Pages

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

SHOUTING DISTANCE


The rain came before sunrise
in steady sheets
like the one I was trying
to pull over my head

I was just out of a dream

where I was whispering into the ear
of a woman who seemed to be
 my counselor
or confidante
a dream where I had speculated about
the sex of a pencil

It was long
a real woody
and it could prick you
when it's sharp
no wait...erase that

It was worn 
past the last hurrah
like a space ship
in the shape of a cigar

(And when hers was worn down to the nubbin
Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven)

It made so much sense to say
that I am my brother's keeper
but of course the other side had just claimed
that we'll get you to the promised land
in just a little different way

Let us fly and make our own mistakes

don't need a hand or a handout
of course that's the way where
crash and burn
 is followed in sequence by
oh shit
oh well

The rain had no intention
of letting up
as dawn's curtain lifted slowly
the new year now within shouting distance

And in the dream I was giddy
as I breathed into her ear

that I didn't know whether to laugh
or to cry

The culmination of a lifetime
of fledgling flight

Don't be concerned
if I crash and burn









Sunday, December 16, 2012

THE SEASON



It only means something if you have a warm place to lay your head
It only means something if you are no longer numb
It only means something if there is someone
It only means something if that someone means something
It only means something if you're not holding a grudge
It only means something if you can swallow your pride
It only means something if you see you're not the only one who's been hurt
It only means something if you can stop pointing fingers
It only means something if you can finish a sentence without "Yeah... BUT"
It only means something if you don't have to be right
It only means something if you grasp that  we won't get this moment back
It only means something if you meet each other half way
It only means something if you do this before it all passes you by again

It only means something if you open that door

Sunday, December 9, 2012

OH DARLING, WILL YOU BE MAYAN?


We stand in the antechamber
of the apocalypse
surrounded by the changing
faces of love.

Jennifer gets a boob job
then wonders why men
don't appreciate her mind
.
Amy is stressed because the guy
she met through a personal ad
is getting too personal.

David has fallen head over heels for a 350 pound drag queen
who is posing as a petite nineteen year old blonde online.

Men are women
and women are men--
one's from Mars
and one's from Venus
but it's getting harder to tell
who's got the penis.

Spice Girls on the BBC
were playful
even impish
tucked inside their gowns so skimpish
but for America they wore their attitude
posturing for the average dude
who stands on the corner crying
I AM THE MISSING LINK
DON'T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK
ME AND MY KIN WE LIVE IN THE TREES
PICK MY NITS AND I'LL PLUCK YOUR FLEAS!

Old gent greets the Avon lady
in the doorway with his joystick in hand
inside the house his wife chirps:
pay him no mind, dear...he's only keeping it up
for appearances sake!

And love was simple when it was
like a jackhammer penetrating your indifference
like a lumberjack chipping away at your resistance
like a finger on your trigger
like a ditch digging its digger

And in retrospect my life has been
a blue blur of contradiction
a rolling juggernaut of misjudgment
charging headlong through the rain
and pissing into the wind
a constellation of calamity
chasing dust devil dreams
down a star-speckled highway
in a last ditch attempt
to catch the champagne night flight
to Nirvana.

Still, I've never wanted to be anyone else--
just in a different game
cavorting with the Duchess of York
getting a grip on those love handles
and holding on for dear life before
she starts her next diet

And I kiss the ASS of  the sixties
for allowing me to stand here before you today--
spitting on your false piety,
your nightmare dream of polite society--
brains lobotomized
and our butts in a Singapore sling.

I kiss the ass of Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Ferlinghetti
I kiss the ass of  Lenny Bruce
and everyone who spoke the truth

We stand in the antechamber of the apocalypse
.or so they say...
But remember Y2K?
it was just another day

So don't run for the hills
no, that would be WACK
cuz you'll be back
TO GRAB SANTA'S SAC!!!  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

SIGN OF THE TIMES







There once was a time
when people were of a mind
to speak their minds,
and "a penny for your thoughts"
was thought to be a fair exchange.

But we're all playing it mighty close
to the vest these days,
and dealing with the truth
is no penny-ante proposition.

Now most of us aren't deaf
and most of us aren't dumb
but nonetheless half of us can't speak
and the other half can't hear...
so we've come to rely upon
what is known as the sign language of love.

