Dark and Stormy

It was September, and the rains came early, gray curtains sweeping the dappled white sand.  Across the horizon, the leaden sky and the dark rolling seas were as one.

The beachside bar’s lone customer sat on a stool just outside the reach of the spray and nursed his drink, appropriately a Dark and Stormy.  His long, gray hair and beard, streaked in white, matched the scene outside.  

He turned and gave the slender waitress an appraising look.  He put her age at maybe thirty.  As she turned, he adjusted that estimate to a very young-looking fifty.

She smiled back.  She’d lost count of the years she’d spent waiting for the man who told her that someday he’d return.  She could no longer recall the contours of his face or the sound of his voice.  Why she’d stayed here she couldn’t say.  Lean months were coming, and she’d be damned if she’d spend another dreary winter living off unemployment.

“How you coming with that drink?” she asked.

“I could use another.  How about you?  What are you having?”

Taken aback, she glanced at the bartender, who gave a shrug and returned to cleaning glasses.

“Get this man another round, Sammy, and make mine the same.”

The customer turned out to be a writer in his late seventies, though she’d never have guessed.  He explained that he and his dog had been travelling for nearly a year now.  The dog was waiting for him back at his RV.

“Where are you going from here?” she asked.

“I thought I’d run down to Gainesville.  I haven’t been there since I graduated more than fifty years ago.  How about you?  Do you plan to stay here all winter?”

Again, she glanced at the bartender.  He shook his head and never looked up.

“I can collect my paycheck and have my stuff ready by seven,” she smiled.

“I’ll be here.”  As he paid for his drinks and started to leave, he said, “By the way, what’s your name?”

“Brandy.”

“Like the song.’

 “Like the song.’

Tashawn

He was a survivor.  Somehow, Tashawn Darcy had endured a year in prison and come out alive.  Sent there for possession with intent, he’d learned to read and write, things that never mattered to him as a hustler on the streets of Atlanta.  But the study spent preparing for the GED never prepared him for the challenge he now faced.

The elderly white lady passed him a cup of tea and plate of cookies as her friends clutched their books and focused their attention on him. “So, tell me, ladies,” he asked, “What do you think of Mr. Raskolnikov?”

Mike

Mike brushed the hair out of his eyes and let it fall down the left side of his head where it belonged.  On the right side his scalp gleamed through the tightly shaved sidewall.  His parents were still irate over the haircut.  He didn’t care.  It was just another part of his new identity, freed from the bondage of expectations.

He stared at his image in the mirror, the black T-shirt pulled tight across his flat chest and abdomen.  It read “I finally discovered that the hokey pokey was not what it’s all about.”  He smiled.  It would give his mom something else to say besides, “Michelle, why can’t you just dress like the other girls?”

Mariano

Bits of trash, riding the wind, crisscrossed the METRO station platform, heedless of the human swell that awaited the approaching train.  Mariano pulled his hoodie low over his face, as much to avoid eye contact as to preserve what little warmth it provided.

Every day was a challenge for Mariano, running the gauntlet, worried he might be stopped by the DC police for no reason.  His employer had given the fake ID but a cursory glance.  It would never pass closer inspection.

From the corner of his eye Mariano saw the man in the dark suit trip and fall in what seemed a slow-motion pirouette. What happened next was but a blur. Mariano never heard the train’s horn or the passengers screaming.  He never felt the arms reach out to grasp him as he lifted the man from the track.

The train squealed to a stop and the crowd cheered as Mariano rolled over and caught his breath.  He gazed down into the face of the person lying beside him.  In an instant he knew he’d seen the ICE officer somewhere before.  The look of recognition staring back at him told him the experience was mutual.

Buffy

The hot, dry day had become a cold, dry night.  Buffy clutched the mylar blanket around her.  She cursed Uncle for sending her here and her companions for leaving her in such a bad neighborhood.  It mattered not that they thought she was dead.  She was very much alive and determined to stay that way.

From out beyond the dunes she heard a low whistle.  They were coming.  She jacked another magazine into her M-16 and waited.  “Killing is our business,” she reminded herself, “and business is good.”