Jenifer

The Price of Loyalty

 

“Well guys, and gal,” the speaker winked at the woman in the blue suit, “I gotta say we need to stand the line here. You’re all doing a terrific job. Just terrific, and I called you all together to talk about our future. I want to hear your ideas, your thoughts on what happens next”

Bob sat at the too glossy, wet looking table in the overheated, windowless room trying not to drift off; the self-congratulatory voices over-lapping each other, making a droning insect sound, yet he felt pretty good, actually he’d worked hard to be here and damn if he wasn’t feeling terrific. He wasn’t sure why he’d been asked to be part of this focus group but he liked it, being part of the in crowd, the leaders, the movers & shakers of the leadership. He smiled to himself and looked around, he was definitely one of the younger ones, up and coming,

“…more questions are coming that’s true, including the question of whether I actually won.”

Bob jerked to attention-what? -the silence like sleet chilled him, draped over him and the others, it let him know that he had actually heard what he thought he heard.

“I’m sorry sir, what are you saying?” Theo the man next to Bob asked in a plaintive voice rising high.

“I’m not saying anything, I’m just suggesting that people have questioned the process, and I don’t know all the ins & outs of this, I’m new to leadership. I have no idea what may or may not have happened.” At this the speaker looked around the room locking eyes on each person, Bob controlled his desire to look away. “As far as I’m concerned, and as far as you all are concerned, I won. We all won. We are all here because of my winning and me. We all stay here as long as we keep winning.”

Bob stared at him-what? -his mind asked again-he looked around at the others, half of who were also checking out the expressions of the others. There were a variety: the older, lifetime electors looking smug and knowing, or blank, devoid of readable thoughts; the newer, younger ones unsure, shocked but trying not to be. The woman was frozen’ staring at the commander-in-chief. Maybe she thought it was a test. Bob also hoped it was a test, but he knew in the pit of his stomach, he now knew why he was chosen, he knew and he was angry.

His state had been close, but he won strong, his people liked him. Both sides respected him, although he embraced the right. He had been raised conservative and catholic, good morals but open to accepting others and helping them find their way-hopefully to his point of view but if not then to a respectful meeting ground.

He stared at the table now, over finished like resin, a plastic mahogany table.

“I trust all of you to work with me, to stay strong, to help me continue winning.”

The woman raised her hand.

“Loraine? You can just talk, we don’t stand on formalities here.”

“I am just curious about why you said you may have lost? Is there something we should know? Something we need to look into?”

The speaker slammed his hand on the table, “I never said I lost. Never! Get that out of your head woman!” she shrank back, looking startled. “Lenore, I’m sorry. I just don’t want that rumor even started. Everyone is talking about Russia, I know nothing about Russia. I like Russia, they have good sausage, but there is nothing else there to talk about. If anything comes up, we all need to ignore it and talk about the facts, talk about the crime in this country, talk about what we can do to create jobs. That’s it. You all are my inner circle, I need you and you need me. We are in this together, for the party.”

Now Bob was furious, the room was taking on a rosy glow. He’d never understood the term seeing red but here it was. How dare he ask this kind of loyalty? Bob had worked so hard to get to this place. He was lower middle class his whole life and he studied and worked his whole youth to get here to be someone respectable, and now he was asked to lie for someone who was given everything, who hadn’t had to work if he didn’t want to, for someone who had failed famously but still ended up in the big chair.

“I’m not asking anyone to lie. There is nothing to lie about, I won. The numbers are in so there is no need for any investigation, no need to anything but press ahead to the future.”

Could he read minds? Bob wondered his fingers turning white as they interlocked in a pose he thought looked scholarly. He stared at his hands as silence descended again, looking up he saw everyone eyeing him,   “What.” He tried to make it a question but it was a statement, a flat word.

“I asked what you were thinking about Bob?” And he stared at him.

“I was considering how we would ever be in a situation where your election would be questioned.”

“And what did you decide?”

