Tumbleweed

For those of you curious about where I got the inspiration for my most recent book, Rococo, here’s the flash fiction from whence it came…on one of the many days in which I found myself thoroughly disgusted by self-help books.

Toeing an anti-depressant wrapper, she loitered at the western edge of a northsouth.  The alternating rubble and reclaimed farmlands of New Jersey twinkled in the twilight…visible through a Westside airbus clearing.  From the east, through the dip in the moonscrapers created by the Chrysler Building Museum, a battered airbus buzzed in for its landing.  Flashing silver amidst its graffiti, its landing gear descended like the pincers of a huge, battle-worn beetle.  It dopplered over her head, spraying her with a cloud of urban dust that smelled vaguely of discarded electronics, and slid into its clearing.

She sneezed, turning as a rustle announced another observer of the setting sun, and found her voice.  “Trixie, you slut, what an angelic smile.  And who had to slap you silly to get you to wear something that’s even thigh-length, let alone not leather?  That dress…  How can you even walk, let alone clear a doorway, with all those ruffles?

A cloud of dotted Swiss twirled before her.  Eyes full of pastels and spring widened.  “Were you addressing me?”  There was just the faintest hint of a Southern drawl.

“Well excuse me.  We’ve only been best friends for 20 years.”

Trixie looked blank.

“Does the name…oh never mind my name…does the name Trixie mean anything to you?”

Trixie still looked blank, but rallied.  “Pooh!  I’ll recall names in a minute.  Just see if I don’t.  Why, I just now came out from under the machine at the Nupersonality Discount Outlet up yonder.  You call 2121-8347-11572 to make an appointment.”

“Remarkably selective, those memory wipes…”

“Well yes…yes, I do truly believe they gave me a partial memory wipe while I was there.  They were most considerate and very reasonably priced.  They helped me understand how it would be ever so much easier for me to adjust to my Nupersonality that way.”  Ringlets jiggled as Trixie threw her head back.  “They were uncommonly helpful and the memory wipe costs next to nothing if you’re getting a full personality reconstruction.  If you call now they’d be just tickled to give you an additional 20% off if you get a full personality reconstruction before Mars Day.”

“Trixie, I don’t believe you did this to yourself again.  And I was just getting used to your hooker’s personality.  Of all the shoddy…”

“Whatever you could be talking about, dearest, I really cannot imagine.”

“Fuck.”  She clapped her forehead with the palm of her hand.  “What are you this time, the video-game version of Scarlett O’Hara?  Their languatician should be shot.”

“Don’t be cross at poor lil’…  Trixie!  That’s my name!  See?  A person’s always a little foggy after memory work.  You know they take away a little too much memory on purpose, because some of it comes back, but I’m mighty glad I did it.  You all can be, too!  Their offices are right over yonder at…”

“No, thank you.  You can keep your discount personality houses to yourself.  At least, when you bought your hooker personality from Spice of Life, they had the decency to do their research.  For myself, I’m having enough trouble with reputable therapies.  I went to Sachs for a Feelings Flush yesterday and I still can’t get rid of all this fucking anger.”  She shook, breath whistling through clenched teeth.  Knowing it wasn’t Trixie, she plumbed her depths in search of the something to be angry about.

Birdlike, Trixie tilted her head to watch.

As usual, she came up empty-handed.

Trixie spotted her own image in a mirrored pole and pinched her cheeks till they were rosy.

“Trixie, do you think it was that Assertiveness implant I got last spring?”  Her fury was bubbling to the surface again, as faithful as a geyser.  Compulsively fussing with her already perfect hair, she spotted a truly pathetic homeless boy, dressed in torn plastic, who was watching her closely.  “I felt so good, so strong and powerful at first.  But maybe it was of poor quality and turned on me later.  They say that can happen.  Or maybe it didn’t mix well with that second Positive Thinking I got.”

Trixie was staring past the poor homeless boy at the sun setting over the Jersey cornfields.  “Don’t think of that now.  Don’t let anger and ugliness poison you.  Not when everything’s all misty and warm and sweet.”  The glare of the setting sun off Trixie’s impossibly perfect white teeth as Trixie smiled was blinding.

She was alone, except for Trixie and the homeless boy that kept staring at her.  A rage filled her, then the deepest imaginable sorrow, which slowly subsided with the day.  She wasn’t able to identify a reason for either.

Trixie curtsied deeply and fluttered off, a dotted Swiss tumbleweed weaving with the wind through the steep canyons of the city.

She was left shuddering against a cold that didn’t exist.  Staring into the deep wells of the poor homeless boy’s eyes, a sense of vertigo touched her.  Her own words to Trixie came back to haunt her, reverberating through her bone marrow as they tumbled about the canyons of her mind:  “Does the name…oh never mind my name.  Never mind my name.  What…exactly…is my name?”

The sun popped under the horizon, leaving her alone in utter solitude with a complete stranger.  It wasn’t the homeless boy; he’d left long ago.  Only the sound of his final conclusion about her lingered on forever, echoing through her mind.  It was a long, hard laugh.

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