[Just a note, Dear Readers:  Today is the 100th post at Dy’s Mind’s Eye! WTF?! I thought to wax quixotic about this milestone with you all…and maybe post something seriously ranty-ravey in my purest political uprisingness style. However, that is not to be. We’re in a happy cozy mode at El Castillo tonight…my marvelous Sky martinis, hot roasted smokehouse almonds, chilled prawns & cocktail sauce, BBQ ribs, coleslaw, Mr. RockStar and Fantabulous Daughter in Da Haus. It’s way too nice & mellow for a ranty-ravey-type hooplah. So sip your Friday Night Poison of Choice, and read this here little blurb of an installment in the continuing story of Jill & Thol. Short and Sweet tonight. We’ll catch ya later and Have a Fucking Marvelous Friday Night! 🙂 ]

“Jillian…darling…Jill, honey?”

Her Mother’s voice continued its irritating intrusion through the fog that was most likely some sort of sedative that had kept her asleep for…how long? What time was it now? What day? How many wasted hours had she been in this gawd-awful hospital? Had she missed many classes? She hated missing class and having to make up and catch up. She tried to sigh without letting her parents hear her.

“Em…” Now it was her father’s voice. “Emilia, leave her alone. She’ll open her eyes when she’s good and ready. Just…Em… I mean it. She’s fine. Come…let’s get some lunch, I’m starving…and we need to continue our discussion where it won’t disturb her. She needs her rest and we aren’t helping anything here.” He made his way toward the door, trying to steer his wife by the elbow in the same direction.

“Jill, dear, we’ll be right back, okay?” Oh, take your time, Mom, really. “You need anything…anything at all…just call the nurse. The nurses’ station knows how to reach your father and I…” Her voice faded away as she was gently pulled out the door by her husband.

Oh, thank god, thought Jill. Finally.

She gingerly opened one eye when she was pretty darn sure they were long gone down the antiseptic-smelling hallway. Good. The coast was clear. Now for the other one. Jeezus, her eyes stung like the insides of her lids were made of sandpaper doused with lemon juice. And her throat…she tried to swallow the golf-ball coated in crushed glass stuck between her tonsils and her collarbone. She needed some water, juice, something, that was for sure…anything liquid and cool to soothe the swollen scratchy painfulness of her throat. She looked around for the little plastic pitcher she was sure was nearby…there always was one in these hospital rooms, right? She’d seen them in every soap opera she’d ever tried not to notice on the televisions in her friends’ apartments and dorm rooms. There had been a one by her bed when she was a little girl of seven and she had her appendix out. Yep, they still used them…there it was on the little rolling table just out of reach. She struggled to sit up and reached for the puke-yellow/gold plastic pitcher and the matching cup beside it. Empty. It figured.

She pushed the button to call the nurse, despite her desperate need to shut out any and all persons at the moment. She needed to think, to try to remember what had happened, to try to figure out what she needed to do. Was her apartment completely toast? Was she going to have to move? Did she have anything left to move? Maybe it wasn’t as bad as that…maybe it was just a matter of repairs and replacing those possessions that were damaged in the fire. She brightened at that thought. If that was the case, she could hole up in a hotel for a while and not have to…she shook her head not wanting to think of the horror of the alternative, and released a torrent of sharp thudding pain throughout her skull. Ouch. Better remember not to do that for a while.

nurse-ratchedThe nurse that answered the call was a heavy-set, older woman…probably in her late fifties to early  sixties. Jillian’s first impression of her was that she was not exactly a sweet grandmother type, yet not quite a Nurse Ratched, either. She was something in between, no-nonsense, with an air of “I’ve been doing this longer than you were even an egg in your mother’s ovum” about her. Tired maybe, but not weary, and to use the word efficient in describing her was probably the understatement of the year. She took one look at Jillian in her upright sitting position, saw the rolling table had been moved closer and knew exactly what was needed next. She swiped up the pitcher without a word and went to fill it from the tap. Jillian could only hope…in vain, she was sure…that the hospital had some kind of automatic water purification system of the Britta/Pur type throughout the building that would transform the water flowing from the tap in her particular room into something other than all the other tap water in the city. Yeah, right. Well, any water was better than no water at this point. A little chlorine right now wouldn’t kill her, but she longed for the sweet H2O of her Pur water filtration system at home even before she let the cup touch her lips and she could smell the chlorine and other unfamiliar miscellaneous chemicals used to treat the city’s water, to make it “drinkable”. Ugh.

Oh, but it did feel nice flowing down her raw irritated throat.

