I have deprived myself from you long enough. My desire to be in your arms is almost overwhelming. The mere thought of being in your sweet embrace leaves me breathless in anticipation. Is it too much to hope you will join me in my bed tonight? I know I have spurned you lately. Two days ago it was that movie I really wanted to watch, but I started it way too late. Yesterday it was the work I brought home. Things keep getting in the way between us. I want to make it up to you. I love you sleep.
Missy looked up from the game board. She pulled out the required card and asked, “What is the largest marsupial found in Australia?”
Larry literally scratched his head. “Marsupials? Are those like animals?” he asked.
Missy shook her head. “You don’t know what a marsupial is?” she asked.
Larry sat back in his chair. “Of course I do,” he said. “I was just messing with you. If it’s Australia it must be a koala bear.” As he finished his answer he folded his arms in triumph.
Missy looked at the back of the card. “Nope, it’s a kangaroo,” she said.
Larry hit the table sending the pieces tumbling a bit. “That was my other guess. It had to be either a koala or a kangaroo,” he said. Larry pulled out his notebook and carefully wrote down the question and answer.
Missy fixed the pieces. She pointed at the notebook. “Do you always write down the stuff you miss?” she asked.
“Always,” Larry said. “Writing is the only way you learn stuff. That’s the only way I got through high school.” After finishing his task, Larry carefully placed his bookmark back into his notebook and closed it. “Your turn,” he said.
Missy rolled her dice and contemplated her options. “You must not miss much,” she said. “You have lots of room in that notebook.”
Larry laughed a bit self-consciously. “I have more notebooks,” he said. “I really like to play trivia games.”
Missy moved over to a history space. “Oh yeah?” she asked. “How many notebooks?”
Larry held up the front of the notebook to her. There in very meticulous handwriting was the number 34. “Like I said, I love to play trivia games,” he said. Larry picked up a card. “What two groups of people fought at the Battle of Hastings?”
Missy laughed. “How am I supposed to know that?” she asked. “I’m only seven, remember?”
Larry looked at the back of the card. “The Normans and the English,” Larry said, “so now you know.”
“But how am I supposed to remember?” Missy asked. “I don’t have a notebook.”
Larry nodded in agreement. “True, let me get you one like mine,” he said.
Larry left the room for a moment before he returned to the room, notebook in hand. “Here you go my lady,” Larry said, handing it to her.
“But how am I going to write in it?” Missy asked.
Larry reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a multicolored pack of pens with the flourish of a street magician. “You pick your color,” he said.
Missy’s hand drifted over all the colors, not selecting one yet. “That was pretty neat. Almost like magic. Where did you learn that?” she asked as she picked the bright turquoise blue pen.
Larry flourished and made the pens disappear. “When I was doing time,” he replied. “I happened to share a cell with a con man who knew some magic. He taught me a few things and I made sure he didn’t get roughed up too badly.”
“What does rough him up mean?” Missy asked.
Larry thought for a moment. “I was like his protector. I tried to make sure he didn’t get hurt,” he said.
“So you were his knight?” Missy asked.
Larry blushed a bit. “Yeah, kind of,” he said.
Missy wrote a very fancy one on the front of her notebook. She showed it proudly to Larry. “Do you think I can show my mom when she comes to pick me up?” she asked.
Larry squirmed a bit. “Sure. I think she would enjoy seeing it,” he said.
Missy opened the book and began writing the question. “When do you think she will be here?” she asked.
“Aren’t you full of questions?” asked Larry.
“Well I’m seven years old,” replied Missy matter of factly. “It’s what I’m supposed to do.”
“Ah, well it might be long time,” Larry said. “She told me to tell you not to worry though. She would get here as soon as she could. She just needed to go to the bank and stuff first.”
Missy looked at Larry. “Really?” she asked. Larry didn’t respond right away. “Well good,” she said. “I don’t want to leave right now anyhow. You are much better than having to stay with my dad.”
“I’m sure your dad isn’t that bad,” Larry said.
“How do you spell Norman?” asked Missy.
“What?” asked Larry.
“How do you spell Normans? You said I should write the answer to remember,” she said.
“Oh,” Larry said. “N O R M A N S.”
“Are they like a bunch of people with Norman as a first name?” Missy asked.
Larry put the card away. “I don’t know. I just read the card,” he said.
Missy looked for what to stick in her notebook as a bookmark. Larry noticed and handed her a small strip of cloth. She meticulously placed it into her notebook and closed it. “You are so much nicer than my dad,” she said. “He doesn’t play games with me because he is always too busy.”
“Well your dad is an important man,” Larry replied as he picked up the dice. “That’s why you’re here with me.”
