By Carl Miller







     Thunderheads gathering in the western sky portended the onset of a predictable afternoon storm. Jason's trousers fluttered and thinning hair whipped in the strengthening wind. Like a dipping bird he bent over his putt then straightened and backed away to wipe sweat from his eyes and reassess the slope of the green. He repositioned himself over the four-footer, stroked the ball and pulled it an inch to the right of the cup.

     "Damn." He shook his head and tapped it in for a double bogey.

     "Worst round I've ever seen you play." Russell chided.

     "No kidding," Jason picked the ball from the cup and threw it into the woods. "I wasn't into it."

     "I could tell. My plan was for you to come out and relax, guess it didn't work."

     "Sorry, Russ, I appreciate your intention, but there's too much at stake for me to relax."

     "At least you got some fresh air, buddy. Let's go into the clubhouse, I'll buy you a beer."

     "I don't know if I have time."

     "Come on, we won't stay long."

     "Okay, why the hell not." They put their clubs in the cars and went into the lounge.  

     "A couple of Heinekens, please." Russell shouted across the length of the bar. They took stools at the far corner.

     The bartender drew the beers and placed them in front of his only two customers.

     "Give a yell if you need anything else," he said as he set out a bowl of trail mix. "I'll be in the back for a few minutes."

     "Sure thing," Russell replied. He lifted the glass to his lips, took several gulps, and belched.

     "Sorry I wasn't better company," Jason lamented. "I should have passed on your invitation."

     "Nonsense, what's important is that you came out. A bad day of golf is still better than spending the day stewing at home. Isn't it?"

     "I don't know. I can't even remember the round I just played. I'm preoccupied. Getting this..."

     "Christ, Jason!" Russell interrupted with veiled intensity, "Don't look now, but wait 'till you see what's headed this way."

     Russell was facing the expansive front window while Jason, sitting ninety degrees from him, was obliged to stare at the myriad liquor bottles lining the wall. He wasn't able to see the approaching foursome of beautiful women. Three were white and one black, they took seats a few stools away.

     "Hello, ladies." Russell gushed. "He's in the back room. Bartender! You've got some special customers. You're gonna want to get out here. My name is Russell, this is my friend, Jason." The women responded with polite smiles and disinterested nods.

     Russell sensed the chill and turned back to his friend. "I'm sorry, Jason, I cut you off. You can see why I got distracted. Anyhow, you were saying?"

     "If I don't land that Flamingo Lane high-rise, I'm through. I'll have to shut down the firm."

     "I know you need it, I’m your accountant for crying out loud. You need to be more optimistic, you told me yourself how impressed they were with your pitch. It'll go your way. Quit stressing so much or you're gonna have a stroke."

     "I'm having big-time doubts," Jason nervously rotated his glass. "I'm thinking my proposal was too bold. The committee will think it's wrong for South Florida. It's not white or pastel like the surrounding buildings. The other architects presented light colored, tropical themed towers, but I couldn't go with the flow. No, I had to go and propose a monolithic black monstrosity with a black crossover to a black parking garage. It looks like Darth Vader's headquarters. It was dumb, Russell. I'll be ruined, 40 years old and ruined." He finished his beer and pounded the glass down on the bar.

     "Easy, big guy. I'm thinking they're going to want a different style of building. It'll be the tallest building in the city and it should be bold. You were right. It should make a statement. This city’s big time now and our buildings should reflect that. They're idiots if they don't realize it. Two more beers please, bartender."

     "That's exactly my concern. They're city officials. Calling them idiots is redundant. I'd give anything to be a fly on the wall during that committee meeting tomorrow."

     "You wouldn't want that, you'd explode."

     "No, I could handle it. Whenever my past proposals were rejected, I never got clear reasons. I always got some mealy-mouthed line of crap. If I could just hear what they say at that meeting, I could go quietly into the night. If I went under, at least I would know the real reason. Or, I could do some last minute damage control. Maybe change their thinking."

     "Well, buddy, that's not gonna happen," Russell put a reassuring hand on Jason's shoulder. "Lets drink up and get out of here. I have to crunch some numbers before I go into the office tomorrow."

