Ashley’s Atypically Apparent Anxiety

We’re going to die. The floor is going to buckle, The glass will crack and we will plummet to our deaths. We are going to die, because if we don’t die, I’m meeting an important person on a top floor. This doesn’t happen to guys like me, so I’m pretty sure the glass will fall out and I will be granted sweet death.

The woman next to me is probably happy with her life. I must try to stop myself from destroying the elevator with the awesome power of my anxiety. It’s hard for me because my anxiety is a weapon of mass destruction and isn’t easily controlled. I’m breathing in as deeply as I can and I’m trying to get back to my happy place. It’s my house, yeah I’m a bit of a fuddy duddy.

I get off on the third floor, right next to the pretzel place. I’m about to go to try and get work at a lingerie shop. I had forgotten that I had filled out an application and for their part they had forgotten that Ashley could be a boy’s name. The interview is conducted sheepishly and last only 5 minutes, wasting everybody’s time. I leave feeling stupid; she feels stupid too but she’s also employed so I don’t feel too bad about her.

Everyone is staring at me and I’m a bit overwhelmed. A bum just came out a lingerie shop after 5 minutes and everyone’s pretty sure he’s sniffed all the panties there. Everybody’s judging me as they walk by without even looking at me. It’s enough that I’m pretty sure that if I explode right now I’d be pretty happy in that fraction of a second. There’s a bit of spark behind me and then a big, holy hell, bit of flame.

My anxiety has crappy aim. Good news is, I’ve got another job offer. The man is tall dark and scary. I think he thinks I’m scarier. I think that may be the job I’m being offered. Oh well, work’s work.

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Stars, Broken Bones, and an Abundance of Glass

In black cloudless night, the stars are everywhere and Ted thought for a moment that maybe it hurts that he’ll never touch them. It’s a small jump from there to realize that each one of those pinholes is bigger than he can comprehend. Gears and cogs laid bare, Ted feels small in the abundant presence of the universe. He’d love to be smaller than a door frame but for that moment maybe being smaller than the sun would do.

The ancient and dead Studebaker had taken most of his rage. The driver’s side was crushed inwards and the rear window was broken. The engine was already outside the car but if you’d look closely you’d find that he had smashed the filter and it’s receptacle to smithereens. There was an indentation of fists in the cinderblock wall next to him.

Donna came limping from the asphalt where they were practicing.

“Come on let’s get back into this. 1,2, 1,2. Right?”

“That’s boxing. The waltz goes 1,2,3.”

‘Oh right.”

“I can’t. I’m risking you.”

Donna considered the sulking bald giant and then considered the destroyed sedan next to him. She realized that she had to use her head when dealing with Ted. So, she rammed it through the driver’s side with such conviction as to give a mosher a boner. For a moment, she was reeling and Ted stood but she motioned him off. She quickly stabilized. She picked the shards from her skull with much the same practiced motion as she had for ripping her leg hair off. Glass free, she picked up a brown paper bag and wiped away the blood. This all had the added benefit of relieving her sinuses.

“You aren’t risking shit.”

“I could break you, I know I could.”

“Yeah, but with me you’ll probably have to try.”

“But I could.”

“And I could leave, but then I’ll never get to learn the foxtrot.”

“You want to learn the foxtrot?”

Donna winced slightly as she remembered her recently broken foot.

“I still gotta learn how to waltz.”

“Gotta?”

“I liking being prepared. For zombies I’ve got a shotgun but if a cotillion breaks out, I’m screwed.”

“It is a valid worry.”

“So can we go back to dancing spunky?”

They returned to the lantern they left in the middle of the basketball court. 1.2.3. Donna really was a striking young woman, black straight hair, and slight with bounties disproportionate. 1,2,3. Then he was back to thinking about Verna. Verna was a bit taller, with freckles everywhere and red hair. Her hands were softer too. He found himself lost in emerald eyes that weren’t even there. 1,2…

“Ow.”

“Oh god, what did I do.”

Donna looked down; her left shoulder was bleeding She found a bit of glass sticking out. She picked it off, as if lint.

“Always forget how unpredictable glass can be.”

Right Foot Down, Left Hand

“Left foot down, right hand forward.”

Donna still had to say it. Even after five thousand swings and a thousand jabs, she still had to say it. It was an magical incantation now; she was sure that if she stopped saying it, she’d stop connecting. The bag was silent, but something in the way it swung back at her felt like ridicule. She answered it’s insolence with an ax kick.

