. “A coke or a beer?”

Ginny stared out onto the floor, as if she never heard him. “Isn’t it amazing how everyone comes to see the same people they always used to hang out with and still intend to hang out with to this day?” she asked. “How boring and predictable!”

Evan looked at her, puzzled, “What do you mean?”

Ginny continued to look out onto the floor, the music now upbeat dance music, and said, “Well, I mean you see all the football heroes all hanging out with each other. The members of the debate team are all huddled together as if they are preparing for the next debate. The cheerleaders, the drama club, the science club geeks…nothing has changed has it?”  

Evan shrugged his shoulders. “I guess that is typical. But that isn’t me. Sure, I saw some of the guys I played ball with, basketball, but the truth is I am not really that interested in hanging out with them.”

Ginny turned to look at him, her hazel eyes intent and solemn. Evan added, “I don’t have any contact with any of them. Nothing against them. I just don’t”.

They looked at each other in the eyes for a while. The silence was awkward. It was as Evan’s watching and waiting for her reply was the cue for Ginny to open up, and open up she did.

“I went to UCLA on a scholarship. I became a history major, world history, American history, women’s history. I never intended to teach, not at first. But it just seemed a good fit for me, and I have had plenty of teaching jobs, junior high school, high school. I moved to Sacramento.  I was briefly married after I got my first real teaching job there.”

Ginny’s eyes glistened. There was a pain in them that seemed locked in deep, not really wanting to expose itself too much, but coming out nonetheless.

Evan listened on, eagerly, so she went on, her gaze towards the dance floor “It did not work out. He cheated. He did it more than once and with more than one woman.  And now that I look back, I can see how wrong it all was, especially after my miscarriage. At first, I was so crushed, and I wanted to try again, for another baby, to try to please him, Jim, my husband. Thank God, I didn’t go on and on with him. I am glad I came back here…..back to Springdale.”

She looked back at Evan. He quickly looked away from her glance, his eyes downcast to the table. She wasn’t kidding. Her life was a roller coaster. He did not know what to say, felt so inadequate.

He decided to just share, in return.

”I was engaged once. It was a long engagement. She was a friend of a friend. Lana was her name. She told me she wanted to be with me, but she just wasn’t ready to make the big leap just right away. Actually, I am kind of glad now that I look back. We both owned our own shops. She was a hair stylist and I owned my own car repair shop, but that was about all we really had in common. I mean not really, even though we both liked sports a lot. We never seemed to agree on anything.”

Like he did, Ginny just listened intently, not attempting to make any reply. Evan added, “She was willing to cut me down in a second. I see that now”.

“Well how do you like that?!”

Evan and Ginny looked up as the woman that Ginny came over to see arrived back from the dance floor. She was walking, hand in hand, with her new found dance partner, fanning herself with her hand and laughing.

“Ginny’s got some company, too!” she exclaimed, beaming at Evan.    

Ginny replied, “Rhonda Flemming, this is Evan Stewart. She used to be Rhonda Boehner back in Fillmore”

Ginny turned to Evan to introduce him to her old classmate. “Evan…Rhonda. Evan, I don’t know if you two ever met each other before when we all went to school”.

“I’m not sure I have, either”, he replied, extending his hand to shake Rhonda’s. Rhonda quickly grabbed hold of his and gave it an overly enthusiastic shake.

“Hi, Evan!” she exclaimed "This handsome man next to me  is Brian. I never knew Brian until he asked me to dance!” she said excitedly. “And I am newly divorced and so is he! How strange is that?”

Brian shook Evan’s hand and then Ginny’s. “How’s it going?” he asked, grinning with embarrassment at Rhonda’s forward frankness.

“Ginny is one of the smartest people”, Rhonda went on to Evan and Brian. “We were once partners in an English class. We had to write a paper about each other. That was so fun in an otherwise booooooring class. Remember, Ginny?”

Ginny rolled her eyes, and made a shooing gesture with her hand to convey that Rhonda did not know what she was talking about. “I’m not as smart as anyone ever thought I was. I just worked hard and did my best, but thanks anyway for the compliment” , she said, modestly.  

“Oh, you were, too, Ginny!” Rhonda disagreed. She had a gleeful glint in her eyes. “Always so serious, Ginny Delgado! “

Rhonda grabbed Brian’s hand. “Hey, Brian and I are going to go mingle and walk around and see what trouble we can get into. You two want to join us?  

Ginny and Evan looked at each other as if to say “No way!” Ginny responded, “I think we are just fine here, but thanks”

Rhonda winked at her and then tugged at Brian’s hand. The pair of them went off together, leaving Evan and Ginny to themselves.

Evan smirked at Ginny, and then they both started cracking up with muffled laughter. Evan paused and then burst out laughing again. “Where did you find her?” he asked. A tear actually began to run down his face from laughing so hard, and he quickly wiped it away.

Ginny stopped laughing, tried to compose herself, but busted out with even more laugh
howard brace Sep 2012
He'd been conceived in Flamborough, so his little sister assured him some eleven summers ago, which was a tad hard for Rocky to swallow, she was a whole eighteen months his junior and then some... and at that age, well... what did she know, she was only a kid, "on this very rock" River insisted, kicking her heels in delight, "next to this very rock pool" they were both sitting beside, "one sunny afternoon eleven years ago..." and that was how he came by the name of Rocky... she taunted as the rest of the colourful story unfolded... and that she had it all on the best possible authority... although the more she thought about it, had she meant concealed... she wasn't quite sure now, it was all so very confusing at her tender age but thought it sounded close enough not to matter too much and that she would just wait and see which way the wind blew.
        
     It was conceivably an ill wind that blew no one any good that day, especially if you were a boy and just happened to be sat by a rock pool next to your little sister...  Having just taken a well earned drink from a neighbouring rock pool, Sockeye the floppiest Springer Spaniel this side of the Pecos decided that he was going to dig a hole and that he would be digging it deep, then changed his mind mid-dig and decided to have a more down to earth back scratching wriggle instead... then promptly flopped over and slid into the hole... life was sweet.  Now covered from nose to tail with every species of deceased shore life usually found frequenting the high water mark Sockeye, in a blinding flash of canine inspiration judged it would be in everyone's best interest were he to have a really good shakedown which always appeared to go down well on these occasions... and give everyone a good peppering, just so they could see exactly what they'd been missing all their lives.  

     "A rock of all places, for goodness sakes..." and what's more, it was this rock, "Yuk..." he jumped up and wiped his palms on the back of his jeans in disgust, then onto his tee-shirt, then sat back down again and began exploring his left nostril in quiet contemplation before finally jambing his hands back into his pockets... what in Heaven's name had his parents been thinking of..? what on earth was his little sister talking about..? and more to the point, what in fact did conceived mean..?  these were the questions that were uppermost in Rocky's mind as he poked an exploratory stick into the rock pool...  a baby crab marooned by the tide scampered sideways beneath a large pebble and stuck one beady eye out at him... Rocky's sister, seemingly in a world of her own, much like the baby crab sat on the edge of the noteworthy rock kicking her heels, an innocent smile curled the corners of her mouth as she quietly hummed a little song of tuneful bliss to herself and considered what further mischief she could possibly pass her brother's way.

     Rocky tossed a piece of driftwood over his sisters shoulder at a nearby flock of seagulls, squabbling over what appeared to be a discarded bag of fish and chips... Sockeye, simply knowing that his little master wanted to play a game of fetch gambolled after the stick, his ears flying courageously in the still Summer air and burst, amid a melee of feathers into their midst, only to romp back moments later, the stick all but forgotten in the excitement but now proudly sporting the derelict bag of leftovers and the odd splash of guano, his tail lolloping magnificently from side to side... and for the moment at least, leaving the fratching seagulls wheeling noisily overhead and to go about their daily business without further interruption... as for Sockeye, it had been a no contest situation.

     After fourteen years of valiant endeavour his father... Red, so named for his vivid shock of wiry hair, was still engaged in man's eternal struggle to win his significant other half's approbation with the manful art of deck-chair assembly, beach barbeque and other significant gentlemanly pursuits, all while strutting his manly stuff, sporting top of the range beach wear in accordance with the social etiquette of the previous decade... his masculine paunch slumping gallantly atop his waistband...  

     After the same fourteen terms of domestic servitude and the same thirteen identically overlooked anniversary cards a certain someone had no intention of allowing another certain someone to forget so much as one of them... his better half, so she insisted would ride rough shod, administering her own brand of justice at every given opportunity, in much the same way you'd brandish a royal-flush on poker night... or better still, a loaded revolver... and that she personally carried the burden of every ill-fated card that Lady Luck had dealt strung about her neck like Adam's original sin on Judgement Day.  

     Red much preferred the shorter, more condensed name of Rock for his son, rather than the longer more protracted Rocky, as he struggled with the wood and canvas lounger badly trapping the mound of his thumb in the process, "Aaargh...!!!" plunging his throbbing hand deep into the cold, soothing rock-pool "aaah...!!!"   Still marooned by the tide, the baby crab stood poised and ready for action as it considered giving this latest intrusion a good offensive nip, then hang on spitefully as it gave Red the final withering once over with the same baleful eye it had successfully used earlier.

     Acknowledging her husbands misfortune with a perfunctory grunt as she rummaged in her beach-bag for the thermos, she refused to be drawn in where thumbs were concerned right now, after all with his DNA sequencing she was convinced he could probably grow a new one within the month... whilst Tina, well... she was just plain worn-out... but still rejoiced in telling anyone who cared to lend a sympathetic ear in her direction... and who in turn was more than happy to listen to the woes of others and went somewhere along the lines of... 'and had she heard any more of poor Mrs Dorey's lingering martyrdom recently..? you know, the downtrodden lady who lives in the next street but one... and how they would all miss her when she was gone... and how she couldn't wait...' and as rumour had it, neither could her husband...

      Feigning to be otherwise engaged, Tina... as her husband, now blowing frantically on his mangled thumb, stumbled backwards over the half erected lounger and with a spine jarring "Ooomph...!!!" landed squarely in Sockeye's subsiding earthworks... professed total disassociation with the entire fiasco as she plunged her nose even deeper into the overdue library book she'd purposely brought on holiday for just such an occasion, making it perfectly clear that she was a tourist and furthermore, planned to stick with the same itinerary once they returned home... and that while she was here, she did not under any circumstances wish to be disturbed, the notice was clearly displayed hanging from the door handle... but if anyone should, then whoever it was did so at their own peril... and she was keeping score... although a mangled thumb she luxuriated, with the same roguish smile curling the corners of her mouth as the one normally found playing around her daughter's... was equally as heart warming.

      All Tina wanted was one week of uninterrupted peace and quiet in Flamborough, preferably with a certain someone out from under her feet then spend what might pass for several undisturbed hours sitting quietly by the rock pool comparing notes on eye makeup and the feminine merits of pedicure with the little crab who, still marooned by the tide was now sat busily knitting four pairs of matching leg warmers in the cool, still water but that was only if that certain someone... a shrill  "AAaargh...!!!" somewhat more desperate than the first, ****** itself upon the as yet unaggressive afternoon as it gyrated across the warm Jurrasic rock and recoiled out to sea... "now where was I", twisting her book uppermost "oh yes..! someone was going to pay..." only now it was going to be sooner rather than later, but only if that certain someone didn't finish the seating arrangements before the Sun disappeared and drift into some backstreet tea-room before all the lemon cheesecake sold out, or was that she reflected, simply too much to ask.

     It was his Surname that Rock found so objectionable, or it had been right up until his little sister's enlightening disclosure, now it was both names Rocky disliked, it would have been far kinder had Rock Salmon been sandwiched between sliced bread and given to Sockeye... who's solemn duty, from the first mouthful to the very last, was to gaze up beseechingly from beneath the kitchen table  and devour anything that passed his way, even the postman had to be quick about his business or have his arm follow the mail through the letter box... then Sockeye would just smack his lips and help himself to seconds.  

     All Rocky's mum had thought about for the last fourteen years was seconds... every last solitary one of them since she'd suffered with an infection of matrimonial neurosis which had deprived her of common sense and her maiden name, from Chovey to that of Salmon and how with hindsight she should have taken an Aspirin instead, wedlock she asserted was everything the name claimed to be and was without doubt the worst move she'd ever made... and what's more was seen as a bad move in whoever's wedding album you just happened to be paying your condolences to.

     Rocky would never be so fortunate on that score, unlike his sister he was stuck with Salmon for good, his grandma-Ann by all accounts had been dead set against the union from word Go and saw his father as someone who would always be out of his depth in whatever rock pool he found himself in, swimming against the tide as it were, rather than going with the flow... and it appeared that Rocky, almost eleven years into a life sentence, was about to flounder in the same murky undertow as the rest of the Salmon family... only he couldn't swim.

     "There"! her husband exclaimed "all finished... better late than never eh', who fancies trying it"? his wife luxuriated over the words 'better late' and wondered whether her new earrings, her latest acquisition would complement formal mourning attire.  Red dusted off the palms of his hands with the certain knowledge of a job well done and cautiously took one step back, looking with justifiable pride at the outcome of his manly exertions of the last two hours, this was what holidays were all about he declared, one man pitted against insurmountable odds...  His wife meanwhile was getting to grips with more odds of her own than you could safely expect to shake a stick at... her husband being one of them.  

     Having gathered her offspring with the promise of verbal earache if they didn't... and finished packing the beach-bag, Tina finally located Sockeye peering out from the shade of an adjacent rock, wisps of feathers poked tellingly from the corners of his mouth, his tail beating mischievously on the shingle decided in one further blaze of canine brainstorming, as Tina attempted to slip his collar on that a game of tag would just about round the day off nicely... Tina then devoted the next ten minutes chasing him amid unrestrained salvo's of cheering from the rest of the family... then bid goodbye to the little crab who, still marooned by the tide waved a friendly pincer in return... and trusted that she wouldn't have too long to wait for the next rising tide back home, then she slid off the rock with a corrosive... "the deck-chair attendant would have shown you" she snapped "and don't forget the deposit when you take them back" then double checking that she landed squarely on his foot she marched past, her floral sun hat jammed resolutely on her head at what she considered a jaunty angle with her equally jaunty, angular children scrambling in hot pursuit, back in the direction of their lodgings.  

     "Woof "..? said a bewildered Sockeye, bringing everyone to an abrupt halt... and with paws the size of place-mats, he wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to... he hunkered down with a look of hurtful accusation on his face, "oh yes you are my lad"! said his mistress "I've met your sort before" and knew exactly where to place the toe of her dainty size-5 as Sockeye, digging his heals in even further created swathes of canine furrows up the beach, leaving her husband the unwitting holder and in sole possession of the overlooked guest-house keys... and somewhat resigned to clean up his own masculinity and dismantle the recently assembled, now redundant deck-chairs by himself... as for Tina, well... she'd had quite enough excitement for one day thank you very much.

     Morning register was always the worst he thought, as they trooped back along the shingle beach, Rocky making surprisingly good furrows of his own... but the rest of the class loved it and saw it as the highlight of each day... Rocky's form teacher, despite showing a brave face was always hard pressed to avoid bursting into hysterics every time she worked her way down the register to the letter 'S' and would attempt to bypass it altogether, jumping from 'R' to 'T' and just prayed that no one else had noticed, but it hadn't taken the class very long to point out her oversight and... "please Miss" they'd all chant "we haven't had Salmon all week" and while the rest of the class were having convulsive fits, Rocky would elbow the lad sat at the next desk in the ribs... and promptly get one hundred lines for his trouble... thank goodness it was school holidays.  Why couldn't they have been given respectable names like Seymour Legge, Rock wondered, who sat over by the window or perhaps the teachers pet, Anna Prentice or even, Robyn Banks at a pinch, but definitely not what they'd been given and certainly not Salmon, they were the most hilarious names he could imagine and if someone was looking down on them right now he thought... then they had a very unique sense of humour indeed and Rock said so... "why" his little sister asked sweetly, "what's wrong with River Salmon".

                                                      ­                         ...   ...   ...*

a work in progress*                                                        ­                                                              240­6
Nat Lipstadt Nov 2014
When I enter,
the black holes of myself,
they are located,
transcribed upon the
blackboards of our
unified bodies,
the magnification of energy
transversed,
principles demonstrated
by the unconcluding
conclusion of the expansion of
creation,
the rebirthing of one universe
never ending

When I enter a woman,
the discovery sought,
the definitional needed,
the proofs equational,
the factors constant,
not the variable
truths,
the demonstrations positive,
the constants of the universe,
combinational, all within,
a single point glistening

to gentle comfort this
knowledge of my wasting,
the foresight of my limitations
from the day of birth
my matter,
matters,
my energy
neither destroyed or created,
illimitable,
my decline inevitable

and yet

cannot alter my atomic structure.
my future guaranteed,
my inner light,
traveling so fast,

it has yet

to arrive

When I enter a woman,
the laws of physics
become special theories
of relativity,
we are motion in time,
force and energy
nucleotides rawest refined,
elemental and particle nuclear,
packets of light
exclaimed

When I enter a woman,
organic, chemistry,
interdisciplinary
my body and its life force
shaped as
electric current transceivers
crossing galaxies,
there can be no deceivers,
there but and only
the birthing of heat,
a byproduct of
interjection, conjunction

she is my proof
long after the
log normal of my nerves,
now parceled to the
invisible of an oscillating
log natural,
fertilizes the sea grasses
that so intoxicate,
flying, carried,
by the invisiblity of the winds,
all-where I have chosen
as my shifting shape,
when this container
leaks and crack'd,
rentery orbit,
the nearest garbage strewn
construction-dead
lot

When I enter a woman,
physics far beyond
the commonplace,
physical transition
to knowledge
of life ever after

death and fear are
time sensitized
passing notions,
crushed by the
consolation of physics,
the eternality
of a time
once begun,
cannot end,
and therefore
this,
my one theory of everything,
is the God
I worship
The phrase "the consolation of physics" was taken from a novel,
City of Thieves by David Benioff. The other nonsense is all my fault.
11/23/14 8:30am

