Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Apartments”

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Eight

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

Luco put his head down on the book, kissed it and closed his eyes. Outside his window he missed the flashes of pointed movement across the street. The growl of a turning diesel-powered bus covered the gargled scream of a 20-year-old addict from Apple Valley, New York.

***

The sound of Steve Perry’s soaring voice from the clock radio shook Marlee from a warm and dream-filled sleep.

When the lights go down in the City, and the sun shines on the Bay. I want to be there in my City.”

It was a love song to San Francisco and after only a short time in the City, Marlee understood the infatuation.

San Francisco is a small city, only 49 square miles. As a result, the people living there strive to cram everything into and get everything out of the limited space. Any piece of vacant land will turn, overnight, into a garden or neighborhood farm. Rows of vegetables and flowers appear as if by magic.

The Victorian houses that line so many shady streets look like the work of finger painters run riot. Playful color combinations make the homes leap out to meet your eyes halfway. Yellow with magenta trim. Azure blue and fire engine red. Primary colors and subtle hues that come from a tropical plant’s dreams appear around every corner.

In this shirt pocket size city everything and everyone seems to be competing for attention. The peaks rise to outdo each other to get more sunlight. Hillsides, filled with narrow houses built on slivers of land, have steps instead of sidewalks. Streets twist and turn, inviting analogies that are doomed to fall short.

San Francisco is a city where, every May, 100,000 people dress up as buildings, bridges and sea serpents and run through the streets. They race from the busy shore of San Francisco Bay across the outlandish terrain to the Pacific Ocean at the western edge of the continent.

Hundreds of people race in the nude, braving the cold winds and the critical scrutiny of half a million eyes. They run knowing that in San Francisco their exhibitionism will be viewed with mild amusement rather than reproach.

The only thing about San Francisco that avoids excess is the climate. When the weather is warm and bright with skies too blue to imagine, the residents rush outside to take it in as fast as possible. They know that after 3 or 4 days of sunshine “The Fog” will come roaring in like a runaway train and cover everything with a speeding wall of salty white. It was this fog that greeted Marlee as she peeked outside her bedroom window.

When the clock radio roused her with Journey’s theme song for “The City”, Marlee sat on the edge of the bed, getting her bearings, preparing to start another day. She felt a misplaced chill. The floor was cold. The air had a familiar iciness, but for Cleveland in late autumn, not San Francisco in the spring.

Stumbling over to the window she poked two fingers through the white slats expecting to see the flowerbeds in Buena Vista Park. Instead of salvia and Golden California Poppies her eyes were met by solid gray. She pulled up the blind and wiped her hand across the glass. The fog was in and the world had disappeared.

The sun was struggling to make its presence known by the time Marlee had pulled herself together and headed up Haight Street. The fog was low over the tops of the buildings. The spires of the church up on the hill were invisible. So was the hill. Marlee felt like she was living inside a glass ball wrapped in a gray silk curtain. The horizon was a five minute walk away. It all made her a little depressed. Not quite a case of the blues, but just a bit out of balance.

Inside the People’s Cafe, however, the mood was almost like Christmas morning. Everyone was laughing and smiling, even the usually crabby customers. The bearded writer was grinning like a fool. He was normally quite morose this early in the day. Marlee wondered if today was some kind of local holiday.

“Marlee,” called Luco when he saw her standing there looking confused. “Good morning to you.”

The waitress called “Spider,” with her red dreadlocks, and young “Zephyr,” with a short, pink Pixie haircut and pierced eyebrows and even Armando the busboy, as if on cue, all called out, “Marlee!” The cook ran out from the kitchen waving his metal grill brush. “Marlee,” he yelled, turned around and hurried back to his duties.

Now totally lost, Marlee looked behind herself to see if another Marlee had walked in after her. It was confusing, but the boisterous greetings lifted her spirits and put a smile on her face.

Luco’s warm eyes welcomed Marlee as she walked up to the counter. “Are all you people psychics?” she said. “Did you know I was feeling kind of down? But all of you shouting my name sure took care of that.”

“Marlee, you may be new to Haight Street, but you’ve quickly become a member of our family.” His smile was genuine.

“Thank you, Luco, all of you. You sure know how to make a girl feel welcome.”

“We don’t let just anybody into our family, right John?”

The writer in the corner held up his bagel in salute. “Luco tells you true, Marlee. It took two years for them to even acknowledge my existence.”

“Spider” peeked over the glass pastry case. “Eat your bagel, John or I’ll withdraw my invitation to the party.”