“Do you own this place?”

“No, I’ve got a deal with Vinnie.”

Ned had an interrogative hanging down his tongue.

“If I see anything go wrong with the water heater or the dryer, I’m to report to him. I am also to fold clothes if they dry while I’m here.”

The dryer stopped.

“Ned, would you be a dear?”

Ned sighed, ever the domestic. As he opened the door he began folding Vinnie’s worrisome number of knee length loose knit hoodies. The basement was half utilities, half fitness. Among the heater, water heater, washer, fusebox and dryer was a stairmaster, punching bag and weight bench. Ned suddenly remembered Vinnie and his three chins. None of him had ever even deemed to lean upon gym equipment. The camera was very discrete but Ned was sure it existed.

“Can we get back to the part where you are now taking dance lessons with a man you met in a prize fight?”

“Do we have to?”

“Yes.”

“Alright, from the beginning. I accidentally broke off the letters on your Buick while being victim of a judo flip during my pursuit of justice. I had to get it fixed before you found out.”

“You had to fix the decals on my fifteen year old Buick, so you decided to try your hand at mixed martial arts in order to get the hundred bucks needed.”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly my first time. They had the promotion ready for me. Really rolled out the red carpet.”

“Which led to a giant troll about to pummel you?”

“To be fair, I had similar intentions.”

“That I don’t doubt but what I’m wondering about is why did they put you up against him if he had two feet on you and over a hundred pounds.”

“I was sort of undefeated when I left last time.”

“Ah. Do we at least know the date and time of said dance lesson.”

“I left it on your cellphone’s calendar.”

“Which you did because…” The answer was so damn obvious that Ned just stopped asking. He turned to Donna’s plying pleading smile. “Which you did because I’m taking you.”

“Sorry.”

“Oh no, no, you did at least make sure I didn’t have previous engagements right?”

“Yep.”

“Good. I’ve got one last question.”

“Yes?”

“Why do you do this?”

“This?”

“The judo flips, the swan dives out the window, all of it.”

She filled ten seconds with thought.

“Because I think I can help.”

“Good enough, I guess. Is the tank full?”

“Um, no.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.”

Donna Vs. Goliath

 

Donna was drinking water but the crowd was still loosing it. Outside the cage, they were ten rows deep and screaming for blood. She remembered when this was all new and exciting.

It was all because she wrecked Ned’s car in an argument with a thug. If that thug didn’t know judo, Donna wouldn’t have BUICK imprinted on her back and she wouldn’t have to rush to get it fixed before Ned came home. So she ended up back in underground cage fighting. The purse was $3000. which if her memory served her meant that she would come home with $1250. It was billed as Donna vs Goliath. Her opponent did not disappoint. Round 1 had been Hell.

Round 2.

Back and to the left, Donna was moving into his past while the hulking bastard was making hay with his southpaw. She made a quick couple of ax kicks that he barely registered . She had originally planned a series of rabbit punches, but it quickly became clear this was a game of evasion on her part. Being that she stood a head less than his shoulders and weighed a quarter his mass, she had to keep her distance.

His right came down with a jab and she feinted to the left, a breath from a broken nose. With as much force as he exuded just to move, momentum was a problem for him. He watched the future unfold as he passed her. There was a push to his shoulder and suddenly he was tumbling. She felt sorry, impotence was something she was acquainted with.

On his knees, he wasn’t screaming but his face was filled of agony. The obviously reset nose, the large loud scars revealed by a receding hairline, the two front teeth missing: it all spoke of a man that has been beaten before. Gravity was an enemy of his and getting really friendly with arthritis. Regardless of the pain, he was getting up and Donna was frozen, wishing she was smart enough to remember to tap.

He bounded towards her and the whole damn warehouse shook. He came with the exact same jab. She would have been offended but she was to busy being assaulted. The force knocked her backwards like a Hollywood bullet. Her head came down first at a just wrong angle. The blood started to pool out. The match was over and the gate opened. The doctor checked her pulse and then promptly ran like a bat out of hell.

When you have a death in these sort of things, it is best to leave quickly. Dead bodies are no fun and neither is prison. Most of the people did just that. Someone was nice enough to give Ted his money, well throw it at him. The cheap briefcase exploded on his back but he didn’t feel it. He was staring down at a dead woman he was assured could take care of herself. She was just a little thing, he was such an idiot. Ted realized he had killed again.

