Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"OZ?" - Random Writing From My Keyboard


As a writer, it is important to constantly be putting words to paper, or in my case, typing words on a computer screen.  Although I have a couple projects that I am currently working on, there are times when I just write with no idea where my words are headed.  In these cases, I have no specific plot outlined and no specific end point to the story.  Sometimes, this writing ends up being nonsense, and sometimes it starts to look like a future project.  I thought I would share a piece of one of those that seems like it could be something some day.  Please remember that this is raw writing, with no editing or spellcheck.  Please feel free to leave comments about what you think.  Enjoy!


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The alarm clock began to blare its obnoxious noise, abruptly causing a stir from the lump underneath the sheets of the bed.  A small hand emerged from the bedcovers, slapping aimlessly at the bedside table until it made contact with the clock.  With a hard smack on the Snooze button, the hand silenced the alarm, then crept back under the bed covers.
Ten minutes later, the alarm clock blared once again with its abhorrent repetitive beeping.  The hand emerged from under the sheets, once again searching the bedside table with a slapping motion.  When the hand found the clock, it formed a fist and slammed down on the Snooze button.  The hand vanished once again under the sheets.
When the alarm clock, after another ten minutes, began to rhythmically beep with its loud loathsome clamor, the hand emerged from its place of concealment under the sheets.  The petite hand swatted the air for a moment until it came in contact with the clock.  With a sweeping motion, the hand grabbed the clock from the table and launched it across the room.  The clock’s bellow ceased on impact with the wall.
The fingers of the hand wrapped around the top of the sheet, then slowly pulled it down the bed, revealing a petite young woman.  Her round eyes stared up towards the ceiling, as if in a trance; the hazel coloring of each iris was hazy like a fog.  Her honey blond hair, with its single violet streak, was splayed across the white of the pillow.  The young woman remained still on the bed in her oversized Metallica t-shirt, as if held down by an overwhelming unseen gravitational force.  
Five minutes passed before a low groan was heard.  Her legs kicked the sheets, which still covered the lower part of her body, off of the bed.  Five more minutes passed before the next movement occurred, which was a shifting of the position of her legs.  Ten minutes later, the legs swung off the bed as her body rose from its supine position.  Sitting on the edge of the bed, the young woman loudly sighed with as much contempt towards life as she could muster.
The bedroom in which she sat was small, dingy and lacked personality.  The wallpaper, which once was probably colorful and bright, was now faded and dull.  The carpet, a bland oatmeal color, was worn and showing signs of its age.  The furniture was the only part of the room which seemed to be younger than the twenty-two year old woman herself.  The young woman looked down at the alarm clock, which was now a jigsaw puzzle of plastic and wires scattered on the floor.
  “Damn,” she muttered.

Standing before the mirror hanging in the small bathroom, the young woman glared at her reflection.  The diamond stud on her left nostril looked duller than it did yesterday.  She scratched her head, stuck out her tongue, and checked the small faux pearl stud in her tongue.  Was she imagining things or did it not look quite as white today?
She reached for the faucet of the sink, turning the four-prong knob counterclockwise; the once polished silver plating had become dull and pitted.  A trickle of cold water dropped from the faucet into the stained white bowl of the sink.  Cupping her hands under the water, the young woman, splashed the cold water on her face.  Looking back into the mirror, she wasn’t surprised to see that the water had made little difference.  She was still in a foul mood.  She shrugged her shoulders, pulled the Metallica t-shirt over her head and dropped it on the floor.  She stared at the reflection of her petite naked figure.  The coloring of the snake tattoo which round its way down her left arm seemed to be off that morning.  The small bat tattoo above her right breast appeared to be mocking her.  Spinning around, she checked the skull tattoo centered on her lower back just above her ass.  Was it smiling at her?  The young woman shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs.  She certainly wouldn’t be mixing Red Bull with Sambuca ever again.

