Sweet Elaine

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That sweet Elaine
That sweet Elaine
I do not like that sweet Elaine

Do you like these bloody stains?

I do not like them sweet Elaine
I do not like these bloody stains

Should I slice her here or there?

Do not slice her here or there
Do not slice her anywhere
I do not like these bloody stains
I do not like them sweet Elaine

Would you like her deep in dirt?
I’ve removed her bra and shirt

I do not want her deep in dirt
Please put on her bra and shirt
Do not slice her here or there
Do not slice her anywhere
I do not like these bloody stains
I do not like them sweet Elaine

This one’s so young and we could eat
Her kidneys such a tender treat

Not in the dirt
Not with a shirt
Not cut from there
Not anywhere
I do not like these bloody stains
I do not like them sweet Elaine

Would you? Could you?
In a bar?
Eat them! Eat them!
Here they are.

I would not, could not, in a bar.

Would you? Could you?
In a car?

Not in a bar! Not in the car!
Not in the dirt? Where the hell is her shirt?
I do not like these bloody stains
I do not like them sweet Elaine!

C’mon, my dear, you asked me to
And so I did this just for you.
I never was enough you see
But now I know you will love me.

I never asked, I never would.
Elaine you are not being good.
I do not want her in the dirt
Please put on her bra and shirt
Why did you slice her body there?
I cannot stand her vacant stare
I do not like these bloody stains
I do not like them sweet Elaine

Kill her fast! Kill her fast!
I did as told
It’s what you asked

Please drag her off these motel sheets
Get plastic, wrap her bloody feet
I taught you better sweet Elaine
I showed you how to hide the stains
And now you make more work for me?
I did not want this, don’t you see?
I did not want these bloody stains
I do not like them sweet Elaine
And now I’m left with just one choice
To draw my knife and raise my voice
From you, I wanted so much more
I like the way you hit the floor
Your blood, her blood all in a pool
You should have listened while in school
I kind of like these bloody stains
I just might miss you sweet Elaine

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A STORY PUBLISHED!!

You can find this story at Piker Press. Here is the website: http://www.pikerpress.com/ Please fee free to make comments on their page! It’s a great magazine!

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Confessor of Two Evils
by Patti Santucci (short, PG-13)

