brandon ross

video storyteller

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Waiting

He could hear the water before he could see it.

Roaring and pushing through the forest like an army.

The water was cold and sharp, like needles piercing his ankles as he waded in.

He should have taken off his shoes, but he was too tired.

It was hard to walk as the cold river filled his shoes.

When water splashed his knees, he turned and looked back at the shore.

A small white puppy looked at him with eager eyes, perched on the edge of the bank.

For a second he thought he heard whimpering above the roar of the river, but it was only in his head.

He turned away from the bank and waded deeper.

When I Die

The day will come when I retire
From my earthly shell and all I’ve acquired.

They’ll lay me low in the ground to be
Forever under dirt and tree.

They’ll sit and talk and maybe cry.
They’ll stare and leave and bid me bye.

They’ll think of times they knew me here.
Of joy we shared, of grief and cheer.

Of things I said and things I wrote.
Of song and smile and book and boat.

They’ll remember a house I called my own.
A dog I loved, and folks I’d known.

While I lay in my deep death bed
They’ll think of things that went unsaid.

One day they’ll think back on the day
When death and pain seemed far away.

When sun shone bright and smiles shone wide.
When we all walked with youthful stride.

But what of that will still be shown
Beneath that cold and lonely stone?

What will remain of thoughts as these?
Untouchable, cloudy memories.

No record of the laughs and smiles.
No lessons from the toils and trials.

They’ll walk with hands drawn to their chest,
And leave my body there to rest.

They’ll wander back from time to time
To leave a flower or a rhyme.

To tell me of the things I missed.
To think of old times, reminisce.

They’ll talk to this old garden stone.
And tell me how my kids have grown.

They’ll leave and think of things to come.
Of places to go and errands to run.

They’ll go back home and read a book.
They’ll clean their hands and start to cook.

They’ll eat a meal with their family.
They’ll laugh and smile and watch TV.

They’ll clean their plate and pause to say
“I stopped by Brandon’s grave today.”

The Stranger (A Halloween Story)

If this letter ever reaches you, you’ll know what to do.  Just do the right thing. That’s all I ask.

I should have never opened the door.  Oh why, why!  I had been sitting in that big chair all night staring at the television.  Like I was in some sort of trance, barely breathing.

I can’t even remember what I was watching.  Isn’t that remarkable!  To not remember!

The doorbell was like a loud scream in my ears.  I should have known right then.  It made me jump.  Startled me.  Scared me, really.  Oh, I just thought I was scared then!  Why did I answer the door!

I wasn’t expecting anyone at that time of night.  I tied up my robe and unlocked the door.  That was the moment right then.  The unlocking.  I can still hear the lock click!  I hear it now!  To be able to lock it back now!  And him standing there.  The stranger.

Standing there, soaking wet.  I wanted to look at the puddle at his feet.  But I couldn’t take my eyes away from his stare.

His stare!  I still feel it upon me even now.  It burns through my eyes!

And his hat!  Yes, I just remembered he had a hat.  In his hands.  A large black hat, with a wide brim.  It matched his dark overcoat.

And he didn’t say a word for the longest time.  That stare!  Why didn’t I scream for help, or close the door!

His words were so calm.  They made me feel so calm.  Even now, my racing heart slows to remember those words.

“My truck.  It just died, ma’am.  Might I make a call using your phone?”

Could anyone say no to such a request?  Oh, he knew.  He knew once I unlocked the door.  That was the moment.

And now!  Now I fear he will come for me any minute.  Any of these words could be my last.  I can barely make out these words even as I scribble them down myself.  I am mad with hunger.  He only feeds me pieces!  Tiny pieces, though I beg of him for more!

Do not be as I was!  Do not answer the door.  He will know, if you unlock the door.  That’s when he knows.

For What It’s Worth

At first he thought it was just the wind.

Then he heard it again.

It sounded like a rush of wind pushing through the hallway.

He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. The pillow under his head was cool and damp with sweat.

He waited, listening.

There was a small crack in the ceiling he called Norman.

It looked like the outline of a man’s head to him.

When he first moved into this apartment, he’d tell Norman goodnight every night.

Winter made him forget Norman. He’d lost interest.

He started to feel guilty for abandoning his nightly talk with the crack in the ceiling.

The sound came again. This time he was certain it was coming from the kitchen.

He sighed. He felt like sinking deeper into the mattress and pulling the covers over his head.

He closed his eyes and peeled back the sheets and blankets. Cold air wrapped around his legs.

He swiveled his body around and sat up.

Rubbed his eyes.

Scratched his head.

—~—

His bare feet took him to the kitchen where he considered turning on a light.

He decided not to.

Nothing unusual here.

He remembered Norman and the warm bed. Turning around, his bare feet headed towards the bedroom.

He heard the noise again.

It came from the refrigerator.

He opened the freezer.

The icemaker was whirring.

He pulled up the lever, shutting it off.

—~—

Back in bed.

Staring at Norman.

Norman’s life had continued, even when he had forgotten him.