Some of the signs are round
and some of them are square
but the most important ones to remember are:
STOP
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
DETOUR
and
SLIPPERY WHEN WET.

The trouble is that it's hard to tell
from a safe distance
which sign a person is displaying
at any particular time,
and even those who are well versed
in the other romance languages
can become dazed, confused, 
tongue-tied, and disoriented when faced
with the daunting task of
translating the sign language of love.

The trick, of course, is not to think
about what's being said,
but what's behind what's being said.
If she says "See ya later"
does that mean later tonight,
later next week,
or later in another lifetime?
And if she says
"We should probably get together...sometime"
as she glides past you heading for the door,
should you hearken back to the Uncertainty Principle
which states that one cannot simultaneously
know the position and the path
of a moving object,
because you have a bead on her position
for the moment,
but can never be certain
of the path she will lead you down?

Do her eyes reveal the secrets of her soul,
or are they two black holes
sucking you into a time warp
where you will repeat the same mistakes you made yesterday?

Only your friendly neighborhood physicist would know.

So I bought this book on body language
that told me if a woman crosses her arms--
that's a negative sign...
but if she spreads her legs
THAT'S A POSITIVE ONE!

So I wrote that down.

Armed with this critical information
I felt confident enough to try my luck
in the world's most romantic city...


So I flew to Paris,
and found myself sitting at a sidewalk cafe
where I noticed a Frenchwoman 
giving me the goo-goo eyes
from a nearby table...

She smiled at me
and I smiled back at her
and she smiled back at me
and I said now here's somebody
who is speaking my language!

Then she got up and walked
right over to my table...

and right past my table...

and sat down with the woman
who was directly behind me
and just a tad to the left.

So I think I'm just as dense
as I ever was
about the sign language of love,
but I do know that you can't dance
forever
and somewhere along the way
somebody has got to commit to something
before you're both committed...
so knock three times on the ceiling if you want me--
twice upside my head with your purse if you don't want to know.

I'll get the picture.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

AND SO IT WAS



Imaginary Garden With Real Toads--d'Verse Poets Pub










Dunno what the hell happened
to ol' Duke
who was the swarthiest of our little band
of outsiders
with hair blacker than used motor oil 
in that whitebread town
who would sit behind the girls
at the movie show
and chant just beneath his breath: piece o' butt...
piece o' butt...

Who one night when we sneaked onto the 
grounds of the high school
with Molotov cocktails in hand
lit one and flung it 
and the flaming projectile
bounced off the side of the brick building
and struck him in the back
and started his brand new jacket afire
and the rest of us cackled until we could
no longer catch our breath...

Who one night as I chauffeured  us
aimlessly around town 
in my cherry-red Ford that everybody recognized
we passed the movie theater
where we saw this big ugly brute 
named "Moose" loitering outside--
with his finger excavating his nasal cavity
and leaned out his window and shouted
"Pick you nose and wipe it on you suit!" 
and I sensed immediately that
somehow I would be the one to pay for that...

And so it was one night we were stopped
along a country road
chugging some beers
and who of all people came along
but Moose and company
and he grabbed me and growled:
YOU'RE the one who yelled
PICK YOU NOSE AND WIPE IT ON YOU SUIT
and I marveled at his exact recall of Duke's phraseology
all the while knowing it would do no good
to even try to explain
and getting shoved into that ditch 
didn't really hurt, man,
no...
not like conjuring up 
those beautiful images does now. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

INTERVIEW (with the vampire?)

Hey kids, for a little more  insight into my brain, (such as it is) check out the interview that Isadora Gruye conducted with me over at  Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads! (Just scroll down a little ways until you see my smiling mug!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

COTTON CANDY


Don't get me wrong
I  love lovely language
and imagery
that  gives me goosebumps
for a couple of seconds
but if it all comes out
too wispy
like spun sugar
then I come away hungry

Need something I can bite into
and chew on for a while.
Need to detect
some semblance
of a thought process.
Need it to relate
to something
(like the price of tea in China)
if I'm gonna stay alive
cuz  I just can't survive
on that cotton candy verse...
here comes the hearse.

You're gazing into
your belly button
and you've gotten lost in there
and so have we.
Maybe it means
something to you
but  give me one clue
so I can join in the fun.

