A Chat with Charlie

Glenn Goodlander
Approximate Word Count: 1500

A Chat with Charlie

“It all boils down to broken glass.” Charlie said as he stretched down to the floor to clean up the pieces of his shattered mug. After collecting the pieces into the dustpan he carefully set it on his lap and rolled over to the trashcan and dumped it all in with a light tinkling sound. He then turned around and wheeled his way back out to the living room and gave a high pitched whistle. Hearing his call, but ignoring it his cat Chester opened up one lazy eye and readjusted himself.

Charlie was a 38 year old man who lived with his cat. Some days he had to clean up broken mugs and somedays he had to tolerate his parents coming over for dinner but most days he just sat at his dining room table and wrote.
Charlie’s parents, who he so disliked having to tolerate but appreciated their financial support, were Chris and Megan Francwire. Mr. Francwire was newly retired from the United States Postal Service at 75 years old, just like his father and his father’s father was before him.
Mr. Francwire was fond of saying as Charlie was growing up that, “We Franc men have been in millions and millions of conversations in our day. When my Great Grandfather was still in the service (as he fondly called it) not a single letter in the Tri-State area reached its destination without touching his hand for at least a moment.”
Charlie had liked that. He liked the idea of being a part of conversations without ever knowing what was being spoken. He also liked that he never had to think of what he wanted to say, because that had always been hard for him.
Charlie had intended to enlist in the Postal Service and follow in his father’s footsteps, but following a serious car accident which put him into a 2 week coma his dreams were dashed. Charlie awoke to the realization that he was numb from the waist down.
The accident had shattered his legs and lower spine in more places than the small boy could count. Initially this reality weighed heavy on his heart, but gradually he learned to appreciate and use what God had chosen to leave him, his hands.
After trying and failing playing musical instruments and using computers he started writing letters. He wrote letters to his mother about what he liked that she cooked for dinner and how nice she always smelled. And he wrote his father about how much he loved when he would pick him up out of his chair and spin him around by the armpits just like he used to before the accident. But after the first few months he had to resort to going through his mother’s phone book and sending letters to distant relatives and her forgotten college friends.
Charlie had never gone to college. He decided that it would keep him from being a part all the conversations that he was now responsible for. And though few people ever wrote him back, when he was done with his mother’s phone book he had sent over 500 letters and was 17 years old.
Charlie really didn’t know what to do with himself when he got to the end of that rose colored book filled with numbers and addresses. He had always known that it would have to come to an end eventually but it just happened so much more suddenly than he was prepared for.
It took him a week of thinking but he finally decided to start going through the national phone registry. That week was the scariest of his life thus far. Despite the fact that most people he had contacted previously either didn’t know of him at all or knew of him very little, these people couldn’t know of him. And so with shaking hand (as he wrote all of his letters by hand) he penned a letter to Aaron A. Aaronson at 1742 West Pensing St. North Carolina. He told Aaron about his father and his father’s father and how they had been in the United States Postal Service and how they had been a part of millions of conversations in their part of the world. He told him about his accident and how he was contributing to those conversations now that he couldn’t deliver them. He wished him a good day, a Merry Christmas (as it was November at the time) and signed his name.
He stared at his name for awhile and decided to remove the last name. He had decided, somewhere in the process of penning that letter that there was something spectacular about not being known. He wanted to enter peoples lives, send his anonymous wishes, and remove himself again as easily and cleanly as he had entered.
And in that fashion Charlie had continued for the next 21 years. He would roll himself to a quiet spot in his house and write from morning until dusk. He would write one or two, or occasionally three letters every day, and that was perfect for a time.

The late G’s and early H’s had become hard for Charlie however. He had begun to feel lonely in the C’s and that is when his parents bought him his cat. In fact, that is how Chester got named. He had been writing a letter to Chester Camdugal at 13485 Burmingham Way in Virginia when his parents brought him home his cat. They brought him over to the table that Charlie was writing on and removed him from the cardboard box that the kitten had been clawing at. Chester had walked over to Charlie’s hand, nudged it, and made him smudge the name on the top of the paper.
But the C’s had long since past, and with it, or somewhere near then, had the comfort that Chester brought to Charlie. No, the late G’s had brought with it a deeper loneliness that no cat or dog or fish or frog could ever really fulfill. Charlie needed someone to help him finish a conversation. For years and years he had happily lived on one side of the conversation, essentially speaking to himself, but now he needed someone to share his conversation with.

