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Nothing but darkness was cast in the bedroom and nothing but the low growl of a deep sleep resonated from under a soft baby blue four hundred count flat sheet. A sack of, what looked like, laundry was bawled up in the middle of a queen size bed. No movement, just an outline of what appeared to be a body. A dull far away ring persisted and gradually got louder.
"Oh shit!" he bellowed. He was trapped, his foot wedged between two rails and no chance of getting it lose. A bright light shone in the distance but was getting closer. His knees bent and then buckled, his eyes stung from the salty moisture that ran down from his brow and poured into his eyes. He immediately realized how nature survivalist got up enough nerve to dismember their body part, because he knew right then and there if there was a knife he would cut his foot off right where it was lodged and never look back. Hell if he could gnaw it off in time he would reenact the documentary on wolves he saw last week where they chewed their paw free from traps without hesitation, as if they were convinced that it would eventually grow back in time. Seconds seemed to feel like minutes as he stood there with eyes shut tight in anticipation of the inevitable thousand pounds of steel and metal that was seconds from disintegrating every bone in his body into dust. The darkness was a soothing relief from the burning of the sweat and the piercing brightness of the headlight. The ringing got louder, strange - it didn't sound like an ordinary train whistle, it was more melodic - a soft ringing. He thought to himself perplexed, "Is this the peaceful sound and the bright light that everyone speculated about post demise? Had the train already hit, was I dead?" Accepting that the train had completely engulfed his body, leaving him totally mangled, Perry bolted up in the middle of the bed his eyes pulled wide without a blink as he focused on his new found appreciation of life. Soaked in sweat; heart pounding so hard that he could feel the pulsation in his big toe, he realized he had just nudged out of a nightmare. Perry sat shaking his head laughing at the realness of his nervousness but more so as a gracious symbolic laugh thanking God that he was still alive.
The oscillating fan slowly made its rounds back and forth across the bed. Systematically each night the rotation cooled the room down a degree and by the time it made its way around again it had gotten two degrees hotter. It was a battle between hot & cold that would continue throughout the night finally coming to an end during the wee hours of the morning. The mental impression that it was cooling the room off was all that was needed; it didn't actually have to be happening. Perry reached down to answer the phone and focus in on his alarm clock ... wondering was it time for work already?
"Perry come quick - somethin's happened." An 'oh to' familiar voice resonated from the other end of the receiver.
"Huh? Samantha is that you?" Perry gazed at the blurred florescent blue numbers on his alarm clock. The two dots separating hour from minutes blinked over and over again, in his mind they seemed to chime like a low sounding bell. He wasn't exactly sure but in his haze he swore he made the first number out to be a four. He blinked in unison with his alarm clock several times to clear the haze from his eyes; he focused and realized his first inclination was correct.
"Girl its four o'clock in the morning, I have to go to work in ... in ... a minute!" Perry struggled to speak, and struggled even more to do the math in his head, all basic concepts clearly escaped him including the English language.
"What's your damn problem?" Perry felt that if he could he would jump through the phone and shake her until she was rendered unconscious, climb his black ass back through the phone, back under the covers and back to sleep.
"I can't tell you on the phone just come to the house now, come to the kitchen door I'll leave it unlocked." Sam was frantic. Her voice quivered with fear and elevated with a slight shrill of desperation. Perry could always tell what that sound meant and he knew it meant trouble.
"Look it is too early in the morning for this cloak and dagger shit — what is going on, are you ok?" Perry was aggravated but still very concerned, this was 'his Sam' on the other end of the line and he had a feeling that a call at this time of morning from her was definitely not a good thing.
"I'm ... I'm fine, you gotta come over here, now! I need you to see something. I need to explain something ...!" Sam couldn't find an end to her thoughts and kept babbling on. "I need ..."
"Yeah ... yeah ok, I am on my way!" Perry interrupted. By the sound of Sam's voice Perry knew that no matter how much he argued with her and no matter how much he was determined to resist her, she had a control over him that he had no defense for. Perry rolled his eyes in the back of his head at what he knew was going to be some of Sam's craziness.
"Thanks, hurry!" Sam quickly hung up the phone and Perry just held it in his hand staring at it with a blank stare, motionless and utterly confused by what just transpired. His head gently nodded, simultaneously his eyes got heavy; they blinked slowly and slipped closed as he dosed back to sleep. Just as his body tried to slip completely back into its blissful comatose state, he heard the annoying buzz - the receiver was off the hook. The sound snapped him back to consciousness and he hung it up.