© 2011 D. Kessler

Emilia Rosalind Amhurst Kingfisher was a piece of work, to put it mildly. In her early mid-fifties, she easily and consistently passed for forty due in part to good genes and in large part to one of the most expensive and exclusive plastic surgeons in the world. She thought nothing of jetting away to The Continent (as she called all of Europe) for a few days…or sometimes a few weeks…just to have Dr. Sebastian, her médecin extraordinaire, take a nip here, make a tuck there, inject, siphon, sculpt and plump as she felt necessary. In addition, her arsenal of vitamin supplements, prescription medications, ointments, creams and spa treatments added to her defenses against the all-evil eternal enemy: AGE. Her daily routine five days a week included at least three different exercise sessions…yoga, weight training, and various cardio workouts…all in the comfort and privacy of her own home, all by separate private coaches and all at least two hours each. Add to that her own private dietician to map out and plan her each and every meal with her own private chef and there was no way the enemy was going to sneak up on her. Being independently wealthy from before the day she was born, with no need to do anything whatsoever to stay that way, keeping up her appearance was her job. Hell, it was her duty, as she saw it.

She was, after all, Emilia Rosalind Amhurst Kingfisher, daughter of William Bertram Emerson Amhurst III, sole heir to one of the largest fortunes in America and overseer of over a dozen charities and trusts. Her grandfather, William Bertram Emerson Amhurst II, or “Bertie” as he was affectionately called, had grown up among the East Coast Elite and had been educated in the very best educational establishments money could buy…and money was definitely something the family had in great abundance. It flowed like water…or rather, it flowed like expensive champagne and the highest-end gin…and no Amhurst ever went parched.

Despite the exclusive clubs, the Washington connections, the dizzying array of parties and accompanying hob-knobbing with the elite of every corner of the globe, Bertie had wanted to set himself apart and lobbied his formidable father extensively to let him travel out to the west coast upon completing college on the pretext of temporarily overseeing the various oil interests the family held there. He wanted to see how the money was made, how to optimize the profits, to set himself apart and bask in the victory of millions of dollars bent into submission of his rule. Oh, but these were not reasons for going out west that he highlighted to his father. Heaven forbid he would want to dirty his hands and reputation with actual work! Even though he would really only be overseeing figures and visiting the various oil wells, overseeing shipping and sales arrangements and making business connections…of course, no actual “work” would be done. The mere association and implication of “work” was completely beneath any Amhurst. One hired others for such things. An Amhurst’s place was at one of his various social clubs…yachting, riding, tennis matches, and attending social functions with others of their bored class. No, he didn’t let on his true aspirations. He stressed to his father the importance of travel and a well-rounded knowledge of the country. One couldn’t be expected to end up in the White House if they didn’t know or understand anything of what lay west of Chicago. He’d be back after a few months…maybe a year…and father’s continuous schedule of brandy and cigars would take him over. So, scandalous though it was considered by his family and peers to actually do or even oversee any actual “business”, Bertie eventually won out and got his wish. He left by private rail car to points west the year he turned 23…and the year the country went dry…in nineteen-twenty. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Emilia had been the apple of Bertie’s eye…everyone’s eye, really. Silver spoon? Oh, no…more like a Platinum spoon, and a new one for every course of the lavish dinners that were the Amhust trademark and specialty. The only girl and youngest of only three grandchildren, everyone doted on her and there was nothing she couldn’t have or do. Her two cousins were awful boys, with no ambition and no real intelligence. All they cared about were sailing and cars and which girls they could impress with their old money. Grandpa Bertie knew it from the start, from when they were not even old enough to go off to prep school. It was Emilia that got Bertie’s personal attention, Emilia that went to Bertie’s offices during vacations from her East Coast schools, Emilia that Bertie thought of when he met Raymond Kingfisher and hired him to rethink his business portfolio.

Straight out of college with dual Masters degrees in finance and public relations in the early nineteen-seventies, Ray had been a seven years older than Emilia. She was only eighteen and not yet started at college herself, but Bertie knew he knew best and saw an opportunity he was not about to pass up even if his son, her father, couldn’t see it and wanted her to wait until after college to settle down. Over the course of the next couple years, Bertie made sure that Ray was invited to the same dinners as Emilia, was at every family holiday function, attended every polo match…and set him back Tiffany Platinum Diamond 2.7 caratseast on business during the school year whenever possible. Eventually it stuck. The Christmas she was about to turn twenty years old…halfway thru her junior year at Bryn Mar…Ray asked Emilia to marry him in front of the entire West coast Amhurst clan. Grandpa Bertie had a light in his eyes that most in attendance thought was wistful beaming happiness, but it was the glint of money Bertie saw…the continuation of power as he molded it, as he wielded it even from his impending grave. They were married that June and Grandpa Bertie died a mere two months later in August…and Emilia never went back to finish her degree in Art History, as had been planned. 

