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Raining – 1.

I slumped against the railing at the bus stop. It was raining, just a little bit, not enough for an umbrella, and cold. It’d be at least half an hour until the one I was supposed to take, would arrive. The streets weren’t so busy, it was Monday afternoon, and most of the people who needed to get to places were already there. Here, most of the people who were out were either children, the elderly or the idle. They moved up and down the sidewalk and storefronts in an eternal slouch, without any sense of purpose or aim.

I looked through the window of the building across the street. On the second story, a man was cutting a woman’s hair. It was a large single piece of glass that gave whoever looked through it, the impression that they were looking through an aquarium. The man moved with a deliberateness that made it seem as if each step he took while he revolved around the woman and the salon chair was part of some larger drawn out choreography. His back was straight and he moved with the awareness of someone who was careful to mute their footsteps, so as to not disturb the silence in a cave. The woman, seated in the chair closest to the window was ordinary. Besides the fact that she was in the salon, there was nothing remarkable about her. She likely was one of the townswoman on an errand or indulging herself. The man made quick vertical cuts along the strands of her which were held in the valleys of his fingers.

That was when I felt a weight fall onto my shoulder, a woman had placed her head on my shoulder. The sudden physical contact made me lean forward and shift off the railing. “I’m sorry, I guess I feel asleep,” she said. She must have came and stood by me while I was entranced by the scene in the salon. Whenever I am, caught by something, I am unaware of everything else.

“That’s alright,” I said. She had a slender, yet round face. She hid her behind a pair of Wayfarers and with her short hair coming down the sides like carefully planted ivy vines, she gave the feeling of a boyish femininity.
“Are you waiting for the bus downtown?” she said.
“No. I’m not,” I said.
“That’s too bad. You’re not away from here right?”
“I’m not. How’s you know?”
“There aren’t too many people around here. I pay attention to the new faces. They’re easy to pick out. Where are you staying?” she said.
“The Hotel Villete.”
“That’s not too far from it. Actually, you could barely walk it if you’re in the mood. It might take longer, but it’s a nice day today,” she said. She reached into her purse and drew out a cigarette. It was a 120 and she held it between her fingers in the same way that the barber across the street had held the woman’s hair. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all”. I reached into my breast pocket for my own cigarettes. It was my last one and I held the lighter flame against the tip. It was raining on the way to the bus stop and I had walked at least half a mile to the bus stop. The cigarette was bent out of shape and torn. Nothing happened so I threw it onto the sidewalk where a small stream took it to the gutter.

The woman offered me one of hers. I smiled and took it. It was a entirely white and had a small green line that went around it towards the lower end. It felt fragile and I was careful not to hold it tightly. She leaned forward towards my face and touched the glowing end of her cigarette with mine. I inhaled and watched the edges of the paper turn black and red. “Thanks.”
“My pleasure.”

It started to rain again. At first it was a drizzle, after a few seconds, it grew into downpour. We watched the start in silence. The bus arrived shortly after. It pushed a wake of water across the sidewalk and under our shoes. She was wearing white heels. Just high enough to be suggestive but modest still. “Well, I’ll see you around. It’s a nice day for a walk.”

She walked up the stairs, with the handle of her purple umbrella hung over her forearm and took a seat towards the front of the bus. I watched her in the window. She watched me.

Thomas was standing on his knees on top of the chair by the window when I got back. He didn’t turn to look behind him when I opened the door and kept staring out the window. I took the towel from the bathroom and wiped my head down. Draped my wet shirt across the metal bar in the bathroom. Thomas’ elbows were on the window sill. His cheeks were stuffed against the palms of his hands. At twelve years old, his features began to distinguish themselves. They drew clear lines as to what he inherited and from who. The texture and thickness of his dark brown hair was just like his mother’s. It even curled in the same elongated “S” shape whenever it grew too long. And like his mother, the ends at the back flared out like small wings and touched the bottom of his ear lobes. The roundness of his cheeks and wide jawbone though were my own. His temperament and disposition towards those around him, also completely my own.

“What are you doing?” I said.
“Nothing. Just looking outside. I’m bored.”
“You’re bored?” I put my arm on his shoulder and smelled the top of his head, “You smell terrible. Did you wash your hair this morning?”
“I did,” he said.
“I don’t think so. Honestly, when was the last time you washed your hair?”
“Four days ago.” He stood up on the chair. Thomas was tall for his age and with the added height of the chair, he was almost level with my head. “When was the last time you washed yours?” he said.
“I don’t remember. Maybe yesterday or the day before.”
“It smells terrible.”
“Like yours?”
“Worse.”

