Friday, February 21, 2014


Memories stretch back in the distance and our parents preserve them for us. We carry them forward to each succeeding generation in the form of stories, inherited shapes, and navels. Reaching back into those dim shades I remember the jungle and the soft, warm rain that intermittently forced us to hide under the trees. When I was a child everything was new and exciting. But as an adult I learned to dread those long stretches of boredom and angst.

The only respite from the long slog through life was the brief glimpses of the past.  She wore red panties with black polka dots, reminding me of ladybugs. The trees swayed to the rhythm of the unseen wind and monkeys howled. I would lay my ear against her belly and try to breathe in her magical cunt fumes. Time was meaningless unless we were hungry or if it got dark. The city hadn’t been built yet.

The tribal leaders try to prepare you for death. What they don’t teach you is that death is a bodily function, like spitting or farting. She was gone quickly and with her went her scents, her textures, and ladybug colours. Loss brings an unseen visitor: grief. Grief moves in with you and lives with you. Every day you see it above you in the branches, or across the street and standing on a corner. A man crosses the street in the rain carrying a dog who wears a raincoat. A taxi honks and the trees sway.  Grief punches you hard and you forget how to breathe.

The city was built long after that and the memories stretch back to her. I grabbed a handful of dirt and dropped some clods on her casket. I tried to force myself to feel something.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Solution Nassau part 3

"One hundred what what?" asked Mark.
"One hundred sixty seven thousand nine hundred eighty eight. Minus the 75 you have in the bucket," said the cashier.
"Um, yeah," said Mark.
"One two three four five six seven. . ." counted the cashier in bundles of ten thousand.
After counting twice and getting the waiting for the appropriate signatures from a manager and Mark, the cashier asked how Mark wanted to carry the bills.
"Do you have a bag?" asked Mark.
The cashier and manager looked at each other and then back at Mark.
The manager said, "We have some souvenir bags we can give you, just one moment."
The manager left and came back with a vinyl tote bag with a picture of the Atlantis resort on the front. It had two plastic semicircular plastic handles. The cashier loaded the money in the bag and passed it under the gap between the desk and cage. Mark cradled the bucket of coins in the crook of one arm and transferred his nearly empty beer bottle to that hand. With his free hand he grabbed the bag by the handles.
"Have a nice day," said the cashier smiling.
"You too," Mark said. "Listen," he continued, "do you have any poker tables going now?"
"No, I'm sorry," said the cashier. "We don't have any this week, I think we have some next week." The cashier consulted a piece of paper on the pillar in front of him. "No, sir, not until the week after next. No live games, sorry."
"Okay," said Mark. He wandered away from the cashier's cage.
The cocktail waitress appeared at his elbow. "Another drink?" she asked. She held out a Bud Light.
"Something stronger?" he asked as he passed back the bottle he held.
Her smile widened considerably and she offered him a glass of caramel-coloured liquid with lots of ice. Mark awkwardly grabbed a fistful of dollar coins out of his bucket while trying to accept the drink.
"Thank you so much," said the waitress. She paused and said in a professionally sultry voice, "Do you need a good time today?"
Mark smiled. He took a gulp from the drink she had offered him, spilling some coins out of his bucket.
"Of course," he said. The waitress pointed at the coins on the carpet and Mark shook his head. "Leave it," he said and they walked together toward the middle of the casino.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Solution Nassau part 2

Upon landing at the Paradise Island ferry port, Mark walked toward the Atlantis resort buildings, making a beeline for the casino. The absurdity of the orange and pink building sprouting up out of the bodies of the sweltering tourists and white sands made his head hurt. It was a long walk through the moist and hot air but he finally made it into the cool air of the casino. The _ring ding ding_ C-chords of the slot machines felt so cool and refreshing after the ordeal in the oven outside.
He turned to a huge slot machine just inside the lobby of the casino and looked at the ridiculous three-feet diameter wheels. He fished a twenty US dollar bill out of his pocket and fed it into the machine. He tried to pull the huge handle above his head but couldn't pull it down. He settled for pressing the button labeled "MAX BET". The wheels turned slowly whistling cheerful music and stopped abruptly in sequence, seven _spin spin doo dee doo dee__ seven and continued spinning for an eternity more before the last wheel chunked mechanically on seven. A heavenly host of lights and music blared. A heavy sound of metal buckets filling up with rocks filled the area. A few tourists turned to admire Mark and the noisy machine. One woman with white hair and a red face and neck took a bright flash photograph of the scene.
Soon the machine quieted down and a simple flashing amber light at the top blinked Morse code _help me, help me_. An attendant in bright blue casino shorts and short sleeves walked up and introduced herself.
"You're the winner?" she asked?
"I, uh, guess so," Mark said.
"It's you're lucky day. Jackpot's over a hundred fifty," she said. She examined the hopper and grabbed an empty plastic pail from a nearby discarded pile. "Hopper only holds about 75 dollar coins. We'll give you a check for the rest obviously. Do you have your ID?"
Mark nodded. "I'll take cash," he said. One hundred fifty dollars for a twenty dollar spin wasn't that big of a deal. He pulled out his passport and wallet.
"Oh, Mr. Thorne!" she exclaimed. "I didn't recognise you until just now. You came a little earlier but your room wasn't ready." She took some notes and told him to follow her to the casino cashier's cage.
The woman went behind the cage through a side door and spoke to a man behind the counter in hushed tones. The man listened very carefully, examined the notes and the passport, then nodded. He approached the cage and smiled to Mark.
"Mr. Thorne," he said in a thick accent of something. "It'll just be one moment. We'll count it out right now."
"Okay," he said. He needed a drink. "Can I have, uh. . . A drink?" he asked.
"Of course," the man said and he pressed a button on a walkie-talkie on his hip belt.
A few minutes passed by very slowly. Just when Mark felt he was going to fall over, a waitress carrying a round serving tray arrived with several bottles of beer and cups of colourful drinks on it.
"Bud Light," he said and fanned three dollar bills out of his wallet and handed them to the waitress. She took the bills and handed him back an opened bottle. She looked at Mark carefully, looked at the cage and the man behind it quickly, then walked away.
"What's taking so long?" Mark asked finally after taking a few sips of beer.
"Just one more moment, Mr. Thorne. We'll have you on your way. You asked for cash so we're counting it out now," said the man.
"Yeah, seventy five bucks, man, it's not hard," Mark said.
"Seventy five, sir?" the man asked.
"Yeah, the attendant said a hundred fifty." Mark shook his bucket but it was so heavy it barely moved or made any sounds. "This is seventy five, so let's go."
"Oh no, sir," said the man behind the casino cage. He turned as the woman Mark had first met arrived behind him, handing him several stacks of wrapped hundred dollar bills. The man spilled out fifteen stacks of bills on the counter in front of him. "No, sir, you won one hundred and sixty seven thousand four hundred fifty eight dollars."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Solution Nassau

