Monday, March 19, 2018

Wax and Wane

Wax and Wane
By Michael Cannata

Once you fall in love, I mean really, completely, in love, your life is never your own again. When I met Sarah, my life, our lives, changed forever. We didn't fill any holes in each other. We added to one another. We were better as a couple than we were as individuals. Making each other happy made each of us even happier. We always thought of the other one first. I'd lived a long time just fine before I met her. Yet, from that moment on, I could never imagine life without her. Together, our love would help us conquer any problem life would hand us.

We lived in a tall building with a beautiful view of the city. We had a special spot where we would sit on the hot summer nights admiring the view. She would often go and sit on the ledge and look at the traffic far below, her feet dangling high above the street below. She always claimed that she felt like she was flying. It made me nervous but she never seemed afraid. Her courage always amazed me, but I would stand close enough so I could grab her if she should ever make the wrong move and start to fall.

We should've had a lifetime together. We had our future all planned out. Unfortunately, life doesn't always cooperate with the plans we make. She got far too sick far too early. She was still so young and strong and she should have lived forever. Sadly, disease can strike even the strongest people without warning. When we discovered that cancer in her ovaries had taken root we were devastated. But we believed that our love would beat it. We discovered that love can't conquer everything.

As she grew weaker fighting the disease, I stayed strong for both of us. We never cried. Staying positive was essential. It got to the point where our hope became a form of denial. It was as if, as long as we refused to consider it possible, she wouldn't die. Right up until the day she passed, I clung to the belief that she would overcome. She would beat the cancer.

The tears I'd held back began the day of her funeral. They haven't stopped yet. I'm still pretty young, but the future that was once full of promise, is now filled with empty years. I go on. I get through each day as best I can. The nights are the hardest. Nights that should've been passed with her in my arms, are now spent alone. Holding her in my heart just isn't enough anymore.

Sometimes living isn't all it's cracked up to be. Some days I feel pretty good. My mind forgets the pain for awhile, but never for long. I wax and wane between states of happiness and despair. I laugh and cry. I want to live, but I look forward to dying. I know she'll be waiting for me. How long I can wait to see her again is the big question.

I sit on the ledge every night thinking how close she is. If I only had the courage to jump, we could be together. But I know in my heart, if I jumped, she would be saddened. She would want me to live my life as fully and as happily as possible. She would want me to fall in love again. For me, loving someone else just doesn't seem possible.

Every night, after sitting in her spot on the roof's ledge, I go back to our apartment and go to sleep thinking of her. Her name is always the last word I whisper before sleep takes me into my dreams. Dreams that always seem to take me close to her… but never close enough to reach her. I desperately want to go to her. I just can't bring myself to do anything that I know would upset her.

When we meet again, when my time comes to embrace my own death, I want her to be happy.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Bully

The Bully
By Michael Cannata

          Thinking about his schooldays always got him angry. He'd been the target of bullies throughout his early school years. He recalled the fear he felt every day, trying to make his way home without being discovered. When they caught him, he would just cry and plead with them to leave him alone. His crying just seemed to make them beat him even more. He went home with more black eyes and bloody noses than he wanted to remember.

          His mother's sympathy made him feel like a baby. He hated her pathetic attempts to make him feel better by telling him he was a good boy and good boys don't fight. Half the tears she wiped away were because of the tears she set off when she started fussing over him. Even worse, the disgust in his father's eyes when he came home to find him with the bruises from the latest beating made him feel like a coward. The few attempts his father made to teach him how to fight ended in disappointment. No matter how hard he tried to fight back he was always afraid to hit his father. "You can't win if you won't fight back!" his dad would snarl. He could feel his father's shame when he turned away.

          He finally found the courage to hit back in his junior year. Like a lot of kids do, he'd grown a lot over the summer. Suddenly, he towered over the bullies who'd made his life miserable. His anger had grown as well. He couldn't bring himself to hit his father, but he was ready to hit anyone who bullied him now! Hit them very hard!

