Saturday, July 31, 2010

Casolaro 10

Before Casolaro left for Martinsburg, Olga, his housekeeper, tried helping him with his things. A briefcase, which she watched him shove full of papers. She tried lifting it but it was too heavy, hurting her shoulder and elbow.

What do you have in there, she asked.

Everything, he responded. All of my papers.

He said he was off to meet the last piece of the puzzle, a source that would help pull everything together. He looked tired but hopeful, she recounted, almost like a little boy on Christmas morning, awake to open gifts before sunrise. He was often like that, she said, but in the last days, he was frazzled, tired, a bleeding man still hopeful, stumbling along even though he’s been wounded.

She feared for his life. More phone calls. We will cut him up, feed him to the sharks. Another: drop dead. Another: silence, just music in the background. Stop calling, she shouted into the phone. More calls followed, waking her in the middle of the night. No voices, no music, just silence.

The phone rang and rang into the night. She sat huddled in her bed, refusing to pick up, afraid to move. He had mentioned the word “Octopus” to her before, but didn’t elaborate. Madness, she thought.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Black Thursday

This story is the 11th part of the Griffin filmmaker series. It follows The Street Near and Far.

1
The actor Griffin hired to play Henrick had the worn, existential face he sought. Gray hair like withered grass, facial wrinkles of stone, stark eyes making him look surprised he was still alive. I know he’s the one, he said, because this is the future me, the final Griffin before death.

2
9:15 p.m. Henrick lived for October 14. There was nothing else. Forced retirement, no family, declining health. The terrorist group Black Thursday struck on this day, though not every year, at precisely 10:14 p.m. His bedroom wall had a map from his police days. Twenty-seven pushpins—fourteen black, for where he thought they would strike, thirteen red, for where they actually had. He drew lines connecting the thirteen pushpins, seeking a pattern. There wasn’t one.

3
Griffin wrote in his notes, Black Thursday will be my most fast-paced film. Then he told Helena. Then he told his crew and cast. Pacing, pacing, pacing. The present time will cover fifty-nine minutes, set on October 14, leading up to when the group would strike, with flashbacks covering thirty years.

4
9:26 p.m. Henrick hails a cab. It had been eight years since they last struck but he had a hunch. His old partner Murphy used to tell him, you’re on 24/7, always keep attuned for information, everything’s connected. Murphy, a seasoned crocodile face, who smoked as much as he breathed. Henrick told the driver, to Melvin’s, the name he kept hearing recently. Melvin’s was Montana range cattle, violin-sized lobsters, 1985 port. Henrick now operated without police resources. Only a gun strapped to his leg, the thoughts in his head.

5
Griffin wanted all questions answered before they were asked. Why action? I wanted something new, broadening appeal. Why terrorism? It’s a force beyond our control, one we can only respond to. Why the color red? Next question. Why Henrick? Yes, why Henrick—the most critical question.

6
9:43 p.m. Henrick exits the cab near Melvin’s. Seared beef fills the air. People walking the streets unconcerned, fearless. I’ll stand here, he thinks, I’ll watch. He’s near the door, hears piano from within as the door opens, mixed with conversational hum. The valet sizes him up. Henrick forces a smile at him.

7
Alone, late at night, Griffin pondered Henrick. How far would I go, he thought, how obsessed would I become? The room felt like it was shrinking, enclosing him. Would he abandon Helena, Richard, live obsessed? No, I couldn’t, he thought. The search becomes Henrick’s life. I’m more. Griffin closed his eyes. Silence, darkness—too much.

8
Flashbacks. Car bombs, nerve gas, snipers. “Black Thursday” cards scattered at sites. No threats, no demands, no suspects. Police sweeping the city, breaking down doors, turning up nothing. New mayors, new police commissioners, the feds intervene. Nothing. Henrick moved through thirty years, pushing away friends, romantic interests. He often thought, this time, I’m so close.