for my blonde Big Bang theorist
Mitchell Duran May 2014
We took the back road to the house. The shade from the trees made the road feel like tunnel. Not a shred of light came in. We'd have to drive slow. The road wasn't made of concrete: it was made of dirt, rock, and dead leaves. Sometimes we could see the worms come up out of the dirt in the headlights, their pink stretching bodies like weird little fingers. Carrie never looked. She said it was too scary. The rest of us would look and watch them dance around like that. Sometimes we'd have to run them over. Of course, we'd feel bad about it, but we needed to get back to the house. There were things to be done. Nothing planned, but nonetheless, things to be done.
Englend reversed the car up to the front door. The liquor, the food, and the beer was in the back and would make it easier to get it from there. Patty and Carrie (the one scared of the worms) ran straight to the bathroom. They'd been complaining about how we never stopped at a gas station to ***. Englend said we didn't have the time and I just didn't care. Denny was in the same mindset as me. We usually were. Kat was looking out the window, thinking about something she didn't wish to share when we started to unload. She offered to help after she'd finished her thought, but the three of us said we had it. We didn't really, but we let her have her thought while we carried the bags. There weren't that many to complain about anyway.
When everyone was inside unpacking their things, I hung back and smoked a cigarette. I looked down at the river. It was full and rushing. The trees were full with bright, lime green leaves. The branches were tanned auburn from the sun. They looked the forearms of the Mexican girls at my high school: smooth, everlasting, stretching to a place I was never allowed to touch or look at. I ashed my cigarette into a pile of leaves and immediately worried that I was going to start a fire. I kicked it out, thrusting my boot heel into where I thought the ember had went.
"What the hell are you doing?" Englend screamed from the front porch, a handle of whiskey underneath his arm, a glass with ice in the other.
"Ashed into the leaves," I told him, "Trying to take it out." I kicked the leaves a few more times, then walked towards Englend.
"Let me get a hit of that," I said, pointing at the handle.
He spun the top and it rolled off the tread. The cap rolled off the deck and Englend chased after it, handing me the bottle first.
"Take this. Where'd the hell it go?"
"Down there somewhere," I said, pulling the bottle back. The sweetness of the whiskey hit my nostrils first, then the bite of the liquor. I coughed, feeling my eyes begin to water. The first one was always the hardest. After that, they got easier.
June had just ended. July was just arriving. The third was tomorrow and the next day was the fourth.
I took another pull from the handle. I placed on the decks railing and left Englend with it. He was still looking around for the bottle cap.
"I thought I saw it roll under the deck," I told him.
"*******," he moaned. He looked up at me, "Come and help me. It'll be faster with two."
"Can't. Gotta' check on Carrie and get ourselves a room."
"*******," he moaned again, reaching under the deck.
"Don't get your hand bit by a possum or rat or something!" I yelled behind me, going inside. "Carrie!" I screamed, "Where'd you go?"
"Upstairs getting our room ready!" I heard her scream from the 2nd floor, "Come and help me put the sheets on."
I went into the kitchen. Denny was stocking the fridge with the beer and the meat. I reached over his shoulder and grabbed a Budweiser. He had an open one in between his knees. The light stuff was on the bottom to the far left, the heavy stuff in the middle, and the expensive IPA, hoppy stuff to the far right. The top shelf was for food, mixer, and whatever else the girls had decided to get at the store. Fruit and things. I opened up the freezer. There were two handles of Smirnoff resting on three large bags of ice. We would need more ice. I closed the freezer and ran my fingers of the labels of two more handles of Cazadorés tequila and Bulleit bourbon. Overall, I thought we were fairly stocked for the four day weekend, but one could never be to sure. People came out of the wood work for the 4th of July. No telling who would show up at our front door.
I went upstairs to see what Carrie was doing. She was laying on the bed with the sheets resting on the dresser. The light was off. The room was cast in that light grey pigment that happens when the bedroom light isn't there. It was nice. The sun had been straining my eyes the whole time even though I had been driving in the backseat. Carrie was laying face down on the bed. She was wearing a skirt, so I slowly laid down on the bed and inched her dress up. She didn't flinch or move, so I pulled it up until I saw her burgundy lace *******. They looked pressed or ironed or something they looked so clean.
"What're you doing?" Carrie asked me, her face down into the mattress.
"Just looking," I said.
"At what?"
"At your ****."
"Why?"
"Cause' it's nice."
"Close the door."
I got up, closed the door, and laid back down.
"Lets put the sheets on the bed first."
"OK," I said.
We put the sheets on the bed, but couldn't wait for the pillows and the rest of the blankets. We tried to be quiet, but knew we weren't. After, we took a shower together. I rubbed Carrie's shoulders while the hot water rained down on us. She said it was better to get a massage in the shower because the hot water loosened up the muscles. I didn't know if that was true or not, but I did it anyway. I watched her as she unpacked her bag. Her hair was wet and it swung back and forth, wetting her back. She was wrapped in her favorite pink towel. Water dripped from her body down to the floor. I waited to put my things away. I had brought up very little. Mostly *****. Carrie took up most of the dresser. I had one drawer by the time we were finished.
We took a nap. After we were done sleeping, we looked outside and saw the sun had been replaced with the night. The stars and the light coming from inside of the cabin streaked out into the forest like a splash of golden florescent paint. Carrie and I poked our heads outside to listen to the creaking trees and the rustling of animals through the bush. Someone downstairs was lightly clattering dishes as they cleaned them while the smell of red maple firewood burning in the fireplace came up to our room. I took out my phone from my pocket and looked at the time.
"****," I said, "It's already 10 o'clock."
"I'm starving."
"I'm starving and need a drink."
"Let's go downstairs and see what they made."
I slipped on my 501's while Carrie straightened up her hair. We went downstairs and saw two plates with hamburgers and fries on them. Patty was at the sink cleaning the pots and pans. She was staring down into the soapy froth, humming a song to herself I couldn't understand. She hadn't heard us come down. Denny, Englend, and Kat weren't in the living room.
"Where is everybody?" I asked.
"Oh!" Patty burst. She swung around, a soaped up frying pan in her hands. "You scared the **** out of me!"
I put my hands up, "Gotcha!" I said smiling.
"They went for a walk somewhere and left all the dishes for me."
"Leave'em," Carrie said, taking Patty's hands and wiping the soap away with a rag, "Van and I will take care of them."
"I only have a few more..."
"I insist!" Carrie took Patty's arm and lead her to the couch and laid her down. I took a cup from the pantry, filled it with ice, and poured Bulliet half-way up. I handed the glass to Carrie and she brought it to Patty.
"Look at that," Patty smiled, "Full-service."
"What you get when you come up to the Dangerson cabin."
"**** right!" I exclaimed through a bite of hamburger, "Only the best here."
Patty leaned her head back after taking a long sip of the whiskey. She exhaled and closed her eyes. I watched her as her chest heaved up and down. She kicked off her shoes and let her hair fall over the armrest of the couch.
"You said they went into the woods, Patty?"
Carrie took her burger and went and sat next to Patty.
"Lift your legs up," Carrie said, "Let me sit with you."
"Yeah. They went into the woods an hour or so ago. Probably a little less."
I opened the fridge and grabbed another beer.
"What were they going out there for?"
"I have no idea."
"Probably to get firewood or something," Carrie said, "Can you grab me one of those."
"Sure," I said, tossing her one.
"Wait," She yelled, throwing her hands in the air. The beer landed right in one of her flailing hands.
"Nice catch," I laughed, opening the fridge and grabbing another.
"You're such a ****!"
I smiled and walked out onto the deck.
"He really is," I heard Carrie tell Patty.
"I heard that!"
"You were meant to!" she called back to me, laughing.
I shook my head and opened the can of beer. Why did they decide to go get firewood now? We had plenty of wood here already. Patty probably didn't know what she was talking about. That happened often. I strained my eyes to see through the darkness, maybe see if I could spot a flashlight or the round end of a lit cigarette, but the forest was just a wash of thick blackness. Even the stars had grown faint.
"Englend!" I shouted.
Nothing. Not a peep. They were far out there.
"Englend!" I shouted again.
"What the hell are you shouting at?" a voice said from the trees. I couldn't tell who it was, but it was someone I knew.
"Who the hell is that?"
"Well who the hell do you think it is?" It was Englend. He came out of the trees like a wild boar. He had a handle of whiskey in one hand with a pile of small twigs and firewood in the other. What came to mind first was a mix between a drunken Brawny guy and a pinecone.
"What's all the screaming about?" Kat asked, trailing behind Englend. Denny followed behind. They all had armfuls of wood. From what I saw, little would be useful, but I kept that to myself.
Englend came up the deck and handed me the handle. I took a long pull. As I drank, I looked up into the stars, which were now out and shining brighter than they were before. A cloud had moved, wavered off somewhere, presenting the gifts that were behind it. I lowered the bottle and watched Denny and Kat walk up the stairs. They were smiling.
"What are you two so happy about?" I asked, handing Denny the whiskey.
"Gimme' that!" Kat snagged it out of my hand, laughing. She took a long pull. Denny, Englend, and I watched, amazed that little hippy Kat could take such a heavy shot.
"Good God," I murmured.
"She drinks like a pirate," said Denny.
"A ****** pirate," added Englend.
Kat was especially small. Not a small person small, but petite. She also had a great *** and could out drink, out party, and out do the rest of us in debaucherous shenanigans. She had never heard of the word or feeling of shame either and did, really, whatever the hell she felt like.
"I heard that you *******," she said, exhaling, blinking her eyes wildly.
"That was a biggun'," Denny said, taking the bottle and pulling it.
"Needed it. Englend had us wandering around the ******* forest for firewood the minute we got here."
"Do we even need any?" I asked.
"Course we do!" Englend exclaimed, "Gotta' keep our ladies warm!"
He put his arm around Kat and shook her.
"Gross..." Kat frowned, her face pickling while she squirmed out of his arms.
"You love it Kat...where's Patty? Where's my babe!?" Englend thundered off into the house.
"I'm right here," Patty squealed. She was still on the couch with Carrie. She kicked her feet crazily as Englend jumped on her. Carrie jumped off just before he cannon balled onto the couch.
"You guys are SICK!" Carrie screamed.
"You love it," they both said in unison. The two of them play wrestled until Patty finally got Englend by the ***** and kissed him.
Denny handed Kat the bottle," You want another?" he asked.
"I'm good, Denny," she said.
"Hank?" He asked me.
"I'll take one, yeah," I said. I pulled it back as Kat went inside. I exhaled and looked at Denny, "So, you and Kat are the only two legitimate single people here. How you feel about that?"
"Hopeful," he said.
"That's good to hear. I'll see what Carrie can do."
"Sweet," he said nervously.
"Let's get inside. Patty made some burgers."
"Thank God," Denny sighed, shaking his head, "I'm ******* starving. Englend had us walking for ******' miles.
"No idea why. We have plenty of wood downstairs."
"Seriously?"
"Yeah. Lots of it. I cut a bunch the last time I was here."
"******," he laughed, "Englend told us were out."
"He doesn't know what he's talking about," I said. We walked into the kitchen. I put the bottle down next to Carrie, who had made her way from the couch back into the kitchen. She looked at the bottle, then at me.
"What you drinking there?" she asked me looking at the bottle.
"Whiskey," I told her.
"Can you not drink so much?" she whispered so no one could hear her.
"I'm good," I said, taking her hand, "I just drank a little bit outside while I was waiting for Englend. They went on a wild goose chase for firewood."
"Good."
"Denny was telling me they went all over for the stuff."
"Why?" she smiled, "We have so much from the last time we were up."
"That's what I was telling Englend, but he didn't care. Guy gets antsy."
"Who's antsy?" Englend called from the couch. Patty was wrapped up in his eyes, looking drunk from the single shot Carrie and I had given her. Kat was on the couch with a beer. Denny was hovering by the door, rocking back and forth on his heels still holding an armful of fire wood.
"Why don't you just leave that by the door?" I told Denny, "Take a seat. Stay a while."
He dropped the firewood by the side of the front door and took a seat on the floor in front of the fireplace by Kat. He looked up at her and smiled, but she didn't notice. She was sipping her beer, rummaging around in her pocket for something.
"What I was saying was that you guys didn't need to get anymore firewood or kindling or whatever the hell you guys got because we have a lot from the last time Carrie and I were up."
"I saw those logs," said Englend, "And they're ******* twigs compared to what we got!"
Everyone laughed.
"Well," I said, opening the fridge for another beer (I wasn't sure where my other one had gone to), "I'm not taking the **** down."
"All good, we'll take it down."
"You'll take it down," said Kat, "We had to walk through half of the ******* forest to get to your secret wood spot, then walk back. I'm finished with wood for now."
"Fine," Englend moaned, "I'll take it down in the morning."
"I'll help you," Denny added.
"Good! We got two big guys to do it. It'll be done in no time."
I turned around and opened up the cabinet that was filled with shot glasses. I took six out, put them on the table, and filled them with whiskey.
"Let's take a group shot before we all start getting snuggly and sleepy."
"Great idea!" Englend shouted, popping up from the couch.
"For America!" Patty giggled, following Englend.
Kat helped Denny from the floor and walked over to the counter. They parted hands when Denny was on his feet, but I could tell he wouldn't mind holding her hand for the duration of the trip.
"I'm glad to have you all here," I said, "Glad we could do this."
Everyone nodded, smiling, holding their golden brown shots in the air.
"For America," I said.
"For America!" the rest of them yelled. We soaked in the glory of fine whiskey and hazy conversation for the rest of the night.
Everyone was moving slow in the morning. Englend seemed to be the most up out of everyone. I walked into the kitchen to him whipping 12 eggs, grating cheese, pan frying potatoes, bubbling coffee, and pouring orange juice into mimosa flutes. The champagne was already out. I thought, a little alcohol will probably do me some good. It did. After my third glass, I kissed Carrie when she groggily walked into the living room. She preceded to slump onto the couch. I brought her a cup coffee and some Advil. She smiled meekly into my glazed over, blood shot eyes. I could tell she was hurting, but she would be right in a couple hours. Once we got into the river, all would be right.
"Jesus," said Carrie, "You guys are already drinking?"
"Of course!" Englend laughed, "It's the fourth and it's already noon. We're behind if anything."
"And Englend made breakfast," I said.
"I can see th
Namir May 2014
The snow leopard and the little fox were sound asleep. The leopard curled up around the young fox keeping them both warm in the cold weather. As the sun started to arise the leopard awoke from his slumber. He then softly pat his little young fox apprentice's head, "Wake up little one. A new day awaits us," he said with a smile as he stood on all fours and stretched out his back. The little fox grunted and yawned "It's too early," she whined as she curled up tighter, "The sun isn't even fully up in the sky yet" was her rebuttal to his awakening. The leopard took her by the scruff and softly tossed her into the snow covered field. "Ahhh!~Ooof." The little fox yelled as she tumbled into the snow. "You know what they say, the early bird catches the worm, the early cat catches the bird." The leopard laughed slightly as he spoke, watching the little fox stand up all covered in fresh snow from last nights fall. "Well what's that have to do with me?!?" the fox shouted slightly, being slightly agitated about him tossing her. The leopard smirked as he walked by her and pat her head again, dusting off the snow, "It has everything to do with you, it has everything to do with everyone. It means the sooner you wake the more you can do. The more time you have in the day to do what you want," the leopard exclaimed with pride and excitement in his voice, "Do you ever ask yourself why there is so much left you want to do by the end of the day but just didn't have enough time? Well this helps you get more done. It gives you more time." The little fox tilted her head slightly to he side and looked down a bit, "I guess you are right," she said softly. Not knowing what else to say, she stood up and shook the snow off of herself then rush over to the leopard. "So what lesson will I learn today?" she asked eagerly. The leopard smiled as they started walking, "Didn't you just learn something?" he said as he raised an eyebrow. The little fox giggled softly and started pouncing around him laughing happily and saying "Well yea. But I want to learn more." The leopard laughed and looked to her, "Slow and steady wins the race little one. Slow and steady. we will find something for me to teach you, or for us to learn, as time goes on." he said softly but wisely as they kept walking into the woods, away from the sunrise.
Part 2 of the ongoing short stories of a snow leopard and a young fox venturing together, for my love.
She is not me, therefore she is perfect.
It's easy to see why the world has fallen in love with her.
And why you have given her a title even God would envy.
Her skin has been softly kissed by the Arabian sun.
She glows intensely, vividly. 
Her hair, a sea of black cascading down the curves of her back.
You told me that her smile reminds you of a spring sunrise.
A Victoria Secret model with the mind of a future president.

I still remember the look on your face when you described your future together.
Little carmelo babies, a mixture of your dark melanin and her smooth olive tone.
A glimmer of pride in your eyes at the reality of "avoiding" black children. 
Stating how they will speak none of the African languages, as Xhosa or Zulu won't really take them far. 
I watched as you began to cut away their African roots.
Not really sure if it was out of ignorance or out of shame. 

I watched as you insinuated that I would never be good enough. 
Stating how you loved silky hair, yet getting angry when women of color wore weaves.
You eyed my afro, always asking me if I had combed it that day. 
Not realising that my hair was attempting to reach the pedestal in the sky that you placed her on.
It's kinks getting tighter at the embarrassment of never being good enough.
I would have turned a shade of red when you said you don't like black women, but my chocolate skin refused to give you that pleasure. 

With every breath I take, I am reminded that I'm somewhat empty. 
Watching as the person I thought I loved described how he hated everything about me.
Perhaps you could tell the sadness in my eyes.
Or maybe the heartache kept staining the words I spoke.
But you held my hand and told me I'm different.
You said that my kinks were a crown of candy floss that tickled my cheeks on a summers day.
You exclaimed how my dark skin was like that of charcoal: a dark consistency like no other.
Claiming my accent was no where near black, stating it with a smile almost as though it were a compliment. 

But even with all this, I still love you.
I will forever be drawn to the warrior spirit that lingers within.
The spirit that ruled empires and dynasties.
I still weep the day when like Samson, she cut your locks to leave behind only a shadow of a man who's strength was without bounds.
I'm in love with the potential you don't know you poses.
You will forever be my king,
Eveb when you fail to recognise me as your African Queen.
Dorothy A Jun 2012
With great recollection, there were a few things in life that Ivy Jankauskas would always remember—always.

She would never forget where she was when 9/11 happened; she was in her algebra class, doodling a picture on a piece of notebook paper of her dog, Zoey—bored out of her mind by Mr. Zabbo’s lecture—when she first heard the shocking news. Certainly, she could remember when she first properly fell in love; she was fresh into college when she knew that she loved Trevor Littlefield—the day after they agreed to get back together, right after the day they decided to split up—after she finally realized that she really loved him, much more than she ever, really, consciously thought. She would forever remember when her parents first took her to Disneyland; she was seven and got her picture taken with Snow White and Mickey Mouse, and she instantly decided that she wanted to become a professional Tinkerbelle when she grew up.

And, like it or not, she could remember her very first kiss. She had just turned five, and it was at her birthday party. How could she ever forget those silly paper hats, and all her little playmates wearing them? They were a good sized group of children, mostly from the neighborhood and her kindergarten class, which watched her open present after present. Ivy remembered her cherry cake, with white frosting, and the stain she had when she dropped a piece on her pretty, new dress that her mother had bought her just for the occasion.  

It was later that day, behind her garage, that Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third, a boy her same age, planted one on her. It was a strange sensation, she recalled—icky, wet and sloppy, and Gordon nearly missed her mouth. Not expecting it, Ivy made a face, puckering up her lips—but not for another kiss—as if she had just ****** on a spoiled lemon. Ever since then, it was the beginning of the dislike she had for Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third. She didn’t exactly know why—there was just something about him that bugged her from then on.

There grew to be several reasons why Ivy knew that Gordon was a ****, something she first sensed at her birthday party behind the garage. Since about third grade, children picked on Ivy’s name, teasing her by calling her “Poison Ivy”.  And the one who seemed to be the loudest and most obnoxious of the name callers, chiming in with the other bullies, was Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third.  Ivy was proud of her name up until then, but the taunts made her self conscious. Her mother told her to be proud of her name, for it was unique and different, as she was unique and an individual. Still, Ivy felt uncomfortable with her name for quite a while. Only in adulthood, did she feel somewhat better about it.

A bit of a tomboy back then in school, she would have loved to punch Gordon right in the nose. If only she could get away with it! What a joke! Who would name their child Gordon anyway? She had thought it was far worse than hers.

So to counter his verbal assaults to her name, Ivy called Gordon, “Flash Gordon”, after the science fiction hero from TV and the comics. But Gordon was no hero to her. He was more of a villain, creepy, vile, and just plain mean!

Soon, new name of him caught on, and other kids were joining her. She had a smug sense of satisfaction that Gordon grew furious of the title, for it stuck to him like glue.

Gordon’s family lived right around the block, just minutes away from where Ivy lived. Ivy’s mom, Gail, and Gordon’s mom, Lucy, both went to the same Lithuanian club, and both encouraged their children to take up Lithuanian folk dancing. Ivy remembered she was eight-years-old when she began dancing. It was three years of Hell, she had thought, wearing those costumes, with long, flowery skirts, frilly blouses, aprons, caps and laced vests, and performing for all the parents and families in attendance. Worst of all, she often had to dance with Gordon, and he was one of only three boys that was dragged into taking up folk dancing by their mothers. Probably all of those boys went into it kicking and screaming, so Ivy had thought.

Many years have came and gone since those days. Ivy was now a lovely, young woman, tall and dark blonde, and with a Master’s degree in sociology, working as a social worker in the prison system. Ivy’s parents would never have imagined that she would work in a field, in such places, but she found it quite rewarding, helping those who often wished for or were in need of redemption.    

When Ivy came over to visit her mom one day, her mother had told her some news. “Gordon Durand’s mother passed away”, Gail announced. It was quite disturbing.

“What? When?” Ivy replied, her face full of shock.

“Well, it must have been a few days ago. I saw the obituary in the paper, and a couple of people from the Lithuanian club called me to tell me. The funeral will be Friday. Why, I didn’t even know she was sick! She must have hid from just about everyone. If only I knew, I would have gone to see her and make sure she know I cared”.

It had been a long time since Ivy saw Gordon, ever since high school. Now, they were both twenty-six-years-old. It never occurred to her to ever think of Gordon, to have him fixed in her mind like a fond memory from the past.

“Could of, would of, should of—don’t beat yourself up, Mom” Ivy told her "I guess I should go pay my respects”. But Ivy was not sure if she really should do it, or really if she wanted to do it. “Mrs. Durand was a nice lady. Sometimes, it is the nice ones that die young. What did she die of anyway?”

Ivy’s mom was pouring herself and her daughter a cup of coffee. “I believe it was leukemia. In the obituary, it asks for donations to be made to the Leukemia Society of America”.

Ivy shook her head in disbelief.  As she was sitting down with her mother at the kitchen table, drinking her coffee, her mom shocked her even more. Gail said, “Only twenty-six, same as you, and now Gordon has no mother or father! How tragic to lose your parents at such a young age! It breaks my heart to think of him without his parents, even though he is a grown up man now!”

“What?!” Ivy shouted in disbelief. “When did Gordon’s dad die?!”

Gail sipped on her coffee mug. “Oh, a few years ago, I believe. Time sure flies, so maybe it was longer than I think”. Gail had a far away look on her face like she was earnestly calculating the time in her mind.

“He died? You never told me that! How come you never told me?”

Under normal circumstances, the thought of Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third, would almost want to make Ivy cringe. But now Ivy was feeling very sad for him.  

“I did!” Gail defended herself. “You just don’t remember, or you weren’t listening. I am sure I told you!”

Gail was a round faced woman, with light, crystal blue eyes that always seemed warm in spite of their icy color. Ivy was quite close to her mother, her parents’ only child. She was grateful that her dad, Max, was still around, too, unlike the thought of Gordon’s dad dying. She felt that she could not have asked for better parents. They loved her and built her up to be who she was, and she felt that they could be proud of how she turned out, not the stereotypically spoiled, only child, not entitled to have everything, but one who was willing to do her share in life.  

“I would have remembered, Mom!” Ivy insisted. “I would remember a thing like that! What happened to him? Did you go to the funeral home?”

“I think he had a heart attack”, Gail replied, tapping her finger on her temple to indicate that she remembered. “I did go…oh, wait a minute. You were in Europe with your friends. It was the year after you graduated from high school, I believe. You couldn’t possibly have gone to the funeral home at that time”.

Since Gail did not want to go to Daytona Beach, in Florida, for her senior trip, her parents saved up the money for her to go to Germany and Italy. Ivy wasn’t into being a bikini clad sun goddess, nor was she thrilled by the rowdy behavior of crowds of *** craved teens—a choice that her parents were quite grateful that she chose, level headed as she was.

Since she was a little girl, Ivy dreamed of going to Europe. Her parents, both grandchildren of Lithuanian immigrants, would have loved for her to go to Lithuania, but Ivy and two of her friends had found a safe, escorted trip to go elsewhere,  on to where Ivy always dreamed of going—to see the Sistine Chapel and to visit her pen pal of eleven years, Ursula Friedrich, in Munich.  

Now, Ivy was available to visit the funeral home for Gordon’s mother, and she had decided to go with her mother. Not seeing Gordon in years, Ivy had her misgivings, not knowing what to expect when encountering him. Perhaps, he would be different now, but maybe he would prove to be quite the ****.

As she came, she noticed Gordon’s sister, Deirdre, and she gave her a hug. “I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. She was so nice”, Ivy told Deirdre. She felt uncomfortable talking to Deirdre, for she did not know what to say other than the usual, I am sorry for your loss. It was “sympathy card” talk, and Ivy felt like she was quoting something contrived from a Hallmark store.    

Deirdre was two years older than Gordon. She slightly smiled at Ivy and sighed. She must have said just about the same thing all day long, “It is good of you to come. Thank you for your kind support. Mom would appreciate it”.

Ivy looked around the room. There were many flowers, in vases and baskets, and people surrounding the casket. Ivy could not see Mrs. Durand in the coffin, for people were in the way, her mother included. She was glad she couldn’t see the body from her view.

Funeral homes gave her the creeps, ever since she was thirteen years old and her grandmother died, her father’s mother, and she had to stay at the funeral home all day long. Even a whiff of some, certain flowers was not pleasant to smell. They reminded her of being at a place like this, certainly not evoking thoughts of joy.          

Ivy looked around the room. “Where is Gordon?” she asked Deirdre.

Deirdre sighed again. “Gordon cannot handle death very well”, she admitted. “Go outside and look. He has been hanging around the building outside, getting some fresh air and insisting he needs a big break from all this.”

Ivy shook her head and smirked. “That sounds like Gordon, I must say”  

“Yeah”, Deirdre agreed, as she looked like Gordon’s help to her was a lost cause. “And he’s leaving me to do all the important work—talking to people who come in while he goes away and escapes from reality”.

Ivy went outside to search for Gordon. Sure enough, she found him by the side of the building, under a broad, shady tree. He was having a cigarette, standing all by himself, when he saw her approach.

Gordon looked the same—wavy brown hair and freckles, but much more grown up and sophisticated, his suit jacked off and his tie loosened up. Ivy knew that he always hated wearing ties. She knew that when both her mom and his mom convinced them to go out with each other—a huge twist of their arms—to the Fall Fest Dance in ninth grade and in junior high school. Gordon’s mom bribed him to go with her by promising to double his allowance for the month, and Ivy actually had a silly crush on Gordon’s cousin, Ben, hoping that she might get to talk to him if she went with Gordon to the dance.

Ivy glanced at Gordon’s cigarette, and he noticed. “Been trying to quit”, Gordon told her as she approached. He dropped it on the sidewalk and stepped on it to put it out. His face was somber as he added without any emotion, as if parroting his own voice, “Ivy Jankauskas—how the hell have you been?” It sounded like he had just seen her in a matter of months instead of years.

Well, at least he had no problem identifying her or remembering her name. She must not have changed that drastically—and hopefully for the better.

Ivy stood there before him, as he looked her down from head to toe. Same old Gordon! She thought he was probably giving her “the inspection”. She thought he almost looked handsome in his brown suit vest and pants—almost—with a sharp look of sophistication that Gordon probably wasn’t accustomed to. Surely, Ivy had no real respect for him.

“I’m well”, she responded. “But the question is more like…how are you doing?” Ivy studied Gordon’s blank expression. “No—really. I’d like to know how you are coping”.

Gordon stood there looking at the ground, his hands in his pants pockets, like he never heard her. “Come on. Let’s go for a walk”

“Here? Now?”

“Just a short work, around the block”, he told her. He already started walking, and Ivy contemplated what to do before she decided to follow up with him to join him.

They walked together in silence for a while. From anyone passing by, they surely would have looked like a couple, a well-paired couple that truly enjoyed each other’s company. Ivy could not believe she was actually walking with him. Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third? Of all people!

“You haven’t answered my question”, Ivy said. “How are you coping? You know I really liked your mom a lot. She always was pleasant to me”.

She wanted to add, “Unlike you”, but it certainly was not the right time or the right place. She felt a twinge of guilt for thinking such a thing. Under more pleasant circumstances, she would have jabbed him a little. That was just how they always communicated, not necessarily in a mean-spirited way, but in a brotherly and sisterly way that involved plenty of teasing.

Gordon thought a moment before he answered. “Yeah, it’s hard. But what can I do? I lost my dad. I lost my mom. Period. End of discussion. I’m too old to be an orphan…but I kind of feel like one anyhow. That’s my answer, in a nutshell”.

“And I wish I knew about your dad”, Ivy said, with a great tone of remorse. “I was in Europe at the time, and I couldn’t have possibly gone to the funeral”.

“Europe? Wow! Aren’t you the jet setter? Who else gets to do that kind of stuff but you, Ivy?”

Now that was the Gordon she always knew! It did not take long for the true Gordon to come forth and show himself.

“No! I don’t have all kinds of money!” she quickly defended herself. “I actually helped pay for some of that trip by working all summer after we graduated from high school. Plus, it was the trip of a lifetime. I may never get the chance to go again on a trip like that again”.  

Ivy was a bit perturbed that Gordon seemed to imply that she was pampered by her parents. He accused her of that before, just because she was an only child.

Autumn was approaching, but summer was still in the air. It was Ivy’s favorite time of year, with the late summer and early autumn, all at the same time.  The trees were just starting to turn colors, but the sun felt nice and warm upon her as Ivy walked along. It was surely an Indian summer day, one that wouldn’t last forever. She wore a light sweater over her sleeveless, cotton dress, and took it off to experience more of the sun.

“It has been ages since I’ve seen you”, Gordon admitted. “Since high school. So what became of you? Did you ever go to college?”

“I did and I work as a social worker…I work in various prisons”

Gordon laughed out loud, and Ivy gave him a stern look. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.

“I just can’t picture you going in the slammer, even if you aren’t wearing an orange suit”, he said in between laughing. He looked at Ivy, and she had quite a frown on her face. He changed his tune. “I was only joking, Ivy. I think you’d probably do good work at your job”.  

“And where do you work?” she asked, a devilish expression on her face. “At the circus?”

Ivy caught herself becoming snarky to Gordon. It did not take long. She opened her mouth to apologize, but Gordon, sensing her need to be sorry, stopped her.

Laughing even more, he said, “Good one! You are sharp and fast on your feet! You always have been! I work for an insurance agency. I work for Triple A”.

“Oh, really? Do you like your job?” Ivy asked. Her interest was genuine.

“It pays the bills. But, hey! I am going back to college in January. I just have an Associate’s degree right now. I am not sure what I want to take up, but I want to go back and at least get a Bachelor’s”.

“That’s great!” Ivy exclaimed. “I think you should keep on learning and keep on moving forward. That is a great goa
Edna Sweetlove May 2015
I woke up to a beautiful summer morning. The sun was shining and the rainclouds were far away. I decided I would spend the day on the beach. I always enjoy visiting the beach as it gives me an opportunity to laugh at people's hideous bodies. But where? And then, suddenly, a wonderful idea came to me: why not go to a nudist beach as they always attract the ugliest people with the worst bodies imaginable. And you get to see their naughty bits too, for added humour.

So I rushed to my computer to check the Internet for possibilities and, to my utter amazement, I discovered there was a naturist beach only fifty miles from my beautiful home. As I read the details of the beach and the directions, I had a sense of déja vu; I realised with a frisson of ****** anticipation that it was the very same beach described by Victor the ****** in his wonderful story "Confessions of a ******" which held pride of place on my toilet reading shelf.

I was at the wheel of my incredibly expensive and luxurious car just as soon as my servants had packed my essential requirements: icebox with chilled vintage champagne, lightweight folding gold-plated sun-lounger, vicuna picnic rug and of course my lunch hamper. My chef had rapidly prepared a delicious impromptu luncheon of smoked salmon, steak tartare and a selection of other goodies. I decided to dispense with the services of my chauffeur in the interests of preserving the confidentiality of my destination.

In less than an hour and a half I was there; and the place was exactly as Victor had described it in his immortal novella: a long stretch of mixed sand and pebbles, backed by dunes planted with wild grass, waving romantically in the sea breeze. Idyllic, and crawling with naked perverts as a bonus. I parked my car and transported my equipment to the dunes. I regretted not having brought one of the servants as the hamper and icebox were quite cumbersome and heavy. I was perspiring gently by the time I had unloaded everything and set it all up to my satisfaction.

I took some care in selecting what I felt was the optimum location as I needed to combine the potentially conflicting benefits of wanting to see as many naked people as possible (hopefully including some *** action) with the need for privacy. After all I am famous. I finally chose a spot where there were several ghastly specimens on view for a few laughs and where I could also see a potentially interesting couple who might be exhibitionistic perverts. The man was about 45, shaven-headed, skinny and prematurely wrinkled all over by the sun (yes, I do mean all over) and he had an interesting tattoo on his back: "I love hot ***** ***", which I saw as promising. The woman was plump with pendulous ******* and very prominent buttocks; additionally - how can I put this delicately? - her **** was totally bereft of hair.

