Last night was the worst. In twenty-one
years of worst nights. Worse than getting burned out of your parents’ place, at
age eleven, ‘cos your mom fell asleep, smoking. Everybody lived, but so what?
Liberty State’s dorm was paradise,
next to that shabby flat. Like a neat, pretty set for a movie. A psychological horror
Your first roommate, Neely, shook her
wooden leg at you, for fun. The next one, C.J., robbed you blind. Deborah, who
had skin like funeral lilies, stole more than money. Those tiny notebooks you’d
hid in your snow boots wound up in her locked drawer. After the whole world
learned your secrets.
How Mom mixed rat poison into
Daddy’s juice, but you spilled it, in time.
How you’ve never once kissed a guy.
Or even wanted to. . . .
Now, a year later, the one guy you were dying
was lost to you.
Joey, that scruffy, leather-jacketed,
bad boy poet. Whose brutal words only you could understand. Who you loved in a
way only brutal words could describe.
But you, with your frizzy hair and fat ass, were out of his
According to Lisa, Professor Steele’s slutty young wife.
lose weight, she claimed Joey said, about you. Then: “’She sure can
write,’” Lisa quoted, in Joey’s scratchy voice, “But she’s not my type.”
Off on a ski trip, Joey was. Like all this snow was a tease. You
pictured him wasted, with some slut, maybe blonder than Lisa.
Your heart felt squashed, like someone fatter than you sat on
Fat like Mary Alice next door. Her heart
was pulp, like a dinosaur had stepped on it. ‘Cos her fiancé was gone.
Poor Hal. Heart imploded under freezing, black water. His death
excuse to get shit-faced at the pub. Kiss Steele’s ass, so he’d buy pitchers of
beer. Jerks who’d never even met Hal toasting to his memory. Behind Steele’s
back, Lisa snuck one guy her number.
Mary Alice wasn’t even missed.
Suitemates, you were, ‘cos you shared a bathroom. If you
hear her in there, you still smelled what could’ve once been rat stew. But she ate
the same dorm meals you did. And lately, the grub was worse.
Right before Hal, the food services guy died, in a gruesome car
crash. Like a bowling ball, his head shot across the icy highway. You heard Sam
“Three Chin” Jones was buried headless.
Weasel, the new guy, had cooked in ‘Nam but was too stoned
know chicken from pork. Both he served pink.
This morning, your bathroom would smell worse. Mary Alice’s
retching made you want to puke, too. When she stopped, she left the bathroom from
her side. You hoped she wasn’t down in the dining hall.
Normally, at breakfast, you lucked out. Bubbly Nancy made yummy
cheese omelets. But today, Weasel was cooking.
“What’cha want?” His eyes were just slits.
Runny eggs and burnt toast.
That’s what you got. When Weasel cooked, he blasted the overhead
music so your head hurt.
Out in the dining hall, Mary Alice sat alone, by the window.
thought, please, not today . . .
But she looked right at you. So you had to join her.
“Hi,” you said, sitting down.
No answer. Her skin looked almost gray. Her oatmeal was
Outside, winter seemed in as foul a mood as you. En route to
class, kids slid around on the ice. Old students back in school after years
walked slowly, nervously.
How freaky it was, that ice or snow caused those two deaths:
“Three Chin” Jones’ car crash, and Hal’s ice-fishing tragedy.
“Threes,” Mary Alice murmured.
“Huh?” You thought she’d said “Trees,”
but she wasn’t staring
out at frosty branches. Her eyes were set straight ahead.
“Death,” she said. “It comes in threes.”
you thought. Bad enough Joey was “dead” to you. Off on his precious ski trip.
Who’s gonna croak next?
Forcing a smile, you skimmed the yolk off an egg. “Awwww
. . .”
From the overhead speaker came that Foreigner song: “Cold
Ice.” With that annoying piano intro.
She picked up her spoon. “Yup.” To the beat of the
mashed her oatmeal.
“Well . . .” you said, “sometimes, it seems that
way. But not
all deaths are connected.”
“Um . . . the week my aunt died, our super got burned up
our apartment building.” You wished she’d stop mashing that oatmeal. “Then . .
. my best friend’s grandfather . . . got hit by a bus.”
“But they didn’t know each other!” you said,
wearily. “My aunt
lived way out in Seattle, and Louie’s grandpa was on a trip to India. A tour
bus hit him.”
Mary Alice dropped the spoon. “Mr. Jones didn’t know
You sighed. So what if she didn’t get it? Her pain was way
than yours. Her Hal would never come back.
But Joey . . . As long as he was alive . . .
You’re not his type.
Joey might as well be dead, too.
Usually, by 5 PM, you were at the pub. Night class, or not. Beers
with Steele and the gang was more . . . enlightening . . . than Social Research
But tonight, on your way there, this chill came over you. Like
your ribs were icicles. Even bundled up, you felt colder than ever.
“Hi,” you told Jack, who checked IDs at the door. No
tonight? he usually joked. But not tonight.
Inside, the place was packed but seemed quiet, though the jukebox
was on. A Fleetwood Mac song played: “Go Your Own Way.”
At Steele’s almost-full table, the pitchers were empty. Lisa
crying. Practically the whole gang was there.
But not Joey.
Oh, my God,
Slowly, Steele got up and walked over to you. Up close, you
realized he looked old enough to retire.
As he held you close, your whole body trembled.
“He had too much to drink,” Steele said, “before
skiing.” Tears filled
his eyes. “Never saw the tree.”
As the bad-boy poet would say . . .
And that makes three.
Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife & talks
like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out 5-6 days a week, so
needs no excuse to drink or do whatever the hell she wants. She’s been
published in the usual places, such as Shotgun Honey, Hardboiled, A
Twist of Noir, Megazine, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E,
Dark Dossier, and Rock and a Hard
Place. She is the editor/art director of the ezine, Yellow Mama.
She’s a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate.
Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions
which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence
from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form
to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking
their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.
arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own
minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically
to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.
View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart, YELLOW MAMA,
Sympatico Studio - www.facebook.com/SympaticoStudio,
DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma
and launching in 2019,
as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and
publishing promotion - SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.