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Pepper Tree

this is something that i do like.. a piece that i've always liked but people thought was a bit dark

Pepper Tree
A woman's smoky blue voice filled the small room, her painful screams about men and whiskey scarring the walls with her desires, leaving slick trials of passion against the faded tan wallpaper. He listened carefully to her pain, tucked amid the purrings of her cries, giving everything of herself amid the bruises a nameless someone inflicted upon her soul. The chipped cup that held his tea warmed his palm as he sit amid papers marked red with anger against thoughts he gathered and purged from his mind. A small riff of a blues scale interrupted her growlings, and he grew impatient with the smooth notes, slicing into her voice. Counting last night's money out, he grimaced at the thought of spending another month in the tiny slanting room. Sighing, Kelly stood and walked to the window, leaning his thin, rangy body against the frame. The city ran beneath his impassive pale brown eyes, a river of metal and horns and the clouds moving over the sun threw long tendrils of shadows over his pretty face.

The walls were covered with pages of magazines, beautiful pictures of fantastic people enjoying a life that he barely dreamed of. A leather jacket with a small tear in the sleeve lay against a small pile of pillows humped together to form a sleeping pit, their cases' edges worn smooth from use. Discarded sneakers lay a few inches from Kelly's mound of clean clothes, t-shirts and worn jeans mingled with a few pairs of socks. Hitching a pair of jeans over his jutting hip bones, the teen drank deep from the sweet almond tea as the pants settled down on his hips, swinging low beneath the small cupped darkness of his belly button. A curtain of beads, several strands woefully mourning the loss of fullness hung lethargically in front of the barred window.

No one looked up to see the young man clenching his hands above him, running long fingers against the grooves of the woodwork and blowing at the small metal flakes peeling off of the wrought iron in front of him. His back bore the scratches of his work, the faint pink scramblings of men's hands as they gripped his shoulders, leaving small lines of purple where his flesh had been squeezed between clenched fingers. He winced as he moved and his wheat-smitten hair brushed a scabbing bite, the wound opened in the pale morning light when he stumbled onto his mattress and strands of hair stuck into his healing skin. His ribs ran lines under his chest, short waves of bone beneath golden skin and his stomach hurled a challenge for him to fill.

The CD skipped as the woman growled to try a little harder to give something to someone who didn't deserve her heart. She sat there for a moment, waiting for something until Kelly walked over and tapped the cover to skip the CD along. He stretched again as the door rapped gently, lost in the pounding of cymbals and bass pumping out of the small speakers. The bowed plank opened, a pixie face poked through the crack and grinned...café skin against green eyes shadowed heavy by nights spent walking Market Street or the baths up in Hillcrest. Sammy's butterfly mouth, already smeared crimson, mouthed the words pouring from the corner of the room and sauntered over to where Kelly leaned against the window sill. The teen picked carefully past the strewn papers and moved Kelly's discarded blanket aside carefully with the open toe of his high heel.

Kelly shook his head and grinned as Sammy carefully sat down besides him, arranging the tight short skirt around his hips. Flicking back his long brown sheet of silken hair, the boy pursed his lips and sniffed at Kelly's body, wrinkling his nose at the musk still lingering about him.

"God you need to bathe." Sammy stretched out his legs, tightened slick with nylons. "Is this that chick Meredith we met?"

"Janis." Kelly shook his head at Sammy's primping, feeling the back of his head slide around a bump on the lobe. Wincing, he brought his fingers up to explore the small rounded lump. Sammy pushed him forward, parting the strands of hair. Whimpering a short cry of complaint, Kelly grew silent as the other boy slapped him.

"Where did you get this?" Sammy prodded to see if the skin parted. Ignoring Kelly's yelp, he ran fingers over the lump.

"Hit my head on a dashboard last night." Kelly pulled away, rubbing the back of his skull. "Come on, I made enough last night to buy us something to eat."

"Only if you bathe first." Sammy leaned over to adjust the volume on the CD player. "It would just ruin my reputation to be seen with someone who smells like you."