Before settling down to my lunch, I felt a little perambulation would not come amiss. So, as bold as brass, off I went for a little **** stroll through the dunes. I will not describe in full detail the visual horrors I encountered: hirsute old men playing aimlessly with wizened, shrunken todgers the size of a thimble; obese old biddies, their rolls of sun-tanned lard hanging round them like rows of bloated udders on a pregnant sow; tattooed bald queens, muscles bulging under lashings of sun-oil, their pierced genitals glinting wickedly in the sunshine; the list was endless. How could such grotesques revel in revealing their corporeal repulsion to the eager world?

And then I saw him! It had to be him! In a dip in the sand dunes lay a middle-aged, paunchy little man, intently watching a couple of old ******* groping each other incompetently. It could only be Victor the One-Legged ******! After all, just how many unipod Peeping Toms are there?

I strolled over to him, coughing discreetly so as to give him a chance to stop his furtive *******. 'Do excuse me for disturbing you,' I said, 'but are you by any chance Victor the famous ****** whose confession I read only last week?'

'Why yes,' he admitted, 'but how on earth did you recognise me?'

I smiled and pointed to the cast-off artificial leg lying next to his beach towel (which, incidentally, was emblazoned by a giant "V", a bit of an identity hint, I felt). He patted his stump ruefully and laughed uproariously so that his average-sized ***** flapped like a pennant in a Force Eight gale. 'I forgot,' he bellowed deliriously.

'I'm just about to have a spot of lunch,' I said. 'My personal Michelin-starred chef, Jean-Claude Anusse, always over-caters ridiculously as he knows I often pick up people on my excursions, so there'll be more than enough. I'm afraid it's nothing special: some smoked salmon and some assorted cold meats, possibly a spot of pâté de foie gras, if I know Jean-Claude. And, naturally, enough champagne to drown a hippo in. Please do say yes, as I have so many questions to ask you about your hobby.'

'That's very kind of you.' mumbled the astonished Peeping Tom, 'I should be very happy to accept your generous offer. Incidentally, to whom have I the honour of speaking?'

I was, frankly, shocked when I realised Victor had not recognised me, and then I remembered I was naked. That explained it. 'Why, I am none other than Edna Sweetlove, poetess to the stars, creator of the Barry Hodges "Memories" poems and biographer to the intrepid and incredible superhero SNOGGO,' I murmured sotto voce, not wishing to be mobbed for my autograph.

'Edna Sweetlove!' he exclaimed, 'you mean THE Edna Sweetlove?' And so saying he glanced down to my genital zone in order to answer the question which so many of my fans have asked over the years. He grinned as he saw the solution to the great mystery.

Victor quickly strapped on his prosthesis and accompanied me (slightly lopsidedly) to my little luncheon site. He helped me unpack our repast and then made himself as comfortable as a naked one legged ****** could reasonably expect to be without a chair.

I must say Chef and his team had excelled himself in the thirty minutes I had given them: smoked salmon roulades, a magnifique plateau de fruits de mer including a three-pound giant lobster, steak tartare, a whole cold pintarde à l'ail, a few dozen sushi rolls, a monster summer pudding, and naturally a Jeraboam of Krug '92. No wonder the hamper had been so ******* heavy. I could see Victor was impressed as I offered him a chilled flute of the most expensive champagne he had ever tasted. 'Better than the pathetic, poverty-stricken muck you were going to gobble, I expect,' I commented in a friendly way.

'Mmmmmmmmm! Absolutely delicious, Edna. I was certainly not expecting this! exclaimed the grateful freak. But before we start on what looks like a truly exquisite nosh-up, I must give you a word of warning.'

'A word of warning? What about, Victor dear?'

'Well, you see, there's no, um....er,' he blushed charmingly.

'No what, Victor? Don't be embarrassed, sweetie. This is Edna you're talking to. Spit it out, baby.'

'Well, um, there's no ******* on the beach, Edna,' explained Victor uncomfortably. 'So, if you need to pump ship, you have to do it native-style "au naturel" in the dunes over there, which can be a bit messy what with all the filth lying about the place in that area, not to mention the lavvo-voyeurs hanging round. Or else you need to swim out a bit and unload into the sea. Judging by what's on offer at your stylish picnic, we'll both be bursting for a good old **** and crap afterwards.'

I shrieked with laughter and explained there was nothing I liked better than a widdle en plein air or a double act dans l'eau. We then tucked into lunch with a vengeance. It was ******* delicious, even though I say so myself. After about fifteen minutes' happy munching, interspersed with witty small talk, Victor suddenly went rigid. 'Look over there!' he hissed and indicated the middle-aged couple by the windbreak.

I looked and I was surprised. The plump woman with the big *** was on her knees in front of her partner, giving him a vigorous *******, and he was lolling back in ecstasy, a broad smile on his face. He seemed to be looking straight at us, almost visibly willing us to watch. He winked repeatedly in a conspiratorial fashion; maybe he had St Vitus’ Dance. Or even worse, he wanted me to get stuck into the action with them.

'They're regulars here, they normally put on quite a good show,' explained Victor excitedly, his hand reaching down automatically to his rapidly stiffening ****.

'Victor!' I admonished him, 'I would prefer it if you didn't **** yourself off during lunch. How about another oyster, you silly old ****?'

'Sorry, Edna, I forgot,' he replied shamefacedly. 'No more oysters thank you; they only make me more randy than I already am. But I'll have another lobster claw if I may. My compliments to your chef.'

So we sipped our champagne and enjoyed our luncheon as we watched the couple give us their little exhibition. After a few minutes *******, the fat lady turned around and leaned forward on her hands and knees and her gnarled bald hubby ******* her doggy fashion from behind with some gusto; this made her beefy buns bounce about like two ferrets fighting in a sack.

I glanced around us and realised that, totally unbeknown to me, the little spectacle had attracted quite an audience. Nine men, young and old, short and tall, fat and skinny, stood staring transfixed by the petite scène erotique before us, all ******* wildly. 'Oi!' I called out. 'Can't you see we're eating?' I admonished them, but to no ******* avail whatsoever.

Victor was visibly torn between his innate desire to watch the copulators and masturbators and with his understandable wish not to offend his lunch companion by manhandling himself unrestrainedly. But, thank God, his natural good manners prevailed and we continued to converse and enjoy our meal in the midst of this Bacchanalian scene of depravity.

I watched dispassionately as the couple came to what sounded like a very satisfactory mutual ******, accompanied by the observers' seminal tributes to their performance. I naturally had filmed the entire scene secretly on my state-of-the-art mobile.

'If you give me your email address, Victor my love, I'll send you a copy of that little show,' I promised. He nodded in gratitude. 'Victor  the ****** at yahoo dot co dot uk,' he mumbled rapidly, 'no dots, Victorthevoyeur is all one word.'

Once we had polished off lunch, I told Victor I would like to interview him with a view to writing a short story about his life's work. He was touchingly flattered and, with a little judicious prompting and probing, told me his saga, which I recorded on my Edna-phone. I naturally don't want to pre-empt my forthcoming mini-biography of Victor, but suffice it to say that Victor told me how and why he became a ******, he regaled me with some of the staggering things he had seen, he gave me a list of some really ace ******* locations, he shared all his best peeping places with me, he gave me the ultimate lowdown on the world of Britain's most celebrated *** snooper and I was touched by his burning honesty. I felt a tear ***** my eye at this tragic tale.

All too soon it was time for us to part. After thanking me profusely and making me promise I would visit him one day so he could repay my generosity, he re-attached his metal leg and limped away towards his beach towel. I knew he was raring to go as the best of the action normally took place in the early evening.

'Farewell, dearest Victor,' I called out as he tripped clumsily over a fellow pervert who had been eavesdropping near us.
Sunny Snow Jan 2013
PART 1→ Fate Put Us Together For A Reason…

Once upon a time on a blue and green planet there lived, humans; a rebellious species, prone to both war and peace. Among these humans lived two very special people. Their names were Marco and Gina, and little did they know, that they’d become heroes of earth, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little.

Let’s begin with our heroine Gina; she went to the same high school as Marco, though she did not share the same social status. Gina was what you’d call an art nerd. She spent the majority of her days at Hill-Town High in the art room. She could paint, draw, sculpt, mold, fire, and shape anything into existence. She had what you’d call, a gift, for art itself. Gina also spent most of her days alone. She had just moved to Hill-Town from out of state; thus not knowing anyone, she lacked a social life. That and it really didn’t help the fact that she was one of the most timid young ladies known to man. She had a whisper of a voice, and bright blue eyes that often leaked tears down her pale soft face. She wore her long black hair down to cover up her gorgeous face, mainly due to being insecure about her looks. She often wore band t-shirts and jeggings or ripped jeans. The first person Gina met at Hill-Town High was our hero Marco.

“Oh my god I’m so sorry” Gina gasped accidently running right into Marco, the star quarterback for Hill-Town High. “Don’t sweat it ***, really it’s no problem, here let me help you pick up your books” Marco caringly replied. Still Gina insisted she could clean up this mess herself, trying very hard to avoid the blood pumping towards her cheekbones. Why was he so kind to me she asked herself? He could have simply brushed her off like light snowfall, but he didn’t. This puzzled Gina for at least a week; it mainly confused her because no one had ever offered to help her, especially a hansom young lad such as Marco Johnson, star quarterback. He kept waving to her in the halls, and grinned at her as if he was trying to avoid blushing as well just like the moment they met.

Time passed and neither Gina nor Marco had made a move, though it was getting to the point where they both knew **** good and well, that they liked each other. It was now spring and school was coming to a close, finals where lurking down the hallways and students began to get excited. Soon the last day came…

“Hey, your name’s Gina right?” oh, he’s talking to me Gina panicked inside unsure of what to say back. “Yeah, that’s me” she replied. “Well Ms. Gina I was kind of thinking, I know you like me…” oh ****! He knows, she thought. “and I was wondering if you knew, I like you too?” Marco began to do a little dance of flirtation. “And further more I was wondering if such a lady as yourself, would like to accompany me on this thing called a date lets say this Saturday night?” Marco finished cunningly. Gina froze, was Marco seriously asking her out, or was she being punked or something? “Um, ah, I mean yes, totally, I’d love to.” Gina replied. “Cool I’ll pick you up at let’s say seven tomorrow night then.” And with that Marco disappeared down the crowded hallway. Gina sighed, what the hell am I gonna wear she though, no, no what the hell am I gonna do? Gina had never been on a real actual date before. So her parents would for sure have something to say about a boy of all humans pulling up in their drive way and sweeping up their little girl.

Saturday at 7pm came and Marco marched his way up to Gina’s front door. Unfortunately her father answered. “Who are you” mumbled the tall lanky man who was Mr. Delaware. “I’m Marco, Gina’s date…” Marco replied nervously. “Oh well, step inside son, she should be down in a second, but you know how long girls take to get ready” chuckled Mr. Delaware. Once Marco stepped inside the mismatched old house, the awkward silence between the two began to grow. That is until Gina came running down the stairs…

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaad” she exclaimed, “Where the hell is my…” she paused seeing Marco at the bottom of the stairs…”Hairbrush” she finished. “well I think you look fine as is” said Marco in the sweetest voice possible. “haha, ok well there goes needing to brush up” laughed Gina.

Gina and Marco then said their goodbye to Mr. Delaware, and headed out the door and into Marco’s Old Chevy Silverotto. “So where to?” asked Marco. “How about that one drive-in theater off highway 91?” suggested Gina. “Nice idea ***. I’ve been wanting to go there for ages” replied Marco.

The two departed out of the Delaware’s driveway; it was roughly a half hour drive to get to the drive-in from Gina’s house. Marco put the radio on and they soon found out how big a music buff they both were. They began challenging each other back and forth to “name that tune”. Gina couldn’t stop grinning and neither could Marco, it seemed as if they were meant to be there, together.

Just when all seemed to be going as planned, Marco’s truck began to make a funny sound. He pulled over to check the engine, Gina followed. “I can’t figure out what the problem is, I just got this out of the shop like a week ago” exclaimed Marco, he was a little up in knots about his truck not working, especially while being on a date with a pretty girl.

Then out of nowhere both looked up, hearing a loud rumble headed their way. It was something like a meteor, but it wasn’t from what they could tell. They noticed it landed about a mile west of them. Once it landed and they heard the huge BOOM in the distance, Marco asked Gina if she’d like to go see whatever it was with him. Unsure but wanting to know herself, she said she’d go with.

They set off towards where they saw whatever it was land. Half way there both became a little tired, and without thinking they sat down below an old willow tree, and soon both fell into a deep sleep…

PART 2→ Waking Up In Another World…

“Hey, hey, Gina, wake up.” Marco started to shake Gina. “Hey” Gina said sleepily. “Um, Gina, I don’t think we’re in the same place we fell asleep in” said Marco. “What do you mean? We didn’t go any…” then Gina opened her eyes, noticing Marco was right, they weren’t in the same place. It was almost as if…no…they thought, it couldn’t be, another planet, that was completely not possible. But as legend has it, they were, they had somehow came upon a planet in the Andromeda galaxy, one galaxy over from ours. This planet had been undiscovered by human kind, and its name is Linx. Linx at first, looked as if it was deserted.

The two began to panic, unsure of their surroundings, knowing they couldn’t be on their own planet, and wondering why they had oxygen and how had they gotten to this place? They began to argue and fuss, scared of what could happen or what had already happened. Then they saw a figure, somewhat like their own walking towards them from the distance. They could tell he couldn’t be human, he had greenish-blue tinted skin and long purple hair. As he drew closer, they became more terrified.

“I’ve never seen anything like him” said Gina, “he looks nothing like an alien.” said Marco. Both shocked and somewhat in shock, they stared pale in the face.

“I’m so sorry, I thought, I mean, gosh, I’m awful sorry. You humans must be scared shitless right now.” Said the tall greenish-blue man coming up to them. Both looked at each other, wide eyed and seriously confused. How in the hell did he know their language?

“Look I can read your minds, and I swear I’m not here to probe your brains, or eat you, and I know your language because I’ve studied the human race for quite some time. My name is Zee, and you are on another planet. My spaceship crashed on earth when I was crossing the Milky Way galaxy and so I attempted to beam my way back here and somehow you two got caught in my beam.” Said Zee, he had a tone in his voice of apology and worry. He knew they were scared and very intimidated.

Marco, after hearing Zee’s explanation then proceeded to faint. Gina then stood up “ok so you’re telling me we got transported here by mistake? So does that mean you can get us back?” Gina began to boarder line yell at Zee. She went on for about ten minutes, that is until Zee interrupted her.

“Look, human” he said “I accidently got you here, and getting just me here, takes a ton of energy, energy humans can only dream of, and if you want to get back to your pretty little planet, I’d suggest you ask a little more kindly towards the one who can get you there. My kind would burn you alive if they knew there were humans on this planet, I however am willing to protect you from my own kind. Meaning I could die too. So pipe down and help your friend he seems to have passed out due to shock.”

Gina then humbled herself, finally grasping what Zee had said. She then attended to Marco, who was coming around finally. “So what you’re telling me, is we have a slight chance of going home?” Gina asked Zee. “Unfortunately a very slim chance” said Zee hesitantly…”see the leader of my planet, Linx, has disliked humans for a long time and well, he recently destroyed planet earth.” Zee said. This made both Gina and Marco puzzled for a second. How could it have been destroyed?

“What can we do then?” Asked Marco; “well our leader Zorix also has the power to turn back time, but convincing him to restore earth will be one hell of a battle, first we’ll need to seek you into the castle he lives in, next get you face to face with him, and lastly get him NOT to **** you” replied Zee.

“Well then, seeing as we got a lot of work to do, we better get a move on” Gina insisted. And at that the three brave friends set off towards Zorix’s castle.

PART 3→ What Happens Behind Castle Walls, Stays Behind Castle Walls…

The three hiked a good five miles to get to Zorix’s castle, once they got there, they had to figure out how they were going to manage getting two humans inside without getting caught.

“Well we could dress up like you Zee” suggested Marco. “No, they will see right through it, but nice idea” replied Zee. He was convinced there’d be no way to get them inside without getting caught, that is until Zee had a brilliant idea.

“I could make it look like you are my prisoners, and somehow get you close to Zorix” Zee brightly stated. They all agreed that it was the best idea they had.

At this, Zee lead Gina and Marco inside the castle. It was a dimly lit, cold, wet place. A place where, without a doubt, humans went to die. The whole hallway just screamed death and destruction. Little did Gina and Marco know, Zee had been keeping something from them; He was Zorix’s son.

When they got to the grand room, a room with ginormous ceilings and no windows, just lanterns and chandeliers, the first thing that caught their eyes, was the tall, slim figure that was Zorix. He, like Zee had blueish-green skin but instead of having purple hair like Zee he had bright orange hair, almost as if it was glowing neon.

“Son” said Zorix in a cheerful and loving voice. Son? Gina and Marco looked at each other in confusion, unsure of their future now.

“Hey dad” replied Zee in a much less cheerful tone. “What is this unannounced greeting my son?” Zorix said cunningly.

“I’ve brought these humans, their names are Gina and Marco. I accidently beemed them here by mistake when crossing the Milky Way galaxy. I take full responsibility for them, they have become my friends and I’m here on their behalf.” Zee took a sigh of sorrow, he knew his father would be disgraced.

“So you’re siding with these pesky humans over our supreme race? Is that what I’m hearing” roared Zorix.

Zee hung his head, looking at the marble flooring, and mumbled “Yes father”

“Well maybe you’d like to join them in their fate” said Zorix, as if he was unsure if he was ready to **** his own son, because of what he believed. His voice at first was confident but near the end began to shake.

“Actually I’d like to challenge your army to a duel, if we win, you use your strength to reverse the destroy of their planet, Earth. If we lose…” Zee almost choked on his next words…”Then you can do what you will with us” he finished.

PART 4→ Duel or Die…
This is the beginning of my half *** short story. Its getting longer and longer, but not enough to become a book. So I guess its a long short story. Please comment, and let me know if there's anything I can do to make this better (BTW this is a rough draft) Thankx, Bex
Mike Hauser Mar 2013
Over a cup of morning java
Scanning my daily mail
I came upon an advertisement sheet
That exclaimed in BOLD rainbow pastel

Grand opening of a store that has everything
On the corner of Daisy and William Tell
The one thing I saw that interested me
Is they were having a back to "60's"  Hippie sale

Of course I stopped what it was I was doing
Hopped in my Lexus and left right away
The excitement had my heart all in a flutter
This I guarantee is going to be a good day

They weren't kidding when they said they sold it all
I'd been wandering the store for quite a while
That's when I came to what it was I had come here for
Before me in trippy little colors, the hippie aisle

So I bought me a couple colorful hippies
With my 25% coupon I was able to save
The Hippies even  came with a bonus
Fresh cut flowers and Jefferson Airplane tapes

When I got home I showed them to their room
Black light posters and colored beads hung from the door
As luck would have it I bought an Indian hemp rug
From Pier One just the day before

They taught me transcendental meditation
While I taught them both how to bathe
Their lessons broadened the mind
My lessons the nostrils saved

I soon had a groovy little hippie pad
In which organic vegetables and enlightenment grew
We'd sit around crossed legged in a  purple haze at night
Playing psychedelic tunes on our Kazoo's
And I was pretty good too! Who Knew!

Yes, a house of happy hippies
Is a happy hippie house indeed
Especially when Wendy Crystal Sky...Yes, that's her name*
Brews her famous dandelion tea

I highly recommend the purchase of hippies
I couldn't be any happier with mine
Sure beats the punk rockers I got on close out last year
*But that my friend is another tale for another time...
I hear them calling, she said.

with her open mouth she joined the screaming crowd in her mind.
she wasn't alone now.

I can see them reaching out, she cried!

everyone appeared to be seeking her bursting mind.
she felt it all so deeply,
she was an ocean, flooding over everyone with her pain

they all wonder with danger seeping from their shut eyes.
she devoured them, with every closed lid,
with her broken mind
she pulled out her heart, to be alone
she stopped breathing.

how express, they whispered.
oh, she suffered beautifully they exclaimed.
how admirable.

it was easy for them to go about their day.

*easy.
LexiSully Jan 2016
She strolled down a winding pathway, admiring the brightly colored roses, listening to the loud chirping of the birds

As she walked,she hummed a tune of joy and followed the path marking on a map, just to reassure herself that she was heading in the right direction

Around a turn o the left she went, then back to the right, as her pace sped with every step

But then the beautiful path that she'd been following for so long fell into a babbling creek, only to continue on the other side

Had she, excited for her long journey, mistaked this path with the one she wished to take?

"No," she decided, for she checked the path a million times before beginning, and she was positive she had journeyed on the correct one

Should she give up on her journey, only to turn around and go home?

"No," she told herself, for how could she live with herself of she gave up on her dream?

But how will she, small and dainty, cross the sputtering creek that lays before her?

She gazed at the creek in front of her, considering walking alongside it until she reached a spot where she could walk across

"No," she determined, for there was no way of knowing whether there'd be a break in the flood of water, and even if there was, she'd be lost in the forest, continuously searching for the path

She glanced from left to right, searching for something to aid her in crossing the creek

To the left of the path, she noticed flat stones, the exact size of her foot

"Yes!' she exclaimed, as she sets them in the creek and skipped across them

She was back on her way, strolling down the pathway, headed towards her dreams.
Shaurya Pal Jan 2014
As I scarpered away, I could hear the voices,
echoing through the steel walls.
The cries, the vociferations, catching up to me,
couldn't fathom the escape, with a plan full of flaws.

Turning left, bending right,
running in circles, an endless plight.
The drug they induced,
pumping through my veins,
blocking my vision, severing the mains.
Don't know for how long,
I can put up this fight.

The sentinels advanced,
as fast and agile as they ever could be.
The alarm had rung more than once,
red lights poured all over the scene.

Needle in hand, dipped in ataractic,
who were they fooling, with that mild sedative?
I raced with every semblance of life I had,
couldn't survive this hell-hole.
Another day here would've driven me mad.

As the unexpected turn came,
I banged the door with the unknown name.
Fell face first, the momentum it carried me,
Scraped through the floor, stomach felt queasy.
Warm liquid oozed out of my nose,
dripping tardily as I rose,
the environment all but blurry.


Insanity Prevailed


As I blacked out,
I recalled how I came to be,
this house of horrors, delivered to me.
'Magnolia', home of the mentally challenged,
avowed 'care for the community'.

The head-shrink had advised,
you be safe, a feeling I imbibed.
A wry smile and that was it,
'Magnolia' She exclaimed,' would deem you fit.'

Believing in every word of hers,
I opened the door, welcomed
by the smell of fresh carcass,
the shabby floor with spots of dirt,
and people, oh lord the great unwashed,
like walking zombies, feelings inert.
They looked at me, some smiled and some laughed,
others cried, rest merely coughed.
So this is it, the house of the harebrained,
this was going to be my life,
Living among the insane.

I harbored no ill will,
But I couldn't absolve,
this feeling, inside me,
no friends no family, nothing normal.
Lasting with the un-dead,
my new destiny.

They filed me,
Gave a number, names were difficult to process,
66 it was, perfect, contributed  distress.
Admitted to my room, solitary for the neophyte,
'Morning' they said,' begins a new life.'

With a wicked smile they left me alone,
I was meek enough to cry, stiff enough to moan.
I wailed the whole night, the walls resonated,
the shrill of metal, the demons it encouraged.
The lights polished off, staring at the darkness,
all the monsters , the behemoth, dancing around me,
an invitation to their everlasting music.


Insanity Persisted


A specter bobbed up from the tiled floor,
gazed at me and pointed to the door.
'Rise, Awaken, my soul',
and the door opened with a loud crack,
'You must hurry, the guards will be back'.
I sat bolt upright, the apparition never lied.

Nose still bleeding, I took flight with haste,
looked back, they had dropped the chase.
It felt safe after a long time,
The world must know, of their wicked little crime.
They had to be stopped, the Doctor, the Nurse,
all of which were part of the crust,
which protected the whacko who experimented on us.

End of the hall, I noticed the Blue door,
It had to be the one, which will take me off-shore.
Head still paining, the doses that drained,
the vigor and strength, I couldn't sustain.
One last time, I had to draft
my will my power, from within.
To conjure up all my might,
before the shadows cave in.

As I drew nearer, towards the blue threshold.
I knew there was no looking back,  
nothing left to unfold.
I slowed down, one step at a time,
I could taste freedom, a taste so sublime.
My hand reached the door,
and gently turned the ****,
I pushed open the exit
and stared at the waiting mob.

Before I could assimilate,
with my failure and disappointment.
Someone jabbed a needle,
covering my mouth, crackling my vent.
Pushing me again, down the memory lane.


Insanity Pursued


The days were bad,
the nights equally worse.
A thin line existed between illusion and insanity,
indistinguishable they became, virtual and reality.
One could hear screams, begging for mercy,
Which the henchmen showed no sign of,
and continued to treat the already cured.

Those who betrayed, yearning exemption,
were treated with immense brutality.
Straightjackets, shackles and all sorts of gear,
were enough to put a man in psychotic fear.
The staff comprised barbarians and sadists.
Who lacked the basic sense of morality.

Shock therapy, voltage to its max,
bound and gagged, glued to the sacks.
The jolt of the lightning hitting them hard,
enough to churn up the flesh into lard.
They drugged the sufferer, the dupe would tranquil,
the fallout was horrible, it would make them frenzied.

For those beyond cure,
who lived for mere existence,
earned their own private, privileged experiment.
A special space, a hidden chamber,
well beyond, beneath the ground.
Defecated walls, layered flesh and blood,
****** fluids scattered,
in abundance, constituting a flood.
Human torture, vicious and cruel.

