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New Story Published at Black Heart Magazine

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I have a new story published at Black Heart Magazine. Please check it out!

http://blackheartmagazine.com/2013/05/13/the-easier-thing-by-brianne-m-kohl/

If you like it, please let me know by leaving comments. If you read it and hated it, thanks for reading it.

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Ghost In The Graveyard

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All the kids in the neighborhood would come together, in silence and black clothes, just as dusk was settling in. Together, they’d cry out, “One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock…”

A child, the first unlucky ghost, would run and hide. “Four o’clock, five o’clock, six o’clock…”

The bravest boy would begin to inch away from the safety zone. Amanda’s play set with the tire swing and shiny metal slide was always safety. With her hand touching the twisted waxed rope, the tire swing bumping into her hip, no ghost could ever touch her. At the count of twelve o’clock, their small nervy voices would cry out as one, “Midnight. Pray we see no ghosts tonight!”

IMG_20130629_125126The search for the damned would begin. A ghost-child would emerge from a shadowy hiding spot and give chase. Screams and the tinkling of laughter would ring out across carefully manicured lawns.

Jessica was Amanda’s best friend. They were born in the same hospital near Ardsley Park, in the same month of the same year. They lived side by side on the same street and shared the same love of banana pudding and vanilla wafers. Jessica was the dark to Amanda’s light, with thick mouse brown hair pulled back in a tight pony tail. Amanda’s blond locks were wild and streaked with sweat.

Amanda had the play set with the always-popular tire swing but Jessica’s yard was the biggest. The two lots together were the perfect summer backdrop for moonlit games of Ghost in the Graveyard.

That last evening – the night before Jessica vanished, her body evaporating into nothingness – she and Amanda walked side by side in the dark. Amanda’s eyes played across the shadows, searching for movement in the inky corners of porches. Joey Martin was the ghost and he was the best at it – he was never the ghost for very long. He was an older boy, too old, almost, to be playing with them still. Jessica grabbed hold of Amanda’s arm as they silently picked their way across the open expanse of grass. Joey’s little sister, Samantha, was still waiting, wide eyed, with her little hand against the smooth metal of the slide. Other neighborhood kids, already in the midst of the game, stretched out to the boundary lines.

“We stay together, Jessie,” Amanda whispered.

“We always stay together,” Jessica replied in a hushed tone. It was a promise, a low chant of safety and security. “We’ll always stay together.”

*****

IMG_20130629_125443Amanda and Jeremy walked down Oglethorpe Street. One hand gripped the strap of her camera to steady it from bouncing against her chest. The other hand brushed against Jeremy’s but when he tried to grab it, she moved it just out of reach.

“Who is Juliette Low?” Jeremy asked her, pointing to the marker on the side of the road declaring the huge white mansion in front of them as a site on the historical registry.

“She was the founder of the Girl Scouts of America.”

“Hmm…were you ever a girl scout?” he asked his tone only slightly lecherous. “Did you go door to door in a cute little green skirt and sell your cookies?”

“No,” Amanda replied and smirked at him. “There was a group of girls in the neighborhood that were girl scouts but we hated them. Besides, green isn’t really my color.”

“We who?”

“What?” she asked, puzzled.

“You said ‘but we hated them’. Were you a part of some delinquent cookie hating gang? Who hates Girl Scouts?”

Amanda opened her mouth to respond but hesitated. It was said that Savannah was built on her dead – thousands of graves lingering just below the cobblestone streets and manicured parks. Amanda felt that she, too, had been built by the dead. But, she never talked about Jessie with anyone. She ran her hand idly down Jeremy’s arm and began to lead him up Bull Street to Wright Square.

Finally, she answered, “My best friend when I was little was a girl named Jessica. Her parents live in the house right next door to mine – the blue one?”

He nodded. “So, does Jessica still live around here?” Amanda smiled sadly, shook her head and looked away.

“I think I’ll get some pictures over here,” she told him and crossed the street into the park square.

“You’re the award winning photographer,” he joked. “But, I thought you said you couldn’t work in Savannah?”

