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Where You Find Coyotes
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The Dark Man
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 7:16 pm    Post subject: Where You Find Coyotes Reply with quote

He hadn’t known that days could be so long, or that they could feel so empty. He hadn’t known that his smile could feel hollow as if someone had walked away with it, someone that didn’t even want to carry it anymore but did, anyway. Something about that made him feel ashamed, that he didn’t want to admit to being haunted.

At night, he could not sleep on the bed or the *** couch. He rolled out blankets and slept on the bedroom floor, looking out the window of his bedroom with Ame curled up against his chest. There just wasn’t enough time in the day, not anymore, and when there were hours he could sleep, he found himself awake and staring out the window, feeling as though the floor might swallow him. Early in the morning it was time to get everyone ready, to change Ame and see Penny off to school. His construction job called for him to be there before the break of dawn but Penny could not be left to handle it all herself. She was only twelve and he was trying to preserve something he could not save on his own. Still, he found himself unable to give up when he looked at her.

“Where’s Madi, anyway?” She arched a brow at him, the attitude of a young teenager undercutting what had been softer tones. She said it like it was an accusation, like he was to blame.

“Charlie’s has been busy, she works late.”

“What, she’s too busy for us? Dad, it’s been a couple of days since I’ve seen her.”

He was dressed for work already, his canvas pants feeling loose on his hips, catching just at the jut of them because of the band of his grey boxers. A white t-shirt and a blushing callous of the friction burn was along his forearm. With a deep breath and then a long sigh, he gave Penny a meaningful look to shake her off the line of questioning. She frowned at him because she didn’t understand. She frowned because she thought he was treating her like a child.

“You’re going to be late. I’ll take Ame, go on to school.” He reached into his back pocket, his left arm cradling Ame in close to his chest. It was a struggle to get it and open it with one hand, but Penny seemed unwilling to help him. He could see it, something in her eyes that said that the situation was his fault. After handing her some bills his wallet fell to the floor like it had died mid-flight. He kneeled, gathering it up and awkwardly jamming it into the back pocket of his pants once more, not hearing Penny tell him goodbye or that she loved him. When Penny opened the door, it hit him with orange light and then, as quickly as the light had come, the door shut and it disappeared. Maybe she meant to slam the door, maybe not, but it sent Ame into a stretch of crying.

“Shhh, it’s okay,” it was half an hour of his crying that followed, the sort that felt like his son was threatening him unless he went to get his mother. I don’t want you. Tag swallowed, his head aching with Ame's screams. They almost seeming to calm down only to wind up for another batch of screams. Time was running out. He reached for the diaper bag that was stocked with a change of clothes, some formula, wipes and diapers. It was a beige and blue bag, bulky like a suitcase but much lighter. Ame’s cries were relentless howls. The beast could not be appeased.

“I know I’m not her,” he bounced the baby gently, “I know I’m not what you want right now but I love you. I love you and it’s going to be okay. Shhhh. Please, shhh.” He barely had a free hand to get the door and close it behind him. His heavy work boots were a gentle drum on the porch before he cleared it. Ame’s cries had begun to ease and he wasn’t sure if it was because he was talking to him or if it was that the child was running out of energy. He continued to speak as he crossed the porch, “Look, see? The sun is up and the sun will keep on rising.”

Their neighbor, Marjorie, was only a quarter of a mile away. Close enough that you knew someone was home because the light would be on. She didn’t might watching after Penny, but had said a few times that she was too old to look after a baby. Ame was getting to be heavy and she didn’t live this long to start changing diapers again. With children and grandchildren, she had paid her dues. The Dark Man was reduced to gently begging her for some assistance, for a little more time until he could find another way. Marjorie had a soft spot for him, and maybe she pitied the situation, and had reluctantly agreed. Pity. That was what he saw in the woman’s eyes when he showed up with Ame. It was the emotion he pretended wasn’t there whenever they had an exchange. Tag looked at the distance between their homes, drew in a breath and tried to continue soothing Ame as he headed to Marjorie's. He could see the front porch light was on even though the sun had begun illuminating more and more of the world.

“He’s getting bigger every day, isn’t he?” He heard her voice, but not her screen door when she stepped out and saw him. Tag gave her his newfound hollow smile as a greeting and stepped on her porch. Children had a way with their timing. It was just as he was handing off his son that Ame spit up on him, a line of white formula racing down from his shoulder to his chest. On the white shirt it looked off-white and wet.

“Oh jeeze, Tag!” Marjorie laughed in a good-natured way, like she was hoping he could see the humor in the mishap. His smile remained the same and then, holding Ame with both hands he rolled his shoulder to wipe off the last of what was on Ame’s chin on his shirt. Marjorie’s laugh was renewed when he did it, her arms unwinding to take the child. Even though she expected it, when boy was handed off to her, she grunted. Eying the spill on his shirt, she said, “I’ll get you a napkin.”

“It’s okay,” he nodded, letting the diaper bag roll off his other shoulder and drop like the body of a dog on the porch. The dark man stepped backward and off the boarded platform, “I have to get to work.”

“It’ll just take a second. I’ll be right back.” Her screen door made a metal call in the morning air as she hurried, but when Marjorie returned, he’d already left. The Autumn leaves that had fallen bright red were brown now and looked like disturbed candy wrappers, upturned in the path he’d taken.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)


Last edited by Tag Sentry on Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:02 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“No offense man, but you look like ***,” it was the first thing his foreman said when he showed up to work. Ame’s spit-up was a dried crack over his chest, a line that almost crossed his heart. His foreman was in his forties, a lanky man who chewed on toothpicks instead of smoking cigarettes. He spit the one that was in his mouth because he had already frayed the end of it. Grabbing the brim of his construction hat he pulled it down his brow, casting a shadow over his face as he spoke to Tag, “And don’t take this the wrong way, you’re a helluva a worker but you’ve been slipping. That’s the second time this week you’ve been late.”

You’ve no idea. Tag was getting better at hollow smiles, like the one he was using now. He turned, facing the dirt splashed work truck where his tools and gear were. The truck was parked at an angle to the five-story textile building, looking like it might dig its chrome nose into the embankment. The job was a renovation. He was good at those, wasn’t he? He’d thought he was… he’d thought… He saw himself at Charlie’s fixing a pipe, laying on his back with a flashlight in his mouth. Madison had stood over him while she watched him work. When he looked at her she smiled down at him with all her prairie magic framed in windy brown hair.

“I’m sorry, I’ll do better.” Grabbing the worm-colored utility belt, he slipped it through the finger-hook belt loops of his pants. His foreman moved around, standing in front of Tag as he hit the clipboard he was carrying with the butt end of his pencil. He did that when he wanted to look like he had authority, like the papers on his clipboard had endowed him with rights greater than all of the other men. Tag knew by the way he was still around, tapping on that clipboard, that he hadn’t finished with what he had to say.

“Your work, man, it’s just, you’re getting sloppy.” He pointed with the sharpened end at his pencil to Tag’s arm and then looked at him more meaningfully. The friction burn. They had used the rope pulleys to remove debris and it’d caught him. There hadn’t been blood but an angry red mark that scabbed and burned like fire.

Tag twisted, grabbing the yellow hard hat off the work truck hooks and fastened it on his head. His eyes had the light of morning shining through them, trying to illuminate the place where he kept his soul safe. His tongue wet his lips, his response a dry rub against the air, “It won’t happen again. I’m fine.”

“Yeah? You sure about that?” The foreman smacked the clipboard with another tap of his pencil and waited. He was looking at Tag under his lowered eyebrows and hard hat brim, trying to see through the Dark Man. It was all the little things that told him something was wrong with his employee. Tag was careful, meticulous and thoughtful, and that’s all anyone ever really knew about the guy. The late hours, the spit up on his shirt and the mark along his arm were bad but… well, the guy wasn’t coming into work smelling like booze so there wasn’t much more he could do other than ask and maybe fire him if he couldn’t start working the hours he needed.

“Yes.” Tag didn’t say it because he believed it, he said it because it had to be true. If his foreman took him off work, how was rent going to be paid? How were he and the two kids supposed to live on nothing? Marjorie needed to be paid something, just the same as Penny needed money for school and the lunches he didn’t have time to make. The expense of formula and diapers was staggering and he found himself praying that no one got sick during the winter season. No ear infections. No colds. Just… let everyone be okay for a little while longer while he figured it out.

All of that sentiment was poured into his gaze when he looked at his foreman. Maybe the man saw it. Maybe not. Whatever it was, it was enough that he nodded that Tag could get back to work. That he could climb up the derelict staircase to where the other men were, swinging hammers and removing dry wall. Tying a handkerchief over his nose and mouth, he tugged his work gloves out from his other back pocket and joined them. They weren’t wearing the same clothes, but it looked like a uniform. The Winter made the morning feel like a cold smack but it only took a few full body swings of the hammer to warm up. The cords of muscle in the dark man moved, his broad shoulders steady under the work.

Hammers swung like a gavels, echoing a sentiment he couldn’t escape: Guilty, guilty, guilty.

After nine hours avoiding his foreman’s study, he walked by Charlie’s because Fin had his own forge to look after. This had been a dream, hadn’t it? And there were things in the West she had to do, and maybe it was because he loved her that he could not see Charlie’s suffer. Madison’s dream had been to rebuild what had been Charlie’s and to preserve that place and those memories of the old man. He’d promised her his help, he had applied wet paint and sanded down the length of the bar. Hinges and pipes had to be improved. Dust was thick, but they had made paths in it. Penny had colored brighter, more innocent drawings when there could not be a babysitter in one of the booths while they worked on it together. And when there was a babysitter? Labor at the restoration always seemed to turn into them slipping out of clothes and into each other, smiling like they thought of themselves as fools for not having done it sooner.

They were strange echoes, the sounds of moaning, of laughter, sounds that didn’t apply to him anymore. He couldn’t reach out for them, just listen to the memories fly overhead.