“You need me there, Spider. Without me it’s just a party, but with me there it’s a celebration of life, a bacchanal.” Again, as if someone was giving cues, the entire crew shouted out, “Eat your bagel, John.”

The pink Pixie cut came up behind Luco, her hands on his hips. She weighed no more than ninety-five pounds. Looking around his tanned and muscular arm, Zephyr said, “Marlee, Spider is tossing a party and you have to come, as my guest.”

“Me? Why thank you.”

“I figured I better ask you because it looked like Ricky Ricardo here was too shy.” Zephyr slapped Luco on the rear and walked back into the kitchen to pick up an order.

Marlee looked at Luco and she could have sworn that he was blushing, just a little. Teasing him would have been fun, but she decided to let it pass. She was still too much a newcomer to get into that.

Luco was blushing. He didn’t like being teased in front of anyone, most of all a customer, and a pretty one at that.

“The party is this Saturday night at Spider’s place over on Fulton, near the Park.”

“Luco,” Marlee leaned close, “I’ve been meaning to ask you – “’Spider’? ‘Zephyr’? What’s with the crazy names?”

Luco leaned closer to Marlee. “Spider: her name is really Martha, but she prefers Spider. It has to do with the tattoo on her….” Marlee held up her hand, cutting him off.

“Spare me, Luco. I’m still too green for all the details of life in San Francisco.” It was her turn to blush.

“Fair enough, Marlee. We don’t want to scare you away. And Zephyr? That’s her real name. Her folks were a couple of old hippies. Go figure.

“Anyway, my dear, Spider’s bashes are the best. Not too weird, I promise. You’ll come to the party?”

“I’d love to, Luco. It’ll be good for me to get out and kick up my heels a bit.”

“That it will, Marlee. Be here at the cafe at midnight.”

Marlee wasn’t used to parties that started at midnight. Classical musicians aren’t known as party animals. Even in college, most of their parties were over by midnight. Tonight at Spider’s would be different and “different” was one reason Marlee was in San Francisco.

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Seven

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

Luco Reyes played a central role in the vacation reveries of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women, and of not a few men. He was their fantasy fling, their Latin Lover. Only in such fantasies do clichés seem reasonable.

For them, a night of passion nestled in the taut and muscular arms of the barista from San Francisco would be enough to eliminate the need for other souvenirs. The sound of his musical voice, warm in their ear, making promises that only he could keep, would let them forget the braying of their children – at least for a moment.

Snug in their minds with the memories and rueful second thoughts of these travelers, the dark-haired man with the gray eyes was someone they could carry with them. The facade of Luco Reyes was a conveniently portable orgasm.

When Luco left the counter at the People’s Cafe, Luco the fantasy lover stayed behind. Away from the levers and the steam jets, the reality of Luco Reyes walked up Haight Street alone.

He didn’t mind living above the bicycle shop. They weren’t yet open when he left for the cafe

and he returned home long after they were closed for the day.

The apartment was typical of many in The Haight. The rooms were small and narrow. They were designed for maximum comfort in the days before universal central heating. The layout made a lot of people feel that they were living in a railroad car.

Luco was satisfied with the apartment. It was close to work and across the street were the trees, lawns and lakes of Golden Gate Park.

He had five rooms from front to back, sharing the second level of the building with an identical suite occupied by a retired Filipino shipyard worker.

The bedroom at the back was quiet and cramped, almost filled by the Japanese futon and an old dresser. A full-length mirror was glued to the closet door. For a nightstand there was a small barrel that once held roofing nails. Now a clock radio and a boudoir lamp with a peach colored shade sat on its upturned end.

The bathroom was overdue for modernization with the old, but once again in vogue, pedestal sink and claw-foot tub. A medicine cabinet had been bolted to the green painted wall. It held only a straight razor and a can of shaving foam. On the sink was a single toothbrush propped up on a half-rolled tube of Colgate gel.

When he moved in five years before, Luco painted the kitchen walls a bright, daffodil yellow. Along with the white appliances and red oven mitts and dishtowel, the room was cheerful and inviting. It was the only redecorating he had done.

While it was rather whimsical in the kitchen, the dining room was strictly utilitarian.

The large table and four mismatched chairs were Goodwill retreads in need of refinishing.

On the floor under the table were boxes, taped shut with “Dining Room” block printed on the unbroken seals.

The overall impression was that most meals were eaten while standing at the stove.

The temporary feeling of the dining room was carried into the living Room. There were similarly neglected taped cartons along one wall.