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Bunny Chow in Durban, South Africa

She had driven down the N3 in South Africa, snapping shots of shanty towns and happy tourists eating Bunny Chow on the coast of Durban. She’d traveled across Europe with a backpack, her camera and little else. She’d sat in a steam powered boat on the Ben Hai River in Vietnam, skirting along the edge of North and South. In every one of those places, she had searched within the shadows, looking for Jessica.

It had been so easy to become an artist growing up in Savannah. The city practically begs it’s young to pick up a brush, throw some clay, haiku, haiku, haiku. Amanda loved capturing broken moments, those seconds in people’s lives when their fissures begin to grow. She was drawn to the vulnerability and to the notion that she had the power to stop time. But, she’d never allowed herself to work in Savannah, afraid that within the click of the shutter, she’d find Jessie waiting for her – hidden in the background like an abandoned vista.

She walked away from Jeremy and approached two old men sitting beneath the shade of a giant Oak tree. Spanish moss dripped down from the branches. After a quick conversation, she lifted her camera.

As she framed her shot, she caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of her eye. Jessica stood near the President street entrance, never grown, still wearing the frilly white skirt and blue shirt she’d had on the day she’d disappeared.

Amanda blinked. Sun light filtered through the trees and blinded her for a moment. When she looked again, Jessica was gone and in her place was a normal, living girl, the sun refracting bright against her dark hair.

These ghosts are unnecessary, Jessie, she thought and the girl turned to her and smiled. Give me one day. One day to be happy, to be free of you. The wind picked up for a moment, skating through the fallen leaves that littered the sidewalk and dancing against Amanda’s skin. We always stay together, it whispered.

The Power Grid

In my writing class, we were told to find a news story and write two pieces of fiction: one from the POV of the criminal, one from the POV of the victim. 

This story is the from the criminal’s POV. 
See https://briannekohl.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/naked-florida-man-jumps-off-roof-onto-homeowner-knocks-television-over-empties-vacuum-cleaner-masturbates/ for the counter point story. 

The last thing I remember, before the incident, was laying in bed with Kayla. The house was so quiet. Kayla’s hair hung over her face like brown paint dripping down a blank canvas. She hovered over me, my bicep wrapped tight with her old brown leather belt, and she whispered, “You have to find what you love, Mathew.” The needle slid into my vein. My arm felt like cold concrete, hanging limp, as I tried to pump my fist. “Find what you love,” she repeated. “And let it kill you.”

I’ve heard of aliens – traveling through electricity, through out the entire power grid – right into people’s homes and stealing them away. I think that might have happened to me. I think that’s why I am the way I am. Who knows. Maybe that is how I ended up on that roof, with the sandy shingles cutting into my bare feet.

The guy, the one they said I assaulted, was yelling up at me and all I could see were smudges of stars. I slipped. I landed on top of him hard. I knocked him to the ground. He grabbed me, took hold of my arm and tried to hold me down. And, then time flashed again and I was inside the house. It smelled like garlic, burnt and pungent. The television was on the ground, smashed into several pieces. I had the dirt canister from the vacuum cleaner in my hand, dirt particles were spinning out around me – into the universe, falling like soft snow. I wanted to taste it. I wanted to feel it in my mouth.

Three booms erupted around me, bounced around the room like a sonic blast. I fell to the rug. I was making snow angels. I was sinking into the ground, melting like a piece of hard candy left in the summer sun. I had found what I loved. It wasn’t Kayla, it wasn’t even her collection of needles and hot spoons. It was that moment of pure energy, when I tapped into the power grid. 

Naked Florida Man Jumps Off Roof Onto Homeowner, Knocks Television Over, Empties Vacuum Cleaner, Masturbates

Ripped from the headlines: http://gawker.com/5978198/naked-florida-man-jumps-off-roof-onto-man-knocks-television-over-empties-vacuum-cleaner-masturbates

“I went to bed real early – around 7pm, so it all happened right about that time,” Officer Roberts was busy scribbling into his little blue notebook and didn’t even glance up at me. I dragged my hands over the top of my head. When I’d started balding ten years ago, I’d shaved the whole thing. Now, all I could feel were the patches of whiskers where the follicles were still trying to do the job.

“Are you sure on the time, sir?” he asked.

I cleared my throat before replying, “I remember it was 7pm because Law & Order had just started and I wanted to watch it in my bedroom where I could maybe get some peace and quiet and not have to listen to Gloria bitch about my “pervert murder stories”.” Officer Roberts finally lifted his head and looked at me, his eyes narrowed.

