Monday, June 29, 2009

Ranch House

The darkness wraps around the low lying ranch house like blanket. All around it, the vast countryside is quiet and dark, an extension of the shadowy gardens that make up the estate. The warm yellow light of fire spills out of the windows of the house, laced with laughter and faint music. The door is ajar, casting a sliver of illumination onto the porch where an orange plastic bowl adorned with black cats and cartoon ghosts sits filled with individually wrapped sweets. It is a single story home adorned with wrought iron lanterns and wooden shutters and doors; frosted with stucco like a mocha flavored cake topped with a red tile roof. The house rests like a sphinx, stretched out upon the earth, gazing with glowing eyes into the night. The air is damp and filled with the autumn odor of crushed leaves, damp hay, and moist ground cover. A mischievous wind promotes these scents and adds a fresh ionized quality to them as they circulate together, wailing and whispering over fences and through the branches of trees. Many little gardens surround the house. Each unique community of plants is linked by stone lined paths of compacted dirt. In some, there grow little pea plants, broccoli, and other plants which are presently out of season so that their little beds of soil lay dormant. In other gardens, squash grows happily on twining green vines adorned with broad leaves that specialize in soaking up the photovoltaic power of the sun. Other garden patches are for flowers and ornamental shrubs. Little brass wind chimes hang from trellises laden with creepers. Weathered wood and wrought iron benches appear in little coves off of the main pathways. These are usually accompanied by trees. Some are laden with little green apples, others bow under the weight of ripe red pomegranates. Yet others are standing naked upon a blanket of their discarded leaves, ready for a long nap before spring returns to insist that they put on flowers for her. There are stepping stones with designs engraved upon them; butterflies, flowers and the like, positioned to add beauty rather than to serve any functional purpose. Now and again, a bird bath is tucked along some path, but the waters in them are filled with soggy yellow leaves. The little dirt trails wind their way through the gardens in search of the buildings that make up the estate; wooden barns that house workshop space instead of livestock, a cottage or two for guests or servants and sheds for gardening tools. They make up their own little village set in the vast nothingness, adrift in a sea of field grass and old oak trees that sprawl out into the blackness of night. A dirt road passes the east side of the ranch house, a main road that must lead to other lonesome estates, and farther off it must at some point connect to one of the black roads of civilization. Here, however, it sleeps silently under the moon whose white fullness is obscured by black clouds that assume phantasmal shapes. They drift across that glowing patch of sky, absorbing the illumination and keeping it to themselves, using it as a backdrop to showcase their eerie forms. The road trails off at the crest of a hill in the north. Crowning the hill on the west side of the road is a gnarled old oak that bends over like a an elderly giant with a crooked back. The grasses sway and shake when the winds icy hand rumples them like a brother mussing up the hair of a younger sister. The grass protests with a low hiss and the wind howls with delight.

Monday, June 22, 2009


The sky is huge, an enormous canvas of blue that seems both far away and close enough to grab the couple of white puffy clouds that decorate its blueness. For miles and miles, there are rolling hillsides covered in yellow and brown grass. Twisted oak trees and small mounds of low growing green shrubs populate the hillsides. The landscape is empty, no powerlines, no cows, no houses, just the soft contours of earth and green speckles of umbrage. Tucked in the contours of the hills, on a naturally level space, is a kidney shaped pool. Carved into the lawn of cultivated green grass, the pool is outlined with walls of cement and filled with crystal clear blue water. The water sparkles with diamonds of light as sun meets with wind-induced ripples. It is completely clean, except for the fact that all the leaves of the nearby maple, the tree that hangs over the pool like a green umbrella, have been swept into the pool. All the dead leaves are in a single line in the center, they vibrate slightly with a touch of wind, but they stay clumped together in linear formation. On the lawn, there are a dozen people spread out in groups of two and three. They lounge and sun on top of colorful beach towels, their skin is golden in the light. The women wear designer white bikinis and large-lensed sunglasses. The men, with firm chests and hard stomachs, recline on their sides, turning themselves to the women they address. Twenty steps from the pool is a ramshackle house. The roof, made of wooden shingles that have turned black, is slightly concave, heavy with an accumulation of old rain water and rotten leaves. A wooden porch by the old front door has long ago been lost to termites, only a thick banister covered in small holes remains. There is a black hole in one of the walls to the right of the decimated porch, the hole is just large enough for a human head to peer through. Inside and directly behind the hole, is an old bathroom. The white tiles that cover the floor and the walls are dusty and covered in a fine black soot. There is a hose attached to the wall and a couple old metal knobs that used to serve as a shower. Beyond the bathroom, not separated by any wall, is an old kitchen. It too, is very dusty. The cabinets are off white, nearly brown. The fixtures on the drawers and the sink are covered in orange rust. There are white and blue tiles that decorate the countertop. Cobwebs hang in every corner. Pale light filters in through dirty windows which face the north, the sun beats through the weathered grime and settles into the room.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Quiet Field