     "Go ahead, I can't drink as fast as you. I'll give you a call tomorrow after I find out how it went."

     "Okay, take care, man, and good luck. Don't make yourself crazy tonight. Good day ladies."

     One of the four women responded with a nod. Jason stayed only a few minutes longer. He drank part of the second beer, confirmed that Russell had put down enough money, and left.



                                     *  *  *




     Numerous thoughts flooded Jason’s mind as he walked to his car, none of which were pleasant. He would soon be fighting heavy traffic in pouring rain. At home he’d hear about how long he was gone, about the beer on his breath, how he spends more time with his associates than with his children, and on and on. He was all too aware that Brenda, who tends to obsess over minutia, wasn't grasping the gravity of their overall situation.

     He recalled their last conversation where she pooh-poohed his hand wringing. Her attitude worried him profoundly. When the going got tough, he feared she'd leave him and go live with her parents in Cleveland. On second thought, however, he accepted that, even counted on it. Her leaving would take some of the pressure off. A nagging wife and two young children are difficult to deal with when you're flat broke and job hunting.

     "Excuse me, sir."

     Jason turned and was stunned by the beckoning vision approaching. It was one of the women from the lounge, the African American. He watched her long legs pumping vigorously, straining the seams of a short white skirt.  His heart palpitated when he refocused on her pert breasts pushing against a thin yellow blouse, then to her hair, a mass of ringlets. Tight coils bounced above her eyebrows and danced on her shoulders. He averted his stare in an attempt to regain composure but was compelled to look back. She was like a mirage, moving in slow motion. The surroundings were blurred. Only her image was clear-crystal clear, and magnificent. As she stood before him he confirmed, through a space between her blouse buttons, that she was braless. His chest was heaving, he felt faint.

     "What can I do for you?" He asked with breathless diffidence.

     The goddess standing before him introduced herself as Qiana Devroux. He wiped his sweating palm across his shirt and tentatively shook her hand.

     “I apologize, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with that other gentleman. You obviously have a serious situation. What would you say if I told you I could help you with that situation? Would you be interested?”

     “You were listening to us?” Jason blushed. Then felt as if he were being hustled. While he considered the proposal out of line, he didn’t want to dismiss her. “Okay, I’m willing to hear you out.”

     “Not here,” she handed him a business card. “Please meet me at this address, let's say eight o'clock this evening. Would you do that?”

     Jason studied the black card. Mystic Providence was printed across the front with orange gothic lettering. Below it was an address and phone number.

     “What's Mystic Providence?”

     “It’s my company. I'm in the benevolence business. I help people solve problems by facilitating methods they’re unable to access on their own. I think I can help you. I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”

     “Uh, I didn’t, excuse me. It’s Trafford. Jason Trafford.”

     “Well, Mr. Trafford, unless you think you have your situation in hand, I would suggest that you meet me this evening. It can’t hurt to hear me out, can it?”

     “I guess not."

     “Good. I’ll see you then.”

     Qiana turned and walked back to the clubhouse. Jason fixated on her backside while taking deep breaths to control his racing heart. He lifted his cell to call Russell but checked himself. Russell would only complicate the situation. He needed to explore this on his own. A bolt of lightening streaked across the sky followed by a crackle of thunder. It was time to go.



                                     *  *  *




     "I'm home."

     “Oh, so you are. You've been gone a long time. You're getting the floor wet.”

     “I know, I'll wipe it up. The round took longer than I expected.” He approached Brenda and gave her a peck on the cheek.

     “Were you golfing, or drinking? You smell like a brewery.”

     “Russell bought me a couple of beers, to settle me down. He could tell how uptight I was over the contract decision tomorrow.”

     “I know how you feel." Brenda spoke in a calm but sarcastic tone. "I'm uptight over having to deal with these kids all day. The thing is, I can’t run away to play golf and drink beer.”

     “I'm sorry. Look, Brenda, we’re going to have to discuss what we’re gonna do if I loose this bid. It’ll mean big changes.”

