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The International Writers Magazine: Noir Dreamscapes

Hopping on One Foot in Lotus Position
• George Sparling
Jason figured his father Bret, an unrepentant gambler, won Maud in a high stakes poker game. “Hopping on one foot in lotus position is impossible, but the unexpected can happen, you and Maud might get together,” Bret said, as he waved goodbye to Jason.

Jason snatched the chiaroscuro black and white photograph off the wall, hiding it in a dark trench coat as he left. The shed with hanging tobacco, the heyday of cigarettes long gone, a person’s shadow like a revealing x-ray looming on the sheathes intrigued him.  He craved anything that would connect him with Maud, a real looker: dark hair swished over one brow, classic Catholic girl’s knee socks on Dita Von Teese breasts, high and noble, thick and neat brows, lips glossy, child’s play for an eighteen year old, hands calloused from hard labor at an early age, that masculine touch excited Jason, her deep-set green eyes.    

Maud, a girl Jason’s age, his father Bret discovered her during a vacation in the Smoky Mountains. Maud inherited a coal baron’s fortune and without Jason’s knowledge she gave Bret a USB stick giving details how to retrieve it from an offshore address.

Having put great distance between him and Bret, intuition and foresight informed Jason was better off without him. Entanglement with Maud would trigger Bret’s jealousy. Bret had won gambling rifles, shotguns, and handguns. 

Jason drove around the strange city, getting his bearings, figuring how best to fit in until he saw an art gallery. Bret’s phrase, hopping on one foot in lotus position, struck him peculiarly, and he sold the photograph to the art gallery. He pocketed the cash and could hold out for a few months. Bret’s expansive phase kicked in (he won big in Texas hold’em) and he shared a small portion of his winnings with him.

The next day he woke up in a nice motel room and said to himself, “Damn, I shouldn’t have been so quick with that hopping on one foot in lotus position business.” So he dressed, ate jellied and cream-cheesed croissants, drank loads of coffee, and moped around, walking through puddles, walking through fog in the coastal city, peeping into antique stores, and generally having a so-so time. He disliked killing time.

He would fall into an emotional sinkhole finding the photograph sold. He felt tentative. Had the caffeine high made him that way? Eventually the bottom dropped out of everything, never resuscitated. Or, it didn’t, simple throwaway events making everything grand. A tough call for Jason

He saw the blank space where the photograph had been. “Who bought the photograph?” he asked the owner.

The reply was vague.  Too many women in Appalachia went by that description. Then: “What about a tat? Did she have a yin/yang one on her right hand?” he asked.

The bearded, pot-bellied man said, “Why, yeah. She bought it for a good price, said she was new in town, and asked where to go for espresso. I told her three blocks down the block. She thanked me and left.” 

No such thing as coincidence, only that human nature molted, shedding old feathers for new ones, and that generated lost connections.

He drank espresso, seated in the far corner. He scanned the coffeehouse: heads looked into laptop screens, fingers on tablets, teens on smartphones, homeless men and women traipsing in to use the bathroom, a college-age guy listening to his iPod, a chess match between a man and woman, she saying loudly, “Checkmate,” a teenage boy reading a Val McDermid crime novel.  Voyeurism having its momentary hold, then relinquished into low-grade, every day hysteria. 

He ordered another espresso, and another, becoming alert and fully awake that late afternoon day. Strong weed came from the corner. Smoke fell upon Jason. The Smokies got its name from the plumes of heavy fog, generated by vegetation exhaling unstable chemicals. A fog partially masked the moon’s bright LED in the photograph. It had Weimar German’s expressionistic paintings’ emotional distortion. That noir sensibility turned Jason on.

A customer walked into the coffeehouse wearing super, black skinny jeans and an extra large black sweatshirt, the hood covering most of the face. Just then, Jason needed to relieve himself and went to the men’s room. He sat on the toilet.

A voice from the next stall said in a muffled, low voice, “I should be sitting in a gold-plated stall on a platinum toilet seat.”
“I hate snobs boast about their misbegotten wealth,” Jason said.
“Do I believe in altruism? Well, maybe if I desired someone.”
“Hey, I’m using suede. Bet your toilet paper is recycled sandpaper and hurts.”

The stall door opened and the hoodie left.

Dusk and he felt lost; all traces of her life snatched from him. She had done it deliberately to remind him she held sway.  Fog rolled in, a streetlight out, he stumbled and bumped against a stranger.  “Excuse me, Jason, but you know how it is,” a husky voice said, hoodie words. “Hopping on one foot in lotus position isn’t impossible from where I come from.”
“Where do you come from?” Jason said. Like he always said, the greater social interactions we now had diminished to nil the outmoded concept of coincidence. Maud must realize that too.

He wanted to grab his keyless remote, scoot away with the car and photograph. But, standing on one foot in lotus position ruined everything: the irrational had overcome him.  She had it, but why? Sentimentality went up in smoke ever since Berlin’s Reichstag fire in 1933.  
“From the shadows.” We all come from shadows.
“I blew it,” he said. “What’ll happen to me? To you?”   
“But it’s not the movie we all know and love,” she said.
“What do you mean by that?” Perplexed, he felt the sinkhole begin opening.
The Maltese Falcon, you idiot,” Maud said. “Nah, I’m talking bullshit.”

The fog bore down, he just another tobacco leaf drying, soon packaged, and smoked by  people fooling themselves, blocking out early death that inevitably sucked them dead.

Jason wanted to live forever, playing things cleverly as Maud had toying with him. When her tattooed hand, balled in a fist, struck his jaw, he fell down hard. He pissed his pants, the punch was so hard.

Maud pulled him up, grabbed him by the shoulders and propped him against the entrance to the coffeehouse. The door swung open, slamming him against Maud.  No false modesty these days; Jason’s nostalgia waxed and waned, hating the old and frightened of the forever new.

“What did you do that for?”  Bret never hit him that hard.
“You know it was no walk in the park with him,” she said. “Consider Bret got punched, not you.” Jason’s jaw had not felt so flippant.

She held the framed picture in her hand, the two of them seated in her car. She opened a Swiss Army knife and pried the thick frame until she held up a small rectangular black object. “See, it isn’t the art but the stick that opens the glory hole,” she stated. Glory holes reminded him of the coffeehouse stalls. 
“What about Bret?” He said that automatically, Bret irrelevant.
“Plays the horses, that is until the animal rights movement steps in and prohibits it.”
“I’ll take the photo anyway,” he said. “I like the shadows, especially human ones.”
“That shadow’s myself.  There’s more of me, you know.” More, as in deep pockets of majestic riches.
“Meaning what?” he asked. He was no philosopher, had no use for meaning so the question was moot.  Hopping on one foot in lotus position attested to that.
“I’ll stick it into my tablet and we’ll never have to worry about money again.”
“Hopping on one foot in lotus position---“
“---makes us a couple,” Maud said.

They might stick together awhile or longer, living with glimmerings of happiness.
© G Sparling September 2013

George Sparling

Call me Tama. Or if you prefer, Tamari. I added the suffix, “ri,” meaning King and Emperor, and because of his almighty power he gave a wizard the power to turn me into a tamari-coated (ferment soy bean paste) sunflower seed.  
George Sparling

I’m under surveillance. Nobody believes me. I’m in a gigantic store, its hundreds of aisles: one could get lost here.

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