His hands felt raw when he tugged at the plastic mouth of the garbage bag, synching it closed with a plastic pull and tugging it out of its bin. He went outside with it, dumping it in the jaws of a metal giant the garbage trucks waited for. Back inside he did the last of the closing duties of Charlies and updated the hours of operation to something maybe he and Fin could cover a bit more realistically. Whenever it was that Madison came back she would still have the dream she accomplished waiting for her, unshaken by the fact that she had gone.

The Dark Man locked the door behind him and began to walk home. The sun was gone but the air was still lit with a residual blue. He heard coyotes calling in the distance, but their baleful howls sounded like a snicker crawling on hands and knees in his direction. Too bad, Dark Man. Too Bad. The hand in the front pocket of his pants felt the strange, rectangular shape of his cell phone. He’d never known an urge to call someone before, to want to close that distance and just… know she was all right. In the past, he had waited on his porch, waited for the wind to roll her in. Perhaps it would be days. Or weeks. Or years. But she would roll in and when she did, he smiled dimly for her. He’d never thought he would feel the need to interrupt Time’s pause to hear her voice, even if all she said was an amused smile that sparked with daybreak eyes.

Penny was in the doorway of the house, looking for him. Her figure was outlined with the living room light and he could tell just by the way she stood that she brimmed with frustration. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Dad.”

He looked her in the eye when he stepped up the porch. His eyes dropped to Ame, who was twisting his hand through Penny’s shoulder-length brown hair. As soon as he was within reaching distance she lifted her baby brother underneath the arms, shoving him towards Tag to be taken. This didn’t particularly suit his son, but it wasn’t worth crying about. There were only little moans of discomfort, little warnings to let the both of them know that he had been thinking about ripping the evening in two with his screams.

“You know my classmates don’t have to do half the chores I do. When they get home they can watch TV or go hang out at the coffee shop in the marketplace. It’d be fun if I could do something I wanted to do for a change.”

“Sorry,” but he couldn’t really say what he was apologizing for. That things had changed? That she was angry at him for things being different? He cleared his throat, stepping past her and inside the house, “I’ll get dinner done while you shower. Then it’s homework.”

“What? I just spent all day watching Ame after school and now it’s dinner and homework?”

“Penny, just… don’t argue. Go shower and come out for dinner.” He could still feel the skin-tightening dust from the drywall he’d taken out with a hammer all over his skin. It was too late to shower and Penny needed it first. The mark of spit-up looked like an old scar across the front of his t-shirt, dusted over in white powder and sweat. With Ame bundled to his side by his left arm, he went into the kitchen and then worked to get him into his high chair. Penny made sure he knew how he felt with an undeniable slamming of the door bathroom door. It caused Ame’s head to swivel in the direction of the sound, his perfect little dark eyes looking confused and worried.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay.” Tag brushed the side of his face and smiled, kissing his round cheek before he stepped away. “Dinner is on the way and… you’ll have this to think about.” Cutting up an apple was quick work and it gave Ame something to play with and chew on. The boy’s hand immediately latched on one of the two slices, bringing it to his mouth for thoughtful inspection. Tag grinned at him, crouching to get a better view as he spoke, “Yeah, see? It’s okay. Apple. AP-PLE.” It wouldn’t be long until he began teething. Everyone had the same advice. A few drops of whiskey. Some frozen slices of orange. Don’t worry, the crying will stop one day.

By the time he had cooked the ground beef and noodles, the broccoli was steamed and ready. Penny had taken a stand against broccoli unless it had a handful of cheese on top. When all was said and done, it wound up being four servings. Two went into bowls covered in plastic wrap inside the refrigerator. The kitchen table was small, one of its four sides against the wall underneath a window that looked over a garden that was getting taken over by weeds. The highchair was nudged to the corner of the table between him and Penny. Since Madison had moved in, Penny had moved to take the seat that faced the window. It made it all look lopsided with Tag, Penny and Ame crowded around two sides of the table while Madison’s seat was empty. It felt like the empty seat of a dead family member that no one wanted to occupy.

Penny’s hair was still a damp, orchid bouquet from the shower. She liked purple now, her top a pastel purple t-shirt with a darker set of violet bottoms. There was a pattern on it, Tag was fairly sure it had something to do with fish but it was hard to tell. He could see it in her eyes that she was still irritated. That she’d cried in the shower and her eyes were still mirrored in a soft red. She jabbed at the beef and noodles with her fork and looked at him, “Why don’t you just call her and have her come back?”

His fork swept along the plate, cornering a bite before he lifted it up to eat. He didn’t look up or say anything to her, he just kept eating. Ame gurgled, shoving one of the apple slices off of his front plate so that it somersaulted onto the table.

“Maybe if you weren’t so proud and stubborn she would know. Maybe if you just picked up the stupid phone and called her she’d be here.” Penny’s voice was getting louder, firmer. She hadn’t taken a bite of her food and her eyes were locked tightly on her father face. She must have been waiting for hours to say that. More than that, she wanted the Dark Man to hurt. She wanted to see her father’s gaze become affected with pain because that was how she was feeling.

“Eat your broccoli.”

“See!? That’s what you do. You drive people away because you won’t talk to them! It’s your fault I have to watch my stupid brother all the time and I can’t just go out and play with my friends like every other normal kid out there. If you cared you’d just tell her not to work so much at Charlie’s and then everything would have been fine!”

“Penny.” His voice was a calm spread, his gaze lifting up to her face. The rage behind her youthful features aged her. She looked seventeen and spiteful, packing a bag in the back of her mind to run away from home. He drew in a deep breath.


Text to Tag: Before I swung by earlier, I forgot to ask you something. Please don't tell Penny where I'm going. I need her to not know about this all, everything else is enough. I'll let you know when I'm back.


“It’s not going to be for much longer,” that was a lie, and he couldn’t remember ever having lied to Penny before that moment. It was the sort of lie she needed to hear and the sort of lie he needed to say. He set his fork down and looked at her, “So just stay strong for a little bit longer, okay? I know I’m asking you to be a big girl, I know I’m asking a lot, but it’s only for a little while.”

The silence stretched on between them. Penny’s hand was wrapped around her fork the same way someone would hold a knife. He met her eyes as the seconds went by and it felt like a considerable amount of time had passed before she dropped her eyes to her plate and stared at her food. Ame broke the stillness of the moment by shoving his second slice off his plate and onto the table. Now that he had knocked off both slices, he lamented with a twist of his face and the beginning hacking noises of a cry. Tag reached over, scooping up both of them and placing them on his plate. The result was immediate. Ame was relieved and the world could continue spinning.

Penny had kept staring at her food, circling one curly, flesh-colored noodle when she spoke, “I hate you.”
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An angry silence ruled them for ten minutes, emanating from the twelve-year-old girl. Once she had opened her mouth the wall that had held back her feelings was gone. She was there, raw and sizing up her father as if seeing him for the first time. As if she wanted to do something about the fact that he was still sitting beside er.

Tag didn’t reprimand her for what she said. The only indication that it had struck him was that he paused, seconds passing as he absorbed the words. I hate you. All he could think was that he agreed with her.

“I’m not hungry.” She was still holding her fork like she might stab him with it. He thought he felt her eyes go over him, looking for the best place to pierce, though her mouth had done it already.

“Then you can start your homework.”

“Yea? And when do I get to have fun? When I’m old and dead like you?”

“Saturday, when you don’t have school.”

Her face was hot. When she stood up her chair yawned against the wood in a low push of noise. He looked up at her as she turned away, leaving the kitchen. From the open threshold of the kitchen he saw her rip her backpack from the living room couch and then storm into her bedroom. The doors of the house were learning what it felt like to get slammed.

Ame’s dark eyes watched all the movement with concern, but it wasn’t until the door slam that he started to cry. Tag looked at him and tried to smile, “Hey, I’ll get you a bottle, okay? Look, apple slices. You like the apple slices.” He picked up one of them, trying to make it do a little wiggle dance to renew the boy’s interest. It was working. Maybe just long enough for him to get the formula made and in a bottle.

Everything kept moving. He placed Penny’s dinner plate on the floor by her bedroom, thinking that when the storm finally calmed she would realize that her body would still want food. Ame didn’t drink the full bottle, but it was close enough. Dishes were done because two days of them were starting to crowd the sink. Clothes were put in the wash, the damp ones set out to dry on cords stretched over the length of the modest laundry room. He did these things with Ame tied to the front of him, a pacifier being thoughtfully worked over in his mouth.

At some point Penny’s door opened and she claimed the plate outside her room. So long as he wasn’t looking it wouldn’t seem like she was giving any ground to him or what he asked her to do.

Ame was finally starting to nod off when Tag laid him on his back in the crib. Flicking on the baby monitor, he put one speaker near his lips and spoke into it to make sure it transmitted to the other. The signal would carry. The receiver was snapped into the pocket of the work pants he wore. Steeling himself with one breath, he knocked on Penny’s door. He could hear the latest band music coming from behind it, no doubt streaming from her cellphone.

“What do you want?”

“Did you finish your homework?”

“Yes, Dad. Jeeze, I’m not a kid.”

“Do you want to go over it?” He leaned his temple against the wood of her door, shutting his eyes for just a moment.

“No. I don’t need your help.”

His eyes opened and he lifted, trying to keep his voice from cracking, “Lights out in thirty, okay?”

Her music continued to play. He pressed again, shutting his eyes, “Okay?”

“I heard you the first time. OKAY.”

Slowly, he stepped away from her door outlined in the light of her bedroom. It was in this moment that he felt like the ghost of another life. He moved around the living room and kitchen, picking up the most obvious things. A coat that needed to get hung back up. A forgotten glass. A spill of Ame’s toys over the floor, begging to be stepped on. They hurt more than one would think. It wasn’t until the minor tasks were done that he checked the time, reminding Penny she needed to go to sleep. She didn’t say anything, she just huffed and turned out the lights in her room by slapping her hand against the switch.

He put his jacket back on, fishing out the new pack of smokes and lighting one up as he stood on the porch. The garden looked like an idea that was being grown over, slowly forgotten. It was more than just the weeds. It was all the leaves falling from the trees, building up a blanket of reds and yellows that had turned brown. Did everything get forgotten and overgrown so easily?

