When the German artillery finally ceased firing around sunset, Jack’s neck and shoulders slowly relaxed; he hadn’t realized he’d been tensing them all that time. The relentless shelling had forced his company to hunker in the trenches for over forty-eight hours. Now the silence unnerved him. The shelling could resume at any time, but the officers sent word that the men should rest as best they could.
Week 146 is a very special posting for me. It’s my hundredth. I started at week 46 so that makes 101 but Nik covered for me when I was on holiday.
It’s strange trying to get your head around the inclusive numbers so that 46-146 is actually 101. It’s like the days of the year, I still can’t work out why we have 365 (Forget the leap years.) There are fifty two weeks and there are seven days in a week so that adds up to 364. It must be a bank holiday that employers don’t tell us about and more importantly, don’t pay us for!
We went as far as his car would take us, driving past the smoking blue mountains of north Georgia and Tennessee, the hickory sweetness invading the cracked leather of our 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier, which was an indistinguishable red-brown-orange depending on which angle you looked at it from. We sped through the once-treasured nightmare of Detroit, the neglected chaotic sunset of Dallas. Yellowstone, freshly scorched and withered from its latest cleansing.
I bought a Dracula painting at the Thrift store yesterday. The clerk looked at me with contemptuous eyes as she scanned the price ticket. I thought I heard her whisper “That gothic child just wasted his money” as I walked towards the door.
As a youngster, I watched as my father was electrocuted while stringing Christmas tree lights. I remember his body flopping on the carpet like a gaffed tuna before coming to rest near my little feet. My mom walked in and dropped her groceries all over my little head. I was unable to attend his funeral, having been admitted to Anchorage Memorial Hospital with a head full of lumps and a lifelong fear of colored lights.
As I walk from the metro station to work one Monday morning, I see a guy at the curb, watching the traffic and sweeping his arms as if conducting an orchestra. He wears a bright red sweater, dress slacks, and wing-tip shoes. But everything’s dirty, and the sweater is far too big for him. He also needs a shave and has greasy gray hair. As I walk past him wondering if I’m going to notice an odor, he glances at me and crinkles his nose.
The last time I saw M. Renoir, he was sitting beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, leisurely drinking coffee and glancing through a newspaper. M. Renoir, every inch the French gentleman with closely trimmed mustache and beard–gray streaking at his temples–was usually impeccably dressed, his hat and cane placed casually upon the seat of an adjacent chair. I say “usually” since, on this occasion, he appeared not altogether unlike a much poorer and less refined version of himself. I was, I confess it, rather taken aback at his appearance.