Fiction: The Write Way
Writers Barbara Villemez and James Rose finish up our last issue of the summer month with their two fictional tales. This is Villemez’s second time being published in Write From Wrong, and this is also the third and final installment of Rose’s “Free Jazz: with Call and Response Solos by The Kiss, Those Lifted above the Trails, and Killing One House Finch with Two Ancient Stones in the Vapor Cave (Pt. 3)”.
1. “Jamaica Farewell“- Barbara Villemez
2. “Free Jazz: with Call and Response Solos by The Kiss, Those Lifted above the Trails, and Killing One House Finch with Two Ancient Stones in the Vapor Cave (Pt. 3)“- James Rose
“Jamaica Farewell” tells the story of a long unhappy housewife who finally finds the courage to break out from the prison that life with her husband has become. The protagonist’s conversation with a therapist serves as the primary vehicle of the story which leads the reader toward an eerily ambiguous ending.
Her long fingers twisted together as they lay entwined in her lap. The paleness of her hands and thin arms contrasted with the dark blue of her wool skirt. She sat still, legs primly crossed at the ankles. A stray lock of stringy blonde hair fell across her forehead and she nervously pushed it behind her ear. Her anxious eyes searched the face of the doctor seated across from her.
“What I tell you is in strictest confidence isn’t it?”
She took a deep breath. “I’ve had this dreadful dream. I’ve had it now every night for months. I don’t know what it means, but I’m feeling so nervous when it’s time for bed, that I can’t sleep.”
The doctor raised an eyebrow. “You want to tell me about this dream?”
She looked down at her hands, then her large eyes met his. “I kill my husband and bury him in the backyard. Isn’t that awful?”
The doctor smiled. “Well, not necessarily. Many women feel like killing their husbands at one time or another.” He leaned over to turn on the tape recorder on the small table by his chair. “You don’t mind if I tape this session, do you? It helps me when I write my notes.”
She shook her head. “No, I guess not”.
“Good.” He leaned back in his chair and discreetly glanced at his watch. “Tell me a little about your life Mavis. Your husband’s retired isn’t he?”
“Yes, about two years ago from the steel industry. We sold our house in Pennsylvania and moved here to Las Cruces about six months ago. He has really bad arthritis and the weather there was rough on him. He likes it here. We’re renting a house until we decide if we want to build or buy a condo.”
The doctor nodded. “It’s is a good place to retire. Have you and your husband, it’s Harry isn’t it, had many problems since he retired?”
She hesitated. “Yesssssssss. . . you could say that we have. He’s so picky now that he’s home all day. He never did anything but work, never had any hobbies or friends either. We never took a real vacation. Once, in all the years we were married, we went up to the mountains for a weekend and he did nothing but complain about how much money it was costing. We never took another one.”
A tone of resentment crept into her voice. “We didn’t have any children. I would have liked to, but Harry said they cost too much and would be a bother. He said I didn’t need anyone but him.” She shrugged and lifted her shoulders in a helpless gesture.
“Have you always been a homemaker, Mavis?”
“No, when we first married I worked as a secretary and made a good salary, but Harry wouldn’t let me keep it. The money had to go into a savings account for retirement. He would give me a small allowance to buy groceries every week and take me to the mall if I needed something like clothes or shoes.”
“How did you feel about that?”
“I didn’t like it at first, but after awhile I accepted it. When we moved I found out th eaccount wasn’t in my name. It is now, I insisted.” Her eyes flashed. “I told Harry what if something happened to him and I couldn’t get any money.” Her hands twisted together in her lap. “He could be in the hospital and needed things and I couldn’t get them for him.”
“How long have you been married?”
“Forty-two years next month.”
“That’s a long time. How do you feel about this man after forty-two years together?”
“I don’t know.” she hesitated. “Maybe that’s why I’m having the dream. Harry criticizes everything I do. He never shuts up, always yelling at me. Sometimes I want to tell him to shut up and get a life.”
The doctor notices that her expression doesn’t change, but her eyes darken and widen.
“Why don‘t you tell him?”
She shrugged. “He’ll just get nastier. He can be so mean.”
“Has he ever abused you in any way physical?”
Mavis looked down at her hands. Hesitating, she looked up at the doctor, eyes wide. “I. . . um. . . I guess its okay to tell you. Harry used to tie me up and spank me with this old ping pong paddle that he kept in his desk. He’d spank me so hard that I would have bruises and cry. Then he’d say he was sorry and we’d have sex. He hasn’t done that in a long time. He can’t get an erection anymore. And I’m glad.” She said this with a defiant toss of her head and a narrowing of her eyes.
