Tales of the Bearded Toad

Short stories and the occasional true tidbit devised in the life and times of the Bearded Toad

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Scoop of Saffron

It crept into his memory more rapidly than the scent did his nostrils.  A slow recognition of what it reminded him of like a haze clearing from a windshield as the defrost does its job, it filled the lower lids of his eyes with tears like a tub left unattended.  That’s almost how it felt, actually. That he had left this part of himself unattended for so long that it overflowed with the drop of scent into the basin.  He couldn't leave it unattended now.  He had to walk off the stage, because he couldn't speak anymore.  The words wouldn't form on his tongue.  Low groans of confusion from the crowd matched those of his own.
As he exited the building to breath in air that he hoped was as devoid of emotion as he thought he had been, he caught the toe of his shoe on the sill and tumbled into the piled garbage bags tossed out for pickup. A cacophony of odors burst from the pile and granted him relief from the emotion, but replaced it with the sudden need to vomit, which he indulged more readily than he had the catalyst on stage. He stood up, leaned on his knees for a moment and collected enough control to walk to the corner.
The first taxi passed by, fare in seat.  The next pulled up to his raised arm and welcomed his expected payment.  “115 Walnut.”  The driver nodded and snapped his foot to the pedal on the right, which pressed him into the seat with comfort.   He let his mind take him where he hadn't let it go, as the taxi escorted him to the physically avoided.  Shivers all through his body in rapid little waves in each muscle went unnoticed by the driver and by him.  He was nervous.  Not now, but then.
He had wanted to tell her.  The words in his mind clear, concise and poignant could never make it past his defenses.  Imaginary Maginot Line pill boxes behind each of his teeth had kept the contrived enemy at bay, but the enemy found a way around the line completely.  As they stood in front of the shop, his hand had risen up and presented her with it. The card in matching envelope had encased within the words he could not utter.
He paid the driver with a generous tip, stepped onto the cobblestone sidewalk and stared at his foot slightly askew in a crack.  Her smile, broad and full, had gone that way too as she read his words, so carefully scribed.  The tiny lines around her eyes had become more pronounced, until she moved her gaze to his. He had known before that she would feel unfavorably, which is why he had tried so carefully to hide it, to hold it in.
She had turned from him, taken two steps down the street before turning only her head with a shake of the card to say, “But not like this.”  Her eyes had said the rest.  He set his fingers to undoing the buttons of his shirt as he looked at his reflection in the window.  He had stood there that day, with his head leaned against it, watching his breath blur and clear from surface until someone who smelled of saffron told him to leave.
He leaned down and scooped his hands together on the ground as if he were picking up his heart where he’d left it and put it back in his chest.  As he buttoned his shirt, he felt the pain swell and the numbness fade.  The words he had written spewed from him with passion into the darkness, as he cried and let the loss drip from his face.  

Shifting Lines

The door swung open unceremoniously in that speed between graceful and abrupt, exposing that from which he had been hiding his eyes:  hers.  Pale green and intense in what they could say without audible language, he avoided contact for periods longer than one or two beats, but this time he couldn't break free.  His mind was taking too long to process what her presence meant, what that pain was he was feeling suddenly, all while taking in more and more to process from those stunning orbs.
Once he sorted out that she must have found out where he was from his boss at work, he moved on to why she would actually put in the effort to find him. Flashing, swirling possibilities took turns in his brain, none catching hold as a real possibility, so he let go of that conundrum to focus on the first thing depicted in the quick increase of white visible, surprise possibly.  No, it was more elation.  She was happy to see him. Initially.  That gave way to the second expression, when the white disappeared, brows came down together at a harsh angle, and the pain started.  She had remembered that she was angry.
That’s when the pain started.  The brows raised in the middle. Her head tilted slightly to side, and little lines appeared around the edges.  Satisfaction.  She had gotten what she wanted.  Why did that fade so quickly?  The lines became more pronounced, but everything had softened.  Concern.  She was worried that things weren't as she had hoped now.  It wasn't clear what that was even to her anymore.  It was shifting through the windows.
As he was slowly moving toward the floor, he realized that he was about to lose her gaze, but he wasn't finished figuring it out.  The tile was hard on his knees, and when he saw his face was about to hit it too, he realized what had happened.  The black plastic shell and the nodes of the stun gun bounced off the tile in front of him.  The grout lines shifted and the pattern wavered. 
She cradled his head in her lap, and started to sing.  It was a lullaby, sweet and soft, full of imagery that replaced what his actual sight could no longer register.  Her hands were gliding through his hair the way they used to.  Even if he had wanted to resist, he couldn't, but it felt so good to be like a child with no control.  If only it could stay that way.