And so, with the mug cleaned off of the kitchen floor, and with Chester offering no support Charlie wheeled into the small dining room area in the apartment that his parents paid for. He pulled the Yellow phonebook open but already knew to whom he needed to address this new letter, Rachel Harris. Rachel lived at 1429 Hailburg Place in New York, New York and she was going to receive, in addition to a letter, a self addressed and stamped envelope that Charlie hoped would be the beginning of his first real conversation since he started the phone registry all that time ago.
He spent the next few hours thinking about what to say to his new conversation partner. He told her about himself, and his cat, and his father and father’s father, and random USPS trivia, and a few other odds and ends that he hoped would catch her attention. And then he signed the letter with his full name and quickly sealed the letter so he couldn’t take it all back.

Charlie leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms wide and low behind him. Chester had apparently moved from the spot that he had been in earlier as he now pushed the length of his body along Charlie’s hand.
“Would you like something to eat Chester?” asked Charlie.
This reminded Charlie that his parents would be over for dinner tonight, as it was the first Monday of the month, and that he had better change before they arrived with the overflowing Tupperware.
He started to wheel towards his room before he paused, turned around, and took a detour to the kitchen where he placed the letter on a magnet so he could give it to his father to take to the Post Office for him.
His parents came over at 7:00 that night and brought spaghetti and meatballs which was his favorite meal that his mother made. They left him the leftovers, as they always did, and took back their Tupperware from the previous month. Charlie handed over the letter to his father who commented on the weight and mentioned that it must be important for Charlie to not just leave it out for his mailman as he usually did. Charlie smiled and said nothing, locking the door behind his parents softly.

Lacey Legs

She was whistling “Three Little Birds” in the kitchen, switching into a soft and sweet falsetto whenever she wanted. She wore only the white cotton apron her mother had given her as a housewarming gift when she moved in with Donald 6 months prior. It showed off her tattoos beautifully and God he loved that.
Stepping into the kitchen he said, “What’s cookin good lookin?” His one-liners annoyed her made him endearing all at once.
“I was going to make egg white omelets, but then I remembered what day it was,” glancing slightly to the calendar, “So I said ‘fuck it!’ and made us egg yoke omelets and bagels instead.”
Donnie helped by putting some ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ on the bagels and setting two spots for them at their Craigslisted table in the breakfast nook. He looked around the apartment with a smile on his face sadly wishing for more room or a better feeling of coziness. What he saw instead was their studio and a half. There was one large living room with the giant and ancient CRT television. Halfway into the room was a partition made of hanging beads and a faux Japanese changing screen with swooping skylarks inked on. The bed was barely off the floor; in the Japanese style like the changing screen. The bed clothes, and their clothes lay all around it in a half hidden tangle.
“Hey Lace.” Donnie called.
“Yeah babe?”
“I love you.”
Lacey didn’t answer but instead walked out, pecked Donnie on the cheek and sat his plate down, spinning it towards him.