     “You're much too negative,” Brenda commented as their two boys ran through the room, one yelling at the other. "If you loose this you'll find something else. You started with nothing and built the business, right? Why can't you do it again? You don't really need to drive that fancy car, do you? You could play golf at a less expensive course. You hardly ever take me out, so that's not a problem. Is it? What about getting a night job? ” A thud came from the other room, then a scream. A bawling child ran up to Brenda.

     "Mommy, Gary took my transformer. When I tried to take it back he hit me."

     Gary, give Jeremy his toy back. Now!” Brenda screeched. Gary threw the metal figure at Jeremy. It hit him in the forehead. Jeremy wailed. Brenda screeched some more.

     Jason bounded up the stairs and sprawled on his bed. He calmed himself with more deep breathing. When the anxiety attack subsided, he showered, put on fresh clothes and went back downstairs. Things had quieted down.

     “I’ve got a meeting concerning the project. I’m gonna have to go.”

     “Of course you do. I’ve got a…, well, I guess I’ve got nothing going on. I..." Her comments were interrupted by the sound of shattering glass.

     "Mommy, I'm bleeding!"

      "You go do what you have to do." Brenda said with bile dripping from every word. "I’ll stay here with your kids. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Lucky me. Go to your meeting. Knock yourself out.” In a fit of frustration, she picked a magazine off the coffee table and threw it across the room before triaging her wounded son.

     The front door slammed, Jason was gone.


                                   *  *  *


     After a peaceful meal at a local burger joint, Jason drove to the address on the card. It was an upscale plaza, with a Jimmy Choo shoe store and a Tiffany’s. The once driving rain had slowed to a drizzle. It was dark now, puddles on the walk reflected light from the storefronts.  A three-foot Iguana rested in front of the entrance to Mystic Providence. It reared as Jason approached, lifting its body off the pavement and giving a cockeyed look.

     Jason slowed then stopped, not knowing what to expect. After a moment, the Iguana spun and sprinted farther down the walk, loosing itself in the shadows. Jason continued into the store.

     Chimes clanged as he entered. The lighting was dim and a disagreeable odor, from burning incense, irritated his sinuses. The place reminded him of a GNC but he didn’t recognize any of the products. Upon closer inspection, he saw that they were labeled in a language he couldn’t begin to decipher.

     Qiana emerged from the back of the store, through a beaded doorway.

     “Ah, Mr. Trafford, so glad you could make it.”

     At that moment Jason sneezed twice in rapid succession.

     "Bless you," She said.

     “Thank you.” Jason answered hoarsely.

     She was wearing the same white skirt but replaced the yellow blouse with a powder blue tank top. It revealed a tattoo on her bicep, something dark against her gleaming black skin. He couldn't make it out and was too timid to ask what it was. It turned him on.

     “Come back into my office. Let's talk.”

     Jason followed her through the beads. She sat behind a desk. He sat across from her. She offered him a beverage. He declined. She spoke, he listened. Soft reggae played in the background.

     "Mr. Trafford, I feel you're in a desperate situation. From what I overheard, there's a meeting tomorrow and you would like to hear what is discussed in that meeting. You mentioned that you would like to be a fly on the wall. I can do that for you, Mr. Trafford. I can literally turn you into a fly so you can be in the room during the meeting."

     My god, she's a loon! How could someone who looks like her be a nut job? Damn, I was hoping she'd offer to sell me sex to relieve my tension. Russell would have been so jealous. How in the hell am I supposed to react to this nonsense?

     "I don't think I'm following you."

     "It's really straightforward. I give you a potion and you become a fly. You can position yourself anywhere in that room and listen to everything that's being said."

     Jason put his face in his hands and shook his head. He was too smart for this scam and wanted Qiana to know it. Nervousness turned to irritation.

     "You're going to turn me into a fly? Like in the movies? Will I be like Vincent Price or Jeff Goldblum?"

     "You're being silly, Mr. Trafford. Those were movies. I'm talking about real life. You are left handed aren't you?"

     "Look, you'll excuse me if I'm skeptical. What kind of store is this anyhow? What language is printed on the containers out there? And why do you care if I'm left handed?"