Image credit: Sand Pilarski.
Are your shivering movements heard? Your breath? Your pounding heart?
~~~

You hear a thud and hope it’s just the cat that knocked something over in the kitchen, that the sound wasn’t as ominous as you thought. You rationalize that it was probably part of a dream and ignore the tightening in your chest. You push away any fear and convince yourself the sound was just your imagination but the doubt lies under the covers with you like an unwelcome bedfellow, a daddy long leg crawling up your spine so lightly that it feels like hot, warning whispers moving the body hair on the back of your neck.
There is no mistaking the second thud and your head cocks slightly against the pillow before you sit straight up. Your heart is beating faster and harder, so hard that it tries to crawl up your throat and release itself in a non-human whimper. The second floorboard to the left of the hall, the one that always creaks, makes a sound. You know that sound. You’ve heard it a thousand times but you can’t even make out shadows. You curse yourself for buying those blackout curtains as your hand instinctively reaches for your husband, make that your ex-husband, who no longer shares your bed. You can almost hear Rick saying, “You’re the one who wanted the divorce. Miss me now?”
You inch out of bed feeling both ridiculous and terrified but certain that footsteps are coming closer and you know the cat is not heavy enough to trigger that creaking sound. You know that. You pull the covers back quietly and slide your feet to the floor folding off the edge of the bed and wriggle under, pulling the lace bedskirt back in place as you inch your way to the center. You pretend that the king-sized bed will protect you; that whoever’s out there will not have arms long enough to grab your ankles and rip you out.
You hold your breath and then exhale slowly and quietly into the carpet, scrunching your eyes shut and listening. You never stop listening. The footsteps are in your bedroom and your throat closes and in a matter of seconds you are thrust into one of those 20/20 crime stories you’ve watched on TV. You cover your mouth, trying to make your shallow breaths quieter, to stifle any uncontrollable screams but your hand is not your own anymore as it shakes beyond your control. No amount of willing it to stop will keep it still, and that leaves you paralyzed.
You can hear his breathing. The air under the bed has become thick, smelling like vomit and bile making it hard for you to breathe. He’s standing at the foot of the bed, his worn white tennis shoes violating the innocence of the lace and you ever so quietly try to draw your legs up praying you can somehow be made invisible.
And you wait.
You wait for him to peer under. You wait for his face, for his hands to grab you as you try to prepare to fight but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to move and you think of the last time you saw your mother and what her face will look like when she gets the news you’ve been murdered, too afraid to blink because in an instant, he will be upon you and you can’t tamp down the fear that winds around your windpipe.
You stare at the black smudge mark on his left shoe that mocks you from the slit between the carpet and the bedskirt and silently prohibit his feet from moving.
But his feet do move.
They move because your cell phone chimes in an email alert; the cell phone you charge across the room because you read somewhere that to leave it too close on the nightstand, next to your head, can cause cancer. You choke back vomit because you know now that he will find you. No one goes out without taking their cell phone. Your eyes search for a weapon but the only thing under your bed are some rolls of Christmas wrap and you suddenly have the bizarre notion that if you can just make out the image on the paper, he will go away. But it’s so dark, so damn dark, and panic is running up and down your body like a trapped, rabid wildcat trying to get out.
The drawers of your dresser are pulled out and you can hear the contents being dumped on the floor and know he’ll find all the cash you’ve squirreled away for the past year and a half. It’s right there with your underwear and you chastise yourself for entertaining the ludicrous thought that he’ll find the white envelope filled with hundreds and twenties and leave. Leave you under this bed. Untouched. Unbroken.
You hear the drawers drop to the ground, on the bed, another slammed against the wall, and the crash makes you recoil and unrelenting tremors rack your body and despite your efforts a tiny, audible sound spills from your lips. Regret hangs in the air and you try not to blink, certain the sound your eyelids will make will be deafening. You can no longer see his feet but the whoosh of his breathing is like a pillow over your face, a knee in your chest, a promise of violence to follow. Watery rattles echo in the room as he mumbles under his breath and sings “Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry” and you feel like he is singing to you. You know he knows where you are. You can feel it.
He inserts YOUR NAME into the chorus and you go cold instinctively trying to pull your legs up again but they smack the underside of the bed. You lie there, shake your head no and wait because while you internally beg your body to move, it won’t. He has control over your limbs, your breath.
You hear his footsteps travel down the hall, away from you, and you wonder if he is getting a knife from the kitchen. You have to make your move. YOU HAVE TO MOVE!