* *

Lacey and Donald first met at the Sunken Ship. The Ship is a run down bar that bands would play at on the weekends. They had gone to see Nosaj Thing with friends and had bumped into each other at the bar.
Donald had been wearing a periwinkle cardigan and straight legged jeans with a pair of his Dad’s once fancy shoes. And Lacey had been wearing a tight fitting leather jacket with a low cut tank top. This showed off her chest piece nicely and he told her so.
“Beautiful tattoo.”
“Thanks, I love her too. This is my Angeline, the multi-colored maiden.”
“Does it mean something special or…?”
“Yeah, I guess. I got it because the boy peacocks are the ones with the beautiful feathers. So I got Angeline and gave her more color than any of those swinging dicks!”
He laughed out of nervousness and flirtation. not because he thought it was funny. But they exchanged numbers before going back to their friends and Lacey called the next day.
“Hey there Donald.”
“Um...hi Laci, how are you?”
“Good, but do you know what? Your name is so bland...I think I’m gonna call you Donnie.”
“That’s fine, my Mom used to call me that when I was young!” Why did I say that?
“Well Donnie dear I was wondering if you wanted to get together today.”
“Yeah, sure I’d love to!” Over eager?
“Do you know the Twisted Kiss on Mulberry and Rosewood? It’s across the street from the AMC.”
“Yeah I think I know it, what are we gonna do? Do you wanna go see The Matrix at the theatre. I think they have that ‘flashback’ movie thing going right now.”
“Yeah maybe, but I’m getting a piece started on my leg and I need some company. And anyway, you can’t take me on a date yet.”
He must have said something. Everything she said came out so easy and sarcastic. He never enjoyed being playfully berated like this before, and wasn’t sure if he liked it now. He tried to play along.
“Why not? The tattoo place would almost be a date anyway, right?”
“Cool your jets Donald. It’s just a rule I have with men. If you want to take me out you gotta let me henna your hands. You can touch me as long as the henna is on your hands, but once it washes off we’re done. No harm and no foul, but unless I’ve convinced you to get something more permanent by then I just don’t see a relationship working out.”
“Can’t you get sick from henna if it’s done wrong?”
“You better hope I know what I’m doing then.”
She already had all the control and he didn’t mind. He was pretty sure it was just a game to her and he would try and learn how to play. He wanted to see the rest of that peacock.

After meeting up that night and getting his hands wet with that penetrating mud he got to watch Lacey get her tattoo. She was getting a octopus on her left leg. It weaved in between her existing ink and touched one tentacle to her heel. But instead of suction cups it had piano keys. Each tentacle contained a full piano’s worth of keys and Lacey had Tank shade on the first 4 chords of Beethoven's Fifth, apparently she was a musician.
Donnie’s iPhone hardly cast any light in this bright place. It said that “Adaptation” was playing at 8 across the street and they would just make it if they hurried. He didn’t want to go. Or, he did want to go but not right then.
As Lacey got up and used the mirror in her hand in concert with the full length mirror on the wall to look at the keys that stretched from her heel to her buttocks Donnie talked to Tank.
“Ha!” Shook Tank. “Lacey where did you find this guy?”
“We met up at the Ship, why else would I get a octopus?”
Well that sealed it didn’t it. Donnie wanted to give in and had been flirting with the idea but now he spoke with sincerity and dismissiveness at the same time.
“Tank. Can I get some ink here or do I need to go somewhere else?”
“Haha, no small-fry you are in the right place.”
Lacey had a heart shaped locket inked on a fine chain wrapped three times around her waist like a chained belly dancer. Donnie had gotten a peak at it from across the room at the Ship yesterday. Damn, was that just yesterday? Fuck it.
Donnie got a skeleton key on a 3” chain tattooed around his neck with a grinning skull holding that heart in-between its boney teeth.
They fucked that night. Donald had never done that before. He had made love and fooled around and screwed but never fucked. It was nice and made his chest dot with inky blood which got on Lacey’s sheets. She wouldn’t care.

* *

After breakfast, and having tossed their dishes into the sink filled with soapy water and dinner’s dishes Donnie and Lacey got into their Honda Element they had gotten used from Donald’s cousin. They drove to the Twisted kiss and feed the parking meter a dozen quarters.
“Hey Tank. Woah, what’s all this?!”, said Donnie.
“Just a little something me and Trish sat up.”
Tank aka Theodore Renold and Patricia Renold, Tank’s wife, would be their witnesses later at the courthouse. It had been 6 months and after getting the octopus and the skeleton key filled in Lacey and Donnie just kept going. Lacey had gotten a string of pearls on her ankle from the time Donald had taken her to his uncles place in Florida and they had found a clam with a miniature pearl in it. Donnie had gotten “Don’t Panic!” on the pads of his hands and read it often, on paper and skin. And Lacey tried a UV inked tramp stamp for clubbing. It was mostly faded now, but it had been fun at the time.
Today however was their wedding day and even though Donnie only wore a periwinkle cardigan and Lacey wore a tight leather jacket the raw infinity signs on the inside of their ceremony fingers meant the world to them.
As Tank and Trish pulled around the Mini-cooper they had borrowed and decorated for the occasion Lacey said, “Hey Donald, I’m glad you got that key around your neck.”
“Actually I’ve been meaning to ask, why is it so important that I got that piece done that night. Honestly it was a lot more like me to miss my chance and let the henna rub off.”
“Well,” she said, “Now-a-days ink lasts longer on skin than metal does.”

