Nothing Like It Used To

They don’t write ’em like they used to,
the epic songs, the twice-told tales;
they don’t spin them like they used to,
the stories you could stay up
all night to listen to.
They don’t play them like they used to,
the long golden notes
ringing out in every throat,
echoed like nothing else,
like nothin, like nobody else.
There is nothing like there once was,
ain’t nothin like it used to —
nothing like it once was,
nothing like it used to.

*

I remember a time
when a man had to have a voice,
had to sound like he was meant to sing
not like he was killin time.

I remember back when
the music had to matter,
but it’s all given way to chatter —

I suppose all it means
is I’ve been getting old without noticing,
going gray without noticing,
til all I am is reminiscing
’bout how —

they don’t write ’em like they used to…

*

I remember a time
when the world was still all shining,
when all the clouds had silver linings

I remember when we didn’t
have to love so hard to keep on giving,
to give so hard to keep on living
to get back so damn little,
when the world wasn’t cruel to anyone
who was feeling sentimental
’bout how

they don’t write ’em like they used to…

*

I don’t know if it’s so much the times that changed,
or if it’s me not changing at all…
I don’t know if it’s so much the times that changed,
or if it’s just that I haven’t changed at all,
but I’ve been thinkin ’bout how

they don’t write ’em like they used to…

As Perfect As I’d Hoped, Except

Flush with the heat of remembering
your hand at my hip.

It was one kiss.

Just the once.

I re-live it every waking moment,
that pure, perfect instant
where I asked for something,
and got it,
without pretense.
I was terrified,
but I made myself do it,
and there it was,
and it was as perfect as I’d hoped, except

 

 

you only gave me
what I asked for,

and nothing else.

DeathWatch No. 39 – Have You Ever Said It Aloud?

This is Issue #39 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.

Happy Reading!

PREVIOUS

* * *

“Yes, yes,” Kieron said, trying hard but failing to not sound somewhat irritable. “I’m not in love with a woman, how fucking astounding, right? Now it all makes sense, the dandy of the Esmuth Brodys, no wonder his father didn’t stop him from running away to the scouts, man probably hopes I’ll fall out of a fucking airship, yeah?”

Nate stared, chewing on his lower lip, and moved to cross his arms and say nothing, at least for the moment.

Kieron ground his teeth, waiting for the onslaught, the sudden barrage of insults or stupid questions, the invasive curiosity or the downright meanness that had always come on the heels of knowing or suspecting or just plain deciding who must have shared his affections.

“You like men,” Nate said, but it wasn’t much of a question; his brows were up, and he kept looking Kieron up and down, as though he could discover some heretofore unknown signal that would betray the knowledge.

Kieron’s closed his eyes for a moment, sighing, and said, “Honestly, it doesn’t mean a f–”

“It doesn’t mean a fucking thing,” Nate said, shrugging as he finished Kieron’s sentence. “So what if you’re in love with a man? Honestly, I’m relieved. Means I don’t have to keelhaul you for trying to bed the woman I’m with. Or worse, watch her keelhaul you for trying to clumsily seduce a woman ten times out of your league,” he laughed. “She’s more than I can handle, and I can fucking handle anyone.”

“So you really don’t have a problem with–” Kieron began, frowning slightly. He let the sentence fade off, and his expression grew desperately uncomfortable.

“Fucking hell, Brody, if you can’t talk about it, are you even sure your louvers tilt that way?” Nate said, rolling his eyes. “Go on, say it,” he urged. “Have you ever said it aloud?”

“It?”

“You’re such a child,” Nate snorted. “Have you said aloud you’re in love with this man, this boy?”

“I told my father.” Kieron’s voice was low, and he sighed as he looked away, back out off the rail and into the starry night.

Nate let the night swallow that statement and give back only silence for awhile until he finally asked, “How’d that go?”

Kieron’s reply was quiet, and sad. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Do you hate yourself as much as you believe he does?” the Quartermaster asked, his voice low.

“What?”

“You said you’re here. That doesn’t mean he threw you out.” Nathan’s voice was just as quiet as Kieron’s, he saw no need in announcing anything.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to get me to confess,” Kieron said, his shoulders tense, his hands clenching into fists. “Are you just trying to humiliate me or something? For someone that doesn’t have a problem with it, you seem awfully interested in bothering me about it.”

“I didn’t realize I was bothering you,” Nate said. “I mean, yeah, I guess I did, really, but not like that. You’re sensitive. Fine. But I’ve already explained I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t hate you. I don’t think it’s wrong or strange. I’m not your father. I’m not whoever fucked you up at the fucked up place you ran from before you got here. I mean, you’re not an Academy graduate, I know that much. You went there, sure, but you don’t have your cadet star.”

“Missed it by a few weeks,” Kieron said. “I had to leave early.”

“Why?” It was a quiet question, gentle, but honestly curious.