“But am I important?” asked Missy. Her eyes began to well up in tears.
Larry awkwardly stood and moved to Missy’s side of the board and gave her a wooden hug. “Don’t cry there. You’ll ruin the cards.”
Missy giggled and snuggled in deeper into his embrace. “I never get hugs. Thank you.”
Larry broke the hug. “Really? No hugs?” he asked.
Missy shook her head. “Nope. They are a sign of weakness,” she said. “That’s what daddy says. Mommy agrees with him too, at least I think so. She is busy too.”
Larry returned to his side of the board and rolled the dice. “So who watches you when you’re home from school?” he asked.
“I don’t need watching silly,” Missy said. “I’m a big girl. You said so.”
Larry moved to a sport square. “You are big, but you should still have an adult around,” he said. “I mean, just in case something bad happens.”
“But that’s why I have you,” Missy said. Missy picked up the next question.
Larry put his hand over hers. “Wait, so your parents really don’t do stuff with you?” he asked.
Missy shook her head. “They have other people like you come in to do that,” she said. She took her hand away and looked at the card. “What was,” Missy paused trying to figure out how to say the name. “Muhaamd Alley’s name before he changed it?”
“Mohamed Ali,” Larry said.
Missy flipped over the card. “Nope, it was,” again another pause, “Casssia Clay,” she said.
“Cassius Clay,” Larry said. “And I knew that, I was just trying to correct the way you said it.”
“Oh,” Missy said. She put the card on the discard pile and waited.
“It’s your turn,” Larry said.
“I screwed up your question,” Missy said softly.
“You just didn’t know how to say it. It’s okay,” Larry said.
“No it’s not,” Missy said. “I screwed up. I don’t want to play anymore.”
Larry looked at her confused. “Why not?” he asked.
“Usually mommy or daddy just get mad and walk away when I make a mistake,” Missy said. “I’m supposed to know better.”
“You’re a kid. You’re supposed to make mistakes,” Larry said. “It’s part of growing up.”
Missy shook her head. “That’s not what mommy and daddy say.”
“Well they are stupid,” Larry said.
Missy looked up with fear. “Don’t say that!” she said.
“Why not?” Larry asked.
“If they hear you they won’t let you play with me,” Missy said. “And I really like you. You listen to me and don’t yell or hit me.” Missy stopped, realizing she had gone too far.
Larry got off his chair and gave her another hug. Missy began to cry softly in his arms. “It’ll be okay,” he said. “I’ll figure out something.”
Missy nodded and stared at the board. “I’ll be right back,” Larry said.
Larry went into his bedroom and closed the door around without shutting it completely. Missy never looked up from the board. He took out his burner phone and texted “Do you have the money yet?”
A couple seconds later came the reply. “Not yet. It takes time to pull together a half a million dollars.”
Larry smashed the phone under his foot. He peaked through the door. Missy was writing the question she had just read into her notebook. She paused from writing and caught him staring at her. “I want to make sure I get it right next time, just like you,” she said. Her smile melted his heart even more. Larry looked at the smashed phone and back at the girl writing and wondered what he should do next.
Alice felt her way down the dark hallway. Her left hand used a stick to sweep in front of her low, while her right hand trailed along the wall itself. The wall was stucco, so her fingers felt tingly as they brushed the highs and lows in the plaster. A gentle odor of mildew and something rotten was in the air lightly, which gave a slight fuzzy sensation in the back of her mouth. Her son must have dropped his gym bag in the laundry room and not done a thing with it. Teenagers! Still, the soft shooshing ahead reassured her she was almost to the end of the hallway.
As Alice entered the laundry room, she heard a thud from behind her followed by a muffled curse. There was a click in the hallway as she turned toward the commotion. “What happened Arnold?” she asked.
“I stubbed my toe on the doorjamb,” Arnold replied.
Alice shook her head and turned back to the laundry room. “Maybe you should have watched where you were going,” she said as she felt her way to the washer. She sat down on the stool in front of it and opened the door. She reached for the clothes basket, but it wasn’t where it should have been. “Arnold, where did you put the basket?”
Arnold came down the hallway and joined her in the laundry room. “Sorry, I left it in front of the dryer,” he said as he put it where it belonged to the left of the washer.
Alice pulled the basket into place in front of the open door and pulled out the wet contents. The smell left on the clothes was a nice clean scent, but the clothes themselves felt a bit plasticy, like maybe a bit too much water was left in them. She put them back into the washer and closed the door. She placed the basket back where it belonged and turned the dial on the washer. “Is that on spin?” she asked.