I picked him up by his arms pits and set him on the floor. I knew soon, I wouldn’t be able to do this. He wouldn’t want me to. I looked out the window and wondered what Thomas was fixated on but I couldn’t see anything of interest. It had stopped raining and the sun came through a gap in the clouds. It formed a rainbow that I had to strain to see against the haze of the nylon screen and outside. “The carpet’s cold,” Thomas said.

“Well buddy, if you had put on your socks and remembered to turn on the heater, it wouldn’t be so cold.” I turned around. He was standing there with his hands in his pockets and his bare-feet. He was wearing a pair of shorts and a faded black t-shirt that had become an ash colored gray. “Why’d you get into bed for a bit,” I said.
He got into bed and pulled the sheets around his body so that the only thing I could see was his face. “Just stay there until you’re warm,” I said. I took my wallet from the coffee table and folded out a few bills, a five and ten dollar bill. “Here. Why don’t you take this and buy a pair of scissor, a razor, shampoo and some shaving cream from the store down the street. Do you remember? We passed by it on the way to the hotel.”
“You gave me fifteen. Are you sure it’s enough?”
I gave him another five, “Alright, here.”
He nodded his head. “Can I keep the change to?’
“It’s all yours. You can get some food on the way back if you want. Don’t forget to take your jacket and umbrella in case it starts up again.”

Thomas dragged the sheets with him off the bed and took the socks that had been hanging on a hanger on the closet. He put them on and then slipped his feet into his shoes. They were a pair of Converse hi-tops that were torn just a little along the edges and scuffed along the side soles. “You don’t have to go right now.”
“I want to,” he said, “I’m bored.
“Okay, where’s the money?” I said.
He pulled the hood of his blue jacket over his head and patted the outside of his breast-pocket. “Button it,” I said. He pressed the snap button close, took the umbrella and walked out.

The window overlooked the street in front of the hotel. It was on a small downward slope. I could see all the way down to the end of the block and the rest of the street, which was empty. There were only a few cars parked on either side. The grocery store was on the left. It was very small and wasn’t much of a grocery store. I watched Thomas come out from underneath the awning of the hotel and cross the sidewalk. It started raining again, he popped the umbrella open and became a bright yellow dot moving down the hill.

A woman was coming up in the opposite direction. Thomas walked past her without stopping and disappeared into the grocery store. I continued watching the woman. She held open a purple umbrella that hid her face. At the end of the block, facing the hotel, she looked up towards my direction and tilted the umbrella down slightly. I tried to catch a glimpse of her face but couldn’t see clearly.

The rain was coming down in larger and more sustained sheets. I unlocked the window and pushed it outwards hoping to catch another look at her face as she turned right and walked beyond the vantage point of the hotel window. Maybe I was tired. She said she was watching the bus downtown so she shouldn’t have been around here. I couldn’t remember if she said she was going downtown or if she asked me if I was.

I ran my fingers through my hair. It felt thick and my mustache had grown much coarser over the past few days. When I looked in the mirror it was almost a full-on beard and not something a simple razor could clear out without any pain. Thomas and I had been traveling for weeks and we never had the time to notice these things and take care of ourselves. Now that we were planning to stay a few days, they revealed themselves and asked for our attention.

I went down to the lobby and went up to the front desk man. “Do you know where I can get my hair cut?” I asked. He was sleeping and stuttered awake. I repeated myself.
“You can go to Ken’s. It’s close to here,” he said.
“Can you show me?” I took out a pocket sized journal from my bag and tore a page out so he could sketch a generalized map. It wasn’t far. It was the same one I looked into earlier while waiting for the bus.

While I was in the lobby, Thomas came back from his errand. He closed the umbrella outside and tucked himself through the revolving door. He was carrying a plastic bag in one hand. In the other hand was small wax paper bag that hid a sandwich that was already bitten through. “Did you get everything?”
“Yeah. A scissor, shaving blades, shampoo and shaving cream,” he said.
“I forgot to ask to get soap, but that’s okay, we can use the shampoo.”
“Your son?” the front desk said, “I could tell. The two of you look alike. Sons always take after their fathers.”
“Is that so?” I said.
“Always, at least they do around here.”