But no matter, as she saw it. She had married Bertie’s own protégé with Bertie’s blessing…and inherited a large portion of his estate. It was not as large as her father’s share, of course. William Bertram Emerson Amhurst III was heir to the company and all its holdings, but she received a sizable sum as well as stock options…and in all, it was more than double what had been left to her two cousins combined.

She was pretty much set for life.

© 2011 D. Kessler

IV_Drip2Jillian awoke to the sounds of her mother & father arguing in hushed tones by the side of her hospital bed…hushed, yes, but arguing none the less. Although her head pounded & felt as if gripped by a vice in the worst way, and she couldn’t yet bring herself to open her burning eyes, she could guess what it was they were arguing about: Her. Oh, most definitely they were talking very urgently about…her. For a moment she cringed at the promise of her father’s impending lecture about the damage to the new Lexus, her beautiful Lexus (his words) that he had wrapped in ribbon to surprise her for her birthday…but then she remembered: it had all been a dream. The car was fine…well, she assumed that it was fine. Very most likely it was still parked in the secured garage under her apartment building. Next to the bicycle cage and mere feet from the door to the basement “lobby” as she called it. Not the real lobby of course, but the elevator landing accessible only to the tenants of the building through the garage. Might as well be a lobby, she thought. Sconces on the wall and a rug with an air not suited to muddy boots…but what was her mind doing rambling around about such things! The current urgent reality was vastly more important…and quite grim. She almost rather the Lexus was bashed to a pulp, completely totaled, compared to her current state of affairs! Her apartment was toast…literally. He refuge from her father and his continual urgent expectations, her inner sanctum…burnt to a crisp, probably a gutted box of charred filth…as also were all her belongings, she was sure.

She mentally heaved a huge sigh to muster the courage to open her eyes. She just needed a few more moments to hash out a plan…a story…something that would stave off the vultures, uh, her parents, she meant. She knew that this was all they needed to…

“Oh! She’s awake! Ray, honey…stop, just stop. Our daughter’s awake…”

Jillian chanced a peek from one slitted eyelid to see that, yes, her mother had noticed she was conscious. Hell, her “mental sigh” had probably been a REAL sigh and audible to everyone in the room. Crap.

“Jill, darling…Jill? Can you hear me? It’s Mother. How are you feeling?” Emilia’s elegant fingers with extremely well manicured nails adjusted the thin blanket around her daughter. Jill inwardly cringed. When would she just stop treating her like a child? She felt she was just some mobile real-life accessory…a doll, a pet…to her mother’s never-ending parade of fashionable moments. She was merely something precious to be shown to all on Emilia’s whim, her mother never seeing the real person that was there, the daughter as a force of nature in her own right and not just some extension of the Grand Emilia Rosalind Amhurst Kingfisher. She was an expensive knick-knack to be gloated about or embarrassed about or…worse yet…to be disappointed and annoyed about.

© 2011 D. Kessler

Looking back over the whole ordeal, the months and days and never-ending minutes of every hour, Thol felt as if a whole lifetime had happened to him. A complete cycle from beginning to end, birth to death, with all its peaks and valleys of stress, adventure, paralyzing monotony, ecstatic happiness, hope, fear and ultimate exhaustion that saps the life right out of a person. He felt…no, he KNEW…that the person he had been at the start of it all and the person who was sitting here on the front steps of this burned-out, gutted apartment building now were so very different as to not even  be related by blood, by time, by space. He felt alien. And somehow vacuous.

burned_bldg_Istanbul 648He buried his head deeper into the space between his knees, long fingers gripping his scalp, nails digging, pulling on his matted and greasy hair intermittently. He was sucking in air in disjointed huge gulps, each one larger and more ragged than the last, trying to keep the tsunami of shock and emotion from engulfing him. The calm methodical exterior that he had subconsciously yet meticulously exuded during the past few months was cracking in a multitude of long running jagged tentacles like ice on a lake after one expertly thrown javelin hits with a deep *k-thunk!* in the most perfect spot. Or a windshield of safety-glass that crumbles into a heap of gem-like, ice-like bits left scattered across the asphalt after a crack-head jacks stereo from the parking lot of an unfamiliar girl you went home with from the bar one night.