An hour later, the young woman was on her knees in the canned goods aisle of Alibaba Grocery Co-Op.  She was stacking cans of Campbell’s Tomato soup on the lower shelf, making sure to place the older cans in front of the newer.  She wasn’t smiling that morning, not that she ever did while stacking soup cans.  Stocking the frozen food section never brought a smile to her face either.  As far as she could remember, there wasn’t a single thing that she had done in the Co-Op that did bring a smile to her face.  Except, possibly, that one day when her boss slipped on the wet floor which she had just mopped.  She smiled that day as the paramedics wheeled him out on a stretcher.  He was out of work for three weeks after that.
When she heard the sharp clicking of footsteps, the young woman knew he was heading toward her aisle.  She was certain that his shoes had been made specifically to make a detestably loud click when they came in contact with the floor.  He rounded the corner, caught sight of her, and stepped towards her like a man on a mission assigned to him personally by god almighty.
  “Meg.  May I have a word with you?” he asked.
The young woman sighed, then slowly stood, and looked up at the man who was a good five inches taller than her.  She could see up his nostrils and it wasn’t a pleasant sight.  He was a thin man of middle eastern descent with pitch black hair and bushy mustache.  
With her hands on her hips, the young woman said: "Mr. Rajani, my name is Megan, not Meg.  Please stop calling me Meg."
  "Your name tag says Meg.  I call you what is on your name tag."
Megan sighed.  "My name tag says Meg because that is what you put on it.  That doesn't change my name."
Mr. Rajani gently stroked his mustache and said: "Meg, I want to talk to you about your attire.  I don't know if it is quite appropriate."
Megan looked down at her clothes, unsure as to what Mr. Rajani had found to be the issue.  She was wearing faded black denim jeans with frayed knees, a black t-shirt which said “Death to Fascists” in large red letters across the front, black combat boots, and a black baseball cap.  Megan was perplexed by what her boss found objectionable about her attire.
  “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” she asked.
Mr. Rajani shook his head and said: “What is wrong?  What is wrong?  You are dressed all in black.  You have a dozen different bracelets around your wrists.  You have a small skull hanging from your necklace.  You are wearing a nose ring, and your shirt declares that all fascists should die.  Need I list anything else?”
Megan stared at him for several seconds, then replied: “I wear this every day.”
  “Yes.  And every day I tell you that it is not appropriate.”
  “So, what is it that you don’t like?  Is it the necklace?  The nose ring?  Maybe the black thong?”
Mr. Rajani sighed loudly, the hairs of his mustache fluttering with his breath.  “I do not wish to know about your underwear!”
Megan smiled.  “Good.  I’m not wearing any.”
Mr. Rajani rolled his eyes and shook his head.  He tried to speak, but found that no words could express his level of frustration.  Sighing loudly, he turned and walked away towards the back of the store.  Megan watched as he disappeared around the corner of the aisle.
  “I’ll have to remember that crack about not wearing underwear,” she said to herself.
Megan sat down on the floor to resume stacking soup cans.  She had worked at the Co-Op for two years, two very long years.  When she had moved out of her mother’s house at eighteen, it had been to escape from her mother’s string of boyfriends who hit on Megan almost as much as her mother.  The constant flow of alcohol that found its way down her mother’s throat was the other reason.  Megan’s mother didn’t have a problem controlling her drinking.  If anything she was very good at controlling it.  She could control it to the degree of controlling how much she drank and when, which was as much as possible and as frequently as possible.
Her first two years were spent bouncing from job to job.  Megan was never one to be labeled as “Plays well with others”, a fact that was clearly exposed during her first job in the mailroom of one of the large law firms downtown.  One of the partners, named Richard McIntire, Jr., apparently didn’t like being called “Little Dick”.  Oddly enough, Little Dick’s father, Richard McIntire, Sr., was the one who fired Megan after only a month.  He, apparently, didn’t like being called “Big Dick”.
The Co-Op was certainly not her dream job, but it paid her bills, barely.  Mr. Rajani was very frugal with money, always coming up with an excuse why he couldn’t give her a raise.  He was constantly nagging her about the clothes she wore, her jewelry, and even her tattoos.  But, Megan figured that it certainly could be worse.  She could still be working for “Big Dick and Little Dick”.