Yes you are lonely
and yes
you are horny
and the blood red rose of love
is so prickly and thorny
but what's that got to do
with anything but you?

Your words are exotic
and tacitly erotic
but how many different ways
can you say
I'm psychotic?

Don't think I'm unsympathetic
to what your failed romance meant
but the simple fact of the matter is
that love has made you incoherent!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SAY "CHEESE"



In every political campaign
that runs those mudslinging 
attack ads on TV
there is a person on the staff
whose job is to pour through
hundreds or maybe thousands
of  photos
to find the least attractive
and least flattering pictures
of the opponent
to put up onscreen
(followed by the misleading "facts"
that they hope you will buy
because they think you're stupid)
you can turn the sound down
on your set
and know in an instant
who the ad is promoting
by whether the person depicted
on screen
is happy and smiling
or scowling and frowning
so many photos being taken
of any public figure
and some will catch you 
with your mouth wide open
or eyes closed
or some weird facial expression
and the person sifting through all these shots
is cackling to himself
Hhaaw...this one really sucks....
no wait--THIS one is worse--
looks like he didn't get any sleep
the night before...hey Joe...
should we run this one or that one?
And Joe says Man, THIS one...poor
sonofabitch...wait till he sees himself...

And people get paid for this

Don't think I want to be
represented by anybody
from either side of the aisle
who will go to these lengths
to demean another person 
just for the sake of winning
and you still seem surprised
when the next politician
and then the next 
is nabbed for some moral
or criminal offense
when it's staring you
right in the face
during the campaign
what kind of an asshole
he really is


Friday, October 19, 2012

FEELTHY TING

Now you...                                                                                           d'Verse Poets Pub

Even SIN thinks you're disgusting
ya see Sin ain't so bad
half the time
lookit all the peoples
flocking to Las Vegas
gonna blow their wad
on some hookers and a craps table
but it's alright
cuz jobs are being provided
through the generosity
of your donations
but lookit you
you feelthy ting
and just because you diggin Steely Dan
while on the can
ain't gonna give you a free pass
you know people
shouldn't eat in public
cuz it's gross
with that juice dribbling down your chin
and some unrecognizable something
stuck to your teeth
and you got so distracted
by that chick with the jugs
that you tried to spoon soup
into your nose
slurping
and burping
yeah, that's a nice way to impress
a date--
what the hell is  wrong with people?
never could figure out why
the truly exquisite thing
which is making love
got cloistered away
behind closed doors
while the truly disgusting thing
which is eating
is not only allowed
but encouraged in public
you see it everywhere
on TV and in the movies
people shoveling it in
and then talking with
their mouths full
what the hell 
are you trying to say 
is it bigger than a breadbox?
and you 
well even Sin thinks you're disgusting
lookit what you did
you  think I'm gonna clean that up?
no way
brother
no way
you've got more brains than that
you fetid furshluginner thing
take that carcass
you are gnawing on
and go sit with the rest
of your zombie friends 
I'm goin out tonight
to howl 

Monday, October 15, 2012

JUST VAMPING













Bats roll
buzzards troll
freaks plague
your tormented soul
and we are waiting...

We dance by day
we dance by night
here to give you
such a fright
and we are waiting...

Brothers and sisters
we are waiting...
mothers and fathers
we are waiting...
sons and daughters
we are waiting...
sons of bitches
we are waiting...

Angels and whores trade places
in a moonlit masquerade

Zombies dance
without any pants

And we are waiting...
for THE NIGHT !

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"TEACHER SORAYO"







I'm a ritualistic
synergistic
goin ballistic
muhfuggah
dancin with wolves
dancin with dingos
dancin with Daddy G

Go Daddy

got that frizzy Richard Simmons hair
but I got more weight to toss around
than that little pissant
and when I sidle up to the ladies
I go diddley-bop...thunk!
I go diddley-bop...thunk!
I go diddley-bop...thunk!
And they all run
cuz they scared of my junk
as I chase them around the room
in my red skivvies with CCCP emblazoned
across the front

Sometimes I put on a chef's hat
and mix up a concoction that will
make you toss your cookies
but you gotta drink it all
to stay in the game

And it's a wild and crazy game
with bodacious boobies
that will knock you out
(literally)
swinging left and right
and to and fro
and round and round they go
and when they hit you
you will shout
and be amazed
as you stagger about
 in a silicone haze

