Thursday, December 28, 2006
From the triple chair he glanced at Doc’s Cornice, the sneering windswept lip of mountaintop, and knew then that he would do it. He was riding alone; Pete and Katie—his best friend and best girl friend—were waiting for him in the bowl below. He disembarked the lift, mounted the leftward slope and gained the cat-track that ran the summit. He was the better skier by far; it was unfair that Pete had attracted her attention first. Now she’d see. He tucked the run, lightning bolts dancing in his stomach, aimed at the sliver of sky, horizon and snow that was the cornice, and then he was over the edge, looking down, fifty, sixty feet, in the air, his jealousy appeased.
James Langston / San Francisco
Lisa Fleur was in an interesting phase of evolution. She was part flower and part human. But lately her lily head felt separated from her stem. In an effort to be human, she had tried to live from her mind, but this only severed her from her roots. Lisa Fleur simply wasn’t interested in what other humans cared about. She didn’t like to memorize numbers, talk politics or play with computers. When she was in her human mode, she felt disconnected from her greenness, from receptivity and vulnerability; but when she lived from her plant nature, her tendrils blossomed with possibility.
Carolyn Mary Kleefeld / Big Sur
WITHOUT JUST CLAUSE
There was no small offense committed against the English language that did not go unpunished by Mrs. Skooms. For years she’d lurked over nervous, squirming children—ruler in hand—her gray, unwashed hair pulled into a knot so severe that it slitted her eyes like a Mongolian wolf. Mrs. Skooms had effectively beat writing out of hundreds of students over the course of her career as a third grade teacher, and caused irreparable damage to countless knuckles to boot. And for this, they honored her with a gold pendant watch and a lovely gardenia corsage when she retired.
Hayward Hawks Marcus / Las Lomas
Sam Bixby knew screaming was useless as his tether snapped. His body floated amongst the stars, drifting from the space station. His fellow astronauts looked on in horror. Suddenly, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” echoed in his mind. He drifted further, the Earth becoming a blue marble in a sea of black. He closed his eyes. The scent of his wife’s perfume wafted into his nostrils. His son’s guitar strummed in his ears. His dog’s tongue tickled his fingers. Sam smiled as he undid the clamps to his helmet. The coldness of space rushed in as he let out one last breath.
Antonio Lopez / Campbell
My gynecologist Dad worked the ER graveyard shift, my eggnogged Mom slept on the rug by the Nativity scene atop the TV, and I, from the stairs, watched Santa come through the window rather than the chimney and stuff our stereo in his sack, which woke my mom, who called him “Uncle Nick!” and let him eat her cookies, drink her milk, and Ho!Ho!Ho! her. Unpresentably. And three months later my swollen-bellied Mom swore to my Dad that she’d had an “immaculate conception.” And six months after that my baby brother, Little Nicky, presented himself. Rather jollily.
William Wall / Pacific Grove
The boy walks behind his mother in the dark, cold hall, giggling and pulling on her thin robe. “Wait, Tommy. Daddy will light the tree.” Suddenly, the glow of varicolored lights reveals a few wrapped gifts on the cracked linoleum under a small Christmas tree. A red bicycle stands beside the tree. The boy shouts and runs to the bike. The mother smiles and hugs her husband. “You got it anyway, you tease. You brought it in after I was sleeping.” The father stands wide-eyed watching his son. He trembles. “But, I didn’t. So help me, I didn’t do it.”
Martin Dodd / Salinas
Morgan was first asked about it after Saturday’s soccer game. “My Mom says your Mom went crazy yesterday,” Megan said, as they were walking home. Megan’s mother was trailing them in her SUV. Morgan slowed her steps, briefly, and then the tears came. “She did.” The girls walked in silence. “How?” “She ran through our glass patio door.” “Ouch. Why?” “My Dad left for good Thursday.” They continued to walk. “You want to come live with me?” Morgan thought about this, comforted by the silent presence of Megan’s Mom’s SUV. “Yes.” Megan raised her hand, waving her Mom’s SUV forward.
Carol Cowen / Capitola
TROUBLE AT HOME
“Hey, buddy!” Can you give me a lift?” “Where you goin’?” “To Hell.” “We’re all going to Hell.” “Yeah, but I’m late!” “Hop in.” “Thanks. I missed my last bus.” “What bus was that?” “The one with ‘Hell’ on the front of it.” “Boy, you are lucky that I am a nice guy.” “True. What’s a nice guy like you goin’ to Hell for?” “I’m Catholic.” “Yeah, I’m Baptist.” “Like I said, we’re all going to Hell.” “Oh, God. Here we are.” “Who’s inside?” “My wife.” “And you’re late.” “And I’m late.”
Wm. Cates / Monterey
A stunned crowd watches as the car blows through the light, clips a truck, and flips onto its top before sliding into the decorations adorning the median. As upturned wheels spin, a severely injured reindeer nods its 200-watt head over the wreckage. A nearby policeman runs to the scene, not relishing what he might discover. “Are you hurt?” he says, looking through the shattered windshield at the forlorn figure hanging by his seatbelt. The driver doesn’t answer. He’s talking into his cell phone with one hand and holding his still upright and un-spilled eggnog latte in the other.
Ken Jones / Pacific Grove
MOM IN WINTER
My mother was the canning queen. Every year, she compressed a quarter acre of garden into an intricately labeled battalion of mason jars. It was more than any family could eat, but she labored over that unwieldly pressure cooker for weeks. Perhaps she sensed the cancer before the doctors found it, and she was frantically trying to store as much of her as possible for the cold winter ahead when there would be no mother to tend our growing seasons. We were unaware, then, as each lid popped and sealed, that another quart of motherly love had been preserved for us.
Michael Whalen / Pacific Grove
I have my grandmother’s hands. As a girl, I used to spend hours sitting next to her watching her file her nails. We’d chat about the day, or the cats, or the weather, or school. Occasionally she would braid my hair. It never occurred to me to ask her who her grandmother was, or what they used to do together, or whether she was happy, or whether she loved deeply, or whether she had regrets or longings, and if so, what those might be. It never occurred to me to ask her if she had her grandmother’s hands. Why didn’t I?
Deirdre Whalen / Pacific Grove
Thick air enclosed the subway station, more heat than the sidewalk above. A well-groomed, well-dressed black man stood alone, an instrument in his hand. His shiny sax gleamed gold, stood out, appendage to his right hand. Without a sign, he raised the sax, and played a long cool note. The tone peeled through the steam and dirt, like a dip in a cold, green pool. I wiped my brow with the back of my hand, and left him five dollars, thanking him with a nod. He bowed from the waist, then played another, following me into the subway car.
Madeline Hnatowich-Dean / Corralitos