The sky is a midnight blue verging on purple. Tiny stars sparkle dimly in the far distance, small and scattered glistening white points of light. In comparison, the moon is a swollen white orb dangling in the night sky. Against the darker hues, its whiteness is dazzling. Beneath its dewy gaze the grass is visible in hues of green verging on blue drenched in the nighttime atmosphere. The individual blades are thick, but soft and moist. A sweet odor comes up from of it, mingling with the mustier smell of the soil beneath its mane. The air is warm enough to accommodate bare skin while still managing to be refreshingly cool. Small creatures of the night move gently under the silver light. A rabbit with chestnut colored fur tests the night air with a small pink nose and slips in and out of its little hole, down the cool long tunnel and out upon the springy carpet of grass. Something flies silently over the landscape, a shadow that is visible for only a moment before blending into the dark skies.
The grasses ride a casually sloping hill to the crest and reach out to the east as far as the eye can see, disappearing beneath the curtain blanket of night. In the west, they are interrupted by a simple concrete porch and the dirty white stucco of a large Spanish style house. Its walls rise two stories. The first floor is void of windows, save for the sliding glass doors that open out onto the porch. The second is composed of a balcony lined with wooden rails painted to match the chocolate brown trim of the house, which looks almost black without the sun. The house is dark and silent, capped like a mushroom by a red tile roof whose color, like that of the grass, is altered by the evening’s disposition.
To the south, there is an out flow channel that extends like a concrete riverbed from the base of the mountains that loom behind the house. Empty of water, it stands as a barrier behind a fence of linked chain. The presence of moisture in the air comes without its complements. The east opens out upon itself as a grassy wilderness. In the distance, just barely visible, two barren trees stand guard and beyond them a dirt path leads to strange roads hidden from view by the border of a forest. The tall conifers seal the field, protecting it from the world beyond.
In the patch of land between the house and this forest wall, the grass is overcome by wild oats. Overgrown, they constitute a waist deep sea of crackly yellow stalks upon which praying mantis’ and crickets perch. The later chirp tenderly into the night, rubbing their little legs together with languor, taking breaks between sets. While the crickets play their lazy songs, the Mantis’ stalk their prey, smaller bugs that hide under the dainty sheaths of oats. Beneath this brittle canopy of wild grains, field mice scurry on the errands of busy little mammals, grateful to be out of the sight of the shadows which pass overhead, wings beating softly against the delicious evening air. Disappearing into the east, and running along the chain link flanked wash, stands a row of somber olive trees, as dutiful as Roman soldiers. Their leaves are dark and glossy. The unripe olives hanging among the branches are purple, although under the moonlight they are almost the color of coal.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Shopping Center