In a place so dark even the demons would fear,
how could I survive? This life to me was dear.
And the patients, the patients wouldn't help,
for them it was a game, live a day, reward for the next.
Some were quiet, lost in their own world,
speaking, whispering and talking to themselves.
Some looked sane, but stuck in paranoia,
for them the universe could any day cease to exist,
pertaining to their biggest phobia.
some were smart, they indulged in theories,
the real world mattered less to them.
And then there were the trigger-happy.
The truly maddened ones, violent with rage.
Every day was a battle, they fought within the cage.
They couldn't help me, for I wasn't crazy,
Just your usual guy, a victim of fate.

Magnolia was a place, where people ****** away their souls,
I wasn't ready to sell mine.
I had to escape, make an elaborate design.
There were no doctors at night, just the cruel handy-men,
had all the time in the world to formulate a plan,
question was, to execute when?

One night the attendant came,
wearing  a strange jumpsuit,
pen in breast-pocket,
woke me up and proclaimed, 'Get up you imbecile,
it's your turn in the lab today.
Stand up now, I ain't got all day!'
'HAH! You could try young man, to put me down,
but I ain't going to your lousy town'.
To this he smacked at my retort,
and laughed with a disgusting little snort.
'One more time you test my good nature,
and I swear to God I'll ruin your caricature.'
'Go ahead then give it your best shot,
You want me dead, do you not?'.
His laughter, this time, deafened the silence all around.
'You're dead fool! If it were up to me I'd skin you flesh and bone,
The amount of ruckus you create, the annoyance you hone,
But the good doctor has plans and once he's done with you..'
His unfinished sentence struck a nerve so strong,
my eyes rolled over,
what could possibly go wrong?

So the man with the strange jumpsuit,
dragged me all the way to the office.
The dimly lit room, ornamented a large crucifix.
Dear lord, you see how they mock?
Came back the degenerate with a big round lock.
'Oh yes, this is for you my friend,
chains aren't enough, straightjacket I will get.
Sit still you half-wit, else you'd regret'.
And I smiled and waited.
He returned as promised, with the piece of vestiary,
a twisted sense of humor, whoever built this monstrosity.

He stared where I looked, into his breast pocket.
'What's missing pal?' I asked in amusement.
He stopped everything and looked around.
With a motion so fast, it could only fly by,
gripping the pen, I poked him in the eye.
Ink exuded instead of blood,
the large man fell, loud with a thud.
The immense pain had him in shock,
now was the time for me to run amok.
But I kept focus, and ran for the door,
promised myself never to look back anymore.
Eloped with the only chance I foxed.


Insanity Reigned


The source of light was so strong,
I twitched a lot, just to see what's going on.
Caged in a room, no wait, a theatre!
****! I was so close to getting out.
The staff, I assume, were prepared all along.
Hatched a sinister plot, to show where I belong.
They had me now, tied to a work bench,
metal clasps around my wrist,
belted to the maximum limit.
For some odd reason they had me gagged,
the tape tasted foul, hygiene they lacked.
I wrestled my wrists with the wrought metal clamp.
But they were tight, wouldn't budge,
getting them off needed more than a nudge.

Alas the doctor came, with a frown upon his face,
With great ruefulness, he peeled off the tape.
'You caused us a great deal of trouble today.
None of our methods have impacted on you, what do you have to say?'
'Serves you right, you junk-less freak!' I was happy he was disappointed,
'That's not a very nice thing to say' responded the doctor, almost agitated.

He picked up an instrument,
a big long nail, the pointed end was so sharp,
I could feel it piercing through my brain.
Next he lifted a mallet,
which shone so bright it reflected upon my face.
To what devilish purpose could they serve?
The doctor took his time, and allowed me to observe.
He wore his mask, the mask of a surgeon,
at this time of the night? Surely he wasn't
planning to operate on me.
'Leave me alone, what are you doing?
Surely you know I'm not to be blamed, I don't belong here.
This is insane!'
'Wrong again 66, the society would never accept you.
You killed your wife and children, ******'s on you.'
It was at this moment the specter re-appeared, right behind the doctor.
Calling me, my name,
'They're all lying, you didn't **** anyone, they're framing you.'
'LIAR!' I spat at the doctor, 'You know she's is alive and waiting for me at the doorstep,
As always' I said.
'Yes she is waiting, but only at her death bed.'
'LIAR! You know my kids are sleeping peacefully at home!'
'Yes they are, but the sleep is eternal.'
'LIES! I can't **** a person,not even a fly!'
'And yet you poked my assistant right in the eye!'

The specter now appeared closer,
in a calming tone almost a whisper,
'Do not believe a word they said.
You're not a killer, just a victim of fate.'
Exactly, that's precisely what I meant.

With all the strength my voice box could muster,
I cried so hard the doctors ears could rupture.
' LIES! LIES! ALL LIES! You won't get away with this, the truth will come out.
Why would I ever **** them for crying out loud?'

'You're right, the truth shall come out, but not in this form, not from you.
66 has to die, a fact you always knew.'

No one dies today

'Hold him still.' The good doctor ordered.
A pair of hands inclined my head south,
Another pair, taped away my mouth.
I could hear music, a soft hum.
It had calmed me down ,that bass drum.
It kept beating at regular intervals.
The specter now, beside me,
placing her hand on my shoulders.
I looked up towards the sky, a light bulb
glowed right above my nose.
The doctor raised the nail,
a dot replaced the light source.
As the blot grew in size,
the light dimmed, luminance was minimized.
The music almost placid,
it made me smile, a smile so gentle.
The doctor enounced,
'This will only hurt a little.'
And as he struck, the spirit vanished,
the music stopped.


Insanity Triumphed
Part 2 of The 'Karma' trilogy
RAJ NANDY Nov 2015
GREAT ARTISTS & THEIR IMMORTAL WORKS :
CONCLUDING ITALIAN RENAISSANCE IN
VERSE.  -  By Raj Nandy, New Delhi.

Dear Readers, continuing my Story of Western Art in Verse chronologically, I had covered an Introduction to the Italian Renaissance previously. That background story was necessary to appreciate Renaissance Art fully. Now, I cover the Art of that period in a summarized form, mentioning mainly the salient features to curb the length. The cream here lies in the 'Art of the High Renaissance Period'! Hope you like it. Thanks, - Raj.

                          INTRODUCTION
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, &
  Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
                                                        – Leonardo Da Vinci
In the domain of Renaissance Art, we notice the
enduring influence of the Classical touch!
Ancient Greek statues and Roman architectures,
Inspired the Renaissance artists in their innovative
ventures!
The pervasive spirit of Humanism influenced
creation of life-like human forms;
Adding ****** expressions and depth, deviating
from the earlier stiff Medieval norms.
While religious subjects continued to get depicted
in three-dimensional Renaissance Art;
Portraits, **** figures, and secular subjects, also
began to appear during this great ‘Re-birth’!
The artists of the Early and High Renaissance Era
are many who deserve our adoration and artistic
due.
Yet for the sake of brevity, I mention only the
Great Masters, who are handful and few.

EARLY RENAISSANCE ARTISTS & THEIR ART

GITTO THE PIONEER:
During early 13th Century we find, Dante’s
contemporary Gitto di Bondone the Florentine,
Painting human figures in all its beauty and form
for the first time!
His masterwork being the 40 fresco cycle in the
Arena Chapel in Padua, depicting the life of the
****** and Christ, completed in 1305.
Giotto made the symbolic Medieval spiritual art
appear more natural and realistic,
By depicting human emotion, depth with an
artistic perspective!
Art Scholars consider him to be the trailblazer
inspiring the later painters of the Renaissance;
They also refer to Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives Of
The Eminent Artists,” - as their main source.
Giotto had dared to break the shackles of earlier
Medieval two-dimensional art style,
By drawing lines which head towards a certain
focal point behind;
Like an illusionary vanishing point in space,
- opening up a 3-D ‘window into space’!
This ‘window technique’ got adopted by the
later artists with grace.
(
Giorgio Vasari, a 16th Century painter, architect & Art
historian, was born in 1511 in Arezzy, a city under the
Florentine Republic, and painted during the High
Renaissance Period.)

VASARI’s book published in 1550 in Florence
was dedicated to Cosimo de Medici.
Forms an important document of Italian Art
History.
This valuable book covers a 250 year’s span.
Commencing with Cimabue the tutor of Giotto,
right up to Tizian, - better known as Titan!
Vasari also mentions four lesser known Female
Renaissance Artists; Sister Plantilla, Madonna
Lucrezia, Sofonista Anguissola, and Properzia
de Rossi;
And Rossi’s painting “Joseph and Potiphar’s
Wife”,
An impressive panel art which parallels the
unrequited love Rossi experienced in her own
life !
(
Joseph the elder son of Jacob, taken captive by Potiphar
the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard, was desired by Potiphar’s
wife, whose advances Joseph repulsed. Rossi’s painting
of 1520s inspired later artists to paint their own versions
of this same Old Testament Story.)

Next I briefly mention architects Brunelleschi
and Ghiberti, and the sculptor Donatello;
Not forgetting the painters like Masaccio,
Verrocchio and Botticelli;
Those Early Renaissance Artists are known to
us today thanks to the Art historian Giorgio
Vasari .

BRUNELLESCHI has been mentioned in Section
One of my Renaissance Story.
His 114 meter high dome of Florence Cathedral
created artistic history!
This dome was constructed without supporting
buttresses with a double egg shaped structure;
Stands out as an unique feat of Florentine
Architecture!
The dome is larger than St Paul’s in London,
the Capitol Building of Washington DC, and
also the St Peters in the Vatican City!

GILBERTI is remembered for his massive
15 feet high gilded bronze doors for the
Baptistery of Florence,
Containing twenty carved panels with themes
from the Old Testament.
Which took a quarter century to complete,
working at his own convenience.
His exquisite naturalistic carved figures in the
true spirit of the Renaissance won him a prize;
And his gilded doors were renamed by Michel
Angelo as ‘The Gates of Paradise’!
(
At the age of 23 yrs Lorenzo Ghiberti had won the
competition beating other Architects for craving the
doors of the Baptistery of Florence!)

DONATELLO’S full size bronze David was
commissioned by its patron Cosimo de’ Medici.
With its sensual contrapposto stance in the
classical Greek style with its torso bent slightly.
Is known as the first free standing **** statue
since the days of Classical Art history!
The Old Testament relates the story of David
the shepherd boy, who killed the giant Goliath
with a single sling shot;
Cutting off his head with Goliath’s own sword!
Thus saving the Israelites from Philistine’s wrath.
This unique statue inspired all later sculptors to
strive for similar artistic excellence;
Culminating in Michael Angelo’s **** statue of
David, known for its sculptured brilliance!

MASSACCIO (1401- 1428) joined Florentine
Artist’s Guild at the age of 21 years.
A talented artist who abandoned the old Gothic
Style, experimenting without fears!
Influenced by Giotto, he mastered the use of
perspective in art.
Introduced the vanishing point and the horizon
line, - while planning his artistic works.
In his paintings ‘The Expulsion from Eden’
and ‘The Temptation’,
He introduced the initial **** figures in Italian
Art without any inhibition!
Though up North in Flanders, Van Eyck the
painter had already made an artistic innovation,
By painting ‘Adam and Eve’ displaying their
****** in his artistic creation;
Thereby creating the first **** painting in Art
History!
But such figures greatly annoyed the Church,
Since nudes formed a part of pagan art!
So these Northern artists to pacify the Church
and pass its censorship,
Cleverly under a fig leaf cover made their art to
appear moralistic!
Van Eyck was also the innovator of oil-based paints,
Which later replaced the Medieval tempera, used to
paint angles and saints.

Masaccio’s fresco ‘The Tribute Money’ requires
here a special mention,
For his use of perspective with light and shade,
Where the blithe figure of the Roman tax collector
is artistically made.
Christ is painted with stern nobility, Peter in angry
majesty;
And every Apostle with individualized features,
attire, and pose;
With light coming from a single identifiable source!
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and unto God things that are God’s”, said Christ;
Narrated in Mathew chapter 22 verse 21, which
cannot be denied.
Unfortunately, Masaccio died at an early age of
27 years.
Said to have been killed by a jealous rival artist,
who had shed no tears!

BOTTICELLI the Florentine was born half a
century after the Dutch Van Eyck;
Remembered even to this day for his painting
the ‘Birth of Venus’, an icon of Art History
making him famous.
This painting depicts goddess Venus rising out
of the sea on a conch shell,
And the glorious path of female **** painting
commenced in Italy, - casting a spell!
His full scale **** Venus shattered the Medieval
taboo on ******.
With a subject shift from religious art to Classical
Mythology;
Removing the ‘fig-leaf cover’ over Art permanently!

I end this Early Period with VERROCCHIO, born
in Florence in fourteen hundred and thirty five.
A trained goldsmith proficient in the skills of both
painting and sculpture;
Who under the patronage of the Medici family
had thrived.
He had set up his workshop in Florence were he
trained Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, and other
famous Renaissance artists alike!

FOUR CANONICAL PAINTING MODES OF
THE RENAISSANCE:
During the Renaissance the four canonical painting
modes we get to see;
Are Chiaroscuro, Sfumato, Cangiante and Unione.
‘Chiaroscuro’ comes from an Italian word meaning
‘light and dark’, a painting technique of Leonardo,
Creating a three dimensional dramatic effect to
steal the show.
Later also used with great excellence by Rubens
and the Dutch Rembrandt as we know.
‘Sfumato’ from Italian ‘sfumare’, meaning to tone
down or evaporate like a smoke;
As seen in Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’ where the
colors blend seamlessly like smoke!
‘Cangiante’ means to ‘change’, where a painter
changed to a lighter or a darker hue, when the
original hue could not be made light enough;
As seen in the transformation from green to
yellow in Prophet Daniel’s robe,
On the ceiling of Sistine Chapel in Rome.
‘Unione’ followed the ‘sfumato’ quality, but
maintained vibrant colors as we get to see;
In Raphael’s ‘Alba Madonna’ in Washington’s
National Gallery.

ART OF HIGH RENAISSANCE ERA - THE
GOLDEN AGE.

“Where the spirit does not work with the
hand there is no art.”- Leonardo

With Giotto during the Trecento period of the
14th century,
Painting dominated sculpture in the artistic
endeavor of Italy.
During the 15th century the Quattrocento, with
Donetello and Giberti,
Sculpture certainly dominated painting as we get to
see!
But during the 16th century or the Cinquecento,
Painting again took the lead commencing with
the great Leonardo!
This Era was cut short by the death of Lorenzo the
Magnificent to less than half a century; (Died in 1493)
But gifted great masterpieces to the world enriching
the world of Art tremendously!
The Medieval ‘halo’ was now replaced by a fresh
naturalness;
And both Madonna and Christ acquired a more
human likeness!
Portrait paintings began to be commissioned by
many rich patrons.
While artists acquired both recognition and a status
of their own.
But the artistic focus during this Era had shifted from
Florence,  - to Venice and Rome!
In the Vatican City, Pope Julius-II was followed by
Pope Leo the Tenth,
He commissioned many works of art which are
still cherished and maintained!
Now cutting short my story let me mention the
famous Italian Renaissance Superstar Trio;
Leonardo, Raphael, and Michael Angelo.

LEONARDO DA VINCI was born in 1452 in
the village of Vinci near the City of Florence,
Was deprived of a formal education being born
illegitimate!
He was left-handed, and wrote from right to left!
He soon excelled his teacher Varrocchio, by
introduced oil based paints into Italy;
Whose translucent colors with his innovative
techniques, enhanced his painting artistically.
Sigmund Freud had said, “Leonardo was like a
man who awoke too early in the darkness while
others were all still asleep,” - he was awake!
Leonardo’s  historic ‘Note Book’ has sketches of a
battle tank, a flying machine, a parachute, and many
other anatomical and technical sketches and designs;
Reflecting the ever probing mind of this versatile
genius who was far ahead of his time!
His ‘Vituvian Man’, ‘The Last Supper’, and ‘Mona Lisa’,
Remain as his enduring works of art and more popular
than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
Pen and ink sketch of the ‘Vitruvian Man’ with arms
and leg apart inside a square and a circle, also known
as the ‘Proportion of Man’;
Where his height correspondence to the length
of his outstretched hands;
Became symbolic of the true Renaissance spirit
of Man.
‘The Last Supper’ a 15ft by 29ft fresco work on
the refectory wall of Santa Maria, commissioned
by Duke of Milan Ludovic,
Is the most reproduced religious painting which
took three years to complete!
Leonardo searched the streets of Milan before
painting Judas’ face;
And individualized each figure with competence!
‘Mona Lisa’ with her enigmatic smile continues
to inspire artists, poets, and her viewers alike,
since its creation;
Which Leonardo took four years to complete
with utmost devotion.
Leonardo used oil on poplar wood panel, unique
during those days,
With ‘sfumato’ blending of translucent colors with
light and shade;
Creating depth, volume, and form, with a timeless
expression on Mona Lisa’s countenance!
Art Historian George Varasi says that it is the face
of one Lisa Gherardini,
Wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant of Italy.
Insurance Companies failed to make any estimation
of this portrait, declaring its value as priceless!
Today it remains housed inside an air-conditioned,
de-humidified chamber, within a triple bullet-proof
glass, in Louvre France.
“It is the ultimate symbol of human civilization”,
- exclaimed President Kennedy;
And with this I pay my humble tribute to our
Leonardo da Vinci!

MICHEL ANGELO BUONARROTI (1475-1564):
This Tuscan born sculptor, painter, architect, and
poet, was a versatile man,
Worthy to be called the archetype of the true
‘Renaissance Man’!
At the age of twelve was placed under the famous
painter Ghirlandio,
Where his inclination for sculpting began to show.
Under the liberal patronage of Lorenzo de Medici,
He developed his talent as a sculptor as we get
to see.
In the Medici Palace, he was struck by his rival
Torregiano on the nose with a mallet;
Disfiguring permanently his handsome face!
His statue of ‘Bacchus’ of 1497 and the very
beauty of the figure,
Earned him the commission for the ‘PIETA’ in
St Peter’s Basilica;
Where from a single piece of Carrara marble he
carved out the figure of ****** Mary grieving
over the dead body of Christ;
This iconic piece of sculpture which along with
his ‘David’ earned him the ‘Superstar rights’!

Michel Angelo’s **** ‘DAVID’ weighed 6.4 tons
and stood 17 feet in height;
Unlike the bronze David of Donatello, which
shows him victorious after the fight!
Michel’s David an epitome of strength and
youthful vigour with a Classical Greek touch;
Displayed an uncircumcised ***** which had
shocked the viewers very much!
But it was consistent with the Mannerism in Art,
in keeping with the Renaissance spirit as such!
David displays an attitude of placid calm with
his knitted eyebrows and sidelong glance;
With his left hand over the left shoulder
holding a sling,
Coolly surveys the giant Goliath before his
single sling shot fatally stings!
This iconic sculpture has a timeless appeal even
after 500 years, depicting the ‘Renaissance Man’
at his best;
Vigorous, healthy, beautiful, rational and fully
competent!
Finally we come to the Ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel of Rome,
Where Pope Julius-II’s persistence resulted in the
creation of world’s greatest single fresco that was
ever known!
Covering some 5000 square feet, took five years
to complete.
Special scaffoldings had to be erected for painting
scenes from ‘The Creation’ till the ‘Day of Judgment’
on a 20 meter’s high ceiling;
Where the Central portion had nine scenes from
the ‘Book of Genesis’,
With ‘Creation of Adam’ having an iconic significance!
Like Leonardo, Michel Angelo was left-handed and died
a bachelor - pursuing his art with devotion;
A man with caustic wit, proud reserve, and sublimity
of imagination!

RAFFAELLO SANZIO (1483-1520):
This last of the famous High Renaissance trio was
born in 1483 in Urbino,
Some eight years after Michel Angelo.
His Madonna series and decorative frescos
glorified the Library of Pope Julius the Second;
Who was impressed by his fresco ‘The School
of Athens’;
And commissioned Raphael to decorate his
Study in the Vatican.
Raphael painted this large fresco between 1510
and 1511, initially named as the ‘Knowledge of
Causes’,
But the 17th century guide books referred to it
as ‘The School of Athens’.
Here Plato and Aristotle are the central figures
surrounded by a host of ancient Greek scholars
and philosophers.
The bare footed Plato is seen pointing skywards,
In his left hand holds his book ‘Timaeus’;
His upward hand gesture indicating his ‘World
of Forms’ and transcendental ideas!
Aristotle is seen pointing downwards, his left
hand holds his famous book the ‘Ethics’;
His blue dress symbolizes water and earth
with an earthly fix.
The painting illustrates the historic continuance
of Platonic thoughts,
In keeping with the spirit of the Renaissance!
Raphael’s last masterpiece ‘Transfiguration’
depicts the resurrected Christ,
Flanked by prophets
Sam Oliver Jul 2010
Hums of swinging blades and axes,
Wailing of voices,
Ricochets of guns.
Secrets whispered in private,
Declamation exclaimed in public,
Hymns sung,
Words spoken.
People are the weapon.
We must not doubt ourselves.
All conflict,
No matter the position,
Comes from a common source.
People are the weapons.
All else, extensions-
Of the arm,
Of the leg,
Of the mind,
Of the heart;
All extensions of the person.
By extension,
A person is an extension
Of the people.
Let the power of the individual
Never lie unknown,
For in one person
Is the concentrated power
Of everyone.
O Sovereign power of love! O grief! O balm!
All records, saving thine, come cool, and calm,
And shadowy, through the mist of passed years:
For others, good or bad, hatred and tears
Have become indolent; but touching thine,
One sigh doth echo, one poor sob doth pine,
One kiss brings honey-dew from buried days.
The woes of Troy, towers smothering o'er their blaze,
Stiff-holden shields, far-piercing spears, keen blades,
Struggling, and blood, and shrieks--all dimly fades
Into some backward corner of the brain;
Yet, in our very souls, we feel amain
The close of Troilus and Cressid sweet.
Hence, pageant history! hence, gilded cheat!
Swart planet in the universe of deeds!
Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds
Along the pebbled shore of memory!
Many old rotten-timber'd boats there be
Upon thy vaporous *****, magnified
To goodly vessels; many a sail of pride,
And golden keel'd, is left unlaunch'd and dry.
But wherefore this? What care, though owl did fly
About the great Athenian admiral's mast?
What care, though striding Alexander past
The Indus with his Macedonian numbers?
Though old Ulysses tortured from his slumbers
The glutted Cyclops, what care?--Juliet leaning
Amid her window-flowers,--sighing,--weaning
Tenderly her fancy from its maiden snow,
Doth more avail than these: the silver flow
Of Hero's tears, the swoon of Imogen,
Fair Pastorella in the bandit's den,
Are things to brood on with more ardency
Than the death-day of empires. Fearfully
Must such conviction come upon his head,
Who, thus far, discontent, has dared to tread,
Without one muse's smile, or kind behest,
The path of love and poesy. But rest,
In chaffing restlessness, is yet more drear
Than to be crush'd, in striving to uprear
Love's standard on the battlements of song.
So once more days and nights aid me along,
Like legion'd soldiers.

                        Brain-sick shepherd-prince,
What promise hast thou faithful guarded since
The day of sacrifice? Or, have new sorrows
Come with the constant dawn upon thy morrows?
Alas! 'tis his old grief. For many days,
Has he been wandering in uncertain ways:
Through wilderness, and woods of mossed oaks;
Counting his woe-worn minutes, by the strokes
Of the lone woodcutter; and listening still,
Hour after hour, to each lush-leav'd rill.
Now he is sitting by a shady spring,
And elbow-deep with feverous *******
Stems the upbursting cold: a wild rose tree
Pavilions him in bloom, and he doth see
A bud which snares his fancy: lo! but now
He plucks it, dips its stalk in the water: how!
It swells, it buds, it flowers beneath his sight;
And, in the middle, there is softly pight
A golden butterfly; upon whose wings
There must be surely character'd strange things,
For with wide eye he wonders, and smiles oft.

  Lightly this little herald flew aloft,
Follow'd by glad Endymion's clasped hands:
Onward it flies. From languor's sullen bands
His limbs are loos'd, and eager, on he hies
Dazzled to trace it in the sunny skies.
It seem'd he flew, the way so easy was;
And like a new-born spirit did he pass
Through the green evening quiet in the sun,
O'er many a heath, through many a woodland dun,
Through buried paths, where sleepy twilight dreams
The summer time away. One track unseams
A wooded cleft, and, far away, the blue
Of ocean fades upon him; then, anew,
He sinks adown a solitary glen,
Where there was never sound of mortal men,
Saving, perhaps, some snow-light cadences
Melting to silence, when upon the breeze
Some holy bark let forth an anthem sweet,
To cheer itself to Delphi. Still his feet
Went swift beneath the merry-winged guide,
Until it reached a splashing fountain's side
That, near a cavern's mouth, for ever pour'd
Unto the temperate air: then high it soar'd,
And, downward, suddenly began to dip,
As if, athirst with so much toil, 'twould sip
The crystal spout-head: so it did, with touch
Most delicate, as though afraid to smutch
Even with mealy gold the waters clear.
But, at that very touch, to disappear
So fairy-quick, was strange! Bewildered,
Endymion sought around, and shook each bed
Of covert flowers in vain; and then he flung
Himself along the grass. What gentle tongue,
What whisperer disturb'd his gloomy rest?
It was a nymph uprisen to the breast
In the fountain's pebbly margin, and she stood
'**** lilies, like the youngest of the brood.
To him her dripping hand she softly kist,
And anxiously began to plait and twist
Her ringlets round her fingers, saying: "Youth!
Too long, alas, hast thou starv'd on the ruth,
The bitterness of love: too long indeed,
Seeing thou art so gentle. Could I ****
Thy soul of care, by heavens, I would offer
All the bright riches of my crystal coffer
To Amphitrite; all my clear-eyed fish,
Golden, or rainbow-sided, or purplish,
Vermilion-tail'd, or finn'd with silvery gauze;
Yea, or my veined pebble-floor, that draws
A ****** light to the deep; my grotto-sands
Tawny and gold, ooz'd slowly from far lands
By my diligent springs; my level lilies, shells,
My charming rod, my potent river spells;
Yes, every thing, even to the pearly cup
Meander gave me,--for I bubbled up
To fainting creatures in a desert wild.
But woe is me, I am but as a child
To gladden thee; and all I dare to say,
Is, that I pity thee; that on this day
I've been thy guide; that thou must wander far
In other regions, past the scanty bar
To mortal steps, before thou cans't be ta'en
From every wasting sigh, from every pain,
Into the gentle ***** of thy love.
Why it is thus, one knows in heaven above:
But, a poor Naiad, I guess not. Farewel!
I have a ditty for my hollow cell."