And then the confetti comes
raining down
and it's curtains for anyone
who gets in my way cuz
I go diddley-bop...thunk!
diddley-bop...thunk!
and you'd think I was drunk
as I pursue them about the stage
I should be in a cage but
A Que No Puedes
is all the rage
with psychos like Timoteo
who never learned to act their age

Monday, October 1, 2012

DON'T JUST STAND THERE


















Love me like a fist
Spray me like a skunk in heat
Leave on a cruise liner to India
Put your hands together in prayer
Make a bee-line for the nearest exit
Tell three people what you did in the bathroom on September 17, 1982
Pay your bills before the grace period ends
Have lunch with a guy named Shlomo
Slap your ass and admit that it's real
Be a mean mama jama and spin like a wheel
Toss your hat and your cookies into the ring
Groove on the wonder of EV-ER-Y-THING

Monday, September 24, 2012

TRUST


















You ate that
spaghetti sauce
that had been in your
fridge for nearly 6 months
you burped and said it was good

And that chocolate bar
that lurked in your cupboard
for God knows how long
it was all discolored
and was morphing
into some other shape
and frankly
it looked like a turd

And those green beans
with mold the color of rust
(you've no issues with trust)

You don't mind things
that are past their sell by date
maybe that's why
you're still hangin' round
with the likes of me

Sunday, September 16, 2012

KISS FROM THE CLOUDS





She was a woman from Jakarta
the mistress of a Cardinal
and she painted lonely landscapes
on her journey to the sea

A child of the east
a woman of the west
she loves only what is forbidden
standing naked in the courtyard of a country church
where you have followed her from the tourist bus
dark angel beseeching heaven
for a sign from her departed lover

And you know that you can touch her
but she has already told you
that sex is meaningless unless
it is tied to some romantic illusion

And she has told you that her lover
had said that when he is dead
he will send her a kiss from the clouds
and you turn your face skyward

And you know that you can possess her
but she has already told you
that life is meaningless unless
it is tied to some romantic illusion

And she has told you that joy and sorrow are both impostors
and that joy is born from exultation in the moment
and sorrow in a morn when the moment has passed

And you know that you can kill her
but she has already told you
that death is meaningless unless
it is tied to some romantic illusion

And the rain comes like music divinely orchestrated
and your tears come like the muse
unexpected but greatly appreciated
and the colors of the rainbow explode inside your head
as she transmogrifies into a vision of the Madonna

And transcends into heaven

And you wonder who will pick the shrapnel from your eyes
as the rain sends you a kiss from the clouds

She was a woman from Jakarta
the mistress of a Cardinal
and she painted lonely landscapes
on her journey to the sea 



Many thanks to Sherry at Poets United for selecting "Kiss From The Clouds" as Poem Of The Week.

Monday, September 10, 2012

LIFE HAS A WAY




Buncha doped up hippies
beatin' on their drums...
Buncha drunken rednecks
beatin' on their women!

Buncha doped up hippies
dancin' in the street...
Buncha drunken rednecks
PEEING in the street!

Buncha doped up hippies
hitting you up for spare change...
Buncha drunken rednecks
hitting you UPSIDE THE HEAD!

Buncha doped up hippies
could greatly benefit from higher consciousness...
Buncha drunken rednecks
could greatly benefit from higher IQ.

Buncha doped up hippies
face down in the potato salad...
Buncha drunken rednecks
face down in the potato salad!!

Life has a way
of ironing out
the little differences
between us.






Monday, September 3, 2012

REAL





What is a memory? 
And what is a dream?
And is one more real
than the other?

