Sights unseen (a short story)

Invisible_1

The waitress strode by Jerome for the third time in less than 20 minutes, giving him nary a glance as she shifted another tray of plates and a pot of decaf coffee. Jerome watched her swoosh by, hoping to make eye contact but without any luck. It’s not even like the restaurant was busy.

But then, this is the way it was for Jerome, who was still getting used to being invisible.

Being invisible didn’t come naturally to Jerome. In fact, it was fair to say that he was struggling with the idea. There was a disconnect, you see, between how he saw the world and how the world saw him.

When he looked at his hands, he saw five fingers on each. His feet both had five toes. He had legs and arms, hips and shoulders, pretty much everything that every other person on the planet had. And yet, when other people looked at him…

Well, there it was.

Nobody ever looked at him. They didn’t know he was there. He was invisible.

Although the revelation had only come to him recently—partly the reason he had yet to wrap his head around the idea—it did begin to explain a lot of things.

Why people bumped into him on the Metro. Why teachers never called on him in school. Why his parents always ignored his questions. Why women never returned his smiles.

All of these things bothered him, even made him angry. Now, at least, he understood that it wasn’t personal. They simply didn’t know he was there.

Unconsciously, he raised his arm as the waitress blew past him before disappearing into the kitchen.

Personal or not, being unseeable could be irritating.

Jerome had wondered briefly if he wasn’t perhaps dead, a ghost wandering the streets. He’d seen a movie once about a guy who only ever spoke to a young boy and slowly realized that…

Outside the window at Jerome’s left elbow, a young woman appeared to be having a stroke. Well, in truth, she was staring right at him while applying lipstick, but her mouth movements were so exaggerated that he wouldn’t be surprised to learn her left side was completely frozen and her speech was slurred.

He pressed his nose to the glass. But for the glass, she could easily apply lipstick to his mouth, one way or another. But no.

He had dismissed the idea of death because the guy in the movie had a wife and a medical practice, neither of which he had. And besides, he didn’t know any young children, boys or girls.

“I’m not saying I want a relationship,” the woman at the next table said to her male companion. “But I don’t think we can ignore the fact that we slept together after the party.”

Jerome shook his head. You heard a lot of stories like this when you were invisible. People simply had no sense of privacy.

“And we had a great time,” the guy responded, gingerly placing his hand on hers, his body tensed to flee at the first sign of reciprocation. “But the fact that we work together complicates things.”

No matter how closely Jerome sat to the next table, no matter how obviously he ping-ponged between the speakers, the conversation never became more hushed. He heard every morbid detail, and no one seemed to care.

His attention to the burgeoning telenovela was distracted, however, by a furtive motion at another table. Several feet away, an old man in torn trousers and stained t-shirt palmed a tip left on an adjacent table.

That’s not kosher at any time, Jerome thought, but especially not a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Jerome wanted to say something but then the man used the funds to pay for his own coffee before snatching a ratty knapsack from the floor.

Was he homeless?

The waitress scooped the coins as she vaulted past Jerome with someone’s bill.

Grabbing his unopened book from the corner of the table, Jerome rose from his seat and fished through his pockets.

I don’t know why I even come here, he thought. Still, it didn’t seem right that the waitress should lose out simply so a homeless guy could keep warm.

From the far side of the restaurant, Tula watched Jerome drop a few coins on the table where the old man had stolen the tip. She smiled as she bookmarked the page she was reading, the melodrama at the next table making it too hard to concentrate.

She would have liked to have complimented the man on his beautiful gesture, but there wasn’t much point in even trying.

Tula, you see, had recently determined that she was invisible.

Anger after Robin William’s passing

robin_williams_01

A couple of days have passed since Robin William’s death and although I still cannot accept the truth of it, I have somewhat resigned myself to that truth.

Shortly after the event, as I watched the public response, I found myself getting upset. The following post, written the night of his passing, explains those feelings. If you read on, please read all of the post as I don’t want to hear anyone’s comments unless they have read all that I have to say below. 

 

I’m angry. I’m angry at all of the people who want to turn my grief into some sort of life lesson.

The death of Robin Williams from depression isn’t a parable, it’s not a morality play, it doesn’t serve a purpose; so stop throwing literature and comments about depression and the availability of help at me.

This is a man who made millions laugh. A man who struggled throughout his life with demons and who worked with and around those demons to make beautiful art. A man who had loved ones and raised children.

A man who touched my heart and mind and soul. A man who taught me that it was okay to misbehave, to act out. That to be frenetic could also be to be focused. That you can love and be livid with the world and its people at the same time.

And now that man is gone, and I want to mourn. I want to wallow in my memories of the joy and tears that he brought to my life. I want to remember the man.

I don’t want to rationalize his passing. I don’t want to find meaning in his death. I don’t want to learn a lesson.

I want to grieve, to storm, to wail, to laugh, to love.

But I am not the only one in mourning.