The streets are populated with shiny cars in the bright rainbow colors of fruit flavored candy. They are red and bright yellow and dark blue. Some are black or silver or gold. All glisten in the sun like brand new toys. The streets are a velvety gray, smooth with clean crisp painted lines. They are new fairways not yet tainted with tire marks and oil slicks. Circling and winding from one tall stop light to the next, they snake their way around the clean shopping centers and chain restaurants. The whole place is clean and bright. The walls of the box stores are anonymous and painted in warm cream colors, the store names are written in brand appropriate fonts across the front of the building faces in blue or white or yellow. They are un-chipped, void of any stray marks. So new that weather hasn’t been able to take its toll and vandals are still rubbing their eyes in astonishment, licking their lips and rubbing their palms together in anticipation of the day when security diminishes, but those days are yet to come. For now security carts patrol the parking lots like mother hens looking over nests of eggs. The planter boxes are filled with neatly trimmed shrubbery. Little trees that look like toothpicks with gumdrops set upon their points stand as proud as tin soldiers in the cement boxes outside of the glass store fronts. Grass rolls out in a fine green carpet alongside the walkways that lead to the smoky colored glass doors of the box restaurants. Lanky irises yawn up out of little islands set in the parking lots accompanied by skinny little maples that dream of making shade some day. Meanwhile, the shiny cars nose up to them, resting in tidy rows reserved by clean white lines. The traffic lights hang over the intersections that join dining establishments to malls to movie theaters like gawky tall young ladies. Their three bright eyes blink green to yellow to red under their steel black bonnets, holding lines of eager cars at bay with their crimson blush. Pedestrians, mostly teens, flow through the clearly delineated crosswalks guided by the electronic chirp chirp and flashing blue symbol that barely resembles them with their styled hair and skinny jeans, hoop earrings and music T-shirts, skateboards and chunky hand bags tucked under their arms. They mill about in front of the cinema gazing up at the white marquee board with its bold black letters announcing titles, show times, and ratings. More people file in and out of the box stores and main mall entrances, chatting on cell phones or rattling keys, or both at once, carrying boxes and bags, pushing carts with whinny toddlers strapped into the front like the dragon masts of Viking ships. Satisfied diners pick at their teeth with toothpicks and jingle change in their slack pockets in front of the restaurants. They hurry back to their shiny metal hosts to rouse them from their restful slumber, like parents rousing babies in a nursery to claim them and take them home. Only these babies roar and speed along over the posted limit. They are directed along those clean new stretches of road by the gangly traffic lights that hope to imitate rainbows with their perfectly arched spines. These babies puff out little invisible clouds of exhaust, filling the causeway with their chemical breath. They bleat like lambs when they fear they will bump noses with one another, or if the one in line ahead of the others is being too timid or law abiding, they may all join in a chorus of bleated complaints. With no lanes for bicycles or scooters, these must make their way amid the metal monster babes at their own risk, like puppies hopping to avoid their tails getting crushed.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mural of Ships

The sun beats down on the roof of the car, not a cloud disrupts the clear line from the fiery orb to the thin metal plate. The heat is not blocked by the overhead covering, but is instead filtered and absorbed by the car, making both the interior and exterior painful to the touch. The hot red car is in the single lane, behind it five lanes of cars are attempting to merge into the single lane, but no one is moving. There is a young woman in the passenger seat, both her feet are in the driver’s foot area, ready to accelerate or brake when necessary. A twelve year old girl is sitting in the driver’s seat. She is slightly portly, wearing glasses that make her eyes look glassy and magnified and slightly disfigured. The fabric covered backseat is empty of possessions or people, it is slightly more shaded than the front and a degree cooler. Waves of exhaust shimmy from the asphalt and rise above the vibrating back fenders of the idling cars. The motors of many cars are purring, but the surroundings are silent. There are no impatient horns, no children on the side of the road selling candy or sliced fruit. Just the lanes of cars, waiting patiently to reach the unknown that lays ahead. There are buildings on either side of the car. Some are short and made of wood, others tall and made of metal and glass, some are covered in stucco, some have crumbling sides. There is not a space in between then, they all share a wall. No matter how high or how low they rise, the buildings on the left side of the car are covered in a continuous mural. The oversized picture, spanning miles and raised thirty feet off the ground, depicts large wooden ships. They ride the waves, one after the other, clustered like an army of marching soldiers. The ships are pointed in the same direction as the waiting cars. Some ships have pink hulls and magenta ropes hanging from their masts, an intangible wind catches sails of pink and white lace. There are other ships painted in blue and green, others are black. One ship after another sails, painted in solemn colors or bright as rainbows. The ships are crowded together, ocean waves poke out occasionally from the massed hulls, but mostly, the ocean blue is buried beneath their weight and color. On the right side of the car, the buildings remain in their unadorned gray state.