But you can’t.
You always thought you’d be the kind of person to perform under pressure but your body is frozen. Your teeth are chattering. Your heart, your breath, your body, your tears are not your own. You lie there, feeling your body convulse with terror and the world spins around you.
You have never been more alone.
The kitchen door slams and the silence feels false, a trick, and you begin to rock back and forth on your side in the fetal position, the only position that provides you any relief and you wait. No sound, just dead air. A stillness that feels alive. A reaper sitting in your bedroom chair smiling, waiting to greet you with a swing of his scythe.
Minutes? Hours? You’re not sure how long you wait for a floorboard to creak, a mucous filled breath, a sinister lullaby. Silence fills the room with too much air like a balloon just waiting to pop but you decide you have to crawl to your cell phone. You tell yourself he is gone. You beg God to keep you safe and immediately feel guilty because you know you never give God time of day until you’re in trouble. You promise to go to church.
Just keep me safe. Just keep me safe.
You inch out from under the bed slowly, your legs jelly, unable to help you move. You pull with your arms towards the spot where your phone is, feeling the carpet burn on your elbows and stomach, searching blindly.
Then you hear it. Another thud and some Other You enters your body and begins frantically searching, whimpering, crying and muttering. You find the charger cord and follow it only to discover the phone is gone. You hear the word, NOOOO, fly out of your mouth and you sound like a child as you begin to break apart, collapsing, losing.
You swallow back the vomit that threatens, succumbing to the crazy that takes hold. You crawl on all fours down the hall, rabid, a caged animal whose claws grip the carpet, whose teeth clip the air, whose hair and sweat cloud your vision, every shadow escalating your jangled body into a four-legged primal run. Vomit spews from your mouth but you don’t stop. Forcing your legs to rise, you turn the doorknob, gagging on the smell of your own liquid fear.
No time now. RUN you scream, commanding yourself. You don’t look to see if anyone is waiting. You run, your head down and leading, pretending some kind of invisible shield protects you from the violent blows, the meaty thrusts from hooked knives, the drilling bullets that might cleave fire through your organs, the clanging belt buckle sound that precedes a rape that could rip you in two, all of it, none of it, lurking in the darkness.
You run toward the light, clamor onto the porch, hoping someone will answer. You pummel the neighbor’s door. Out of your mouth come animal sounds of terror; screams and sobs. Noises you have never heard yourself make. Noises you have never heard anyone make. You plead eye contact with your neighbor as he cracks the door. Something inside you pushes him with a strength that nearly knocks him flat as you watch your body clamor to gain ground. Call the police, you think you scream a thousand times, feeling a relief that leaves you hugging your knees and thanking God for mercy.
* * *
I knew you’d be home. I’d been watchin’ you for months now workin’ your noon to eight shift at that hipster salon where you massage strangers with your whory little hands. Girls like you make me sick. Everybody loves that smile, that laugh, but try to get close to you, really get to know you and they’d discover, just like I did, what an icy bitch you really are. Jimmy thinks so too. I wanted to teach you a lesson about what it means to show a little every-goddamn-day kindness but Jimmy said to make it look like a robbery.
I can’t believe people around here are still hidin’ their house keys under pots, along door frames, inside those rocks made of plastic that wouldn’t even fool a shitfaced retard. A few robberies, some smashed car windows and the whole fuckin’ neighborhood goes on terrorist watch. You were the one actin’ all scared and shit at the Neighborhood Watch Meeting. What a joke. Let’s get all the neighbors together and, Can we have a show of hands? Who’s home during the day?
All me and Jimmy did was try and talk to you after the meetin’, invite you over to throw back a beer but you didn’t have the time. Gave us that look you pretty girls use to show how disgusted you are, like us breathin’ the same air as you makes your unsliced skin crawl.
When your phone went off, I wanted to laugh out loud. Pretty but stupid, like all the rest. I knew I could just bend down, grab your ankles and yank your skinny ass out from under your lace-covered slut sack, but I gotta say, Jimmy was right, it was much more fun listenin’ to you squirm under there.
Jimmy said to leave right away but I got a way of knowin’ these things. I could tell just from lookin’ at you. So I slammed the kitchen door shut but didn’t leave, sweetheart, and sure as shit, it didn’t take you long to come crawlin’ down that hall, nekkid. I’m right, every goddamn time! It’s like I’m psychic or shit! I told Jimmy, “That chick sleeps commando, perked up and ready for action.”
You didn’t see me walk out the door behind you, watch your sweet, taut flesh sway in the starlight. For a half a second it damn near hypnotized me like them bouncin’ sing-a-long balls on kid’s shows.
You ran right for it. I mean I wasn’t sure if it would work but, I’ll be damned if you didn’t follow the script just like Jimmy said you would.
So now you know darlin,’ what it’s like to be neighborly.