A large sofa, covered in a tightly woven brown fabric, hugged the far wall. It had the look of something from a hotel lobby. On the wooden frame, hidden beneath the durable upholstery, was stenciled the word “Sheraton.”

In front of the large picture window overlooking the busy street below, was a gray metal desk. The kind you would find in millions of offices worldwide serving as the platform for commerce large and small. The matching chair was tucked, efficiently, in its place.

The apartment was…a place to live. It had only one thing about it that made it seem more like a “home.”

On the wall above the sofa was an oil painting of Mission Dolores – the original Spanish settlement in San Francisco, a whitewashed adobe surrounded by a riot of rhododendrons. The Mission bell, glinting its pear-shaped brass in the bright sun, stood outside the wrought iron gate, ready to call the faithful to God’s table.

The placement of the picture ensured that it was the first thing that Luco would see as he came up the stairs at night.

Down in the corner, near the frame, the artist’ name was neatly printed: Alicia Reyes.

It was after two in the morning and he still couldn’t sleep. He had to be ready to open up the People’s Cafe at 7 AM. It was getting close to that time when it would be better to just stay up and avoid sleep altogether.

Sleepless nights used to be the norm, but in the last few years, things had gotten better as the memories lost their freshness. Now they were back. Once again there were nights when his brain wouldn’t slow down. The scenarios playing double-time in his head – what might happen if I do this or that? What might have happened if I had done this or that? What if…everything.

Luco knew that replaying the dark days of his life wouldn’t solve anything. Those ghosts were, more or less, at peace. Staying up all night and working to exhaustion didn’t work then and it wouldn’t work now. He knew that.

He had found comfort in writing his poetry ever since his childhood in a crowded frame home near Mission Dolores.

In 1776, Father Junipero Serra created Mission Dolores, the sixth in his chain of twenty-one missions along the California coast. On a sunny bluff overlooking the icy waters of San Francisco Bay it dominated the landscape.

Almost 195 years later, to the day, Luco Reyes was born five minutes away from that same mission.

Over time the shoreline of the bay was filled in to accommodate a growing population. The water was lost to sight and, eventually, Mission Dolores became a tourist attraction. Luco moved to the foggy streets of The Haight and left the sunny Mission District behind, a remnant of another life.

Fewer than ten people in San Francisco knew why he had left the old neighborhood.

Looking at the wall clock and seeing the hands creeping up on four o’clock, Luco resigned himself to no sleep, followed by a long day of mixed up orders, incorrect change and a quiet sadness in his heart. There would be no charming repartee with smitten tourists today.

Instead of his usual bedtime cup of relaxing chamomile tea, he brewed himself a full pot of Irish Breakfast tea. It would be a better stimulant to get him through the rest of the night until he could pull a double espresso for himself at the cafe. Some days, caffeine was enough. Some other days it wasn’t, but you do what you can with what you have.

With a steaming cup and saucer in hand, he moved over to the small desk by his front window. Sitting in his chair he could look out over Stanyan Street and the entrance to Golden Gate Park. There was always someone out there, regardless of the time or the weather.

Luco pulled his spiral notebook from the desk drawer and opened it to a fresh, blank page. He avoided looking at it and took his time selecting a pen. The stark whiteness of the empty page was always a bit terrifying. Once he got the first few words down on paper he would relax and let the juices flow. At least that was his hope.

The sun and moon are dark.

Days are black and nights are

absent of any comforting glow.

They left the sky despite my pleas.

They took all life and promise of tomorrow.

With a desert in my life. Featureless, arid. I see no horizon.

Is this my fate? To walk without a path.

A vacant here, a solitary now? Traceless.

He looked at the page and closed the blue paper cover. One more page among a hundred, filled with the same sense of isolation and marrow-eating pain.

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Six

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

 

 

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

 

 

“Oh, my dear, Sweet Marlee, you see, drugs again? It’s a plague. My deepest sympathies. San Francisco will be good for what ails you. It’s a place for new beginnings.”

“Is that what it’s been for you, Dennis?”

“It really has. I was born and raised near Boston, West Peabody, actually. Mother, Father, 2.3 children and a dog named Tippy. Eventually I got a degree in chemistry from Harvard and joined the corporate army.”

“You’re a Harvard grad and you’re working as a ‘Manly Maid’?”