The memory

you say
because it once existed.
But I say the dream--
because it still
holds the promise
of fruition.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

EVERY MOVIE





In da movie da man
he runnin
thru da dusty western town
da man be runnin from
da sheriff
or da bad guys
don make no difference
an he turn da corner
an dere be all dem unsuspecting CHIKUNS
just a scratchin an havin a good time
an da man he trample RIGHT thru dem chikuns
cuz he don care
an da birds dey squawk
an jump high in da air
cuz dey don know what be happenin
an dey just got de SHID
scared outta dem
an in EVERY movie where somebody
be runnin
dey don give da chikuns de right of way
even when dey in a crosswalk
cuz dey only be chikuns 
da director say
an it make for good dramatic effect
an at de end of da movie it say
"no animules were harmed in da making
of dis film"
but I not so sure 
as you can see plain as day
dat dem birds had de shid
scared right outta dem
an da evidence be right dere
on de ground

Monday, August 20, 2012



rotting fruits and vegetables
atop the compost heap--
breeze wafting my way


spring rain
tires splashing--
you dripping by


sexy dream
suddenly interrupted...
cat's paws

Saturday, August 11, 2012

FAVORS OF THE WIND
















Here's an encore presentation of one of my previously published-in-print stories. (Originally appeared in the Spring, 1993 edition of Mind In Motion.) I presented it here for the first time back in 2010. You may have read it then. Probably didn't.  If you're like me, you can't remember that far back. So read it again...for the first time! 

Steve glanced into his rearview mirror, convinced that the woman in the white car was following him. She'd first drawn his attention about twenty miles outside of Vegas, where the solemn expanse of the Great Basin begins. Several other northbound vehicles had blown past his Camry, but the woman hung back doggedly, even when he'd deliberately slowed to about 50 to let her go by.

He'd passed up the chance to return to Mexico, choosing to avoid the beaches that would be choked by hordes of fellow students on spring break. It was looking like a good decision. He felt hot--like there was cash out there waiting for him--but after one night on the Strip, something told him Lady Luck would turn up in Reno. Now, with some mysterious female shadowing him, his luck might take another turn.

Coasting through Tonopah, he was struck by the odd layout of the town--a hodge-podge of modern buildings and storefronts, dilapidated shacks, and the rusted hulks of old mining machinery scattered haphazardly about the surrounding hillsides. He spotted a sign that said Billie's Bar and Cafe, and sensed it was time for the showdown. The Camry swerved into Billie's dirt and gravel parking lot and lurched to a halt.

He rushed inside and headed for a booth where he could sit facing the door, rubbing by a wizened cowboy whose boots, ripe with the smell of horse shit, intermingled their rancid perfume with the smoky aroma of burgers being scorched to blackened lumps of charcoal on the grill.

The white car pulled up next to the window. Adrenalin charged through Steve's body. The woman stepped out, revealing her features clearly for the first time. She looked slightly older than him--late twenties maybe--wearing a white top and shorts that set off her smooth olive skin. Entering the cafe, she avoided his gaze and moved to a small far-corner table. He ordered a beer from the waitress, a hard looking gal whose face softened when she said, "What'll it be, hon?"

The woman was playing it cool, he told himself, eyeing her from across the room. Increasingly, he sensed his role changing from that of the prey to the hunter. He would have to cross the desert that lay between them and make his strike.

"The road kills," he said, smiling broadly. Still absorbed in her menu, the woman looked up in mild surprise. "Hi, I'm Steve. I'm the guy you've been...uh, following."

"I beg your pardon, I have not been following you," she said.

"Oh, I didn't really mean following. I just meant--well, you were behind me for a long time, and then, this place..."

She gave him a blank look, smoothing dark pixie hair from her eyes. "How do I know you weren't following me? Just because you were in front--you could be a psychic or something, knowing every move I was going to make in advance."

Feeling suddenly on the defensive, he said, "Coincidence, I guess...mind if I join you?" She made a sweeping one-handed gesture toward the empty chair.

The woman ordered a drink. The waitress sent Steve a knowing wink as she turned and headed back to the bar. He was quiet for a few moments, then said, "Guess I assumed too much."

"Don't worry about it; coincidence is a funny thing," she said, smiling at last. "Did you know that if you toss a coin into the air, there's always a fifty-fifty chance that it will turn up heads or tails...and yet, repeated often enough, at some point it will come up heads maybe twenty or more times in a row."

"And why is that?"

"Because it's a random universe and anything can happen."

"You sound like a physics student."

"No, but I do read a lot." She looked down at her hands. "And it's what I believe as well."

"Still, you can't go wrong playing the percentages," he said. "That's what I figure." Through the window he watched dust and debris from the parking lot, seized by a sudden wind gust, pitching and tossing about in the air.