“It would only happen if we listen to outsiders and break ranks,” here he paused and hundred of faces flashed in his mind, people who believed in him, in what he stood for, people who signed his first nomination papers, his mother -the pride in her eyes when he won his first council position, how his dad looked at him and shook his hand, saying ‘never thought I’d raise a politician but I believe you can change things around here’; how his first love who dumped him for the bank owners son hugged him, breasts pressed against his chest, panting a bit with the excitement of his mayoral win, whispered ‘call me’, he never did, but he carried her number in his wallet even now as a reminder of the temptation of power; his wife and their six-year-old daughter who was so excited to come to Washington, to see the giant man statue in the chair, these people who made him, these people who believed in him…yet the country believed in the president, he had the same litany of supporters, of family and more-he had millions more counting on him and who was Bob? Who was he? But he always envisioned himself as a white hat, as a good guy, the one who stepped in front of the punch and then got up again. Here he was being asked to stand in front of a train for the people, but which people? Who would believe? What was he even asking himself, leaking? No one said leaking. There was no evidence there was nothing, he could proclaim innocence but no. Not anymore, just being in this room made him part of whatever lie there was, if there was one, but there had to be otherwise why even have this meeting? We are now all complicit; all sixteen of us in this room bonded together come what may. My party, my equals, my people. Yet most of these people came from money, from families that formed them, from corporations that bought their positions. These are not my priority. Why did I even accept the invitation to be on this committee? I thought I had really made it, but every rung is harder to climb, Party or the People? The Party or my people?”

“As you said, there is nothing to question.”

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Jenifer

A Ballad of Manhole Covers and Nylon
Or
Driving a Mercedes

For Michael

First, you don’t get into a Mercedes, you slide in.

Into black leather seats, next to the black leather gearshift, directed by a black leather navigational unit
steering you all the right ways.

You drive;
seat back, one hand on the wheel,
the hood ornament shining, winking, reminding…
you are driving a Mercedes.

Look around at the people, see them look at you
actually they’re looking at the car
but still you feel good,
you feel cool and your passenger feels hot
cause there’s dual air surround sound German purring tires firmly gripping asphalt.
Your seats adjust with a turn of the key
There are no pleather options, cows were sacrificed for this interior
‘cause the individual is king when you drive a Mercedes.

Other drivers glance nonchalantly, they think,
“he’s got it got, driving that Mercedes”
They don’t know, won’t understand
you work six days a week for this luxury.
You charm, smile, and serve Steaks au Pauve,
prawns with heads in Buerre Blanc sauce,
Croq au Vin with a cheese course tempering.

You suggest a fine Carignan or Tempranillo
No, not good enough. What else you got?
Burgundy from Cotes du Nuits
Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley
For your sole only an Alsatian Gewürztraminer will do.

You smile and smile and when you are done with your
six, seven, eight, nine, ten-hour shift
You slide in
forgetting the restaurant
forgetting the pain in your feet
forgetting the people born with Porsche teething rings
and drive your Mercedes.

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Jenifer

Coming Home Again

She was standing in the cooler section of the grocery store looking from a package of Notdogs in her right hand to the package of Smartdogs in her left when a soft voice murmured her name, “Maureen?” She almost didn’t turn to look; the voice too soft, dream-like to be who it had to be.

“Tammy? Wow. It’s been so long. How are you?” you look awful what has it been ten years what have you done to your hair and my gawd that dress is hideous “You look great.” damn of course I see her today when I just get her when i feel like this, why does this happen to me she is going to ask me all these questions and all I wanted was to get some stupid fake hotdogs.

“Oh, don’t lie” yes please do, I know I look terrible but why should I care these days when did you get into town were you going to call me I hope so and yet wish this wasn’t happening, “I just had to grab some snacks for the football game. I didn’t know you were in town.”

“We just got here, very last minute.” Do I just spew out that my mom is dying and I waited as long as I could be for coming because I can’t handle any of it no just say nothing evade I was aloways good at that. “I just stopped by to get some lunch for the kids.”

“Kids? There is a surprise the woman who was going to college, who didn’t have time for her friends, too busy studying for boys or any fun, passing judgment on the rest of us has kids? She looks great, young, I hate her.

“Two boys, four and six,” she looks down at her hands, “their father is raising them vegetarian”, yet he feeds them fake hotdogs, burgers and chicken nuggets all processed foods and yet he yells at me when I bake them cookies because I used refined sugar and flour what was I thinking when I said yes. “I married my” professor who has been divorce three times who seduced me in his office who I actually believed would be loyal to me and forget all the women who came after me asking about particle physics cause I thought I was special I bet Tammy would love to know I am a totally stero-type “college boyfriend two years ago. We just got into town yesterday to visit my mother.”

“How long are you here? You should bring the family over for dinner tomorrow night, we have two kids and a finished basement complete with foosball and PlayStation three” we could lock all the monsters your kids step-kids downstairs and maybe for once I could have a real conversation with someone although Tom will probably monopolize it staring at her tits and wishing once again that he’d asked her out instead of me and these days I wish he had too wherever else I’d be it would be better than here. “Tom and I still live in the same place although you wouldn’t recognize it, we’ve added a pool and three-car garage and workshop” so that Tom can escape to his cars and I can sit in front of the TV night after night watching all the beautiful people having beautiful lives eating ice cream and resenting my life.