The Dark Man’s gaze followed the remaining features of his garden until he heard a strangled cry not far from the house. Along the partial meadow surrounding it, the scream repeated. A rabbit, no doubt, caught in a snare. He moved to the edge of the porch, wrapping one hand around the chain of the bench swing as he leaned forward to see what it was. The pin prick of orange grew from the end of his cigarette as his eyes combed through what was ahead.

They were like misshapen ghosts, at first. Their figures pranced strangely along the edge of the tree line. Two. Three. Maybe five. All at once they seemed to realize he was there and they stopped in unison, watching him. The coyotes ears were pointed towards him, the one in lead turning its head to look at him. His jaw was fat with the bunny he’d stolen from his snare. Tag breathed out a cloud of smoke.

The coyote put its ears back with a terrible grin. Too bad, dark man. Too bad.

He hopped off the edge of the porch, holding his cigarette between his lips as he stooped down, grabbing the nearest rock. He threw one and then another in their direction. The first missed wildly but the other came close enough that they shifted position. As far away as he was from them, their eyes seemed yellow, snap of gold from the prairie.

Their horrible grins broadened then they melted back into the woods.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)


Last edited by Tag Sentry on Sun Dec 04, 2016 7:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The next day the struggle of morning worked itself around Penny’s tight-lipped attitude. Ame cried, reminding him that he wasn’t his mother. Penny’s brown eyes hammered blame at him, wordless and more powerful than she knew. He had told Madison he would try for her. It had only been a few days, he still had strength left for it.

“You still have enough from yesterday?” In the living room he eased Ame, bundled up in a fluffy green blanket, into Penny’s arms. She accepted him, her anger breaking momentarily to smile at her little brother when he reached up and grabbed her nose.

“Hey, stop that!” She stuck her tongue out at him which was amusing enough that he gave her a toothless grin and then repeated the motion, his fingers bumping against her nose before he grabbed at it again. She shook her head at him and bounced him up to get a better hold of him. When she looked at her father her smile dissolved, “Yes, I’m fine.”

“Tell Marjorie thank you and that I’ll take care of her front yard this weekend.”

“Kay.” She wasn’t going to smile for him. She was going to make a point of not smiling at him when he spoke to her. Tag could see it in her face that she wanted him to cringe, that she wanted him to hurt because she was hurting.

“Love you.” He leaned in, kissing her on the top of her head. She turned away at his nearness and muttered “whatever” before catching the door. With her bookbag, diaper bag and Ame, she left the house. The door didn’t slam. He crossed the living and stepped into the kitchen, filling a tall, insulated cup with coffee as he watched her out the kitchen window proceed to Marjorie’s. The path of flattened leaves lead to Marjorie’s porch. He was watching her until movement to the left caught his attention.

In the dawn, he could see them. Four legged whispers that sometimes looked like men at the edge of the property, thirty yards off from Penny and Ame. He couldn’t move, couldn’t seem to remember to breath as he watched them move. They circled, ears pricked in the direction of the girl that carried an infant. No. Not them.

Penny’s head turned, her brown ponytail swinging over her shoulder as her attention veered towards the shuffle of coyote-men at the edge of the property, partly obscured by the tree line. Tag realized at that point that they were more than bad dreams, more than a warning that howled out from the prairie he remembered. They were real and Penny saw them, too. The rabbit had felt the yellow-eyed coyote’s teeth. He knew she saw them by the way her spine straightened and her arms tightened around her baby brother. She wasn’t going to be shaken, she held her head up and walked with purpose toward Marjorie’s. She bluffed a confident posture that said don’t mess with me.

Tag shot away from the kitchen counter, straight to the bedroom closet where he scrambled to get his old six shooter out. He was feeding bullets into the chamber when he pushed out the front door and stopped at the end of the porch. The Dark Man cocked the gun at his side, looking for where Penny and Ame were along the path of leaves.

Marjorie’s porch. Too far away to make out the exchange, but he could see the little slip of pastel green that was Ame’s blanket in her arms. His eyes tracked back to the tree line where three almost-men stood. One had his elbow leaned against the truck of the tree, using his index finger to point at him and make a shooting motion. It was like Glenn had done at the dance, that drunken half threat to do away with him. The moment degraded, it snarled and snickered into the five dislocated images of the coyotes, trotting away from him and deeper to the woods. He put the cocked gun at ease, looking back towards Marjorie’s. The West had come whether Madi was there or not, had come to claim the parts of her she would not protect.

It took him half an hour before he could get his coffee and leave the house. The sun kept climbing in the sky. He thought about what it had been like in the kitchen with her.

"I believe in this love, Tag... and I know, without a doubt, you would be there.... but I'm dangerous... to all of you." Pushing at his cheek, guiding his face a little further away. "Please..." and who knows what it is she is begging for other than not to be looked at as she crawls inside herself and cries. As she allows her demons to dance their victory. "I want so many things but I feel powerless to change any of it. And to make you happy… always... when I'm fightin' this."

Did they think marriage would be easy? That it would only take love to dissolve the world around them, all the fires and coyotes? Had the world been of the opinion that if it was love that it would come easily and it was only the fools that struggled? Had she simply believed in the Dark Man to the point that she didn’t know how much he could bleed?

"Madi, we are more vulnerable without you. Do you think that Ame is a secret... that he's not going to be leverage against you? If you go, I am left trying to defend two children. It doesn't protect us when you leave but... "

It’ll kill us.

She had left. Maybe with the belief that the Dark Man could take care of everything. That things would carry on without her like they had in the past. That she was not significant, that she could turn her cheek and put out the thoughts of her husband and children aside. That she could come back later to find that everything was fine, even better, for her not having been there.

Did she ache the same way he did? He slept in the reminders of her in their home, haunted by the way she stood still like a painting, looking out the window. And he thought, looking down at the blank face of his cellphone as he walked, that she had done what he could not do. She had put him from her mind.

“Tag, looks like you made it just under the wire.” His foreman rolled his toothpick to the other corner of his mouth.

He looked up from his cellphone, shoving it in the back pocket of his pants and smiled painfully. The smile was drowned behind the lip of his coffee. After a swallow he nodded, hearing the eraser of his foreman’s pencil bounce against the clipboard. The broken mouth of the textile building waited for him to step in.
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One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With the sun at its highest, they leaned against the work truck, its shadow sheltering them from the raw Winter sun. He swirled the remaining coffee in his insulated cup with a slow, clockwise motion. Tag’s other hand’s cold fingers were holding a cigarette as he listened to his coworker’s banter. Lunch time was a stage to ‘shoot the ***.’

“So he’s wasted, I mean three-sheets-to-the-wind can’t get his own last name right wasted when ol’ Sally saunters up to him, giving him the business end of her smile. We tried to put him off her, but Tommy just wasn’t having it,” the seasoned construction worker grinned at the twenty-something. The kid swore under his breath and looked away, not making eye contact as the story about him continued, “he said he was tired of jerkin’ the chicken to magazines and it was time for a real woman to give him a ride.”

Several of the men gave a low hum of amusement, all eyes pitched to the kid who still wasn’t making eye contact but wore an embarrassed grin. Eventually, he looked at the lot of them, his arms unfolding from his chest, “You know Roger is full of it. No one jerks to magazines anymore. It’s called the internet. And guess what, old man? It’s free.”

Roger smirked at the kid, but continued the story, drawing the eyes of the other men back into the tale of Tommy the Reckless, “Now some of you know ol’ Sally from the Caveminer’s bar down the road, but for those of you who don’t,” there was a pause, his eyes checking the faces of his audience to see who smiled because they knew and who was waiting to be filled in. Tag’s eyes were on Roger, watching him as he took the storytelling spotlight. Roger had a gift for pausing appropriately and impersonating voices well, or just so terribly that it was still funny. He continued, “And for those of you that don’t, ol’ Sally isn’t the freshest face in the bar. It could be that if you go by ol’ Sally that this isn’t your first rodeo.”

Snickering peppered the air. Roger could feel he had everyone’s full attention. He was more excited, his hands spreading and his wrinkled grin getting broad, “So Tommy-boy here goes and takes her home. Maybe he thought ol’ Sally was a playful name or he was just dead set on having him some. Sure enough, he wakes up in the morning,” Roger pretended to be laying on a bed. Slowly his head rolled over, eyes cracking at the imaginary Sally that was on one arm. Seeing her, his eyes bulged from his head, an unhappy gasp shuddering his figure. The men watching his performance looked at Tommy, who had gone red faced, taking off his yellow hard hat and throwing it at Roger’s feet. Roger’s body swayed, but the hat managed to connect to the top of his foot. Roger’s chuckle erupted as he hit the morale of the story, “And that, boys, is what you call a real coyote ugly.”

Tag wet his lips, echoing softly, “Coyote ugly?”

“Yeahhhh,” Roger bent down, picking up the kid’s hard hat and tossing it back to him, “You know? Like how a coyote will go and chew its arm off to get away instead of dying. Coyote ugly is like… willing to chew your arm off to get away from someone.”

One of the other men chimed in, helpfully, “Usually cause she’s ugly!”

Or bad? Bad as Madison believed she was. The sort of woman riddled up with demons. He put his cigarette to his lips, wondering what it meant that he hadn’t thought about chewing, about working his way loose and instead that he stayed, still loyal to her. Still the lion who paced in an invisible cage after being set free.

“Heyyyy boys, whatcha laughing about?”

Tommy was dusting off his hard hat when he, Roger and the others redirected their attention to Gina. With fishnet stockings and a get up like that during the Winter, she wasn’t exactly being subtle. Her, and women like her, sometimes sauntered the construction work sites looking for an easy buck.

“Nothin’,” Tommy was no longer red faced though Roger grinned, showing all of his teeth.

“Any of you boys got time? Maybe an itch that needs scratchin’?” She was sizing them up, looking for anyone whose eyes might have lingered long enough to say they were partly interested. The ash of her cigarette was tapped as she walked up to Roger, one hand with red acrylic nails reaching out to brush some dry wall dust off his collar, “How about you, Roger? Got a need?”