***

The day's light muted through steel frosted clouds threw stars in their eyes as they left the old hostel, Kelly's soft tread of sneakers punctuated by the sharp click of Sammy's heels. He listened to the other boy complain about the young Mexican kids that came up from TJ and the older coyotes hustling them in Balboa... and how no one could get a decent trip with money when the chicos would give a blow for ten bucks. Kelly listened with a disinterested ear to Sammy's worn complaints, interjecting a grunting agreement every so often when the young boy glanced his way. Horton Plaza's small park was already filled with the unwashed and insane as they walked past the small stone gazebo. A man stood on the corner, screaming obscenities at foreign license plates. A few blocks down and after a quick stop at a clown's lunchbox, plasma bright with sunny city colours and darkened by the smoked glass panes to filter out the glaring light from outside.

A hopping jump after checking to see if the way was clear tumbled them down to the interstate, its landscaped trim shadowed by the forms of men and women lurking behind clumps of pale-yellow bushes. Sammy's ankle gave way several times as his heels caught on the underbrush. Kelly caught his elbow as they walked, helping his friend over the rough patches on the ground. The ice plant made their walk a slippery one and Sammy hurled insults as jeers rose from a small group of clustered men sitting on a curb on the street above.

Finding a space beneath a spreading willow, the two teenagers sat and watched the traffic fly beneath them, the park bridge scalloping the sky. Long curved shadows reached out to shade them as the day passed by, a steely grey measure of time above veins of concrete. The trees around them swayed in the slight breeze, the taint of Mission Bay carrying from the shore. The shrubs protecting them shook as an old man parted the leaves. Nodding his head, he settled down against the trunk of a pepper tree, its tendril leaves undulating with heavy plump spice.

His body stank from days of going unwashed and his wrinkled clothes were patched in places with staples and duct tape. Looking closer at his face, Kelly could see the extended red ribbing run from his eyes to his nose, small rounded marks of his skin folding over each other. His gnarled hands were covered in huge gloves, their tips cut off to fit. A toothy smile showed more gum than enamel and his right eye swam around a pale circle of white. Dropping a heavy knapsack, he grunted as he sat, his bones creaking as the leaves underfoot slid him forward. Reaching back to catch himself, the sunlight shone silver off the hairs on his arm, tufts of coarse wire strung through his skin.

Kelly reached into the white bag of food, and tossed the old man a couple of cheap hamburgers. A quick snort sent whiskeyed phlegm flying into his bristled beard and his clothes convulsed with motion. A small frizzy dog scrambled out at the smell of food, snowy tufted ears and bare neck from a thick collar rubbing against his thin neck. Sammy wriggled against the uncomfortable ground, trying to dislodge the small hard stones from his backside. Running pigeon-dipped long nails over his nylons, the young whore moaned at the feel of a laddered run against his thigh.

"Remind me to change before we do this the next time. I lose more hose doing this than when I work." Sammy lightly slapped his friend's shoulder as Kelly shook his head and grinned, white silver against the soft gold of his skin.

"If you'd stop dressing like a girl, you wouldn't have those problems." The old man snarled as he plucked off pieces of dried hamburger for the dog to eat. The little terrier snapped at his fingers, his tongue peeking out from the holes where his teeth were missing. "You look like a faggot."

"I am a faggot." Sammy simpered back at the transient, kissing the air with his scarlet mouth.

"Stop it you two." Kelly's voice was soft against the rush of noise from the freeway. "Butch, leave Sammy alone."

Butch humphed once then leaned back against the tree trunk. Searching through his overcoat's pockets, he found a crumpled brown bag, its edge torn round the neck of a bottle. Taking a long drink, he passed it over to the golden-haired boy who tilted it and let the harsh bourbon rape his raw throat. Sammy sniffed at the offered bottle and wiped the mouth before bringing it to his lips.

"You'd wrap your lips around someone's pisser but you gotta wipe?" Kelly's sharp glance cut Butch off in mid derision. "Why you both come here anyway?"

"Just to listen to you...and watch the traffic." Kelly took another mouthful from the bottle before he passed it back, letting the alcohol numb the aches over his body.

"Don't you girls have an afternoon crowd or something?" Butch shoveled the bread from the burgers into his mouth and chewed, drowning the dry crusts with bourbon.