Arnold peered over her shoulder. She could feel his warmth on her back, and she smiled. “Yeah mom, right on the dot. That’s pretty good for an old blind woman,” he said.
Alice gave him a soft elbow to his stomach. “Just remember this old blind woman didn’t stub her toe, unlike my sighted clumsy teenaged son,” she said.
“But you left the lights off,” Arnold replied.
“And that’s my problem how?” Alice asked. She stood up and cupped his face. She could feel the smile on his lips and smiled herself. She felt was one blessed lady.
Tonight I looked into the night sky and saw infinity. I saw the moment when I was born, and the time my parents fell in love. I gazed upon the day Newton discovered how the stars dance. I saw a time when this planet was born out of the fiery refuse spiraling around a young star. I looked up and saw a continuum of what has been in time, and I wondered if my descendants will look up into that night sky and see light from a star that was created as I looked up at the stars and wondered.
Josh was late for work, his car wouldn’t start, and he missed the closest bus by like five minutes. Now Josh was impersonating an Olympic speed walker, strutting down the street trying to get to the next bus stop before he missed that one too. If he did, he was doomed to walk the five miles to work and even worse, walk the ‘I’m late, sweaty, and tired walk’ past the boss man. Josh didn’t want to even contemplate the lasting impression that would make. Josh preferred to stay out of the limelight, especially if it would be negative, considering how the day was going so far.
As Josh turned the corner onto Main Street and checked his iPhone. He was going to make it with a couple minutes to spare. Josh decided to check his email and drop his speed a notch. Maybe he could answer the first few emails of the day on his way. That would give him a bit more leeway when he got to office. His email updated just as he ran into someone. His phone dropped to the pavement and he could hear that distinctive snap of the screen breaking. “Damn it all!” exclaimed Josh.
“Excuse me?” asked a rich alto voice in a not to friendly tone.
Josh looked from his broken phone to the woman he had collided with. He immediately wished he hadn’t. She was at least six foot four, her afro sticking out at odd angles. She was carrying various plastic grocery bags in both hands. She was dressed in a ridiculously large muscle shirt and very baggy shorts showing off as much skin as twelve supermodels in bikinis. Her skin hung in folds, and the folds had folds. It reminded Josh of his friend Arnold, who had lost a hundred pounds, but the skin flap around his belly was still there. This woman must have had the extra weight all over. She must have been a sphere at one time she had so much extra skin. Now if she weighed a hundred twenty pounds she would have been lucky. While Josh was almost overwhelmed by her physical presence, he found himself drawn to her eyes. The large brown eyes burned with a fire that almost mesmerized him.
“Are you going to apologize?” she asked.
“Apologize?” Josh asked. He was still trying to figure out the figure in front of him.
“You just ran into me,” she said.
Josh reached down to retrieve his phone. His couple of minutes were evaporating quickly. “You ran into me too,” he said. He tried to move around her to continue, but the woman moved back into his path.
“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “I should knock some sense into that head of yours.” She rattled her plastic bags for emphasis.
Josh threw his hand into the air. “Really? Look, I’m late for work already. If you want me to say I’m sorry to get you to move, fine. I’m sorry,” he said. Yep, those extra few minutes were almost gone.
The woman dropped her bags to the ground. Josh wondered if a strong wind blew at this moment would she fly away in all that skin. It made him smirk a bit. “You think this is funny?” she asked. “That’s it. I’m going to rough you up.”
Josh took a couple of steps back and held up his hands in surrender. He didn’t want to have to hurt this woman if they got into it. He had to be twenty years younger and outweighed her by a hundred pounds of muscle. The blessings of being on the track and field team through college. ”Look, I’m sorry,” he said in a tone that showed he meant it this time.
The woman seemed less ticked. “You better be,” she said. “I’d hate to open a can of whoop-ass on you.”
“Is that what you carry in those bags?” Josh asked before his brain had processed what the sarcasm generator had created. Josh winced as he waited for her response.
The woman let out a surprising musical laugh. “That’s a good one,” she said. “You have a pretty quick wit there.”
Josh joined her in a smile. That smile crashed and burned as he saw the bus pull up to the bus stop. Josh was way too far away to make it.
The woman noticed him staring and turned to witness the bus doors open. “If you hurry you can still make it,” she said.
“No way,” he said. “Those doors will be closing any second now.”
The woman looked at him with those intense eyes again. “You can make it. You have something special inside of you. I can see it. If you want to know more come find me. I’m always around these parts.” She then bent down to get her bags.
