written by lauren d. h. miertschin

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Spinner

He stood on the corner, the sun shined against his golden locks. A sign the length of his body in the shape of an arrow flew up above his head. He caught it on a spin, then shot it around his back. “Luxury Apartments,” the sign read, the other side: “For Rent.”

Charlotte pulled her gaze from the spinner. She’d seen him before – they passed each other every day. He had first period Calculus, she had it second period. But they had never talked.

“Don’t Walk,” blinked from the other end of the cross walk. “Damn,” she muttered and reached back to press the button. Her eyes remained fixed on the spinner, transfixed by his sign.

One foot placed across the other, the spinner whirled around as he kicked the cardboard arrow up and over broad shoulders. Front and forward, he brushed the hair from his eyes with his forearm. Then he flung “Luxury Apartments” into the sun, rays reflecting off and on, as it spun its way back down.

Her eyes flickered in unison with the sun’s reflection. She reached back to steady herself against the post. Then the odor of something like rotten eggs blew in, and what felt like a hampered giant hammer, lightly pounded against her head.

Black . . .

“Are you all right Miss, . . . Misssss?

“Back away PEOPLE.”

Did someone call 911?


The sky was blue and bright as it stared down upon Charlotte’s body laying disjointed on the ground. “Wh, what?” she slurred to wide-eyed blurry faces.

“Oh my God.” She breathed in and shielded her eyes with her arm. With a groan she rolled over. Eyes closed, Charlotte pushed up against the ground. She wondered, “How much did they see? Who gave a damn what ‘they’ saw, but him, would he say anything tomorrow at school?”

“Idiot,” Charlotte sighed. “Idiot,” she moaned again and attempted to stand.

“No, Sweeteee!” A plump, red-haired lady who sat on her knees next to Charlotte pushed Charlotte’s waist to the ground.

“Let me go!” Charlotte rolled to her side and with both arms lifted herself up, dispersing bystanders who stood too close.

“She needs SPACE people,” someone yelled. “You saw her convulsing all over the place . . .”

“What the hell was that?”

“She alright?”

“SPACE, people,”

Space . . .

* * *

Charlotte’s mother darted out the front door to meet her daughter lumbering up the driveway.

“Baby,” Chantilly cried. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Are you hurt?” She caressed her daughter’s scraped elbow that was crusted with blood.

Pressing both temples firmly with her fingers, Charlotte stared at the ground. She raised one foot, placing it in front of the other. Her brain clenched with each step. She raised her head once, squinting from the sun and shot a look with a furrowed brow at her mother. “Leave,” she groaned.

Charlotte slept for the next six hours. Chantilly woke her with a mother’s gentle touch for an evening dose of meds. Charlotte mumbled incoherently, something about the pizza being a “bad lady.” Later she complained of a headache and guzzled a bottle of water before falling back asleep for another four hours.

“Charlotte? You ok?” Chantilly sat at the edge the bed. Pad of paper and pen in one hand, she rubbed Charlotte’s calve with the other. “You missed first period,” she said. “Why don’t you skip school today? Just practice tonight, , loosen your fingers . . .” Chantilly wrote the date atop the page and with a line divided it in two, vertically.

“Hmmm?” Charlotte rolled over onto her stomach.

“I need to know some things, Dear.”

“I’m tired.”

“I know. Did you have any grape fruit yesterday?”

“Oh God, I hate grapefruit.”

“Just checking, you know what it does.” Chantilly shook her head, “evil fruit.”

“I’m so tired.”

“Do you remember – how did you sleep – did you feel rested when you woke yesterday?” She scribbled something on the pad of paper.

“Oh Ma, come on . . .”

“How about video games, did you play?”

“Ya, right. I played a video game!”

“Think Charlotte, eat anything out of the ordinary?”

“Oh, come on!” Charlotte pulled the covers over her head.

“Triggers Charlotte! I’m trying to help. If we could just figure it out, we’ll be closer to stopping these things.”

“These things?” Charlotte shot up from beneath the blankets. “These THINGS?”

Chantilly jotted out a few lines on her notepad. “How about alcohol, Honey, did you drink anything?”

“Not old enough to drink.”

Chantilly sighed. “What about meds? Did you take them?”

“Of course. Haven’t missed a dose in ten years!”

“Well, Charlotte, remember that time?”

Chantilly scribbled onto her notepad. “What did you eat for lunch?” She pulled a cell phone from her pocket and scanned through the contacts. “Go on,” she said.

“Forget it,” Charlotte said. She flung the blankets from her body and like someone recovering from surgery, painstakingly pushed herself off the bed and made her way to the bathroom.

* * *

Monday Charlotte skipped Calculus. After school, she searched for the boy with the golden hair. The sun was still high when she found him on the corner, the same corner as last week, spinning the sign above his head.

