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Friday, February 5, 2010

PHANTASM FRIDAY

Greyhound

by
Glenn Bretz


Getting sleepy now. The third glass of whiskey joins forces with the sleeping pill and tranquilizer. The toxic triumvirate conspires to take me to where I am not. It’s their job.

When I come to I’m reclining in the seat of a Greyhound bus. My neighbor’s cat is pushing her head against my chin. I pet the cat with my left hand and unwrap a candy bar with my right. It chews like licorice, tastes like white chocolate.

“People need petting, too.”

I recognize the voice. She lives here. She’s always here, but she’s not always the same. This time she’s a strikingly beautiful blonde wearing a short white dress that I can almost see through. I stroke her cheek with the back of my hand, wrap my arm around her shoulder. Her response feels intimate enough to suggest a level of sexual comfort, familiarity. I don’t remember. I suppose that’s just as well. She’s much too young for me. I’m sure I got the better end of that bargain.

I have to remind myself that I might not be that old; not here. Here I can never actually see myself. It’s hard to determine what numerical value should be assigned to my foggy existence.

The center aisle is sparsely decorated with abandoned chewing gum, peanuts and popcorn. They leave plenty of room for the driver’s lackluster voice. “Shiremanstown.”

I grew up here. I suppose it’s where I’m going. I make my way down the aisle, cringe at the pneumatic hiss of the doors opening. I stop at the bottom of the stairs, look back to see her standing at the top. It gives me cause for a moment’s false hope. She’s not coming with me. She can’t. This is where our paths diverge.

She points to her feet, her bare feet. How cool is that? “Don’t forget your cat.”

Heaven forbid. My neighbor would never forgive me. I lean in, pick up the cat and don’t even bother to look up her skirt. I could never grow bored with her. So it must be my lack of corporeal substance.

The bus pulls away. I’m standing in front of a long, three story steel and glass building. When did the sleepy village of my youth become large enough to sustain such a garish edifice? I look about me, futilely searching for familiar landmarks. If I’m finally going home, I’ll need to get my bearings. It only takes a moment for the reality to set in. I can’t get there from here.

My chin keeps falling toward my chest. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open. This is the place I go when I sleep. If I go to sleep here it must mean …

I open my eyes and the digital clock is staring at me. I get dressed and rush out the door.


*****


The boss turns his wrist and casts a sideways glance at his watch. I’m late. An explanation is expected. “I overslept. I’m getting old.” It happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t happen to whoever I become when I sleep.

He puts his hands behind his back, assumes his authoritative stance. “I’m getting old, too, but I still make it to work on time.”

I take a deep breath and sigh, quite deliberately. The donut box is empty. The coffee will be stale and bitter. Beyond that, I can’t see any real consequence to my tardiness. But he’s still standing there, insisting that I elaborate. “I think that the place I go when I sleep is trying to hold onto me.”

He arches his eyebrows, tilts his head to the side and looks at me as if I’m quite mad. He’s known me for twenty years. Is he just now figuring that out?

I plod my way through another tedious day. It’s slow; been slow since Bush, Cheney and partners finished raping the economy.

I nuke a TV dinner and pretend that it’s food. It’s leaves me empty and not wanting more. So, I have six episodes of Stargate for dessert. Thank heaven for Hulu.

The whiskey tugs at my eyelids and I’m too tired to tug back.


*****


Suddenly I’m back on the bus again. She tickles my ear with her pinky finger. “I’m feeling very generous. You can have anything you want.”

I take a moment to ponder the possibilities. One clear candidate springs to mind. “A chili-cheese dog would be wonderful.”

Her laughter is uninhibited, infectious. “You can have as many as you want when we get to the lake.”

I can see a vacation house, a cottage in the woods of southern Ontario. I remember clean water, clears skies and summer days when reality could still compete with dreams. “Cranberry Lake?”

“Why not?” she asks. “If you stay on the bus we’ll be in Canada tomorrow.”

North is north. I suppose we would be.

