||[Jun. 5th, 2006|03:03 pm]
Coffee Shop Scribbles
The title is Ten Stories, but it's really all one. As of right now, it's horribly unfinished, and also completely uncoded -- i.e., I have no italics etc. in here because I just copy/pasted from a .cwk document. As such, it's a little messy, and all sections are, as of right now, unfinished. |
Feedback is very much appreciated; in fact, editing, feedback, etc. is what I'm posting this in hopes of getting, so I can incorporate it before the story is completed.
For my completed stories, all of which are fanfiction, please visit criminogenic.
The thing about rain is that it’s lazy. It falls down wherever the clouds put it, in big lumbering drops that splash upward in their puddles. The puddles -- semi-gatherings of the throbbing masses -- crop up wherever they’re formed, and managed to get in the way of everything: feet, hooves, discarded bottles rolling away down the street. I guess it was raining the day Clare died, too, because I always associate that same clumsy rain with her death.
But now that I think about it, it was perfectly clear outside. It only turned grey later in the day, as though the East Coast skies knew something was horrendously wrong and succumbed to some kind of guilt about being blue and cloudless. Realistically, though, it was the amount of smoke and ash saturating the atmosphere. If I tell myself enough times that the weather felt some kind of guilt, then I feel as though I’m not the only one who overreacted. It’s better that way.
Clare was sort of meandering, like the rain, because she had the same tendency to get caught in your eyelashes and remain in the corner of your eye wherever she went, and wherever anyone else went. She wasn’t clingy; people clung to her, though, like she was some kind of undiscovered Bethovheen manuscript or watch from their great-grandmother; that sort of equates her with antiquity, but you get what I mean.
Clare worked doing what I do now, which is essentially being everyone’s go-to girl for classified information. She was sleeping with some guy from the Q, so she could call him and have him run through any database for pretty cheap -- even finacials -- but I can only do that because my best friend is at the Complex Of Ultimate Power And Destruction, better known as Langely. He can go through even more databses than the Q can and for even less money. Hell, they don’t even need to go through the paperwork. If the CIA wants something, they get it. Feds sort of resent them for it, because working at the Q -- Quantico, to outsiders -- is supposed to be some big deal, until one of the Secret Agent Men come up and rub in their face that Feds need warrants and Secret Agents Of Doom don’t. But I digress.
So Clare, which is what everyone called her all the time, had about as much clearance as I do now, which is a lot, because we consulted on some whole complex TS case, which is where I met her. They threw clearance to anyone within a ten mile raduis of that case, and let them keep it, and that’s a whole lot of people, but The Powers That Be didn’t seem to care.
Right, so, Clare. She was working in the Pentagon, mainly, with a few meetings at the Oval because everyone knew the Head Honcho had a thing for pretty blondes. I got called up because I can speak a fair amount of a relevant language, and I knew the President’s niece pretty well, and was nice to his nephew. He was still pretty popular then, and he got even more popular after Clare died, because he was some great leader or something. Before that day, he’d only been in office a little while and Clare and I sort of hit each other head on one day outside his door, and laughed about it for a little while afterwards -- which was enough to make us friends. Clare was one of those pretty blonde girls, and older than me, and she liked me enough to call me to go places and consult with me on things I thought were fairly important at the time and still think of with the same amount of reverie. Probably because I remember them for Clare. The particular day in question, she was in the Pentagon -- not the Oval -- because the President was off reading stories to kids and didn’t need her to make an appearance. She left me a message on my phone that said as much, and I never got it until a couple days after because I was so busy calling other people that day that I never looked at the voicemail symbol, the one with the little envelope.
I guess I have to clarify why Clare is so much more important than everyone else I lost that day, and it’s mainly because she was so much a part of myself, that since she died I haven’t been able to function whatsoever. My grades have slipped, and, yeah, maybe I’m a little nutty besides. So that day, when she died, I kind of remember hearing the crash and my friend, Maria, screaming that it was a bomb – initially, it’s what everyone thought the bang was – but it was actually just the sound of people dying, which is kind of uninteresting, because it wasn’t the sound of a plane hitting a building or anything so concrete as to be tangible, and I don’t even recall thinking about Clare in that moment. I guess I just assumed it was no one I knew, which is one of those normal human impulses.
You know, have you ever heard the sound of people dying?If you’ve been to a morgue, then that’s pretty close, but I imagine most of you haven’t. For reference, you can hear the remnants of breath in the lungs of the bodies all around you, not-yet-absorbed oxygen suspended in huge cavities in their chests. It smell like disinfectant, and it’s clean. You can hear the quiet of death, but it’s still not the sound of thousands of people all dying at the same time. It’s not the sound of people jumping out of the billionth floor of the towers and thinking that they might survive, because they have some sort of quasi-optimism in their hearts. It’s not the sound of the towers finally falling, and certainly not the sound of children panicking and fields being deformed in Pennsylvania. Death isn’t a sound, I guess, it’s more of a feeling. And death isn’t clean.