“Luxury Apartments. Luxury Apartments . . . For Rent.”

She looked away as the reflecting sun flickered its gleam. When the light blinked “Walk,” she crossed, closing the gap between herself and the spinner. She looked past him, avoiding eye contact and wondered if he noticed her in the pedestrian crowd. Then Charlotte jerked back when the reflection from his sign crossed before her eyes.

His legs apart, he flipped the sign and caught it behind his back. And then in one sweeping motion, he threw it high above his head – sunlight beaming, fluctuating before her eyes. She knew it was coming even before the smell, before the rotten eggs. She didn’t want him to see her. Well, she wanted him to see HER, her sparkling green eyes, her shiny black hair, her brilliant smile . . .

Her head spun, her brain vibrated, left fingers twitched. She heard a loud guttural noise, slow-motion-like, sounding far away. Then . . .

Black . . .

She came to on the sidewalk. She didn’t recall making it across the street. People murmured. Her head pounded. And then she was lifted.

“Back away, PLEASE,” said the young man dressed in white as he pulled the gurney Charlotte lay upon.

“You’ll be okay, young lady,” said the gentleman pushing the toe end.

Her vision blurred, Charlotte could not make out his face, nor could she tell if the spinner was among bystanders who peered down on her, as the paramedics loaded her into the truck.

She heard sirens blare just before she fell asleep, but not a deep sleep, more like a medicated, dull, kind of drunken sleep . . .

The sun shined brightly as a cougar crouched upon the rocks above the trail, eyed charlotte. She stared back, a violin case strapped over her shoulder.

His ears perked. The sun’s rays beaming upon his yellow coat, the cat stood upright. But when Charlotte removed the case from her shoulder, the cat crouched again, prepared to pounce.

Violin beneath her chin, notes commenced to drift away the Irish jig played at Custard’s last stand, “Gary Owen,” they called it – a playful, yet melancholic melody. Charlotte took a step back, and then another, as she dragged her bow across the strings. The cougar rose. Charlotte stopped dead in her tracks, her arm continuing to move the bow back and forth, back and forth across the strings. And the cougar lay down and purred to its tune as the meadow grasses sung out these words:

“Let Bacchus sons be not dismayed

But join with me, each jovial blade”

Charlotte took another step back. The cat continued to purr . . .

“Come, drink and sing and lend your aid

To help me with the chorus

To help me with the chorus . . .”

* * *

She slipped into a black, sleeveless gown without regret. Normally Charlotte shuddered at such elegance. Tonight she felt she earned it. She fought hard for first chair, week after week, another challenge. There were the tough ones, against long-time rivals. Some she feared might bring on seizures. But the challenges never did. One after another, she picked the other violinists off, winning each challenge, and anyone who challenged her, until they challenged no more, until Charlotte landed herself in the violin’s first chair – senior class virtuoso.

Chantilly zoomed in close with her camera, her eyes welled-up as her daughter lead the orchestra in tuning. The violin was an extension of her daughter’s body. It seemed like the music swept her daughter away – the old was dead and gone – the beauty down there on stage, she was perfection, she was the notes, she was the rests; nothing else existed.

But something else did exist. Charlotte saw him in the third row, golden hair, a twinkle in his eyes. She saw the spinner in the audience from the first note. It wasn’t until “Ode to Joy” that they made eye contact. And it wasn’t until the finale, “Hoedown,” when the two smiled at each other. She played with the gusto of the star fiddler at a square dance.

Stage lights dimmed. Charlotte rose, and bowed at the conductor’s direction. She tip-toed off stage without looking back at the standing ovation.

* * *

Heat waves radiated off the concrete. Charlotte saw the spinner before he saw her. He seemed lethargic, distracted, and he sported a plain, green baseball cap.

Nausea surfaced as she stood waiting for the light to read “Walk.” The sun’s reflection flickered in unison with the arrow’s spins; her eyes fluttered. Charlotte reached back to steady herself on the street post, when there at her feet, she saw it for the first time – a hat, a brand new green hat in fact, just like the one the spinner wore.

When Charlotte stooped down to pick it up, she noticed a smile on the spinner’s face. It was the smile that convinced her. She placed the hat upon her head, adjusting it some to shut out the sun’s reflection, more importantly, its flickering light as he spun the sign. She laughed out loud for not having realized before.

She made her way across the street with timid steps, increasing in confidence. When she stepped up onto the curb the spinner dropped his sign to the ground. He held out his hand to her and stumbled over the sign. They both laughed.

“Hi,” he said. My name’s Brad.” He looked nervously to the ground. “And,” he continued, “I promise . . .”  He cleared his throat as if trying to recall a rehearsed vow.  “I promise . . .,”


Brad smiled.  “To keep the light shining and never let it flicker before your eyes.”

© Lauren D.H. Miertschin