Oh, he couldn’t let it happen. It was over. It was going to fine…or it was eventually. And he had others to think of, others that still needed his help. Yes, it was over. And yet there was so much left to do…

© 2011 D. Kessler

The sound of the jackhammer seemed a bit off to Jillian. Oh, it was loud alright…very loud…and the closer she got to it, the louder it got. But it wasn’t the decibel that was different. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. As she turned the corner at the light she shook her head. “No matter,” she thought to herself. “I’m turning the other way…away from it. Not going to get caught in that construction zone today, so I guess I won’t be figuring out what it is exactly about it that’s so…” But wait. There it was, louder than ever. She could have sworn the clamor had been on her right. And she had turned left…away from the obnoxious hammering, not toward it. Maybe it was just bouncing off the walls of the buildings downtown, she reasoned. That had to be it. Funny how when there were so many towering walls of concrete and glass and stone and metal at every which way angle, one just really couldn’t be sure from which direction the sound…any sound…was coming from.

She signaled to take another left at the next corner, waiting for the red light to change, and glanced anxiously at the clock glaring in the dashboard of her new Lexus…a recent birthday gift from Daddy. Crap, she was going to be late to her meeting with…who was she meeting? She couldn’t remember. Damn that jackhammer! It was really distracting…messing with her head. Would it never stop? How could it be that she hadn’t passed it, left it far behind by now? It seemed to be following her…and getting louder and…she covered her ears while she banged her head on the steering wheel. They must be hammering on a steel beam in the road because it was starting to sound almost like a bell, the incessant piercing irritation that was metal hitting metal over and over and over again bouncing around her skull as to make her crazy. But they didn’t make roads with steel beams in them…did they? Skyscrapers, yes…but city streets?

The light changed and Jillian swung left into the far right lane, getting ready to take the next right so she could get on the express lanes toward the university. She was really going to have to hurry if she was going to make it to her interview on time. Wait. Was it a meeting or an interview? What was wrong with her! And she suddenly felt awfully warm…too warm for the season and the day’s weather. She flicked on the air conditioning and choked as a waft of hot, smoky, dusty breeze hit her in the face. What the…?! Had it been that long since she used the air conditioning? She apparently needed to have the vents cleaned! But wait…this was a new car. It wasn’t even two months old yet…

Suddenly the jack hammering was impossibly loud…and damn it, it WAS a bell it was hitting! A dull flat-sounding bell being hit with a huge motorized mallet on high speed. She coughed again, couldn’t seem to get her breath. All of a sudden a crash through her passenger side window made her jump from her skin…and as she glanced at the clock on the dash again she realized it still said exactly the same time it had all those blocks ago. No way. No fucking way. The green digits of her dashboard clock were frozen at four twenty-three…four twenty-three…A.M.! Somebody large and strong grabbed her and lifted her bodily out of the smoke and broken glass and into the fresh, very cold air of the dark night that was very early morning. Everywhere were flashing lights and men shouting to each other and people standing in clusters or just milling about. Had she been in an accident? How could she? She didn’t remember hitting anything or anyone coming out of nowhere to hit her. She was always such a careful driver, that’s why Daddy had gotten her the new Lexus…kind of a reward, you know?…and…

Jill rubbed at her eyes, choking and coughing. She felt that her lungs were on fire and there was ground glass in her eyes. One of the men put a plastic cup over her mouth and nose…wait, it was an oxygen mask, wasn’t it?…while another laid her on something firm and pulled a thin flimsy blanket over her to her chin. Whole lot of good that did…she felt frozen, and slightly numb. Jill marveled at how quickly the EMTs had gotten to the crash scene. Something not quite right with that either. Oh Hell! Daddy was going to really give it to her for crashing the car after less than two months! She struggled against the EMTs to sit up to look back at the car, hoping against hope it wasn’t too badly damaged. “Oh my god,” she thought to herself. “It better not be totaled!”

What she saw floored her more than a thoroughly crumpled Lexus ever could. Some of what she had assumed to be flashing lights of the ambulance and police cars weren’t lights at all. It was fire…lots of fire…tearing though a building on the other side of the street. She blinked. HER building. HER condo. With dawning realization, the accompanying overwhelming anxiety threatened to suffocate her more than the smoke billowing out her bedroom window like fluffy grey clouds of dryer lint. Suddenly Jillian realized that the jackhammer…the downtown buildings…the flashing green numbers of the clock in her Lexus dashboard…all of it…had all been a dream. She tried to call out to the EMTs assisting her but all she could manage was a whimpering moan as she sank back onto the gurney as she lost consciousness again.

And still that jackhammer fire alarm on the outside wall of her condominium…right outside the window of what used to be her bedroom…continued its call to Hell.

© 2011 D. Kessler