9
One afternoon Helena was reading the script, asked, have you counted the dead? He looked at her sitting on the couch, shook his head, unsure. The number of people killed by the terrorists, she said. I’m estimating around 2,000, adding the numbers you give, taking estimates of those unmentioned. Glasses on her face, pencil in her hand, script before her. He shrugged his shoulders. Someone might be curious, she said. I never added up the dead, he thought, is this wrong?

10
9:58 p.m. Henrick finishes his coffee. Across the street he sees a white light in a darkened window. His heart accelerates. Maybe it was just street lights playing tricks. But then it appears again. He hears Murphy’s voice—this is what you live for. He runs across the street. The building door locked, windows dark. He tugs at the handle. The knob is cold, the door immoveable. He looks up at the window, neck cracking as he tilts his head, sees nothing. No police cars nearby. He’s alone. He taps the street level windows with his hand. Plexiglas.

11
During filming, Griffin wasn’t sure if Henrick should live or die. He went back and forth, Henrick’s fate in limbo, until he realized, in a sense, he’s been dead a long time.

12
10:04 p.m. Henrick draws his gun, now stands at the building’s rear. He’s winded, hand trembling, legs in pain. The alley smells of leaves, dogs. He pats the wall, finds the door handle. It wouldn’t budge. He steps back, looks up at the windows, stares. After a few seconds, he sees the light again, and a silhouette. Someone’s up there. Here it is.

13
Griffin pondered, how many more films do I have in me? Five, ten? He thought, Helena, how many? But he never asked her.

14
10:12 p.m. Henrick returns to outside Melvin’s, chases people away by waving his gun.

Get out of here, he yells. Sniper! In the window!

People scream, run, drop flat. Three men in suits exit Melvin’s. Henrick shoves them back inside. Two guys approaching from his right ignore him. He shouts, Black Thursday, Black Thursday. They turn and run.

He thinks he hears someone say, dinner at Melvin’s.

He looks across the street, sees the white light again. He panics, shoots at the window. Glass shatters. People scream. He looks at his watch. The time, he thinks, the time.

15
Griffin determined the film must end with an extreme close-up of Henrick. No sound of gunfire. Just silence, fade in of city sounds, voices. Roll credits.

16
10:14 p.m. In the distance, amateur fireworks mark the time. The street in front of Melvin’s is frozen. Henrick looks up at the broken window, sees an outline of a head, two gloved hands, a red dot of light. Here’s thirty years. In one moment. Now. Finally.

I got you! Henrick screams. Drop the gun, drop it!

From above, cards rain down, hitting him in the head, tapping his gun, landing at his feet. Someone above, he thinks.

On his chest, he sees a steady red dot. He’s frozen, unable to move. I’ve found them is all he can think. The dot crawls up his chest, until he can’t see it anymore.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Casolaro 9

The Octopus was the name Casolaro gave his conspiracy. A multi-tentacled conspiracy involving the highest and deepest levels of government and enterprise. BCCI, October Surprise, Iran Contra, Mossad, Pan-Am 103, Wackenhut, British Intelligence, Inslaw. Covert intelligence operatives, high powered intrusive computer software, money and power. It started a decade or so before, but that may have just been a surfacing period: the framework is probably decades old, reaching back to Watergate, JFK, RFK, MLK, Area 51, the Nazis; maybe even centuries old.

It was a monster that lived in the vast oceans. Every now and then, he found, it would surface, reek havoc, then disappear again, draw in some unsuspecting victims it would drown and feast on. Like most deep sea monsters, it left mostly anecdotal not empirical evidence of its existence, mostly bloodied corpses of victims washed up on shore. It was difficult to get on photograph, the clues it left were cryptic.

I’m going to be the one who gets that photograph, he said, I’m the one who’s going to expose it to the world. Right now, it’s surfacing, but soon it will disappear, probably for a long time. This is the time to get it. While it’s above the water.