“Ohhhh Gina, you know I’m married. My ol’ lady got my balls in a jar so long I don’t even know where the Hell they are.”

“Hey, what she don’t know won’t hurt her,” she gave a wink. Even from where Tag was standing, leaned in the shadow of the work truck, he could tell she hadn’t taken an easy path in life. There were scars on her, ones that could be seen better because age had loosened her skin. Booze and cigarettes gave her voice low, sultry tones that were threatening to make her hard-living sound like cancer instead of dirty talk.

“You never met Roger’s wife!” One of his coworkers crowed down at her from the top of the truck. Her head swung up in his direction. The hand holding her cigarette going up to her brow in a saluting motion to block out the sun that struck her just on top of her head.

“I been around a man or two in my time. A ring ain’t no thing, honey.” She continued her walk, stopping in front of Tag to take a step towards him, her lipstick smile turning up with humor at the corner, “How about you honey. You wanna be my Wonton John? You look like you could use someone to warm up that bed.”

Roger used one hand to call at her, “Honey, that man’s so married it hurts.”

“Hey,” she snapped her head at him, pointing her cigarette at him, “this conversation don’t include you. Besides, a woman knows these things.” She turned her head back to Tag and smiled, but it lacked any kindness. Somewhere behind the lipstick and in her eyes, she mocked him. Her eyes mocked all men. With every bill they slipped in her hand and every time they laid with her, her suspicions that they were every terrible thing she thought became true. She saw him like she saw every man. He just needed a bad night and he’d slip his hand right outta that ring and into her bed. Tag just needed to get tired of what his woman felt like, smelled like, got real good and sick and tired of her and then he’d be ringing her up.

So married it hurts.

He looked down at his left hand, remembering the inscription on the inside of it. He side-stepped Gina, smiling as politely as he could. All he wanted was to apologize to her, to apologize for all the beds she laid in that cemented her beliefs.

“Hey! Am I paying you guys to wet your wicks or to get this job finished?” His foreman was trotting into the scene, wagging the all-powerful clipboard with his toothpick falling out of his mouth as he hawked at them. That was all it took for them to disperse, grumbling as they returned to hammer swings and ripping out rotten wiring on five stories that should have been condemned instead of rebuilt. The textile building had almost entirely been gutted. Soon the destruction would turn into renewal. The process of returning organs to it, to returning life and a heartbeat, was about to begin.
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My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

((Italic section from cuts of rp posts from thread “A New Branch on a Tree.” Credit to Dove Eyes for the parts written for Penny.))

Penny was four when she came to live with Tag.

The orphanage had said that there had been a great fire, the sort no one should have lived through. Her father had peacefully suffocated in his sleep while her mother had bundled her in a wet towel and carried her outside. Her mother hadn’t known, or believed, that her husband was dead when she went back inside for him. Maybe she thought if she carried him out and breathed into his mouth that he could come back from where he had gone. Instead, she went inside the burning house and never came out.

Penny watched, wrapped in a wet towel, and waited until the emergency responders pulled her away. The fire hadn’t even flinched but climbed higher and higher, wanting to consume everything. The flames seemed unsated, left hungry because she had gotten away.

Ever since then, there were nightmares. The older she grew the more she wanted to tell her mother not to go back. That it was too late, dad was already dead.

One day the Dark Man came to the orphanage.



Watching as Tag approached, Penny's fingers and toes curled in a bit; a nervous habit. She didn't fuss or squirm too much though, but she did give a despairing look to the beaten looking stuffed bear on the floor where it'd been left, as though he'd get up and comfort her. He wasn't allowed at the table, and it was only recently this rule had been set into place, if only to get the girl to eat more and stop stuffing her peas into bear's open foot seam when no one was looking.

Giving up on bear, Penny returned her eyes back to Tag with a small, small smile.

"Do you know what's for dinner?"

"Mashed 'tatoes." She said with a sweet, honest try at a smile. Pointing towards the big bowl, Penny's eyes softened again, and her trust in him dove another degree deeper. Tag was an adult, the one sitting nearest to her at that, which meant he safe enough to ask for food. She waited just enough time to see the approval in his eyes before she continued, however.

"... and corn squash. Chi-" She paused, there were two syllables here. "...chicken. And cooky's yummy rolls." Yup, there was that small well of pride again; it was lighting up her whole face now. Then again, that could have been in part to a meal she didn't find anything wrong with.




He was different because he didn’t ask her to talk about it, he didn’t press her for answers she wasn’t ready to share. He asked about the food and then ate the subpar potatoes in silence with her. It was impossible to describe how comforting that was. After the fire, it seemed the only question anyone had wanted to ask her was if she was all right. If she needed anything. When she finally looked up at him, their eyes met and she knew.

Everyone had a story about how they met the Dark Man. What he was like, how his subtlety and black eyes would still unwrap them after so many years. He had picked her and kept her though all the nightmares, all the screaming she did for her parents that would never come back. For her mother who always charged back into the house no matter what she said.

Why wasn’t he fighting, now? Madi was out there and if she knew, if she just knew, she’d be back. Everything would be okay because for as long as she could remember there was always a Madi and Tag, their companionship and love danced on the wind, it was inarguable and inevitable like the rain. Maybe she went away for a while sometimes but she always came back. She paid attention and she knew just how to key into someone and would bring around just the right gift. An art set, a real art set, and not like the ones that were for kids. That’s what she’d given her. But the Dark Man? What had happened to him?

He just let her walk away, every time.

As much as she hated him for what had happened, she saw that he was especially quiet at dinner. It wasn’t just because Tag didn’t say much, it was because his eyes were somewhere else, on another planet, and his smile had gotten buried underneath something heavy. Usually, he just ignored her when she was mad, not saying anything about her outbursts. Pretending that they didn’t happen instead of addressing them. At times, she was grateful. At times, what she said haunted her and she was glad that he dismissed it instead of bringing it back up.

“Dad?” He was her dad, she’d known it the first time he looked at her. The Dark Man was like that. His eyes committed their ebony abyss to the person he was looking at. For being twelve, that was damn near overwhelming. She swallowed before speaking, “Tomorrow is Saturday.”

“I know.”

“You said I could go over to a friend’s house. Jewel’s house, remember?”

“I didn’t forget. It’s okay.”

“Good.”

She didn’t know how an adult could seem so strong while also in need of so much guidance. People didn’t know her father like she did, they saw an insurmountable wall and dismissed him too quickly, which usually pissed her off. They thought his kindness was weakness and that his love was too passive, but the Dark Man never imposed. She didn’t really get what it must have been like for him, growing up like he did. Where everything was monitored, and controlled, where the oppression had been so severe that he risked everything just to get to Rhy’Din. What Penny did understand was that he didn’t force people and sometimes people took advantage of that. There was something society liked about someone who was pushy, but Tag had been pushed around enough that he leaned back and let everyone make their own decisions. Freedom was more important than what he wanted.

And if he had just stepped up? Let Madison know that she shouldn’t walk away, that she was missed and important? Maybe if he had just asserted himself this whole situation wouldn’t be what it was. If she walked away, would he fight for her, or just watch as she spent her time elsewhere like Madison was? Sure, it was great that he let people make their own choices but at some point, he needed to put a voice to his own. Did he even care? Did it matter to him that Madison was gone?

Yet… there was something strange about him that night. Something that was distracted. He usually noticed her, even if he didn’t reprimand her. These days he always had that distant smell of cigarettes he said he’d never get into smoking.

“I’ll check your homework before bed, if you want.”

“It’s… okay. I only had a reading assignment so there isn’t a whole lot to check.”

“What did you read?”

“It was a few pages from a weird book. It’s called the Lord of the Skies. No, Lord of the Flies.”

“What is it about?”

“Some kids get stranded on an island and there aren’t any adults, or whatever.” She shrugged and then stood up, picking up her plate and walking it to the kitchen sink, “All the characters in it are kinda weird. None of them are nice or, like, doing normal things.”

“Oh?” She thought she heard some amusement in his voice, like he was paying attention. Like he was really there.

Penny turned to look at him, suppressing a smile, “Like no one likes to draw or anything.”

“Drawing is... normal.” He thought about a warehouse door covered in rust. At a time before he knew how to write he left the only signature he could think of for Madison. A large tree, painted in blue with some of the pigment running in lines down the dips of the door. The signature was strange but she still somehow recognized it. Madison had always known when it had been him.

“Yeah it is.” She didn’t want to smile for the Dark Man, for Dad, but she did anyway. He wasn’t responsive, though, and looked out the window with a show of distraction. There was only one question left to ask.

“Why are you carrying a gun, Dad?”
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My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

His fork paused over his plate and he looked at her. It was the first time she thought that he would be on the verge of answering. Really answering. That his lips were beginning to form the words she needed to hear. Suddenly, the sound of a knock on the door interrupted the tension between them. Her dad swallowed what was left of his meal and stood up, speaking, “I asked Marjorie to watch you tonight for a little while.”

“Dad, it’s like nine, where are you going?”

He moved his dinner plate into the refrigerator, preserving the leftovers for another time. His hand caught the edge of the door and pulled it shut as he looked at her, “I needed to step out for just a little while. I’ll be back.”

“You’re leaving?” She couldn’t stop the heat from flooding her face, brightening the color of her skin.

“Just for an hour.” Her father looked at her, it was his solid gaze, the one meant to smother her indignation so that there wouldn’t be a debate sprawled out between them. The Dark Man looked like he had more to say to her, but he didn’t. He just moved to the front door, opening to welcome Marjorie inside with a lukewarm smile. She could hear him instructing her on putting Ame down, on reviewing her homework and when lights needed to be out. Tonight, there was some leniency, dinner had come late and it was already nine and she might need more time to get everything done before the half hour mark.

Marjorie scolded him playfully, reminding him that she had done it all before and that he shouldn’t worry.

“Go on, Tag.”