I thanked him for the map and went back up the stairs and into our room with Thomas. He took off his coat and shook out, causing water to small droplets to lose themselves in the wooden door of the closet. I took the bag and set everything out on the bathroom counter. “Why don’t you wash your hair and I’ll cut it for you,” I said.
“I don’t want you to cut my hair.”
“Come on, you look like some furry animal.”
“I don’t think you know what you’re doing,” he said. He took his wet socks off and put them next to the shirt I hung earlier.
“I do. I use to cut your hair all the time when you just this tall.” I leveled my palm out and pushed it down to a space just above my kneecap.
“What if you mess up?”
“We can always get it fixed. Come on. Stop complaining. I don’t mess up. You can ask your mom. I cut her hair too,” I said.
Thomas put his hands back into the pockets of his shorts and looked at me. “Okay.”

"Just wait in the bathroom. I’ll get the chair by the window.” I brought the chair into the bathroom and set it in front of the sink. Then I took a towel off the rack and folded it in half. This, I lined across the edge of the bathroom counter. “Hey, come here and sit in the chair,” I said. Thomas sat down. “Don’t move.” I tilted the chair until his front legs were off the ground and the back of the chair was pressed against the folded towel. I put my hand underneath the back of his head. The hair was greasy and damp. “Tilt your head back a little,” I said and guided it until it was almost level with the sink. I had folded another towel, this one into fourths, and slide it underneath his neck. “I’m going to wash your hair, so don’t move.”

I cupped some water and poured it through his hair until I thought it was enough to form a lather. I squeezed the shampoo into a palm and massaged it through his hair and onto his scalp. Though still soft, it was much more firm than I remembered. I already forgot how long had it been. If it even happened at all or was it just some memory I made for myself about Thomas. Anyway, it didn’t matter, we were here now.

I pressed down with my fingers along his scalp. I rinsed the suds off and added more shampoo, this time, I pressed down with both hands across the strands.
“Feeling better?” I said.
“Yeah. I feel like I’m going to fall asleep,” he said.
“Not just yet, we’re not done.”

In the light and steam of the bathroom, his hair was much more brown than when I arrived earlier while he was staring out the window. I always marveled at how the color of Dorothy’s hair shifted its saturation with the day. In the bright afternoons and mornings, outside, it was a bright auburn. In the evenings and blue hours, it deepened into voluminous black and any hints of brighter tones were completely gone.

On the last day, before she left, she sat in a chair outside and asked me to chop it down to her shoulder blades. She had long wild, unkempt hair, that curled at the center of its length. When I was done, I brought the mirror outside and moved it about her head. She only nodded. “I like it. I feel good. I feel much better.”

To shave or just go!
shaving mirrors with lights
Image by NATEPERRO
33" umbrella to the camera left, cheap walmart sheer curtain hung over door way camera right. flashes shot through curtain and umbrella, triggered via el cheapo GI triggers. Shot with the Nikon d40, kit lens at the wide end of the zoom. Post processing to blend two images (I know duh).

giveUsOurDailyBread
shaving mirrors with lights
Image by kleer001
Give us each our daily bread.
By: Clear Menser
Jan-Sept 2007

Thursday Night.
9-20-07 23:21

Once upon a time there was a man in a dark blue suit in a bright yellow taxi. It was night time. The city outside gave way to the eventual suburban sprawl.

The man rubbed his eyes and yawned. It had been a long day with a long flight at the end. He felt the full weight of it. With the money they made from the last contract he could afford the damned expensive taxi ride home.

Then he was in front of his mirror brushing his teeth. He was wearing his shorts with little hearts on them. He didn’t remember getting out of the taxi or undressing, but with all the stress it was an understandable lapse. He ignored the discontinuity and finished brushing his teeth. He checked out his stubble. Verdict, execution. He shaved and then redressed the fresh cut on his hand.

Then he was lying down in bed next to his homemade alarm clock. Sara had made it for him. The numbers read 00:13 in simple red neon. He didn’t remember finishing his toiletries. Again he thought nothing of the jump in time. He though of Sara and her urgent kisses at the end of the work day. He turned off the light and went to sleep alone in his own apartment.

There was darkness, soft, warm, dry and familiar. Home sweet home.

He had technicolor dreams of small iridescent ants and light blue clouds. They were both silent. The clouds swam by faster and faster still. Fast clouds and slow ants. The whole thing sped up to a blur. It ate its self and melted into shiny brass gears and a high pitched whine. He felt a full body bubble form, wet and loud and nasty popping out of both ends. He felt his dream body lean back and to the left in a crescent.