Perry sat at the side of the bed, his toes wrestling with the plush rug under his feet for warmth. The coolness of the room finally hit him. He sat there trying to figure out where in the world he was going to find a new best friend because this one was not working out. He leaned forward folding his body in half with his eyes tightly shut, he reached up under the bed hoping that some "thing"- some gruesome monster would pull him underneath and put him out of his current misery. It didn't happen, he scrambled blindly under the bed and pulled out a pair of old gray sneakers with an orange florescent swoosh sign. The sneakers looked like they had gone through something serious, something dreadful - but they were the most comfortable sneakers he owned. He called them "broken in" but most of his friends corrected him to say they were more "broken down" than anything. Nevertheless he pulled them out and put them on. He tightened the draw string of his purple pajama pants with the big yellow sunflowers, pulled on a navy blue and gold Michigan State University t-shirt and walked out of his bedroom rubbing his eyes and scratching his ass. He caught a glimpse of himself in the hallway mirror and chuckled at what he saw looking back at him.
"Look' in like Bozo-the-Clown's ghetto cousin Pookie." he laughed to himself.
"This don't make no damn sense, I tell you what when I get there somebody better be on fire! That's all I'm say' in, this is bull shit!!!" Perry mumbled to himself as he grabbed his keys off the dining room table. He snatched his man purse off the back of the chair with so much force the chair wobbled off one leg and then back down to the floor. Perry cringed in anticipation of the chair toppling to the floor with a loud crash that his head was not ready to entertain. He was spared by gravity as the chair was gently pulled back down to its original position. Perry lowered his tensed shoulders and headed for the door.
Stepping out the door of his one bedroom apartment, down the long dark lightless corridor and down three flights of stairs of his apartment building, Perry wondered what kind of a black hole he lived in. The landlord had promised to change the bulbs of the ten foot vaulted ceilings for weeks, but the third floor tenants still found themselves lurking in what felt like a dark alley every time they stepped outside their apartments. Perry flew quickly down the steps, skipping as many steps as he could without tripping himself up. He reached the bottom as if it was a race for his life; he made his way through the lobby door. He swiftly shoved his arms through the strap of his bag and swung open the door stepping out to the front stoop. He was definitely conscious of the time of morning, the neighborhood and the darkness as he made his way out of the building without haste.
The huge industrial door closed behind Perry like a clap of thunder, he stood at the top of the steps outside of his apartment building and took a deep breath. Looking around at four o'clock in the morning he couldn't tell if it was too early or too late for whatever crisis Sam had waiting for him. One thing remained true and that was that his neighborhood was boisterous and lively at all times. It was one of those neighborhoods where you knew everyone's business, their comings and goings and every aspect of their "life situation". Not mainly because of gossip but because everyone was loud and had no problem with airing their own dirty laundry in the street for all to hear.
Everyday there was some argument or disagreement out in the open. "Ghetto Theatre" is what Perry always called it. Tickets were free and whether you wanted to see the show or not the curtain call came promptly each and every day, some days there were several shows. A wonderful thing about the projects was that there was no realistic clock; there were hundreds upon hundreds of people and an equal amount of schedules. When you looked up at the windows there were many lights shining behind the window shades on each and every floor. It's as if the projects had three internal shifts and everyone had the opportunity to work them. An unspoken security system to make sure that nothing went unnoticed or undocumented. There was always someone there that was wide awake and full of life and they could report exactly what went down. If it was a relationship squabble, a run in with the police, or simply a birthday party, each and every event that took place in Perry's neighborhood was public information.
Hanging out and joking on the concrete stoop was the Neil brothers from the second floor. Perry knew them well and this was definitely their routine. The two were both armed with what evidently was the last two cold Heinekens out of the two empty six pack cartons setting on the side of the steps by their feet. By the perspiration beads dripping from the bottles, undoubtedly they got the collection up for the last carton and made the mad rush to the store before 2:00 a.m. came and temporary prohibition relinquished its stern hand to the public.
"Man, Lil' Wayne ain't nothing but a young hustler who was in the right place at the right time!" One guy was heated at the thought of anyone dismissing what he thought was scripture.
"You crazy, Mont! - he's a lyrical genius!"
"Genius ? There was only one lyrical genius and that was 'Pac, er' body knows that!"
"Yeah, yeah yeah ..." The two argued back and forth debating on the current status and validity of the rappers as if the world's affairs counted on it. A modern day "Great Debators" rhetoric. One brotha interrupted his own dissertation to acknowledge Perry as he made his way past.
"Was'sup man?" Mont spoke to Perry bright eyed with no signs of fatigue anywhere. The other seemed to be more intoxicated; he kind of leaned out of the way as Perry excused himself down the stairs. It was obvious that he was concentrating on his current task at hand which was holding himself up. The neighborhood knew Perry and respected him; he grew up here and never had a problem.