She looks at my lap; which is more than I can do. “You didn’t bring the cat this time. There’s nothing to anchor you to that other place.”

I sit there silently; measure the merit of all that I’ve lost and all that I might gain. The effort leaves me weary. I could easily nod off, but her lips are wet and cool against my neck. Her hair is honeysuckle and heather dancing a whirlwind waltz inside my nostrils. Her voice is a wind chime whisper. “Don’t go to sleep this time. Don’t leave me.”

There’s no need to answer. She already knows. She kisses me again and rests her head on my shoulder. The victor is congratulating the vanquished. I’ll no longer go where she can’t follow.


*****


My co-workers are gathered around the coffee pot discussing my unexpected departure. I’m viewed more fondly in past tense than I ever was in present. They’re all sad, but they shouldn’t be. I’m not. Sooner or later everyone finds a way to get here. I took the Greyhound.


~~~~~


Greyhound was a unique look into the mind of my friend and fellow author, G.R. Bretz. Glenn's newest release is Trill Song, published by Noble Romance Publishing. Another novel in Glenn's cache, a particular favorite of mine, is Absinthe Eyes & Other Lies. I'm not the only one praising Absinthe Eyes & Other Lies, but so are others:

Strega at The Pagan and the Pen Book Reviews said: "GR Bretz has written an astounding tale of dark, erotic love, lust and longing that will keep you as mesmerized...I was totally enthralled with this story and literally couldn’t put it down until I had finished reading every word...Don’t miss this extraordinary tale from a master storyteller! GR Bretz is a name you’ll want to remember and Absinthe Eyes & Other Lies is a book you won’t soon forget." To read the full review, go here: http://thepaganandthepen.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/book-review-absinthe-eyes-other-lies-by-gr-bretz/

Here's my take on Absinthe Eyes & Other Lies, a very creative piece of work I think everyone is missing if they're not reading it: http://moonlightlacemayhem.blogspot.com/2009/11/phantasm-friday_13.html

But since today isn't about absinthe, eyes, lies, or even Glenn's other works, I'll simply give you a link to the other books penned by G.R. Bretz and follow that with a blurb and excerpt of Trill Song: https://www.nobleromance.com/BrowseListing.aspx?author=54

Trill Song Buy Link: https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=94



BLURB:

Liwa is a young woman with a mission. She means to end the war that has drained her society of its best and brightest for centuries. When Liwa was seven, the Healer fled the village in fear of her life. She left her six year old son, Temo, in Liwa’s care.

Now Temo has come of age and Liwa is determined to keep him from being sent to war. Her efforts incur the wrath of the ruling Elders. Liwa must come to terms with her conflicted feelings for Temo, as the two of them fight their way north in search of the legendary Andrigorn valley and the one person who can help Liwa end the war: Temo’s mother.

EXCERPT:

A Trill can sing six notes in a single beat
She can sing in octaves heard only by the beasts of field and forest.
Trill song tickles your skin like the memory of mosquito bites.
It whispers in your ear like the wind in the willows.
It surges through your mind like a spring thaw when the water
is cold and frothy and still tastes like snow.
It is the memory of birth and the birth of memory.
They are Utep. Their world turns on the song of a Trill.


Chapter One

The sun came out for a single day in late December; at first, only a single, slender white ray poking through the thick, gray clouds. The morning grew and the sun climbed high into the sky like a diva ascending the stage. The brilliant yellow orb swelled and shone and sent the clouds scurrying to wherever dark clouds go when they aren’t hanging over the lands of the Utep.

In a sturdy log cabin in a village a few miles east of the Great River the four village Elders huddled in front of the fireplace. They were greedy women; such is the nature of Elders. They would swallow the fire’s warmth with no thought of the young woman lying on a hastily improvised birthing bed of straw and cloth, who may have greater need of its warmth.

The Elders cast flickering, bent shadows over her swollen stomach. An omnipresent force in the lives of the villagers, they were present for every sowing, every harvest. They stood there, stern and stoic, and acted as if the bounty of the earth was somehow their doing, although they neither toiled nor tilled.