“Well, yes. I was never very good in a lab coat with a logo on it. When I saw something wrong, I tried to fix it and the bosses, the empty suits in the corner offices, didn’t like that. They said that I wasn’t a ‘Team Player’ and that I didn’t see the ‘Big Picture’.  After a few years of that the American Dream and I parted ways. I came west and they can go to hell. Is there any more champagne?”

“No, I’m sorry. That’s it.”

“What about the rest of the wine I brought with the Tuna Noodle?”

“I drank it.”

“Well, damn it, Marlee. When you have guests over you have to have enough wine.”

“I’m sorry, Dennis. I thought the one bottle would be enough.”

“But it’s not enough, is it?” He turned his empty glass upside down.

Marlee felt the beginnings of a knot in her stomach.

“How am I supposed to get through this damned Sunday, Girl? You have no more champagne. I just have some cooking saki and I don’t get paid until Wednesday.” He pointed his index finger at her. “This is all your fault, Marlee.” She was beginning to be afraid that he was going to – she didn’t know what.

“Dennis, I want you to leave.”

“Leave? you want me to leave? Leave?” He swung his arm across the table and sweeping his plate and empty glass off the table. They hit the floor and smashed. He looked at her, unblinking.

She jumped when the dishes shattered, but she looked him straight in the eye and after a second saw his anger crumble, replaced with a trembling, childlike remorse. Tears began to well to overflowing in his eyes.

“Oh, Miss Marlee. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Don’t throw me out.” His hands reached out across the table to her in pleading. “I’m so sorry.”

She looked at him – this puzzling mix of Man and Boy.

“Dennis, did you take anything – medication – before you came down here this morning?”

His eyes flashed with anger again.

“Drugs? You think I’m on drugs? I hate drugs.”

“No, not drugs, Dennis, but medicine, maybe, from your doctor?” The fire in his eyes banked.

“Medicine? Of course I take medicine. It’s for my back. I stoop and bend a lot doing the housecleaning. That’s hard on the back.”

“Did you take any medicine this morning?”

“Yes, I took my pain medication, like every morning and every night. My back is so bad I can’t sleep at night without it. It hurts all the time.”

“OK, Dennis, I understand. It’s the pain medication and the champagne. They don’t mix very well and it’s making you…nervous.”

“Do you still want me to go home?” He was like a boy again.

“It’s not that. I just think that you need to get some rest until the champagne wears off.”

“I said I was sorry. I’ll get you another plate. Just don’t be mad at me. Don’t hate me.”

“I don’t hate you. I like you, Dennis, but right now I need you to be somewhere else. Won’t you help me by doing that?”

“For you, anything.”

Marlee helped Dennis to his feet and, with his arm draped over her shoulder they started slowly toward the door.

“I love you, Marlee.” His speech was a bit slurred.

“C’mon. Let’s get you upstairs.”

One step at a time they got up to the third floor and to Dennis’ front door. He carried his keys on a retractable chain clipped on his belt. Marlee opened his door and they stumbled inside. It was dark, even though the sun was bright outside.

Both of their apartments shared the same floor plan. Marlee reached out for the light switch.

When the two 100-watt bulbs in the hallway fixture lit up, she could see that the heavy shades were drawn on all of the windows and that there was very little in the way of furniture in the apartment.

The living room was empty except for a loveseat that looked like two bright red lips – A masterpiece of 1980’s kitsch. Several large plants, a large hibiscus and a pair of philodendron sat in the bay window straining for any bit of sunlight. The dining room held only three aluminum pipe garment racks filled with clothes and dozens of empty hangers.

The walls were bare, no pictures, photos or artwork of any kind.

“OK, Dennis. I’m going to put you on your bed and then I’m going home. You need to sleep this off. You’ll be fine.”
”Yes, Sir, Ma’am. I am putty in your hands.”

Marlee pushed open the bedroom door and flipped on the lights. They illuminated a large, bare mattress on the floor against the wall. No pillows, sheets or blankets covered the blue flower-print fabric.

Unlike the rest of the apartment, the walls in the bedroom were decorated with hundreds of pictures. There were reprints of old Rock and Roll concert posters, a picture of Einstein sticking out his tongue at the world and hundreds of photographs of Haight Street.

Some of the photos were taken at the annual Haight St. Street Fair showing thousands of people filling the street, all of them intent on music, beer and revelry.

There were snapshots of both groups and individuals. Storefronts on Haight Street were shown in 8 x 10 glossy prints.

Marlee noticed that mixed in with the pastiche of photographs were several pictures showing Luco Reyes. She also saw one showing Luco sitting at a table inside the People’s Cafe…talking with her.