Like that old commercial, we left the light on for you.

Patti Santucci, author

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I sit here, avoiding raking the leaves that are choking my front yard, ignoring the end-of-the-year bookkeeping that is breathing down my neck, pretending not to notice the gym membership card that dangles from my key-chain pleading, for the love of God, to be used. I pile all of this in the back of my brain because today I need to write.

Last night, I officially became a published author. Two pieces are now loud and proud in the American River Review, a nationally award winning collegiate literary magazine.

Last night, I read one of my pieces before an audience.

It wasn’t so long ago, I was the woman who would cry before she had to meet clients because I was so nervous; the woman who would sweat and shake when I needed to ask a question in a flippin’ PTA meeting; the woman whose identity has always been defined by the existence of someone else: wife, mother.

And while those experiences,as well as both those titles, have given me great joy, last night, it was me they introduced. It is my  name on the stories in the glossy pages…pages that people actually pay to read.

I can spot them now. The ones who used to be like me.  They shake their heads and repeat their mantra of, “Oh, gosh. I could never do that.” Their internal whipping post vacillates between quietly nudging them as an annoying reminder and violently slamming them as a stabbing truth that they will never be good enough.

I want to tell them to be bold and fly. I want to tell them that everyone is scared. I want to tell them that people will forget about them five minutes after they leave. I want to tell them to shine their colors as brightly as they can because even if they are forgotten, for one moment, they gave someone a rainbow, a reason to smile, a thought to ponder. I want to tell them that even if they make a mistake, even if they screw up, it will never be as embarrassing as they think (the blessing of the five minute rule).

All that fear that we keep bottled up inside is just a thief stealing moments not realized.

Live out loud. Go forth and conquer. Live every positive cliche without excuses. Love yourself for who you are because I’m telling you, the feeling is unbelievably awesome.

 

 

Writer’s Workshop

whatifI drove home in silence with my brain full of learning, learning how to avoid adverbs, how to create distance or focus, how to re-arrange, tighten, pull back, learning ways to get the reader to willingly crawl inside the skin of a character and feel. The workshop introduced me to people I would otherwise never meet, worlds I will undoubtedly never physically see, and witness ways that authors can make the mundane, inspirational and the unreachable, the larger than life moments that only a chosen few are brave enough, lucky enough or unfortunate enough to be immersed in, seem so small, so human, so approachable, so unintimidating and so like me.

I am grateful for the folks who put events like this together. Not just for the technical knowledge we learn, not just for the comfort we get from those who struggle with the written word, not just for the friendships that develop but because what I see in the classrooms, the boardrooms, the lecture halls is a small fire. And for some of us it is so hard to keep that fire going, that dream alive. But days like this someone comes along and offers some kindling, some tools, some feedback, some hope and I begin to feel, once again, like I have something to contribute, that maybe the dream isn’t frivolous, that the “what if” is out there and maybe, just maybe, it is out there waiting for me.

The Day the World Stopped

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You can feel his eyes trying to reach yours, to hold your gaze, but the last thing you want to do is look up because you know if you do, the sucker punch he will deliver will not just break you but shatter every inch of your already drained and fragile soul.
You think about the first time you met Rick. The way you immediately fell in love with this unique, shared, instantaneous, logic-defying connection that affectionately embraced you every time he smiled. His easy laugh that melted trouble. Those warm hugs that, throughout the years, never ceased to give you comfort. Two babies and twenty-three years later, hundreds of bedroom romps and kitchen table arguments later, roller coasters of feelings that waxed and waned later, you find yourself here. No one warned you it could be like this and the more you think about it, the more you find it harder to breathe.
Finally, you raise your head and meet his eyes but there seems to only be part of you alive. While on some level, you are dimly aware of a flurry of activity, of green scrubs and white orthopedic rubber-soled clogs racing by, of beepers rushing frantic pleas to perched ears, of a steel on steel whisk as curtains are thrown back, of clipboards and rubber fob watches, of nametags and stethoscopes, of regular people drawing their hands up to pained faces in slow motion and spilling a kind of sadness that makes others recoil, the only thing that pierces through all this fog and holds your attention are his lips moving. You barely feel the whisper of his rehearsed, yet gentle, touch to your right elbow. You glance at the surgical mask that hangs like a punctured balloon from his neck and you note the way his shoulders now sag in defeat as if losing all of your hope had physically shortened him six inches.