Her father left, just like that. She didn’t know that he needed an hour to himself over a glass of whiskey, surrounded by unknown faces at a bar.
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One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Taken from live rp in the Inn. Thanks to Mallory, Jezebel Calient and Georg Aurdon for the play.))

It was so quiet in the inn, for Mallory. Witnesses? Few, at most. She spread her arms over the bar, leaned forward to peer up at the darkness twenty feet up and dared to whisper, "Exiral, I invoke thee." Silence. Not so much as a flutter in the cobwebs. "Well, **** you too," she sighed, and reached and stretched down the bar to snatch a whiskey glass. She filled it to the brim with Jack and soda, until it nearly overflowed, bulging ever so slightly outward, held together by surface tension. She leaned her face close to it and blew, and the whiskey and soda spilling over the side evaporated before it hit the bar. "Drink up," she said, quietly, to no visible being. Then, when she was sure the being had had its fill, she lifted her glass for a big swallow.

The occasion was rare, especially now, that he had a moment to go to the inn. The need for a moment away was obvious enough that he'd been given it. Green canvas pants, military thrift store type, and a holster with a low resting six shooter. His black t-shirt looked broken in, like it knew him. His leather coat could hug him for all its familiarity. Tag stepped into the inn, his hands buried in his jacket pockets.

Soldier? Gunslinger? Guard? She had an order for which one she considered more dangerous and thus felt a few moments spent studying Tag were well invested. After she looked, she pretended to be interested in a pack of cowboy killers some bartender had left in a drawer back there a long time ago, next to a zippo emblazoned with a pair of crossed hands.

The inn was quiet enough that it was rude not to notice her there. He tipped his head to her in a wordless greeting before stepping behind the bar. Hard to say what he was exactly, beyond thirsty. The man took his drink in the form of two fingers of whiskey.

She had her own, a pint of Jack with a plain black-and-white label, but she read his brand off the bottle if she could. Nosy, nosy. She sipped at her drink, turned away again when it made her wrinkle her nose.

High West, as it was. Something with information penciled in at the bottom and a title that said Double Rye. Her gaze was easy to fill, being that there weren't people or conversation to dilute it. With his glass poured he lifted it up, toasting her gaze before sipping. Her face was crushed by the taste of her own poison, but he didn't inquire. Liquor was liquor and the face someone made when it curled their tongue was universal.

The front door swung open, admitting with it a curious swirl of artic winter air and warm summer heat. Shivering, Jezebel stepped inside, pushed it firmly closed behind her. She was a study in flame: hair in all shades of red and gold pouring down her back like a molten lava flow, her eyes like candle light twinkling in the night. Her movements slow and fluid, the woman wove her way among chairs and tables on a winding path to the bar.

"Cheers," Mallory muttered because it felt like something she should do. Not as a lady, but as a barfly. She pretended to be interested in the rafters again, even though she was (about 70%) sure they were empty. Her chin went onto the palm of her hand, and she curled forward into a lean. She tweaked her nose ring a few times with the tip of her pointer finger. Then she got a blast of hot and cold from the front door and watched a red serpent wind her way across the room.

"More?" There was a nod to the Double Rye bottle to offer her more if she wanted it, even if she had screwed her face up painfully at the round she took down her throat. He wasn't in such a hurry. The two fingers of amber came back up to his lips, sipped modestly and allowed to burn over his tongue. She looked to the door so his eyes followed to see the blaze of red that approached them.

That stuff looked nice. Mallory didn't know anything about rye, but enough to lean away from him, snatch a fresh whiskey glass from in front of the snoozing minotaur guarding a glass stash of them, and flipped it upright in front of Tag. "Sure," she added, a beat later; still later, "Thanks."

(Georg Aurdon) No snoring could be heard from one of the booths that lined the walls of the inn, even if one of them had the curtain pulled shut. Nothing to be seen in there as the pirate was sitting in it, with his back to the wall and legs stretched out on his side of the bench in there. One arm draped over his chest and the other resting on the tabletop, while his eyes might have been closed. Possible his hand was curled around a bottle.

Two sets of eyes swiveled in her direction, and Jezebel met both of them with a grin. It was a warm grin, slow and easy like her movements. Nothing about her seemed to be in a hurry, like she had all the time in the world. It was a friendly smile, inviting and cheerful, something like the fire burning in the adjacent hearth. It spoke of comfort and shelter, downplaying its heat. The kind of smile that meant to put you at ease, to say don't worry, I'm not dangerous. There was another wintery gust from behind her and she glanced over her shoulder, turning that same friendly smile on the woman who came in behind her. Settling on a barstool somewhere in the middle of things, she gently plucked the jacket from her shoulders, draped it over the stool and then lifted herself onto it.

Black glass hair, a lean of his weight to one leg, unaffected by the way she blinked and was unaffected. He reached, the metal singing as he twisted off the top of the whiskey bottle. The amber gurgled and then settled into her glass. A nudge with the back of two of his fingers encouraged it closer to her, "It isn't bad." Not bad, that was his review of Double Rye. The newcomer made a peacemaker smile for them and he acknowledged it with a swivel of the bottle in hand. She could be poured some too, just as easily.

The inn was beginning to fill with other faces. Trick, Taneth, and other regulars began to make their appearances. Their conversation bounced in the background.

Mallory was a young string bean of a woman -- if she was twenty, she didn't look any years over it, built almost tom boyishly bony, slender but not quite hungry. Well, not usually hungry. She finished her Jack and soda and couldn't help a smile back at Jezebel, a little warmed by her warmth. She even dipped her head a little to the boho gypsy angling in after her, scooped up her whiskey, and nearly spilled it all over the bar as she pulled her stomach up to the counter, out of Trick's way.

"Watch it, creep," but there was something familiar about the tone and the stinkeye Mallory gave Trick. She carried a playful conversation with him.

(Georg Aurdon) One eye opened under the hood to hearing the sounds of other patrons making their way inside, as it was hard to tell how long he had actually been in that booth. Bottle lifted up for a swig, before being lowered down with a thunk. "Always empty." Mused as he stretched getting a groan for a brief moment, then shifted to move the curtain to see who was present.

Tag’s steady gaze doesn't flicker. A sip of the whiskey was brought to his lips, taken in by a bow of his head.

Jezebel gave a little dip of her chin in a nod to the one opposite her with the whiskey bottle, an assent to his unspoken question. "Yes, please," she said, and her voice had a lilt to it, something like a lullaby, words of a song. Her gaze spread from his back over her shoulder, surveying the assortment of people who had arrived just after her, and something of a secret smile, almost feline, curved her bottom lip.

(Georg Aurdon) Curtain pushed further out of the way as he pushed himself to his feet, leaving the empty bottle behind in the booth. Someone would eventually get to get it. Sooner or later, probably the latter seeing as there wasn't a tender on call at the moment. Sly smirk within the shadows of the hood as his gaze swept over the gathering as he moved for the bar, and more booze.

A stout glass sat on the bar for her, placed with a smoother silence then one might have expected. The Double Rye gulped air as Tag poured and then, as he had with Mallory, the back of his hand nudged it towards Jezebel. It was as far as he would bother to bartend. The bottle squealed shut with a tightening of the metal cap before he set it back on the shelf. The Dark Man stepped out from behind the bar, taking the familiar slouch of every other customer at the bar. His ankles hugged the legs of his barstool, his shoulder brought forward as a guard as he worked his way through two fingers of his drink.

She might have caught Trick staring, but if she did, the woman of flame didn't seem to mind, even gave him a brighter version of that smile she'd already shared with everyone else. There was a twinkle in her warm amber eyes, one set of golden lashes dropped in a wink for him, and then her attention burned its way back to Tag, who poured her a drink in silence. She accepted the cup with a tilt of her fingers over its lip, dragging it the rest of the way to her, and she waited until he'd taken his seat to respond properly. "Thank you." Whether it was because she hadn't looked that direction yet or maybe because of the hood, Jezebel wasn't aware of - or at least hadn't acknowledged-- a pirate moving into her vicinity. Not yet.

His voice is a soft pattern of rain, "You're welcome." Most of the time, people didn't hear it, or respond. It wasn't the sort of conversation that seemed to mean much to them.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)


Last edited by Tag Sentry on Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Taken from live rp in the Inn. Thanks to Mallory, Taneth, Jezebel Calient and Georg Aurdon for the play.))

She'd heard him, though; the rain had a sizzle to it, a gentle white noise that, though subtle, could drown out everything else in its path. The man's posture was defensive, closed-off: his shoulders drawn up as though to protect or cage him. She brought the glass to her lips, sipping thoughtfully, as she made no secret of her study of his profile. It was that very impenetrable air, perhaps, that intrigued her.

Mallory was trying to sip the Double Rye that had been generously poured into her glass, but the only neat liquor she ever had came in the form of shots. She peered at her reflection in the bottom of the glass, and for a moment, a pair of unfamiliar eyes peered back at her. "Well, what the hell..." She tucked a mess of brightly dyed hair behind her ear, turned back towards the bar and said, "Who wants their fortune told? One question, one gold."
Something changed in Mallory’s demeanor (the liquor helped). She relaxed her tension, yet managed to draw herself up taller, the angle of her chin proud, the angle of her smile knowing, and her hand open and expectant.

Jezebel’s eyes weren't a secret, but Tag didn't betray how well he knew them. The woman offered to read fortunes and he swallowed, remembering a fortune that had been read to him not so long ago. The Dark Man looked to the would-be teller but did not yet volunteer himself. He considered it but a cloud dampened his thoughts.

When asked by one of the people in the inn about her gift to tell fortunes, Mallory said, "I do," she added, looking down, rubbing thumb and forefinger together absently. "I gave the ghost of a blind man my eyes for a day, and his third eye in return. Its gifts still favor me 'til the toll of midnight."

Mallory's question at least temporarily diverts Jezebel’s attention, and as her gaze moves to the woman in question, it passes over the hooded figure directly in front of her. Hard to say who it might be - there are a lot of hoods in Rhydin after all - and so her gaze moves on to Mallory, and then Trick on his couch with... Taneth. The petite blonde receives Jezebel's brightest smile yet.

