Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chase Scene

“No more guy movies,” she said. “Pop pop you’re dead. Big boys playing cowboys and Indians all over again and getting mad when the guy who is shot refuses to lie down.”

“You forgot the chase scenes,” he said. He wasn’t listening, not really. The game was on, Super Bowl Seven Hundred and Twenty or some such thing.

God, the chase scenes. He was baiting her, pretending to listen while he watched grown men fight over a ball, all of them destined for the Alzheimer’s ward before they were fifty. She’d read the Malcolm Gladwell article. Gladwell had certainly never struck another man and probably only went to foreign films. She thought of mentioning that to Roger, but he hated Malcolm Gladwell, not that he’d ever read a word that brilliant man wrote, didn’t have to. The title was enough. Blink. Who the hell wrote a book called Blink?

“Every chase scene is the same,” she said. “Screech, crash, roll over, screech, careen, an improbable gun shot out the side window, a tunnel, a train, an old man pushing a cart of apples, apples up in the air.”

“You're wrong," he said. "They're not all the same."

The TV went dark, and he was out of the chair, across the room, after her.

She was halfway to the kitchen by the time he was up. She hit the table running, knocked the bowl of raisins soaking in rum to the floor, and kept going. He lunged, missed her. She headed upstairs.

“Why do they always go up?” he shouted as he hammered after her. One of her complaints. In on-foot chase scenes the pursued always goes up, up, up until there’s nowhere else to go. So predictable. She flattened herself against the wall at the top of the stairs and whipped down just as he lunged past her. Down the stairs and out the back door. Where to hide?

Gloria was on her patio next door watering the tangle of vines that engulfed her house. She didn’t look up. Mavis ran to the side of the house, listened for the thump of the door that meant he was out in the yard looking for her.




Nothing. She could hear him in the house, pounding from room to room.

She smiled. Her breathing was almost normal. She’d won. At last she’d won.

He grabbed her from the other side. “Came out the front door,” he said. “Tip toed out. More than one way to choreograph a chase scene.”

“You win,” she said.

“Again,” he said.

Gloria looked up as he carried her over his shoulder into the house.

Next scene: X rated.

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Red Letter Day

Her toenails were too red. She’d chosen the color—Something Bold—from the infinite rows of nail polish, more colors than God intended. That’s what she said to the elfin creature who stood patiently waiting for her to decide on a color. The nail girl was perfect with flawless, hairless skin, a mane of straight black hair that shawled her shoulders, eyes, nose, mouth from a teen-age girl’s drawing of the perfect eyes, nose, mouth.

The nail girl said nothing, didn’t smile at Audrey’s attempt at wit, but she waited in a way that Audrey knew meant there were right choices and wrong choices. Audrey wanted a right choice, so she turned away from the pastels and pinks—her instinct, therefore wrong—and chose a red: Something Bold.

The girl took it from her, led her to the vibrating chair with footbath and proceeded.

She spoke her first word twenty minutes later as she painted the last nail. “Nice?”

Audrey glanced at her toes—long as fingers—a family trait—and said, nice even though she was clearly looking at somebody else’s foot.

She walked out of the salon as if she were walking in somebody else’s feet—a bolder, younger sort of woman—and regretted not staining her finger nails with the same Something Bold.

She flexed her toes in her sandals as she waited for the bus. The sun glinting off each crimson nail was almost blinding. She couldn’t keep her eyes off her feet; she craned her toes up, slid them side to side, curled them—striking at every angle.

The bus came--# 5 going to the Mall of America where she planned to circumnavigate each floor, trying out her new look, like breaking in a new pair of shoes. She took the first seat, facing sideways. Nobody could board the bus without noticing her feet. A bearded guy across from her slumped in his seat, half asleep, his eyes in that half-mast position. If he opened his eyes, he couldn’t miss her toenails.

Somebody got herself a pedicure today. A voice out of nowhere. She looked around—nobody.

Made herself a pretty girl.

The bearded guy opened his eyes. It wasn’t he. The bus stopped. A woman with a small dog in a Baby Bjorn got on and sat down next to Audrey.

Beauty is as beauty does. Audrey was careful not to move her head, but her eyes swiveled left, right, and back again. She couldn’t identify the source.

The bus driver changed gears and pulled into the stream of traffic. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the driver said.

The bearded guy was leaning towards her, elbows on his knees, staring at her feet. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” he said, looked up, caught her eye, and smiled.

She slid her feet farther into the aisle.

“And red is the color of my true love’s lips.” Bus driver.

“Correction—hair.” The woman with the dog.

Her lips are like some roses fair! Shouted, not spoken.

Audrey pulled the cord—STOP REQUESTED—and stood up.

“She walks on beauty.” Bearded man.

In beauty.” Woman with the dog.

Like the night! shouted the voice.

Audrey descended the stairs slowly and walked—no, floated—down the steps.

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran

Friday, March 16, 2012


The toast was burned, the eggs dried out, and the bacon, well, crisp hardly described it. “It’s more cinder than bacon,” he said.

“A low fat recipe,” she said.

“Carcinogens for breakfast,” he said and dumped the plate in the trash.

She broke off a corner of toast, the darkest corner, globbed peanut butter on it, and bit in. “Not bad with p. b.,” she said.

He was standing at the sink, rinsing the charred remains of his breakfast down the drain. “You know,” he said, “we could have cereal for breakfast. I’ve always liked cereal.”