“I see.” The doctor leaned forward. “What usually led up to this spanking?”
“It happened whenever I fussed too much about him not letting me do something I wanted to do.”
“Oh, different things, like the time a neighbor across the street invited me over for coffee and Harry said I couldn’t go. He said she was a slut and probably wanted to take advantage of us. He gets so pissed now that he can’t get an erection and he doesn’t have the paddle anymore.” She smirked and her mouth turned up in a simile of a smile, small pointed teeth showing. “I told him it got lost in the move. I threw it in the trash. He never knew.”
The doctor was silent for a moment. “You say that your husband wouldn’t let you have coffee with the neighbor?”
Mavis sat back in the armchair and crossed her arms. The doctor watched her carefully. She appeared to hug herself tightly and rocked back and forth so gently that it was hardly noticeable.
“Harry said he was the only friend that I needed. We never did anything social with anyone else. My parents died young and I’m an only child. Harry had an older brother, but we haven’t seen him in over forty years. He might even be dead for all we know. Harry didn’t like his family”.
“You must be lonely.”
She relaxed and put her hands in her lap. “I’ve got my television shows. I sew and garden. We never had a pet for the same reason we never had children, too bothersome. But now that Harry is home all the time he controls the remote and I can’t watch any of my programs. Its sports or game shows all day long and in the evening too.” Her voice took on a tone of self- pity.
“You sound frustrated and angry, Mavis.”
“I guess I am that’s probably why I keep having that dream.”
“Tell me about it.”
She hesitated and gazed toward the one window in the small office. “Well, I’m in my nightgown and barefoot. I’m in the backyard and its real dark, barely enough light to see. There’s blood on the front of my gown. I’m dragging something in a sheet. It’s very heavy and I’m grunting as I drag it along the ground. I stop and look down and it’s Harry. His head is all bloody and I don‘t think he’s breathing. I drag him through the pecan trees to a small clearing. A shovel is leaning against a tree. I start digging then I wake up.” She looks down at her hands.
“That’s quite a dream, Mavis. I think you’re expressing the anger and resentment you feel toward Harry with this dream and that’s okay. Your subconscious is working through those feelings. From the history you’ve given me it’s normal that you would resent your relationship and feel angry. Probably this has been simmering for a long time. That’s why you keep having the dream. Your comfort level has been disrupted. You might think about doing things to get out of the house. The Senior Center has programs that you may find interesting. And I’m going to give you something to help you sleep.” He reached for his prescription pad. “I’m going to give you a thirty day supply of Ambien.” He wrote out the script and handed it to her. “Now, only take one before you go to bed; they’ll make you drowsy and you should have a good night’s sleep.” They both rose and he escorted her to the door.
He held the door open and smiled. “We have to do some work on your self-esteem. We’ll get your husband in here in a few weeks and see if we can resolve some of these issues between you two.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
“You’re welcome Mavis. I’ll see you next week, same time. Stop at the front desk, Alice will set up an appointment for you.” He ushered her out and closed the door.
Mavis paused, glanced at the receptionist, gave a slight shake of her head and walked quickly out of the office. She drove out of the parking lot and a few blocks down the street pulled into Albertson’s Market. She sat in the car for ten minutes, her look thoughtful. Her eyes widened then she smiled and whispered. “Why not? What have I got to lose.” Humming an old Harry Belafonte song, she got out of the car. Purchasing some bread, milk and cookies she
stopped by the pharmacy and had the prescription filled, then drove home.
As she put away the groceries she heard the toilet flush in the powder room and after a few minutes, Harry entered the kitchen. He yelled, his face flushed with anger. “Where the hell have you been, you stupid bitch? You didn’t tell me you were leaving the house and taking the car.” Under her breath she said, “Shut up, Harry.”
“What did you say?” His eyes narrowed as he approached.
“I said I bought some groceries we needed. We were out of milk and bread. I also bought some of those cookies you like. You can have some with warm milk before you go to bed. You’ll sleep better.”
Somewhat mollified Harry retorted, “You were gone over an hour.”
“I stopped and got gas and washed the car.” She looked at her watch. “Harry, you’re going to miss your game show. Go sit down and I’ll start dinner.”
Harry left the kitchen and, humming, Mavis began to prepare the meal.
A few days later.
It was a beautiful morning with a slight coolness in the air mitigated by the warmth of the sun, a perfect day in the high desert of New Mexico. As Mavis left the bank she hummed an old song about a lemon tree. “I must see if I can find that CD, maybe at Barnes and Noble.” She skipped a step and continued humming as she walked to her car. She stopped to glance at her reflection in a store window and admired her new haircut and the auburn color.
