Just a Minute of Your Time, Please
I was fourteen years old when they found Billy Holliday laying on his grandfather’s front lawn with a glazed look in his eyes and what doctors would later determine to be ketamine in his bloodstream. After his grandparents kicked him out, he spent most of his after school afternoons sitting on the curb in front of their house, and I spent most of my afternoons watching him through too-translucent curtains. We caught eyes a few times. He would half smile and wave while I would scowl to hide the blush scrambling up my face. He was only nice to me because he loved my sister, or at least that’s what she told me.
Courtney loved him too, by the way. She would want me to tell you that.
One afternoon he didn’t show up and she didn’t come home and no one bothered to find out where they went.
She would call on Christmases and birthdays but talk about him even when she was talking about herself. How he had the cutest, most enormous ears and listened to punk music she didn’t pretend to like. How she was terrified of his favorite horror movies but stuck them out because he would hold her hand from previews to credits. How he told her that he loved her for the first time in an alleyway in Austin shortly before they made love in a Motel 6.
They were happy, really happy, before she miscarried. But then she stopped eating and Billy was the one who called for my birthday that year, making a big fuss about how she would if she could, but she couldn’t.
He sounded sad.
It was sad.
You know, that’s the only time I’ve ever spoken to him.
They never called again, but Billy would write. He would write about quitting his job to support her full time and how they wanted to travel. The letters started showing up with different return addresses before they stopped showing up at all.
I guess that’s more information than you asked for, Officer. I haven’t heard from my sister in six years. I really don’t know what’s going on with her.
I’m lying in bed, resisting sleep, distracting myself with thoughts of thunder and conversations between frogs and how the waves on the beach sound when it’s a bit too windy. This sort of calming, soothing, soft and slow. I’ve been doing it since I was old enough to remember, around the time my mom stopped putting me to bed. She taught me her secret, her secret to stop the world from spinning so she could finally catch a breath.
I’m conducting my own coastline symphony and it’s ninety-two degrees even though the sun’s been down for four hours. It’s Death Valley in early November and I’ve been running my air conditioning on Arctic Blizzard for three days straight just so I can keep myself swaddled in the down comforter she kept locked in that trunk so moths wouldn’t eat the already worn thin fabric into Swiss cheese.
It’s the heat. The heat is making me crazy. And no amount of nighttime soothing sound effects are going to make a difference, but I’ll do it anyway because this blanket and that advice are the last two things I have left of my mother’s.
As I finally close my eyes and drift to sleep, everything stops. For the first time in a long time, I’m completely and totally calm. I’m fine. I’m unconscious, and everything’s fine. The air conditioning stops blowing and my brain stops searching for a reason why my mother disappeared and the raccoons outside stop banging on trash cans, frozen, hovering over day old bread crusts and half eaten strawberry yogurts.
Parked outside my house in a beat to shit 1986 Toyota Corolla, a private investigator points his camera down the street. He’s been there for an hour and so far he’s flossed twice, named the raccoons he’s watched dig through my garbage with their little human hands, and eaten the majority of his snacks. The moment the raccoons stop moving, the moment time stops at my house, he doesn’t notice. He’s singing along to the radio and doesn’t notice the pigeon on the hood of his car has paused mid liftoff. He’s wiping off his camera lens and doesn’t see the mosquito frozen in the air inches away from his nose. Once he does, it’s too late. When time stops, it runs extra quick to catch up.
The mosquito shoots up his right nostril. The pigeon might as well be a hummingbird, wings so quick you can only see torso. Raccoons tumble over each other in a blur. The moon sets and the sun rises and suddenly it’s nine in the morning and I’ve walked up to that beat to shit car and that man looks up at me like he’s seeing the second coming of Jesus and I’m it.
He snaps a photo and judging by the size of his lens he has a fantastic close up of my incisors and not much else. His tires spin as he hightails it down the street, past the couple he was surveilling, all three now wearing that same dumb shocked look on their faces as he speeds away, turning and looking for someone, anyone following him.
No one’s following him. No one cares. No one cares because it’s too god damn hot to give a shit.
A Writing Prompt
You’re watching Judge Judy reruns when there’s a knock at the door. It’s Nicolas Cage. He pushes past you, takes your spot on the couch, and says, “You know, I’ve always wanted to live here.”
You’re home. Finally. After an overnight shift turned sixteen hour work day, you’re wiped. You pull the curtains, shutting out the sun, which seems seven times brighter than usual. You crumple onto the couch and allow the velour to envelop your butt, flipping through channels before landing on Judge Judy, your favorite. Five, ten, twenty minutes go by and you’re becoming one with your couch.
Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. It’s barely 1 PM and everyone you know is at work. If it’s UPS or FedEx or USPS they’ll just leave whatever you forgot you ordered at the door. You don’t have the disposable income to have ordered something you would have to sign for, so you turn up the volume.
Judy’s screaming at a seventeen year old that’s suing her mother for defamation because her name made it too easy for bullies but the knocking gets louder and louder until you can’t ignore it any more.
Grumbling, you get up, answer the door, and it's Nicolas Cage, in all his glory, standing before you.
“Um, hi? Can I help you?” you say.
He barrels past you, takes your seat on the couch, your perfectly broken in seat, and says, “Judge Judy? I love Judge Judy!”
You’re still at the doorway, understandably stunned. You turn to look outside, searching for a camera crew. Maybe Ashton Kutcher’s bringing back Punk’D again. He isn’t, and there isn’t anybody else in your eyeline.
“Got anything to eat?” he says. You’ve never been a great host, or even a mediocre host, but you scrounge together something vaguely edible, placing it on the china your grandmother left you in the will, the nicest plate you own. By the time you turn to give it to him, Nicolas Cage has taken off both his shoes and his socks. His toenails are longer than your fingernails and his toes are longer than you’re comfortable with.
Your eyes grow wide, the smell of his feet just hitting your nose. They smell like cinnamon with vague citrus notes. It’s not necessarily unpleasant, it’s just... confusing.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to live here,” he says, removing his tie, rat-tail whipping you on the ass as you turn to walk away.
“I only have one bed,” you say.
He smiles at you, “That’s ok, I like to snuggle.” You don’t.
“Do you prefer the big spoon, or the little spoon?” he asks. You try to remember the last time you spooned with someone, but nothing comes to mind.
Nicolas Cage rifles through your coat closet before giggling at and pulling on a royal blue knit sweater adorned with your own smiling face, last year’s Christmas present from your prankster sister. It’s never been worn.
“What’s the rent?” he asks. “I’ll go in. Splitsies!”
You’re distracted by your own face gracing Oscar winning actor Nicolas Cage’s chest. It takes you about three weeks to speak to him again, but by then he’s already started wearing all your clothes.