Monday, November 11, 2013

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" and "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"

Marc Chagall's Clock with Blue Wing

A Woman Named Jeremiah Spavey

THE FIRST ASSOCIATES to arrive that day shivered like usual at the air blowing from the store’s cavernous break room, the constantly chilly backroom where no one liked to be found, and where the managers sent children who climbed steel shelving units or got caught loitering where they sold soda by the check-out registers. Children were not valued customers. When children got put in the break room, everyone gave them the evil eye until the parents arrived, tired and lost, to retrieve them. The room had been empty since Monday. Managers’ tempers were rising and their eyes held in them the mean small looks of potbelly pigs deprived of their bread, even first thing in the morning, so when the woman wearing heavy boots emerged from the ice-cold room, asking about the best washing machine in the store, Jim, a newish associate, rubbed his eyes and wondered which of the tricky managers had hired her to throw him off. Or maybe it had been his direct supervisor Glenda. She had written up Jim once several weeks before for laughing at a customer’s joke over in Plumbing, something that involved an old couple and some leaky pipes.
Other associates skittered from Appliances to Windows and Doors, waiting for the end of the Christmas season when they would return to their regular posts, longing for the quieter months, and the only occasional questions about how to install a water line for a refrigerator ice-maker, or about when you could solve an ant infestation with powdered charcoal or turmeric versus needing to bait with boric acid. Jim had joined just before the seasonal rush, so he did not have a strong preference for anything but getting home at night to tell his wife about his day, stories mostly about particular customers, such as the urban mother of two who had just moved to central Pennsylvania and needed someone to understand her, or the old man who came in once a week, wanting to talk about his dead wife. In a clean but threadbare shirt and wearing sturdy black workboots, this woman who had appeared as if from nowhere, exiting from the break room, seemed on closer inspection not to be an employee plant. Nor was she a petulant child, nor a person Jim had seen before. He would have noted her hair, a gray halo about her face like a windblown cloud, or her reddened eyes that suggested hours spent worrying over the state of the world, or reading the fine print of every written arrangement. She made Jim wish suddenly that he’d been a better son and taken his mother back to his house with his young wife rather than installing her in the home for elderly people. What he said out loud was a question: The best washing machine in the store?
Yes, she wanted to buy the best, and the best dryer, too, the ones that stacked and didn’t knock around like the devil in God’s pantry, could Jim lead her to them?
No, the managers would not stoop to planting this kind of person, but maybe Jim’s supervisor Glenda would do something like this, he thought. The store featured upward mobility in its training sessions held daily in front of a screen in a much warmer room, the training room, and Glenda, Jim’s customer service supervisor, had ambitions to become a manager. She had she ratted out associates for random acts of unworkmanlike behavior, such as keeping candy in service center drawers that were meant for pens, or being too casual with customers. Her steadfastness was why she now earned $10.42 an hour, more than two bucks over her starting point, and she had been with the store only four years. Jim did not want to be written up again, as his young wife loved that he had this job, and her pride was the stool where he rested his feet at night. He ushered the woman over to Glenda and then stood back to watch his supervisor’s eyebrows rise like arrows into her puffy brown bangs. The black-booted woman said again that she wanted to purchase the best washing machine in the store. Glenda shot a look at Jim that said: Is this some kind of joke?
Jim’s chin jerked. Both of them knew that in that old shirt and pants, in those old workboots straight from the farm, or the construction site, this woman did not fit a thousand-dollar washing machine. The boots and worn shirt indicated one problem, and there was also something uncooperative about her wispy white hair. Yes, the woman said, and she started flying toward Appliances, shuffling her legs like the wings of some heavy-bottomed insect. She hovered in front of the most expensive machines in the store and said, I want this one, to an associate named Robert. I have this unit, and it’s a good one. I’m buying it for my neighbor.
Robert, who had been at the store for even less time than Jim, a seasonal employee who might not even last until the end of the season, stroked his salt-and-pepper goatee.  He listened to the woman say that her neighbor’s washer and dryer had broken.  Her neighbor didn’t have anyone to take care of her. It’s what my dad would have done, the woman said. Your father? asked Robert, thinking that this woman's brain had been addled somehow by the years she'd spent alone on a farm somewhere, nothing but cows to warm her, and chickens for conversation. His name was Jeremiah, the woman said, and it’s my name too.