            “I’d love to but I’d have to ask George and he’d act all put out and put on his noble face to pacify his little wife and then you’d see how old he is and you would know instantly what I did, how I threw away everything I’d saved for a man who barely knows how to tie his shoes “George already made dinner reservations for the family at La Paella”, the only decent restaurant in this hick town that tries to pretend it is a city I hate coming back to

“Still the only good restaurant in this little town that tries so hard.” Both women laugh.

“You read my mind, you always were good at that, why didn’t we stay in touch was it that loser you married who hated that I wouldn’t give him the time of day and you didn’t want to admit that you had settled and I wanted you to come with me because I was scared and you said no, you were in love because you wanted to stay and you were scared and I was so mad at you, what are you doing this afternoon? Once I feed the kids George is taking them to the park, I could come over this afternoon for a cup of coffee? or something stronger you probably don’t even drink anymore since your dad was an alcoholic but did he clean up? I think my mom said something like that but oh my god do I need a drink. I hate being back here and seeing you like this but you were my best friend so maybe this is kismet or karma or some crap that George would lecture me about.

            “I’d love that but my house is a wreck and you would see how sad I am I need time to stage it just right but I missed you, I had no idea until I saw you yet I’m also remembering how mad I was that you left me but I didn’t want to go so how could I judge you Tom has some buddies over. They paused, looking at each other, evaluating- then at the same time

“We could go to Spanky’s”

“Is Spanky’s still open?”

 

This time genuine laughter and they threw their arms around each other, hugging with desperation.

 

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Jenifer

Thursday Evening–a poem

Sorry i have been lazy and slow, but great to see others are still posting.  I am still excited to be part of this.

Thursday evening by Jenifer R Thompson

Which is better five legs or three?

One never sees a five-legged stool

but I digress.

Oh frogs–

You amphibious, webbed hallucinogens, spear-tipped death harbinger.

You multicolored, multicultural, fly-catching non-arachnid.

Not furry, not cuddly, yet picturous and somehow inspiring in

your slimy, bug-eyed Buddha guise.

Queen Elizabeth never kissed you for good fortune, but somewhere,

sometime, a princess did and your legend lives.

Jim Henderson never doubted his Kermit

although not respected, his non-humanness taught

it’s not easy being green

or edible

or comic

or prone to mutations.

Frogs, are you prone?

Or is it human interference?

Like Jonathan Slack with his headless tadpole and stem cell research.

Oh and the chemicals: atrazine, clopyralid, paraquat, methyl isocyanate, daminozide, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane

making too many legs, not enough eggs.

Pesticides, Herbicides, Fungicides,

Rodenticides, Molluscicides, Nematicides,

Generic Genocides

You are disappearing.

You are not toads.

Somewhere over a rainbow

during a rainbow connection

I wish you a wing mutation.

Somewhere over London or Paris or the Andes

Somewhere beyond my house, underground, through the ceiling,

May you be the anti-Beezlebufo and rise above all this.

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Jenifer

The Bleacher Series Part 1

So in my poetry class a few years ago we had to write a poem in someone elses voice, very tricky but fun to do .  I drew my instructor and this is what i wrote.  It captures him quite well and is fun to read out loud.

The Bleacher Speeches Part 1

Homage For Matthew Guenette

By Jenifer R Thompson

In high school I ate Big Macs after basketball,

Now I drink lattes and discuss how Descartes can’t dunk.

I read poetry for fun and for work

and I love this town.

My wife,

who is not the ballerina that memorized a poem

in 24 hours just to know my heart,

plays word games with me;

surreal dreams spoken in the voice of Indiana Jones’s father;

random thoughts written on paper, before transfer to floatation in a virtual world.

Anything is possible.

Have you read Dean Young?

He does not remind me of Bukowski but you on the other hand do,

just that scene in the movie where he drinks not like a fish but like a camel after a long trek through the desert, trudging focused on a mirage that will not be a mirage but an oasis.

Which reminds me of Denise Duhamel expecting the unexpected with a fitting surprise. You may not like me

but I will make you a better poet and when I get the money I will retire into the cosmos where Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, and Mr. Frost invent new realities while defeating intentions that trap the soul

in the cliché black hole of inner ear space.

But there is Actual Air and David Berman is there and we are writing ekphrastic poetry about the Dadaist art of ripped up newspapers that only cover Russian football written in Japanese.