The day passed about as fast as it takes for a snail to cross a four lane highway.  Megan was moderately happy to see the day end, almost twice as happy as she was to see the day begin.  Walking through the city streets, she stopped at China Express, a small Chinese takeout run by two old ladies from Australia.  The old lady behind the counter took her order, making sure to correct Megan when she ordered the shrimp stir fry and fried rice.
  “It’s prawn stir fry,” said the white haired lady with a deep Australian accent.
  “You’re in America.  We call them shrimp in America,” retorted Megan.
The short, dumpy old Australian handed Megan a plastic bag filled with a Styrofoam take-out container, giving her a rude look as Megan walked away.  Another block brought her to Ozwald Towers, her apartment building.  It was a tall, grimy building in a grimy part of the city.  The windows were grimy.  The walls were grimy.  The doors were grimy.  There wasn’t a part of the building that didn’t appear grimy to Megan.  But, the rent was cheap.  Some said that she got what she paid for.  Megan paid very little and got very little.  She was fine with that, knowing that she really couldn’t afford much else.  Standing on the sidewalk, she looked up towards the fifth floor.  Her apartment looked out over the front of the building and she could see her darkened window.  Her eyes moved up the building to the thirteenth floor, or the penthouse as most residents called it.  It was the topmost floor, and where the landlord lived.
She had never seen her landlord, not once since she lived there.  The lease was provided to her by a rental agent.  The large neon sign above the doors had been malfunctioning for almost six months.  The only two letters lit were the O and the Z.  
  “Welcome to OZ,” she muttered as she unlocked the building door and stepped inside.
The door slammed behind her, echoing through the foyer.  The grime continued inside the building with grimy floors and walls.  As far as Megan was concerned, everything remotely connected to Ozwald Towers was grimy.  The marble floor, which had probably been top of the line in its heyday, was now scuffed and cracked.  Carrying her plastic bag, she walked to the single elevator, only to find a sign hung on the door saying “Out of Order”.
Letting out a long, loud sigh, Megan turned towards the door labeled “Stairs”.  Pulling the door open, she began her climb to the fifth floor.  The walls of the stairwell were concrete, with concrete stairs and concrete landings at each floor.  Metal tubing, serving as the stair rail, wound its way up each step.  Megan’s footsteps echoed with every footfall, the sound bouncing off the cold walls.  She passed the door for the second floor, and then the third floor.  As she rounded the stairwell, the door for the fourth floor came into sight, causing Megan to sigh once again.  Standing by the door, an elderly lady was struggling with the doorknob, a small two-wheeled wire cart filled with groceries stood beside her.  
  “Hello Mrs. Widdlemeyer,” Megan said as she approached the door.
  “Oh, Meg.  I’m so glad you’re here.  I can’t seem to get the door open again.”
Megan stood for a moment, silently wanting to scream a long line of obscenities at the top of her lungs, just to watch the old lady shudder.  Instead, she calmly said: “My name is Megan.  Let me get the door for you.”
The door on the fourth floor always had a tendency to stick.  It wasn’t so much a problem with the way the door was hung or manufactured, or even how old the door was.  It was simply that the door didn’t want to open.  Megan had a knack for getting it to open.  The trick was not to try and force the door open, but, instead, make the door think that you don’t want it to open.  Megan had found that, with a little finesse, she could trick the door into opening for her.  It was a trick that she had not shared with anyone.  With a soft caress of the door knob, and a gentle turn, the door latch clicked, and Megan pulled the door open.
Mrs. Widdlemeyer gave Megan a toothless grin, having neglected to put her dentures in that morning.  Megan was holding the door open, waiting for the old lady to pull her cart through into the hallway beyond.  Megan, however, knew that this was not the end of her little adventure with Mrs. Widdlemeyer.  She knew what was coming next.
  “Meg, would you be a dear and help me get my cart into my apartment?”
Megan grabbed the handle of the cart and mumbled between gritted teeth: “My name is Megan.”