The beginning of something, to be continued…


  1. Marquez's stories (which I adored) inspired this little beginning to something. To be continued?


    A woman named Carol was the first to return the bird she purchased from The Aviary. She had purchased a little green parakeet with black tally marks on his jagged, clipped wings for her ten-year old son, but the bird had only squawked with the noise of some bigger animal, flapping his barely functional wings against the bars of the ornamental cage she had housed him in until finally she trapped him in the little cardboard transport box and returned him to the store. She told the store manager, Clark, that she wanted a refund because what bird acts that way? I'll tell you, she told him. The unhealthy kind. He must have some kind of bird disease.

    The next day, Clark sold a yellow canary to a lonely old man who said he just wanted something colorful to fill his empty house with a beautiful sound. He wanted to listen to something other than the echo of his own raspy voice. Clark assured the man who called himself Peet that this canary would chatter to him all day long; it never stopped singing in the store. So Peet paid for the yellow canary and left, but the next morning Clark received a phone call from the same cellophane voice. The old man said his canary refused to even make a peep. It just stayed on its perch and teetered to-and-fro, completely silent. The only thing worse than having nothing to talk to is having something that refuses to answer back. Peet asked if he could bring his canary back to the store. He told Clark he could keep the money.

    On the third day, a five-year-old girl and her parents wandered through Clark's bird store. They were drawn to an African Gray Parrot. It muttered English words to the young girl's amusement, and it pressed its feather-fluffed head against the cage bars to be petted. They signed the papers and to Clark's bewilderment, the next morning the parrot was perched on the outer windowsill of the shop before Clark even arrived there himself. He called the mother of the girl and asked if they were missing their bird, and she said yes, that the parrot insisted on flying into their glass sliding doors again, and again, and again until her daughter opened the door to let him fly, assuming that he would, of course, return to her. Well, Clark said, he is on my window sill right now. Then, Clark turned to glance back at the parrot only to find that the windowsills, telephone wires, and handicapped parking signs were covered by perched birds of all kinds -- their beady black eyes staring back at him.

  2. Some weird, poorly executed offshoot inspired by the drowned man, Esteban


    Lauren and Katie sat on the front porch.

    "Do you ever think, 'Hey, maybe next time it won't turn out like complete shit'?" Lauren asked between puffs, handing her sister the cigarette. They always were good at sharing.

    "I try not to spend my time thinking so much about things that are so out of my control. It's a waste."

    "And this little noonday smoke break isn't?" Lauren had the distinct feeling that Katie didn't find her funny.

    "Point taken."

    "I don't know what gives men the right just come in and bulldoze everything, anyway. 'Hey girl, that's a nice life you've got there. Let me just go ahead and ruin it .'" Her latest, and as of this point longest, relationship was with a one Benjamin Turks…one of those tall, enigmatic, 'leave holes in the walls after a fight' types.

    "He's a shithead, Lauren. Just toss him like you toss the rest of them." Katie puffed away on the cigarette, not knowing what else to say and feeling like a broken record.

    "But you've seen him without a shirt on, right?"

    Lauren had a habit of trivializing her relationship with Ben.He was easier to send away like that. As it turns out, Ben amounted to someone more important to her than her sarcasm and inane blowing of smoke let on. With the others, she spent time thinking about the annoying way this one chewed his food and the fuck-around tactics of that moron from college. With Ben, though, she got stuck on one moment; one moment that culminated after two years of tumult and exploded into the most beautiful, chaotic, heartbreaking mess she'd ever seen. He loomed over her, tall and hulking, barking at her about god knows what. She would've told any other guy to piss off, but in that moment, she realized that this was loved dressed up as anger and distance. A moment later, he kicked the front door open and stormed out into the wet, inky black night, floating down river, inching further away every second. She let him go without an anchor so that he could come back if he wished and whenever he wished, and she held her breath for the fraction of centuries his body took to escape eyeshot and fall into the abyss.

