Empty Sky Chapter 5 – Joni Levis

Personal Psychologies

Joni Levis rolled over and buried her head against Virgil’s pillow. Still asleep, she settled herself into the bed and inhaled deeply, pulling in his aromas, his shampoo and sweat, and smiled.

She felt a trill, a tingling contraction, a brief muscle spasm in her vagina. A moment later there was another quiver and she half opened her eyes. Awake, the contractions became more immediate and demanding. She looked at the large, red numerals on her clock: 4:35AM.

Fucking time.

Virgil always woke her up within a few minutes of 4:35AM for a little lovemaking. It didn’t matter if she was turned away, on her back, on her stomach, curled in the covers, facing him or what; always the gentle nudge, the liquid parting, and his lips would be on her, his penis in her. Busy-busy-busy for a few minutes and then asleep once again.

She reached for him and her hand closed on empty sheets. Her eyes opened wide. No Virgil and the bathroom was dark.

“Virgil?”

She turned on the lamp beside her bed. His clothes were gone. The only part of him remaining in her Boston BackBay condo was his scent on her sheets and his necklace around her neck.

“Fuck you, Virgil.”

Her eyes darted around the bedroom and stopped on her reflection in the mirror. “Ugh.” She turned away, pulled her nightshirt down — again! — and crossed her arms over her chest, her body reminding her of a little girl’s that had suddenly sprouted too much boob. She stopped wearing t-shirts with sayings on them because the punchlines were usually in the shade.

She checked herself again. “Ugh.”

She pulled her knees up under the sheets and held them tight against her, rocking slightly. Her hand reached to her nightstand for a cigarette and came up empty.

“Guess today wasn’t the day to quit smoking.”

She’d replaced the ashtray with bowl of cherry Tootsie-Roll Pops. She unwrapped one, crinkled the wrapper, tossed it down on Virgil’s side of the bed, and sucked hard on the round head of candy as it entered her mouth.

“What’re you going to tell me this time?” she asked Virgil’s side of the bed. “You going to tell me you had to go feed your dog? You going to say your friend, ‘Sarah’, couldn’t take care of things tonight and you had to get home?”

She took the lollipop out of her mouth and jabbed it like a pointer at the vacant side of the bed. “You know, people have been telling me to hire a private investigator to find out about you. I’m thinking about it, you know.”

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Empty Sky Chapter 4 – Al Carsons

Love like a Whirlwind, Loss like a Hurricane

Al Carsons’ leathery, calloused palms pushed down on the white, threadbare vinyl of his ’77 Ford F-150’s benchseat. It crackled as he slid out of his pickup. He liked the crackling. He liked the cold of the knee-deep, Hallock, Minnesota snow when he stepped out. He reached back in for his lunchbox and blew a kiss to the empty seat as his eyes passed over the front seat rifle mount next to the gearshift.

He kept his pickup all these years because of that benchseat; he and Effie could sit side by side and not have to reach over an armrest to give each other a little pat or sneak a little kiss. He brought it home to show her, a long time ago, half a century ago in fact, when he and Effie were just starting out, all shiny new, red with white trim, a five-speed half-ton longbed and they went for a drive, my god did they go for a drive, he with one hand on the wheel and one around her, holding her close, only letting go when he had to shift. Not everybody could handle a rear-drive longbed manual in this heavy snow, then or now.

He patted the seat where Effie’d sit. She told him they made Charlie that day they went for their first drive in their new pickup. He taught Charlie and Ben how to drive and hunt in that same pickup.

Now, like him, the hinges squeaked a bit.

He closed the door and patted the windshield. “Just you and me now, hey, old girl?”

His green wool pants swished between his thighs as he waded through low drifts, sounding almost like breaths against the shhsing whispers of the falling snow. His black workboots cut a path towards his plow and he thought of explorers in the Arctic. He stopped under the maintenance depot’s one streetlight. In one step his shadow shifted from tracing back to his truck to stretching out towards his plow.

He liked being called for double-overtime during storms. Storms were great. Especially these early winter storms. A mess of whirling winds, little specks of light bouncing back as his headlights fought the darkness, black night sky slowly gaining color as if slowly gaining sight.

And the cold. Cold that made vinyl crack. Even with the big plow’s defrosters on full he could still see his breath misting at the end of his shift.

And the solitude. Quiet. Nobody to listen to him go on when he talked to the wind. That’s what Effie called it. She’d gone to that drunk driver five summers back and the two boys, Charlie and Ben, left him, one to a holdup and the other in Afghanistan.

He knew something was wrong when the Death Notification Officer showed up in his Class A’s. He’d seen Ben in his Class A’s once. He and Effie were so proud, their Ben in a parade in his honor, one of our own being deployed to the other side of the world.

Effie kept hugging Ben and messing up his uniform and saying, “If only Charlie were here to see you. He’s so proud of you, Ben, you know he’s smiling down on you waiting for you to catch the football.”

“I know, Ma. I know.”

“And you make sure you come back home to us, you hear?”

“I will, Ma. I will.”