"Nope. We usually have better luck with the after dinner crowd." Kelly's soft voice cooed at the dog as it wandered away from Butch and sniffed at his sneakers. Offering the minute terrier a fry, the canine slowly grabbed at the piece of potatoe and growled a hefty warning as Sammy moved again. A short chuckle sent the dog quivering against Kelly's hip.

"Where did I leave off?" The old man sighed and piled a blanket behind his sore back. "I think it was near the UnSidhe castle right?"

"Yeah. I think so." The blond boy crossed his legs and tucked the small dog into the space above his heels. Scratching the terrier, he sent a flurry of tiny white hairs into the air. Sammy sneezed and opened his mouth to complain but stopped as a look of contentment settled across his friend's troubled eyes.

The old man's voice settled down from his raspy croaking and grew, a sonorous stream of vision and images. The world around them faded as the sky turned a light mauve above pink-tipped leaves and pierced with spiraling turrets of glass and enamel. The landscape kaleidoscoped into rainbows of colours as patches of dragonlilies, violets and painted tea roses sprang from fertile black soil. As the sky turned upon itself, the sounds of cars faded into the hearty sound of a lilting Irish brogue against a heather scented morning and the rush of a clear stream burbled over moss-drenched stones.

A powerful warrior strode from the old man's words, his thighs thick with muscle and covered with leather and wool braise. His face, as strong as if hewn of the stone that peppers the green hills of his homeland, bore the blood of Kings and Heroes stamped into his handsome features. Small silver links of chain mail strained to hold the power of his chest and parted to thrust rounded blocks of muscle and sinew forward for arms. His fingers lay bare of glove and were unadorned save the ring of his Clan on his index finger, a roaring drake rising from the fire set ebony on gold. Long flaming locks caught on the fine white fox hair collar of his cloak and hung down his back, the fur an icy blue against a mahogany tail caught back with a strand of tanned leather.

"Culaan thundered through the Dark Forest, its reaching arms straining to catch the impudent human who dared to breech the underworld of the UnSidhe. The bay's hooves tossed up ripples of grass and dirt, carving rings of the underworld's belly as they rode towards the castle on the hill. Culaan's sword, hard won from the fangs of the Dire Wyrm sang in its sheath, calling the young Irishman to glory and conquest. Steam rose from the heated soil as the warrior passed, throwing malevolent hissing sounds against his determined face.

He rode into a clearing, the dark reaching forms around him tearing at his cloak as he galloped to reach the Castle of Bone. Culaan could see its spires, forged from the skeleton of the Wyrm his father, Gir Aulen, slew in battle to rend the night from the day and give the Clans the seasons to plant and hunt. Its turrets topped with the tattered standards of those who had come before him, stalwart Clansmen bearing claymores wrought of tears and blood only to fall before the Night Lord himself.

The bay's sharp hooves cleaved a small purple mushroom as the loam gave way before them. Tiny spores filled the clearing and the horse snorted to clear its head. Culann gasped at the foul stench threatened to tear the breath from his lungs and he pulled his mount up short to turn it way from the putrid miasma that surrounded them.

The air shimmered around him as he shouldered past a grasping blackened branch. Drawing his Great Sword, the hero slashed at the wood, its moribund shriek picked up by the murmuring Forest. The blade sang a rich song as it drenched its flat with the sap of the UnSidhe's haunted woods. Finally clear of the Darkness, Culaan reared his horse up, the dark bay heaving foam from his mouth as it clamped down on the bit. The ground rippled around Culaan and his mount, tormented with gigantic upheavals. A vortex formed on the ground, pulling the hapless horse towards its maw. The bay screamed as the ground gave way from under his hooves, and Culaan was thrown in the air, impacting the ground with a heavy thud.

The twisting soil wrenched the horse's body as its dying breaths gasped from its lathered chest and the withered sun shone dully on Culaan's shock of flaming hair as he struggled to stand. The soft chink of his chain mail rang as the edge of his sword sparked against it, the arcane wrought armour struggling not to part beneath the keen blade's bite.