Friday Morning.
9-21-07 03:00

He woke up with bloodshot eyes. It was still dark outside. The cut in his palm wailed like a digital nightmare crashing. It pulsed a few times and ended. Something vague itched his face. He went to switch off alarm clock, but it had not gone off yet. It’s face read 03:01 in simple red neon. He staggered to the bathroom mirror in his underwear with little hearts on them. He shaved off his new beard and went back to bed. He tried to sleep but the wound started to scream again. He eventually sunk into a black unconsciousness.

A few hours later his alarm went off at its designated time. He got ready for work, strangely refreshed. He was thankful that his beard didn’t grow back. He thought, "Ha! What a nightmare."

He took the bus to work. The sun was shining. Birds were singing. The pain in his hand was dull and pulsing.

He swiped his card at a large glass covered building. He walked past security with a short hello and wave. He entered the third door on the left and got to work.

He saw a close up of a deep field of micro organisms swimming. His name tag said "Dave McGregor". Dave pulled his face up from the microscope, rubbed his eyes, and yawned. He pushed the microscope over a little, and laid down for a short nap.

It was the same technicolor dream of ants and clouds with sound, a rushing river and bird song.

Dave found himself at a meeting with 3 other people in dark gray suits at an oblong table. Everything was blurred and slow, out of focus. He remembered a white door in an empty hallway. It had a single doorknob, no keyhole or card reader was visible. It was closed.

Dave was sitting at the head of the table. He looked around, confused for a moment, and then continued with what he was saying, something easy, but he couldn’t hear what he was saying, couldn’t even feel his tongue or the sound in his jaw. He began to sweat profusely. He felt he had lost something, but couldn’t remember what it was.

In blurred slow motion someone from his right came over. It was a woman. He can’t read her name tag. He didn’t know who she was. She said "Dave, Dave, honey, are you okay, you alright?"

Everything faded out for Dave.

8 days earlier
Wednesday Morning:
9-12-07 10:45

The microscope showed him a deep field with large gray cells rolling around. Dave adjusted the microscope and made notes. He had his favorite black ball point pen. Rock and roll was on the radio, some electronic ballad, "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" by the Mars Volta. He hadn’t heard that song is ages. It took him back to the college radio station when he could play whatever he wanted.

Out of nowhere he thought ‘Oh, it’s Sara’. He rolled in his chair over the computer and turned down the music. The music was silenced. The phone rang. He hit the speaker phone button.

"Hey honey, we got the new account out in Texas."

"Oh, Sweet. Thanks for the call, babe, I know you were on pins and needles over this." Dave paused "But do we have to fly again? You know how I hate flying. Could we just road trip to the site?"

Sara giggled. "Oh honey, it’s just faster by plane. And, hey baby, if you come with me this one time we’ll be set for the next quarter. It’s just smart."

He thought for a few moments, "Right. I’ll do it, but you owe me a few beers. This job is the Level 4, right?"

"Yup."

"Meh." Dave groaned.

Wednesday Afternoon:
9-12-07 13:10

In two hours Dave and Sara were on a plane heading to the site. He was half asleep, drunk on magic brownies and cheap beer, with head phones on blaring his own recent DJ set. A mashed up Marshal Mathers and 8-bit theme lulled him to happy la-la land. He dreamed insects, golden roaches and small black ants dancing in concentric circles.

He was sober enough by the next morning to do the job, but Sara insisted that she do the dirty work.

There she was in a yellow chem suit with orange boots walking though a field of burnt grass. The suits were an enormous pain in the ass, but Dave always thought the suits were so damn sexy. The effect was tactile and visual, something forbidden and yet so close. He mulled it over a little and kept an eye on Sara.

She was using long chrome tongs and filling a transparent bag with dead mice. The mice had apparently all come to the field and spontaneously combusted. This wasn’t a regular round-table of vermin. They had formed a single line one and a half kilometers long spaced out every two meters, to the dot. The subsequent brush fire had died out quickly. It was late spring and the grass still had some moisture. The fire damage wasn’t extensive, but the feds were still spooked.

Dave on the radio, "You got the remains, babe? Let’s get out of here."
"Almost, Dave, yeah, this place is giving me the creeps" she said "And remember, lunch is on me, right?"
"I want a big fat cookie!" he bellowed gleefully and clapped his hands in joy.

She grinned and snickered. The last bit of unburnt mouse was contained in 15
minutes.

They cleaned up, packed up, and headed out. They returned the van at the airport and got into their civilian clothes.

