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

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

A Dark Tunnel (continued)

via Daily Prompt: Pleased

As the last strains of the Bolero fade from my ears, my thoughts begin to — unRavel 😉 and I’m pleased to take on a new challenge…just kidding…here’s the real post…

A Dark Tunnel continued…

The gentle strength in her grip on my ankle is at once concerning and reassuring. I fear for her safety more than my own, but have learned more than once since our first meeting that she is no damsel in distress. Her resourcefulness and resolve belie the delicate beauty of her soft facial features, and have kept us a half step ahead of danger repeatedly.

The darkness forces my thoughts inward, nothing else to concentrate on as our slog through the damp endlessness of the tunnel goes on. My thoughts return to that fateful evening. “Pleased to meet you,” she had said with an accent that reached deep into a primal part of me, summoning me inside her mind. “Enchanté,” I returned in my dreadful Texas drawl, cringing inside but hoping it didn’t show on the outside. She had passed by my outstretched hand to touch my shoulder, leaning forward to lightly kiss each cheek in turn, me trying to mirror the moves, not having grown up with this delightful custom. As we pulled back and smiled into each other’s eyes, I remember the phrase “follow you to the ends of the Earth” passing through my jumbled mind, thoughts raveling and unraveling as the moment persisted. Laughing now to myself. I didn’t think that would include literally traveling under the Earth together.

The wine had flowed along with the conversation as we sat outside Les Deux Magots café, sharing the warm Paris evening with our mutual friend Alex who had arranged our meeting. All was going well until she looked beyond my shoulder, eyes widening in alarm. “Come with me. Now” adding “Please” as an afterthought, hand clutching my wrist not unlike the way she now holds my ankle in the darkness. We stand and dart down the street, with her in the lead, leaving Alex at the table, confusion crossing his features…

To be continued when more prompts arrive….

Copyright  © Thomas Ward 2017

A Dark Tunnel

via Daily Prompt: Blindly

I love word combinations. One of the great things about combinations is that they reveal the near-infinite complexity, the wide range of nuances, hiding within the individual words. Take blindly. It most often has a figurative sense of doing things mindlessly, without thinking, understanding or judgment. You might follow others or fall for a person blindly, etc. But it also has a direct, literal sense of not physically seeing things around you. To help pull out those subtleties I sometimes randomly generate pairings, in this case verbs with the adverb blindly.

One verb that came up was creep and it birthed this fragment:

“We creep blindly through the engulfing darkness of the tunnel, not daring even a whisper, communicating only with subtle shifts in the pressure of fingers encircling the ankle of the one in front, slight angling of that bony joint in response. The heat is punishing, pressing on us, seeming to constrict our narrow passage even more. The sweat has long since drenched our clothing, making it adhere to the clay as we inch along crablike. How long have we been moving? I realize I have no idea. The unrelenting darkness has shut down not just vision but also the connections to most other gauges of experience. The only heightened sense is hearing as we listen for the slightest of shufflings from behind that would signal pursuit. How long until we reach the end, hopefully undiscovered so that we may rise and sprint to speed our escape? …”

I don’t know yet who might be pursuing them, where they might be headed or if they escape, but the combination “creep blindly” set a whole train of thought in motion, different than other random combinations that came up, such as inject blindly, stab blindly, rule blindly, prepare blindly, honor blindly and so on.

I’ll say more about the program I use in a different post, but this one is already getting too long.

Cheers

Copyright  © Thomas Ward 2017

How Are We to Heal?

via Daily Prompt: Heal

Haiku (of sorts)

 

how are we to heal

bleeding planet gashed by hate

one heart at a time

 

how are we to heal

weeping planet asking love

one heart at a time

 

how are we to heal

reaching now to different ones

one heart at a time

 

Explanation, skip if too boring: I typically don’t explain what I write. The words will either stand or fall on their own, but I wanted to give a bit of background on this. First, I thought about the old parable about the grandfather telling his grandson that there are two wolves always at war inside each of us, one representing hatred and fear, the other representing love and bravery. When the grandson asks which one wins, the grandfather answers “the one you feed.” Let us feed our loving wolves. Second “one heart at a time” is an adaptation of the story from which the title of Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, derives. She describes how her brother was daunted by needing to complete a long report on birds, and her father kindly advised “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” None of us can accomplish the seemingly daunting task of healing the world alone. But we can each take it heart by heart, one heart at a time. Finally, I’ve never tried haiku before but the phrase “how are we to heal” would not leave me alone, so its five syllables was a start.

Copyright  © Thomas Ward 2017