  3. Time passed quickly when one is alone, she found. Reality and illusion fused into one and dreams stretched their long spindly fingers into one’s life, snatching pieces away into their world of evanescent fantasy. Sometimes, one can never be sure whether that fire-tinted leaf that just swirled outside of the
    window was real, or part of their imagination.

    Just like she never knew. Reality was too cold, too biting without the lulling melodies that dreams sang in her ears. Life’s broken record played out in front of her, and all she could do was quietly watch the flickers of the world’s seemingly endless revolutions dance and brush across her mind. She felt like water, floating along over waterfalls, across lakes, down streams, No taste, no smell. No preference, no direction. Only thoughts.

    She spent her days floating in her mind, alternating between reality and fiction. She flowed through the dark crevices of her nightmares, glowing ocher eyes piercing through the darkness and the velvet thickness of the air almost suffocating her. She tumbled through the sunlit plains of her thoughts, a light filled smile gracing her shining face. She all but drowned in the sorrows of her soul, salty hot tears meandering down her cheeks.

    But in the end, she always flowed back into reality.

    She loved it best when it rained. The symphony of thunderclaps mixed harmoniously with the light pattering of tears that leaked from the Eternal Fountain. She was in each drop, encased in the watery walls. She savored in the feeling of seeing the world rush up at her, distorted by the moving mosaics of water. Lush green trees that were emerald specks just seconds ago, were now so close that she could see every vein that threaded itself though each green jewel. Just before her raindrop splattered, she lifted her gaze to the heavens. She was greeting by a blanket of cloud-filled expanse, spreading endlessly. Flashes of lightning ripped and slashed at the boiling sky, tearing jagged holes that shows glimpses of an otherworldly magnificence, turning everything as bright as day. Suddenly, she felt the liquid walls start to collapse on her, the pressure slowly gaining strength and crushing her. And all she could see for miles and miles was water.

    She awoke.

    All was the same as she left it, except for this cloud of water that floated in front of her. She reached out with a petite snow-white hand, penetrating the cloud with spindly, thin fingers. Soothing coldness slowly enveloped it and almost timidly, her other hand joined the first. Her fingers conceived a complexity of white instruments slowing writing in a liquid background, creating a dance so exquisitely alien that the hands of time seemed to grind to a halt.

  4. The rain outside, a somber thudding against her chest. The cloud outside matches the heaviness in her chest, a swirling grey that sinks her deeper, and deeper, until she's drowning.

    Further into the darkness, she thrashes and strains for breath, but everyone else can breathe. The water isn't really water, it's thick like honey, and clear as hair gel. Her limbs are slowed by the density surrounding her. She grows more and more tired, until it strains to move. Arms at her sides, her feet touching, she lets it take her. Slowly sinking, sinking, she holds out her arm and feels a wall. Glass. She opens her eyes and looks out seeing them stare at her breathing steadily unconcerned about her well being.

    They watch her suffer, waiting for like like a mine canary. To stop trying, stop fighting. She is replaceable, nothing.

    She feels a pressure in her head, a crackling like fireworks. Her feet reach a surface. Her body crumples into it, pushed down by the gravity above her.

    "Just hold on," she feels the words instead of hearing them, a breeze glazing over every inch of her body.

    She cracks open her eyes, the effort like breaking open stitches, to see an older man, crumpled just as she lay. He has wings, night-black as
    a ravens but larger than she's ever seen.

    Her shoulders are shaking, chest bucking as she tries to strain for air.

    "Calm, child. Your efforts are in vain, let it take you so we may rise. They do not know of a place I can take you that they do not know," she heard again.

    She strained her lips to talk, but they were cemented shut.