They attended every Union between man and woman, and they were present for every birth. In the past few decades the need to watch each birth had become a matter of much importance to them. The world had a way of changing its aspect every so often. The change seemed near due and it always began with a birth.

The midwife knelt beside the young woman and wiped the sweat from her forehead with a cool damp cloth. “I can see the head. One more good push and it will be finished.”

The young woman looked up at her with hopeless eyes. Childbirth was so much worse than she had imagined. The herbal tea clouded her vision and fogged her mind, but did little to ease the pain.

She thought about her husband. She loved him for the life springing from her. She hated him for not being there by her side, but he could not be. Utep brides always watch their husbands march to the Island from which no one returns.

She summoned what little strength she had left, poured the last of her stamina into the effort. Her faced puffed up and turned bright red. The veins in her forehead swelled and throbbed and threatened to burst. The pain gnawed at her groin, tearing her apart, ripping her asunder to make way for the next generation. She knew she could bear no more. The pain would surely kill her, but the life within her had its own steadfast strength, fueled by an unrelenting determination to be.

The midwife held the newborn upside down and smacked its bottom. The girl child opened her mouth and made her first sound. More than a plaintive infant wail, it was a single note, crystal clear and all-compelling. The beautiful sound spilled from the cabin and swept across the village. The echoes raced into the woods and sent showers of snow falling from the bare branches of the trees. The sound hadn’t been heard in centuries, but every living being in earshot recognized it immediately.

The children of the village were gathered in a nearby field delighting in their winter enterprise. They were furiously trying to build the largest snowman in memory, a snowman that would be worthy of song. Music was the standard by which the Utep measure all events: are they worthy of song?

At the newborn child’s cry, the children abandoned their snowman and headed for the cabin. Foxes, squirrels and rabbits raced past them and left dotted trails in the fresh white powder. The air came alive with the frantic fluttering of a thousand wings. Birds descended on the cabin and replaced the thatch roof with a much nicer one of multi-colored feathers. Wolves came in from the woods and lay down beside lambs. On days such as this old animosities were set aside.

* * * * *

The midwife handed the baby to Esme, the eldest of the Elders. Esme willed her hands not to tremble, but she felt as if she had reached into the fireplace and gathered up a handful of hot, glowing embers. She looked at the other three Elders and nodded. The child would probably complicate their lives, but they could speak of it later, in private.

She handed the infant child to its mother. “You are blessed above all women. We are blessed above all villages.”

She didn’t believe a single word, but ritual demanded she say them, and the Utep clung to their rituals like a drowning sailor clings to the flotsam of his once noble vessel.

The midwife opened the cabin door. The children were gathered in front of it, waiting to be told what they already knew.

She nodded, spread her arms wide, and her smile swallowed her face. “Send word to every village in the land. Today a Trill is born.”

In a land where music is everything, Trills were the ultimate evolution, and they were quite rare. It had been nearly three hundred years since last the lands of the Utep were blessed with Trill song.

Trill Song Buy Link: https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=94

5 Moonbeams (comments):

Molly Daniels said...

Interesting....must check this one out:)

Nichelle Gregory said...

"Her hair is honeysuckle and heather dancing a whirlwind waltz inside my nostrils." What a great line! I enjoyed the first chapter of Trill Song and I'm looking forward to reading the entire book. Have a great weekend, Glenn! :)

Bryl R. Tyne said...

Excellently twisted short story, as usual. I'm hoping to get Trill Song read this weekend. Adore your writing, Glenn!

~Bryl

grbretz said...

Thanks for your kinds words everyone; and a special thanks to Gracen for this opportunity to showcase my work.

Glenn

Gracen Miller said...

Glenn, super glad you joined us today! It's always a pleasure to get to rave about how wonderful your work is and you know I'm a huge fan of Absinthe Eyes & Other Lies. I'm excited about reading Trill Song. Loved your short story too, btw. Awesome!!!

~huggles~
Gracen