"In the thirties," she continued, "there was a criminal who survived the electric chair. Sat right up in his coffin. On the same day, there's a guy out strolling on a golf course somewhere, just as carefree as can be. A storm comes up--he's struck by lightning and killed instantly. It's like this great cosmic glitch occurs, and for a while all the percentages are thrown totally out of whack. Then, like a man who's stumbled over a curb and lost his balance, things right themselves again and the world goes on as usual."

He was mesmerized by her words, and for a moment felt lost in the dark wells of her eyes. "I--I'd call that fate--destiny...or maybe a miracle," he said finally.

She smiled wistfully. "Not me. Anyway, that's why I'm off to Reno. Got a job as change girl in a casino at Lake Tahoe. It's a start--and when the universe decides to short-circuit again, I'm thinking it might be a good place to be. Besides, there's something about gamblers I like. Are you a gambler, Steve?"

"That's why I came here."

************

Steve couldn't sleep. He paced restlessly over the short stretch from the bathroom to the front door. His room at the Silver Spur Motel was like most of the cheap places he'd stayed in. There was a dresser, chair, nightstand and lamp with a weak bulb. Over the bed hung a painting of two hunters crouched in a duck blind, shotguns poised, ready to blow anything with wings to smithereens.

She'd said her name was Elena. He liked the sound of it. But now he was kicking himself for not giving her his number in Tucson. He'd let her drive off with a "nice meeting you" and a "really enjoyed our talk." He had started out strong, but somehow lost it down the stretch. True, she was Reno bound, but what were the chances of finding her there?

It was the beer, he decided. How many did he have? Feeling fatigued and groggy from the driving and the alcohol, a place to hole up and rest for the night sounded like the ticket. Then his mind started playing twenty questions, and he was awake again.

He went into the bathroom and confronted himself, scowling, in the mirror. Robotically, he pulled the face of the medicine cabinet back to inspect the shelves inside--the little mystery that no traveler can resist. It was empty. But on the reverse side of the mirror, a predecessor wielding a bright red lipstick had scrawled: This place is totally screwed, but I did get some damn good  screwing done here.

***************

The commotion outside brought him back from the edge of a shallow, dreamless sleep. Still fully dressed, he stumbled to the window, parted the drapes slightly, and tried to make sense of the scene before him.

A fistfight was taking place in the street. A long-haired blond kid of about eighteen was getting the worst of it from some big dude with a beer gut. Curious spectators stood in a semicircle, urging them on. Country music blared from someone's pickup truck. Steve squinted at his watch in the dim light filtering in from the street. It was just past midnight.

"Jesus Christ," he muttered. So this is the social whirl in Tonopah on a Saturday night."

At first, he didn't hear the knock. The second time it was louder. He pulled the safety chain and cracked the door.

She looked like a ghost in the moonlight.

"I couldn't sleep with all the racket," Elena said as she stepped inside, cradling a six-pack of beer in one arm and a plastic motel ice bucket in the other. She set them down on the dresser and said, "I like my beer over ice, don't you?"

Steve shook his head in disbelief. "Holy crap. I thought you'd be in Reno by now!"

"I got a few miles out of town and said why push it, you know. Drove back in and found this motel. After I'd checked in I noticed your car sitting outside--now isn't that a coincidence?"

He tried to keep a straight face, certain now that she was playing some kind of game with him. A game that seemed to be going his way.

************

They were each on their second beer--Steve propped up on pillows and Elena sitting cross-legged at the foot of the bed. The tumult outside had died down, the crowd slowly drifting away, leaving a languid calm to reclaim the night.

"I was thinking about things you told me at the cafe today," he said. "I know you don't believe in them, but it must be some kind of minor miracle that we're sitting here together--the way it's come about."

"Proximity," she said.

"What?"

"Proximity. It sounds obvious, but most people don't really think about it."

Steve took a long swallow of his beer. "I must be missing something."

"Let's say there's someone in a far corner of the world right now who's a perfect match for you or me. Well, it doesn't matter because we're never going to meet that person. We hook up with people who live in our own space. At work, school, the supermarket...or some little joint called Billies."

He watched a small spider move erratically along the opposite wall, a black dot navigating a sea of white. "Proximity...coincidence...kind of takes all the magic out of it."

"It's very freeing, actually," she said, shaking the hair from her eyes, "when you have no more illusions."