When Megan finally reached her apartment on the fifth floor, her mood had gone from bad to crappy to abominable.  Mrs. Widdlemeyer, as always, asked Megan to help get the cart into her apartment, unload the cart onto the kitchen counter, and then put all of the groceries away, while the old lady sat in a chair, directing Megan to where everything went.  Megan set her Chinese take-away on the small round kitchen table, headed into her bedroom, and stripped out of her jeans and shirt.  She slid a oversized t-shirt, that read “Zelda was the Girl”, over her head, then headed back into the kitchen.
Sliding the Styrofoam container out of the plastic bag, Megan flipped the lid open and stared down at six shrimp, each the size of a nickel, sitting on top of cold stir fry vegetables, and a clump of white rice.  She picked up the plastic fork, which was hermetically sealed in a plastic bag to signify its purity and cleanliness.  Tearing apart the seam of the plastic bag, Megan extracted the fork with its flimsy three prongs and scooped up one of the minuscule shrimp.
  “Prawns?  Really?” she muttered to herself.

Megan’s dinner was cold, dry, and lacking in almost any taste.  When she dumped the styrofoam container in the trash, the remaining vegetables and rice, which she could no longer bring herself to eat, fell to the bottom of the bin with a loud thump.  It was a thump that seemed to linger and echo throughout the kitchen.  It was the kind of thump that resonated deep within the soul.  Sitting back down at the kitchen table, Megan leaned forward and reached for a pack of cigarettes sitting in the center of the table.  She pulled a cigarette out of the packet, lit the end of it, and set it down in an ashtray in the center of the table.  It smoldered in the ashtray, sending a small plume of smoke into the air.  Megan drew a long deep breath of the second hand smoke as its acrid odor filled the room.  She rose from the table, got a glass of water from the kitchen tap, and poured the water into the ashtray, extinguishing the cigarette in a small cloud of steam.
  “One breath.  I’m getting better,” she said aloud.
When Megan had started six months ago, she found that her efforts to quit second hand smoking had been far more difficult than she had anticipated.  She had always loved the smell of second hand smoke from Marlboro Lights.  So much so that, at one time in her life, she could have distinguished the one person in a crowded bar that was smoking Marlboro Lights.  She had tried smoking a Marlboro Light cigarette once.  But, she had found it to be one of the most disgusting things she had ever done, second only to that thing she did two years ago with three packages of hotdogs.  She still had nightmares about that eating contest, and the vomiting that had followed.
Megan’s addiction to second hand smoke had become a two pack-a-day habit.  Her cigarette breaks at work were spent outside the door of the Co-Op with a Marlboro Light burning between her fingers until it was nothing more than a small stub.  Her evenings were spent chain lighting cigarettes and letting them burn down in the ashtray, or searching for the lone Marlboro Light smoker in any of a number of bars which she frequented.  When she would find the smoker, Megan would simply stand as close as possible and inhale deeply.  Six months ago, Megan had decided that she needed to quit.  It had been a long, hard road, but she was now down to one breath of second hand smoke per day.

The clock on the kitchen wall said 9:35 when Megan finally dropped down on the sofa, a cold bottle of Dr. Pepper in one hand and the television remote in the other.  Unable to afford the luxury of cable television with its myriad of channels covering every known genre and topic in the known universe, Megan was committed to making the best of the five channels that the antenna on her 24 inch color television could pick up.  She wasn’t overtly upset by not having cable, particularly when she realized that of the three hundred and sixty four channels offered, she would most likely only watch the five that her antenna could already pick up.  Megan was confident that she wasn’t missing much by not having the Golf Network, Oprah Winfrey Network, or the Knitting Channel.
She flipped through her five channels six times before finally settling on watching The Wizard of OZ, the beginning of which she had already missed.  She sighed, realizing that this was the best alternative to American Idol, The X Factor, and Dancing With The Stars.  The last thing that Megan wanted to watch was a bunch of people with more talent than her showing off on national television.  Taking a long sip from her Dr. Pepper, Megan pulled her legs up underneath of herself and sank back into the cushions of the sofa.
On the screen, Dorothy was preparing to begin her journey down the yellow brick road.  The munchkins were singing, while Dorothy, with her little dog Toto in a basket, were skipping along the brick road to see the movie’s namesake, Oz’s famed Wizard.  That’s when the lights in her apartment went out and the television screen went dark.
  “Damn it!” shouted Megan.




Copyright 2012 Michael Bradley

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