     "Think of this as a pharmacy, the printing on the containers is Haitian Creole and my potion only works on left handed people. I don't know why, it's just the way it is. You people are wired differently." She walked around to his side of the desk. Jason felt his newfound confidence shrivel away. He trembled as she stood beside to him. She showed him a picture of herself as a child, with her mother and grandmother. They were sitting on the porch of an old, tin roofed, house.

      "We are many generations. This picture taken in Haiti shows only three. There were no cameras before that. The magic is passed down through the ages, in Haiti, and in Africa. Most people don't even know we exist."

     "Are you talking voodoo?" Jason's voice cracked and he cleared his throat. "How did you know I was left handed?"

     "Yes, Mr. Trafford, but not what you're thinking. It's not pins in dolls or anything like that. And, I noticed you were left-handed at the golf club. You drank the beer with your left hand. Are you sure you wouldn't like something to drink? Can I get you water? Something stronger, perhaps?"

     "No, I want to hear more, go on."

     "I'm a herbalist, my mission in life is to take care of your mind, body and spirit. I assure you that I only have your best interest at heart." As she spoke, she sat on the desk beside him. Jason let his attention wander up her crossed legs to the hem of her skirt, then to the tattoo on her arm, a stylishly drawn black pig. He recollected that it was a symbol of some significance in Haitian culture and made a mental note to refresh his memory. When he shifted his gaze from the pig tattoo to her dark eyes, further resistance was futile.



                                    *  *  *




     The morning was hot but the air conditioning blew cold. Jason was covered with goose bumps and sweat. He wiped his face with a paper towel and spoke to his reflection in the men's room mirror.

     "You're not whimping out, damn it. You have to go through with it. Everything is at stake. Just settle down and do this."

     He locked himself in a stall, removed two glass test tubes from his pants pocket, uncorked them and recalled Qiana's instructions. The blue fluid must be poured into the yellow fluid. Not the other way around. He carefully aligned the vessels and poured. The blue liquid curled snake-like down through the yellow liquid. It settled on the bottom of the tube and erupted into miniscule green bubbles that effervesced to the surface. As instructed, when the bubbles dissipated, he was to immediately drink it. He did.

     As the potion spread across his tongue it evaporated, leaving behind a menthol-like coolness that was amazingly refreshing. He set the empty tubes on the toilet tank and waited with quiet anticipation. Nothing--nothing happened.

     Qiana warned that if he transformed while dressed, he risked becoming trapped in the comparatively heavy material of his clothing, so he took off his shirt and hung it on a hook, reached to undo his belt, and bristled.

     This is ridiculous! Nothing's going to happen. You bought into a scam. Nobody can be turned into a fly. You're such an idiot. You were just bilked out of $600.00!

     After putting the shirt back on he left the stall and washed his hands. As he tossed the crumpled paper towel into the wastebasket he caught a whiff of something irresistible. An investigation of the trash revealed a cardboard cup containing the frothy remains of cappuccino. The intoxicating sweetness caused him to convulse with delight as he drank as much and as fast as he could, until someone walked in. The sudden opening of the door startled him. He darted away from the cup and out the open door. It was then that he realized he was flying.


                                   *  *  *


     Their eyes met. Jason wanted to melt into the ruby-red orbs. The silken hairs covering her body shined in the soft fluorescent glow. He admired her legs, all those beautiful legs, and the sweep of her wings. He couldn’t hide his desire. She looked at him with the same intensity. It was love at first sight. They communicated perfectly. Jason didn't know how and didn't care.

     They flew (literally) into each other's embrace. They caressed with passion heretofore unknown to Jason. Her body was soft and wonderful. Her breath smelled of sweet sputum. They tumbled onto the clear plastic panel and made love with animal abandon. He experienced physical and spiritual ecstasy. Afterward, they spent the rest of the day and that night cuddling in the cozy confines of the light fixture.


     On his way to the meeting Jason was drawn to the glow of nearby fluorescent bulbs. They were in one of those fixtures typically found in the drop ceilings of offices. He entered the fixture through a gap in the sheet metal and settled in to enjoy the warmth. It was there he met the love of his life.