(Georg Aurdon) Using the bar mirror to keep tabs on the others, though his gaze seemed to drift here and there for a moment. Finally plucking down the trademarked piratey drink of legend. Rum. Always go and bet on the rum. "Evening." Turning on a heel with a wink from behind the hood to Jezebel, as he moved out from behind the bar. The one playing with cards got a glance, but he'd stick to letting others playing the palm reading game.

"Then a gold's worth a laugh from," Mallory pursed her lips, eyeing her friend at the couch, "such a competent, grown-up magician of a man. Come on. Why not?"

Tag spoke. "You can tell my fortune." For Mallory. It swings like an ax in the gallows, silent and final.

"Tagger!" Taneth Lifted her head to crow at Tag.

Mallory looked away from Owen in an instant, studied Tag for a little longer... and curled two fingers, in a gesture for coin. "Alright."

Lifting one hand away from the bar to return Taneth's wave, Jezebel’s gaze was on the fortune teller when two things happened almost simultaneously. The man beside her volunteered to have his fortune read - the very last she'd have betted on, were she a woman who made bets - and the man directly opposite her spoke. Her head tilted curiously as she peered into the depths of that hooded cloak, seeking any definition to the features it concealed. The voice sounded familiar, but then it had been awhile since she heard it last. "Evening," she responded in kind, and only then did she realize that 'Tagger', who Taneth referred to, was the man beside her, as surely as she'd become 'Jelly'. Or 'Pumpkin Jelly', depending on the day. "I see she's renamed you, too."

Mallory took the coin from the counter, the one Owen had offered and rolled it between her fingers as she angled a look at Tag. Her other hand splayed around the base of her whiskey glass. It felt cold and got colder.

(Georg Aurdon) Rather amused that Jelly as Taneth liked to call her was a touch lost on who the hooded one was, though that was part of the fun in letting her figure it out on her own. Rather than cast the hood back and remove all the mystery, as he plopped on a stool at the bar. Top of the bottle pulled free before it was lifted for a slow savoring the taste swig. "Forgotten me already, Jelly?" Teasing the woman, just a little bit.

An elbow to the bar was taken, Tag’s hand still protectively circled around his glass of whiskey. The Dark Man's eyes went to that of the would-be fortune teller’s, waiting for the outcome. Cold. Colder still.

Jezebel had said hello to… Tagger? He hadn't thought they were talking about him, even if the warmth of their voice was directed to him. There was a delay before he looked, meeting Taneth and then Jezebel accordingly.

Taneth flapped a hand to Tag! "Tagger you do not look old yet!"

"That is remarkable because I am old, yet."

To be fair it had been weeks since their last encounter. When Taneth called Jezebel cute, her grin turns playful. She knew Paul's name wasn't Paul, anymore than hers was Jelly. But there was something about Taneth that just made it easy to agree, to let yourself be renamed. She gave him a nod of her head, gave Taneth a "thank you". The man beside her had spoken again at last, and she found herself studying him once more. "I assume it's not really Tagger", she prompted gently. To the stranger in the hood, she gave a coy smile, a roll of her shoulder. Impossible to say whether she recognized him yet or not. "Are you someone I should remember?"

"It's Tag." The correction was minor. She pressed him with a smile he did not look at or reflect. He absorbed her, no show of disdain but the obvious involvement with Mallory and the reading she was in the throes of committing.

(Georg Aurdon) Quite a few weeks, though in his defense. He does spend a lot of time out at sea or getting himself or out of various types of trouble. Sea blues again sweeping over the others as he listened in on the various banter of conversations, with savored swigs of the rum. "That all depends on if you think I am someone that you wish to remember." Pausing for a few heartbeats. "Perhaps I failed to make a good enough impression the last time I was here."

"What do you want to know?" Mallory said to him, tipping her head one way, then the other, studying the Dark Man from every angle she could. Eyes were slit slyly, only emitting little glimpses of her now-white irises. "Heartbreak? No, you already know where that's headed, the dead don't need to tell you... What about her, your precious little copper crown? Did her mother scream when she died?" She clicked her tongue against the back of the teeth, curled a knowing smile, and added, "And did she hear it? No... not yours to know. The new one... no, too many clouded paths, too many futures for you to make -- or break -- still. No... We're going to talk about the eyes you keep seeing in the dark. Judging you... seeing your weakness... poised to strike... You're stumbling, tripping and falling under this moonlight, tonight's moonlight, while a chorus of hellions bays from the depths of Tartarus to welcome you down, down... bloody and screaming, into the earth." Her eyes snapped open, and she slapped a hand down on top of Tag's, squeezed. Her eyes were her own once more, but the warning she bore came from a place they could no longer see. "Keep your gun ready, gunslinger. They're closing in... and there's more of them than you think."

His eyes were on Mallory when she spoke. He already knew what that was. Dead. It prompted him to reach inside his leather jacket and light up a cigarette, the rest of her words pouring into his ear and sinking somewhere in the soft tissue of his lungs. Her hand pressed on top of his and when she called him gunslinger he felt his skin grow numb and her touch seem far away. She was met with a slow, stiff nod as he sucked on his cigarette. He wanted to ask her a question but refrained, his lips gently parted to the air between them.

Jezebel’s head turned. The fortune tellers' words were startling. They spoke of violence and pain, and Tag could be forgiven for thinking her sly banter was directed at him accordingly. Jezebel didn't make a habit of challenging perfect strangers like that, which might indicate that she knew precisely who she was jabbing at, after all. She didn't interrupt Tag further, not in the throes of that exchange, and instead, she sipped her whiskey, chin cradled in sun-kissed fingers as she studied the anonymous hood. "Could be lucky for you, I am sometimes known to give second chances."

Mallory let his hand go slowly, staring at her own fingers for a beat too long and nodded back. "Well... okay," she said. Her mouth felt dry. She licked her lips and wetted them with whiskey.

Tonight's moonlight. He downed more Double Rye as if it would help. His free hand combed backward through his black glass hair. Moments later, money for the reading was dropped to the bar and shoved towards Mallory. There was only one thing to say. "Thank you.”

( Georg Aurdon) Gaze shifted to the reading that Tag was getting, though he had nothing to add to it. Gaze then shifted back to Jezebel again as his fingers drummed against the sides of the bottle, while his other hand drummed against the counter top. As if he was pondering her words on getting a second chance. "Perhaps removing the hood would give you pause to decide if I need a second chance." Though neither hand moved to push it back. "I shall leave it to you, Beautiful." Leaving that word for her.

Mallory took the money, deliberated over a few unsaid things of her own.

"You've been pretty nice to a street rat, shared your whiskey... gave my gift a chance..." She looked up at him. "Be careful."

"Mmmm." She couldn't have known that the Dark Man gave pieces of himself away to those who were like her. No strings attached, only parts of a shadow they might remember when the world seemed a less kind than it should have been. He didn't absorb her gratitude, just more of his drink.

Beautiful. It was the way he'd said it that was the clue, and the knowing revealed itself in the way her lips pulled into a smile, one corner just a little bit higher than the other. Still, she played nonchalant. "Yes, perhaps it might. See what color your eyes are." It was in the way she'd said the word 'color' that she gave him another clue.

Tag seemed to have retreated into his drink, and so Jezebel turned to him next, concern flickering in her eyes like candles caught in a sudden breeze. "...Are you alright?" She asked him in a low murmur.

"Well... alright," Mallory near-echoed her earlier nonsense, finished her whiskey, and left a copper coin in the bottom of the glass. She slid out of her seat and slunk away from the bar, intercepting Spencer on the girl's way to the bar. Just a hip-bump. Contact with a friend. Even a moment of it made her feel more grounded.

(Georg Aurdon) Guessing the way it was said would be the key in revealing who he was, before a chuckle passed his lips to her comment about the color of his eyes, and how it had been said. "Depends on whom you ask. As calm and wild as the sea." Now moving his hands up to pull back the hood, followed with a shake of the head.

"I don't have much time," the admission followed by the lean of Tag’s body as he drew his cellphone out of the pocket of his jacket. Mallory went on to more familiar company. His eyes recounted the time on the glowing face of his cellphone. His attention went to Jezebel, flickering momentarily to the one who called her beautiful. Looking down at his drink, he reminded, "The sea is calling you."

"Yes," she agreed, "and the tide always rolls back in eventually. Right, Silver?" She called over her shoulder, making real eye contact with him for the first time now that he'd dropped the hood. Her smile hadn't lost its warmth as it slipped from one man to the other and then back again. "but neither of those things are answers to the question I asked you." She paused. "Which... is more than enough answer on its own, I suppose."

Shoulders roll like the imagery of the tide she had called into words. It was as much of an answer as any. Tag was alright.

"That it does, Beautiful." Using that nickname as she was now calling him by the one she preferred. Now matching her eye contact with his own, as well as his own smile to boot. Silver’s gaze shifted between her and Tag for a moment, with a slight shrug of his shoulders following.

There was a bleeding edge of need that surrounded the dark stranger, but it wasn't a need she could satisfy. Her lips twitched thoughtfully. "You remind me of someone I used to know," she said, bringing her glass to her lips for another long swallow. Long lashes fluttered as the whiskey went down, burning hotter than she'd anticipated. It straightened her spine in a pleasant way, but she took another breath before she did anything.

"Used?" He asked the question the way someone asked if the person in question was dead. Tonight. There's more of them than you think. His eyes are still and steady, unaffected by her Silver companion. Tag was used to being dismissed, it was the way a boisterous world operated.

Sea blues moved between the pair for a moment, as he wasn't going to be rude and stick his nose into that conversation. Another lifted and savored swig of the rum while continuing to keep tabs on the other. So if Jezebel wished to talk with Tag? Silver would have no issue with it as Beautiful was her own woman.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)


Last edited by Tag Sentry on Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Taken from live rp in the Inn. Thanks to Mallory, Jezebel Calient and Georg Aurdon for the play.))

