Dark Tunnel, Part 3

via Daily Prompt: Exposed

This is a continuation of Dark Tunnel and Dark Tunnel (continued). My apologies to readers who prefer shorter self-contained pieces. If you care to read Parts 1 and 2, please follow the links. If not, the setup is that, in Dark Tunnel, the main characters (a man and woman) are crawling through a tunnel attempting to elude pursuers. In Dark Tunnel (continued), as he crawls, the man thinks back to his first meeting with the woman on a warm evening at Les Deux Magots café in Paris, and how it was interrupted by something she saw. At the end of that part, they have jumped up, leaving their friend Alex at the table, and run, with her in the lead. In what follows, Part 3, still in the tunnel, his reflections on that fateful night continue…

… I catch up to her, gripping her hand as we dart across all four lanes of Boulevard Saint-Germain, just ahead of the changing light. Daring a quick look back, I see the steady flow of Parisian drivers where we’ve just crossed, and the agitated man in red shorts temporarily blocked from following us. We bolt along Rue de Rennes and through the open doors of the first bus we see. As it lurches forward we tumble into seats. I glance out the window, eyes immediately drawn to those red shorts again. The same tall stranger who had tried to follow us across the busy lanes of the Boulevard. I feel exposed as his eyes dart from Stéphanie to me, but we are moving and, for now, safe.

“Who is he is? What’s going on?” I blurt between gasps for breath. Our eyes meet again, and I notice my pulse. Crazily, I’m reminded of a lecture I give on self-perception theory. How we infer our feelings from what our bodies tell us. How people in contrived experiments judge faces as more attractive if they’re fed false information about their heart rates being faster. Now here it is, literally, staring me in the face. Have I fallen for her so quickly, or am I just pumped up from the running and the alarm. I make a mental note to use this example if I ever teach self-perception theory again. I also make a mental note that it doesn’t matter. In spite of the apparent danger, I am happy to be with her, sharing whatever this adventure is. I would not trade it for security and quietude of any kind. “Je ne sais pas,” she says, then mistaking my crooked smile for confusion, adding quickly “I don’t know, but we must find a place to go. To think. To…” her voice trailing off.

I realize that we have boarded Bus 95, on a route I’ve followed many times since beginning my sabbatical here. “We can go to my place” I offer. “It’s just a few stops down.” She leans against me, relaxing for the first time since her startled reaction at Les Deux Magots, hand enfolding with mine. She tells me how she was taking photos of traffic at night with her phone, capturing the blur of movement, not realizing that she was also getting people in the pictures. She shows me two pictures, with blurred images of the man in red shorts taking a backpack from a woman and walking off. “What’s in the back pack?,” I ask softly. “Je ne – I don’t know, but they think it matters that I saw. That I have the picture” she sighs. “He and the woman came toward me asking for the phone. I ran. I don’t know why. I thought I had lost them, but there he was, tonight, by the café.”

eiffel tower 2We finish the ride in silence, each lost in contemplation, then get off at Armorique – Musée Postal and head to my apartment on Rue de l’Armorique. I text Alex to let him know we’re safe, but do not get a reply. Stéphanie and I sit on the small balcony, sharing a bottle of red wine, pretending the man in red shorts does not exist and looking at the glow of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

It is late and we both stifle yawns. I point her to the bed in the tiny efficiency apartment, saying I will sleep in the nearby chair. “Non – no” she says, looking searchingly into my eyes, “I need you to hold me.” There goes my pulse again. Can’t blame it on running or fear this time…

Copyright © Thomas Ward 2017

Better Lifestyle

via Daily Prompt: Better

He lay in bed in the gray gloom of morning, listening to the murmur of raindrops on the roof, contemplating a better lifestyle than the one he was living. The soft steady rhythm of a thousand droplet drummers should have been comforting, but only made him envision hordes of them working their way through a leak to drip onto the living room ceiling. “Gotta get that fixed,” he muttered to the empty room, as though the words alone would somehow compel action.

In a reverie half way between waking and sleeping he lived a superb lifestyle. He was James Bond’s James Bond, merging the suave sophistication of the Sean Connery version with the ruthless grimness of Daniel Craig’s. A handsome, stylishly dressed bundle of testosterone laced charisma. Rising to his best in some chaotic scene just in time, calmly dispatching a dark underworld figure with a lightning quick jab to the throat or a dangerous spy with his silencer muted Walther PPK. Saving the free world time and again, and always getting the girl. Yes, the girl. Well several to choose from actually, but in the end winning over the sultry but aloof villainess. Leaning in for the impassioned kiss, lips about to touch –

– then yanked back to a stunned wakefulness by the shrieking of his alarm. Groaning softly he looked to the clock, knowing full well it would tell him it was time to get up, don his uniform and go make biscuits for the coming steady stream of drive-through customers grabbing breakfast on their way to work, totally unaware of him and his secret lifestyle. Perhaps tomorrow he’d find time to practice some martial arts moves, or get a nice haircut, or at least try to make a drinkable martini, whatever is in them.