  Hereat, she vanished from Endymion's gaze,
Who brooded o'er the water in amaze:
The dashing fount pour'd on, and where its pool
Lay, half asleep, in grass and rushes cool,
Quick waterflies and gnats were sporting still,
And fish were dimpling, as if good nor ill
Had fallen out that hour. The wanderer,
Holding his forehead, to keep off the burr
Of smothering fancies, patiently sat down;
And, while beneath the evening's sleepy frown
Glow-worms began to trim their starry lamps,
Thus breath'd he to himself: "Whoso encamps
To take a fancied city of delight,
O what a wretch is he! and when 'tis his,
After long toil and travelling, to miss
The kernel of his hopes, how more than vile:
Yet, for him there's refreshment even in toil;
Another city doth he set about,
Free from the smallest pebble-bead of doubt
That he will seize on trickling honey-combs:
Alas, he finds them dry; and then he foams,
And onward to another city speeds.
But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination's struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are sill the air, the subtle food,
To make us feel existence, and to shew
How quiet death is. Where soil is men grow,
Whether to weeds or flowers; but for me,
There is no depth to strike in: I can see
Nought earthly worth my compassing; so stand
Upon a misty, jutting head of land--
Alone? No, no; and by the Orphean lute,
When mad Eurydice is listening to 't;
I'd rather stand upon this misty peak,
With not a thing to sigh for, or to seek,
But the soft shadow of my thrice-seen love,
Than be--I care not what. O meekest dove
Of heaven! O Cynthia, ten-times bright and fair!
From thy blue throne, now filling all the air,
Glance but one little beam of temper'd light
Into my *****, that the dreadful might
And tyranny of love be somewhat scar'd!
Yet do not so, sweet queen; one torment spar'd,
Would give a pang to jealous misery,
Worse than the torment's self: but rather tie
Large wings upon my shoulders, and point out
My love's far dwelling. Though the playful rout
Of Cupids shun thee, too divine art thou,
Too keen in beauty, for thy silver prow
Not to have dipp'd in love's most gentle stream.
O be propitious, nor severely deem
My madness impious; for, by all the stars
That tend thy bidding, I do think the bars
That kept my spirit in are burst--that I
Am sailing with thee through the dizzy sky!
How beautiful thou art! The world how deep!
How tremulous-dazzlingly the wheels sweep
Around their axle! Then these gleaming reins,
How lithe! When this thy chariot attains
Is airy goal, haply some bower veils
Those twilight eyes? Those eyes!--my spirit fails--
Dear goddess, help! or the wide-gaping air
Will gulph me--help!"--At this with madden'd stare,
And lifted hands, and trembling lips he stood;
Like old Deucalion mountain'd o'er the flood,
Or blind Orion hungry for the morn.
And, but from the deep cavern there was borne
A voice, he had been froze to senseless stone;
Nor sigh of his, nor plaint, nor passion'd moan
Had more been heard. Thus swell'd it forth: "Descend,
Young mountaineer! descend where alleys bend
Into the sparry hollows of the world!
Oft hast thou seen bolts of the thunder hurl'd
As from thy threshold, day by day hast been
A little lower than the chilly sheen
Of icy pinnacles, and dipp'dst thine arms
Into the deadening ether that still charms
Their marble being: now, as deep profound
As those are high, descend! He ne'er is crown'd
With immortality, who fears to follow
Where airy voices lead: so through the hollow,
The silent mysteries of earth, descend!"

  He heard but the last words, nor could contend
One moment in reflection: for he fled
Into the fearful deep, to hide his head
From the clear moon, the trees, and coming madness.

  'Twas far too strange, and wonderful for sadness;
Sharpening, by degrees, his appetite
To dive into the deepest. Dark, nor light,
The region; nor bright, nor sombre wholly,
But mingled up; a gleaming melancholy;
A dusky empire and its diadems;
One faint eternal eventide of gems.
Aye, millions sparkled on a vein of gold,
Along whose track the prince quick footsteps told,
With all its lines abrupt and angular:
Out-shooting sometimes, like a meteor-star,
Through a vast antre; then the metal woof,
Like Vulcan's rainbow, with some monstrous roof
Curves hugely: now, far in the deep abyss,
It seems an angry lightning, and doth hiss
Fancy into belief: anon it leads
Through winding passages, where sameness breeds
Vexing conceptions of some sudden change;
Whether to silver grots, or giant range
Of sapphire columns, or fantastic bridge
Athwart a flood of crystal. On a ridge
Now fareth he, that o'er the vast beneath
Towers like an ocean-cliff, and whence he seeth
A hundred waterfalls, whose voices come
But as the murmuring surge. Chilly and numb
His ***** grew, when first he, far away,
Descried an orbed diamond, set to fray
Old darkness from his throne: 'twas like the sun
Uprisen o'er chaos: and with such a stun
Came the amazement, that, absorb'd in it,
He saw not fiercer wonders--past the wit
Of any spirit to tell, but one of those
Who, when this planet's sphering time doth close,
Will be its high remembrancers: who they?
The mighty ones who have made eternal day
For Greece and England. While astonishment
With deep-drawn sighs was quieting, he went
Into a marble gallery, passing through
A mimic temple, so complete and true
In sacred custom, that he well nigh fear'd
To search it inwards, whence far off appear'd,
Through a long pillar'd vista, a fair shrine,
And, just beyond, on light tiptoe divine,
A quiver'd Dian. Stepping awfully,
The youth approach'd; oft turning his veil'd eye
Down sidelong aisles, and into niches old.
And when, more near against the marble cold
He had touch'd his forehead, he began to thread
All courts and passages, where silence dead
Rous'd by his whispering footsteps murmured faint:
And long he travers'd to and fro, to acquaint
Himself with every mystery, and awe;
Till, weary, he sat down before the maw
Of a wide outlet, fathomless and dim
To wild uncertainty and shadows grim.
There, when new wonders ceas'd to float before,
And thoughts of self came on, how crude and sore
The journey homeward to habitual self!
A mad-pursuing of the fog-born elf,
Whose flitting lantern, through rude nettle-briar,
Cheats us into a swamp, into a fire,
Into the ***** of a hated thing.

  What misery most drowningly doth sing
In lone Endymion's ear, now he has caught
The goal of consciousness? Ah, 'tis the thought,
The deadly feel of solitude: for lo!
He cannot see the heavens, nor the flow
Of rivers, nor hill-flowers running wild
In pink and purple chequer, nor, up-pil'd,
The cloudy rack slow journeying in the west,
Like herded elephants; nor felt, nor prest
Cool grass, nor tasted the fresh slumberous air;
But far from such companionship to wear
An unknown time, surcharg'd with grief, away,
Was now his lot. And must he patient stay,
Tracing fantastic figures with his spear?
"No!" exclaimed he, "why should I tarry here?"
No! loudly echoed times innumerable.
At which he straightway started, and 'gan tell
His paces back into the temple's chief;
Warming and glowing strong in the belief
Of help from Dian: so that when again
He caught her airy form, thus did he plain,
Moving more near the while. "O Haunter chaste
Of river sides, and woods, and heathy waste,
Where with thy silver bow and arrows keen
Art thou now forested? O woodland Queen,
What smoothest air thy smoother forehead woos?
Where dost thou listen to the wide halloos
Of thy disparted nymphs? Through what dark tree
Glimmers thy crescent? Wheresoe'er it be,
'Tis in the breath of heaven: thou dost taste
Freedom as none can taste it, nor dost waste
Thy loveliness in dismal elements;
But, finding in our green earth sweet contents,
There livest blissfully. Ah, if to thee
It feels Elysian, how rich to me,
An exil'd mortal, sounds its pleasant name!
Within my breast there lives a choking flame--
O let me cool it among the zephyr-boughs!
A homeward fever parches up my tongue--
O let me slake it at the running springs!
Upon my ear a noisy nothing rings--
O let me once more hear the linnet's note!
Before mine eyes thick films and shadows float--
O let me 'noint them with the heaven's light!
Dost thou now lave thy feet and ankles white?
O think how sweet to me the freshening sluice!
Dost thou now please thy thirst with berry-juice?
O think how this dry palate would rejoice!
If in soft slumber thou dost hear my voice,
Oh think how I should love a bed of flowers!--
Young goddess! let me see my native bowers!
Deliver me from this rapacious deep!"

  Thus ending loudly, as he would o'erleap
His destiny, alert he stood: but when
Obstinate silence came heavily again,
Feeling about for its old couch of space
And airy cradle, lowly bow'd his face
Desponding, o'er the marble floor's cold thrill.
But 'twas not long; for, sweeter than the rill
To its old channel, or a swollen tide
To margin sallows, were the leaves he spied,
And flowers, and wreaths, and ready myrtle crowns
Up heaping through the slab: refreshment drowns
Itself, and strives its own delights to hide--
Nor in one spot alone; the floral pride
In a long whispering birth enchanted grew
Before his footsteps; as when heav'd anew
Old ocean rolls a lengthened wave to the shore,
Down whose green back the short-liv'd foam, all ****,
Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.

  Increasing still in heart, and pleasant sense,
Upon his fairy journey on he hastes;
So anxious for the end, he scarcely wastes
One moment with his hand among the sweets:
Onward he goes--he stops--his ***** beats
As plainly in his ear, as the faint charm
Of which the throbs were born. This still alarm,
This sleepy music, forc'd him walk tiptoe:
For it came more softly than the east could blow
Arion's magic to the Atlantic isles;
Or than the west, made jealous by the smiles
Of thron'd Apollo, could breathe back the lyre
To seas Ionian and Tyrian.

  O did he ever live, that lonely man,
Who lov'd--and music slew not? 'Tis the pest
Of love, that fairest joys give most unrest;
That things of delicate and tenderest worth
Are swallow'd all, and made a seared dearth,
By one consuming flame: it doth immerse
And suffocate true blessings in a curse.
Half-happy, by comparison of bliss,
Is miserable. 'Twas even so with this
Dew-dropping melody, in the Carian's ear;
First heaven, then hell, and then forgotten clear,
Vanish'd in elemental passion.

  And down some swart abysm he had gone,
Had not a heavenly guide benignant led
To where thick myrt
Talia Jul 2018
from the start
I should've saw your mischievous heart
Like the girl who talked to you when we were eating lunch
"But, you said you had a crush on me." she exclaimed, yet I didn't have a hunch.

you're.. a player.

I should've saw any sign.
but slowly the shards of painful memories pass by that I find
you took two girls to the homecoming dance,
but before that, we had our first romance
why did I trust you to be loyal
maybe because I was blinded with love and was treated royal
there was too many signs...
Like the messages I saw on your phone when I checked the time,
that person calling you the same loving names you wanted me to call you?
her name, "Alaina?"
You convinced me it was just a "role-play" and I didn't see any red flags?
I just wanted to believe you loved me
the girl's name, Alaina
...who is Alaina?
From the very start I checked the time on your phone. I asked, "who's Alaina?"
"she's just a friend."
as months go by, you start calling me Alaina more and more.
you didn't even notice.
I strongly believe she wasn't just a friend the entire time.
ryyan May 2011
Once upon a time.
In a land far far away.
Their existed a rhyme,
About the greatest game ever played.
This is the said rhyme 
preserved from the acclaim the game has gained.
Passed on to generations about the game at it’s prime. 

A game that should be reclaimed from the fame its gained at the present time.
This game came from the brain of a person
who aimed to have the time of his life. 

Town ball was for all. In any season: spring, summer, winter, or fall.
Town ball was a ball for all: no despair, grief,  or strife, could spawn.
The rules were simple
Hit ball: bases touch all. 

Teams were never full. 
And the field could sprawl.
Everything was in play just like everyone could play.
No obstacle was in the way, no direction out of play.
Yet, according to the natural law of capitalistic America,
An evolution began to make money.
**** you Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet!!
You may have nothing to do with baseball, 

But you spawned the evilest idea of them all. 

That evolution is caused by natural law, 

and the evolution of baseball is the downfall of all that is America.
Baseball was at one time a game of fun; 

good times shared with one another under the sun. 

Eventually they agreed to decree the official rules, 

And it was not Abner Doubleday who would have the last say in history,
for that story is a myth that we should flee from like fools.
Instead it was Alexander Cartwright who penned the knickerbocker rules.
These rules spread to the rest of the clubs,
and eventually it was coined the New York game. 

No longer could anyone play but only the ones who could slug.
If you wanted to win, it would be a sin,
to put in the has been who brought the game shame.
This game spread during the civil war. 

In down time to escape they played for fun instead of being bored.
The game spread like never before,
and soon the game covered the entire eastern shore.
The N.A.A.B.B.P was formed and by 1867 four hundred teams were born,
and in 1870 the Chicago Cubs actually won!
They actually were good before 1908,
heck some people might even say they were great. 

I don’t mean to taint their slate or bait your hate.
I just wish to point out that its been some time since that date,
and you Cub fans still must await.
Meanwhile these gentleman clubs would compete in the heat,
for they wanted to prove they were the ones to beat. 

Yet promoters wanted money so they charged the food you eat.
Then they fenced in the meet.
No longer could you watch the teams compete from the street.
If you wanted to know who would defeat you must enter with a receipt
to show that you payed for your seat.
There you would meet, eat, and greet,
and keep track of the game on your score sheet
Eventually the wood frames turned to concrete

in order to hold more people inside their games.
And the players started to earn fame.
And eventually everyone knew their name.
No longer was the game a game for games sake,
instead it was meant to entertain the fame-craved.
All that matter was the money made at the gate,
and since then the game has never been the same.
Before players would score more and their would be less of a bore.
Fielders caught with their fingers the stingers thrown,
but for catchers that was absurd.

Before, fans would abhor to the idea of a fielder with a glove adorned,
but eventually the planted seed, grew steadily, and the fielders glove was born.
At first their was no web extended between the finger and thumb.
Because that would make it so easy to catch it would be just dumb. 

Yet, somehow the web spread and eventually it won. 

Now any *** could catch between finger and thumb
and the hand would not become numb.
This lead the dead ball era dread at the start of nineteen hundred.
And ego went to Owen Wilson’s head as he lead the league with triples.
Thirty six triples the record was set
and will never be broken it has been said.
But instead its embed into the unread
record book for others to go ahead and try to break with dread.
There were several reasons that lead to the dead ball.
First of all, the same ball was used until it started to unravel.
Second, was that you would draw a strike for every foul ball,
And lastly was the spit ball which would dance to any squall.
All these reasons made the pitchers un-hittable. 

And batters seeing their batting average fall
would take a bar crawl and bawl.
But then a savior came to us all. 

This man hit the ball so far that it would fall somewhere past Senegal.
The claims were esteemed that this man was best of them all. 

Yet, he was traded for money to fund a curtain call. 

This man’s name was George “the Babe” Herman Ruth. 

A pitcher turned outfielder because he was a great hitter is the truth.
The great bambino or Sultan of Swat,
nothing could stop him when he was hot. 

And he hit the dead ball era out of the park and it was forever lost. 

He had more home run’s as an individual, than any team,

Except for the Phillies who were good it seems.

Babe was the hit man

Pitcher he was no longer

The same change came

With this emphasis:
Babe Ruth symbolized what was

the rest of the game. 


They said pitch no more.
Sluggers are what fans adore
outfields became small. 


Power was the talk

Every team must have a guy
who hits with power. 


George “babe” Herman Ruth
and Lou Gehrig, the Yankee’s
became the very best.

Then the depression came and rained on the parade of the baseball game.
Yet, families with radio’s would listen to the games as a sort of hope. 

To escape from the world that they known. 

To escape to a game that reminded them of better days.
Then WWII came and stole away the players. 

Baseball’s talent level was now in multiple layers. 

and because of lack of talent Ted Williams batted over .400 percent
and Joe Dimaggio hit the ball again and again. 

for 56 consecutive games he hit the ball back to where it was sent.
Yet, eventually the players would return and baseball would mend. 

But not before the ladies got their own league. 

and men it did intrigue.
Is this for real?
Or a joke?
They would laugh.

Then they would choke. 

When they saw that this wasn’t just an act.
The girls continued,
“Everyone used to be able to play the good old town ball game!
“This is no longer town ball,” the men said, “the present game is not the same,
Instead its now played for money and fame.”

Oh how the good old days always change.

“Give us money” the women exclaimed,
“We’ll take your fortune we’ll take your fame!”

Some men said, “you complain! Its not the same,
you have to be good to play this game,
you can have your separate league if you need,
But this game of fame is only for white men of age!”

Oh how problems never change
Instead they always stay the same.
Yet, it wouldn’t be long
Before the trumpet would sing its song. 

That segregation would possibly end. 

Not for women but for African Americans. 

Segregation had always gone on. 

***** leagues rose up, but finally segregation’s time was gone 

due to a man named Jackie Robinson. 

And in 1947 he broke through with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Because his team was convinced they’d make more money by Lou Durocher
Yet it came with its troubles because Not everyone on the team was happy 
And some fans were just down right ******.
Some teams such as our beloved St.Louis Cardinals even threatened to strike. 

They were not going to play if Jackie played because they had that much dislike. 

But Jackie and the Dodgers pushed through all the hate that spewed. 

Other players, managers, and fans  were rude, crude and would start feuds. 
Then they would brood every time Jackie’s name the roster would include.
But after awhile people would conclude that he was actually very good.
And after review others would start to include rather than seclude,

But this integration was long over due.
30 years till segregation could be totally subdued.
The lessons we learn are hard ones that is true. 

And it takes awhile for an entire nations perspective to take a different mood.
Now with baseball integrated the game be televised. 

This allows the money in the game to rise. 

The league now expands west; 

New markets they must test.
But hey! the players want some of this. 

They want to start a free agency. 

But this is the last thing the owners need! 

But the players want to be able to move between teams.

The players want money. Oh how things never change.
But the players got what want. 

They now can negotiate and the owners this does haunt. 

The game now is wrapped inside this twisted shame of money. 

Thats all any body wants so they find ways to scheme. 

Thus steroids came to the scene. 

Players now could be payed more if they played well. 

This meant that to hit the ball far, big muscles they would have to build.
In order to get that edge over everyone else. 

These players used steroids to get their help. 

Yet that was not cool with the public 
Because steroids put you at risk. 

They are dangerous at best,
and the league didn’t want to run the risk. 

Plus what about records that have stood the time test?
Are they going be broken now and no longer exist?

All because someone drugs themselves to have a bigger biceps and chest?
Someone please lay this all to rest! 

Baseball today is such a shame. 

Its boring with all of the commercial and pitcher change breaks. 

Something needs to change. 

Because its been turned into a sideshow. 

Thats the only reason why kids even go. 

To see the park, get hot dogs,
and baseballs that when put in the dark they glow. 

Then when you get home. 

you ask them what they remember about the game 

and they say, “I don’t know”. 

This game used to be interesting. 

But now I find my channels flipping. 

Even Golf is more fun to watch. 

at least they hit that ball a lot!
Baseball should but I doubt ever will, 

Get rid of all the pitchers it has to refill. 

No more pitching changes; That would increase the thrill!

Maybe players could hit the ball if wasn’t coming 100 mph every throw. 

and instead of pure talent pitchers had to use strategy,
of when to and not to throw 

That 100mph hour fastball.
Get rid of the sideshow. 

Then maybe kids would go. 

Maybe then we’d go back to being enthralled. 

Back when Baseball was actually Baseball. 

But I doubt it will because money is what matters now.
Sideshows make money so its always going to be allowed.
But I’d like to disavow
I’d like to dropout. 

I never really watched it much in the first place. 

but now I know of a better game.
Oh and one final thing to say. 

We should just go back to town ball. 

That game sounds so much cooler than baseball. 

You could really make some unique obstacles

Put in a fountain or maybe even a wall.
It just sounds like a lot of fun. 

I plan to play it this summer some. 

Everyone will be welcome. 

And we’ll have fun under the sun. 

And it won’t really matter who will win. 

Because its about having fun, building character,
and growing relationships
The end.
The best mistake I ever made
Was opening that tattered black book

There I sat in a pub
On a mission to forget the world

6 or 7 drinks in
and a bartender all to happy
To pour what ever the roulette produced

thumb, thumb, flip
flip flip

Stop

Category is shots

To the new friend next to me
"why yes, I am to get **** faced"

"oh, you came here for just an occasion"
"well dear sir if you are brave enough next ones on me"

"Hot ****!" he exclaimed

As I close my eyes and say a silent prayer

I slowly count 4 pages
and place my finger on the page

I call Gwendolyn over and request
With eyes closed the item of my demise

"***!"
She cried

"I love ya but I won't do that to you"

I slurily open my eyes and focus

MEXICAN BLACK JACK

1 part tequila
2 parts whiskey
151 floater

"Double Shot"

I think out loud

whats a lil' ta'****-ya?

vhiskey? bah.

151 it's just a floater ppppssssshhhhhhh

After a few minutes of convincing
With many a hoot and holler
From my new friends

She takes my keys and reluctantly agrees
Even kindly offers me a chaser and some limes

I will not forsake the liquor gods

Ever get a whiff of turpentine and diesel?
Well that could be gardenias compared to this.

I sit in silence sniffing it
eyes closed lapping at it with my nostrils

I look over at my new buddy
"well chuckles it's now or never ready for this lil' endeavor?"

"Well ****" he muttered "I'm a man of my word"

"to life" I exclaimed

head back as that little bit of ******
started it's course
over my tongue into the throat
(why are my sinus' burning?)
don't breath boy
(you know better)
don't
you

eyes pop
and just on cue
flame ever rendering flames

I'm not blind
I'm not blind
I'm not blind

ok I was just squinting
really hard

I look over and my new friend
is now drinking my free chaser.

my game my pain...

Hey Sven leh's go again...

It's a good thing she loves me
I complain to no one

if she hated me I don't think I'd drink here.

2
hours and
4
shots later

I needed a nap good thing the loo was warm

I salute you Sir BlackJack and when I call your name
It's never in vain
zebra Jun 2018
while deep deep asleep
a beautiful woman appeared
with silky black hair
shinning like licorice lacquer,
crystal blue eyes,
cherry plush lips
silver iced razor blade earing's
knuckled skull ring through her nose
and an undulating golden snake spiral wrapped around her throat
slinky like a spry kitten, and demure in form
with curving hips
in a slow-motion sway

falling up
i'm light like a puff cloud
in skin that fires the night
as walls faded and  symmetries cascaded into spiraled eddies

she whispered
high handsome hows it hangin
in a voice like cool jazz
come to momma
she called in a jealous growl

yes, mama, i said
trembling with love
as jungle vines
wrap like a circulating boa
inhabiting me

oooooowww
mama what a thrill
i wept
i breathe her in like dusty *******
garden roses and fertile earth

i've come for you my darling she said
you want me, don't you?
biting her lips
with big hopeful eyes

oh yeah i do
i'm in love with you
i've always loved that dark thing that limps within me
i whispered

she smiled rubbing my oiled ****
with long-fingered strokes glaring

well i love you too sweet boy

we kissed so softly, so warm, so slow, and fragrant
deliriously voluptuous
her tongue
like a fluttering wing in flames
her kisses
gleaming razor bites that excite with pain

she looked at me quizzically
muttering
there's something funny about you
crazy boy

what, i said
funny to  
Satan in a Red Crimson Dress?

you're not right, i cant find your soul
she exclaimed, panicked
oh that, i said
look closer my love  
i held her hard into me
like solder fuses metal
look  deep between my eyes

**
**
**
hole
holy
holeeee
****
she said
her eyes shapeshifted into black electrical tape
as her head exploded into flames

what do you see, i asked?
she studied the inside of my skull
like a Williamsberg
Jewish diamond dealer

thine eye is single
the self-effulgent light
irreducible and perfect
shining greater than a million suns
you're a ****** cyclops
with divine sight

**** me, she squealed
i've always wanted to **** God
i'm your
S&M
baby
queen snake belly dancer from hell
and there's nothing you can't do

so
we ****** like colliding  suns
brooding bleeding dying being born
born-less
tears fell like sheets of glass
constellations  gave birth to constellations
and
reanimated endlessness

we  missed each other
my sweet darkling Nuit
i groaned

oh yes
my beautiful lord
she sobbed

and we drowned in each other's embrace
in  tears that reunite
tears of enormous pain
tears of unfathomable love

i held her, our lips lept wild tongues
our genitals consuming each other like fire melts stone

cratered moons shook the worlds of men to pieces
and all creatures melded
all nouns became verbs
high and low fell vanquished
heads and tails faced each other
darkness and light clutched in copulation
good and evil merged
all spines of fire
and up through the skull
beyond the vails of paradise
convulsing in endless incalculable raging *******
quickening eternal multiplying force
giving birth to endless chromatophore's  of incandescent sky
that expanded both in volume and rectitude

dis-juncture became infinite smoothness
history stopped repeating itself
consciousness and subconsciousness became indistinguishable
three dimensions  became innumerable
cats  ****** dogs
planets ceased crossing each other
escalation heaped on  escalation
physics gave birth to trans physics
and everybody understood everything
without a single thought

we cuddled up sweet as candy
kisses never ceasing
and all of time disappeared
this poem is a metaphor for the ascent of the serpent power
Kundalini
Dorothy A May 2012
Trish had an uncanny ability to pick all the wrong ones. Like a friend once told her, “You always try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!”  If there were a hundred available guys in a room, she always managed to zone in on the worst one there, not the kindest one, not the one with the greatest character or honor. It's like she had a special gift for finding a man—a cursed one—yet she had only herself to blame—not  fate for it—like she tried to point her finger at for her troubles. In this regard, Trish was often her own worst enemy. And none of her bad experiences seemed to deter her from her defeating patterns, for it seemed that having a ****** choice of a man in her life was better than having no man at all.

