Feather in the Tar: When We First Met

          [TEST VITIALS: Infrared Filter: on]

           Is he alive, Frank asks himself as he leans over Chaz. His chest is moving and body heat is normal. His eyes are closed.


          No movement.


          A new program spins up the hard drive. Digital snow with vague shapes and forgotten sounds, a scent memory of death and dried out condemns; Frank cannot associate meaning to the sense reflections. Chaz’s face comes into focus for a moment then snow again.

          The boiler kicks on, and Frank erects himself. He looks around and sees a long black leather trench coat with a hood on a hook near the door. Chaz moans. Frank looks down again.

          [STOP FUNCTION: chaz. CALL RECORDER: Last: chaz]

           “I can help you,” he can hear Chaz’s voice.

          Steam is releases along the rivets of his arm. What did he mean, “help you?” Frank turns both of his hands over and over, one after the other, inspecting them. He looks down at his legs and feet; look what he has done to me. One arm glows orange, and he watches as it transforms to a blue plasma rail.


           “I can help you.”

          Can he help me? Help me how? This fucker turned me into a goddamn monster. I don’t remember how or when. Why me?

           [EXECCUTE MEMORY: Last: cyan]

          I remember is Cy rubbing a chocolate sauce over my body, then chocking; I can’t breath, sweat stinging my eyes. What the hell, I can’t breathe. What is it? She is …killing me? My cheeks are on fire. My tongue is going to burst my face. I can’t fucking breath, then a tunnel. It shrinks, smaller and smaller to a pinpoint, then blackness.

          Frank raises his arm, “that bitch tried to kill me,” her picture fills the breadth and width of his visual screen. “WHY?” Chaz moans, and Frank’s OS hangs and stalls before another round of internal questions begin. “How the fuck did I get here?” He lowers his arm and looks around. “Where is this place?” I must have died, but I am not dead; I am different. Frank’s boiler slows.

          He looks at the cages on his arms. He raises a hand to his mouth and imagines blowing on his hand. I can’t feel anything. He blows at some papers on the worktable above Chaz, but nothing moves. He visualizes blowing like walking and still no result. I’m not breathing. How can I be alive?

           “Help me?” Frank says to Chaz, but he is still unconscious. She, a picture of Cy fills his visual screen, fucking did this to me. I have to find her. She must…

          [STOP FUNCTION: cyan]

          The drive spins up, and the command writes across the bottom of his screen and repeats. Frank rolls Chaz over and takes his wallet. I need money, “stop function cyan,” repeats over and over.

          [cy = cyan; FIND: cy]

          A picture of Cyan, his ex-girlfriend, flashes in the right corner of his screen and on the opposite side, a list of facts about cy.

           [Cyan Stevens
          Born on March 6, 1976
          36, 24, 36
          5 foot, 8 inches
          120 lbs.
          Blue eyes
          Auburn hair
          BS, Psychology, UC Berkeley, 1998
          Marina Lounge, SF, CA

          Frank’s Wi-Fi connection accesses online mapping software. It flashes his current location, and the Marina Lounge on Chestnut. Blurry images of the inside of a bar flash across his screen, then the street outside. It is nearby. He pipes the coordinates to his GPS compass. He drops his hands to his side and rises up over Chaz’s body. His mechanical drive system boiler gurgles.

           “Help you?” Frank thinks to himself, how can he help me, I am. I am dead.

          Frank steps to the door, and on back of it, a natural leather duster hangs by its loop on a large rusty railroad spike. It’s dusty, not used in some time, and it has a hood. He turns to his right and looks in the mirror again and takes the coat. It fits. What about his head and face, Frank thinks to himself.

          [TRACK COORDINATES: Marina Lounge]

           “She did this to me. I’ll find her. I’ll kill her.” He says, the electronic rasp in his output speaker crackles.

          He looks in the mirror and raises the hood over his head. Frank adjusts it so it does not interfere with the lenses attached to his skull. He turns his head right and left, up and down, and buttons the duster all the way up. He looks in the mirror. The hood is rigid and casts a shadow over his face. “I am death.” He turns to the door and his boiler hisses, more pressure. He grabs the handle, opens it and steps into the night.

          [CAMERA NIGHTVISION: on]

          It is a quiet night on Crissy Field. A group of runners, headlights bouncing with each step, flow past him. They don’t notice his awkwardness or the hissing boiler as they pass close to him, talking and gigging. One turns her head forward to the trail and steps sideways, just missing him. 25-30 years-old, brown hair lanky build, almost his height her head just misses the inside of his hood.

           “Sorry.” She calls out as she regains her gait.

          Frank does not react. He keeps moving toward the bar in syncopated step, his drive systems is tracking the coordinates to the Marina Lounge, and they tick off like a digital clock, below the map screen.

          [EXECUTE MEMORY: cyan]

          Frank replays the last memories of his life. He pauses each time she says, “What do you think?” Her upper body is covered in a chocolate sauce, a bodice of chocolate drips onto whip cream panties. She is blushing and smiling. “Do you care for dessert, sir?”