“Oh!” she said. “Me too. Especially oatmeal.”

He could see it already. Oatmeal crisp as bacon, hard to the touch, the blackened pot they’d eventually throw away.

“Or what about shredded wheat? That’s healthy.” She desperately wanted to be a good wife, to create an aura of domesticity. “My mom always served it with hot milk and brown sugar,” she said.

His tongue felt raw, singed, burnt at the thought of scorched milk, but he was careful not to react. No telling where she’d go in her desperation to be what she thought he wanted—French toast hard as a spatula, pancakes that bounced if you dropped them. He’d already told her he wasn’t much of a coffee drinker.

“Breakfast,” he said contemplatively. “Have I ever mentioned that my favorite meal out is breakfast?”

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Don’t see him again. That’s what I said to her, not that she was listening, but somebody had to say it and so I did. The chosen one. That’s me. Something got to be said and I say it. Blurt it out, get it over with, all the cards on the table, slam, dunk, and unappreciated.

Deeply unappreciated. That’s me also. That’s I if I’m to be grammatically correct, but who ever says That’s I? Predicate nominative. The nominative case of the pronoun. Another example of saying what’s right, what’s correct even though it’s uncomfortable, deeply uncomfortable.

Don’t ever see him again. And it’s her—it’s she—I’ll never see again, not until she flounces back in here tonight, just missing dinner as I’m pushing back from the table, daring me to ask where she’s been. I’m the mother. She’s 18. Enough said.

My words are still heavy in my head. It’s as if I wrote them on the kitchen shades, on the door she slammed when she left, on her tire tracks in the driveway. How else to say it? He’s no good. He’s shifty-eyed, lying, surface slick. Oh, yes I know the attraction, but she doesn’t need to go there. Her father taught her that. She must have learned something, saw something, noticed at least.

Shit. Hell. Damn. Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? I turn on the water, get a drink, look out the window. She’s coming back, huddled around herself, forgot something no doubt, won’t look at me when she storms in, swoops by, grabs her purse or her phone or the scarf she forgot, zips past as if I’m a ghost. That’s what she’ll do, and I won’t watch. As if I’m too busy. As if I don’t care.



I look out the window again. She’s out of the car. I hear her on the step. I have time. I put my glass on the counter. I turn to the door. I smile. I even open my arms. I open them wide as the door opens. And she comes to me without a word, both of us finally silent.

© Kathleen Coskran 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012


“I can’t look,” she said and covered her eyes.

They both knew that was a lie. Of course she could look. There was nothing Veronica didn’t see. Nothing escaped her notice. A point of pride. “Nothing escapes my notice,” she said at least once a day.

So when she covered her eyes and said she couldn’t look, Paul fell into his usual charade. He stretched his arms wide, did a little abracadabra dance with his hands, did it so beautifully that she gasped as if an elf or genie were about to appear on the rug.

Then in a flash, hands moving so fast that Veronica really didn’t see (she was still focused on the rug where the genie would appear), Paul produced the box. “Ta dah!” he said.

It wasn’t a small box. It wasn’t a large box. It was an average size box, cube shaped, maybe twelve by twelve, beautifully wrapped, but the size box that nothing interesting or expensive comes in.

Although . . .

Perhaps . . .

Well . . .

It might be nested like Russian dolls, with a jewel in the tiny box at the end or car keys or airplane tickets. Of course, how perfect for her. She did like being adored.

She was still staring at the box, not smiling, but thinking these thoughts when he said, “Well, aren’t you going to open it?”

“Oh, Paul, you shouldn’t have,” she said.

He almost said, and what would have happened if I didn’t—tears, accusatory sulks. He knew what was expected. “Open it,” he said again.

She pulled the gold bow open, flung the ribbon aside and delicately, using a sharp, red fingernail, cut the tape at either end. Watching her he realized that the daintiness that had so charmed him at first came from not wanting to damage or use her nails or her hands or much of anything else. Walking provoked a sigh, Oh, it’s so far. Stairs, a search for an elevator. And once she cried because her favorite restaurant, the over-priced Chez Nous, was closed.

“It’s Monday,” he had said. “A lot of restaurants are closed on Monday.”

“People still eat on Mondays,” she’d said.

“At home,” he said.

Wide-eyed look at that. “We don’t,” she said.

He was grateful for that encounter. She’d wiped Chez Nous off their list of acceptable destinations and inspired the birthday gift that she was now opening.

“Oh,” she was saying, “Nice,” but it was as if a small animal was living in her throat as she spoke. “What is it?”

“Dishes. See—plates, cups, bowls. You know? Dishes. For eating on.”

“But we don’t . . .”

Voila!” he said and pulled flatware out of his jacket pocket—knives, forks spoons, service for four.

She was crying, huge tears flooding her eyes and running down her cheeks. She struggled to get the lid back on, couldn’t make it fit, then slung it across the room at him. “You’re breaking up with me!”

He caught the lid with one hand, raised his eyebrows as if he didn’t understand, and waited for her to go on, which she did. “We are through, really done this time.” She was at the door, sobbing so hard that her mascara formed dark pools under each eye, highlighting her wretched victim pose. She’d be pleased when she saw herself in a mirror.

“Don’t ever call me again,” she said and slammed the door so hard his new dishes rattled in the box.

© 2012 Kathleen Coskran