Casolaro didn’t see the Octopus was merely using him. His notes and files weren’t words and ideas but mere ink stains secreted by the creature itself, regurgitated scribbles that had been told countless times, a colossal wreck shattered so finely that its facts could never be reassembled.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Casolaro 8

He dated a woman named Sara in May, three months before his death. Japanese dining, a performance of Twelfth Night. He would tell his dates about his work. Most of the details and implications would fly over their heads, or they’d think he was a dreamer, working on fictions, ideas. His last date challenged him, said that it was impossible for the U.S. government and corporations to be involved in a far-reaching conspiracy. He was paranoid, a lunatic.

Believe what you want, if it helps you sleep at night, he told her. The paranoid, as Burroughs said, is the man in possession of the facts.

I’m not an idiot, she told him, but I think you’re deranged. You look like a wild-eyed zealot when you talk about this.

We all gotta serve somebody, it might be the devil, it might be the Lord, as Dylan said, you got to believe in something, he said.

Though he was still friendly with most of his ex-girlfriends, he never talked to her again. Just as well—he was getting closer and closer. He didn’t need a doubter within his circle. Soon, he told himself, soon, things are going to change.

Even though he continued dating, many lonely days and nights followed. Out of the day and night / A joy has taken flight. No one to pull his heart from the fire when he died, keep it for her remaining days.

I’ll wash up to shore, once this is all said and done, I’ll be someone else.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Casolaro 7

Often when he was alone, Casolaro would hear strange sounds. The humming and whirring that a computer might make. At home, different hotels in different cities. He’d be going over his notes, working on his book when he would stop his own noises of pen moving across paper, the click-clacking of the typewriter, and hear the sound. I’m just hearing stuff, he thought, maybe there’s something wrong with my ears, maybe it’s mind residue from Computer Age. Sometimes in a hotel room, paranoid and running low on sleep, he’d throw down his pen and move his ear against the wall, up and down, left and right, a spider fleeing an incoming boot.

The sound gained in strength as he got closer to the truth, closer to his death. The phantom computer seemed to be calculating more equations, algorithms—perhaps it was artificial intelligence, gaining in sentience. He had to abandon a strategy he’d developed—listen to music on headphones—because he was afraid he wouldn’t hear someone coming to kill him.

He’d lie awake at night, still hearing the humming and whirring, the ongoing tick of the clock marking time, propelling him into the future.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Casolaro 6

Casolaro got word about Oliver Stone’s JFK film project just before he died. Kindred spirits, he thought. This whole thing’s coming down, he confided to a friend, we’re living in a time of justice and reckoning, revolutionary times, a time of truth. In the future, they’ll be looking at that colossal wreck, the lone and level sands stretching far away. We’re plunging deeper and deeper depths, charting new levels of the ocean. The governments of the world will be held accountable to the people. The meek, indeed, shall inherit the earth.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Casolaro 5

Danny learned that Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of author Mary Shelley, died after giving birth to her daughter. He could imagine the husband’s and the midwife’s devastation, even if maternal death was common then. Mary Shelley’s husband, poet Percy Shelley, died by drowning, age 29, either by, take your pick, accident, suicide, or murder. Percy met his doppelganger soon before, Danny later read, completely enthralled, and believed that was an omen of impending death. He escaped not one but two shootings in the days before his death. A family friend snatched Percy’s heart from his funeral pyre, gave it to Mary, who kept it and was buried with it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Octopus

This 212-word story  was the precursor to my current project here at the blog, Danny Casolaro: 64 Stories.

We will fillet you and throw you to the sharks. Danny saw shifty eyes, hitman profiles in the hotel lounge. Now prey; the tentacles were squeezing him. Kennedy. Mafia. CIA. October Surprise. Iran/Iraq. Black-ops. US government. Illuminati. The movies but true. The flow charts all too real. A last look at his notes. He’d hide them but where. His contacts mentioned sharks, prey, tentacles. The same words. A book deal. But they’re closing in, he had hit too close. A cup of coffee then back to the room. More than once--are you protecting yourself? The late night telephone calls. One said, two men will approach your coffin, bury you with a medal. He stopped sleeping, losing cognitive abilities. He told Olga about the hotel. A mistake perhaps—they’d get her too. The papers, the papers, he was thinking on the elevator. He’ll FedEx them to Bill, his private dick friend. Bill said, you’re hitting too close, Dan. Don’t believe a suicide, Danny said. In his room the beasts were there in the dark. Clean coffee snag. Tentacles all over him. Stripping clothes, slicing deep. Shooting pain. My files, he thought, before his head hit the tub. The shadows scatter through the seas. The octopus writes the note in frantic black ink.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Casolaro 4