Josh decided to see if he could get at least get close enough to wave the bus driver down. If the driver was nice they would let him on. Josh began to run, reaching deep. He felt his feet move faster, almost on their own. He hadn’t dug this far down since the last race he had run where he had come from behind to win his only cross country event in his whole running career. Each step brought him closer and closer until he was at the bus stop and the doors were still open. Josh was surprised the driver hadn’t pulled away yet.
“Thanks for waiting, man,” he told the driver as he swiped his payment card. The driver just stared at him, surprise on his face.
Josh didn’t give it a second thought. He just sat down in an empty seat and smiled. That run had felt good, really good. Josh tried to figure out why he had stopped running. He always loved it when he was younger. He knew he had a second gear that was fun to kick it up to, but in competitions he just couldn’t find it. Heck, when he was running with someone he couldn’t find it. It was only when he was on his own, running to his own tune when the speed just seemed to come out of nowhere. Josh was happy it had come out today.
“Close the doors already,” called out a woman on the bus somewhere behind Josh. Josh looked up and the door was still open. The bus driver was just staring at Josh in the rear view mirror. Josh sheepishly smiled and waved at the driver. That seemed to snap the man out of it. The driver closed the door and pulled away from the curb.
The rest of the bus ride was uneventful. Josh couldn’t get that woman out of his head. Of course she must make an impression no matter where she went. Still, Josh wondered what she meant about seeing something special inside of him. By the end of the ride, Josh had figured it must have been his great sense of humor.
As Josh got off the bus, the bus driver stared at him again. “Dude,” Josh said, “take an Instagram, it’ll last longer.”
The driver blushed. “Just never saw an Empowered up close,” he said.
Josh was about to respond when the driver closed the doors and drove away from the curb. Empowered? Last time Josh checked his sarcasm hadn’t counted as a superpower. Those people were freaky. Now having a superpower might be cool, but all that responsibility? No thank you. It was nice being normal.
Josh waved at his boss on the way to his desk. The woman looked almost upset that he had made it on time. Maybe she was the one who had sabotaged his car. Now that was a funny thought. He opened his browser and checked the email he couldn’t do on his broken phone. After seeing nothing important he headed into the break room to get a coffee. Suzy and Fred were already there, mugs in hand.
“Did you see it Josh?” asked Suzy. “I heard it was incredible.”
Fred nodded his head so hard Josh thought it might tumble off. “It was awesome. At least that’s what I heard. I wasn’t there, but a friend of a friend tweeted me about it.”
“What are you two talking about?” Josh asked as he poured a large dose of the black stuff into his mug.
“There was a dust up between Shyla and the Dark Hatter this morning,” Suzy said. “They took out a small part of Broad Street, just a couple blocks away from Main. Shyla finally clobbered the Dark Hatter, leaving him for the police before disappearing. She is so amazing.”
Josh took a sip. Nice and strong, just like he needed it. It did need a hit of sugar this time, so he put in half a packet. Much better. “That explains the bus driver this morning. He looked like he had seen a ghost when he picked me up on Main,” Josh said.
Fred pulled out his phone. “You’ve got to see this picture that friend of a friend took. It is freaking amazing!”
Suzy grabbed ahold of Josh’s arm. “You saw someone who saw Shyla? How awesome is that?” she asked.
“He seemed more spooked than awesome,” Josh said, “and I don’t blame him. The thought of people who can do all the stuff they can just doesn’t seem right. Who is supposed to keep them in check when one of the Empowered goes rogue?”
“Here it is,” said Fred. “Check this out. Shyla is like a solid muscle.”
Josh took the offered phone and glanced at the picture, not really caring. Then he did a double take. There in the picture was the skin fold woman, except she was almost busting at the seams with muscle. Her muscles had muscles. How could this be?
“Shyla keeps them in line,” Suzy said. “Her and the rest of the Enforcers. They believe Empowered should live by the same laws.”
Josh handed the phone back to Fred and returned to drinking his liquid intelligence. His mind was still trying to reconcile the scarecrow of a woman with the powerhouse in the picture. “I still love how she just disappears after dealing out justice,” Fred said. “Must be hard to blend in with all that.”
Josh almost choked on his next swallow. “Something like that,” Josh said.
Suzy struck a heroic pose. “I wish I was Empowered. I would be out of here like a shot,” she said.
Josh thought back to what Shyla had told him. She had seen something in him. Then he had run and caught the bus. That should have been impossible. The bus driver had said he had never been near an Empowered before. He wasn’t talking about the fight.
Josh put down his mug. “I’ve got to go,” he said.
The boss entered the room. “Back to work I hope,” she said.
Josh smiled. “Nope, I’ve got a bus to catch,” he said, and with that he disappeared.