From the ground rose a great golem, its face carved into a parody of the UnSidhe Lord Night. Moss hung from its earthy arms, sinews of roots and grasses forming around its mighty forearms. Its hands clenched into boulder sized fists and Culaan leaped to the side as they came crashing down around him, the ground shaking beneath the behemoth's horrific blows. His arm stung as he swung his mighty blade, scoring deep into the earth's redolent flesh. The hero felt his Clan's battle cry leap from his heart, filling the empty space in his mouth before pouring outwards, an onslaught of fury and menace.

The rage that filled our hero thundered from his spirit, its teeming redness blanketing the air between the two foes. The ire that flowed from him strengthened the golem who fed from Culaan's anger. The moss swinging below his stalwart arms thickened and gnarled, wrapping around the sinews of corded roots and the fouled earth surged to pour mass into her son's body. A soil encrusted foot slammed down near Culaan's head as the Irishman spun to avoid the blow. Stomp, went the golem...chasing the young man across the field as he struggled to bring his sword about. The blade struck up, slamming chunks of stone from the creature's body.

Singing softly to himself, Culaan drew upon the wisdom of his father whose bones now lay bleaching on the fields of Marraugh while his son toiled to free his people from the UnSidhe's persecution and enslavement. He could hear the man's calm words as he drew a stone over the very blade that Culaan himself held, and the young man saw the child's face that was his own reflected in the blade's sheen...large black dipped silver pools drinking in the image of a large broad man whose face splintered in a ready smile or fierce scowl when spoken against. Those large hands that cradled his shoulders when a shot went true or delivered a quick sharp retort when Culaan was feeling smart to his elders now were mirrored in the son who wielded the blade of the Clans for their freedom. His father's words came to him as he stepped back to gauge the golem's strength as it slowly turned to face him, its maw studded with chunks of white dovestone.

*Do not take anger to your stroke.* Culaan chanted to himself, whispering the soft words of his sire's teachings when he was a child holding a long dagger to learn a spinning thrust. Taking a deep breath, the Clan's warrior stalked the golem, looking for a niche within its body. A sliver of greened soil flapped upwards, showing the rolling mud beneath. With a shout for his father to guide his hand, Culaan struck the monster once, twisting the Great Sword into the creature's roiling flesh.

The earth trembled in agony as she embraced her son's fallen body to her womb as the golem tumbled apart. Culaan scrambled to dodge the flying boulders that careened about him. Fleeing the battle's turmoil, the Irishman ran as the ground was thrown asunder and shattered beneath his blow. His bay's dying scream lent pain to the creature's demise and Culaan sat panting on a hillock as the vortex closed in on itself, the ground rolling flat and laying still.

Clenching the claymore in his hand, Culaan thrust it over his head and shouted to the winds buffeting his torn body...blood dripping from his brow to mingle with the sweat on his face. A mighty cry rose from him as victory against the Lord of Night was once more his. Casting his eyes to the Castle jutting from the rocks on the far hill, Culaan called his challenge to the UnSidhe Lord and began once more his journey to shatter the yoke from his people's neck."

Sammy's sigh was carried in the wind as the old man let the words trail off into the waning afternoon light. Darkness touched the trees, whispering of dome lights in family sedans and the hasty glances for black and whites against the stark brightness of the streets. Standing, Kelly dusted his jeans off and helped Sammy to his feet. Dropping a crumbled five dollar bill on the old man's lap, the boy maneuvered his complaining friend back over the coarse ground back to Fourth street. Butch closed a ready hand around the money and patted his leg for the terrier as it came trotting over.

"He killed the horse." The old man heard the slight whine in Sammy's voice as he struggled to get over the short fence in a tight skirt.

"Butch didn't kill the horse. The UnSidhe Lord did." Kelly's soft rejoinder made the drunk smile as his dog rooted through the white bag looking for scraps. "It's part of the story."

"Butch was the one who told us about it." Sammy cursed out loud as his heel caught in a root and his ankle twisted painfully. "That does it, I am not coming back here."

****

The evening brought a flow of faceless tricks and lean smiles at worn compliments. Worn from the standing and cold from the icy wind carried down from the mountains, Kelly bought a cup of coffee and tucked himself into a corner near the gazebo to watch the small clusters of people walk out of the theatre. A sharp nudge against his leg made him look up. Sammy grinned down at him, tugging down the short leopard print hot pants that rode up his hips.

