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there was never as difficult as getting back.
it be? No matter what entrance you came in from, it was the easiest place
in the entire structure to find. Lowest level, center. The spider arms
of the mall all led to its lower belly, the white glaze of frost and echoing
chatter that was difficult, if not impossible to miss.
back, though. Not so obvious. There were four levels, several large stores
that looked the same (being not a woman and being uninterested in 90 percent
of what was sold in the largest stores, James could not be bothered to
differentiate betweek Saks', Neiman-Marcus, Macy's, Dillard's, or any
of another half dozen anchors), perfectly symmetrical crossroads with
no clear landmarks.
thing James did right, when he began to come regularly, was cutting out
the variables. He always parked in the Macy's lot now, even if it wasn't
the closest or most direct route. He always passed the same loud home
theater store, the store that sold nothing but candy and stuffed animals,
the cheap jewely stand with its disposable gold chains, the place with
the expensive travel cases and engraved pen sets. He learned their order
then played them back in his head, reversed. He took the same escalator
down from the third floor, or if parking left him on the fourth or second
levels, he found stairs as soon as he could to orient himself and backtracked
the same way.
these back-of-the-brain steps necessary because when he was done down
there and walking back, his mind was always filled with the most unusual
thoughts and pictures. Sometimes, what was in his head carried on all
the way to the car, onto the highway, through afternoon traffic. And the
company of them could be lost so easily from the distraction of being
lost and having to consult the oversized color codes mall directories
that had always reminded James of war maps. Here is the dominion of Banana
Republic, the stronghold of Tiffany's. Over lunch, the warring merchants
might settle their differences by signing the the Sbarro's Accord.
the last level, the echoes of chatter and squeals reverberated in the
open space. James took a bench nearest to the pay booth. He sat on a hard
wooden bench made cold by its proximity. He took off his shoes and replaced
them in the canvas bag he carried. He laced up the skates. James put his
bag and his jacket into a pay locker. He crunch-crunch-crunched the blades
against the cushioned carpet until he reached the edge of the booth entrance.
He flashed his car at the attendant, a teenager with black hair and blonde
spikes. The boy nodded at James and buzzed him through the turnstile.
forward and his right skate slid forward, the satisfying hiss compelling
him to bring his left foot ahead to make it a duet.
his legs softly, right then left, careful not to put too much pressure
on his left knee when he did so. He felt the muscles of his thighs lock
in protest of the sudden activity, but he knew they would warm and relax
in a few minutes.
a look look around the rink. There were a line of children, all related
judging by their straw hair and matching pale faces, all blue eyes and
invisible eyebrows. The oldest girl, maybe 10 years old, led the other
two by the hand in a chain. She held her free hand out, waving it at the
air like an oar, reaching for a rail that must have seemed to be miles
away. To his left, James saw a short black woman demonstrating how to
do a T-stop to a group of preteens. Along the rail, parents watched, some
talking on cell phones, others simply watching their kids intently.
those two groups of children, James was alone on the ice. It was why he
came this time of day, early afternoon. Even in the summer, with kids
hitting the mall as a way of escaping the deathly outdoor heat, James
still found mid-week skating crowds sparse.
along the outer edge of the rink, enjoying the cool air against his cheeks,
the way his earlobes went numb and his hands tingled. He pushed forward
straight toward one end of the oval and at the last moment leaned left,
curving as close as he could to the rink's edge without hitting it.
on the scattered scratches on the ice, the stretching scars that reminded
him of burst, broken skin.
to clear his mind of everything but the past, mental checklisting his
way back as he would on the return journey through the mall. Two daughters
and a son, the girls near, the boy far away with his wife; Tammy at home,
in the smaller house they'd moved to five years ago when the huge spaces
of the home they'd shared had felt too empty to enjoy any longer; the
trip to Montreal to visit distant family on a beautiful summer trip; the
job he'd never had the courage to leave until retirement; the blur of
the kids at school; work, love, desire, a lack of fear, laughter.
If he continued,
James thought he could hold each moment in his mind like a smooth skipping
stone in the hand, regarded and considered, then tossed away for another
nearby token. His mind overlayed the bursts of color from the mind (lipstick
red, Christmas green, purple stormy skies) over the dissected white ice
of the rink.
sailed, tore up the surface with his movement.
felt his stomach start to cramp from the exertion, he came around one
last time and slowed near the exit. He clomped on the carpet, took off
his skates, opened his locker and put his own shoes on, allowing his feet
the vertigo of returning to solid ground.
about bringing Tammy here often. He would, one day soon, he thought. He'd
only wanted to get good enough so he wouldn't embarass himself. That had
been the goal when he started. It didn't seem that way anymore, not after
what he'd discovered here, but it had always been something to share with
Tammy, a tiny surprise, a new ability.
back and leaned against the railing. He stared out at the ice and tried
to see where his own marks lay, the trails of his that bissected and slashed
through those of the other skaters. When he found he couldn't identify
his own path across the ice, there among many, he turned and began to
walk, ready to count back his way to the parking garage.
recap. It's for "Fever." Tonight is when the
Christopher Reeve episode airs, so be sure to check that out.
week, I wrote a review of the Spy Kids 2 DVD. The URL
somehow got lost but I'll add it here as soon as I figure
out what happened to it.
went to a little Smallville convention in Houston
this last weekend (oh, hush.) and was pleased to
see some folks I'd met in
Boston as well as people who were new to me, like Craig
and Sully from Kryptonsite.com. They were very sweet
and down to earth. Go give their site a spin.
you're in Austin, go check out Adrian Villegas' one-man
Daze." I saw it about two years ago, but will probably
go check it out again and see what kind of revisions and
changes Adrian has made over time.
If the asshat fits...
icing outside! It's like snow, but harder and more apt to
screw with your plants. I drove home in it last night and
instead of going to the gym and running errands like I was
supposed to, I holed myself inside like some damn ice hermit
and watched TiVo'd episodes of "Are You Hot?"
Let me tell you something. Apart from the fact that this
completely and totally rips off the Web
site (which the producers deny because they're obviously
geniuses who came up with the concept themselves), and that
Lorenzo Lamas is an asshat of nearly incalculable proportions,
I, uh... I'm uh... gonna keep watching it.
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