There you stand, not sure which way your mind is going to go because control is no longer in your vocabulary or capacity. You watch as his head imperceptively shakes back and forth in slow motion. Just yesterday, you were arguing with Rick over the toothpaste cap. The toothpaste cap. Last night you went to bed mad and it all started with the damn toothpaste cap. And now, all the images crawl inside your heart. Rick playing “airplane” with Ricky Jr. Rick teaching Sara, at sixteen, how to check the oil in her first car. Rick, leaning against the frame of the bedroom door, smiling, and you remember how his look made you feel sexy despite the wrinkles, the grey roots and the extra pounds that the years had gifted you. You can almost hear the way he used to say in that sexy, smooth-honey, southern drawl, “How’s my Baby doin? You wanna….”
But the man’s lips keep moving and his voice interrupts and cuts through your thoughts like a guillotine as the sporadic words like, “I’m sorry” and “nothing more we could do” slam against you, a relentless tsunami, and that is when you become aware that you are drowning and your ability to make it all stop is not, nor will it ever be, within your reach again. You think you are falling but you can’t be because no one else is reacting so you stand there….silently sinking until the man’s words build walls around you, boxing you in, keeping you frozen.
The man slowly guides you to a chair and this very cruel part of you no longer lets you have even moments when you are numb or distant or sheltered. His demolishing words, the sad sideway glances from strangers who dare to make eye contact, the suffocating swarm of antiseptic combined with body odor and fear, the futile offering of a small glass of water come straight at you like rapid fire knives and make it harder and harder to breathe and the only thing you want to do is claw your way out of this moment. But you know there is no way out, no other side, no where to hide or run or scream. This box you’re in is now your permanent home and that thought is so overwhelming, so desperately devastating that you just let the walls envelope you, chew on you, crush you, and hope that they can erase you.
He sits next to you and watches you breathe, hands you a Kleenex for tears you didn’t even know were there, places his hand on your back to calm this heaving body that no longer feels like your own. You are in quicksand, all the way under, and while the man tries to comfort you, he is miles above the surface and so very far away.

You are all alone now.

“Mrs. Jennings, do you want…see the body….a chapel on the first floor….is someone here to drive you home….I’m so sorry for your loss…”

Is this happening?

You mumble thank you and stare at the used, torn Kleenex wadded up inside the palm of your hand that won’t stop shaking and absently ask in a small, lost, child’s voice you have not heard for decades, “Who will put the toothpaste cap back on now?”

COURAGE

dawnThere is a pencil sketch that hangs in my living room I bought years ago at a charity art auction entitled “Dawn” by an unknown artist.  Train tracks run up the center of the picture and then split off into three different directions fading out into infinity while the morning sun peeks brightly from behind the station. When I saw this picture propped up on the bidding table it felt isolated from the other paintings, perhaps in a lonely kind of way but also in a thoughtful kind of way – as if it tried to go unnoticed sitting by its more vivid bidding family.  For me, Dawn had a message. I too was at a crossroads trying to decide which path to take.  I find myself there again now and each time I approach my couch at the end of the day, there it hangs reminding me that my train has been on one track long enough and what lies ahead is some necessary change.

The fact that Dawn is black and white seems to be a perfect fit because times like this, for me, are not filled with excitement and joy and thrilling adventures.  Times like this are not painted with strong hues that jump off the canvas.  Changing directions, altering paths, requires stillness and too much color, too much frivolity, will cloud judgment and distract focus.  Natural early light is best – that clear headed thinking that has always come for me in the morning will help me decide how to begin the second half of my life.

When we bought this piece, I was deciding a marriage proposal and now we fast forward twenty years and I am traveling with the same partner but passengers have arrived and departed during our long ride.  Being self-employed for as many years, we have seen employees come and go, die and move on, become family or burden. Friends have stepped on board placing their baggage next to ours which, at times, has helped distribute the weight comfortably.

Our daughter has boarded another train altogether and my role in motherhood has altered and somewhat disappeared. I find myself trying to figure out where the train is headed now and actually choose, for myself, which path to take.

The journey, filled with opportunity, the kind that feels like youth and idealism and passion and winning bravery, is balanced delicately with trepidation, the kind that feels like an icy wind against my bare cheeks and chills my deep breaths of courage every time I step away from the deeply grooved track I have traveled for years.

What if I get it wrong? But, oh my, what if I get it right?

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