Natural Glass

Jacob walked through the beaded doorway into the back room of the psychic’s shop. He had never been to a psychic before and so the thought of just walking into the back of one made him uneasy, but it’s what the sign at the front counter instructed and so he did it. It smelled like what frankincense and myrrh must smell like, metallic popery and the smell in the air after a lightning strike. Frankincense and myrrh wasn’t the type of gift that he would ever want to receive. After looking around the small circular room he sat down at one side of the table and waited.
The candles bobbed up and down to their own secret tune in the small round room while Jacob waited to be seen. From the opposite side of the room came Hester. Hester looked like she may have been anywhere from her late 60’s to early 80’s depending on whether that was liveliness or wisdom in her wrinkles. She didn’t walk so much as shimmy forward, and judging by her...movement, couldn’t have been wearing a bra; to her stomach’s misfortune.
“Hello,” croaked Jacob.
“Hello Jacob. What can Mother Hester help you with today.”
Jacob was taken aback until he followed her gaze down to his backpack which had his name stitched onto the front of it. Marcy had done it for him before her accident.
“I need to talk to someone. Someone who I can’t talk to alone. She has passed away and I need to ask her something.”
“Okay. Who is she: family, lover, or enemy?”
“She was my girlfriend. She would have been my fiancee, or well we would have moved back in together soon. We lived together years ago but she had to go away to New York for art school, she got offered an amazing scholarship.”
He paused in between his sentences unsure of how much information she needed to get this started and wanting to hold back as much as possible so she could prove whether or not she was for real.
“Do you have anything of hers that we could use to get a connection started with. The more personal the object the better. It isn’t that she doesn’t value or want to be near you it is just easier to translate a physical object and its emotional fingerprint into the ghost realm than it is to send your whole essence.”
“Yeah. That’s actually why I brought my bag. It was one of the first times she began experimenting with her sowing. That’s what she went to school for, her amazing needle work. She made a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of fishing line once. I didn’t get the symbolism but she said it all started with this bag.”
“Place it on the table please,” she said as she exited back through the dim doorway she had come through moments before. She returned with a black egg shaped object which she sat on a gold painted stand with crafted crows feet. The egg looked like it was made of obsidian or some other natural glass.
“I thought you people used crystal balls.”
“We do, but not as often as we use other naturally forming minerals. I prefer glass from the earth. Volcanic glass is the best, it is shaded to the eye so it is easier for the third eye to see through. You will see. Place your bag on the table please.”
He had been to busy watching her to do it already. He took out his computer, a notebook with an Incubus sticker on the front, a few pens and pencils, and a wad of papers from the bottom and sat them all in a pile on the floor with the least valuable items on top.
“What’s that?” She asked looking at the notebook.
“They’re my poems. Nothing too good more like word doodles I do sometimes.”
“Set that on the table too please.”
He did it and she got up and lit some oil burners and blew out the dancing candles. The room glowed now in a deep green thanks to the smallest oil burner which was shaped like a japanese fabric lantern with a tea pot on top.
“May I?” She asked as she grabbed the backpack from across the table. She unzipped it and took the egg off its mount and placed it inside. “Pick a poem, put it inside.”
Jacob looked at the book unsure and flipped it open. Rewind time. Thats the one. He ripped it out, wadded it up and put it in the bag as well.
“So when does this start?”
She grabbed his hands before they retreated from the bag. “She says she is sorry.”
“Sorry she left like that, sorry she drove at all, especially after drinking that wine.”
“She doesn’t have anything to be sorry for. Tell her she has nothing to be sorry for.” He said forgetting his unbelief. She had mentioned the wine and the car, he hadn’t mentioned those. Right?
“No I do.” She said changing he tone. “I know I wasn’t the only one in that car now. I had thought I shouldn’t have been drinking that night. I didn’t know why of course but I just had a feeling that I needed to say ‘No thank you’ when your mom poured me a glass. ‘It was only a dinner wine,’ I thought. No reason to worry.”
“Baby please you weren’t even drunk.” Feeling anxious now.
“That’s not what I mean. We couldn’t have known but I had a little life inside of me. She was going to be a girl, she would have been our daughter Jake.”
He was stunned. The coroner had told Jake that the hospital found elevated hormones in her blood indicating that she was pregnant. She couldn’t have known.
“We’re okay,” She continued. “We’re together.”
“Who is with you?”
“Our daughter silly.”
“Really? What does she look like. Who is she. What’s her name.”
“She doesn’t ‘look’ like anything. Neither do I anymore. But she reminds me of you. She has your laugh.” “She needs a name,” she said.
“Marcy girl. I don’t know. Doesn’t she have one? What have you been calling her. How do you know she’s ours. Where are you? Are you safe? I miss you.”
“I love you too Jake,” she said in that consoling tone that she was so good at. “I’m fine and she’s fine and you know she’s ours. And I could have named her, even wanted to, but I wanted her to have something from her Daddy. Something you could find her by later if this is where you end up when you move on.”
“Call her Abbey.”
“That’s perfect Jake, I love you. See you soon, but not soon enough.”
“Baby come back. I wanted to ask you something. I-”
“She’s gone child,” replied the old tired voice of the woman who had been sitting across from him this whole time. “Time for both of you to go.”
She stood up shakily and hit a light switch from behind one of the curtains hanging on the wall. Immediately the room brightened and lost all its mystery.
Jake put his things back into his bag and tried to set the egg back onto its stand.
“Keep it,” she said while shooing him from the store.
He walked out onto the street and turned back for a little reassurance that what just happened had truly happened but the lady was gone and the florescent eye on the hand in the window was turned off.
He got into his car as “Come Together” was hitting the chorus over his speakers.