          She is beautiful.

           “I love you Frank.” Cyan says from his memory.

          Josie was in no way like her. Josie always came first, but Cyan always put us first. She is independent but not absolutely, or is it that she wants to be more, equal, independent, and intimate? Is that even possible?

          Frank starts the memory again. She swivels her hips like a stripper as she makes her way to the bedroom. “Did you ever do any exotic dancing?” He asks at her next step. She turns around, the chocolate leaving a trail of small drops as her suit warms up.

           “No, of course not. What kind of girl do you think I am?” She blushes.

          Frank stops in front of the Marina Lounge where he met her. She is a 2nd bartender working the late shift. Too still and erect with the leather hood over his head, he stands just outside the range of the lounge walk up window. It is a porthole for smokers to maintain drinks and conversations.

          A thick fog finger floats down Chestnut and obscures any details. Franks stands against a wall of the empty shop next to the bar. Passersby do not notice him. He could be just another panhandler, homeless person, or bum; the long leather coat is out of style in this neighborhood of middle-management professionals. No one notices him.

          They first met on a night just like this one. The fog was heavy then too, even though it usually just hangs out of range in the Presidio. College basketball, the final four was down to the quarters, and Frank had 5 large on Prairie View, an unknown underdog, wiping the woods with those west coast pretenders, NorCal. Odds were unbelievable 100 to 1; the pencil necks believed the Cotton would stop cold against some real talent.

          The bar is full of douche bags and aging frat wanks and wanna-bes. Whooping, hollering, pumping fist in the air, and spitting in Franks whisky–as they relive those moments when their lives went from silver spoon to double quick golden fork, grab and climb, grab and excrete, grab and step on, and crush any who would dare hold back their rightful righteous destiny of success. Screw the little people, I got mine so fuck off, don’t you know whom I am, don’t you know what I do, and can’t you see my Rolex? The memory plays out.

          It’s hard enough to keep and eye on the screen and sip without some adolescent’s enthusiasm to bump and spill my drink. Frank looks around, and the aging frat-ster, standing too close over his shoulder, heads for the gent’s, when another, like mold, hovers in the half-empty space.

           “HEY BEAUTIFUL, HOW ‘BOUT A BUD HERE, NOW?” He slams his fist on the bar over Frank’s shoulder.

          The half-neat slips out of Frank’s hand. On the way down to the wooden planks, it pours over his knee and soaks his silk sock. A sweet aroma of spilt whiskey wisps off Frank’s fingers and he turns to look at the idiot

           “Sorry man, I’ll buy you another. No foul, no problemo, man.” He says to Frank. Cyan approaches, “Make it dos-ay, sweetheart.”

           “No thanks. I’ll get my own.” Frank says to the dude, but he doesn’t pay attention. Cyan returns with two lagers, and sets them on the bar in front of the dude. He leans hard on Frank and slams his credit card down on the bar.

           “Close it, sweet ho.” He says and turns with one mug to Frank.

           “No thanks, but thanks.” Frank says.

           “Man, it’s free Bud.”

           “Thanks, but no. I don’t drink Bud.” Frank shakes his head and crosses his hands back and forth in front of the dude’s face.

           “OK MAN, but your missing some sweet juice.” Dude turns back to the bar, and Cyan returns with the check. He signs it and tips a dollar on the receipt. He stands and moves to an empty table with both beers, and puts one to his lips.

           “Sorry, what a douche. Can I get you another whisky?”

           “Sure, I’ll have a Jameson, neat.” Frank answers. She turns around and back with the bottle and pours a triple. Cyan fills it to the rim. Frank sets a $20 on the bar.

           “No, no, this one’s on me.” She says.

           “Thanks,” Frank smiles, unexpectedly he feels the heat on his cheeks and realizes that he is caught in a too-long pause and stare. Her eyes are blue topaz without end.

           “Your welcome,” she smiles back.

           “I’ve not seen you in here before?”

           “I usually work as a barmaid or bar back on terminal shift. I am filling in tonight,” Cyan answers.

           “Well I must say what a warm light you bring to the cocktail hour. I am Frank,” he extends his hand.

           “Thanks,” she shakes his hand and smiles again, “I’m Cyan.”

           “That’s an unusual name?”

          Cyan giggles, “my mom was a paint-by-number artist. She loves the mighty brush.”

           “Bob Ross, he’s still around?” Franks asks.

           “I don’t know. She watches a lot of TV.” She answers.           “Yeah, mine did too. And, word find puzzles.” Frank adds as she turns and walks to the front end of the bar.

          Frank’s eyes follow her the length. She turns and catches him watching. She winks. She’s just being friendly? What the hell would she want with an old dog like me? He lifts his whisky and gulps twice. The alcohol reheats his face and he sighs. He stares at the television screen at the end of the bar, the college basketball playoffs are on, and he’s got 5 large on the Prairie View with odds.

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