    "I don't know if I can," she thought outwardly, hoping somehow he'd hear her.

    "You must," he said.

    She stooped trying, told body to quiet. She lay still, her last efforts diminished. After a few moments he stood, and told her to rise.

    "No," she thought, "I can rest here."

    "It is time child," he said.

    Surprisingly she stood, with effort. Pushing herself off the ground, she rose, his equal.

    He reached and took hold of her hand, interlacing his fingers with her own.

    "Hold on," he said.

    He spread his wings, dry and clean and took off. Powerful gusts bringing them higher and higher until they broke the surface. She was expecting a long awaited breath, but was surprised that she didn't need it. Looking down, she saw their bodies, still crumpled on the bottom like it was nothing.

    "Do not be scared," he said.

    A wave hit them, cold and hard. They were flung back again and again, each a heaviness they could not fight.

    "I am scared now," She said.

    Thunder cracked and they were thrown about like rag dolls. His wings becoming more and more wet, they dropped, and he let go.

    The old man awoke on a shore, alone. Noticing the girl was gone he cried golden tears, which they collected.

  5. If there was one thing that the library needed, it wasn’t a flying librarian, but with the budget cuts and all, a flying librarian was better than a few extra fichus trees.
    Carol, the head librarian wasn’t so sure about the new librarian. She heard that this creature enjoyed the same things as other librarians, so when the winged bookwoman came in for her first day, there was a cup of weak tea, and a refresher packet about the Dewy Decimal system sitting on the table in the break room.
    The winged bookwoman arrived early to work, and Carol didn’t even see her come in. Carol, walked out of her office, and in to the break room, and was promptly wacked in the face with what felt like a rawhide bone. It was rather, the enormous wings of the creature. Carol gathered her composer and buttoned her librarian sweater. The whole break room seemed a little bit colder, freezing actually.
    “Hello, welcome to the library, I am Carol.”
    The creature turned around to where Carol was standing. The creature introduced herself,
    “Hello, welcome to the library, I am Carol.”
    Carol was pissed. Not only did they send her a sassy flying librarian, but they sent her a model that hadn’t been properly calibrated.
    The creature looked like a decrepit old woman. Her skin sagged, and hung off of her in folds, her eyes were blue, and the whites of her eyes were yellowing. The woman’s fingers were stained, and the right hand contained a still smoldering grape cigar. She had, protruding from her back, wings that where black with a purple sheen. They were huge, and as the creature took a drag on the cigar, she slowly flapped the wings, puffing the smoke out around her to create a cloud.
    The creature tilted her head.
    “Hello, welcome to the library, I am Carol.”
    Carol was angry, and said, “Excuse me, could you not smoke in here.”
    “Excuse me, could you not smoke in here.” The creature mimicked, as if she was working to get the tone and gestures of Carol correctly.
    Carol, though, was not a bright woman, and did not realize she was dealing with a parrot.
    “Get out of my library!” Carol screamed.
    The winged woman took a puff of cigar and intoned the same, “Get out of my library!”
    Carol began to shake, she was not ready for this. This was not the life she imagined when she signed onto the gig at the library, she began to cry, and as she did, the winged woman followed suit.
    “Get out of my library” the winged woman said again, so Carol did. TO BE CONTINUED?

  6. The girl sat under the florescent lighting of the office, typing away on the keys. Beyond grey walls the sky crackled fierce and dark. Water met ground, colliding in violence.

    She stretches, her back arching toward the sky. Large, blue wings emerge breaking through the polyester of her blouse.

    "It's time," she says.

    Up she goes. Up. Up. Up. Past the office cubicles, through the glass ceiling, over the molting tree tops, to the sky.

    The water strikes against her skin, angry little pellets. She beats against them. Going Up. Up. Up.

    She moves further and further away until she is lost amongst the clouds, a mere dot in the atmosphere.

    Until she is swallowed whole.