"He's been gone from these parts for several years now." Missing, not dead. It happened a lot in a town this transient, but the quantity of losses hardly blunted the sting of their ache. Another glance was thrown in Georg's direction, it spoke of warmth and being glad to see him, but that the time of reconnection had to wait. Pitching her voice low, it was but a velvet whisper shared exclusively with Tag. "Someone is missing for you, too?"

Sideways glance for a moment as Silver, too, could share in that moment of knowing what it was like to have lost someone, but it wasn't his place to say a word. Jezebel got a smile which returned the warmth of being seen again and to seeing her in turn. He could wait his turn to when Tag and her were done with their conversation.

His eyebrows came together, expression sharpened in what someone might have mistaken for pain when the latter part of what she had to say ebbed into his ear. The Dark Man betrayed it all, the entire story, with just one glance to his ring finger. The answer came a beat later, delivered without eye contact as he looked at his drink, "Yes." The tide shifted, his voice edging up to her, "And who is your someone that is missing?" Now he looked at her, carrying a storm in his eyes.

Drawn like a moth to a flame, her gaze tracks his to the wedding ring. Comprehension flares in the warm depths of her eyes, and there's an empathy there. It isn't pity - she doesn't pity him. The set of her mouth is soft when eyes like a midnight typhoon pierce her in their churning depths. "None as serious as that," her reply was in that same velvet hush, a low throated lullaby. They could be discussing anything at all. "but he was my friend, and I don't have many of those."

"It's hard when it's your best friend." He leaned away from her to grab an ashtray, bringing it in close to tap the ash of his cigarette. There was a discomfort in the conversation, something about it that didn't blame her for the sense of separation. He swallowed a conservation mouthful of whiskey before he spoke, "Best wishes, to your friend." His hands looked rough, spat out by salt and sand. Her interest in him lingered, unlikely and without the promise of anything more than stray words loosened from him like the seeds of a dandelion. In bursts, floating, disappearing, finding their way. He rubbed his jaw against his shoulder.

"Thank you," said the woman, and her smile came easy even now, despite the distress that stood out all over him, blinking traffic hazard signals. There was no expectation in the way she smiled now, no anticipation. The heat of her gaze remained the same. "And same to you, for your..." Her gaze strayed down to that wedding ring once more. "...best friend, as well. Been gone long?"

The way he cleared his throat was an answer. A noise somewhere in the place where there should have been a voice and then salted, soothed, with cigarette smoke. When his eyes met her, they looked in her eyes for honesty. For whatever alluring answers her nature might have wanted to give he wanted to peel away the kindness planted in her voice for earnest grit. It was a simple question, "Did you find what you were looking for?" In coming to the bar, in raking her tongue through a conversation with him.

Her brows rose curiously for the sudden steel in him, the rough edges of anger that licked along the corners of his words. She met his force with just the smallest kiss of flame. "...Depends. Have I found a friend?"

"I'm sorry," his ankles eased from the way they hugged the legs of his barstool, touching the ground. His weight shifted onto them, his stool getting nudged back a few inches once he stood. He reached in his back pocket, drawing out paper-leaf bills from his wallet, "I don't have anything to offer anyone." His empty glass moved so that it was a paperweight, pinning the bills to the lacquered surface of the bar.

Jezebel tended to flow naturally in the direction she was most needed, a flame seeking every breath of oxygen, every ounce of combustible material. Fire could rage out of control, whipped to a frenzy by a strong wind, but it could also burn slow and unrelenting, resisting even the driving rain. Tag stood, and a little smile snaked its way over her mouth. There was a knowing in that smile, a quiet kind of understanding. "You sell yourself short," she commented, finishing the last of the whiskey he'd poured for her. "Or maybe you've just been too long overlooked. Goodnight, Tag. I hope you find what you're looking for."

"Everyone has something to offer." Silver was finally offering his opinion towards Tag. Though he did toast the man with the bottle of rum as Tag headed off.

It's not sexy, the hint of formula, of tears and algebra problems. Somewhere lingered tea, spiked with bourbon. It was whiskey, though, the sort of liquor that muttered about charred oak barrels and how getting older would make it more worthwhile. It was standing, and hearing the stranger and her Silver companion's reassurance that he realized he didn't have a proper way to address her. Wetting his lips, his attention went to her as he repeated the introduction, "I'm Tag. It was nice... talking to you." There was the trail of his gaze, to the one who was primarily interested because Tag was warming the seat he wanted to occupy. The feeling was familiar, "And you, as well."

"Jezebel. May our paths cross again, Tag."

There was a nod, a partial bow as he caught the bottom of his barstool and tucked it against the bar. The Dark Man backpedaled the first handful of steps and then turned, his cigarette held limply between his fingers only a moment longer before he docked it at his lips, urged the door open and returned to where he needed to be. Home.

Mallory turned her head, expression darkening as the Dark Man passed.

Eyes like summer sun followed him on his path out the door, lingering there another long moment or two before they ticked away. Jezebel threw a quick glance over the bar, and whatever thoughtful passivity had been in her expression as she looked at Tag was gone by the time her attention found its way to Georg. "My glass is empty," she announced with a mournful pout.

Mallory shoved her things into her backpack and pushed out through the front door, choosing a different path than the gunslinger. Fewer eyes in the dark that way.

It was better that way, the snicker of coyotes wouldn't follow her.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

((italic section quotes from Mallory))

"And did she hear it? No... not yours to know. The new one... no, too many clouded paths, too many futures for you to make -- or break -- still. No... We're going to talk about the eyes you keep seeing in the dark. Judging you... seeing your weakness... poised to strike... You're stumbling, tripping and falling under this moonlight, tonight's moonlight, while a chorus of hellions bays from the depths of Tartarus to welcome you down, down... bloody and screaming, into the earth." Her eyes snapped open, and she slapped a hand down on top of Tag's, squeezed. Her eyes were her own once more, but the warning she bore came from a place they could no longer see. "Keep your gun ready, gunslinger. They're closing in... and there's more of them than you think."



It’s late by the time Dad gets home. She hadn’t heard the door open, the conversation and then departure of Marjorie. What she remembered was hearing the refrigerator door during the early morning hours. He was probably going to finish what he had made for dinner that night. Penny would have stayed in the bed, staring at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to come to her except for the noise she heard.

He was going back outside? When she rolled over to check the time, it was four am. Her fingers swiped at the corner of her eyes and she stood up, opening her door as quietly as she could. Her nightgown was long and white, small blue flowers printed along the cloth.

“Dad?”

She tried to make her steps small, impossibly small. So small that they disappeared and wouldn’t wake Ame or her Dad, if he was sleeping. The master bedroom door was open and when she tentatively stuck her head in she saw her brother was in his crib. The baby monitor was on but there wasn’t a sign of her dad. Maybe she was just hearing things? That didn’t seem as likely, not when he wasn’t on the bed or couch in the living room. When she stepped into the kitchen she saw his plate of food, empty, sitting in the belly of the sink. Her eyes moved up, staring out the window, her attention drawn to the corner of the house because of a flash of movement.

It was him, she recognized the curve of his shoulders and also the way that he moved. Usually when he stood and thought about things he leaned his weight to one leg, sort of like those Greek statues she saw in her history class. What was that weird word they had used to describe it? Contrapposto. That was how he stood, weight to one leg with the monitor hanging off one of his pant’s pockets. His hand was wrapped around the grip of his shovel. She could see his chest expand and fall, jumping with his labored breaths that made a wet ring around the collar of his chest, a black bird that spread between his shoulder blades.

The Dark Man was digging a hole at the foot of the cherry tree of their house. He must have been digging for a while because the hole was as long and wide as a man and nearly a foot deep. She wanted to call to him, to break him away from his thoughts because she had never seen him so far away before. What was he doing?

She opened the door to the porch silently. Not many people knew the trick of how to open the front door that way, but when you lived there your whole life you learned a trick or two about your house. It was especially helpful with Ame being so young, sometimes startled from his sleep at a whisper. Her brother was better at it now, but still. She’d learned how to slip out the front door with barely an interruption and was getting to use that skill.

The porch swing had her father’s gun and holster slung on the seat of it, his leather coat folded over the wooden slats of the bench, seeming as if it was expecting her to be there. She went to the swing, reaching out to feel the leather of the holster. She had put it to Madison to teach her how to shoot and all she had ever really seen was what was on TV. Penny knew she was lingering there because seeing her father in this unusual way bothered her. She had a twist of curiosity in her stomach that made her feet heavy and amplified every sound on the property. Her dad had always been someone she thought she knew, that she had mapped out well and understood to the point that he was boring. He did things like clockwork, you could almost know him down to the minute. Or so she thought. She didn't know this clockwork, these minutes, and it was more terrifying than she thought.

Her steps became small again. Smaller, more quiet, edging her up to the railing behind the porch swing so that she could peek one eye around the corner to get a better look at what he was up to.

“…Dad….?” She whispered the word, realizing that it was a question and not that she was calling out to him. The Dark Man had climbed inside the shallow grave beneath the cherry tree and shut his eyes. It looked like it was over, it looked like he was giving up. By now the sun was rising, wanting to crest the hill, making a strange twilight of night and day.

The coyotes snickered, trotting from the face of the woods and towards the easy grave.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

After he left the inn that night, he was alone with his thoughts. The night had been unusually invasive. Normally, when he went to the bar he sat by himself and had small echoes of conversation with people. At times he caught glimpses of who they were. At times they caught glimpses of him.

That night, he’d said something without meaning to. Something that he held onto, an idea somewhere in the cage of his ribs he simply couldn’t shake. His best friend was missing. The realization left him understanding better the place that had been hollowed out. He kept walking, noticing that the leaves were quiet now that they were a damp blob along the road. There had been a brief sprinkle over the world, not enough to cause a slurry of mud but just enough that it didn’t feel like everything wanted to ignite into flame anymore.

Once he was home and Marjorie left, he finished eating and put his plate at the bottom of the sink. The Double Rye whiskey still warm in his mouth, he felt a certainty burn in his chest. It was the sort that made him tuck three knives into his back belt loop before he stepped outside.