But that drunk driver took Effie and a week or so later the Death Notification Officer knocked on his door and they talked and shook hands and the Death Notification Officer explained that the bomb that took Ben out didn’t really leave enough to ship home but Ben was going to get a proper military funeral just the same and Al shouldn’t worry about anything, Ben was coming home.

When Al couldn’t see the Army car anymore, when it had passed through the fields and trees and into the night, he went to his closet and got out his deer rifle and put one shell in the chamber and locked it in the front seat rifle mount and drove a little west because any further north he’d be in Canada and Al didn’t want to cause any international incidents.

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Empty Sky Chapter 3 – The Clarity of Night

Wake up, Dad! Please wake up!

Jamie’s father moaned again. Jamie stood over him, feeling the cold wooden floor through his thick wool socks, feeling the cold October night through his longjohns, listening as his father whimpered, and pulled the covers back over him.

Shem looked at Jamie then Tom. He put a paw on Tom’s cot and looked back at Jamie.

“It’s okay, Shem. He’s dreaming about mom again. He’ll be okay in a minute.”

Shem went to the door and whined.

“Want to go out and pee, Shem? Come on, you old dog.”

Shem and Jamie stood in the cold in the clearing in front of the cabin. The moon’s crescent shown through the trees.

Jamie’s shadow stretched out long and full as the moon grew from crescent to full, his shadow’s lines given sharp edges by the moon’s intense light. He’d never seen his shadow like that, not even in the noonday sun.

He stood silent for a moment and watched it echo his movements, waving its arm when he did, walking when he did. The intense moonlight even shadowed the mist from Jamie’s breath as if his shadow breathed when he breathed.

It even turned back to the full mooned sky when he did.

The moon’s face changed as he watched. His dad told him about Rabbit and Mouse, about The Old Man in the Moon, all sorts of stories people believed about the moon. This was the first time he clearly saw a woman’s face, though. Dad never told him anything like that.

She looked down at him and shed a tear.

“Have you ever seen anything like that, Shem? We’ll have to tell Dad.”

The Moon turned her face away and went from full back to crescent.

He looked around. Night frightened most of his friends, even Bobby Games, but it didn’t frighten Jamie. Not even full mooned nights. Uncle Jack told stories about werewolves, shapeshifting people who howled on bright moon nights. Bobby hated those stories but Jamie just sat and listened. Bobby asked, “Aren’t you scared?” and Jamie shook his head, no.

He’d always been more comfortable at night. He didn’t know why. Maybe because with the moon so bright everything could be seen, clearly revealed in black and white.

***
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Empty Sky Chapter 2 – The Moon’s Children

The Oneiroi

Jamie, delicate and flaxen-haired, slept with Shem, his muzzle whitened with the years, beside him. Both lay quietly, resting between dreams.

The Moon, her light walking through the Upper Peninsula forests on white-slippered feet, lifted her arm to better see.

Tom slept opposite Jamie and Shem, on the far side of the cabin. He’d twitch, kick off his covers, grow chill and pull them up, repeating the pattern while she watched.

Her children, the Oneiroi, little black silhouettes, shadows in the darkness of night, came and went, opening and closing their multicolored, multifaceted, crystalline eyes, kaleidoscopic Gates, little rainbow bridges allowing humans passage from one dream reality to the next.

A void, difficult to see and unheard, an emptiness in the night, formed in the darkness beside Tom’s bed.

The Moon held herself motionless in the sky, her light growing from crescent to full.

“Wake up, Jamie,” beamed the Moon. “Wake up, Shem! Wake! Your father’s in danger.”

The void touched some Oneiroi. Their silhouettes crumpled like wadded paper, their life drained from them.

Shem stared at the void and growled.

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Morningsong

A Story Based on Great Lakes Aboriginal Legend

Every morning the runner’s legs churned the sand. Before his people rose from their slumbers, his legs pushed him to a point on the island from which other islands, islands which floated far in the east, could be seen. Before his people awoke, he came to where his island’s sand met the sea and sky.

The runner stood in the darkness at the edge of the peninsula, his toes meeting the waves. There was no sun but he raised his hands to his eyes as if shielding them from a great light. He stood there, his mind pacing, rehearsing what had been done so often before.

The horizon shimmered as the light of a new day began to make its presence known. The runner began to hum.

A Darkness mounted the waters between the far islands. The runner watched the darkness carefully. His hum became a soft song.

The Darkness rode the waves between the islands, moving towards the sun. The runner’s song became a clarion deep in his chest. Far away the sun changed the direction it travelled. It moved among the islands, its motion changing with each new chord the runner called. The Darkness followed the sun, striving after it, never in time to the changes in the song. The entirety of the runner’s mind was focused on the scene he choreographed.

Finally, the sun danced far out over the sea. The Darkness returned to the islands the sun had left behind. The runner grew silent. He turned to begin his walk back to the village and stopped. A boy, a youth just entering manhood, stood where the peninsula reached the island.

The runner walked along the peninsula, watching the boy. He stopped and stared when they were side by side.

“Why do you run every morning?” asked the boy. “What is the song you sing?”

“Do your elders know you have left the village?”

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