the end of the beginning

She looked different from every angle, causing no one to ever remember her. She divided her time between this and that. There were long walks to nowhere. There were staring-out-the-window reveries lasting for hours until a thin string of drool hung from a mouth agape. As evening’s loam drifted down around her, rooting her further in place, she closed her dry mouth and prepared for bed.

She woke up at the same time every day with high ambitions. By the end of breakfast these were dashed to pieces on the great hulking boulders of the afternoon hours, casting their dark shadows as they always do across the glowing yellow light of daybreak. She dressed herself regardless. Her uniform consisted of a shapeless grey jumpsuit and knee-high rubber boots. It is possible that birds nested in her hair. Yet on certain days she looked neat as a pin. Without her uniform, in fact, she looked like most anyone else. It all depended on the angle.

She eked out a living by teaching small children how to pour without spilling. It was one skill she had perfected before she realized the entire system was rigged. Her services were very much in demand, for most parents did not want their children making a mess, while at the same time they were ashamed of their own inability to pour without spilling. Thus they were determined to give their children the one chance they never had, to progress through life without the need to always mop up the table after serving drinks.

Her one true friend was a mollusc named Boil that had lost its shell and now spent its days at the coffee shop down the street from her quarters. The mollusc was irascible in temperament but tolerated her, for she would stroke its foot when it grew apoplectic. Most days she and Boil sat in the coffee shop drinking espresso and waiting for the day to end so they could go home and go to bed. They filled this time among the hulking boulders by doing crosswords and spitting on other customers when the barista wasn’t looking. The barista, a morose badger named Larry, disliked Boil. The feeling was mutual, in fact, for it is well known that badgers and molluscs are natural enemies.

This was her life. She was sure the beginning had ended at some point. But when and where that had happened remained elusive. When she was young she remembered playing with molluscs in the tidal pools at the ocean beach. She never dreamed that after the beginning of the end she would find herself spending most days drinking coffee with a mollusc. Things have a way of coming full circle, though, don’t they, she thought. But was there a hand other than her own drawing that circle, this she also wondered as she walked. And then the window. And then the drool. And then the blinding yellow light shattering the boulders, grinding them to fine powder, the fertile loam of her life.

happy holidays

She stepped outside to smoke and the cigarette began to complain about the plight of its kind. We are oppressed, it said. We are pariahs, it continued, and we reject our role as straw man for the cancer industrial complex. While she did not necessarily disagree with the cigarette’s point of view, its continuing monologue made smoking difficult and so she extinguished it, a revolution snuffed out before it ever began.

Prior to this incident she used to walk and smoke at the same time every night. Not wishing to spark revolt, she soon gave that up.

After all, she thought, routine will either save us or kill us…or perhaps both, and possibly at the same time.

night walker

The orange glow of the street lamps illuminated her steady path along the still snow-covered sidewalk. She walked north, staring straight ahead, crossed the east-west street, continued north up the same side, crossed over to the opposite side, soon crossed back, and returned south by the same route. It made no sense. There was nothing up there, not on either side. Her choice of location for reversal in direction seemed arbitrary, yet the boldness of its execution indicated otherwise. The night was cold, with a bitter wind, not a night many would choose for a stroll, unless perhaps a fire was in one’s head. But her pace did not betray heat, so measured was it. So measured it was and yet lacking in any destination of obvious distinction. Crossing the street immediately prior to her southbound return was particularly puzzling. Now it was true that she was dressed warmly, suggesting predetermination. A hat covered her head and she wore a heavy coat, though not of any great length, for visible below its hem were woolen tights covering her legs. She moved with swift, even motion, as if in a rush, and yet a rush to get where. To get there, and yet there was nowhere, to an observer’s eye. A brief glimpse at profile, from a point several meters to the immediate west, yielded the features of an aquiline nose and a set jaw, the latter betraying further evidence of explicit intent. The heels of her boots struck the concrete in staccato rhythm, fading out as she moved further south, a sudden sound of certainty struggling to be heard.

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