The nights he never told him goodnight, maybe Norman hadn’t even noticed.

Maybe Norman had new friends now.

He felt strange, considering Norman’s life without him.

Like he should apologize.

Or maybe it was too late.

Too late to make things right.

The silence continued.

He eventually fell asleep, dreaming of a day when he didn’t care.

Leaves

She sat on the front steps for a few minutes to catch her breath.

The breeze blew her hair across her face.

It was a cool breeze. Cooler than before.

Her back hurt. Ached. She straightened out her shoulders and pushed against a column on the porch.

With a sigh, she put her hands on her knees and pushed herself up. She walked inside to get the last box.

Her thin fingers picked through the framed pictures and notebooks crammed in the cardboard box. She found a notebook with “poems” written on it.

She dropped the notebook back in, and bent down to pick up the box.

The box was held against her chest as she walked to the car. It just barely fit into the trunk.

She closed the trunk and looked back at the house.

It looked smaller. It looked older.

Worn.

Aged.

Memories lived in that house. She wished they would stay there, instead of following her.

The car cranked on the first try.

A sign of good luck, she thought.

Leaves were blowing across the road now. It might start raining.

The seatbelt clicked as it buckled, and she settled into the car seat.

In a few seconds she’d be pulling away. She tried to imagine what that would be like. She’d pulled away many times before, but not like this.

Not with everything she owned packed up with her.

She looked down the street. It looked like an airport runway.

Airplanes scared her. The moment they left the ground terrified her. She wished she could hold on to the earth.

Some leaves landed on her windshield. They tangled with the breeze before blowing away.

The car fumes were filling up her nostrils. She checked her watch and pulled away from the curb.

Slowly at first.

She kept her eyes on the road. The passing houses were already in her memory.

She pushed the car faster now. She should be happy, she thought. This is what she wanted, after all.

But she wasn’t happy. And it didn’t seem like what she wanted.

She felt as if the car was filling up with water. Getting heavier. Her breaths became more shallow. Faster.

The moment overwhelmed her. She felt time passing ever so slowly. She dared not look back.

She felt heavier than ever. So full of emotions. Thoughts. Memories of a life she was leaving behind.

How could she also feel so empty?

She reached for her purse and moved it to her lap. She shuffled around and found a piece of paper with an address scribbled onto it.

She clipped the paper to the visor above her windshield.

Then the rain started.

Light sprinkles, then splatters.

Faster and harder.

She flipped the wipers on and watched them smear the windshield. The rain got harder.

Blowing leaves now stuck on the glass. The wipers piled them at the bottom of the dash.

Green leaves. She wondered why they weren’t brown and dead.

It’s like they’d been pulled off the tree while they were still growing.

The exit to the interstate was just ahead, so she flipped the blinker on.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

She slowed down just enough to merge into the heavy traffic.

The traffic swallowed her up. She became just another car.

Just another driver.

She would follow this road for miles.

© September 10, 2008

What I Haven’t Been Up To

I hate when people ask what I’ve been up to.

It’s such a default question.

Starting today, I will not be answering that question.

Instead, I shall be answering what I haven’t been up to.

No one ever asks.

Here’s what I haven’t been up to.

Kidnapping.

Yelling.

Drinking cat urine.

Staying in touch.

Listening to rap music.

Singing in public.

Learning a new language.

Murder.

Spending time on my myspace blog.

Exercising regularly.

Avoiding worry, confusion, and frustration.

Getting a haircut.

Buying sneakers.

Farming.

Missing my days in television news.

Pursuing a relationship.

Working on my newest invention: Ear Socks.

Dancing.

Giving obscene nicknames to everyone I know.

Drinking enough water.

© July 25, 2008

Hair On The Floor

His hands smelled like pennies.

He smelled his palm and could taste it in his mouth.

Outside the window, cars floated by silently.

The window was smudged with fingerprints and dirt.

Someone should clean it, he thought.

A bell clanked against the door, as a man with wrinkled grey skin shuffled into the barber shop.

“Hey, Harold,” he said.

The old man shuffled to the big black chair, staring at the floor.

“Its’ Friday,” the old man said.

“It sure is.”

Bobby owned the shop. His father left it to him 23 years ago, when he retired. It had provided Bobby with a stable job, and kept him from having to go to college.

The old man settled into the chair, shifting from side to side with his elbows. Bobby threw a cape over the man’s chest.

“Can’t believe it’s already Friday.”

“Wilma ain’t doing good at all,” the old man announced.

“Sorry to hear that, Harold. So sorry to hear that.”

“She can’t get out of bed no more. It’s her legs. They done stopped working.”

Bobby studied his shears. The polish had worn off around the rings. They needed sharpening.

The old man heaved a sigh. The cape lifted with him, then floated down over his knees.

“The doctor ain’t no help. Never has been. They don’t know nothing.”

“Yeah,” Bobby mumbled.

He remembered being a boy, sitting in the corner while his dad cut hair. It was the same big black chair he’d climb in when the shop was empty.