That day wasn’t clean, either. It smelled like smoke and gasoline, and charred flesh. If you’ve never smelled what charred human flesh smells like, then no. You’re not missing anything. Death is not clean, and it’s not organized. It’s chaotic and random and full of the pain that everyone else feels. The dead don’t feel pain, because they’re suspended in time without feeling or thought – an empty kind of bliss. I suspect bliss isn’t empty, when it comes down to what’s what, but that’s another debate altogether.
I ran from where I was to just outside Arlington near the mall when I heard the noise. All the cars were stopped on the highway that sort of arcs around the Pentagon like a halo, and I just about fell over the side when I saw the place in flames and, hell, airplane is all people are saying and I think I may have screamed. I distinctly remember crying.
After I kind of came to my senses, I ran down to the building, which people were running away from because it was going to explode, or something (it never did, but you know how jet fuel throws people into a panic). And then this guy, who I’ve stupidly failed to mention -- Jack -- goes running by me in the opposite direction and sees me and grabs me around the shoulders in this big kind of bear-hug, and goes “No, no, no,” and pulls me back along with him in the other direction. I wasn’t really flipping my shit yet, because I just assumed Clare must have been in another part of the building at the time or in the mall getting breakfast. And Jack, who’s basically like my father and has gotten me out of more trouble than I can quantify, he drags me backwards while I’m kicking and pulling all my self-defense moves on him, and I broke his nose. I guess I was still screaming at that point like a two year old, but everyone was, so it seemed normal. It was one of those cheesy screams you see in movies when the protaginist’s kid falls off a cliff. Jack was dragging me backwards across the big field-type of thing in front of teh Pentagon with blood all over us because his nose was bleeding and me screaming. I’m sure it was pretty dramatic, but at the time it wasn’t.
Jack finally pulls me up back onto the highway where I was before, and people are staring at us and scattering like a bunch of birds, all squawking on their phones and pointing and gesturing and going, “you’ll never guess what I’m seeing” to whoever’s on the other end. Some lady grabs a camera and clicks a bunch of pictures of Jack and I, Jack the tough Fed with tears streaming down his face and blood pouring out his nose and me, the kid with blood on her hands and streaked, muddy and tear-stained cheeks and snot dripping out her nose. Poetic, right? Jack whispers in my ear that it’s over, Clare’s gone, and everything is over and we’re okay, and that’s what matters and that a few other people died that he already knows for sure are dead, because he saw them engulfed in flames and screaming and lying there all brittle and black. And he tells me about it in detail, how they were unrecognizable, except for Clare with her long blonde hair which somehow avoided the flames and her little gold angel pin on her chest, melted into her suit jacket. Jack sobbed that she must have called out his name, and I passed out. Heroic, I know. Always keeping my wits about me, right?
Go figure why I associate Clare with those lumbering raindrops, because that’s all I remember. Jack is still basically my father, and I’m still a through-and-through government girl with all the badges and guns associated with that. And, yeah, Clare was dead but later they proved that it wasn’t her that Jack had seen lying there unless he had ESP, because she was on the other side from him and he wouldn’t have been over that way. I went to her funeral under a shining black umbrella, though, to shield myself from the lumbering raindrops, and hell if that was an open-casket ceremony. Nope, they just forced her crispy little corpse into a coffin and called in a backhoe and some family friends and threw six feet of dirt on top of her. She’s still there, and every Septemeber 11th I go and throw some old flowers on her grave, and tell her to keep her chin up.
It makes me feel better, I guess.
I knew Stradford when he was just a kid, a rookie with some fat ass telling him what to do every few seconds. He was a good kid, though, as good as they come. Not like I need to tell you how quiet he was, because that's legendary. Guess you could label him as a quiet- type, but I wouldn't, because that kid was hell when you threw a perp in his face. I remember this one time, when he was about to be promoted to detective -- third grade -- the kid up and flipped his shit on some guy whose house we'd been sitting on for awhile. I guess old Stradford didn't like that the man hit his girl, because the snivelling bastard was hiding under his bed in his underwear when Stradford found him,he was so scared of Stradford. See, Stradford, who hadn't said a word all day, kicks this guy's door in and when he doesn't see him, the kid's face just sort of contorts with rage, and he goes, "COME OUT HERE YOU MOTHERFUCKER OR I'LL PUT A HOLE IN YOUR FUCKING HEAD." I guess the fat bastard flipped his shit when he heard that, 'cause he about wet himself.