The food at the airport was decent and they had a full hour before the flight. He had a small salad and a huge chocolate chip cookie. Sara sat across the small table with her black coffee and croissant. They played footsies, stared longingly into each other’s eyes and held hands. They went to the gate and got on the plane. There was some mechanical failure, parts had to be express shipped out and the whole flight was bumped. The airline handed out flight vouchers and a photocopied list of nearby hotels.

Wednesday Night:
9-12-07 19:23

Sara scanned her card and entered her hotel room. The company had rented them rooms. Since they weren’t married they got separate ones.

Dave scanned his card and entered his hotel room. There was an electronic door connecting the two rooms. It was locked. He picked the lock in a couple minutes with simple Russian technique he had learned back in Detroit. It was easy enough but the screwdriver slipped and gashed his palm. He cleaned it out in the sink and she sewed it up with thread.

Night fell on the city. The lovers laid in each other’s arms in post coital bliss.

He slept and dreamed of insects, ants and cockroaches, termites, sowbugs, and
Jerusalem crickets, they rolled over each other in large piles.

She slept and dreamed of clouds. They were cumulonimbus, white and red and orange, the white foaming from underneath. They threatened to rain something fierce on the landscape.

They slept well.

Then, in the morning, after a cuddle filled shower they each got ready in their separate rooms. Sara was in front of her hotel bathroom mirror making herself up for the day. Brown dress, khaki blouse and perky tits. Dave was in front of his hotel bathroom mirror, blue suit, smart tie, and shit eating grin. Life was good.

He sat on the toilet and clipped his nails. They were black under the nails and itched a little. He could have sworn he did a full scrub down after the job. He tended to the cut in his palm. It was red and fresh. It hurt in a deeply romantic way, the pain of rightious sacrifice.

Thursday Afternoon:
9-13-07 12:45

Dave was in a white chem suit with orange boots walking though a redwood forest. The call for the job had come from an old student of his. The kid had been eager, but not very clever. The year before he had barely passed Dave’s pathology course. It was his final essay on the integral roll of mycelium across biota that turned a D into a C.

Dave was using his gloved hands to fill a baggie with large blue mushrooms. They were spongy and spread their light colored spore all over the place.

Sara on the radio, "You have a large enough sample?"

"Yeah, let’s blow this nickle pop stand, babe."

"Thank god. I can’t wait to get on the road. It’s a monster drive." she paused. The phone static chopped out. "You know you can sleep if you like, Dave. I’m good for a while."

"Aww, you’re too sweet, thank you. I’ll give you the biggest kiss once I get out of this thing."

Sara drove the car on the open road. It was a blue cloudless sky framed by flat fields waiting and fertile. Dave was fast asleep in the passenger seat and snoring lightly. A large wave of love crested through Sara. She bit her lip and looked over at her man. She lightly caressed his head. She drove for three hours before taking a road side squat and stretch break. She continued for another two hours after that. Then they were home.

She took the dark gray car into the rental garage. Sara walked out and Dave followed her and rubbed his eyes.

Sara and Dave went home in a greyhound bus. They were holding hands. She leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. He stroked her cheek and sighed, "I love you."

Friday Evening:
9-14-07 18:30

Three men in dark gray suits and one woman in a navy suit sat at an oval table. Sara was at the head of the table. She stood and picked up the remote control. With a soft polite beep the lights turned down and the projector glowed. The glow was blue.

Sara began, "The mycelium is a pale white, barely yellow. Just like nearly every other mushroom in the world."

Click. Image of a mass of thin off white tangles.

"We didn’t find a real visible difference between the hypae of this and your garden variety small brown mushroom. The fruiting body, however, is shockingly different…"

Click. Image of a blue mushroom with pale flesh and dark gills against the dark backdrop of a forest floor littered with soil and pine needles.

"This is the neat part, um", she paused

Click. Close up image of dark blue gills.

"It has thick gills in concentric rings and spirals a lot like fingerprints. No other mushroom has a gill structure like this."

Click. A closer view of the gills.

"Dried samples of these mushrooms were sent to our main office last December. We were unable to place the species. Our initial tests confirmed they’re not a known species and if I’m right they may even prove to be a new genus. More testing is necessary which is why we’ll be heading out next week to the site."

Once upon a time, after the meeting, there was an open door to a closet in an empty
hallway. Sara and Dave were giggling and holding hands. They ran into the closet and shut the door behind them.

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