A Foggy Run

A Foggy Run

She flexed her legs and made a face as if to say that it hurt, but that good kind of hurt that made the workout worth it.
Shawn, standing off the winding paved path they had been jogging on in his suburban neighborhood, took a deep breath and a small plume of fog rolled out of his mouth and joined with the rest the morning was holding. He couldn’t help but admire her.
Staci Simon had been his crush since fifth grade, and had turned him down for just about as long. He had spent countless hours thinking about that bark colored hair. She had always let it grow past her shoulders and before her butt. She would have said that only girls from the back country would let their hair grow any longer. He let his eyes follow her hair as it snaked down her frame to the small of her back.
She was leaning over now. Working on loosening the knee she had injured in a mountain biking incident a few years prior. “God she is beautiful.”
“God you’re beautiful Stace.”
“Ha! I had actually just been thinking how lucky I am to be with you. You know, I never would have guessed that I would get to wake up to a run with my best friend. Or more importantly that Shawn Gueden would be my best friend.”
That last sentence made warmth swell from the base of his sternum. His heart beat had normalized during their break, but her words made him shift his stance to look at her head on, dumb grin on his face.
“No you don’t,” Staci said, “I don’t want to play right now!”
He didn’t answer. Rather he swiftly slid over next to her and in one motion swept her off her feet and laid her on the grass beneath him, to the right of the path.
“Baby please!”
But it was no use, Shawn was tickling her with abandon. Under her arms, in between her ribs, near her waist, her upper thighs, all the places he had practiced stealing giggles from her.
“I’m sorry babe, what did you say? I couldn’t hear you over the laughter.” Then he began to replace some of his tickles for kisses. He kissed her hair that he loved so much. He started at the ends and worked his way back up to her brow. When he reached her forehead he slowed down, having stopped tickling at all at this point. Kissing down the bridge of her nose her said, “I love you Staci.”
He then kissed her mouth, before she could answer. She never said it back but she showed it. It was just that her dad had left when she was young and the last thing she remembered him doing the morning he left was saying, “I love you dear, see you tonight!” He had been fucking his french tutor. His boss had hired her for him, so he could spearhead a new campaign in Eastern Canada. They had screwed during the second lesson. So Staci never said I love you, but she lived it better than anyone he knew.
Shawn twisted himself on his back and put Staci on top of him; he was always worried of squishing her, being so much larger than his small counter part. He noticed immediately how wet the fog had made the grass, and with that how thick the fog had become.
She didn’t let him think past that though, immediately kissing him again, this time taking initiative. She kissed down his neck to the part of his chest that his v-neck exposed. She had realized how thick the fog had gotten because she usually wasn’t this bold in public.
She pulled up his shirt shocking him twice. First when his bare skin hit the cold ground and second when her lips connected with his navel. Wrapping the fog around her like one of his shirts she pulled on his drawstring waistband, kissing him lower now.