  7. Almost forgot that this had to be a creative post, so I am mimicking the first scene of "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"

    The children that went into the woods first thought that it was a death eater from Harry Potter, dark and faceless with wings. When they got closer and the air didn't turn cold they thought that it must be the largest bat they had ever seen. But when they got closer and saw that it wasn't upside down, pulling away the branches that obscured it and knocked off the rats eating it with sticks they saw that it was a man.

    The children used the sticks and hit the man as though he were a piƱata, or any of the other dead animals they had found on the side of the road. But the man didn't sound like a sack of grain like the others did, and he didn't swing from his neck when they struck him. Instead, he staid rigid and straight, his abdomen singing like a chime when they hit him.

    The forest rangers noticed the kids returning to the spot everyday and decided to check it out. When they found the man they were not surprised. Strangers aren't taken kindly and they knew he wasn't from here because black men don't live in this town. When they lifted him off the rope they noticed his body was electrified, but they assumed that this is what happens when someone dies not touching the ground; the energy doesn't have anywhere to go so it sits like electricity on the skin.

    They carried him to the office at the park, laying him in the back room on a desk table they had cleared. While the rangers went out to give police reports, the intern was left to look after the man. He started emptying bottles of water over his face and hands to remove the dirt that hid him. Then, he started to rinse his clothes, wiping them gently with napkins from the break room. It was made of leather, but not the leather that comes from cows. He didn't recognize this leather, and he was a hunter who knew all of the pelts and skins of animals around here.

    "You aren't from around here are ya? Must be why you ended up in this predicament."

    He continued to clean him, careful to put the clothes back as they were after all the mud and moss was clean. As he finishes he looks at his face. Rats had crawled all over him, yet his skin still looked perfect. His bone structure was prominent and beautiful and the intern wondered what country makes men like these.

  8. John sat at his desk scribbling frantically. His heart pounded. His hands dripped sweat. His jaw clenched. He hadn't slept in what felt like weeks. Frustrated tears began to build from the reservoirs behind his eyes. He was drowning.

    His schoolwork began to pile faster than he could complete it and his grades began to reflect this. His ambition never faded. His determination never wavered. But his dreams seemed further away. Flying from him was any notion of becoming a psychologist. Faster and farther away.

    One paper down. The quality of each fading as they were written in an effort to try and finish them all. He pulled out another blank piece of paper. Empty of any type of ink that translated his frantic and fevered thoughts into physical, two-dimensional words.

    His phone buzzed next to him on his desk. No time to answer. Can't get sidetracked now. There'd be no coming back. His friends would have to wait. He missed them. He missed the time at school in which he had free time to hang out, drink, make mistakes in a drunken stupor. The only people he saw of late were the employees of his school's food vendors, his professors and the students they taught.

    His wandering mind made it harder for him to think. He needed to focus. He reached for the bottle of unprescribed aderol and gulped it down with his energy drink. Too much too quickly.

    He began to cough violently and the cool sweat from the chilled can caused his grip to loosen. The can fell from his hands as he tried to clear his lungs of liquid. When he finally was able to gasp a full breath of fresh air, he noticed that his energy drink had spilled across his desk. He saw the liquid drown out his words, making them fade as if they were never permanent. The paper had swollen full of his drink.

    In a last ditch effort to save his assignments, he tried to swat away the liquid without thinking. As he reached out in an attempt to save his papers, they fell apart into pieces in his hands. All of his hard work had failed him. His work was dead and his dreams, he felt, along with them.

    He was defeated, overwhelmed with stress. He dropped the rags he had spent the last few days working on and slumped in his chair. HIs eyes began to swell until they were covered with tears. They fell from his face like rain. He was a goner.

  9. This is Abby's piece, minus the ending (can't post more than 4096 characters).

    It was the hardest winter the little town had ever seen. Winter winds had blown in and tossed the whole town to the side. All trees were pulled from the ground and tipped over with a vicious ‘thud.’ Houses flattened like cardboard boxes broken down by the postman, mountains moaned and leaned with each push. The people, fearing they too would be blown away, ran to the cliffs by the great sea and hide in the rock caves. For days they stayed there, huddled together in stone. In the morning, they could hear the sound of pots juggled in the air, chairs pushed into tables high in the atmosphere. In the night, children slept to the lullaby of air rushing past the holes and openings where they lay deep in the rock.