Rather than question him now about the pictures and maybe get him antagonized again, Marlee just wanted to get him onto his mattress and then get out of there.

They moved across the room, the glossy paper sending flares of light across the ceiling. Marlee staggered under her load and they both fell against the closet door.

“I love you, Marlee.”

“I know. I know. Let’s get you to sleep.” She tried to push him toward the mattress, but he pushed back, pinning her to the door.

“I love you, Marlee,” he said again, only this time there was an insistent edge to it as he pressed his body against hers and clamped his hand tightly on her breast.

“No! Dennis, stop!”

He squeezed harder. A mixture of pain and panic washed over her. He lowered his head, trying to kiss her lips.

Over the years since she had reached puberty, Marlee had had to contend with the unwanted attention and the crude gropings of both men and boys. In college she had taken a self-defense class sponsored by the local Rape Crisis Center. She knew how to stop an attacker.

Dennis didn’t react to her first knee to his groin. Credit that to the painkillers. The second attempt was a direct connection between kneecap and testicles.

A half-swallowed scream came from Dennis as his grip loosened and he stumbled back, tripped on the corner of the mattress and fell on his side. He immediately curled into a fetal position and vomited.

Marlee was surprised by the reaction to her defensive move. This was the first time she had ever had to use it. She watched him writhe in pain. She also saw her Eggs Benedict and champagne brunch staining his shirt and the blue mattress cover.

She knew that he was no immediate danger and that when he finally realized what he had done, he would be mortified. But right now she didn’t care about that. He was in agony and on the floor, she had put him there and that was alright with her. He earned it.

She took a quick look around the room. There were a half a dozen single-use cameras on the floor in the corner. She picked one up and took picture after picture of Dennis puking his brains out. When the film ran out she tossed the camera on the mattress, walked over to the wall and tore down the photo of her and Luco.

With one last look at Dennis, she walked out of his apartment, leaving his front door wide open.

“Better check your locks, Dennis.”

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Five

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Five

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

 

 

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

 

 

 

She loved to shop and it didn’t matter for what. However, this shopping excursion was joyful in a special way. It was all to bring pleasure to a new friend.

Marlee had promised Dennis Thayer a Sunday breakfast, but she decided that a brunch would be better, more civilized. So, here she was, going up and down the aisles at Cala Foods, the only true supermarket on Haight Street.

The menu she had settled on would be: a fruit cup, orange juice, Eggs Benedict, asparagus and affordable champagne. “Hey, if you’re going to do it, do it right” she mumbled to herself as she perused the wine aisle.

It had taken three days of Mall crawling to get the comfortable furniture and accessories that gave her an apartment that would let her prepare and serve her brunch. It would be hard to make a decent hollandaise when you didn’t have so much as a wooden spoon to your name. Now her kitchen, while still short on counter space, sported a clean, hi-tech look.

“God bless Sears and in Kitchen-Aid we trust.”

Her credit cards were melted around the edges from creating her new home, but, at least, money was not an issue. Phillip and MetLife had done a lot of business. She was far from rich, but Kraft Macaroni and Cheese would be on the menu only by choice.

A full refrigerator always made Marlee feel secure and safe from just about anything.

“If you have a roof over your head and food in the ice-box nothing can hurt you” – So said her Nana Antonia, a child of the Great Depression. One look at her shopping cart and Marlee knew that she was safe for at least a week.

The next morning she was up early, dusting, rearranging and even primping a bit, anxious to play hostess.

She hadn’t cooked for anyone in a long time. After Phillip’s death Marlee moved back in with her parents where she and her mother slipped back into their earlier roles. Marlee was no longer an independent woman. She was a daughter in her parent’s home.

But now, here in San Francisco, a continent away, in her own apartment, she was herself again. She was again – period.

Finally, everything was ready to go. She wouldn’t finish the cooking until Dennis arrived.

“Oh, my God. When is he coming? We never set a specific time.” She looked at her watch. It was almost 10:45. She couldn’t wait any longer. She nervously tapped her toe on the new area rug from Pier 1, and then she remembered what Dennis had said. She grabbed the sponge mop from the closet, went into the parlor and gave three sharp raps on the ceiling with the mop handle. The glass lighting fixture rattled. She tried three more taps, but with a little less vigor. Sweeping up fallen plaster was not the way to kick off a Sunday brunch. From up above she heard a muffled voice yelling something and three quick taps on the floor.