The universe is in the particular, someone said, perhaps Jennifer Knox, but actually I said it here and now with my cowboy poet’s weapon of an image, like jackalope seeds and troglodyte cars.

Let the ethereal space of sky through tree branches mark the end of now and then, with the assistance of enjambment I will

render the listener silent

because boys don’t cry.

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Jenifer

Talking about the Elephant

So this is a short piece i’ve been working on for years; writing dialog is one of my favorite things to do although i haven’t the technical knack. But try, try again…

Talking about the Elephant

Jenifer R Thompson

They sat in the dark bar and chain-smoked Camel Lights trying to forget the summer furnace outside; sweating in front of them despite the air conditioner working overtime were pints of Stella Artois .
“So how come you never told me about this before?”
“I don’t know. It wasn’t the time; I wasn’t ready.”
“So…why are you telling me now?”
“Because it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m tired of hiding the past and sometimes I think it’s funny it happened to me.”
Waiting for the rest, he watched her as she absently brushed an errant hair off her forehead, finally he said,
“I’m glad I didn’t know. I probably would have made things worse.”
She shrugged. The bar was empty; just the two of them and the bartender who sat on a stool farthest from the front door and did a crossword puzzle. The jukebox played Miles Davis’s ‘Autumn Leaves’.
He sighed,
“I can’t believe you stayed with him so long”.
“I was embarrassed, I couldn’t bring myself tell anyone; and where was I going to go if I left? The worst part is I believed him, I believed it wouldn’t happen again…I mean, this was me. That kind of stuff didn’t happen to me.”
She glanced sidelong as he lit them both another cigarette.
“I should have know. I should have guessed what was going on”
She jerked around and looked at him,
“Why would you have?”
He stared at the bar as if mesmerized by the beer sweat rings,
“I just should have known. He was such an arrogant ass”,
“Really? You liked him, at least at first. You played video games, compared notes on cigars, and drank gin as if you both had discovered it. We all had fun together, he wasn’t always bad; just if we drank too much and he felt threatened. He loved me,” she trailed off with another shrug.
“Don’t justify. He doesn’t deserve that.”
She blew smoke rings at her reflection in the back bar mirror,
“Sometimes I miss him, that’s the craziest”
“He didn’t deserve you.”
Tension and unspoken thoughts swirled with the cigarette smoke. The bartender looked up at the sudden silence, asked if they want another; mutual nods brought her quickly to empty the ashtray and refill glasses. She asked what they were up to while the beer flowed and foamed.
“Just two old friends sharing war stories; picking at scars.”
The bartender nodded, took eight dollars from their pile of ones, and returned to her puzzle.
He took a long drink,
“So…anything else I should know?”
She smiled and lightly touched his hand, their first contact all day. He turned in his stool so his leg brushed hers.
“Did I ever tell you about the Tuesday my roommates and I skipped school, called in sick to work and dropped acid?”
“I’d better buy another pack of cigarettes.”

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Jenifer

Flash Fiction

Magic Trick by Jenifer R Thompson

So he said, “Hey let me show you a magic trick.”

She nodded and waited.  He picked up his drink took a long swallow, then picked up his coaster, looked closely at it and set it down.  Finally, he picked up his beer and took another long swallow.

“Well?” she said

He looked at her smiling, “that was it.”

“What was it?”

“The magic was you being fascinated by me for one whole minute.”

“That’s not very funny.”

“I wasn’t trying to be.  I would have said, ‘want to see a joke if I were’.”

They sat and watched the bartender polish wine glasses.  He held each up to the light to make sure there were no spots.

“The irony is that this bar is so dark no one would even notice a spot.”

She sighed, “I’m going home”

He took another drink of his beer and waited.  She sighed again and took another sip of her wine.  She was drinking Malbec and had had so many her teeth were turning purple.  Perhaps there was still love between them, but if so it was too far down the crevice between them, they did not notice.

She spun around on her barstool twice, and then wobbled to a stand.

“Where are you going?”

“To the bathroom.  Pay our tab and let’s get out of here.”

He took on big swallow and finished his pint, “Hey Chad, we need to get out of here.”

“What are ya doing?”

“Don’t know, she wants to go home.  What time you done?”

“Depends, 11 or 12, want me to call you?”

“Sure, I’ll probably be up.”

She came back, finished her wine in one drink, grabbed her coat, and walked out, saying “Bye Chad” over her shoulder.

“Nice girl”

“Yeah, whatever.  Call me.”

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