Welcome to the Phoenix Nest

I stepped out of my quarters, the familiar weight of the place pressing down on me. The scope of my assignment here was being expanded dramatically alongside the director’s growing regret of having me here. He was giving me free room and board in exchange for my expertise in criminal investigations; so far my service had been tested by a single case of stolen identity when one of our older guests had mistakenly ordered meal service using another’s account number. My pager was ringing more frequently and I was becoming more of a problem solver and less of an investigator. To be honest, I didn’t mind the extra work. I couldn’t very well sit in my quarters for the rest of eternity waiting for one of us to become a murder victim. Even if that did happen, the pool of potential suspects would already be artificially limited to the 144 souls who lived down here in the Nest. It gave me a chance to meet everyone here, as well as find out how many doors my neat little swipe card would really open in this place. I had a feeling it wouldn’t open them all.

Why She Left

“You’re a fucking lush, Daddy.”  Lydia stood at the front door, the spare key in her hand.  Candace stood behind her sister, watching me with her big sad eyes.  I wanted to disagree with Lydia but the mostly-gone bottle of gin in front of me wouldn’t have helped my case.  Shame rose through my gut like a scalding steam.  I stood up from my spot at the dining room table and walked towards the kitchen before the tears started.   Lydia pursued me as I left.

“Did you even look for work today?   Or yesterday?  Or any day this week?”  I dropped the bottle in the kitchen sink as I passed and kept walking.  Candace took a small step into the house and closed the door behind her.

“Christ, Lyd.   Give me a break please,” I pleaded over my shoulder.  “This hasn’t been easy for me.”  I wiped my eyes and stopped at the stairs.  It hadn’t been easy.  It had been goddamned hard, in fact.  Who was she to scold me?  She and Candace still had each other.  And they both hated me.

“No shit it’s hard for you.  But it’s been hard for Candace and me too.”

“That’s not right, Lyd,” I said as I turned to face her.  She had her mother’s fierce eyes and my stubborn determination.

“Do you realize how hard you make life,” she said.  “It doesn’t have to be this – this complex.”

“I don’t see it as complex, Lyd,” I replied.  “I get up in the morning.   I drink a bottle of gin.  Then you and Candace ambush me in my pajamas at four in the afternoon and bring me dinner.  Seems simple enough to me.  Candace, please come in and sit down.”  She didn’t.  

“Really, I don’t know what you want from me, girls,” I continued.  

Lydia furrowed her brow as she gazed at me in a way that I had gotten to know very well since her mother left.  Today’s look had a different shade to it though.  

Candace spoke from the living room.  Her voice was rushed, like she hadn’t used it in a long time.  

“We’re leaving,” she said.  “We’re going to live near mom.”  She shared a look with Lydia and I knew immediately they were serious.  

“And Lydia is right,” she said.  “You are a fucking lush.”  Candace turned and walked out the front door.  

“Goodbye, daddy.”  Lydia kissed me on the cheek and left.  Jesus.  Jesus fucking Christ.  What the fuck just happened.  I walked to the kitchen sink and pulled out my bottle of gin.  I sat down at my spot at the dining room table.  I filled my glass, emptied it, and filled it again.  

daily prompt: Lush

The Red Machine

She gazes up at the red machine towering over her. Her mouth agape.  Eyes unblinking.  Ponytail hanging over her shoulders.  Between trembling fingers she grips her quarter, careful not to let it slip.  She holds it tightly to her chest.  She watches the clear globe sitting atop the red machine.  It is filled with smaller but to her still enormous globes of pink and blue and green and yellow and red.  For only a moment she lowers her eyes to find that mysterious contraption she knows she must surrender her quarter to.  Slowly she raises the quarter to the opening above the big silver dial and drops it into the slot.  It fits perfectly.

Her eyes dart back up to the clear globe full of those colorful globes. She grips the dial and turns.  She is hesitant at first, hoping that the pink one will fall, pleading to whatever god she knows, whatever power of will she can summon to find that pink ball of sweetness and beauty and let it fall away from all the others that just won’t do.  She turns until she can’t turn any further.  She resets her hand and finds a new grip and turns that dial with a renewed fervor and determination, passing through the clicks until there are no more clicks to pass.  She clasps her hands together at the waist of her dress.  Rattles and clicks echo from inside the machine, the heavy drop of the gumball as it is released from the clear globe and into the belly of the great red machine and navigates the mysterious course of tubes and turns and slides.  She can hear the rolling gumball rolling towards her on that last ramp like a great shiny boulder down to the bottom of the machine.  It bangs the inside of the metal trapdoor with a delicious weight.

The machine stands silent. She glances quickly up at me with wonder-filled eyes as she steps close to the machine.  She cups one hand lightly underneath the trapdoor, lifts the little door with her other hand, and lets the sweetest, most beautiful little globe she has ever seen fall into her hand.

Daily Prompt: Tremble

My Rubik’s Cube

Every so often I’ll take a break from my bedtime book and pick up the Rubik’s Cube that shares the couch cushion with me.  I turn it over and around in my hands, feeling the corners and edges, rubbing my thumbs along the tiny cubes that make up the bigger one, making sure the edges line up just so perfectly.  When my examination is complete, I pick one color to work on and determine my best strategy for success.

Some nights I have two blues already lined up on one side leaving only seven squares to work on.  If I’m lucky I’ll have the remainder of an unfinished campaign from the night before when I managed to line up all but one or two squares.  Most nights though my cube just looks like a broken Lite-Brite.

Some nights I spin with a purpose.  I try to find a method to the madness that is a Rubik’s Cube.  If I turn this side up, then the middle twice to the left, then move that side back down, that should do it!  Sometimes it does do it, sometimes not, but almost always it carries unintended consequences someplace else on the cube.  Other nights I turn randomly, hoping that somehow the colors will line themselves up.  Still other nights, I find myself noticing that some of the stickers are so off-center on their square and wondering who put these things on anyway?

Eventually the Rubik’s Cube break will end the way every break has since I bought the thing.  I put the cube down and pick up my book, my mind satiated and calm, and I begin to read again.

The Zealot

Vigor, fervor, emotion.  Play like a zealot!  The boy knew that these words he had heard in his class sounded like they should mean something.  But until this moment, as he stood in a dark corner in the back of the darker club, watching the stage bright with the lights and the energy of men playing with what it is that those words were created to describe – until now, this very instant of his existence he had not known what it was to have vigor, fervor, emotion.  He knew when the air swelled and  crested, pulling him like a riptide, that he was forever changed by the man on stage who played like a zealot.