A Perfect Morning

Another week of hard work and butterflies gone, and I am still immersed in an epic hack up of my novel. It is painful and overwhelming and inspiring and exhausting, but it is worth it, and in the end it will be wonderful.


We live in Stoker’s castle. We are dim and it is colder than we expected. Like a tomb or that place where they heap dead bodies and innocuously call a freezer.

I don’t want to spend another minute in there but he likes the sound of it. He thinks the dripping is evocative and strange, the architecture ornate and gothic, the floor tiles laid perfectly for such an early 13th century extravagance. 

I stare through the barred window and try to convince myself this isn’t a dungeon and this isn’t our tomb. 

I thirst for Sunday mornings, I crave the bouyance of a Wednesday afternoon. I want silence and exuberance, solitude and company, a flood of ideas and a quiet mind. I am a thousand scientific notions - Entropy, chaos, decay, dichotomy.

Sometimes before he wakes up, I sit outside and soak in the morning. The dog flops in the grass, his nose twitching, delighted at the intricate smells of a quiet day. The birds are all a titter, chittering graceful unglorified tunes without reason. Singing made up songs just to sing. Just for the joyful noise of it. 

He wakes and speaks as if nothing matters but the stench of his own words. 

Then it’s too hot, the dog licks his asshole uncomfortably, the skin on my forearms seethes as if they’re on fire. The birds squawk uncontrollably and I imagine our yard as a hellish paradise with no escape. A secret garden drowning in flame.

I think about that as I shiver, and watch him stare at the buttresses flying overhead. He and I are cowards stuck in the middle of the beginning of the end. The scars become us, don’t they? Like tiny little bandaids polka-dotting our cancered skin. 

This way.

He pulls me down another hallway away from the group. Ancient suits of armor are held up by god-knows-what and it’s all I can do not to poke them and see if they’ll just fall down. I follow him to a tapestry beyond a series of stanchions barely barricading the path.


I whisper, but I don’t really care. I’m just glad to get away from the stink of farts and belly burps that is a group tour in Europe. I walk past the same stone bricks we’ve stared at all morning and I wonder if scar tissue could ever get cancer. If in the end, maybe all we are is a mottled ball of them.

When he turns to me, I see it in his eyes. Then I taste it on his lips. And somehow, the hellfire and the frigid halls become one entire life. Somehow, as my heart beat slows, the stone brick hallway folds into our kiss. All of it lingers, and then slips away like a morning.


C. L. Brenton

When Instructed

When I was at Jury Duty last week I ate lunch in the beautiful gardens behind the Walt Disney Concert Hall. A young couple was having their wedding photographs taken there, and I sketched their portrait in words. Enjoy!

Mirthless and faceless they only touch when instructed. Her nails are still wet, his tuxedo is too new it itches. Her long white dress must be carried along side her as if she were surrounded by and floating in a white puffy cloud.

Dad videotapes the whole affair on an old camcorder. He wants to remember every piece of today, from the way the blue fountain shoots out sunlight instead of water, how his wife holds the bouquet of pink haphazardly as if she were an incompetent hand maiden, a bored complacent intern.

They think they have resigned to nothing but they have resigned to everything. The photographer babbles on in Chinese. He places her creamy hands around his bronzed neck, and they don’t smile. He doesn’t touch her unless instructed.

The photographer poses her fingers one by one. This is true love, he thinks, fingers like this, neck like this, now tilt your head and smile. Smile at him. He presses a chipped nail, he moves dad filming a flower by the root of a tree out of the shot.

Click click click.

Instinct takes over when a silky white petal falls in her hair and he delicately removes it. The light shifts, a breeze presses the long spines of branches out of the way, and ruffles the poised leaves. 

The photographer corrals the bride and groom, this way, this way. 

Mom places the bouquet back in her daughter’s hands and scoops up the folds of her dress exposing her cherry blossom legs that blend right in with her small shoes.

They are mirthless and robotic. They don’t smile unless instructed, move unless instructed, laugh, bend, fight, lust unless instructed. They don’t hold hands, yet they move carefully.

We have to return that suit in good shape 

You have to have that dress for the rest of your life.

Dad films the way the light reflects off an impossibly tall glass building, he films the leather ruffle on her unscuffed shoes, he films mom bundling up the folds of her dress, the fountain again, the way it shoots out sunlight instead of water. They are eerily silent, eerily somber for such a beautiful day, a beautiful time, and a beautiful place.

The photographer runs up ahead and captures the nothing of this moment. They will treasure it forever, it will hang in the tapestry of their lives for eternity. Sometimes she will wish to go back there, sometimes he will wish it never happened at all.

Her pearls catch on something, a zipper maybe, a button, they pause. Mom lets the white fluff of her dress pour back to the ground and she delicately unhooks them and presses the pearls back to her neck.

Click click click.

Dainty elegant fingers scoop up the folds of her dress, and they walk along again as if she were floating in and surrounded by a cloud.

The awe of a white gown and a black tux follows them through the expanse of quaffed gardens.

Behind them, laughter fills the void in their wake. Families wander through with their own cameras, their own love, their own mirth, and they touch each other whether they’re instructed to or not.


C. L. Brenton