Hearing his acknowledgment of her signal Marlee returned to the kitchen to pour the orange juice and get the champagne glasses from the dish rack. She held one up to the light to check for spots.

“Miss Marlee, you have really got to check your door locks.” Dennis was peeking around the corner of the kitchen doorway.

Marlee jumped in surprise and a champagne glass went flying toward the ceiling. She grabbed at it and only managed to knock it higher still. Her guest moved into the room and deftly plucked it from the air.

“He makes the catch and the crowd goes wild!”

“Jesus H. Christ, Dennis, you scared me half to death. How did you…?”

“Your door was open. I knocked and it just swung open.”

Marlee leaned back against the sink still trying to get her heart back into her chest.

“Everything’s OK, girl.” He held up the champagne glass. “Why don’t you fill this with something for me while I show you what I brought?” He stepped back into her hallway while Marlee wrestled the cork out of the chilled bottle with barely a whisper of protest from the champagne. As she started to pour the Napa Valley bubbly, he reappeared holding a small bouquet of red and white tulips.

“Ta-Da! I brought flowers. I figured that you’d already have some, but you can never have enough beauty in your life, I always say.” She took the tulips with her left hand as she held out a glass, filled to overflowing. He moved closer and sipped at the champagne while she still had it in her hand. He put his hand on hers to steady the glass. “Mmm, very nice. Thanks. Every day should start with champagne and tulips.”

Marlee smiled even though she felt a bit awkward about his touch. “I can’t argue with that,” she said. He took the glass from her hand.

“I’m glad you brought the flowers. I totally forgot. I’ve been so busy this week.”

Dennis retreated a couple of steps and set his empty glass on the stove.

“Well then, it’s a good thing I picked them up. And…I’ve got something else for you, a little housewarming gift.”

“Oh, Dennis, you shouldn’t have. What is it?” His enthusiasm was contagious.

He turned his back to her, reached into his shirt and spun back around holding up a small hardcover edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves Of Grass.”

I just thought you might like it. It’s one of my favorites, always has been.” He held it out to her and gave her a small, but courtly bow.

“Thank you, Dennis. It’s a favorite of mine too. I had a copy, but I guess I lost it in the move.”

“Movers – they’ll steal you blind. Refill?” He held up his empty glass and in a very bad English accent asked, “Could I have some more, please?”

While Marlee began assembling the food, Dennis put the flowers into a glass wine carafe that Marlee had picked up for just that purpose. He set them in the middle of her round, butcher-block dining room table. The red cloth napkins matched well with the tulips. He squinted at the table and picked up one of the knives, giving it a quick heft as he examined the design. “K Mart or Target? Oh, Miss Marlee, you need lessons.”

“What’s that?” Marlee was behind him holding two steaming plates. He took the plates and set them by the napkins. “I was just saying how lovely your table setting looks. Really quite elegant. Your flatware is to die for.”

It was a pleasant little brunch, as brunches go. The food was tasty. The champagne bubbles tickled the palate just right and the conversation wandered from topic to topic. Eventually it took on a more personal tone. Dennis drank steadily as they exchanged bits and pieces of their histories.

Marlee gave him the basic facts about what brought her to San Francisco.

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Three

 

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

 

 

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

 

 

 

She slept through the rest of the night deeply and motionless. When she awoke, the morning sun was coming over the treetops in Buena Vista Park across the street from 1298 Haight Street. Apartment Number 6 was warm and this newcomer to the California Dream knew that there were things to do, memories to be created.

The floors in San Francisco are as hard as anywhere else. One night sleeping on the whiskey colored wood was enough to establish the purchase of a bed as priority number one.

The next night she would sleep on crisp white sheets with soft new pillows and warm blankets to enhance her peaceful dreams.

Her alarm clock on her second morning on Haight Street was a chorus of sharp cries and squawks from outside the bay window. She opened her eyes and slowly focused on the world just in time to see streaks of red, green and blue flash across her field of vision.

She learned later that, years ago, no one remembers exactly when, a number of parrots kept as pets either escaped their cages or were abandoned by shortsighted owners. These parrots soared into the palm and eucalyptus trees of San Francisco and sired new flocks throughout the city. In the mornings and at sunset they spread pallets of color in the air as they soared and glided across the urban landscape. St. Francis would be pleased.

With the morning sun washing through her windows, Marlee drifted lazily in that creamy pool between asleep and awake. Dreaming still, but becoming aware of the world around her. Sounds and motions incorporated into those last minute dreams and cozy never felt so good. The transition from the one world to the other became a luxurious slide of absolute sensory perfection where everything was as it should be and there was no need to hurry.