     They spent hour after hour in that fixture. Caressing, communicating their love and sleeping intertwined as one. When they ventured out, they traveled to a nearby windowsill where they enjoyed basking in the warmth of the mid-day sun, then to a cafeteria trashcan for a romantic dinner. Jason was truly happy.

     Her name was Plotinus. She was young, with a childlike exuberance that Jason found most endearing. She worshipped him. Before long she was heavy with eggs. Jason was ecstatic. He would be the perfect father to his new brood -- showing them how to forage in the cafeteria and in the rest rooms, teaching them to regurgitate on solid food so they can suck in the jelly-esc cuisine, organizing family picnics on the windowsill and otherwise being the doting father he never was. He was busting with anticipation.


                                   *  *  *


     It was Sunday and city hall was closed, a perfect day for basking on the warm windowsill. Sunlight streaming through the glass reflected off floating dust, creating the illusion of a golden pathway. Upon seeing it, Plotinus was overcome with joy. She raced ahead of Jason, flying within the ethereal phenomenon toward the sun-drenched ledge.

     A freshly spun web stretched across a corner of the window frame, as Jason approached he noticed the shimmering strands. Realizing Plotinus was flying directly at it he screamed a panicked warning. It was too late. She cried out for Jason's help, but he was dumbfounded and paralyzed with fear. She fluttered her wings and groped in futile despair. The more she thrashed, the worse she became entangled in the sticky silk. Hovering just inches away, Jason saw the terror in her eyes, and she in his. He watched in horror as the demonic orb weaver approached from behind and engulfed his beloved in a shadow of death. The traumatizing scene rendered him mute.

     The creature exposed its fangs and buried them deep into her body. It was a nightmare -- it had to be, it couldn't really be happening. But it was. Plotinus never took her eyes off Jason. She pleaded for him to act, to try anything. He did nothing. Her cries diminished as the venom coursed through her system. Finally, her once lively eyes went dim. She was gone. The spider sucked out her insides leaving behind an empty husk, then looked directly at Jason with a contemptuous glare that dared him to do something about it. Jason went hysterical. He sobbed uncontrollably and darted in erratic circles, careening off the floor, walls and pieces of furniture.  The spider laughed, a deep belly laugh that rattled the windows and echoed throughout the cavernous room.


                                    *  *  *


     Jason awoke to find himself prostrate in front of the window, naked and shivering. He was in the midst of the flu-like after effects Qiana warned of. He sat up and vomited. The office staff gave him a wide a birth as they gasped in disgust.

     He regained his faculties and turned his attention to the windowsill. The spider was crouched in the far corner of the web, undoubtedly waiting for another victim to fly into its deathtrap. Jason crushed the bug between his thumb and index finger. The feel of viscous spider guts filled him with pleasure. With vengeful glee, he destroyed the web. Then noticed movement in the opposite corner.

   Maggots. Dozens of maggots were squirming around and over each other trying to feed on a small growth of mold. Jason's vengeful mood gave way to tenderness; he knew he was their father. Realizing they were starving, he palmed some of the vomit and ladled it over the undulating larvae. They twisted and flicked with pleasure as they devoured the exquisitely curdled effluence.

     As two police officers wrapped him in a blanket and hauled him to jail, he was satisfied that his offspring were adequately provided for.


                                    *  *  *


     From that day forward, Jason was incurably despondent, spending the next several years in and out of mental institutions. Through it all, he never mentioned a word of his experience to anyone. Friends, family, doctors and even the family priest assumed he had succumbed to the stress of running the architectural firm. His wife didn't care. She packed the kids and left (back to Cleveland). The business collapsed. At the end, he lived under a drawbridge.


     One fall evening, as the sun painted the western horizon, a black monolithic skyscraper cast a shadow over that very bridge under which Jason lay dead from inconsolable grief. When officials removed his body they noticed a puzzling tattoo on his left bicep. A picture of a fly with heart shaped wings. Above it was the name “Plotinus”, below were the words “the fly who loved me”.


                                The End















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