Perry was not in the mood for friendly banter or being cordial, at least not after being awaken from a dead sleep, so he just gave the universal street nod for was'sup and kept it moving to his car. He smirked at the idea of opening his mouth to greet these men along with a hand shake and a ghetto hug. Allowing the fumes of his early morning stagnant breath to overcome them and lay them out right beside their empty Heineken cartons so they could be carried away by the beautification committee which consisted of Old Lady Bertha and her cousin Sharon. They both shared an apartment in CP and lived there for over 20 years. They took it upon themselves to enforce the clean up rules in the neighborhood and the main rule was if it is laying there it was trash. Perry stepped off the curb into the parking lot, as he passed the passenger side of his car. He was pissed. There was a young couple sensually hugged up on his car, kissing and grinding so hard he thought they were about to drop their jeans right there and go at it. Looking down trying not to stare at this blatant porno movie that was being shot by a couple of 20 year olds, right up against his 1984 Chevy Beretta, Perry made his way to the driver's side. The couple seemed undeterred by his presence and kept their passion ignited and going full force. When he got in the car he reached in the glove compartment and grabbed his travel bottle of green spearmint flavored Scope, quickly twisted the cap off and took a swig as if it was a shot of Hennessey. He swished it around his mouth and braced himself for the burn as he swallowed the shot down. Sometimes it was important to take the breath freshener all the way down to where the stench originated. His eyes watered from the sting he felt at the back of his throat. With his eyes shut tight he started the car. The two love birds jumped up in fright trying to figure out where he came from. He slammed his driver's door shut and cracked the passenger's window. As he leaned in towards the two he smiled and shouted.
"Get a room you cheap bastards!" Perry made his point cleverly. They waved him off to dismiss him. Perry smiled at the fact that he was able to amuse himself. He backed the car up and drove away from the low income neighborhood and headed ten miles down the street to the quiet modestly upscale area of Belhaven where his best friend Samantha lived. Sam was a successful entrepreneur that five years ago opened her own health club in the downtown area. She scraped and saved every penny; she built her clientele by becoming a personal trainer and eventually opened up a sports club in the middle class Belhaven area.
Sam and Perry grew up in Corona Projects where Perry still lived. Growing up they went to the same schools, hung out with the same group and played the same games. They had a lot in common. They were close, almost like family and looked out for each other no matter what. Their relationship was solidified about the age of eleven when they took an afternoon walk to the local candy/record store 'Top Ten'.
Perry and Sam pushed the door open together, eager to step inside before the other. The cow bell tied to a metal hook at the top of the door rang out ... once as the door open and then again as it closed. It was a colorful place with a colorful owner. When you walked in it didn't look like a typical candy store. It was dark and had velvet art hung on every wall. The store didn't' have much light. The two windows in the front of the store were covered with black crepe paper and the only other window was in the back of the store where a glimmer of sunshine would cast a beam through the beaded curtains that lead to the main area of the store. The sunrays seemed to fight for attention dancing across the floor flickering specs of dust in the air ... it was almost magical. There were album covers strategically placed throughout the store; Marvin Gaye, Isaacs Hayes, Temptations and of course Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life". It smelled like incense burnt in this place 24 hours a day - it wasn't smoky but the scent of patchouli and frankenscent lingered in the air. There were crates of records set up along the far wall across from the candy counter. There were at least two for each letter of the alphabet. Large letters which seemed to be hand carved from wood, hung on the wall to let you know what artist was alphabetically in the crates below.
Excerpted from Unraveled by Steve Marie Copyright © 2010 by Steve Marie. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 28, 2011
Perry is awakened one morning from a deep sleep with an urgent phone call from his lifelong friend Sam. Always dependable, Perry drags himself from his bed to go to her side. When he arrives, he is confronted with the last thing he ever expected. As he and Sam try to find a solution to the problem, they spend the morning reminiscing on their love lives and the one relationship that has finally led Sam to this point. Unraveled is built upon an interesting premise with two people ruminating on life and love in the midst of a crisis. Marie creates a couple of interesting and likeable characters in Perry and Sam. She brings up questions on the nature of love and obsession and the effect the search for real, everlasting love can have on a person. Unfortunately, the book is rife with grammatical errors that at times make the story difficult to follow in addition to a couple of other inconsistencies in the action and plot. Otherwise, Unraveled is a good read and has the makings of a good stage play. Hopefully, Marie will go through her work to hammer out the grammar and make this a truly exceptional book.