She wore that faraway look again, and spoke as though she were in a dream. "Once I was engaged to be married. His name was Rob. He was older, and everything I wanted. Dashing--that's how I saw him. A few weeks before the wedding, he got a chance to visit a good friend who lived on the South Carolina coast. He'd been there a couple of days when the gale warnings went up. His friend decided to throw a party and ride out the storm. The guy was crazy, but he talked Rob into staying. He convinced some other people to stay in the house with them too. Well, the storm hit with a vengeance. They were pinned down, cut off from the outside world with this monster hurricane trying to do them in. The storm finally blew itself out, but Rob said later that there was a time when they all thought they were going to die--just be swept away and that would be the end of it. The house was severely damaged but intact, and everyone came through it alive, though most of them had accepted Jesus as their savior before it was done."

"Christ." Steve said.

"After he told me all of this, he said that there had been a girl named Lila with them. He said he was sorry...but he'd fallen in love with her. Said it had been this tremendous bonding experience between the two of them. His words left me numb. I was in shock, as if I'd experienced a trauma myself. That's when I learned that destinies can be changed by the favors of the wind. "

Steve held her gaze for a long moment, then she said, "Do you have any protection?"

"No," he said.

Deftly, she removed her blouse, pulling it over her head, disregarding the mess it made of her hair.

His eyes fell upon her breasts, small and firm, the nipples swelling. She slid out of her shorts, then stood before him in the dim lamplight to allow him to take in the entirety of her.

She said, "I don't either, but you look like an man who's good with his hands."

**************

Cold morning light sliced through a narrow break in the drapes. Steve woke and looked around the room. He was alone again. He remembered her lying beside him when he drifted off. Panic overtook him as he dressed and bolted into the glaring sunlight.

Her car was gone.

As he turned to re-enter the room, the white slip of paper tucked under the wiper on his Camry caught his attention. He grabbed the note and hastily unfolded it, detecting the faint, sweet trace of her perfume. The message said: Had to get an early start. Don't know what you want to make of this, if anything. It won't do you much good to try to figure it--or me-out. So just toss a penny into the air and if it turns up heads, tear down that highway and catch up with me before I make Reno. Otherwise, you're on your own. Either way, there's no regrets because it was out of our hands.

He stood there shaking his head, mumbling into his chest. Then he looked away at the pavement stretching before him--first to the left, then to the right. Hell, he thought, a true gambler would take the plunge. He felt lightheaded. Digging inside his jeans' pocket, he cursed. For an instant he thought of taking the car.

Then Steve ran. First to the office. The door was locked. He checked his watch. It was about six-thirty. He sprinted along the road, forcing early morning motorists to swerve into the outer lane. He ran until he reached a diner that appeared to be open. Only after he burst inside did he realize that it was Billie's. About to ask the bleary-eyed young woman at the counter for change, he saw the dish with a hand-lettered sign that read: Give a penny--take a penny. A shiny one on top stood out. He grabbed it, leaving her dumbfounded as he charged back through the door, shouting "thanks" as it slammed shut behind him.

In the parking lot he stood quiet for a moment, feeling the cool solidity of the metal between his fingers. Then, with a spirited thrust, his arm propelled the gleaming bit of copper skyward.

A maverick blast of wind swept in from the north, seizing leaves and dust and twigs, sending them aloft in a frenzied, chaotic maelstrom.

The penny danced in the air.

*************

"How long had you been following me, anyway?" she asked.

"Oh, a few miles," he said. "I thought you were going to run off the road when you finally looked in your mirror and saw it was me." They lay stretched on the bed in a Reno motel room. A colorful print of a harbor scene hung on the opposite wall. As Steve glanced at it he said, "Ever been on a sailboat?"

"Never."

"I have one."

"You're kidding."

"Actually, it was my dad's, but I've kind of laid claim to it lately. It's a little twenty-three foot sloop--pretty cozy for two. Maybe someday I'll talk you into coming down to Mexico with me and we'll take her out."

"Maybe...someday," she said coyly.

He fell silent for a moment, lost in his thoughts. Maybe someday he would tell her of how he had cheated--letting the penny drop into the dirt back at Billie's, refusing to look at it.

After all, any sailor will tell you it's a low percentage bet when you gamble against the wind.