A Friday night without any date was something she desperately wanted to avoid. At the age of fifty-six, trying to meet men was getting old, as old as she was feeling, lately.

At Pete’s Place, a local bar down at the end of her street, and two blocks over, Trish could at least feel like she was among friends. It was an old hangout that always felt like a safe haven to turn to, familiar territory that she could call her own turf, her home away from home. Often, Trish encountered regulars, down-to-earth faces who have been going to the family-like establishment as long as or longer than she has. Drinking really was not her thing, not more than one or two, at the most. But if anything, if worst came to worst, she could say she was not home alone and left out while the world seemed to go on its own merry way without her.  

Pete’s Place was far from a glamorous hangout, but it had a cozy charm to it that made it irresistible to Trish. In the back were a pool table and a dartboard that provided some harmless enjoyment. With a couple of flat screen TVs, there usually was some sports game to watch. And every other Saturday, there was a DJ conducting Karaoke that always attracted a regular crowd. Trish couldn’t sing a note, but she loved to watch and cheer everybody else on. She just felt so welcome here, so at home, that even if she felt depressed or lonely, the atmosphere eventually lifted her heaviness of heart.  

Entering the bar this time, Trish hardly saw a familiar face at all—that was except for the bartender, Henry, who worked this job since forever. For a Friday night, business seemed surprisingly slow. There was only an older couple watching a baseball game that was at Pete’s Place, a couple that she did not recognize.

“Where is everybody?” Trish asked Henry.

Henry smiled. “Hey, Trish! Good to see ya! Yeah, it is like a ghost town tonight, isn’t it? I guess there are too many good things goin’ on down in Buffalo. I think there are some big boat races goin’ on. And, for sure, there is the jazz festival”.

“Well, I’m here, Henry! Look out, everybody! Let the fun begin!” she said jokingly as she sat herself up at one of the barstools. She looked around. Even the wait staff wasn’t around, obviously gone home early and not needed.

“Would have been nice to go somewhere fun like that. I mean the jazz festival. I like jazz”, Trish said to Henry.

Henry was trying to stay busy by wiping down the bar, cleaning every nook and cranny behind the counter. “You should have called up one of your girlfriends to go over there. I am sure someone would have gone with ya”.

Trish rolled her eyes. “What girlfriends? They are often too busy with their own husbands or men in their life to care about what poor, old Trish Urbine wants to do!”

Henry felt bad for her.  The more she frequented Pete’s Place, the more he knew she was all alone, was in between having some man in her life. And, lately, she was coming quite often to the bar by herself.

“You are not old, Trish! Hell, I am older than you!” Henry exclaimed.

Trish just frowned, not convinced at all by what Henry said. “Not old?” she asked. She pulled a small mirror out of her purse and looked at herself, giving herself the inspection of a drill sergeant. “That is a joke! Look at those bags under my eyes. Look at those crow’s feet, for pity’s sake!  Look at that droopy skin in my neck! Horrible! I am trying to save up for a face lift. I really need it! Been needing it for a while now!”

Henry shook his head. “All you women are alike. My wife does the same, **** thing, the same putdowns to herself. Says she’s fat. Says she’s getting old and ugly. Says this and says that. But let me tell you Trish, after thirty-six years of marriage, I still see her as my sweetheart. I’d have it no other way than with my Bernadette. He patted his belly and added, "Hell, look at me. Believe it or not, with my job, I don’t even drink that much beer. But look at the gut I am getting”.  

Trish scoffed at what he said. Henry looked nearly as lean as he did the first time she met him. He was just being nice. .Under better circumstances, she would have found what Henry said as endearing and charming. To say he still loved his wife as his “sweetheart” was incredibly adorable and rare.

“Hey”, Henry said. “Enough of my jibber jabber. Pardon my manners. What can I get for ya, dear?”

“Just a Diet Coke for me, Henry. I have to watch the calories myself. You know me—don’t want to get frumpy, lumpy and dumpy. At least not more than I am!” Trish smiled. She thought that her self disparaging remarks were a cute way of getting her point across with humor, but Henry couldn’t see anything funny about it.

He filled her glass of pop from the tap and handed it over to her. “Hey, how’s that daughter of yours doing? Is she still living in Albany?”  

Trish cupped her hands up to her forehead and rested her head on them. “She is still in Albany, but she might as be on the moon for all we ever talk to each other”. She looked up at Henry and he could see the frustration written all over her face.

“I didn’t mean to upset you”, he said.

“Oh, you didn’t”, she returned. “I appreciate you asking, but you know the situation with Patti and I. It is either that we are at each other’s throat or we just don’t talk. Truth be told, we haven’t really got along since she was a girl. Once she hit those teenage years—oh, man they were a nightmare! I wouldn’t relive those years for anything!”

Henry rested his elbows up on the bar counter. “Oh, I know what you mean!. My second son, my boy, Steven, and I had a terrible time once he hit about fifteen. Man, him and I bucked heads all the time. Yes, indeed! It could get ugly, and it sure as heck did! But now I’m proud of him! In Afghanistan, fighting for his country—that is somethin’ that makes me glad! Now, I say that I couldn’t ask for better sons. I’m proud of him—of all four of my boys as good, strong men that they are!”  

Trish sipped on her coke, a hurtful look upon her face while reflecting on her daughter, a daughter that she named after herself.  Both were named Patricia, but the same name did not mean two peas in a pod, actually far from it. Trish definitely preferred her name, short and sophisticated—so she had liked to think—and the name, Patti, seemed cute and carefree. But Patti seemed anything but cute and carefree, not like she was when she was very little. But the name stuck with her, as she preferred to be called

“Yeah, but Patti still lives in the past” Trish said. “She still blames me for everything wrong in her life. Nothing has changed, and I am still the bad guy. Trish thought for a second. “Well, her dad, too. He’s bad, too, in her eyes. She always says she raised herself, that she never had real parents. That’s crap because I raised her and I was around—unlike her useless father!”

“Sounds bitter on her part”, Henry agreed. He thought to say that Trish sounded a bit like that, too, but he did not think it was his place to say it out loud.

“Bitter is right”, Trish said in disgust.  

Bartenders have always been seen as good listeners, like the working man’s counselor. People, like Trish, often came in for a drink to try to forget their troubles, and wanting to lean on a trusty soul in need. Henry has seen plenty of this in his twenty-four years on the job, and he has honed the skill quite well, the skill of providing a listening ear. Sometimes he had good advice, but he knew he was no psychiatrist.    

Frustrated, Trish went on. “I mean who else was there for her? When her dad and I divorced, she wanted to stay with him just to spite me! But would he have her? No, he only wanted to be with his under aged, ***** wife!

“And who else would do what I did? When my step dad died, and my mom couldn’t handle my little brother anymore, who was it that took him in? It was me! He was eleven and I was almost twenty-two and living with my boyfriend. I helped to finish raising him, kept him at my place right up to the day that he was grown—and more! And I did it because it needed doing, and nobody else was stepping in! When my sister moved to Colorado, and one of her kids, my nephew, Craig, wanted to stay here to graduate here from high school, I agreed to take him in for two years until he finished high school. And yet I am such a bad, selfish person in Patti’s opinion! It makes me sick to think of how she sees me as her mother!”

Henry poured her a refill of pop in her half empty glass. He knew that Trish was on bad terms with her daughter, that their relationship was shaky and strained. Patti was Trish’s only child, and it troubled him that they didn’t have much of a relationship. Yet Trish did not need pity. She needed to refocus and find a new direction. Henry knew that she has needed a new direction for quite a while now.    

“Well, you know I love my daughter”, he replied. “I know your heart must be achin’ bad—real bad. I couldn’t imagine my life without Jocelyn or me not talkin’ to her. She’s the apple of my eye, ya know!  And my boys know it and get that she’s special to me—Daddy’s little girl. With four older brothers, she has always been outnumbered. And myself and the Mrs. never expected her, neither. One—two—three—four, the boys all came right in a row! She came way after, Ben, the last one—a big surprise, I tell ya! But I was tickled pink and couldn’t have been happier to have my little girl”.  Henry smiled warmly, and added, “No matter how old she gets, she will always be my little girl.”

Trish’s mood wasn’t influenced by what Henry said, not for the good. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Henry looked a bit embarrassed. “Oh, I ain’t tryin’ to rub it in to ya! No, no Trish!  I’m just sayin’ you should see Patti as someone special, no matter what it is like now. She still is your daughter. And ya lover her! You know ya do! Try to get through to her. Keep on tryin’ and don’t give up hope.”

Trish didn’t look convinced by his little pep talk, so he said, “One day she will have her own children, and realize she will make mistakes, too. You sure will want to see those grandkids. Trust me! I live to see all of mine! ”

Patti sniffed at that comment, putting forth a laugh that seemed so phony and snarky. This behavior was not like her at all, not the bubbly Trish that Henry used to see coming into the bar. “Grandchildren? Are you kidding me? Patti wants nothing to do with men! She avoids them like the plague! Says she doesn’t want to end up like me…married and divorced four times…she says there is no excuse for it. But she uses me all the time as an excuse! I think she is just scared to death of relationships with guys!”

“I thought you were married three times?” Henry asked. He had a surprised look on his face, but then he tried to think differently. “But I don’t want to **** in on your life. It’s your business, not mine to judge”.

“No, Henry, it’s ok. My last marriage lasted only seven weeks”. She turned red in the face now, but she wanted to set it straight. “Patti thinks it is disgusting that I married all those times. My last husband tried to clear out my bank account, and I left him. Patti says she will never marry. She won’t touch a man with a ten foot pole to save her life!”

She paused as Henry stared intently at her, listening. “She does not want to end up like me”, she added, her voice throaty. Tears welled up in her eyes.  

Patti was the product of Trish’s first marriage to a man named Earl Colbert. When Patti was six, her father divorced her mother. Since then, Patti had seen plenty of men come and go. In between her other three husbands, there were too many boyfriends to even keep track of. Trish was also engaged twice, but the engagements were eventually broken off.    

She sat in silence as Henry was still thinking of the right thing to say to comfort her. Soon, two young couples had entered through the door, dispersing the air of awkwardness, and stopping the conversation between Henry and Trish.  Henry continued to clean up around the bar as he waved to them and welcomed their presence. One of the guys came up and ordered a pitcher of beer before joining his friends at a table.

It was no more than a few minutes later that another customer approached inside Pete’s Place. It was Jake. Trish rolled her eyes at Henry. He was a regular here, too, like she was, and about the same age as her.

Jake immediately came up to Trish and put his arm around her. “Buy you a drink, darlin’?” he asked. His breath already smelled of alcohol.  

“Oh, Jake, get away!” Trish scolded him. “You know I don’t accept drinks from married men, so move on!” She waved her hand in the air to clear the bothersome odor of his ***** away from her.

Jack just laughed, and moved to the other end of the bar, his usual spot. Henry kept his calm although he did not like Jake acting like a fool to Trish, or to any of the women who came here. He had to do his duty and serve Jake, but if he had his way the guy would be just a step away from being told to leave. Henry always kept a close eye on how much Jake was drinking, and he often cut him off when it seemed he had his share.

“Whisky, Henry”, Jake ordered. They both knew the routine.

With his whisky in hand, Jake smirked at Trish and asked, “How come you ain’t at that big jazz festival downtown?”  

“How come you ain’t?” she echoed him, sarcastically

“Cuz I don’t have a sweet lady to go with me and keep my company”. He winked at her, and downed a gulp of whisky.

“Oh, you mean like your—wife!” Trish said.  Jake and Trish often bantered like this to each other. “You will never change, Jake. You are a rude and obnoxious flirt, and you ought to be ashamed!”

Jake just laughed her off.  “Sweetie, my wife knows I’m a big flirt. She’s OK with it! She says ‘as long as you are peeking and not seeking, who cares what you do!’”

The two young couples that came in a while ago overheard Jake’s conversation and started to crack up in laughter. It seemed that he was the entertainment for a lackluster evening at the bar, a court jester of sorts. Trish looked at the four, young faces that were laughing at her expense, glanced at Henry in silent agreement that Jake was an idiot, and quickly turned red in the face.

“Jake, shut your big mouth!” Henry intervened. “You lie as much as you belt them down!”  When Jake was more sober, he seemed pretty reasonable, but he was nauseating when he was on a drinking binge.

Henry exited into a room behind the bar for a moment. Jake whispered loudly to Trish, like an impish, little boy who knew he might get caught, but loved the thrill of it. “Psst. Hey, Trish! Look! My wife’s no fun at all! Won’t go out with me no more. The festival is going on all weekend. Just give me your number and I’ll call you tomorrow and pick you up to take you there”.

Trish pretended like she did not hear him, still rattled up a bit, but trying her best to hide it, and Jake soon devoted his mind to his drink.

She turned herself around in the barstool and pretended to watch the baseball game. The scene in the room was still practically the same way since she first arrived. Only now there was an edgier atmosphere with the four younger people in it. The older couple was still sitting together in the corner, intent on watching the ball game. The two younger couples were drinking down their pitcher of beer and talking away. One of the young man had his arm around his girlfriend, gently caressing her back, and the other young couple, that was sitting across from them was holding hands.  

In longing, Trish looked on at the young couples. How she m
Dorothy A Jul 2010
It was the summer of 1954. David Ito was from the only Japanese family we had in our town. I was glad he was my best friend. Actually, he was my only friend. His father moved his family to our small town of Prichard, Illinois when David was only eight years old. That was three years ago.

Only two and a half months apart, I was the older one of our daring duo. I even was a couple inches taller than David was, so that settled it. In spite of being an awkward girl, our differences in age and height made me quite superior at times, although David always snickered at that notion. To me, theses differences were huge and monumental, like the distance of the sun from the moon. To David, that was typical girlish nonsense. He thought it was so like a girl, to try to outdo a boy.  And he should have known. He was the only son of five children, and he was the oldest.

At first, David was not interested in being friends with a girl. But I was Josephine Dunn, Josie they called me, and I was not just any girl. Yet, like David, I did not know if I really liked him enough to be his friend. We started off with this one thing in common.

I knew he was smarter than anybody I ever knew, that is except for my father, a self-taught man. The tomboy that I was, I was not so interested in books and maps, and David was almost obsessed with them. Yet, there was a kindred spirit that ignited us to become close, something coming in between two misfits to make a good match. David was obviously so different from the rest. He came from an entirely different culture, looking so out-of-the-ordinary than the typical face of our Anglo-Saxon, Protestant community, and me, never really fitting in with any group of peers in school, I liked him.

David knew he did not fully fit in. I surely did not fit, either. My brother, Carl, made sure very early on in my life that I was to be aware of one thing. And that one thing was that I did not belong in my family, or really anywhere in life. Mostly, this was because I was not of my father’s first family, but I came after my father’s other children and was the baby, the apple of my father’s eye. But that wasn’t the real reason why Carl hated me.

During World War Two, my father enlisted in the army. He already had two small sons and a daughter to look after, and they already had suffered one major blow in their young lives. They had lost their mother to cancer. Louise Dunn was an important figure in their lives. She was well liked in town and very much missed by her family and friends.
  
Why their father wanted to leave his children behind, possibly fatherless, made no sense to other people. But Jim Dunn came from a proud military family and would not listen to anyone telling him not to fight but rather to stay home with his children. His father fought in the First World War, and three of his great grandfathers fought for the Union Army in the Civil War. It was not like my father to back out of a fight, not one with great principles.  My father was no coward.

Not only did my father leave three small children back home, but a new, young wife. Two years before World War Two ended, he made it back home to his lovely, young wife and family. Back in France, my father was wounded in his right leg. The result of the wound caused my father to forever walk with a limp and the assistance of a cane. It was actually a blessing in disguise what would transpire. He could have easily came home in a pine box. He was thankful, though, that he came away with his life. After recovering for a few months in a French hospital, my father was eager to go home to his family. At least he was able to walk, and to walk away alive.

This lovely, young woman who was waiting for him at home was twenty-year-old Flora Laurent, now Flora Dunn, my mother, and she was eleven years younger than my father. All soldiers were certainly eager to get home to their loved ones. My father was one of thousands who was thrilled to be back on American soil, but his thrill was about to dampen. Once my father laid eyes on his wife again, there was no hiding her highly expanding belly and the overall weight gain showed in her lovely, plump face. She had no excuses for her husband, or any made-up stories to tell him, and there really nothing for her to say to explain why she was in this condition. Simply put, she was lonely.

Most men would have left such a situation, would have gone as far away from it as they possibly could have. Being too ashamed and resentful to stay, they would have washed their hands of her in a heartbeat. Having a cheating wife and an unwanted child on their hands to raise would be too much to bear. Any man, in his right mind, would say that was asking for way too much trouble.  Most men would have divorced someone like my mother, kicked her out, and especially they would hate the child she would be soon be giving birth to, but not my father. He always stood against the grain.

Not only did Jim Dunn forgive his young wife, he took me under his wing like I was his very own. Once I knew he was not my true father, I could never fully fathom why he was not ready to pack me off to an orphanage or dump me off somewhere far away. Why he was so forgiving and accepting made him more than a war hero. It made him my hero. That was why I loved him so much, especially because, soon after I was born, my mother was out of our lives. Perhaps, such a young woman should not be raising three step children and a newborn baby.

My father never mentioned any of the details of my conception, but he simply did his best to love me. He was a tall, very slim and a quiet man by nature. With light brown hair, grey eyes, and a kind face, he looked every bit of the hero I saw him as. He was willing to help anyone in a pinch, and most people who knew him respected him. Nobody in town ever talked about this situation to my father. To begin with, my father was not a talker, and he probably thought if he did talk about it, the pain and shame of it would not go away.

One of my brothers, Nathan, and my sister, Ann, seemed to treat me like a regular sister. Yet, Carl, the oldest child, hated me from the start. As a girl who was six years younger, I never understood why. He was the golden boy, with keen blue eyes and golden, wavy hair, as were Nathan and Ann.  I had long, dark brown hair, which I kept in two braids, with plenty of unsightly brown freckles, and very dark, brown eyes.  Compared to my sister, who was five years older, I never felt like I was a great beauty.

I was pretty young when Carl blurted out to me in anger, “Your mother is a *****!”  I cried a bit, wiped away the tears with my small hands and yelled back, “No, she isn’t!” Of course, I was too young to know what that word meant. When my brother followed that statement up with, “and you are a *******”, I ran straight to my father. I was almost seven years old.

My father scolded Carl pretty badly that day. Carl would not speak to me for months, and that was fine with me. That evening my father sat me upon my knee. “Daddy, what is a *****?” I asked him.

My father gently put his fingers up to my lips to shush me up. He then went into his wallet and showed me a weathered black-and-white photo he had of himself with his arms around my mother. It was in that wallet for some time, and he pulled out the wrinkled thing and placed it in front of me.

My father must have handled that picture a thousand times. Even with all the bad quality, with the wrinkles, I could see a lovely, young lady, with light eyes and dark hair, smiling as she was in the arms of her protector. My father looked proud in the photograph.

He said to me, his expression serious, “whatever Carl or anybody says about your mother, she will always be your mother and I love her for that”. I looked earnestly in his somber, grey eyes. “Why did she go away?” I asked him.

My father thought long and hard about how to answer me. He replied, “I don’t know. She was young and had more dreams in her than this town could hold for her”. He smiled awkwardly and added, “But at least she left me the best gift I could have—you.”  

I would never forget the warmth I felt with my father during that conversation. Certainly, I would never forget Carl’s cruel words, or sometimes the odd glances on the faces of townswomen, like they were studying me, comparing me to how I looked next to my father, or their whispers as the whole family would be out in town for an occasion. It did not happen every day, but this would happen whenever and wherever, when a couple of busybodies would pass me and my father walking down Main Street, or when we went into the ice cream parlor, or when I went with my father to the dime store, and it always made me feel very strange and vaguely sad, like I had no real reason to be sad but was anyway.


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That summer of 1954, I was a bit older, maybe a bit wiser than when Carl first insulted my estranged mother. I was eleven years old, and David was my equal, my sidekick. Feeling less like a kid, I tried not to boss him too much, and he tried not to be too smart in front of me. I held my own, though, had my own intelligence, but my smarts were more like street smarts. After all, I had Carl to deal with.

David seemed destined for something better in life. My life seemed like it would always be the same, like my feet were planted in heavy mud. David and I would talk about the places we would loved go to, but David would mark them on a map and track them out like his plans would really come to fruition. I never liked to dream that big. Sure, I would love to go somewhere exciting, somewhere where I’d never have to see Carl again, or some of the kids at school, but I knew why I had a reason to stay. I respected my father. That is why I did not wish to leave. And David respected his father. That is why he knew he had to leave.

David Ito’s father was a tailor. David’s parents came from Japan, and they hoped for a good life in their new country. Little did they know what would be in store for them. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, their lives, with many other Japanese Americans, were soon turned upside down. David was born in an internment camp designed to isolate Japanese people from the nation once Americans declared war on Germany and their allies. David and I were both born in 1943, and since the war ended two years later, David had no memories of the internment camp experience. Even so, David was impacted by it, because the memories haunted his parents.

There was no getting around it. David and I, as different as we were, liked each other. Still, neither he nor I felt any silly kind of puppy love attraction. David had still thought of girls as mushy and silly, and that is why he liked me. I was not mushy or silly, and I could shoot a sling shot better than he did. David loved the sling shot his parents bought him for his last birthday. They allowed him to have it just as long as he never shot it at anyone.

David Ito, being the oldest child in his family, and the only son, allowed him to feel quite special, a very prized boy for just that reason. Mr. Ito worked two jobs to support his family, and Mrs. Ito took in laundry and cooked for the locals who could not cook their own meals. Mrs. Ito was an excellent cook. Whatever they had to give their children, David was first in line to receive it.

The majority of those in my town of Prichard respected Mr. Ito, at least those who did business with him. He was not only able to get good tailoring business in town, but some of the neighboring towns gave him a bit of work, too. When he was not working in the textile factory, Mr. Ito was busy with his measuring tape and sewing machine.  

Even though Mr. Ito gained the respect of the townspeople, he still was not one of us. I am sure he knew it, too. Yet Mr. Ito lived in America most of his life. He was only nine-years-old when his parents came here with their children. Like David, Mr. Ito certainly knew he was Japanese. The mirror told him that every day. But he also knew felt an internal tug-of war that America was his country more than Japan was, even when he was proud of his roots, even though he was once locked up in that camp, and even when some people felt that he did not belong here.

If David was called an unkind name, I felt it insulted, too, for our friendship meant that much to me. How many times I got in trouble for fighting at school! My father would be called into the principal’s office, and I was asked by Mr. Murray to explain why I would act in such an undignified way. “They called David a ***** ***”, I exclaimed. “David is my friend!”

Because David and I were best buddies, we heard lots of jeering remarks. “Josie loves a ***! Josie loves a ***!” some of the children taunted. And Carl, with his meanness, loved to be head of the line to pick on us. He once said to me, “It figures that the only friend you can get is a scrawny ***!”

In spite of my troubles at school, Father greatly admired David and his father, and he thought that David and I were good for each other’s company. Mr. Ito greatly respected my father, in return, not only for his business but because my dad could fix any car with just about any problem. Jim Dunn was not only a brilliant man, in my eyes, but the best mechanic in town. When Mr. Ito needed work done on his car, my father was right there for him. It was an even exchange of paid work and admiration.

Both my father and David’s father felt our relationship was harmless. After all, everyone in David’s family knew and expected that he would marry a nice Japanese girl. There was no question about it. Where he would find one was not too important for a boy of his age. Neither of us experienced puberty yet and, under the watchful eye of my father, we would just be the best of buddies.

David pretended like the remarks said about him never bothered him, but I knew differently. I knew he hated Carl, and we avoided him as much as possible. David was nothing like me in this respect—he was not a fighter. Truly, he did not have a fighting bone in his body, not one that picked up a sword to stab it in the heart of someone else. It was not that David was not brave, for he was, but he knew the ugliness of war without ever even having to go to battle. Nevertheless, he used his intellect to fight off any of the racist remarks made about him or his family. He had to face it—the war had only ended nine years prior and a few of the war veterans in town fought in the Pacific.      

Because of the taunts David had experienced in school, I was not surprised what David’s father had in store for his beloved son.  Mr. Ito could barely afford to send one child to private school, but he was about to send one. David was about to be that child. When David told me that when school resumed he would be going to a boy’s school in Chicago, my heart sank. Why? Why did he have to go? I would never see him again!

“You will see me in the summer”, he reassured me. He looked at me as I tried to appear brave. I sat cross-legged on the grass and stared straight ahead like I never even heard him. I had a lump in my throat the size of a grapefruit, and my lips felt like they were quivering.

We were both using old pop bottles for target practice. They sat in a row on an old tree stump shining in the evening sun. David was shooting at them with his prized slingshot. I had a makeshift one that I created out of a tree branch and a rubber band.

“You won’t even remember me”, I complained.

“I will to”, he insisted. “I remember everything.”

“Oh, sure you will”, I said sarcastically. “You’ll be super duper smart and I will just be a dummy”. In anger, I rose up my slingshot, and I hit all three bottles, one by one, then I threw the slingshot to the ground. David missed all the shots he took earlier.

David threw his slingshot down, too. “For being a girl, you are pretty smart!” he shouted. “You are too smart for your own good! The reason I like you is because you are better than anyone I ever met in my entire life. Well…not better than my parents, but you are the neatest girl I ever knew in my life!”

