Saturday, April 17, 2010

Page Two

Sammy had the kind of looks only a certain few would find handsome. His mother was one. June was the other.
He was incredibly fit, but one wouldn't know it by sight. His stubbled chin sloped below his thin lips, tucking close to his neck, and his cheeks drooped just enough to make his mouth a slight, perpetual frown. His shoulders were broad, but stooped forward, caving in his thick chest and compressing a flat, toned stomach out into an incongruous paunch, his knees forced forward to support this serpentine posture. He would strike a pathetic figure were it not for his eyes. Pale sapphires set beneath thick, black brows, they carried an awareness not suggested by his face and physique. His eyes pierced, but were kind about it; they made him appear both vulnerable and cold, a tender predator.
Sammy was graced with the element of surprise. Strangers lulled by his shuffling form did not expect his agile ferocity and sharp, calculating instincts; nor did those familiar with his physical abilities suspect his capacity for warmth. A double nature proved invaluable in his field of interest, and those who knew him well knew enough not to enlighten those acquainted with only one side of Sammy Cranston.
No one knew about the dreams. Sammy didn't know what to think about them. He only knew that he woke up terrified. Over the last year, the skin beneath his eyes had become almost translucent, veins prominent, deep lines carving across the top of his cheek. He rarely slept more than three hours a night and it seemed to be getting worse. If the job he was planning was going to work, he needed to focus, and that was nearly impossible; his nerves were so frayed he could barely concentrate.

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Out of the corner of his eye, Sammy caught a glimpse of something. He couldn't make it out. Tight against the curb, huffing the stale, recirculated air, he looked back. Nothing there. No one there, but an elderly couple in the park across the street, staring at him. He rolled down the window, the acrid stink of hot rubber still hovering above the corner met his nostrils. What had he seen? He checked his eyes in the mirror, the pupils wide, the whites streaked with red. Nothing there. He was tired. It was two thirty on Friday. Two days to go. Lawrence was waiting at the hotel and Sammy was late.
That morning he had slept through the alarm. No dreams. That shook him even more. Now he didn't know what to expect. His pillow smelled of sweat, but was dry. His muscles weren't sore, no clenching through the night. A bird was singing, that was what woke him. It was a very particular song. He could still hear it. Two short chirps followed by a longer, two-note tone. The pitch bent upward between notes, ending in a high, piercing whistle. For a full ten minutes, Sammy laid there listening; the bird repeating its call, never altering the pattern, never wavering off-pitch. No more than two seconds between the fading the high whistle and the next clipped, squeaking chirp.
As he sat hunched over the wheel, still drawing air in large, intermittent gulps, Sammy saw a small bird, brown and speckled-gray casually hopping out from behind the feet of the elderly couple. He waited for the discreet cone of its beak to open, to hear those two short chirps. The bird pecked at the concrete, quick bobs, its movements almost imperceptible. Sammy waited. The elderly couple rose gingerly from their bench. The woman gradually slipped her withered hand into the folds of well-worn plaid at the crook of the man's elbow. The speckled bird stopped its bobbing and cocked its head, regarding the couple for three seconds before hopping into the boulevard grass and taking to the air.
Sammy was late. He needed to talk to Lawrence. Lawrence would be waiting for him at the hotel. Sammy needed to put the car in drive and get there.

"Hear You Me" by Jimmy Eat Word, from Bleed American. I'm not going to say too much about this one. It's always connected very deeply with me and I don't know exactly why. My voice trembles a little when I sing it and I always think of my grandma who passed away...not sure why. Just give it a listen and enjoy a well-crafted song.
(click pic--the Internet has let me down on this one...can't find the album version, so here's the band live in the doesn't have the right harmonies or piano part, if you're curious, let me know and I will find a way to get you the original)

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