Casolaro’s father was an obstetrician. Danny remembers him being visibly shaken sometimes coming home from work. He wouldn’t eat, would sit in a corner, a newspaper open before him but Danny could tell his eyes weren’t scanning the words. Birth defects, stillborn births, maternal deaths: the tragedies he faced. He didn’t talk about it. Sometimes, the child inside was almost like a monster, killing the mother trying to live, break free of the womb. Other times, it was the opposite: the mother was a monster, killing its child within. One or the other, intentional or not, rebelled from symbiosis. One of his own children, born after Danny, died from a heart defect just days after being born.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Casolaro 3

Days before he died, Casolaro called his friend Bill, lied to him. I’m writing an article for Time about the whole matter. It’s going to be big. The whole thing, it’s going to be out there, it’s going to be revealed to everyone and that’s that. What whole thing, Bill asked. But Casolaro dodged—Bill always knew him as vague, circling. Time Warner, they’re footing the whole thing. Jack Anderson is working with me on it. Big advances. I’m just finishing up details and, man, this’s going to change things. He was a bit frantic, like he’d had too much caffeine, like he was running out of time.

After Casolaro’s death, Bill made some calls, found out the whole thing was bogus. No article for Time, no financing, nothing. Bill has always found this puzzling—Casolaro was given to exaggeration, a bit overecstatic about conspiracy details he uncovered, but he wasn’t one to lie about something as concrete as an article deal.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Casolaro 2

Casolaro liked to drink coffee. A cup before bed, he claimed, calmed him, the caffeine having the opposite effect at nighttime, though in his last months, sleep was difficult. He’d start his day with some light calisthenics, a shower, his housekeeper Olga brewing coffee in a French press, usually a dark Sumatra/ Kenyan blend. He’d drink that with breakfast, head to a local cafĂ©. The bustle of people, the smell of brewing coffee, fresh bread and pastries made his brain percolate. Things became clearer. New ideas, the connections made sense.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Casolaro 1

In the weeks before his death, Danny Casolaro told everyone he knew, don’t believe a suicide. I won’t kill myself. If I die, it’s because they killed me. They’re calling me and threatening me. Odd calls in the middle of the night for months. I can’t sleep. I’m getting too close. I’m going to expose them once and for all. The “they” he referred to was always vague. Casolaro would tell you, it’s all vague, I’m working on the details. Slit wrists, hanging in the shower, a balcony jump—don’t believe it, it’s not me. If you hear I’m dead, it was no accident. My sister Lisa killed herself and it devastated the whole family—I could never do that. A running car in a closed garage, pill overdose, driving off a cliff—I didn’t do it. If you find a note, I didn’t write it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Square Root

We pondered square roots as we walked out the door. In breezy twilight, to unaffordable dinner. 12 is the square root of 144, I said, a perfect number. My hand in my sport coat, fumbling for directions inside a torn pocket. I like 4 myself, you said, 2 times 2 and 2 plus 2 giving you the same thing. Simple, like living in the country, you said, extracting a compact from your purse.

If we sold everything tomorrow, I said, would you come with me, move to the country, live the simple life? Of course--you looking into your mirror--would there be wine? I started the car, said, plenty, we could even own a vineyard, stomp our own grapes.

The car chugged, worked itself to a purr, the engine whining, scraping. Really, you said, we could make our own wine? I nodded, looking straight ahead. Really, I was just guessing. Formulating futures starting at infinity instead of a shoestring--anything was possible.