Back then his dad’s razors were magic wands. Mysterious machines that whirred and buzzed until the cape flew off the man in the chair and he stood up, brushing hair off his neck.

They’d always stoop over, nose almost touching the mirror, squinting. They’d run their fingers above their ears, and eventually nod approvingly.

There was nothing magical about cutting hair anymore.

“For God’s sake, she’s 83 years old. Ain’t she got a right to stay in bed?”

“Sure does, Harold. She’s earned it.”

Another heavy sigh and the hair on the cape slipped to the floor.

Bobby pulled the cape off, the old man stood up, and stooped to squint into the mirror.

“Ten dollars, Harold. Sure hope Wilma comes around.”

“Oh, she’ll be fine. The doctors said so.”

The bell clanged and Bobby grabbed his broom from behind the door. He watched the old man shuffle to his car.

Someone should clean this window, he thought.

© March 22, 2008

I’ll Have None of That

Carefully padding through the leaves, he saw nothing but a blanket of orange and brown over the forest floor.

The rifle in his left hand hung like a pendulum. His hand, slippery with sweat, struggled to hold on.

Clish-clash. Clish-clash.
The leaves spoke too loudly.

The snow shoes probably didn’t help.

It was 63 degrees. Why was he wearing snow shoes?

The orange leaves glowed where sunlight hit them.

In the distance, a lump of brown.

He shuffled his snow shoes as fast as he could.

Clish-clash-clish-clash-clish-clash.

He didn’t have to look, he knew it was Sammy.

Curse the broken fence. Why hadn’t he fixed it?

Why hadn’t he checked on Sammy before he went to bed last night?

He accused himself.

He blamed himself.

He spent the next hour erecting a cross and carving out a crude tombstone from a Taco Bell receipt and two drinking straws.

“Here lies Sammy, my pet turkey.”

He could still hear Sammy’s gobble.

Picking up Sammy by his limp feet, he slung the bird over his shoulder.

Clish-clash. Clish-clash.

“Well,” he thought, “at least we’ll eat well this Thanksgiving.”

He could almost smell the roasting turkey, as he shuffled back to the house.

© November 22, 2006

The Destiny of Roadkill

I hate passing roadkill when I drive.

It’s depressing.

I can’t help but imagine the animal as a newborn baby.

At some point in time, that rotting carcass on the side of the road was some animal’s baby.

It was the most important thing in the world to its mother.

How sad that it would end up abandoned on the side of the road.

I was in the mall a few days ago, and passed an old man in a wheelchair.

He was alone.

His face had the saddest expression I’ve ever seen. His mouth was drawn down and his eyes had no sense of purpose.

I thought about the day he was born.

A proud mother held her tiny, screaming baby.

She held such hope for him.

What would she think if she could see him now?

If she had known the tragedy to befall her son, would that day still hold such hope?

How many of us would bring a child into the world, knowing how much that child will suffer?

Why is tragedy such a part of the human condition?

Short is the path between hope and dispair.

One of the people I respect most in this world gave me a very useful compliment.

He said I am aware of my insignificance.

One day I will be buried in a grave somewhere.

Abandoned, save for a stone marker.

My day-to-day actions seem to have little impact on that end.

Yet, I can argue that my day-to-day actions have everything to do with that end.

Perhaps we should not be measured by our greatest accomplishments, but by the most mundane of our day-to-day activities. Those are what constitute most of our being.

© November 14, 2006

Screw You.

Sometimes I’d like to heave my least favorite people onto a giant pile of burning tires.

But that’s not why I called you here.

I called you here to talk about your grades.

They’re bad.

Really bad.

So bad, in fact, that we’re going to have to send you to DisneyWorld.

You, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy on the Tower of Terror.

Hold on to your mouse pants.

And if your grades don’t improve, we might have to buy you a car.

Ever heard of a PT Cruiser?

You’ll wish you hadn’t after everyone makes fun of it.

I guess what I’m getting at is your future.

We’re worried, Jarvus, that you’re not taking your future seriously.

The bad grades are just the tip of the iceberg.

What about the late nights when you don’t come home until 3 a.m., reaking of liquor and cigarettes?

Do you really think I can’t smell the weed you’re smoking in your bedroom closet?

In hindsight, having our home mortgage put in your name was a bad idea.

Not to mention the exotic pet permit we helped you apply for.

I just don’t think we can do it anymore, Jarvus.

Your mother and I are moving out.

You’re old enough to start living on your own.

In parts of Africa, boys are turned out of the home at the age of 10.

Turned out of the hut, rather.

What was my point?

Oh yes – your grades.

When I was in school, my parents couldn’t afford to drive me back and forth.

I was mailed in a large FedEx box.

Signature confirmation, of course.

Anyway, the point is that we think you’re mildly retarded, and we’re really afraid we’ll be stuck taking care of you for the rest of our lives.

We’ve got a good 30 years of life left, and we don’t want to be held down, just because we made a bad decision 15 years ago in the bathroom of a Taco Bell.

So good luck, Jarvus.

Tell Mickey hi for me.

© October 24, 2006