“Damn.” Damn meant the world.

“Orange juice” The voice was sleepy and half there.

“What?”

Donna propped herself up slightly in order to reiterate. Ted was watching something incredible.

“I’m s’posed to get orange juice and a cookie.” She fell back to the cement.

‘Sure, sure, oh god, how are you?”

“Terrible, in need of food, drink.”

“I meant how are you… never mind what I meant.” There was something wired in Ted that had a bias towards requests especially requests from the recently deceased. He turned to find bills scattered across the floor. He quickly started shoving them into the now non locking briefcase. He looked back at her with an epiphany.

“Do you want to learn how to dance?”

“No dance. Food.”

“I’ll split the purse.”

“Fine, food first. Dance later.”

Ted ran to his hatchback hoping that she wouldn’t extinguish before he got her orange juice.

The Key Is Not Minding



The candy bar wrapper fell almost to the ground before being swept up in a southernly wind that forced it to careen into a white minivan. The white minivan parked nose to the street some three feet from a Donna Silvers who was a cold and now without chocolate. She knew that man who got out of the minivan looked shifty with his hoody and calm demeanor. She also knew that her nipples must be visible through her winter coat.

Donna was feeling low this winter night, deprived of a beau thanks to the trepidations of a Florida rooted aunt that was dyingof  97 year olditis. At least Donna had shelter thanks to Victor, Ned’s next door neighbor. Ned was leery of leaving Donna alone in his apartment due to a window that was broken two months prior. Victor was more accepting and forgiving of Donna’s way. The short jokes were a tad much but they were in lieu of rent.With Victor’s stogies in her pocket she ambled back to her temporary home.

Five loud pops echoed through the night and then she heard a terrible screech. The two passengers van felt a bump, while Donna felt the curious sensation of being caught between a pothole and the front axle of a Detroit built automobile. Curiouser and curiouser, she found herself inside the rear left wheel base, turning swiftly. She was ejected out the back promptly landing on a subcompact.

The van immediately hit a parked trucked and prohibited from forward momentum, the two gentleman left their vehicle to assess the damage. They’re attention soon turned backward to the subcompact with blood and guts all over it. The compact woman who was driving the subcompact car was quite indignant until she saw the sunglasses, the bandannas over their faces and the sizeable handguns. Then she got meek.

“Shit Jack, we messed this bitch up.”

“And now we gotta kill them both Cado, they know our names.”

Jack, the man who entered the gas n’ gulp, leveled his .38 snubnose at Donna’s bloody mass. Cado, the idiot and wheel man, was protesting. He had bad habit of talking with his hands and the 1911 he was holding.

“Damn it, man I’m not down with murder.”

“In for a penny in for a dime.”

As Cado raised his arms to say forget you, Donna pulled a Lazarus. With an arm that was stripped to the bone in some places, she grabbed the .45 from the now stunned man. Jack pulled the trigger but found only clicks. Donna was aiming squarely at his chest, the red dot made that quite apparent.

“Jack darling, that’s not a Smith and Wesson. You get five, not six. I’ve got at least six judging by the balance.”

She turned to see Cado fleeing down an alley.

“Looks like you’re all alone Jack. Why don’t you go return that money to that nice man you robbed and wait inside for the authorities.”

“Or what?”

“Or I’m going to let this little lady shoot you.”

The little lady opened a toothy grin. Jack obeyed but with sadness and grumbling. As he entered the gas station with his duffel bag, Donna slowly began to sit on the edge of the ruined side panel. With tentative motion, she stepped on the ground. At first she was wobbly, but then she stood erect. Despite the fact that her knee joints were visible, they were quite functional. She plopped the pistol on the destroyed hood.

“Does it hurt?”

“Being ran over? Yes, but the key is not minding that it hurts.”

She turned and walked home as elegantly as she could could muster, humming her favorite overture. First thing, lemonade with ice, lots of ice. Then maybe shower if her flesh had grown back by then.

From Coital to Hero

First thing to go was her shoes, then her purse fell in a heap on a dining room chair. Ned followed close behind removing articles with hell bent speed. Gawkily the two collapsed into a love seat, mid strip. A sudden epiphany hit Donna and she weaseled out from under him promising, that it was just foreplay. Donna rushed into the bathroom to remove the pair of thunder panties that had gotten her through the night. She heard something odd and found herself walking back in the living room.