Quick, what’s the square root of 3,940,225, you asked, tucking away your compact. Dumbfounded at such large numbers, I shrugged my shoulders. 1985, you said, a stellar vintage for wines. Of course it was, I thought. Looking at you--your mind full of numbers I can’t contemplate. We dream big dreams, multiples of our reality, sublime vintages yet to materialize.

As we turned left into the restaurant parking lot, the car stalled for a second in the opposing lane, a pair of bug-eyed headlights bearing down on us, then regained life in a chugging hum. My heart sinking, your face stone, eyes straight ahead.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Next Project, Starting Monday July 19

I have a new project that, much like Thinly Sliced Raw Fish, I was considering giving its own blog space but have decided to just do right here at the mothership, starting on Monday 7/19. It’s a 64-part collection of under 300 word fictional writings called Danny Casolaro: 64 Stories concerning Danny Casolaro, a real life writer/investigator who was following what he considered to be a broad international conspiracy until his death in 1991 (if you want more info on Casolaro and his conspiracy theories, and his death that some consider suspect, enter his name into Google and browse if you wish). I consider the collection as the first chapter of a possible larger eight chapter work.

My goal is not to be some sort of conspiracy theorist but rather work in that place where reality, fiction, and conspiracy theory meet. I take liberties with real details of Casolaro’s life and throw in some other personalities, some of the conspiracies theories that are out there in the world at large, and I make up stuff as well.

These pieces will be published Monday thru Thursday and Saturday. The individual pieces do not have titles, so they’ll appear as Casolaro 1, Casolaro 2, etc.  Hopefully, you'll follow along and enjoy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Xavier Soup

She ran at night because it was cooler and helped her mind. A diversion from idle evenings she would spend thinking about him. Running through darkness defied death. Sometimes she would close her eyes and move her arms in a flailing motion, fighting the air as if it were drowning seas. At night it was quiet, people didn’t watch an aging woman. She would make large batches of Xavier soup (chicken stock and dumplings made with parmesan cheese) and freeze it, heat enough for a single bowl. His favorite soup. She would close her eyes sipping the warmth, imagine him sitting across from her, her eternal meal counterpart—death defeated, no more running in the darkness. But there was an empty chair; in her bowl floated lifeless dumplings.

Sometimes when running with closed eyes she imagined he was running from the opposite direction. They would meet in a middle yet to be. Sometimes foregoing sleep she would run after midnight. This was her dreaming, speeding through empty streets, moving closer to him. Sometimes she would run because she would come home and relive finding him dead on the floor, clutching his heart, pain forever on his blue lips. She found him, cried, couldn’t move. Now she could stand. Now she could run.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gonna Fly Now

When I was a teenager, the movie Rocky IV made me want to become a boxer. I wanted to train in Siberia, running on ice and through mounds of snow, working out in a barn, chopping wood to transform my stick-thin form into that inflated chest, those six-pack abs, that glistening skin. I wanted to be wrapped in an American flag and wearing American flag boxing shorts. I wanted to avenge the death of Apollo Creed. I wanted to take my shots at a tall blond Belarusian putz like Ivan Drago who thinks he’s a steel cold-blooded fighting machine.

When that movie was released I was just 14. My Christmas list that year was boxing gloves, a punching bag, silk boxing shorts, boxing shoes, and, of course, the Rocky IV soundtrack. I didn’t get any of these things, so I had to gamble at school playing cards to get the cash. Two weeks later, the basement became a training gym. I placed my Pioneer boom box on the dryer and blasted Survivor’s “Burning Heat” and “Man Against the World” as I danced and punched. I closed my eyes and there came a montage, memories of me and Apollo, Adrian, and Paulie, and I’m pounding the bag, beating a snearing, towering, immovable Drago into a pile of glass-jawed gooey commie.

So, on a day when I was really getting my eye of the tiger, my rhythm was disrupted. Mom, banging on the basement door, get ready to go to Sizzler for dinner. Steaks and potatoes, all you can eat salad and fried shrimp. We’ll be sitting at the table, our red table tent displaying our order number, and Dad’ll ask, how’s your day, and that’s when I’ll proclaim, call me Stallion, folks, call me Stallion.