When Mark landed in Lynden Pidling airport in Nassau, he gathered his luggage and looked for the man carrying a sign saying "THORNE". He spotted the limousine driver and waved. The man came over and took Mark's luggage, except for Mark's messenger back which he kept slung over his shoulder. They walked to the waiting limousine and Mark climbed in back for the ride to the hotel.
"You're staying at the Atlantis again?" asked the driver.
Mark nodded. "Take JFK this time. I don't need to sight-see."
"Very well," said the driver. "There are some beverages in the refrigerator for you. Let me know if you need anything, Mister Thorne." At that, the driver disappeared behind a rising divider.
Mark stared out the window as they drove along John F. Kennedy Drive He only needed to drop off the flash drive to his contact at the hotel, after which he had some free time until the next afternoon to take a cruise. He hoped they had the live tables going at the Crystal Palace. He could hit the slots and then play Texas Hold'em until early in the morning. Last time he had been there, he had won eight thousand dollars. He had spent it on a watch at a resort shopping centre. Then he had lost it while snorkeling later that week.
At the roundabout where Tompson Boulevard meets Nassau Street, the limousine continued on Nassau rather than turn onto Poinciana Street. Mark noticed and buzzed the intercom to alert the driver.
"I said, don't go on East Bay," Mark said.
"Sorry, sir, it's a habit. A lot of people like the scenic route," said the driver.
"The traffic is going to be terrible downtown. There's too many tourists," Mark complained.
"It will be fine, sir," said the driver.
Mark let it go and rummaged in the refrigerator. He pulled out a miniature travel bottle of Grey Goose and unscrewed the cap. "Down the hatch," he said and gulped it. He threw the plastic bottle and cap on the floor of the vehicle.
The limousine crept along the traffic of Bay Street and passed near Prince George port. Two large cruise ships were docked. The ship in front, facing west was stenciled with the word "ECSTASY" on the bow. Mark pressed the intercom again.
"Yes sir?" asked the driver. The divider came down and he looked back in the rear-view mirror.
"Just let me out here," shouted Mark to the front. "I'll walk."
The driver seemed perplexed. "Walk? Should I drop your luggage at the hotel?"
"Yeah, that's fine," said Mark. He jumped out when the limousine pulled over, before the driver could get out to open the door. "Thanks," he shouted and knocked on the roof. "Asshole," he added to himself.
Mark walked through the tourist traps of downtown and immediately regretted his decision. The sun beat down fiercely and the humidity was within two basis points of 100 percent. He tried to stay under any available shade and ducked into and out of tourist shops to cool down. His messenger bag was getting extremely heavy around his neck. The hoodie he always wore kept the sun off his head but the humidity did not allow the cotton to dry. Soon he was sweating profusely. Fortunately, it wasn't very far to Elisabeth Street where he knew about the ferry line that could take him over to Paradise Island.
On board the ferry, he ordered a rum and coke with lots of ice. He sipped it as the ferry pulled out into the busy channel. Mark looked over at the two cruise ships docked at the port. He could have sworn the ships where shifted over by one. The one closest to the wharf would have been the one he was going to take the next day. Sipping more rum and coke and crunching on the too-cold ice, he saw the first cruise swirl into view like a bad sixties television show visual effect. He shook his head and the third ship shimmered out of view and disappeared like fog. Mark shook his head and felt faint.
The ferry rocked to one side and Mark gripped the rail tightly. He looked again and only saw two ships, in the same formation he had seen them from the limousine.
"Fuck that," he said and turned to hide inside the air-conditioned shelter inside the ferry.

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