“Shit!”

The tell tale hollow clink of an aluminum bat echoed all the way up to Ned’s third story apartment. In the night, in the street, bad men worked their trade on a poor boy who had the gall to say no. Donna could not stay still. Ned went to call 911 but the line was busy. Donna had a more drastic solution. She went to her purse and wrote a check for five hundred dollars. Then she walked ten paces back from the wall and lined herself up with a large window facing the street.

She sighed. It was a very nice window but none the less there was a job to do. With fists forward she took a running jump through the window. Ned turned just in time to see his girlfriend plummet to the ground. With the grace of a rock, she belly flopped onto asphalt three floors down. The crack of glass had turned every one’s head. Donna slowly rose. Glass stuck out of her hands, already brown and black with blood. In front of her, a bottle of bourbon laid shattered on the ground. She smiled as she stepped into it.

There before the North Oakland Boyz, toughest guys on the east side, stood a pale white pixie of a girl wearing thunder panties and a sports bra with glass sticking out of her extremities. She was tensing and showing muscles. The weed they had been apparently very strong… yesterday. After a second to digest the surreal image, she loosed a smile both gleeful and like a wolf. Four against one, songs have been made about that.

First came Frankie with a shiny slugger aimed straight for Donna’s head. Donna blocked with her right arm, momentarily breaking the appendage. With a fist full of glass, she struck Frankie’s chin. That sent him to the ground. Terry was next, he had himself a little knife and a simple plan. He went to her gut and there his knife stayed. She swung her miraculous right arm in a sloppy hay maker and knocked Terry cold and bloody. With a sucking of breath she pulled the knife out.

“Got me a knife.” She spoke joyously.

Tate wasn’t scared though. Tate was a big man with his gun. The fancy little 9 mm popped three times, each one landing right in center mass. She dropped to her knees and crumbled on the ground. The sirens were closing in on the block. Tate, Frankie and Luke left Terry on the ground along side Donna. Ned came racing towards the body of his surely dead girlfriend. He mumbled vague prayers as he cradled her.

“Hey Ned, did the kid leave?”

“I think so.” He was shocked and still sure he was talking to a dead woman.

“Good.” With a grunt she rose back to her feet and inspected herself. A ruined undershirt, destroyed socks and a broken window. All together the night cost her five hundred and five dollars, not bad as far as these things go.

“What the hell just happened?”

“Remember when I said I was nothing special?”

He stared up at the small woman towering above his two meter frame.

“Yeah, I lied.”

Last Sacred Curse

“Damn.”

The d sounded as a cough and was followed by a quiet end. When Ted said damn it was the world. He could say fuck, shit and even cunt but damn meant it all went wrong. Damn was the last sacred curse to Ted and he kept as holy and untouched as he could. But damn, everything had gone wrong. It wasn’t enough to just break down, Ted had to go and break the law.

An armored car was stopped in the middle of the street. There were four security guards on the ground with well broken shins. On the sidewalk some eight paces from the car the back door hand landed with sizable dent in the surrounding cement. Ted was leaving slowly but unhindered by on lookers. Ted had bills to pay and a bullet in his shoulder.

He had tried to be gentle and to certain degree he was successful. Not one of the guards died. Horribly broken but bones tend to mend. There was no certainty that any one of the guards would fully recover but Ted could only care so much about those who weren’t his. Worry was a currency spread thin in multiple investments.

Despite, Ted’s strength he was always getting squeezed. This time it was about the money owed for Verna’s broken leg. Last time, it was to stop a guy from breaking Verna’s leg. Ted’s life would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. The money was now gone, gone to crooks every buck but Ted would get his ten percent sure enough. You don’t put a guy like Ted in too tight of a corner. Risking your life on his ability to be rational was a losing wager.

He lumbered on northwards towards healing hands. The bullet hurt but Ted knew it would and nothing about it was surprising. He was able to relegate to the back of his mind where he kept dance steps he was too clumsy to perform. He thought of the waltz, creating a mental metronome and then a pace. The art of waltzing was amazingly just out of his grasp. He was born with two left feet and each could lift 200 pounds.

Dr. Hatim Gonzales MVD was smoking a cigarette outside The Cottage Home Animal Clinic. Out of a shrub he saw a lumbering beast emerge. He sighed realizing that Ted had of course, been shot. This was another lunch break he wasn’t getting back.

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