Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Excerpt "The Alien Behind the Counter"

By Angela Counts © 2008

The girl behind the counter yelled, "Next!" I looked around but nobody was in the store.

It was 11 am. I slid the application toward her hoping she would see it and I wouldn't have to tell her I was looking for a job. I hated having to explain things to people.

It took her a minute. She was busy reading a magazine – one of those cheapy ones claiming sightings of UFO's and strange creatures having sex with celebrities. She was really into it. Then she noticed my application and looked up. She was young. Probably 19, but looked my age. She didn't say nothing and I didn't say nothing. It was like she thought maybe I was one of those creatures or something and it was hard for her to make the shift back to reality. That's when I knew I wanted the job. Something where I could do my school work, ignore customers and play stupid. Perfect. I got up my nerve.

"I'm applying for the position," I said tentatively like she had some authority. "Manager told me to come in at 11 am."

"Oh." She said. Then nothing, like her thoughts got stuck at "oh." For minute I thought she was going to ask me if I was a flight attendant because she looked at my suit like I just got off a plane.

"He's not here. You wanna wait?" Hell no I didn't wanna wait, but I had promised Mama I'd give it a serious try. I didn't want to come home empty handed.

"What time's he coming?" I asked again with the all the respect I could muster for the dim-witted clerk. Did I really want to spend my afternoons pouring over cheap celebrity rags? This was not a girl I could go toe to toe with verbally or mentally and actual fighting was out of the question as she seemed made of flesh. Little bone, little muscle. A real bore. She'd make me want to get high every day. I started to turn on my two-inch pumps and smoke a cigarette out in the parking lot.

"He shoulda been here already," she said squinting towards the door like she decided to suddenly become Clint Eastwood in an old western. I imagined her with a twig in her mouth, a cowboy hat and lots of dust. I wanted to shoot her.

"You think he'll be here soon? I got some other interviews?" She smiled, kind of wicked. Maybe she wasn't dumb after all.

"You can read one of those magazines," she pointed at a rack near by. I looked behind me, vaguely disinterested and starting to shift in my cramped shoes. "If you want," she said as her eyes drifted back to the large-headed terrestrial in the magazine. I watched her scan the page and chew imaginary gum to let me know our conversation was up.

I went and got a magazine from the rack. Something to do with knitting. I absent-mindedly flipped through it. Pages and pages of ugly women making uglier sweaters. For the first time I noticed some music. Like a Muzak, rap thing. Now even Rap was acceptable.

Just then the automatic doors opened. A lady came in with her own cart with all kinds of ratty, plastic bags hanging off of it. She caught my eye and gave me one of those crazy smiles like she was gonna try to talk to me. I decided to walk around the store, check out the inventory in case I got any questions. That's when this young guy came through the doors kind of out of breath and made his way to the back. I figured he must've been the manager.

I looked up at this mirror, the kind they use to keep an eye on shoplifters, to make sure my hair and everything was still okay. My head was all small and my body bloated, like some kind of pod creature. No wonder the girl behind the counter had looked at me funny.

I dug in my purse looking for a mirror, but all I had was candy wrappers and coins and a package of Mama's Benson and Hedges. I patted my hair and rubbed my lips together, smoothed down my skirt. I looked at my hands and they were shaking. I went outside and had a cigarette.

It was a picture-perfect Los Angeles day. The kind that either made you feel you were on top of the world or sick to your stomach for being so screwed up when everybody else was so pretty and put together. Mama's B & H cigarettes tasted like her old Buick but at least my hands were settling down. I forgot to shave and my armpits had started to steam under the layers of polyester. Another couple of drags and that sun beating down on me through that hole in the ozone layer, another couple minutes in the parking lot and I'd have an afro and a bad, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners attitude.