The coyotes were watching. They had been watching, perhaps days before Madison had left and they were still watching now. He pretended not to see them, not to know that they saw him unlock his holster and drop it onto the seat of the porch swing. His jacket followed, and after that, he went to the shed behind the house to retrieve the shovel. It felt like the whole world was watching him while he dug, at first seeming like he meant to unearth a hidden treasure. Then, as he continued working, the end of the shovel piercing through the roots of grass and trees, it became apparent that he was making the sort of hole that would bury a man. The sort of hole he had asked Madison to make for him beneath the cherry tree.

The labor was intense. Tag had seen people underestimate what it took to dig. At first the shoveling of dirt was impressive and the headway was noticeable, which made it satisfying. After the top layer was removed? The real difficulty began. It seemed no shovel of dirt was enough and that he was caught in an endless cycle of upturning dirt, pouring it into a growing pile nearby. The night began to wane, dawn threatening the moment with its light, with its promise that the sun would rise again.

He was impossibly tired. He was tired of being alone, tired of being quiet. He was tired of going unheard, of not being believed. Madi never seemed to think that he loved her, and had argued that she was bad.

“I don’t care… even if you’re bad and I don’t see it… I love you.” He said it to the pit in the ground before he dropped to one knee. His body twisted, settling in the shallow grave that was tight on his sides and longer at the feet. The shovel was left like a signpost, stabbed into the loose pile of dirt near the grave.

The dirt at his back was cool, dry because the hand toss of rain hadn’t soaked beyond what was superficial. There was even the sense of warmth, that he was sheltered from the wind, from the intentions of Winter, and that there was peace in the ground. The sky didn’t have a cloud in it, every star looking crisp. It was the sort of night that made him feel that he was staring into infinity and that the infinity didn’t mind that he looked. The bare branches of the cherry tree criss-crossed over his view of the stars like the cracks in a window pane. He wiggled, grabbing the baby monitor and holding it over his heart the way a soldier held onto a shield.

“Hey.”

His eyes moved from the sky to his feet, where Madison stood. She gave her winsome smile, tucking a lock of her brown hair behind her ear. She was in one of his black work shirts, splattered with blue paint, its hem stopping somewhere at the middle of her bare thighs. Her feet were naked, her toes curling around the dirt at the edge of his grave and then releasing so that a small avalanche dripped on top of the toes of his shoes.

He swallowed, “I miss you.”

Her eyes sparked with amusement, as if they were sharing a joke the world wasn’t in on. One of her feet dropped inside the grave between his ankles, “Baby, I’m right here.”

“No…” he swallowed, one hand gripping the baby monitor over his heart, “I know you aren’t.” His breath eased out slowly before he could speak again, “I’ve never been through anything so hard. Every day I want to crawl in this hole and all I can think of is that I don’t because… I don’t know that I can allow myself to disappoint you. All I can think of is that I want to talk to my best friend, that I want to talk to… you. That I just don’t know… how any of this is possible without you.” There was a time that Rona had left and the path to healing was on a road to Lofton, with her. At a time where he could be a SUREMAN.

“Oh, Tag,” her voice was rich and low, her smile unshaken as she dropped to her knees and then began crawling towards him. She stopped when her thighs half-hugged his hips, confined by the tight space of the grave. Her head flipped backward, her wild eyes moving over the base of the cherry tree. Her voice came like she was recalling a dream, “I always hated that tree. We should have cut it down together. Maybe on that day I gave you a ring? It reminded me that we wouldn’t live forever.” Her chin pointed down to him, her brown hair pouring forward to frame the sides of her face.

“We still can.”

Her eyes could be so pointed, even in the night. His shirt had bunched up at her thighs, barely concealing her pelvis as she shifted, easing her body further up until her knees were on his shoulders. It had the effect of causing one of his hands to lift up, stroking the side of her face. It was coarser than he remembered. Wild and raw, but waiting.

“Oh, Dark Man.” Her hands ran down his right shoulder, tugging his arm up so that she smelled the friction burn on his skin. Her lips drew closer and her tongue peeked out, drawing a slow, wet line along the burn. His hips moved involuntarily up to her, igniting a wicked smile on her lips. It was the sort of smile that said she knew she’d had him a long time ago, that everyone said it but no one knew that they were always, always, just borrowing her Dark Man.

“I don’t want to wake up.”

“Baby,” her smile was long and sharp and her eyes yellow in the weak evening light. Her head turned, her tongue curled around the protrusion of the bone in his wrist. She paused long enough to speak, “This is going to hurt.” Her lips drew back and without warning, her teeth snapped on his arm like a bear trap. Her nose drew to a point as her fingers, losing their dexterity, pawed at his chest.

He woke up.

His right arm was the only reason the coyote wasn’t at his throat.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Teeth sank into his arm, each one gripped him like a puzzle piece that had found its home. His chest moved forward, his left-hand twisting behind himself until he gripped the hilt of his knife tucked into the beltline of his pants at the base of his spine. He jerked his arm forward, his hand singing across the belly of the coyote that whimpered once and then staggered back.

That was when he climbed out of his grave. His attention was now entirely on the wounded not-animal that crawled out of the West. Somewhere in its fur, he smelled the sun, he smelled salt and sweat and thought the scent of Shurman’s was buried in his nappy, coyote fur. Tag squared his hips off in the coyote’s direction, pushing the back of his left hand with the knife over his lips. His chest collapsed and blossomed with heavy breaths. He was waiting.

The coyote needed a moment, but only a moment, to regroup. His compatriots were not far off. They were like four-legged ghosts, judges that snickered at his failure. The coyote paced left and right like a caged animal before his triangular head bowed and he leaped.

Mid-air the apparition of a beast became a clothed man. All cowboy, all wind and tumbleweeds colliding with him and feeling like leather and sand. The knock of the man’s weight against him forced him backward. His hands gripped the man’s coat and he turned, transferring the momentum of the collision by turning and driving the man’s back against the siding of his house.

“My name is Kusinage,” he put the blade of his knife against the man’s throat. The blade flicked like a round of lighting across his throat. The arterial veins sputtered and spilled, “and I protect this home.” The man’s body wriggled with the same brilliance as a fish caught on a line. The violent life behind his struggle quickly became hollow before his body slumped to the ground.

He didn’t have to turn to know that the other three were descending upon him. That was fine. He would turn to face them.
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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The Dark Man
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm


Joined: 06 Feb 2009
Posts: 228
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Jobs: Caretaker, City Guard
Can Be Found: Rhy'Din
10416.08 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The coyotes wouldn’t get close enough to the Dark Man for him to carve them up again. They stood as men in dusty coats, like brown ghosts made of prairie sand, spit and whiskey. The scent of the sun on their clothes was a different sun, a Western sun, one that promised to burn everything with a shrug.

His forearm felt hot at first, as if he was profusely sweating and not pumping iron out bite wounds. Too bad, Dark Man, too bad. Their lips didn’t move but he saw a whispering cackle of their intention echo in each smirk. The one closest to him, uninjured, raised his gun and took time to aim down its sights at him. It was an unnecessary show. He found he couldn’t stop staring at the man’s mouth, the way his grin carried an impossibly heavy gloat that the small slivers of the night still managed to illuminate. He didn’t know if it was fair that he should see that smile so well before the trigger was pulled.

The blast of sound came as a surprise. It should have been louder and the man should have kept on smiling. He should have felt more pain. Instead, the coyote man turned his eyes and body, searching the dark towards the front of the house. He dropped his gun and gripped the side of his face. Tag’s eyes followed the man’s to find Penny, gripping his pistol with everything she had and a shaking adrenalin chaos.

“This is our home and you need to get the Hell out.” It was all right that she was crying, it said how much she meant it.

One of the men moved to take advantage of the moment. He tried to raise his gun up her way but she cocked the revolver and pointed the end of the barrel at him. Her face twisted up in a pained chagrin as she looked at him. The third coyote man was weighing out whether or not he’d be faster at drawing his gun than a scared girl could be at pulling the trigger. Tag moved like a bird swooping over the ground, putting his back to Penny and standing in the no-man’s-land between them.

“Go.” It was said coldly, then more insistent like a tsunami hitting a city that hadn’t realized it was coming, “Go!” The coyote men turned, leaving their snickering behind. Leaving their blood and pieces of their ghosts in the yard and overgrown garden. One would have a scar over his cheek, split from where the bullet of a little girl nearly cleaved the lobes of his brain.

“Dad,” her wrists went limp and the revolver dropped to the ground. He moved to her, more man than rush-wind bird, and stooped down to collect the gun. She looked at him and swallowed, “it hurts.”

“I know.” His dark eyes turned to the house and then back to her, “your wrists need to be straight when you fire.”

“D—“

“Penny. We need to get inside.”

Tag had seen the smirk of the man who intended to shoot him so clearly, yet Penny’s tears were a fragile glimmer of light over her round cheeks. She wanted to say something to him. There was so much to say. More than there had ever been. About wind and rain, secrets and the way things fall apart and come together. She wanted to know about the things that fell apart but the moment demanded that they come together.

“I need stitches. Let’s get inside.”

“But I don’t know ho—“ She was cut off by him stepping past her and she quickly turned to follow. They worked their way to the front of the house. His shoulder pushed at the door while he awkwardly turned the knob with his uninjured right hand, which also had the gun in it.

“Get the brandy off the top of the fridge.” He could tell she didn’t want to, that she hesitated with the hope that it could just be wrapped up like any other scrap. The worst she had encountered were Band-Aids. This couldn’t have been that serious, her father didn’t need to be put back together.

The path of red leading up to the kitchen table from the front door to his seat told a different story. It told her that there were coyotes in the world and it reminded her of what the fire had done to her world—that it took things and that parents were mortal. She used one of the kitchen chairs to reach the top of the fridge and when the bottle was set on the table with a thunk, she looked at the Dark Man so seriously that he thought she might threaten him.

“Now what?”
_________________
One day you will ask me which is more important?
My life or yours? I will say mine
and you will walk away not knowing
that you are my life. (Khalil Gibran)
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