“What happened next, sir,?” he asked, his voice a low monotone.

“Well, I thought I heard thunder – like a boom or something. But, thunder doesn’t have foot steps and it doesn’t slide around on a person’s roof like a God damn crack head.”

“Mr. Jenkins, can you describe the actual altercation for me, please?” Officer Roberts tucked his double chin back against his chest and started scribbling again.

“Sure thing, Officer,” I said as I spit into the lawn – my lawn. “I went out the front door and looked up onto the roof,” I motioned to the house, pointing at the exact spot I’d found that naked jackass. “I yelled for him to get his scrawny ass down off my roof. He started to wave his arms all around, I think to try to intimidate me or something. But, I just yelled again,” I paused to let that sink into the officer: the eyes I was giving him said it all: I am not prone to intimidation.

“And then what happened, Mr. Jenkins?” Officer Roberts looked behind him at the ambulance parked in my driveway. We were both actively trying to ignore the naked man being strapped to the gurney. He was finally coming to after being tasered. I think Gloria was a little traumatized by the whole thing but I don’t mind telling you that it was a pretty cool thing to see the taser in action.

“What happened next is that he jumped down at me. Like a God damn puma. He landed on top of me and I bashed my head against the drive way. That’s my blood right there,” I pointed at the inky blots of rust embedded in the concrete. “I must have blacked out for a moment because next thing I know, he’s in the house, knocking over my brand new flat screen television. Do you know how much those things cost? I called 911 on my cell while Gloria screamed and ran into our son’s room. It isn’t right for a man to be attacked, for his wife to be terrorized in his own home. This is America, I’ll remind you.”

“Yes, thank you, Mr. Jenkins. Can you describe how the shots were fired?”

“Well, I was on the phone with 911, like I said,” I hoisted my pants up and hesitated before continuing. I’d heard one too many stories of innocent people getting sued because a criminal had been injured while committing a crime. “That idiot was assaulting our vacuum cleaner – who can say why addicts do the things they do? Fact is, Gloria and I were both afraid for our lives. She must have grabbed my old .38 revolver before running into our son’s room.”

“How old is your son?”

“He’s twenty-nine, Officer Roberts.”

Did the perpetrator try to physically assault your wife, Mr. Jenkins?”

“Well, he was in our house, wasn’t he? Destroying our belongings?” I got pissed off just thinking of that asshole dumping the dirt from the vacuum back out onto the floor like it was confetti and he was running around in a party of one. I folded my arms across my chest, straightening my back. “If I’ve told Gloria once, I’ve told her a million times: Intruders don’t get warning shots. And, they sure as shit don’t get three of them! Because that is exactly how you end up with some dope fiend jacking off on your living room rug. Are we supposed to just clean that rug and move on? Knowing he defiled it?”

“I suppose that is up to you and your wife, sir,” Officer Roberts cracked a smile, so slight I almost missed it. “And if you can get that vacuum cleaner fixed.”

In the Hardship and the Hoping

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Several years ago, a college buddy, Tim Bugansky, invited me to submit some poetry for a contest he was running that featured North East Ohio writers. I laughed. A lot. (I am many things, a poet is not one of them. Although, every time I get drunk, I change my mind.) Then I submitted three poems and he said, “Sure! Why not?”  and included me in the book he put out. You can download the book for free – it is full of Ohio poets that are actually good. And, then there are three of my own silly-full-of-white-space poems that I wrote under the influence of too much wine and too much bravado.

If you’d like to read more, see http://goo.gl/W0zkk. Available for free in PDF.

I Found You Hiding

I found you hiding

In a box of old photographs

And memorabilia from when

We were young

 

“Peekaboo,” you cried

When I lifted the old shoebox lid

And my hand fell to the table,

From the gravity of your absence

 

You smiled up at me

A foolish grin

wrapped around

Bright silver braced teeth

 

I smiled down at you

Wondering just how long

You would have stayed hidden

Had I not stumbled upon you here

 

How smart you were

To stay hidden until

At just the right moment

Springing up to say “hello”

 

And “Where have you been?”

As if I was the one hidden

Not in this shoebox of memories

But out in plain sight