I know the people who post information about depression and mental health, who list hotlines and web sites, are doing that as part of their grieving process. They are doing what they have to do to process Robin’s death.

They are doing what is right for them as I am doing what is right for me. Pain is a self-centred thing.

Perhaps in a day…or two…or ten, I will be able to see their side a little better, but for now, I just want to hurt…and remember…and smile.

In the meantime, forgive me if I snarl.

Tank’s – a screenplay (cont’d)

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Our continuing saga (see part one here) of impetuous young Tony and his pursuit of individuality at the possible expense of his life.

When last we left Tony, he had led a nasty caiman on a merry chase, faking it out at the last second.

Tony takes off, leaving the caiman to spit out stones.

The guys catch up to Tony, applauding. Tony bows.

JUAN

That was totally awesome!

CARLOS

I thought you were a goner.

RICKY

That was–

OLD FIN (O.S.)

Foolhardy.

Tony turns to see OLD FIN.

TONY

Grandfather.

OLD FIN

And dangerous. You must think you’re pretty hot stuff.

TONY

Escaped the jaws of death.

OLD FIN

You escaped an eating machine, son; an unthinking garbage disposal. And you risked everyone’s lives in the process.

TONY

It was just me and the caiman.

OLD FIN

You need to learn about taking responsibility for your actions; caring for the fish around you. Your father—

TONY

What about my father?

RICKY

Tony!

TONY

My father took responsibility for his community, and he got snatched by the Net. Maybe if he’d spent more time with his son and less on everyone else’s problems…

CARLOS

Easy, Tony.

Old Fin waves the boys off.

TONY

He was all about sacrifice, when it meant taking care of others, but when I needed him… You can keep your responsibility.

Old Fin reaches for Tony’s shoulder.

OLD FIN

I miss him, too. He had to be the fish he was destined to be. Just as you have to be the fish you will become.

TONY

That’s… C’mon guys.

The boys swim off.

OLD FIN

Destiny won’t wait, son. It happens whether you’re ready or not.

EXT. FURTHER ALONG THE RIVER – DUSK

Amongst the plants and rocks, four long pink legs extend to the surface. The boys take a wide berth, Tony lagging behind, kicking pebbles.

JUAN

Watch out. Danger from above.

Tony darts around the legs, but then he turns with a grin.

RICKEY

What’re you doing?

TONY

Nothing. Just stretching my fins.

Yawning, he tickles one of the feet.

EXT. ABOVE THE SURFACE – SAME TIME

The legs are attached to two cranes. SIDNEY screams and jumps into SEYMOUR’s wings.

SIDNEY

Something touched my leg!

Seymour angrily drops Sidney into the water.

SEYMOUR

You idiot. Those are just fish.

SIDNEY

Well, they’re cold and wet. It’s nasty.

SEYMOUR

Nasty? Sid, what are we?

Sidney thinks long and hard.

SIDNEY

Cousins?

SEYMOUR

Cranes, Sid.

SIDNEY

We’re not cousins?

SEYMOUR

Focus! What do cranes eat?

Sidney screws up his face, like his head’s about to explode.

SIDNEY

Hamburgers!

SEYMOUR

Fish! We eat fish!

Sidney whips out chopsticks.

SIDNEY

Sushi!

Seymour slaps the chopsticks away and then pushes Sid’s head into the water. Sid steps back, spluttering.

SEYMOUR

And this time, Sid, hold your breath.

Seymour plunges his head into the water, pulling up a fish, which he quickly swallows. The two start looking for dinner.

EXT. BELOW THE SURFACE – SAME TIME

Fish scatter in pandemonium. Clouds of silt explode from the riverbed as enormous bills dart from the surface and stab into the ground, slicing side to side to catch fish.

Plants are uprooted, stones flung in all directions, fish cower in crevices and under large rocks as the river fills with a cacophany of SCREAMS and thrashing EXPLOSIONS of air and water.

Tony and his friends flee, pursued by Seymour.

JUAN

You had to do it, didn’t you?

TONY

They’re gaining on us.

They careen around rocks and weeds as the cranes inch closer.

JUAN

Over there!

INT. OLD BUCKET – CONTINUOUS

Juan, Tony and Ricky dart to the back, breathing heavily.

RICKY

They got Carlos!

Juan dashes for the opening and is bowled over by Carlos.

CARLOS

Aaaaaaaah!

TONY (laughing)

Carlos, the bullet.

The THRASHING outside subsides. The guys float quietly.

CARLOS

Whaddya think?

A beam of light penetrates the darkening water outside of the bucket, which shakes and the floor tilts.

CARLOS (CONT’D)

Earthquake!

They swim for the mouth, which rises, the spotlight getting brighter. Seeing Carlos struggle, Juan and Ricky swim back to help him. Tony waits anxiously.

TONY

Harder!

CARLOS

I’m trying!

Tony swims to help, just as they push Carlos out. Before Tony can escape, however, the bucket breaks the water’s surface.