For a while, we didn’t talk. We just sat there and let the warm, summer breeze do our talking for us. I pulle
copywrited 2010
The uniVerse Oct 2016
A girl stood before me at the supermarket
a few random items littered her basket
pink socks poked out from her sneakers
they were covered with little creatures
an inch of flesh stood between
those ankle high socks and her jeans.

Nice socks I exclaimed!
she turned around inflamed
looked at me and said
I have a boyfriend
her face now red.

Are they his I asked?
her face broke into a laugh
sorry I got so defensive
guys make me apprehensive
I don't really have a boyfriend
sometimes I just like to pretend.


*I know how you feel I replied
in embarrassment I've often lied
and whenever I'm struck by beauty
of someone new I meet
I can't look directly at them
I look towards their feet.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BzjEKe3nX0B/
They reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon them where they
drove straight to the of abode Menelaus [and found him in his own
house, feasting with his many clansmen in honour of the wedding of his
son, and also of his daughter, whom he was marrying to the son of that
valiant warrior Achilles. He had given his consent and promised her to
him while he was still at Troy, and now the gods were bringing the
marriage about; so he was sending her with chariots and horses to
the city of the Myrmidons over whom Achilles’ son was reigning. For
his only son he had found a bride from Sparta, daughter of Alector.
This son, Megapenthes, was born to him of a bondwoman, for heaven
vouchsafed Helen no more children after she had borne Hermione, who
was fair as golden Venus herself.
  So the neighbours and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making
merry in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his
lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them
when the man struck up with his tune.]
  Telemachus and the son of Nestor stayed their horses at the gate,
whereon Eteoneus servant to Menelaus came out, and as soon as he saw
them ran hurrying back into the house to tell his Master. He went
close up to him and said, “Menelaus, there are some strangers come
here, two men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall we
take their horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as
they best can?”
  Menelaus was very angry and said, “Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you
never used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their
horses out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have
supper; you and I have stayed often enough at other people’s houses
before we got back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in
peace henceforward.”
  So Eteoneus bustled back and bade other servants come with him. They
took their sweating hands from under the yoke, made them fast to the
mangers, and gave them a feed of oats and barley mixed. Then they
leaned the chariot against the end wall of the courtyard, and led
the way into the house. Telemachus and Pisistratus were astonished
when they saw it, for its splendour was as that of the sun and moon;
then, when they had admired everything to their heart’s content,
they went into the bath room and washed themselves.
  When the servants had washed them and anointed them with oil, they
brought them woollen cloaks and shirts, and the two took their seats
by the side of Menelaus. A maidservant brought them water in a
beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to
wash their hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper
servant brought them bread, and offered them many good things of
what there was in the house, while the carver fetched them plates of
all manner of meats and set cups of gold by their side.
  Menelaus then greeted them saying, “Fall to, and welcome; when you
have done supper I shall ask who you are, for the lineage of such
men as you cannot have been lost. You must be descended from a line of
sceptre-bearing kings, for poor people do not have such sons as you
are.”
  On this he handed them a piece of fat roast ****, which had been set
near him as being a prime part, and they laid their hands on the
good things that were before them; as soon as they had had enough to
eat and drink, Telemachus said to the son of Nestor, with his head
so close that no one might hear, “Look, Pisistratus, man after my
own heart, see the gleam of bronze and gold—of amber, ivory, and
silver. Everything is so splendid that it is like seeing the palace of
Olympian Jove. I am lost in admiration.”
  Menelaus overheard him and said, “No one, my sons, can hold his
own with Jove, for his house and everything about him is immortal; but
among mortal men—well, there may be another who has as much wealth as
I have, or there may not; but at all events I have travelled much
and have undergone much hardship, for it was nearly eight years before
I could get home with my fleet. I went to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the
Egyptians; I went also to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the
Erembians, and to Libya where the lambs have horns as soon as they are
born, and the sheep lamb down three times a year. Every one in that
country, whether master or man, has plenty of cheese, meat, and good
milk, for the ewes yield all the year round. But while I was
travelling and getting great riches among these people, my brother was
secretly and shockingly murdered through the perfidy of his wicked
wife, so that I have no pleasure in being lord of all this wealth.
Whoever your parents may be they must have told you about all this,
and of my heavy loss in the ruin of a stately mansion fully and
magnificently furnished. Would that I had only a third of what I now
have so that I had stayed at home, and all those were living who
perished on the plain of Troy, far from Argos. I of grieve, as I sit
here in my house, for one and all of them. At times I cry aloud for
sorrow, but presently I leave off again, for crying is cold comfort
and one soon tires of it. Yet grieve for these as I may, I do so for
one man more than for them all. I cannot even think of him without
loathing both food and sleep, so miserable does he make me, for no one
of all the Achaeans worked so hard or risked so much as he did. He
took nothing by it, and has left a legacy of sorrow to myself, for
he has been gone a long time, and we know not whether he is alive or
dead. His old father, his long-suffering wife Penelope, and his son
Telemachus, whom he left behind him an infant in arms, are plunged
in grief on his account.”
  Thus spoke Menelaus, and the heart of Telemachus yearned as he
bethought him of his father. Tears fell from his eyes as he heard
him thus mentioned, so that he held his cloak before his face with
both hands. When Menelaus saw this he doubted whether to let him
choose his own time for speaking, or to ask him at once and find
what it was all about.
  While he was thus in two minds Helen came down from her high vaulted
and perfumed room, looking as lovely as Diana herself. Adraste brought
her a seat, Alcippe a soft woollen rug while Phylo fetched her the
silver work-box which Alcandra wife of Polybus had given her.
Polybus lived in Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the
whole world; he gave Menelaus two baths, both of pure silver, two
tripods, and ten talents of gold; besides all this, his wife gave
Helen some beautiful presents, to wit, a golden distaff, and a
silver work-box that ran on wheels, with a gold band round the top
of it. Phylo now placed this by her side, full of fine spun yarn,
and a distaff charged with violet coloured wool was laid upon the
top of it. Then Helen took her seat, put her feet upon the
footstool, and began to question her husband.
  “Do we know, Menelaus,” said she, “the names of these strangers
who have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?-but I
cannot help saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or
woman so like somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know
what to think) as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left
as a baby behind him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in
your hearts, on account of my most shameless self.”
  “My dear wife,” replied Menelaus, “I see the likeness just as you
do. His hands and feet are just like Ulysses’; so is his hair, with
the shape of his head and the expression of his eyes. Moreover, when I
was talking about Ulysses, and saying how much he had suffered on my
account, tears fell from his eyes, and he hid his face in his mantle.”
  Then Pisistratus said, “Menelaus, son of Atreus, you are right in
thinking that this young man is Telemachus, but he is very modest, and
is ashamed to come here and begin opening up discourse with one
whose conversation is so divinely interesting as your own. My
father, Nestor, sent me to escort him hither, for he wanted to know
whether you could give him any counsel or suggestion. A son has always
trouble at home when his father has gone away leaving him without
supporters; and this is how Telemachus is now placed, for his father
is absent, and there is no one among his own people to stand by him.”
  “Bless my heart,” replied Menelaus, “then I am receiving a visit
from the son of a very dear friend, who suffered much hardship for
my sake. I had always hoped to entertain him with most marked
distinction when heaven had granted us a safe return from beyond the
seas. I should have founded a city for him in Argos, and built him a
house. I should have made him leave Ithaca with his goods, his son,
and all his people, and should have sacked for them some one of the
neighbouring cities that are subject to me. We should thus have seen
one another continually, and nothing but death could have
interrupted so close and happy an *******. I suppose, however,
that heaven grudged us such great good fortune, for it has prevented
the poor fellow from ever getting home at all.”
  Thus did he speak, and his words set them all a weeping. Helen wept,
Telemachus wept, and so did Menelaus, nor could Pisistratus keep his
eyes from filling, when he remembered his dear brother Antilochus whom
the son of bright Dawn had killed. Thereon he said to Menelaus,
  “Sir, my father Nestor, when we used to talk about you at home, told
me you were a person of rare and excellent understanding. If, then, it
be possible, do as I would urge you. I am not fond of crying while I
am getting my supper. Morning will come in due course, and in the
forenoon I care not how much I cry for those that are dead and gone.
This is all we can do for the poor things. We can only shave our heads
for them and wring the tears from our cheeks. I had a brother who died
at Troy; he was by no means the worst man there; you are sure to
have known him—his name was Antilochus; I never set eyes upon him
myself, but they say that he was singularly fleet of foot and in fight
valiant.”
  “Your discretion, my friend,” answered Menelaus, “is beyond your
years. It is plain you take after your father. One can soon see when a
man is son to one whom heaven has blessed both as regards wife and
offspring—and it has blessed Nestor from first to last all his
days, giving him a green old age in his own house, with sons about him
who are both we disposed and valiant. We will put an end therefore
to all this weeping, and attend to our supper again. Let water be
poured over our hands. Telemachus and I can talk with one another
fully in the morning.”
  On this Asphalion, one of the servants, poured water over their
hands and they laid their hands on the good things that were before
them.
  Then Jove’s daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She
drugged the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and
ill humour. Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear
all the rest of the day, not even though his father and mother both of
them drop down dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces
before his very eyes. This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue,
had been given to Helen by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt,
where there grow all sorts of herbs, some good to put into the
mixing-bowl and others poisonous. Moreover, every one in the whole
country is a skilled physician, for they are of the race of Paeeon.
When Helen had put this drug in the bowl, and had told the servants to
serve the wine round, she said:
  “Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of
honourable men (which is as Jove wills, for he is the giver both of
good and evil, and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will,
and listen while I tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name
every single one of the exploits of Ulysses, but I can say what he did
when he was before Troy, and you Achaeans were in all sorts of
difficulties. He covered himself with wounds and bruises, dressed
himself all in rags, and entered the enemy’s city looking like a
menial or a beggar. and quite different from what he did when he was
among his own people. In this disguise he entered the city of Troy,
and no one said anything to him. I alone recognized him and began to
question him, but he was too cunning for me. When, however, I had
washed and anointed him and had given him clothes, and after I had
sworn a solemn oath not to betray him to the Trojans till he had got
safely back to his own camp and to the ships, he told me all that
the Achaeans meant to do. He killed many Trojans and got much
information before he reached the Argive camp, for all which things
the Trojan women made lamentation, but for my own part I was glad, for
my heart was beginning to oam after my home, and I was unhappy about
wrong that Venus had done me in taking me over there, away from my
country, my girl, and my lawful wedded husband, who is indeed by no
means deficient either in person or understanding.”
  Then Menelaus said, “All that you have been saying, my dear wife, is
true. I have travelled much, and have had much to do with heroes,
but I have never seen such another man as Ulysses. What endurance too,
and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the
bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and
destruction upon the Trojans. At that moment you came up to us; some
god who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and
you had Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our
hiding place and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name,
and mimicked all our wives -Diomed, Ulysses, and I from our seats
inside heard what a noise you made. Diomed and I could not make up our
minds whether to spring out then and there, or to answer you from
inside, but Ulysses held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all
except Anticlus, who was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped
his two brawny hands over his mouth, and kept them there. It was
this that saved us all, for he muzzled Anticlus till Minerva took
you away again.”
  “How sad,” exclaimed Telemachus, “that all this was of no avail to
save him, nor yet his own iron courage. But now, sir, be pleased to
send us all to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed boon of
sleep.”
  On this Helen told the maid servants to set beds in the room that
was in the gatehouse, and to make them with good red rugs, and
spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for the guests
to wear. So the maids went out, carrying a torch, and made the beds,
to which a man-servant presently conducted the strangers. Thus,
then, did Telemachus and Pisistratus sleep there in the forecourt,
while the son of Atreus lay in an inner room with lovely Helen by
his side.
  When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Menelaus
rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely
feet, girded his sword about his shoulders, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. Then, taking a seat near Telemachus he
said:
  “And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to
Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about
it.”
  “I have come, sir replied Telemachus, “to see if you can tell me
anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my
fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who
keep killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of
paying their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your
knees if haply you may tell me about my father’s melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller; for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly
what you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service
either by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the
Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all.”
  Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. “So,” he
exclaimed, “these cowards would usurp a brave man’s bed? A hind
might as well lay her new born you
Remus Jul 2014
I have little to say in new environments.
I tend to act shy and forget how to form words.
So when I had to go to marching practice and was
surrounded by people I didn't know
I suffered.

Was it not obvious that I was flustered when I fell
five times in thirty minutes?
Maybe it wasn't obvious how I kept repeating the
same thing over and over again,
hoping people would stop staring.

But instead of caring you walked straight up to me
and made me look like a fool in front of
everyone.
"**** in, you're stomach is showing!" You exclaimed
before poking me with a drumstick and catching me off guard.
It hurt and my torso bent and all the upper classmen
laughed at me.

So thank you for embarrassing me, it will not be forgotten.
It won't be forgotten like the time you insulted me
in the seventh grade and I 'accepted' your apology.

But what do I know?
I'm just a kid and you're a
band director
Kuzhur Wilson Aug 2014
Around 4 in the evening, I proceeded to Karaikkal, a Union Territory.

By the time we reached Nagapattinam, I noticed that the driver was tired and asked him to have a strong cup of tea. When he was gulping it reluctantly, I, who did not like strong tea, watched the cows walking along the narrow ways. But, the cows did not look at me. The cows I watched. The cows that did not pay any attention to me. I was a bit out of breath realizing how quickly nonexistent relationships were formed in an unknown Tamil village.  I lit up one more cigarette. I remembered the doctor in Britain, a stunning beauty, who prescribed that as soon as I found it difficult to breathe I should light up a cigarette. ****! When it is hard to breathe because of nonexistent relationships and when I light up a cigarette as an antidote to that, there appear row upon row of relationships of some sort or other.  

I began to detest bitter strong tea. I was irked by the cows that went along the narrow ways. I felt hatred towards their not so small udders. An afternoon dawned one day when I felt the same kind of vengeance towards udders. The blood stains from the udders that were slashed down emerged on my hands, legs, back and under belly.

Once again I felt revulsion for bitter strong tea. The driver sipped the hot bitter tea. I hated the moment when I asked him to have tea. I loathed the words that I used to say that. I despised even the words that I had kept in reserve to say that.

Then, I watched the people etching tattoos by the roadside. I wondered how it will be if I got a tattoo for myself.  I tried to recall how deep I was to get a tattoo done.

A person I liked.
A name I liked.
A place I liked.
A digit I liked.
A syllable I liked.
A memory I liked.

I felt a lot of aversion. Wondered if I should tattoo my mother’s name on my shoulder. I found it amusing that when I die people may identify me by my mother’s name. But, I felt sad when I thought that stranger women may plant their kisses on it. ****! I felt so sad.  I abhorred those bitter cups of tea and narrow ways. I lit up one more cigarette.  Then, I, who tattooed my mother’s name on my shoulder, started decaying on the spot.  Rotting with a terrible stench. The people, the cows and the goats that I did not mention before bolted.  Abruptly, the driver came and told me that we could move from there.  I felt so bitter towards even the bitter tea that was inside him.

Somehow, we reached Karaikkal. Yes, at 630 in the evening. Even though I had never been to Karaikkal, a Union Territory, I sat on the same chair in the same corner of the same bar. The bearer poured me the wine.

He kept pouring the wine.
He kept pouring the wine.
The wine kept emptying.
The wine kept emptying.
The wine kept unraveling.
The wine kept unraveling.

It was a Dutch woman who gathered me up and took me with her when I got totally unraveled. She was older than me. There was no power in her room. The way she washed my body in lukewarm water could have put to shame even the midwives giving a bath to babies. When I rose up sometimes and asked her name, she sealed my lips with hers. When it was repeated many times, I thought that her name must mean something like a kiss. And, she never spoke a word except with lips.

Unraveling wine, lukewarm water, the nonstop conversation by lips. Though lips got tired, I heard the murmur from my pelvis. She too must have heard that. She touched my *****. Quite a guy she exclaimed cracking a joke. Told her I salvaged it from the sea at Tanjore and it was some temple mast some sculptor abandoned. If it’s a temple mast, let the festival begin she said.

It was some festival.
Festival of festivals.
Black lacquer bangles, vermilion, ribbons
Hydrogen balloons
Spinning tops
It was some festival.
Festival of festivals.

A simile as washed out as a festival ground emptied of crowds. For the lack of a better one.  Returned from Karaikkal, a Union Territory, at some hour.  I dumped that taxi driver on the way. Not only because I was disgusted with bitter tea, but also because his name was not Thintharoo.

I can never again put up with a driver whose name is not Thintharoo.




**(trans by Ra Sh)
Thintharoo - it is also my poetry collection name. will come soon
barnoahMike Oct 2012
How Brave you must be~the squaw exclaimed to the Chief.   " Why, I am more than a Brave", the Chieftain quipped.!   " Just look at my feathers and the scalps hanging by my side,    do they not tell of My many Deeds ?    Her reply was a simple ,,  "YES,  I can see how you have adorned yourself ! "   He retorted ~ " And you certainly can't miss all the colors by which I have claimed  MY-STATUS ! "     The Squaw responded~ "YES,  the HUES on you,  certainly   tell me who and what you are,  now that I look closely  ! "    And he added~ "Look at the careful way in which I have displayed my Collection of  SCALPS,  Spaced ever so carefully around my waistband !    She questioned further,  "Have you  ,Oh Mighty Chief,  Properly named each of the Scalps ,  SO YOU won't forget from whence they came ? ?     "OH,  My Goodness, YES,  he answered.   "I wouldn't  ever want to forget where they came from,  SO~I admire each and Call each of them, By Name~ Everyday.   "SURELY" She continued,  "YOU are  much more than any other  Chief,  and by the way , DO you use Windex or Glass-Plus  to clean your mirrors ? ?  "    HE exclaimed,  "I, really don't know what cleaning  agent my servant uses,  to clean my many mirrors !  BUT,  they certainly do shine,  when I look into them !      The SQUAW  queried~  " BUT  what about your shoes, moccasins , if you would,  WHAT~~ is that Green-Gooey Stuff all over them ? ?   HE-Commented~ " I guess that when I  take my mighty steps, toes and feet,  IN THE WAY,   Fall under the Prances that I make ! ! ? "    Then,She asked~ "Do you do your War'Dances often, or just as you are called on, by your mighty warriors ? "   AND,,this Brave-Chieftain  PROCLAIMED~  "WHY,  I"ll have you Know,   I do all of these Prances and Dances ~BY MY OWN CHOICE,  NO-ONE  tells me when or what to do.  Except my visits with the Prince of the Air !"   The Squaw thanked him~turned~then turned back~Asking " Measured by~ Scalps~Prances and Dances ? ?
copyright  @2012   barnoahMIKE      Mike Ham
saw:

the adoration of the daddy,
as his red haired babes
leaned into
either side of him,
courtiers to a king
on the way to school this AM,
transfusing his magical super~fatherly,
by inhaling his special powers through
their nostrils, direct from his
broad and powerful brave-heart chest,
for use later in the wild jungle
of second grade
•••
an elderly gent whose walker rattled
with every lift and kerplunk on
the street~steppes of a dangerous city
for the brittle of bone and the easily dentable,
and the crowd that gathered round walking
at precisely the same pace he required
to make it across the widest boulevard
which was thirty seconds more than the
Dept. of Transportation's asinine calculations
and a miracle from Lourdes occurred -
not one horn honked in ire as the court
escorted their Long Live the King
safely across the street, as if
idiocy was like rain, against the law,
until after sunset as in Camelot

•••
an elegant germanic man,
in homburg and velvet collared overcoat,
taking care of sales and distribution of
newspapers and candy at the corner paper "stand"
while the elderly owner, whose partner~wife of
fifty years had recently passed, now had no one
but someone's pop whose was out
walking our cocker spaniel,
to tend the place while said candyman
obeyed nature's callings

and all his fans and friends who passed
on their way to the adjacent subway station,
exclaimed Erwin, Erwin what are you doing?
his twinkled crinkled eyes replied,
enjoying their puzzlement, laughingly saying
"making spare change"
•••
where I lived these little miracles occurred so frequently,
was told a story that the ministering angels
could not keep up with their duties,
complaining to the On High, who resoundingly loudly
commanded their silence! by reminding them that
all these, his creatures, were his own precious,
the reason for creation and why they were needed,
and the sum of all these small acts gave them their own
existential purpose, now angry at himself for loss of temper,
soft spoke as a parent and told them better,
hush my children, we have much to do!
•••
so now you impatiently need to know
why this scripture
came to be known as
$$$$$
for I was witness to all of this,
all on that day,
that was twenty fours hours long
across many hard hearted Hiroshima decades,
that made me
temporarily

*the richest man in the world
a proud member of the collective of the false.
Crazy Beautiful Mar 2014
We were just friends at the start,
Always having fun, never apart
Then one day, something sparked
The next thing I knew, you had my heart.

The days flew by,
I lost track of time
Everytime I was with you,
I was on cloud nine.

Then one day, I asked you to be mine
You exclaimed, yes! and prayed we'd last until the very end.
No one could look into my eyes and say I wasn't happy,
Happy that I was with you, and you were with me.

With me in your arms, you told me you loved me,
Then gently kissed my forehead and gave me a squeeze.
I was convinced you were the one for me,
Apart from you, I would never be.

Just when I thought all was well,
Was when you began to put me through hell.
You said, we should just be friends
That's when I knew it was the end.

I looked into your eyes, trying to find out why,
It was all I could do, not to begin to cry.
Where I once saw love, I saw nothing,
I couldn't believe you no longer felt something.

I lay in bed, counting my tears,
Each representing what I'd hoped would be years.
Years of happiness, for us to be together,
A long-lived life, forever and ever.

But in my heart, I know this will never be,
For in yours, no longer is there a place for me.
I gave you my all; I gave you my heart,
Little did I know that you'd tear it apart.

Everyday I place a smile on my face,
As for tears, there is not a trace.
You ripped me apart, but yet it's true,
Forever and always, I'll still love you
Dorothy A Feb 2015
She yelled out her back porch and into the alley as if one calling home the hogs. “Johnny! Johnny! You get home for supper! John—nyyy! You spend all day in that godforsaken tree that you’re gonna grow branches! Johnny, get home now!”

Up in his friend’s tree house, Johnny slammed his card down from his good hand that he was planning to win from. “****! She always does that to me”, he complained. “Just when I’m right in the middle of—“

Zack laughed. “Your ma’s voice carries down the whole neighborhood—practically to China!”

Everyone laughed. Iris’s daughter, Violet, said to her mom. “Grandma and Dad always butted heads.” She loved when her mom told stories of her childhood, especially when it was amusing.  

Iris’s good friend and neighbor, Bree, asked Iris, “I bet you never thought in a million years that she’d eventually be your mother-in-law”

“No, I sure didn’t”, Iris answered. “I am just glad that she liked me!”

Everyone laughed. Telling that small tale took her back to 1961 when her and her twin brother Isaac—known as Zack to most everyone—would hang out together with his best friend, Johnny Lindstrom. Because Iris was like one of the boys, she fit perfectly in the mix. Zach and she were fifteen and were referred to in good humor by their father as “double trouble”. It was that summer that they lost their dear dad, Ray Collier, and memories of him became as precious as gold. If it wasn’t for her brother and his friend, Iris be lost. Hanging out all day—from dawn til dusk—with Zack and Johnny was her saving grace.  Her mother was glad to have them out of her hair, not enforcing their chores very much.

“I was a tomboy to the fullest”, Iris told everyone. “I had long, beautiful blonde hair that I put back in a pony tail, and the cutest bangs, but I didn’t want to be seen as girly. I wore rolled up jeans and boat shoes with bobby socks, tied the bottom of my boyish shirt in a knot—but I guess I could still get the boys to whistle at me. I think it was my blonde hair that did it.”

“Oh, Mom”, Violet said, “You were beautiful and you know it! Such a gorgeous face!” She’d seen plenty of pictures of her mother when she was younger. Both Iris and Zack were tall and blonde. Zack’s hair could almost turn white in the summertime.

“Were beautiful?” Iris asked, giving Violet a concerned look, her hands on her hips in a playful display of alarm at her daughter’s use of the past tense. She may have been an older woman now, but she didn’t think she has aged too badly.

“Are beautiful”, Violet corrected herself. She leaned over and kissed her mom on the cheek. Iris was nearly seventy, and she aged pretty gracefully, and she was content with herself.  

They all sat in the living room sipping wine or tea and eating finger food. It was a celebration, after all—or just an excuse to get together and have a ladies night out. Not only had Iris had invited her daughter and friend, she had her sister-in-law—Zach’s wife, Franci—and her daughter-in-law, Rowan, married to her youngest son, Adam.

“Weren’t you going to marry someone else?” Bree asked Iris.

“Yes”, Iris responded. “We all wouldn’t be sitting here right now if I did. My life would have been very different.”

“A guy named Frank”, Violet stated. “I used to joke that he was almost my dad.”

Iris said to Violet, “Ha…ha. You know it took both your father and I to make you you. Everyone laughed at how cute that this mother-daughter duo talked. Iris went on, “I actually went on a couple of dates with your dad when I was seventeen. I was starting to get used skirts and dresses and went out of my way to look really nice for guys, but it was just high school stuff. After I graduated, I met a guy named Frank Hautmann, and we were engaged within several months.”

“What happened to him?” Rowan asked.

Iris sipped her tea and seemed a bit melancholy. “We did love each other, but it just didn’t work out. I know he eventually married and moved out of state. I ran into John about two or three years later, and everything just clicked. His family moved several miles away once we all graduated, so being best friends with Zack kind of faded away for him. But once I saw him again, we were really into each other. We took off in our dating as if no time ever lapsed. Soon we were married, and that was that.” There was an expression of “aww” going around the room in unison.  

Bree stood up and raised her wine glass. She announced, “Here’s to true love!” Everyone lifted their glass or cup in response.