After a few minutes their breathing began to sound like they were running again. But Staci had to readjust, her knee bothering her. When she stopped her marathon downstairs and moved to a sitting position she almost overlooked the change that had stolen over their makeshift bed.
The morning had come suddenly, as it is apt to do in the early days of winter like they were in. The fog was still heavy around them, but not nearly as heavy as it had been. And there was a breeze making the fog run along the path next to them.
But off to her left was the shape that made her stop. It was a man, partially visible through the fog, standing calmly, looking over his fence at the couple. His hair was the same color of the fog and he stood lips up over his fenceposts. She could hear the squishing noises coming from his direction when their eyes locked.
Shawn had been waiting on his back still, not unfamiliar with the breaks that Staci needed every now and again when she was on her knees. But her face must have awoken him from his pleasured coma as he now got up on one elbow and turned to face the direction she was looking.
At this the man behind the fence said, “Come on whore, suck some more cock. Or do you need me to come give you some myself?”
Staci couldn’t respond. And without moving she watched Shawn wriggle out from beneath her and confidently stride over to the man.
“What the fuck did you say?” Shawn said strongly, but not too loudly.
“Not interested in you son.” The man said keeping eye contact with Staci. “But I encouraged your whore to finish what she started so I can finish, or to come over here and do it herself.”
Staci felt sick and her ears began to buzz a little like they did when she and Shawn used to fight.
Staci shifted her weight to her hip to take the pressure of her tailbone and wrapped her legs around in front of her. She shifted her eyes to a patch of grass that the couple had loosed, thinking to hide her face which must be blood red by this point.
She readjusted her top which had become disheveled during the run and again with Shawn. She noticed that she had sweat rings boldly around the under arms of her teal shirt.
She threw up. It was a combination of the run and the blowjob and hearing Shawn shouting and the eyes that were running all over her body. But the red of her face and the sweat stains grounded her and threw her cereal all in front of her.
It had come too swiftly for her to fully avoid messing on herself. It burned her throat as it came up and the noise of it must have shaken Shawn out of his fury because he hurried over to her.
“Are you alright?”
“Are you sick? Should I take you to the doctor?”
“No, let’s just leave.” She said looking up to where the man had been standing, and having noticed that he left she added, “and lets hurry before he gets back.”
“Okay honey.” Shawn said with what sounded like a mixture of concern and left over fury.

But as Shawn helped Staci to her shaky feet the man had come back out carrying a towel.
“Here you go boy.” He said as he handed Shawn the towel, though he was still only looking at Staci. “Go ahead and clean yourself up.”
Shawn dabbed Staci’s lip affectionately and then turned back with a glare.
If he said anything to the man while the couple walked away she didn’t hear it. She was staring at the white, and now brown, towel. It had C.B. monogramed on it. She let her fingers trace the outline of the letters feeling sick.

You love me so well

We were sitting at a Mahogany table beneath a chandelier like starfields
The chairs were ancient and the arms had hands which
Were upturned to worship
Or maybe they wanted to hold hands

I remember the hunger most of all
The aching trembling pit in the middle of my being
I was hungry for love and
Encouragement and
Appreciation and

You stood up and walked over towards me
And set yourself upon my lap
And kissed me, full on the lips
And I’ve never hungered again

May I just say

Ireregardless of the
Twice over twisted feeling
You looked so beautiful

Our Father

I feel so defeated and alone
I wonder if that’s how the Witch’s Weed feels
As though what it was created for makes it a target for

And I’d rather like to be done with the whole sordid affair
Wash my hands of matron meddling in matrimony and nuptials
And ask for a return to sender on helpful hints and flat mate failures

Because I’m sick and tired
Doubled over in pain and I need to be well
To protect my newly made newlywed in our
Newly made marriage bed

Please provide so I can provide