TONY

Nuts.

Tony races for the bottom and turns to make a break for the surface. As he makes his run, a net appears.

EXT. FLAT-BOTTOMED METAL BOAT – SAME TIME

A hand reaches into the bucket and fishes for Tony, who scurries around trying not to get caught.

TONY

Hey! Watch the scales. Let go!

The hand throws Tony into a clear bag of water.

TONY (CONT’D)

Okay. Now you’ve made me mad!

The hand tosses the bag into a cardboard box.

INSERT: BOX LABEL THAT READS “ECUADOR PET SUPPLIES”.

The lid of the box closes. Everything GOES DARK.

OPENING CREDITS

(to be continued)

Tank’s – a screenplay

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The following is the opening for my first screenplay. Tank’s  is the story of Tony, an impetuous young fish who gets snatched from his tropical homeland and transported to Tank’s, a pet shop in Rochester, NY. There, he quickly falls for Maya, a royal daughter of the salt water community, and runs afoul of the iron-finned rule of an eel named Kang.

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission but my sincerest Tank’s.)

 

FADE IN

EXT. AERIAL VIEW OF A RAINFOREST – AFTERNOON

A canopy of trees extends forever to a distant range of mountains, birds swooping in and out. A break in the forest exposes a broad meandering river that empties into the sea.

One bird descends to skirt along the water. Crocodiles slide from the shore, disrupting the peaceful wading of cranes who take to the air.

A thicket of tree roots plunge into the river, large insects crawling along or flying amongst the gnarled roots. A squirt of water shoots up at a dragonfly, which splashes into the water, to be eaten by a large fish.

EXT. BELOW THE SURFACE – SAME TIME

Schools of fish swim among the roots. Larger fish swim alone, oblivious to the schools that scatter and reform.

A cloud of bleary water blooms across the bottom of the river, causing most of the fish to scatter to the clearer upper layers. A few fish swim between the layers, trailing bleary streams.

The serenity is shattered as four sleek black mollies fly by, weaving chaotically through the weeds. TONY, JUAN, RICKY and CARLOS, hyper adolescents, flip a pebble back and forth, while trying to evade tackle.

TONY

Carlos fades back for a long throw…

Chubby Carlos swerves the wrong way, sliding into the mud and being tackled by the others.

Laughing, they slowly climb out of the tangle. Carlos remains on the bottom, dazed.

TONY (CONT’D)

Hey, look! A flat fish.

Tony pumps his tail to reinflate him. Juan looks to the surface, catching the waning sunlight.

JUAN

It’s late. Gotta go help Mom with the brood.

TONY

A hundred and thirty-nine brothers and sisters and you have to help?

RICKY

Me, too. Summer school.

TONY

C’mon. You’re ruining things for Carlos. He can barely speak.

Tony slaps his fin over Carlos’s mouth.

TONY (CONT’D)

Hush, pal. Save your strength.

Tony slowly backs away. The guys follow.

JUAN

Duty calls, Tony.

TONY

Duties come later. Today is for adventure.

Tony grabs Carlos by the gills.

TONY (CONT’D)

Look at this guy. Ready to grab life by the gills and kiss it on the mouth.

Carlos recoils in disgust.

TONY (CONT’D)

We’re young.

Tony swims into a shadow. The guys stare, mouths agape.

TONY (CONT’D)

We have no fear!

JUAN/RICKY/CARLOS (scattering)

Aaaaaaaaaah!

TONY

Hunh?

Tony looks up and comes face to face with a grinning caiman.

TONY (CONT’D)

Oh.

Tony sticks a fin in the caiman’s nostrils, making it sneeze.

Tony flees, pursued by the caiman. As Tony leads the merry chase, other fish scramble to safety.

The caiman gets close but never quite reaches Tony.

TONY (CONT’D)

C’mon, armor-butt.

Tony suddenly favours his left fin.

TONY (CONT’D)

Cramp! Ow, ow!

The caiman pounces. Tony flits aside and the caiman gets a mouthful of gravel.

TONY (CONT’D)

Psych!

Tony takes off, leaving the caiman to spit out stones.

(To be continued.)

Null and void

The sounds of the city

Echo through my brain,

Filling the void with

Impulses that dissipate

As suddenly as formed.

Photonic reflections

Bombard my eyes and

Yet I see nothing

As I stare into

The darkening distance.

As empty as the bookshelves

That lie to either side,

My mind is a canvas,

Devoid of tint or brushstroke,

The words of yesterday

Replaced by so much silence.

The mind has wandered,

I know not where,

To seek adventure

In environs yet new,

To channel its destiny

In fields not yet furrowed,

Leaving only a husk of humanity,

A shed skin, abandoned shell,

To signal its former home

In the expanding universe.

I cannot know

If it will return,

But remain a sentinel

On constant watch ‘til death.

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission. I don’t recall why.)