          He started playing football and discovered that getting hit didn't hurt near as much as the shame of hiding like a coward. No longer afraid of being hit, he started fighting back. He didn't just start fighting back; he became the one who started the fights. When the chance finally came, he gave the biggest of the bullies the beating of his life. Gradually, he started to use his size against other bullies. He saw bullies everywhere.

          As he got older, he started to seek out the bullies before they could find him. He began to look for the slightest hint of aggression in the bullies he saw everywhere around him and used it as an excuse to strike first. The fight never lasted long if he threw the first punch. He enjoyed watching potential bullies retreat from his rage. Even his wife understood… standing up to him wasn't a smart thing to do. She learned her lesson quickly after just a few slaps. She never argued with him anymore.

          Now the bullying at school had started with his kids. Twice in the last week, his youngest had been pushed around while the other kids held his brother. They both got beat up. Not seriously… not yet. But he knew what he had to do. It was time for him to teach his kids how to fight back, just like his father had taught him.

          His two young boys sat crying, cowering on the sofa in the basement; Just like he did when he was hiding from the bullies. He thought about his schooldays as he came down the stairs with his fists clenched. He hated it when they looked that way... scared of their own shadows!

          There was no way he would stand for such fear in his kids. He never even recognized the feeling of shame deep inside him… as his rage grew. The sight of his two boys simpering and huddled together in terror enraged him even more. He would teach them how to fight back. They wouldn't grow up afraid of schoolyard bullies. He'd see to that!

          As he approached them, their crying increased while his anger intensified. He never saw his reflection in their eyes. If he did he would have seen the real bully. The bully they feared the most…

          …The bully in their own home.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


By Michael Cannata

Ray stood staring at, Chapter 12, with pencil in hand. Scribbling fiercely on the pad of paper he held tightly, he tried to control the trembling that made the words he was writing appear as though they had been scrawled by the madman that had nearly killed him in, Chapter 5.

The words of the killer still echoed in head as he desperately tried to recall where he had left the book. He replayed the day he lost it over and over, each time the result was the same. He could hear Einstein whispering into his ear, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

"Screw you, Albert," he muttered. Unsure of where he was going or what was waiting behind the page in front of him he struggled to make sense of his situation. “Where had everything gone wrong?” he thought to himself?

 It all started when he bought that damn book. It was just a simple book; a mystery novel with a catchy title, "Dead Lines." The blood on the cover caught his eye as he wandered the aisles of the small bookstore around the corner from his house in the Golden Gardens apartment building.

Wait… what? He didn’t live in a house. He lived in a large one bedroom unit in, Chapter 6. He started reading the book two… no wait… it was three days ago. Or was it? Even time made no sense anymore. From the moment he turned to the first page he found himself engrossed in a tale that seemed strangely familiar. The characters and the settings brought unexperienced memories to the surface of his churning thoughts.

The book terrified him from the moment he began it. The first two chapters had set a scene that frightened him and introduced a host of people that soon felt like friends. He had experienced a macabre thrill as each page became more demanding to comprehend. All he knew was that he had to finish it as fast as possible. It wasn’t just the feeling that he couldn’t put it down; it was a sensation, a connection, which seemed to pull him into the plot to the point where the book became his reality. Finishing it was all he thought about.

It was the scream that broke the spell the book had held him under. Ray had put the book down on his desk and went to his kitchen to order a sandwich and a beer. The waitress from, Chapter 4, the nice lady that had been killed in a holdup in, Chapter 3, was taking his order when he heard a woman’s piercing cry come from his bedroom. It frightened him in a way that made him rush to her aid even as he wondered what a woman was doing in his bedroom. He lived alone.

Entering a room he didn’t recognize, he saw a large hulk of a man standing over the lifeless, bloody body of his wife, which made no sense at all since he wasn’t married. He stared in horror at the battered corpse laying next to their bed… his bed. The madman turned to him and glared with a look of insanity in his eyes.

TURN THE PAGE!” the madman screamed as he raised the club that still dripped blood. “I need to know what I do next!”

“What? What the hell are you talking about? What are you doing here?” he asked curiously as he slowly backed out of the room. Ray felt a strange sense of familiarity tinged with fondness as he looked at the distorted face. He had liked this guy once, in a time he couldn't remember.