The blond patted the sidewalk next to him and passed the foamy cup over to his friend, blowing on his fingers as he scanned the crowd for a knowing smile. It came within moments and Kelly sighed before standing up. Sammy blew him a jaunty kiss good luck and crossed his legs in front of him, the gold stiletto heels snapping against the cold concrete.

"Don't drink all my coffee." Kelly called back to him. Sammy grinned and shrugged, keeping his hands tight around the styrofoam.

A sharp negotiation coupled with a false seductive smile and a few shy remarks tucked a 20 into Kelly's pocket and a foul salty taste in the back of his mouth. Finding his way back to the Horton, Kelly found Sammy sitting in the alcove and nursing a new cup of coffee. Taking the steaming cup from the other whore's shivering hands, Kelly sipped and passed it back.

Familiar people moved around them, half forgotten ghosts made invisible by filth and whoring. Cops circled the crowd, looking for a weakened spirit worn tired by the hunt...hoping to pick off prey from the mass and with some luck and persuasion to coax a moist satiation from a warm mouth. Kelly nodded or murmured a hello, mixing grins liberally as people he knew passed. The other boy watched carefully and huddled near his larger friend as chicken hawks stalked the shadows near the Amtrak station, remembering his brutal introduction to the streets and a golden-haired hustler who carried him to a safe corner to look at the blood on his face.

A flash of red, black and green turned the corner and a small whining bark briefly punched through the cacophony of noise near the front of the mall. A heavy knapsack and a foul stench warded off people who came too close and the layer of alcohol on the man's breath gave excuse for his weaving about the sidewalk.

"Look, there's Butch and his mutt." Sammy jerked his chin toward the bus stop, his short pageboy wig cupping his face as he moved. The old man began digging through the small steel cage of trash on the corner as the dog began barking at a passerby. The man responded by kicking at the dog, sending the terrier flying. Turning, Butch grabbed at the dog and fell forward into the street.

The styrofoam cup of coffee flew down to strike the pavement as a ball of white fur clenched tightly against a barrel chest clad in cast off flannel met a wall of iron and rubber.

****

Sammy found Kelly staring off into space under a grove of pepper trees lining the thread of concrete near the park. Singing softly with a throaty growl to a song inside of his head, the blond teen barely glanced up as Sammy tucked his body against his friend's side. Throwing an arm around the smaller boy's shoulder, Kelly closed his eyes as the boy began to weep, long threads of black coursing down his face. Sammy's sobs faded off eventually as Kelly stroked his friend's hair, murmuring refrains of songs that popped into his head. A hiccup settled down in the boy's chest and he scrubbed at his face with the bottom of his shirt.

"You want to know what pisses me off the most?" Sammy swallowed as he nestled further down against Kelly.

"What?" The other boy's response was soft and thoughtful in the full glare of the day.

"I'll never know what happened to that damned Culaan." Kelly looked down at the top of Sammy's head and stroked the soft hair that rested against his shoulders.

The pepper trees sang again in the light wind, their whispers clean and spicy in the exhaust ridden air. Images of spires and swords flung against steel embosses skies rose in Kelly's mind and a woman's husky refrain of freedom being another word rang in his heart.

Looking up at the pale sky, Kelly rocked his friend back and forth as the trees whispered a soft refrain to the words that came pouring from the teen's heart.

"Culaan broke free from his cry and set a steady pace towards the ivory tipped tower scraping on the lavender sky..."

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
wedschilde
Nov. 19th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)
let's see if this works.
testing...testing. let's see if this works.
wedspawn
Nov. 19th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)
Re: let's see if this works.
so that works.
2minlover
May. 4th, 2012 10:52 am (UTC)
Re: let's see if this works.
what worked? testinnggggggggggggggg
wedspawn
May. 4th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
Re: let's see if this works.
heh ::::hugs:::: testing. my LJ was all wonky!
2minlover
May. 4th, 2012 10:53 am (UTC)
Ah, I guess, I'll have to finish that report after all, can't fail the class before the end of the semester...
wedspawn
May. 4th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
You do! HWAITING! ::::cheers you on:::: You can do it!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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