1298 Haight Street was an old building by San Francisco standards. Built just before the 1906 earthquake and fire that redrew the city map, the pale pink stucco and terra cotta tiled roof made an imposing presence on the corner of Haight and Central. Four stories tall it dominated the corner of Haight and Central. It marked the start of the commercial section of the Upper Haight neighborhood. For the next seven blocks there were shops and galleries that catered to the tourists who were looking for traces of The Summer of Love to take back home to where that Summer was only 1967.

Inside apartment #6, standing in front of the long mirror hung over the bathroom door, Marlee combed out her hair. She had let it grow out to shoulder length, straight and pale blonde, almost white. When taken with her translucent skin it made people think that she was Swedish, but her ancestry was Welsh. Welsh, with some Viking invader blood 1000 years old in the mix. Her eyes were green, almost the shade of the ocean just before it drops off into the deep.

5’8” tall and slim, “boyish” her 10th grade Phys. Ed. teacher had called her. It was never a figure that made men turn their heads as she walked by. Her fine blonde hair and the music in her hips did that.

Her wardrobe was distinctly Midwest Rust Belt plain. It was excessively Earth-toned for a young attractive blonde in California, but she perked up her look with a vibrant scarf and some jewelry. It would do, she thought, as she opened the front gate, set to meet her new neighborhood.

Taking her time, not wanting to miss anything, Marlee window-shopped and ambled into the eclectic commerce of Haight Street.

She considered the latest Rave fashions on the rack at “Housewares”, all to the driving techno-beat from the in-house disc jockey. The iguanas sunning themselves in the window didn’t seem to mind.

She laughed out loud as she looked through the Anarchist Collective Bookstore. Their display of pamphlets and political screeds loudly denounced the capitalism at which they were so dismally failing. Signs trumpeting a “Half-Price Sale” and “Clearance” were everywhere, alerting the three lost-looking teenage browsers that they too could join the Revolution at a discount.

Showing that The Haight sold more than recycled bad ideas and hipster fads, there was “Kids Only.” A sunlight filled shop that catered to the families in the neighborhood with plush toys and dolls sweet enough to melt the heart of any six year-old and probably Mommy and Daddy too.

Marlee also saw the casualties of The Haight’s decades long war with the mythology of drugs. Young men and women, some of them really children yet, stumbled up and down the sidewalks with tombstones in their eyes.

“Spare change” was their mantra. Most were runaways or throwaways living on the street or in nearby Golden Gate Park. Their daily objective being to get the cash to buy a slice of pizza and a sufficient dose of heroin or crack or crystal meth to get them through another fearful day and night. If the money was tight the pizza would wait until tomorrow.

This part of her new neighborhood bothered her, but she knew that her spare change would only end up, eventually, in a zippered body bag.

She quickly adopted the long-time resident’s defensive stare that set her apart from the more vulnerable tourists. “See the young druggies, but do so with disdain.” Today was to be a day for happy exploration. She decided to not be drawn into anything that would ruin that idea.

At the “Haight Street Grocers” a sidewalk display of fruits and vegetables fanned out with colors as vivid as any tie-dye in the window of the nearby T-shirt shop.

Passing on her many opportunities to buy shiny black leather and metal studded clothing; she ended up at Stanyan Street. Here the urban gave way to the bucolic wonder of Golden Gate Park, a horticultural masterpiece of nature-defying greenery that extended all the way to the ocean.

Marlee crossed from the world of the hip, the hopeless and the California Dreamers and entered a more gentle land where manicured lawns, rhododendron groves, and lawn bowlers dressed in white, lowered the adrenaline level of life.

She was enjoying the feel of the sun on her face. She knew that she would be pink in minutes. Sunscreen was added to her mental shopping list.

In a city of surprises she was getting used to the unexpected. Just a two minute walk from one of the busiest streets in the city she found herself sitting on a wooden park bench listening to children squeal with delight as they swooped down a corkscrew sliding board and scaled a three-dimensional plastic maze.

The centerpiece of the playground was a carousel with hand carved and painted fantastic animals going around and around to the tinny music that comes from only the best carousels. It was a glorious piece of 19th century America still enchanting the children of the 21st. Marlee hugged the slender neck of the grinning giraffe as she whirled inside an eddy of flashing lights and laughing babies. This was starting out to be a very good day.