A Gray Blanket

via Daily Prompt: Blanket

The mold lies upon the remnants of the long forgotten leftovers like a soft gray blanket. As it is often wont to do, my mind flits to strange associations – is the blanket comforting the abandoned salad against its loss of purpose? – or against the cold of the refrigerator? – should I get my phone to take an abstract photo? – but as I close the styrofoam lid on yet another missed opportunity to make full use of a meal, it settles on a nagging thought. When did I become so wasteful? My parents grew up during the Great Depression. They never wasted food. When they brought “doggie bags” home from restaurants, we, the pups, ate what was in them. When Mom cooked a roast, we consumed it all across several nights.

I blame it on restaurants that serve such gargantuan portions. Supersize that? Supersize me! I distract myself with a half-formed pun about being wasteful to avoid being waist-ful, but the styrofoam nags at me too. It will remain long after the food has decomposed.

I zip my thoughts about the roots of the problem away, closing them off as I close the refrigerator door, grab my keys and head out to find something to eat.

Copyright © Thomas Ward 2017

Avid for Words

via Daily Prompt: Avid

For poetry, I claim avidity

Swear my writing is laced with lucidity

But the critics all say

Don’t quit your job, day

For it’s really a bunch of vapidity

 

So to ward off my thoughts of morbidity

I determine to run with rapidity

But untying my shoes

I lie down for a snooze

I would run but for all this humidity

 

And it’s true that for words I am avid

To express touchy thoughts I’m not pavid

So I do labor long

With words weak and strong

To create pieces fluid and gravid

 

Copyright © Thomas Ward 2017

Reflection and Harmony

via Daily Prompt: Harmony

sunrise reflection

momentary quietude

centered start to day

 

midday crises felt

temporary unbalance

handle best we can

 

sunset reflection

experiencing oneness

harmony restored

Fried Clutch

via Daily Prompt: Fry

The normally high pitched snarl of the rented V Star 650 motorcycle escalated suddenly to a raspy scream, signaling an RPM way beyond a healthy range. The dramatic change in pitch shouted to my muscle memory “You’re revving way too fast! Shift up!” Reflexively, my left hand pulled in on the clutch as my toe slipped under the gear shift lever to move to a higher gear. At the exact same moment, my steady climbing movement up the steep hill slowed dramatically, giving my body a competing message. “You’re moving too slow for this gear. You need to downshift!” In the tiny fractions of a second that seemed to persist much longer, both hands and both feet performed an awkward dance trying to use the clutch, gear shift and brakes in the right combination to subdue the inner conflict.

As quickly as the emergency response got started, it vanished in the realization that the only action that mattered right then was holding tightly on the brake lever with my right hand. I didn’t need to shift up or down because I was in no gear at all. The racing engine and lack of movement confirmed the bad news. My clutch was fried. Not the best of moments for that to happen as I was about half way up one of the steepest streets I’d ever been on, a straight stretch of San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street between Polk and Larkin Streets. The only thing keeping me from rolling down the hill backwards was the firm grip on the brake, yet I needed to let up to gradually roll  into a reverse turn so I could head back down the hill forward. Even the light weight of the V Star made it impossible to push up the hill. The trip back down to the flat intersection of Polk and Lombard was an interesting balance of more and less pressure on the brake.

I really didn’t want to be on that part of the Lombard Street, but it was the only way to get to the part I wanted to descend, the one-block, eight-curve, brick-paved section that the street is famous for. I didn’t get to ride it on that trip, but will return some day. I can chuckle about it now, but I was cranky then from the jolt of my fried clutch. I chuckle sometimes too at the thought of my friend who did ride it, but got stuck behind a group of tourists from Korea in a rented land yacht who stopped periodically to take pictures.

What follows is a picture of the curvy part of Lombard Street, and links to google maps for the curvy and straight parts of it. The google items should be interactive so you can move along them up or down. The featured image above is me sitting on the bike as a tow truck driver attaches it to his truck.

Sanfran_61_bg_032605_lombard_street
By The original uploader was Y6y6y6 at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Climbing Blindly: An Opaque 9-Prompt Haiku

via Daily Prompt: Opaque

Last week I tried a Tenacious haiku using the preceding week’s 7 words and no others. I had to wait for 9 prompts to get the 17 syllables this time, but here’s this week’s offering:

Climbing blindly, pleased

Measure timely opaque jolt

Cranky unravel

It would be fun to see other variations if you care to post them in comments. You could even cheat a little by adding a word or two or not adhering to the 5-7-5 model. Ah, come on..you know you want to… 🙂