Franci stood up next to have her own toast. She said, “Here’s to my husband and father of my three, handsome sons being declared officially cancer free, to Violet’s little bun in the oven soon to be born and also to my *****-in-law, Iris, for finally finding that pink pearl necklace that she thought was hopelessly gone forever! Cheers!”

“Cheers” everyone echoed and sipped on their wine or tea. “That’s some toast and makes this get together even more meaningful”, Iris complemented Franci.

Almost eight months pregnant, Violet restricted her drinking to tea. Her mother was so thrilled that she found out Violet was having a girl. It was equally wonderful that Iris’s beloved brother had recovered from his prostrate cancer, for throat cancer had taken their father’s life when they were young. So really finding the necklace that her mother gave her many years ago—that was misplaced while moving seven years ago—was just the icing on the cake to all the other news.    

Iris said, “My brother being in good health and my daughter having her baby girl is music to my ears. It trumps finding that necklace that I never thought I’d ever see again—even though it was the most precious gift my mother ever gave me.”  

At age thirty-five, Violet had suffered two miscarriages, so having a full-term baby in her womb was such a relief. It would be the first child to her and her husband, Paul, and the first granddaughter to her parents. Iris had three children altogether. Ray was named after her father, and then there was Adam and Violet. Only Adam and Rowan had any children—two sons, Adam Jr. and Jimmy. Ray and his wife, Lorene, lived abroad in London because of his job, and they had never wanted any children.  

“What name have you decided on?” Rowan asked Violet.

All eyes were on Violet who had quite a full belly. “Paul and I have agreed on a few names, but we still aren’t sure.” She turned to her mom and said, “Sorry, Mom, we won’t be keeping up the tradition.”

Iris was puzzled. “What tradition?” she asked.

Violet smiled. “I know it’s not really a tradition”, she admitted, “but didn’t you realize that your mother, you and I all have flower names?”

Everyone laughed at that observation. “That’s hysterical!” Bree noted. “Flower names?”

“That’s news to me” Iris said, not getting it.

“Me, too”, Franci agreed.

“Okay”, Violet explained to her mother “Grandma was Aster, you are Iris and I am Violet. Get my drift?”

The others started laughing, but Iris never even thought of this connection. She responded, “Well, my dad’s nickname out of Aster for my mom was Star.  I never thought of her name as something flowery but more heavenly…I guess. And I never thought of Iris as the flower—more like the colored part of the eye comes to mind. And Violet was my favorite name for a girl and also my favorite color—purple—but you can’t really name your daughter, Purple.”

The others laughed again. Everyone began to get more to eat, mingling by the food.  The gathering lasted for almost two hours, and eventually lost its momentum. Meanwhile, everyone took turns passing around the strand of beautiful, light pink pearls that Iris displayed so proudly in its rediscovery. It was a wedding gift from her mother in 1971, and Iris was painstakingly careful with it, swearing she’d never lose it again. She’d make sure of it. She prized it above anything else she owned, for she had no other special possession from her mother. Her sister got all of their mother’s items of jewelry, for Aster always felt it was the oldest girl’s right to it and this other sister gladly agreed.  Aster was never flashy or showy, and didn’t desire much. Her mother’s wedding ring, silver pendant necklace and an antique emerald ring from generations ago in England was all she wanted. Anything else was up for the grabbing by her two younger sisters.  

Iris learned the hard way to be mindful and not careless about her jewelry. An occasional earring would fall off and be lost, but any other woman could say the same thing. There was only one other incident that happened when she was a teenager that she never shared with anyone other than Zack. If she would confide in anyone, it would be him. Not even her husband knew, and she wasn’t going to tell anyone now. It was too embarrassing to share in the group, especially after tale of the pink pearl necklace that went missing.  

Bree told her, “Keep that in a safe or a safety deposit box—somewhere you know it won’t form legs and walk away.”

“Oh, ha, ha”, Iris remarked, flatly. “I don’t know how it ended up boxed up in the attic with my wedding dress. I sewed that dress myself, by the way. I guess too many hands were involved packing up things, and I am sure I did not put it in that box. Tore this house apart while it was stuck in the attic. Tore that apart, too.”
  
“And yet you didn’t find it until now”, Rowan stated. “It is as if it was hiding on you”.

“Well, I wasn’t even really looking for it when I found it, Iris said. “I was just trying to gather things for my garage sale, and thought of storing my old dress back in the closet. Luck was on my side. It’s odd that I didn’t find it earlier… but it sure did a good job of hiding on me.”

“Like it had a mind of its own”, Franci said, winking, “and didn’t want to be found.”

“Yeah”, Iris agreed. “It was just pure torture for me thinking I may never lay eyes on it ever again. All I had were a few pictures of me wearing it. I was convinced it was gone. ”

After a while, Iris’s friend, sister-in-law and daughter-in-law left one by one, but Violet remained with her mom.  They went in her bedroom to put the necklace back in its original case and in a dresser drawer —or at least that is what Violet had thought.

Iris placed the necklace into the case and handed it to her daughter. She told her, “I’m sure you’ll take good care of it.”

Violet’s jaw dropped as she sat on her parent’s king-sized bed. “Oh, Mom—no!” she exclaimed. “You can’t do that! You just found it, so why? Grandma gave it to you!”

Iris sat down beside her daughter. “I can give it to you, and I just did”, she insisted. “Anyway, it is a tradition to pass down jewelry from a mother to her firstborn daughter. And since you’re my only one, it goes to you. Someday, it can go to your daughter.”

Violet had tears in her eyes. She opened the box and smoothed her fingers over the pearls.
“Mom, you won’t lose it again. I am sure you won’t!”

“Because I’m giving it to you, dear. I know I can see it again so don’t look so guilty!” Violet gave her mom a huge hug, her growing belly pressing against her. The deed was done, for Violet knew that she couldn’t talk her mother out of things once her mind was set.

Iris shared with her, “You know that when I was born—Uncle Zack, too—my parents thought they were done with having children. My sister and brother were about the same level to each other as me and Zack were. It was like two, different families.”

Iris’s sister, Miriam, known to everyone as Mimi, was fifteen years older than the twins, and Ray Jr. was almost thirteen years older. Being nearly grown, Mimi and Ray were out on their own in a few years after the twins were born. Mimi married at nineteen and had three sons and two daughters, very much content in her role as a homemaker. Ray went into the army and remained a bachelor for the rest of his life.

“I never knew I was any different from Mimi or Ray until I overheard my Aunt Gerty talking to my mother”, she told Violet. “I mean I knew they were much older, but that was normal to me.”

“What did she say?” Violet had wondered.

“Well”, Iris explained, “I was going into the kitchen when I stopped to listen to something I had a feeling that I shouldn’t be hearing.”

Her mother was washing dishes, and Aunt Gerty was drying them with a towel and putting them away. Gerty said in her judgmental tone, “You’ve ended up just like Mother. You entered your forties and got stuck with more children to care for. How you got yourself in this mess…well…nothing you can do about it now. Those children are going to wear you down!”

Gerty was two years younger than Aster, and considered the family old maid, never walking down the aisle, herself.  She prided having her own freedom, unrestricted from a husband’s demands or the constant needs of crying or whiny children.

Aster replied to her sister, with defensive sternness, “Yes, I’ve made my bed and I’m lying in it! Do you have to be so high and mighty about it?”

“I couldn’t even move”, Iris told Violet. “I was frozen in my tracks. Probably was about eight or nine—no older than ten. I heard it loud and clear. For the first time in my life, I felt unwanted. It just never occurred to me before that my mother ever felt this way. Now I heard her admit to it. She didn’t say to my aunt that she was dead wrong.”

Iris’s mother came from a big family—the third of eight children and the oldest daughter—so she saw her mother having to bring up children well into her forties and older, and it wasn’t very appealing. Her mother never acted burdened by it, but Aster probably viewed her mother as stuck.

“That’s terrible. I don’t have to ask if that hurt.  I can see how hurt you are just in telling me”, Violet told her with sadness and compassion. “I don’t remember Aunt Gerty. I barely remember Grandma. She wasn’t ever mean to me, but she seemed like a very strict, no-nonsense woman.”  

“Oh, she was, Iris admitted. “I don’t even know how her and my father ever connected—complete opposites. Unless she changed from a young, happy lady to hard, bitter one. I don’t know. You would have loved your grandfather, though, Violet. He liked to crack jokes and was fun to be around. My mother was so stern that she never knew how to tell a joke or a funny story. Dutiful—that’s how I’d describe her. She was dutiful in her role—she did her job right—but I began to realize that she wasn’t affectionate. Except for your Aunt Mimi—their bond was there and wished I had it. Mimi was more ladylike and more like a mother’s shadow. Their personalities suited each other, I suppose.”  

Iris pulled out an old photo album out of a drawer. There was a black and white, head and shoulders portrait of her mother in her most typical look in Iris’s childhood. She had a short, stiff 1950s style bob of silvery gray hair and wore cat eye glasses. Not a hint of a smile was upon her lips—like she never knew how.

“Do you really think Grandma resented you and Uncle Zack?” Violet asked.

Iris responded, “Well, I’m sure my mother preferred having one child of each and didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’d like to have twins now’. I mean, she had a perfect set and my mom liked perfection. That’s all it was going to be—at least she thought. Nobody waits over a dozen years to have more. If my mother really resented getting pregnant again, now she had to deal with two screaming babies instead of one.  Must have come as quite a shock and she was about to turn forty.”

“It’s a shame, but woman have children past that age”, Violet pointed out.

“Sure, and some wait to start families until they have done some of the things they always wanted to do. But if I was to ask my mother if she wanted children that time in her life—which I never dared to—I think she’d have wanted to say, ‘not at all.’”

“It’s a shame”, Violet repeated. “Grandma should never have treated you two any differently.” Iris wasn’t trying to knock her mother, but Violet felt the need to be very protective for her against this grandmother that she barely remembered. Aster has been dead since Violet was six-years-old, and she had a foggy memory of her in her coffin, cold to the touch and very matriarchal in her navy blue dress.

Iris admitted, “I knew Mimi was her favorite, and I was my father’s favorite because I was the youngest girl. Zack and I we
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
I was born a sickly, screeching baby, two months earlier than expected. The doctor and midwife did everything they could to keep my little limbs moving and to keep my tiny heart beating, fluttering like the wings of butterfly.
“Is it a boy?” my mother whispered through her pale lips, as they bathed my naked body in hot water.
“No, ma’am, it’s a girl” The midwife struggled to add on something that would make the wailing creature seem more desirable. “With exquisitely shaped feet, so perfectly miniature”
She let out a croak of conflicting emotions: the joy and pride of a newly-founded motherly love, the fear of presenting a girl as a first-born, the relief that the hours of agony in childbirth were over and the dread of facing her husband once he found out about me.

My mother was not healthy after my birth for a long time; and when I was only one and two months old she fell dangerously ill, and the house whispered footsteps running to her room late at night and muffled voices of different doctors. Mercifully, she survived but was left barren and forever unfertile.
I can not imagine my father’s fury. He believed in having sons to carry on his old last name of thirty-one generations; it was his religion and had I been a son, I would have been worshipped as a god. I can imagine how my mother prayed and thanked her ancestors that her dowry was of a large one.

He could barely tolerate being in the same room as me during my toddler years. Every time he entered a room I was playing in, nurse would sweep me to our garden out side; answering to my startled queries, “Be an obedient daughter, don’t bother your father and don’t ask questions”
My body had been born frail, but my natural spirit was as healthy as could be, full of inquiries, wonders of the world around me and everyday I would learn something new just wandering around the neighborhood observing things, with my nurse trailing with a worried eye behind me muttering, “Girls are not supposed to be exposed to this” she spoke the words as if they were sour, “you should be sitting at home and accompanying your mother.”

Every day at dinner, the two females of the house, me and my mother, were silent while my father ranted on and on. My appetite being very delicate, I often just sat there as still as I possibly could and listened to my father talking about politics, jobs, money. Things he called ‘men business’. I longed to ask questions about these ‘men business’, especially ‘university’ for I had an inquisitive sort-of nature but was refrained with a sharp, piercing look from my mother every time I opened my mouth and sometimes, she pinched me under the table leaving purple splotches which flashed, “Don’t question your father”
Sometimes, he would talk about the future he had decided for me, “You will marry off, sixteen at the latest, to some one rich and beneficial to our family. You will do as I say till I marry you off, and then you will do as your husband tells you.”
“Yes father, for I should repay everything you have done for me” I replied as sweetly as I could.
“Yes, you’re a good daughter. Bear lots of sons for him and your house will be one of happiness.”
I was proud that he had given me a compliment. “Yes father, for it will make you joyful as I always wish to make you so”
My childish heart did not understand why my mother turned her head down while her left eyebrow twitched, and why that night, as she tucked me into bed, I thought I saw a tear roll down her cheek and why as she kissed me that night she whispered, “Do not love me so; love your father. The men in your life are your gods.”

My physical health would constantly limit the desires of my free spirit. I could not to do what others who were as free of spirit as I was could do, and couldn’t socialize with them and the rest of the children in my neighborhood had their siblings to mingle with, causing me to become the pitiful outcast.
I saw children around my age, around seven or eight, climbing trees and wanted to do so as well, but my white feet did not have grip enough to grasp onto the fat branches.
Father caught me once trying to propel myself up a tree and his expression was both of a resigned anger and sadness before he turned him and his face away and back into the house without a word.
That night, mother told me not to climb trees ever again. I noticed a faint bruise on her cheek bone that had been covered with white powder.

When I was eleven or twelve, and was allowed to wander further out into the neighborhood with my nurse I saw the boys fishing in the nearby pond and wanted to do so as well. Starting that day, every week I pocketed the three coins mother gave me until I could buy the best fishing rod in the little store and ran as fast as my skinny, weak legs could carry me to the pond. I mimicked the way the boys flung the fishing rod out over the water but the metal pole was too heavy for my pale, shaking arms. I tried over and over again as my nurse watched, biting her lip in anxiety. I held the fishing rod with trembling sore arms till  I felt a bite; I pumped my small arms to reel it in, but they were so tired and I was far too slow, losing the fish I had spent half the day trying to catch. “Ah, just bad luck, don’t worry! It was a smart fish, I tell you!” nurse exclaimed, though her eyes flashed a look of pity and I knew she knew it wasn’t just bad luck or a smart fish.
In anger, I sold the fishing rod to one of the boys for two-thirds of the price I had bought it for. He was delighted with the bargain and I watched with a lump in my throat as he caught three fish with the tug of his healthy, muscular arm within fifteen minutes. “This is a beautiful rod, and the pond is just filled with fish today, Little Sister!”
Wanting to spend the money jingling inside my pocket, money that to me was just a reminder of a painful memory, I headed off to the collection of little shops close to my house where I was guaranteed distraction. Nurse, sweating and complaining of the heat, followed me.
An ageing man with a bunch of filthy hair working away on a piece of thick, rough paper with wondrous colors inside a shop caught my eye as I peered inside the window. He turned the picture upside down and continued blending in the dark colors of the shape to create a shadow along the curve of it. I entered the shop. “What is that?” I asked of him.
“A face” he replied back absentmindedly.
“Doesn’t look like one to me” I confessed with my honesty.
He looked up at me, “No, it does not to you, and maybe, neither will it at the end. To me, it looks like an angle of a faded face. But slowly, with time, it will become clearer and clearer, yet only to me, and as it does, I will be able to choose more colors to make it yet more beautiful. The outcome of this painting is entirely up to me.”
I felt my challenging self rising up. “But what if you imagined a certain color in your head but couldn’t find it or be able to mix it to your mind’s perfection?”
“Then I would create my own paint color.”
“You know how?”
“No, but if I could not find the paint color already made I would make it myself, and no matter what, would learn how to. So far I have always been able to compromise and mix different colors to please me.”
“You do an awful lot of shadowing light colors with dark colors”
“Why do you think I do so?” he questioned me this time, with bright eyes.
I pondered for a moment to give as good an answer as he had given me and then told him my answer.
He nodded with impress, “Yes, yes, absolutely right. I never thought I’d hear that from a child” and looked at me with his head cocked in curiosity.
“What would you like to buy from here, Little Sister?”
Still deeply interested in our conversation I pulled out the coins I had in my pocket. “How much stuff can I buy with all this money? I’d like those crayons, I’ve tried them once before and they are so creamy and smooth.”
“Oil pastels?” he asked, a little confusedly.
Feeling ashamed of my ignorance, I nodded. The tutor father hired evidently bent to father’s strict rules of what should be taught and what would not be taught. Father disapproved of women painting, and would’ve dismissed nurse had he known that instead of taking me out for a little walk to smell the blooming daffodils, she in fact let me explore the environment around me to the best of my ability even in disgruntle.
The man gave my red-patched cheeks and undeveloped translucent frame a sympathetic look and when he spoke, his voice was gentle. “Little Sister, I’ve a whole basket of oil paints that I’ve used but rarely and so are still in perfect condition. Would you like to carry the whole basket home for all the money you have in your pockets?”
I handed him all my golden coins, “But first I must see if I like it.”
“You won’t be disappointed” he chuckled and walked with an imbalanced limp to the back of the store. I noticed a wooden stump protruding from the bottom of his long, black pants. My heart throbbed achingly; he was ****** limited too. I turned to his painting and smiled from deep inside, a smile I rarely wore.
He came back tugging a huge brown basket filled to the brim with sticks of oil pastels, some longer or thicker than others. He lifted an orange one up and showed the tip of it to me, which was stained with a black mark. “Sometimes when you blend colors this will happen, but it’s easy to rid off. Just softly, and patiently rub it off on a cloth until it disappears.” He demonstrated upon his black pants.
“Thank you. It’s kind of you. But...I can’t carry this home myself. It’s heavy.”
I turned to nurse and smiled my best pleading smile.

The basket was toiled up as nurse undressed me from my shower and father and mother were otherwise occupied. That night, with my precious basket safely under my bed, I cleaned all the multi-colored oil pastels on an old shirt, and as soon as the house was ringing with silence, I locked my door and flicked on the lamp light, and started pressing the smooth colors into the paper to blend and make a picture of kissing colors on a relatively large piece of white paper. A thrill ran from my finger tips and along my arm, and made my palms tingle as I held the colorful sticks in my hand to the paper. I hid it underneath my bed just as a rosy sun was rising.
*
I was sixteen, and I was thought beautiful: for now, at this age, it was considered beautiful to be so pale of skin, so small of feet and hands, graceful to have tiny limbs and charming to have little strength for it was now considered ‘feminine’.
It was three weeks after I had turned sixteen and for dinner, father had brought over an ugly man with a bulging waist and shiny bald head who continually made ****** jokes at the dinner table while he believed I did not understand them. He was infamous for the two wives he had had (before they died from sickness), and how he not only hit them but kept other lovers too. Yet he was desirable for his vast richness. He leered at me obnoxiously, in an attempt to smile.
Father caught him looking at me, “She’s incredibly silent, never says a word of defiance and will be a most dutiful wife.”
“Yes, she is beautiful”
My heart froze and my brain was stimulated to work twice as fast. Him?! Him?! The man who’s wives were killed through an illness called ‘abuse, neglect and disloyalty?!’
I cast my eyelashes down in order to appear a calm, modest young lady while my heart hammered in fury, disgust and a rising hysterical panic. I shot a look at my mother whose left eyebrow was twitching as she stared down at her dinner plate, and I knew she was having the same thoughts as I.
“I would be glad to have you as my son-in-law. You would have no trouble with her, and would be embraced with open arms into our family.”
They continued this path of talk through dinner while he eyeballed me in a way that made me cringe. I felt his foot nudge mine under the table and in haste tucked it under the chair with a little gasp. His eyes glittered at my gasp and I was furious with myself for letting him feel a rotten triumph. Though I had always felt an extremely strong dislike towards him from what I knew of him and sometimes saw of him with an immoral lady, something pushed in the pit of my tummy, and I knew it was pure hatred.
When mother tucked me in she was being strange. On closing my door she whispered, “I love you… so I wish you to know… don’t ever contradict men”

As I was secretly drawing a picture as I did every night till dawn, I heard my father’s voice roar in the dead of the night. In a sudden, I shoved my portrait under the bed and threw all my oil pastels into the basket, hid it, and switched the light off. I heard his voice roar again, accompanied by a thud. I was wild with fear as I crept to my door and pressed my ear against it, barely even shocked at my own daringness as my instinct, love, took over- my instinct of must knowing what was happening to my mother.
“How dare you say I’m wrong!?” there was another thud, and this time I heard a soft whimper. “She is worthless to me, not a son. And I will marry her off to a rich man who can actually benefit this family.” He roared.
There was a whisper which I strained to hear, “He will **** her”
“From the moment she was born she wasn’t made to live!” he yelled.
A hiss escaped my tongue and I coiled like a serpent, flinching as a thud was heard yet again and an immediate cry of pain escaped from both my lips and my mothers’.
A fire awoke inside me, burning my temples and my whole body and my eyes stung with hot tears; tears that burned my face as they splashed down. My whole body was shaking and my tightly squeezed eyes were going through spasms. I was no longer wild with fear, but with anger.
I turned my light back on and tugged my basket of oil pastels out. I yanked my portrait off from a thick of pile of different pictures I had drawn.
My breath was coming in quick short breaths as I finished my portrait to the utmost perfection, using every oil pastel in the basket. Every time I heard a thud, I colored with more fiery… shadowing my jaw line with the fat black oil pastel, in the crook of my ear, the corner of my mouth… where the light shone upon my fore head, how it reflected in the color of my eye and glowed on my cheeks.
When I was finished, the house was deadly quiet again and dawn was breaking. I looked down upon it and realized something that changed my life.
In frenzy I swatted out all the things I had ever drawn and stared at them in an awakening.
The colors on them were the events of my life, the things that characterized it, the decisions. They were beautiful for they had been chosen and controlled by me … I had chosen the colors I wanted and thought best for my pictures; and spent thought over how to blend different colors to the color I wanted.
And everyday, as I worked into the drawings with time, they became clearer and clearer on what was the right thing to do, and how it should possibly look like in the next stage.
I leaned over and kissed the thin lips of my portrait that didn’t look exactly like me for not even the most skilled artists have complete control over what they draw.

Then I remembered what I had told the one-legged man in the shop a few years go:
“Lights not only illuminate, they also cast shadows. The contrast makes you able to appreciate the power of both.”
Now it was time to truly let the light illuminate my life, and let the shadows let me appreciate the light that shines upon me; I color my own life, and choose my own colors.

To pull out the colors underneath the darkness of my bed…
And spill it to the world outside.
poetryaccident Sep 2018
I’ll protect the innocent
even while I may proclaim
my deep regard for who they are
controversy may be exclaimed
guiltless stated for my friends
this word is used at its most broad
when all children of the divine
deserve their refuge from abuse

even while I seek to proclaim
my admiration for their grit
stepping outside confining realms
leading the way for this questing one
on the shoulders of the perverse
this is how the public may respond
declaring wisdom I don’t share
when I see threads of commonality

in my heart I know we are the same
seeking power in our own way
being true to ourselves
while expressing how we live
humanity searching for a voice
I’ll add mine to the chorus
admitting that I’ve fallen far
while ascending to the heights

spectrums ranged in pursuit
my honest nature at last found
though at first I wrongly thought
I was alone when I was not
the free spirits led the way
I wish my voice could exclaim
and still I hold back my breath
protecting innocent like myself.

© 2018. Sean Green. All Rights Reserved. 20180909.
The poem “Protecting Innocent” is about my inability to properly attribute my praise and respect to the free spirits of the world.  Society always has some sort of box that it wants people to live in, and when the boxes are breached, the reaction is one of judgmental attack.
Clem N Tine Jun 2014
On Monday I didn't go to school
because you wanted to take me out instead
We walked around the park downtown all afternoon
finally we perched ourselves in the gazebo
immersing ourselves in each other's thoughts
and wading in traded words.
My attention was shattered when a
lady bug landed on my knee. I was baffled-
I exclaimed that it's orange. You laughed and I
coaxed it onto my finger. And you told me
"Some of them are green you know"
I didn't know. I said "maybe those ones just aren't ripe yet"
I played with the bug for a few more seconds
until I felt your gaze, and I lifted my emerald greens
to your cup-of-coffee mahognies. You were looking at me
the way I imagined Gatsby must have looked at Daisy.
And you smiled a little too wide
for the stupid thing I had just said. You touched my chin
and kissed me gently, and i could feel your lips
still frozen in a grin.
But when I looked back down my coveted orange lady bug
had flown away-
and left no trace that he ever came.
sobroquet Oct 2013
I'd last about an hour as a clerk inside a store
invariably I'd shoot my mouth off
about someone's daughter dressing  like a *****
or making comments about the dreadful things  consumed
which would include a good 99% of the people in the room

I'd eventually end up getting my lights punched  out
after  *******  someone as  a fat ***  undiscerning lout
or cracking  some aside regarding what comprises that crud
and making faces of revulsion "you'd be better off eating mud"
ewwwww, you really eat that stuff?
this store should be sued for selling such bluff

children with diabetes, a third of adults obese
the courtesy clerk dies a little  for lack of surcease
line after line of vapid consumers
mindless knee-**** impetuosity belay the rumors
what's an adulterant, what's a filler?
propylene glycol alginate, yum yum
sorbitan mono sterate, shut up and eat it, its fun!
I can't even pronounce it, much less do I  care
need I be a scientist to enjoyably savor fare

Go ahead and poison yourself
the quirky clerk exclaimed
its ever so clear you're stupid and lame
stay mired in your pig-headed muck of  ignorance
you're exactly what they want
another brain dead consumer
a regular culinary savant
stuff  your face with no remorse nor heed
no worries, the clerk of little courtesy knows your need
he'll limply wheel  out your cart of miserable choices for you
and wise-crack some snarky rejoinder
then promptly get  beaten,  black and blue
The silent musings of an overly sensitive, audacious,  contemptuous, impudent puritanical bag boy.

— The End —