Another couple of minutes and I'd find the nearest bus stop and I forget about my promise to Mama. I'd find old friends who'd be happy to see me. Happy to hold me over, 'til I could get it together. Palm to palm he'd give me what I needed. At a price, and I'd tell him I got a new job at Sav-on and he'd laugh and call me a trick. I hated it when he did that. Didn't he know I didn't like nasty names and all that. Couldn't he tell that I had some education and could be doing something else. Not this. Not what Mama thought was good enough for one daughter but not the other.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dance of No Permission

By Angela Counts © 2008

Ask no permission

You are your own joy
Your own bliss

Dance upon the cornerstones on that which has not been built

Dance upon dust
Kick up a storm

And watch them blind their eyes

No matter
A dance is DNA

The blood that knows

It won’t be forgotten

It can’t be stopped

It is the beat that keeps step

The step that is history

When we don’t know

We still know

In that quiet place

The heart racing around

Anxiety, Desire to move ahead

Dance, head held high
Dance, like you never knew how

And this, and now
Two steps, One step back

Moving forward, In circles

Light that corner
With feet of your own imagination

Kick the door out on that which can’t be said

Dance with anger, dance with joy
No matter

It’s your dance

Dance, like you never knew how
And this, and now

Two steps, One step back
Moving forward, In circles

Light that corner
With feet of your own imagination

It’s your dance

Star 69

By Angela Counts ©

The earth strip mined leaves
A bitter taste in the mouth
The caps of lush, green mountains
Ripped to moon deadness numbs me.

"Star Sixty-Nine" can bring back a deceitful telephone caller
But God created her once
Lush, impermanent memory.

When they visit her millennium from now
Will they know her languid and green?
Or will they marvel at her rugged terrain,
Grey, jagged, as far as the eye can see?

Will they think her like the Moon and We, rapacious moon-dwellers,
Stalking her stones and
Burying her streams?

Will the dreams of her past come to haunt in Deep forest nights when we dream in Technicolor past; when we
Surf the web of our collective imagination?

Will buried red bones rise up with
White bones
From the same dead Earth,
In hollers that no longer whisper?

We can never create her again,
Recover what she gave us.
We who want mortar and brick, and plastics
And cars to drive, and air conditioners to cool.

She will never breath the same way again, Offer us her majestic shoulders to stand upon. The crook of her arms
Will never shelter us again.

We will walk upon her carcass,
Sift through
Her debris
And fail to imagine her reality.

-- Angela Counts (c) copyright 1998

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Looking for an apartment in Space...

Nothing There
By Angela Counts © 2008

So there is nothing there.
Nothing I can see.

But the rub out.
Of what was to have been me.
With pencil it is possible to erase.
With memory.
With words to kill.
The soft, tender flesh of the ill
At ease,
Not so quick to accuse.
I have my reputation to maintain.

I like rain because it drowns out the silence,
Better than pills
Or ear plugs.
It purifies.
But don’t drink it.
Don’t even think it.

We still have our tawny earth.
Not with the big “E.”
Never understood that one.
Too big, even from space.

We won that race.
Does anyone remember.?
Do we still want to go to the moon?
I do, at least for a visit.
I wouldn’t stay, not enough amenities.
When they get in the fried chicken and tofu, maybe.

Maybe I’m crazy, but if we’ve wrecked this place
What’s next, it’s not easy getting an apartment as it is.
Will I need connections, or just get left behind?

Ah, who cares. There’ll still be some remote island where the bugs still care.
Where the wear and tear isn’t so great, even if the air is a bit laggard, a bit rare.

There’s still gotta be a place a girl can get some rest,
Even if it’s abandoned, passé,
And look up in the stars and imagine you all there:
Long lines for moon dust, chicken nuggets, organic and free range;
On the moon, or Mars.
Pluto isn’t a planet, takes too long to get there.

Just give a wave.
I won’t see you, and I won’t care, but I’d rather die
Here. There is nothing there, nothing I can see.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fathers, Trains and Writing

My First Trip to Italy
I made my first trip to Italy this summer to meet with my father who I hadn't seen in 17 years. There are MANY memorable experiences of Milan, Lake Como, and Venice (see picture), but perhaps one of the dearest is sitting in the many wonderful cafes, talking with my father and drinking some of the finest cappuccinos this coffee aficionado has tasted (aka "caffeine fiend"). My record was four in one day and my stomach is now paying the price. Ah, Italy, you are still with me in more ways than one!