Shyla fumbled for her keys. She didn’t want to put these stupid bags down. It would be nice if she could just kick down the door, but she didn’t want to bulk up just to damage her own place. She tried to place the key into the lock, but it fell from her plastic limited fingers. “Damn!” she said. The keys stopped falling and the key magically appeared in the lock. “So you figured it out,” she said.
“Yeah, it took me a bit,” Josh said. “How did you know?”
Shyla put the bags on the step and turned around to look Josh in the eyes. “It’s in the eyes. That’s why most of the time we Empowered wear glasses of some sort. Stops us from giving ourselves away.”
Josh stroked his chin. “But why didn’t you have yours on?” he asked.
“I broke mine while fighting the Dark Hatter,” Shyla said. She took the broken pair out of one of her bags and showed them to Josh. “And they were my favorite pair.”
Josh looked like he was having problems figuring out what to say next. “How do you, I mean we, do what we do?” he finally asked.
“Come inside. I’ve got a proposition for you,” Shyla said. Josh looked like he was about to comment when Shyla waved a finger in front of his face. “Don’t make me kick your ass. You know I can do it.”
Josh smiled. “Only if you can catch me,” he said.
Shyla smiled. “We can discuss that over some food. Going large always leaves me starving,” she said as she opened the door. “And keep you mind out of the gutter.”
Josh shook his head. “I think this might be more fun than I thought,” he said as he followed Shyla inside.
I put one more shovelful of dirt over her grave. The ground looks like hell, and it should. She was a demon that possessed me. I worry about her being found and released from her grave to haunt me. I can hear the rumble of thunder in the distance, though for a moment I worry it is the armies of Hell with her as their general coming to exact revenge. I laugh at the storm and pull out my gun. I have killed the devil. I put the gun to my head and pull the trigger to receive my reward.
The warm Caribbean waters lap at my toes as I take another sip of my mango and rum smoothie. I turn to my right and am blinded by the beauty of Scarlett Johansson once again. I trace my fingers up her arm, and she smiles, licking her lips. “You are the sexiest man I know,” Scarlett says as she takes my hand and begins to move it toward her bikini top. “I want you,” she says.
I put my drink down since my other hand wants to get in on the deal. Scarlett practically purrs. “Daddy?” she asks. “Daddy, wake up.”
I slip back into the waking world, my libido not liking that decision. I find my hand in Lisa’s as she is trying to pull me from my bed. “Daddy, there is a monster in my room,” Lisa says.
“You just need to go potty,” I say. “Go to the bathroom, and then get back to bed.” Lisa scampers out of the room. I turn back over and spoon my wife. She murmurs in support and cuddles in. I’m thinking this might not be so bad after all. I let my hands drift around and feel my wife slowly respond. I slip her night shirt up a bit when I feel the bed shift and a pair of cold feet touch the base of my back.
“Lisa,” I hiss. “I thought I told you to go potty.” My wife rolls away from me and shudders, or maybe she is laughing. I can’t tell which.
“I did Daddy,” Lisa says. “But I’m still scared.” She cuddles in even tighter.
I realize what I need to do, or else I am going to have her in my bed for the rest of the night. That was definitely not going to be on docket for tonight. Daddy needs a bit of female attention. “Okay Lisa, let’s go to your room. I’ll scare away the big bad monster.”
Lisa gives me a kiss on my back. “Thank you, Daddy,” she says. She then gets up and waits right next to the bed.
I roll to the edge of the bed and lean in close to Lisa. “You need to move for me to get up,” I say. She giggles and moves out of my way. I get up and take her hand. I walk her down the hallway and to her room. I throw on the light switch looking at Lisa’s face. “See, no monsters,” I proclaim proudly.
Lisa’s face beams at the proclamation, and she runs over to her bed and flops down on it. “You were right, Daddy. No monsters,” she says as she snuggles down into her covers.
I look around her room and freeze, my heart falling through the floor. Lisa’s window is open! I move over to her window as I hear a car drive away. The ladder I keep in the backyard is up against the window outside. I try to keep calm as I close the window and lock it. “You know what?” I say, “Why don’t you sleep with Mommy and me tonight? It will be a special treat.”
Lisa looks up from under her covers. “Really?” she asks.
I paste a smile onto my face. “Really. Won’t that be neat?” I ask.
Lisa is out of her bed in a heartbeat. I sweep her up into my arms and give her a long hard hug. “I love you kid,” I say.
Lisa buries her face into my chest. “I love you too, Daddy,” she says.
I carry her back to my bedroom to sleep in my arms. It’s not the female attention I want, but it is the attention I need right now.