The telephone was ringing as she pulled into the garage. She raced into the kitchen and grabbed the phone. Out of breath, she said, “Hello, yes this is Mavis Taylor. Oh good, I was hoping you were on your way. We’re the house at the end of the road and we’re set back in the pecan trees. You have to come up the drive and park on the side, not in front. Okay, I’ll be here.” She hung up and went up the stairs to her bedroom. She picked up the two suitcases that stood inside the door and went back downstairs to the garage, placing the suitcases in the trunk. Humming a nondescript tune, she went back into the house and taking a key from her key ring placed it on the kitchen counter. The sound of a truck coming up the drive alerted Mavis and she opened the front door. She watched the truck approach and waved as the men got out.
“Hi. You understand that everything goes, all the furniture, the stuff in the kitchen and the clothes in the closest?”
“Yes ma’am. It sure is good of you and your husband to donate all this stuff.”
The older of the two men handed her a receipt.
She gave a wave of dismissal. “Thank you. I don’t need a receipt.” She watched as they loaded the contents of the house into the large truck and waved as they left. Back in the house she looked around at the emptiness with a satisfied smile and walked through the house to the back yard. She took a deep breath and looked at the clear blue
sky, then at the yellowing leaves of the pecan trees. She whispered, “It is lovely here.” She gave a little salute toward the pecan trees and smiling walked back through the house and into the garage. As she drove out of the driveway and onto the street, she couldn’t contain herself and giggled. “Jamaica will be just marvelous this time of the year.”
Free Jazz: with Call and Response Solos by The Kiss, Those Lifted above the Trails, and Killing One House Finch with Two Ancient Stones in the Vapor Cave (Pt. 3)
“The author of this piece adds depth to a tale of the antics of two young men with thoughtful and philosophical narration.”
“Improvisation means real time composing…
Improvisation means composing new ideas…”.
For them it was about the stimulation of extemporization, where an action led to a
reaction that could be somewhat anticipated but had an improvisational call-and-response factor
in which the alteration lead to a galvanizing note. If the composition of their actions seemed
repetitive, it wasn’t that they didn’t learn from their own mistakes, but they needed a harmonic
center, an inspiring riff. The only rule was to know what key you were in—and even that was
broken sometimes. There was a need to take in every sensory aspect and in a matter of moments
respond with as much ingenuity as possible—trying to maintain a balance between external and
internal. As long as you didn’t assume anything, there was always enough time and opportunities
to rework the next solo: a progression, a digression, any sort of composition of a new idea.
“Have you ever wanted to put a wet key in an electrical socket? If you were in the ski patrol office with me, you would know the feeling,” Mark said. “Luckily, the guy didn’t know his boots from his bindings.”
“What happened? How did you get out of there with you cousin’s ticket? ” Fowler asked.
“He asked for my, well Andy’s, information: full name, address, phone number, his mother’s maiden name, and his first pet. I figured blood type and favorite bed time snack were next. The other good thing was that he didn’t hear you call me Mark either.”
“Yeah, sorry about that, but anyways, where is this shuttle taking us again?”
“It’s called the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa. It’s in Ouray.”
“A spa? Really?” Fowler asked.
“Don’t get on my case until you see what it’s all about. After today we could use some time to chill out.”
Although Ouray is geographically only ten miles from Telluride, the ride up, down and around the abundant San Juan Mountains took fifty minutes. The mining-to-tourism town that once inspired the hideaway in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, had many other secrets to reveal.
When the two arrived there was a fresh coat of snow on the rails of the walkway to the A-framed motel, but none on the ground. Tommie noticed several red mushroom plastic sprinklers with white polka-dots and a large no smoking sign. Other than this hint of red, everything else (the walkway, the building, the patio furniture and the stones) was dark shades of an earthy brown. Tommie followed Marks lead through the front door and to the front desk where the receptionist failed to look up from her book.
“Sorry to interrupt, but we are here for the Vapor Cave,” Mark said dryly.
“You will need to read this, and this, and then sign that. It is twenty dollars for an evening pass,” she mumbled and handed each of them a brochure, health waiver and a contract of conduct without looking up from her book.
Mark flipped through the brochure and pointed out a line on the back inside cover, ‘Drug use not recommended’ and then pointed specifically at ‘recommended.’ Fowler let out a small chuckle and then signed a contract that stated that he understood the health risks of bathing in hot springs, as well as, a personal guarantee that he had not smoked in the past three months.
“The locker rooms are down the hall and on your right. The Hot Springs close at 9:45 sharp,” she said and looked up at them. “No stragglers.”