 

The Sounds Of Silence

LAST NIGHT I WAS SITTING AND READING when out of nowhere nothing happened. It startled me. Everything was quiet. For the first time this month I didn’t hear anybody shooting off fireworks in the neighborhood. I got up and stepped outside. Nothing. No fireworks, no dogs, no traffic. I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.

I am so used to the noise of life in the city that the quiet is a bit unnerving. I snapped my fingers just to make sure that I hadn’t suddenly gone deaf.

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We’re Having Such Funnel

WE HAVE ARRIVED. We are now in the Megalopolis of Demorest, Georgia. It is a town that is bigger than a breadbox, but smaller than Tokyo.

Our accommodations are in the dorms of Piedmont College and I’ll tell you – these dorms are nicer than some apartments I’ve had. The furnishings are a bit “IKEA,” but better than stuff rescued from a curbside or dumpster that I have had in my younger days. This dorm has a recreation room with a big screen TV and a Pool Table/Ping Pong Table. There are laundry facilities that are FREE! And each dorm room has a private bath. None of this trotting down the hall to take a shower business. And, may I add, a very nice kitchen. If it had a stove I would consider moving in.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 27- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Twenty-Seven

pull-mexican-borderBoth Laura and Davis slept late the next morning. Laura had planned on a day or two of rest before crossing into Mexico.  She knew that they might need all of their strength and all of their wits.  She hadn’t come this far just to get caught or killed due to some bonehead mistake brought on by exhaustion.

She also wanted to lay low for a while to—hopefully—confuse their pursuers.  If there was no scent to follow for a couple of days they might think that Laura and Davis had already crossed into Mexico and that was that.  Or they might think that the couple had pulled a fast one on them and was heading off in another direction altogether.  Laura knew that at least for now, time was their ally.

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It’s Stranger in the Night 

work1FOR REASONS KNOWN BUT TO GOD AND THAT BURGER AND FRIES I HAD FOR DINNER, I didn’t sleep all that well last night. I did wake up several times to go and contribute to the water table. Getting back to sleep I found a difficult problem.

I finally gave up at about 5:30 AM. I’ll make up for my tossing and turning today in front of the TV. All I need to do is drop my bones into the Rip van Winkle Memorial Chair, turn on TCM and BOOM! I’ll be sound asleep within seconds. Like a Polar Bear in winter.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday –  Continued

Chapter Twenty-One

 

pull-apartment-bldgHe stood by the door of his apartment building slowly going through his mail. Everything was addressed to him as either Mr. Davis Lovejoy or, all too often, as “Occupant.”  Mixed in with the junk mail and the bills was a plain white envelope with no return address.  It was postmarked the day before.  He opened it slowly.  It was almost as if he expected it to explode.  Inside was a single sheet of notepaper—the same notepaper he had seen taped to the mirror in Laura’s apartment.

“Meet me in the arboretum in Golden Gate Park, tomorrow at ten a.m. – at the Moon Viewing Platform.”  It was signed with a simple ” L.”

“My God.  What is going on here?  Crazy notes?  Secret meetings?”

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday – Continued

pull-roseChapter Sixteen

 

Davis wasn’t late the next morning.  He showed up on time and he was carrying one white rose.  Laura blushed.

After another leisurely breakfast they walked down by the shore of the Bay.  The fog had stayed out at sea and the Golden Gate Bridge dominated the view, it’s towers vaulting into the sky.  As they strolled beside the magnificent sailing yachts and watched skeins of pelicans skim the surface of the Bay, these two transplants from other lives held hands and knew that something was happening that they hadn’t planned on.  And they let it happen.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Chapter Six

 Pull Golden Rose

“It’s $1500 a month or $750 every two weeks, if you want.”

“I see.  Is it month-to-month or is it on a lease?”

“Month to month, week to week, day to day if you like, but I don’t care for leases,” said the young man behind the counter.  He really hated dealing with the renters.

“Is it quiet?  I mean, it’s not a lot of noisy neighbors?”

“What’s quiet?  Look, lady, you’ve seen the apartment.  Do you want it or not?”

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Whatever Happened To…

Van1I GOT UP THIS MORNING AND TURNED ON THE TV, just like I do on most mornings. I fiddle with the remote until I find TCM – Turner Classic Movies. It is my first mental challenge of the day. Remember the channel number and get my fingers to cooperate enough to hit the right buttons.

Just about every day is some Star’s “day,” either the day they came into the world or the day they left it. Once it has been established who the Star of the Day is the next question in my mind is: Still Alive or Dead?

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