Yeah, Stradford was an all around good guy, and good looking too. Hell, he could charm his way into anybody's pants, chick or otherwise. I saw men try and flirt with the guy, and Stradford had those big, honest blue eyes and that black hair, and he'd just roll back on his heels and nod, and those people would just pour their soul to him. I always had him interrogate, because he was the best at it. People just immediately opened up to him. I never got it. I liked seeing the kid grow up on the beat, and then be a detective, a real big-shot -- but he was so modest about it, you'd never know what a protegé this guy was from talking to him.
So one day, this real pretty day, all crisp and all Central-Park-In-Fall, you know, but still with a little of that summer teasing at the last little currents of wind where it’s all warm and balmy, we were out real early just kind of walking around before shift, even though it had technically started. Stadford had his Glock on his hip and his badge in his pocket and this real pretty sport-jacket number on, and he was talking about that song, you know, the “I recall Central Park...” and on and on? Sure. Well, this kid, he’s hamming it up, singing his lungs out, and we’re sort of walking down the street near the towers, which cast shadows the length of Manhattan in the morning, and he just kind of smiles up at them when the craziest fucking thing in the world happens. This airplane, it just flies into one of the towers. And Stradford, that guy, who was never scared, his eyes got huge and he kind of recoiled and looked sick, and half-way in shock. And this kid, that kid with the blue eyes, he just lights out towards the towers and people are already out in the street and streaming out of both towers and running as fast as they can, and Stradford, he pulled four people out of the top of that building, running all the way up and all the way down, but he didn’t come back out with the fifth. He was a solid guy, but solid or not it was hard to make it out of there once, let alone five times. His luck ran out. And that’s really all I’ve got to say about old Stradford.
“This is it, this is it, this is it,” he leans in to whisper. He’s managed to wedge himself at an awkward angle between her and the building, and he gasps for breath under the smoke. “Look, all that smoke.” It’s not her cigarettes he’s talking about; instead, it’s the New York skyline laced with black in the morning sun that he’s gesturing at. “It’s God, God has arrived!” he gabs in Russian, his tongue tripping over itself as he motions to the calendar. “I wonder, yes, I wonder why He picked today. A nine for the month, an eleven for the day. Divine retribution is so swift!” She slides part him, slips the empty pack into the trash and shrugs.
“Karma just builds up until it explodes.”
“Let me tell you something about fires. They give off a whole lot of heat, which you know, but let me tell you something about them you don’t know. Fires, see they wrap around you and kind of keep you in close, which is why people are firefighters. Not because they have any common goals, no, they just like fires. Not like that, like, not in some kinky way, but you get what I mean. Though I did hear this one story about those kids putting out the Pentagon fire, which I’m sorry you can’t hear directly from them but I’ve heard it enough times that I know it by heart, and I’m the next best thing. Well, see, I was at that fire, but I wasn’t involved in the thing you’re about to hear about, but that’s how life goes. Kind of glad I wasn’t there, honestly, but--”
“Let’s move on, okay?”
“Okay, well, let me see here. This was on 9/11, mind you... and we all remember that day like it was yesterday. So there’s this group that decides they’ll kind of go in the back way to put this thing out, which was smart. To get it from all angles, see. So about twenty of them, they go in, and these are the intense firefighters, the ones so good that they get called to New York to help clean up after they’re done in DC, which is kind of the point behind this. Right, so, remember what I said about fires before?”
“They wrap themselves around you.”
“Good! It’s true, I tell you. They wraps around you and sorta hang around your hips, squeezing and teasing, almost, like some cheap hooker, and they’re roasting you the whole time so sweat builds up in places you didn’t know you could sweat. And these twenty who go in, they get off on this kind of stuff, which is why they were good at what they did. They were having sex with their wives, and thinking about flames.That’s what makes a good fireman. So, like I was saying, these guys get together and they basically just charge in with a bunch of hoses and less water than they can surive on and they just pound away at this fire like it’s a cheap hooker. I mean, jet fuel, that’s a mean fire. And basically, because you don’t want to hear the firefighter wet-dream sequence, they get the fire under control. Without them, the whole damn place would have been up in flames. Which is the tragic part, because all those guys... they’re all dead now, and the shame is that the guys were trying to do rescue missions and all in New York, and all that crap got into their lungs and every single one of those twenty... well, eighteen went up to New York... they all got cancer except for two of them, who shot themselves, and I think that’s a real shame. The ones who killed themselves, those are real losses. They couldn’t take their other boys being dead, they agreed to shoot each other in a sort of assisted-suicide type of thing, and hell. I don’t even know what to say about that. More people died because of that damn day than we can count, because they keep on dying from the fumes and the pain and the whatever the hell, and sometimes I wonder if maybe I should have taken it harder than I did, but no one I knew real well died and I guess I just have to stay this way from here on out, pretending to be sad, but not really sad like everyone else is. What else do you want to know, darling?”