“I don’t know how to explain that, without you thinking I’m seriously fucking crazy,” Kieron said, half-laughing.

“Brody,” Nate said, shaking his head. “Ah, Brody, Brody, Brody. Frankly? We’re all fucking crazy. We are crazy beyond help,” he murmured, shrugging. “Would we really be almost two miles above the ground in a giant teacup strapped to a balloon if we weren’t?”

“Well,” Kieron said, and he parted his lips to say something else, but then thought better of it.

“Come now, you can’t deny it. In this bit of tin teacup, we have weapons that can cause terrifying destruction. Even more horrific is the fact that if we mishandle them, we could make this lovely tin teacup balloon monstrosity explode and rain bits and pieces of us and it all over the Ilonan countryside,” Nate says. “And we’re doing it all on a well-established skeleton crew filled out with a flush of first year fresh recruits. Well inside enemy territory. If we aren’t completely crazy, Brody, if we aren’t all exactly addled in the brain-meats, then how did we get here?”

“I..” Kieron said, obviously unable to complete a sentence for the sudden thought. It took him a moment, but then he finally took a deep breath, closed his eyes and said, “Fine then. We’re all crazy as loons. You want to know why I ran away? The queer thing of it is, I can see–”

“I had a lover, once, a strapping Kriegsman. Man was built like a tank,” Nate said, interrupting him.

Kieron opened his eyes, and his expression warred between infuriated at having been interrupted as he was about to explain things, and pure shock at Nate’s confession.

The Quartermaster himself had a fondly reminiscent expression on his face. It faded, as he turned his own eyes back to Kieron; though the reminiscent look was gone, the fondness remained. “I just had no idea,” he explained, shrugging. “I thought it was her, because you make this… expression. Lately, after you’ve talked with her,” he murmured.

“I’d try to explain that, but I’d end up talking about secrets that aren’t mine to tell,” Kieron said, his eyes still wide as he processed the new knowledge, and tried to look apologetic.

“Hey — who do you think she came to, after she shot him?” Nathan said. “I been under the Captain since before she was Captain, going on fifteen years now,” he explained. “We don’t have secrets,” he told Kieron, wearing an easy smile.

“I wasn’t talking about hers,” Kieron said, shrugging.

“Fair enough,” he said. Nate still wore his smile, but cocked his head to the side, keeping his eyes on Kieron for a long moment, as though his gaze could make the younger man tell him anything and everything. “All right. Well, you’re still supposed to be on watch and I’m supposed to finish my rounds, but if you ever do want to finish whatever the queer thing of it is, you know where I am,” he finally said, heading away, still wearing that crooked smile.

Just before he was too far away to hear, Kieron called out, “A Kriegsman, huh?”

“I liked his beard!” Nate called back, giving a jaunty salute, and then he walked off.

* * *

NEXT

I Keep Hearin’ You

“It’s me,” comes the voice on the recording, rough and shaky. “I know I said I wouldn’t call. I know. But m’pretty sure y’don’care one way’r’th’other, specially if’s’versus not callin and endin up in a dumpster.” Her voice is alternately at a comfortable rasp, and a high, thready thing that sounds halfway like panic.

“S’cold out. Didn’t think it’d be this cold. Wishin I’d stayed away, but I keep comin back, like I keep hearin you,” she’s saying, and she’s half-dreamy and all bitter, and the consonants she drops are the ones you would’ve, when exhausted.

“Thought I’d’ve figured’i’ou’by now,” she murmurs, and the phone falls away from her lips for a moment before she picks it back up and snarls, “Though’YOU’d’ve!” and then the call is disconnected before the receiver can capture the rough hack of a sob choked by pneumonia.

Unsaid: I’m going to fucking die out here, and it’s no one’s fault but mine; I just didn’t want to go it alone — and I’d thought, at one point, that I wouldn’t have to.

I hate myself more for needing you than I could ever hate you.

Rose-Colored Glasses

She was shivering in the dark, in the cold; the rain beat down, had been coming down for days, then, and left her feeling like she’d never, never be warm and dry. Never again. The stink of the hot summer dumpster rot had left, to be replaced by something dank and strange that filled the nostrils and wouldn’t relent. She’d lost fifteen pounds she didn’t need to lose, dry heaving all the fucking time from the smell.

She had been skinny, before; she was halfway to gaunt, now.

Bitten nails, scraped up skin. The last of her good clothes were ruined from a runaway nose bleed and torn in a fight over a pair of boots she’d gotten good and patched up. She kept moving, pushing her territory south in hopes she could end up somewhere warm, but she always found herself drawn back, again and again.

She had hitchhiked here, as though this place could be less frigid than she’d remembered, as though she could find herself less cold and less alone, but hindsight had proved to be made less of a 20/20 prescription, and more a pair of rose-colored glasses.