“You damn well fucking know what I’m doing,” the madmen mumbled as he started walking towards Ray.

Ray pulled the door shut and ran from his apartment frantically knowing his life depended on escaping the madman. As he passed an old lady on the flower lined walkway outside his front door she asked him a question that still troubled him.

“Did you remember to get the book? Finishing it is the only way out, you know.” She smiled at Ray as though she were talking to an old friend that didn’t need an introduction.

“What?” his head was reeling as he tried to explain what just happened. “There’s a madman in my apartment that has killed a woman in my bedroom. He tried to kill me! You need to get away quickly!”

“I intend to,” the old lady explained, “Just as soon as you tell me where I’m going.”

“How would I know where you’re going?” Ray shouted as he started to run towards the door on the sidewalk.

“You’ll know when you finish the book. I’m, Chapter 7! I’ll wait here until you get it. It’s right where you left off.”

Ray decided she was as mad as the killer in his bedroom and ran through the door slamming it shut behind him. A police car nearly ran him over as it screeched to a stop in front of him. The words, Chapter 9, were printed on the door. Before he could explain what had happened the officers grabbed him and threw him on the ground. He was handcuffed and roughly thrown into the ambulance. Ray finally relaxed as they began driving down the hallway.

Safe at last, he smiled and started laughing. The police officers politely refused his offer to buy them a beer. When they pulled up to a building that had the words, Chapter 10, engraved above the door, a man in a black robe opened the doors of the ambulance. Two men he knew well, but whose names he couldn’t recall, stood behind the man in the robe smiling.

“You’re almost through!” the man in the doctor's coat exclaimed happily. “Everything is going to be fine now.” The man in black turned to the men behind him and said, “We’re taking him to, Chapter 11, now. They’ll take good care of him and he’ll finally get to finish his book. Once he finds it. It’s right where he left off.”

Ray smiled at all the people that lined the sidewalk as the parade marched through the hallways to his next stop. He was brought to a room where he slipped into a long deep sleep. When he woke he was hungry again and asked the waitress to bring him that sandwich and beer.

Ray didn’t recognize the surroundings at first. All that was there was a bed, a desk, a pad of lined paper and a pencil with no point.  The pad was filled with pages of scribbled words that seemed senseless, but Ray knew exactly what they said. The last page was blank save for the words, “Chapter 12” written in blood at the top. Ray pulled the lead point from his hand and stared at the page for hours like he did every day until it was time for lights out.


The doctor watched Ray through the glass in the locked door as the nurse updated him on Ray’s condition.

“He was doing well this morning, but when we brought him his lunch he started demanding that we tip the waitress and asked for the book again. A new orderly gave him the pencil. He didn’t know it wasn’t allowed.”

The doctor shook his head sadly as he considered his patient’s hopelessly delusional state of mind. Nothing had changed. The new drugs and treatment had done nothing to help. He was as insane as the day they had admitted him. In the few therapy sessions he had had, Ray would talk about the book and explain how he could remember everything except, Chapter 8. Whenever they reached the point where the doctor asked about Chapter 8, Ray would start screaming and the session would end.

His agent and publisher had accompanied Ray to the asylum.

 “He was under a lot of pressure to finish his next book," his agent explained. "He stood to lose millions if he didn’t meet his deadline. He was the kind of writer that became absorbed, more like obsessed, by his novels as he wrote. Something must have snapped. He wrote murder mysteries. We never thought he’d commit one.”

“Ray” as his patient insisted on being called, had been a bestselling author until the murder. He no longer responded to his real name. The police had found him huddled in the foyer of his apartment building. Next to him was the bloody and beaten body of an elderly woman. She had lived in an apartment in the same building.

When they tried to question him all he would say was, “I have to finish the book. It’s in my apartment, right where I left off. But there’s madman up there waiting to kill me. Would you mind getting it for me? I have a deadline to meet.”

When the officer asked Ray who the dead woman was he replied simply, "She's Chapter 8," and started screaming.