    After many days, the winds stopped. The cold hung yet but the movement had ceased. The people crept from their caves and walked out to see their village gone. Men ventured out to see if the moose and bear had been blown away for they were very hungry. Women gathered what ripped fabric they could find caught on trees. The children were told to stay in the caves and wait. For many days, the women gather pieces to rebuild a new life and the men come back without any food.

    One day, a small boy ventured out of the cave and to the ocean's shore nearby. In the sand, he found an apple that has washed on the shore. It was red and shined, wiped clean from the waves. The young boy outstretched his hand to grab what little food he had found when the apple moved. He watched carefully as the round side lifted into a wing, stretching up as if awakening. In amazement, the boy stood above watching the apple fold and dip until its round shape had changed into a beautiful bird. Its neck arched like a swan, and its round juicy belly was like that of robin. The boy carefully lifted the apple bird to his nose, smelled the sweet feathers. His stomach urged him to clip a wing but the small face, with seed eyes looked at him kindly. He placed it back down on a rock and left. He told no one of the apple bird. The next day, he went back to the beach and found another apple bird, hidden in the sand. This opened its wings wide, warming its slices under the sun. How delicious the bird must be, he thought. How lovely a taste of anything sweet would be. But he again, he could not and left. Day after day, the boy went back to his apple flock and watched as they waddled over the wet sand, their bodies crisp and red standing to shake off the pieces. An old woman had followed the boy and stood behind a dune hiding herself. She watched in amazement as the apples which littered the beach broke into flight and dipped above the water's surface. Hungry tore at her stomach and with each flap of a birds wing, the smell of apple fluttered in the air.

    "Keeping this food for yourself?" she asked the boy.

    Startled, he turned around and stared at her in silence. She gazed at the flock now floating on tide pools.

    "What to do with such beauty! Such a beauty to my frail body," she said. The boy kept staring, worried what she might do. He could not ignore the moan of his belly nor the continued browning of the birds, fruit that had felt air for too long.

    "Apple birds, what a peculiar thing," she added. "Never in all my years, never in such a winter had a bird such as this. Many birds come and go, leaving the northern snow for cool, crisp air. I suppose we ought to tell the others of your discovery."

    The boy looked down at his feet, at a piece of red apple skin that stuck to the sand. As hungry as he was, he couldn't bring himself to even nibble.

    "I can't steal from nature," he mumbled.

    "It stole from us!" retorted the woman.

    The ocean waved and lapped at the shore. The birds nested in the wet sea grass by edge. The woman looked and she understood.

  10. Sorry this is late! I couldn't find the file I saved onto my computer when my previous post failed.

    The moments came in a dazzling instant. As those eyes of cool marble looked upon each twinkling star in the sky, she realized something about her daughter. Something that seemed to pass her until now.


    Absolute innocence. A time before the change. The constellations above them deemed it so, as they did not sparkle as they did for the small girl. Within the glow embers that the night sky burned so bright, the mother found it difficult to reflect. Where did the hours, minutes, seconds go?

    The dewy mist on the summer flowers made such a young child sparkle yet to her they were plants. Grass. Weeds left to the rotting root.

    "Mommy, isn't the sky pretty?" A tug on her coat, a small voice reaching up. The night air felt hallow underneath her breath, the wind blew and took a million pieces of her heart away. Never again could she go back to a time when everything was simple. Now, it was her job to make things simple for the young one beside her.

    "Yes, dear. Very pretty."

    And before the tainted sky mocked her again, she took her daughter swiftly by the wrist and back to the car. The morning sun would come soon, burning through her flesh with realization that with each passing day, the innocence will never return.

  11. great post i am using this Automatic washing machine from last few months i never face any kind of problem from the date of the purchase it