Ironically, in the German owned spa, the door down to paradise, read ‘Vapor Cave,’ in Old English lettering. After Fowler and Mark descended the spiral staircase, they went through three rooms, each progressively turning from hippy motel to unearthly cave. The first had stone walls, a tile floor and visible light fixtures. The second was stone all the way around, had lighting fixtures that blended into the layers of sediments on the walls, and seemed warmer then the last. When Fowler shut the door behind him in the third room, the two friends were completely surrounded in an underground cave. The room was not lit up, but glowed and the cave floor sloped down and away from them. Water lightly flowed down the rock walls and created a shallow brook that gained depth the farther they walked into the room. The brook ran under the wooden plank door that was fastened together by rope and carefully fit to where the cave was carved out to make a doorway ten yards in front of them.
“I couldn’t even turn back now if I wanted to,” Fowler joked. “The door behind me has disappeared.” Fowler was right, there was no trace of the door he had just closed except for the black handle that was camouflaged into what he perceived to be the caves natural deposits.
“Don’t worry, there is only one more door to go!” Mark looked over at Fowler through the ember lighting of the cave with round eyes.
“Three, two, one,” Mark said and pushed opened the door with both hands. There was a swell of heat that crashed against their chests when the door swung open. They were now ankle deep in hot spring water, but Fowler’s forward motion stopped like he was walking through drying cement. After the heat came the light. It wasn’t a bright light, but the waves of gold and blues the swept off the walls created an indoor aurora. Through the haze, Fowler could see that in front of him there was a stone lagoon, carved out by centuries of water-flow that extended the length of the room, around fifteen yards, and started from the right side but also took up most of the width. The left wall was lined with benches that looked like miniature representations of Stonehenge.
The rustic cottage of the Wiesbaden Motel was only a gatekeeper for this supernal subterranean. Everything about it suggested that we may find higher truths by looking closer, digging deeper. Under the rooms for rent and the main lobby, an underground hot spring was the real core of the building and taking on the burden of things on the lowest level, it was also the furnace. The intense color and texture of this rock formation, along with the feeling of the pure heat the seemed to come from it, made anyone who saw it realize that this was not a replication.
“Man, before I came in here, I though the last room was all a real cave,” Fowler said. “Maybe Plato was wrong after all. You need to go deeper inside the cave to see the real thing, not come out of it.”
“Ha-ha I’m not too sure man, but I got my own philosophy right here,” Mark replied and reached into his pocket and pulled out a pre-rolled joint. “It’s called the path of least resistance.” Mark carefully submerged the lower have of his body into the lagoon while making sure to keep his right hand out of the water. Mark and Fowler proceeded to fill the room with a robust odor that overpowered the other natural but more sulfuric scents in the cave. The smoke’s efflorescent flavor added the only sensory aspect of the experience that the cave didn’t previously provide.
“I should have known it would be you!” a voice cried out pushing through the wooden door. She had long gray hair and think rimmed black reading glasses. She must have left her book at the reception desk because she pushed through the door with both arms and didn’t seem to be slowing down.
“Fowler, Emergency, Exit, NOW!” Mark yelled. The two jerked completely upright and began to run through the knee deep water towards the back corner of the room. Fowler didn’t see the exit through all the haze until Mark had pointed towards it. Fowler, in full stride, planted his right foot on the stone step to get over the edge of the lagoon, but instead of holding his body upright it slipped out from under him. With his forward momentum his body flew like a queer bird: perpendicular to the ground, feet dangled awkwardly behind him and arms flailed to the sides to gain balance. Due to his trajectory, the point of impact was skull first into the stone bench; just how an invisible hand seems to catch a bird mid-flight after it rebounds off a window, Mark, after hearing the shriek that Fowler let out when he initially lost his footing, doubled back just enough to catch Fowler, post-impact, but still mid-air. Despite the damage, Fowler’s screams and the chirping of the emergency exit alarm that went off, the two were still able to make it outside.
The stone bench had gashed Fowlers head right above his left eyebrow. By the time he made it outside his face and neck, like a house finch’s, were completely red. The blood beaded up and dripped off of Fowler’s body and fell against the warm earth outside and against the snow covered railings when they ran by. He left a crimson trail behind which, along with the red plastic mushrooms sprinklers and no smoking sign, made the red accents in the front of the Wiesbaden seem more prominent. The farther away they got from the Wiesbaden, the colder the ground became and the more they wished they had not left all their cloths in the locker room. The alarm from the emergency exit continued to chirp out its song of the birds. If this was the call, Fowler needed to compose a very creative response.