Bourbon Penn 1


by Ray Carns

I’m sitting in the chair in the corner of our bedroom where I’ve been sending telepathic messages to Elyse, my wife, since one forty-five. I’m concentrating very hard.

“What are you doing?” she asks, head buried under the comforter.

“Sending you telepathic messages.”

“Dan, it’s three thirty. I’m not receiving. Go to bed.”

I send three more messages before I crawl into bed next to her. She radiates warmth. I send another message, my forehead two inches from the back of her head.

“Go . . . to . . . sleep.”

I turn off my transmitter and roll over, my back against hers.

At three after five I wake, groggy from a night of transmission and little sleep. Elyse is already out of bed. I hear metallic noises. Elyse is either putting pots and pans away or fashioning something out of metal—perhaps a steel pie pan in the shape of a bear trap or a one two-hundredth scale copper jello mold of the Empire State Building.

I enter the kitchen after I shower and dress, eager to see what she’s made.

“How do you want your eggs?”

“You really weren’t receiving, were you?” I look at Elyse in her pink angora robe and slippers, holding a carton of eggs. “I have to go.”

She puts the eggs back in the refrigerator. “Don’t forget your world globe,” she says as I head out the door.

On the street, world globe in hand, I realize I should have worn a jacket. The spring air is cool, the sky overcast. I try sending a telepathic message, but I have a headache and all I get is interference. Walking up the front steps, I search my pockets to discover I don’t have my keys—probably in my forgotten jacket. I ring the doorbell.

“Silly. Did you forget your keys again?” Elyse says, opening the door for me. “You forgot your jacket, too, I see.”

I close the door behind me as Elyse heads toward the back of the house and the smell of waffles. I follow her, studying her from behind. I’m confused. There’s something different about her. She’s dressed like one of the biergarten girls at Octoberfest, her blond hair in pigtails, green Crocs on her feet. What happened to her angora robe and slippers? I sit at the table.

“I got your message.”

“Which one?”

Elyse brings me a plate of waffles.

“Oh, that message.”

I set the world globe on the end of the table. There is a red dot on Estonia.

“Should I make more?” she asks as she pushes the bottle of maple syrup toward me.

“No. Five is plenty.”

She tilts her head to the side and smiles like Elyse.

She sounds like Elyse. She looks like Elyse. But, she’s not My Elyse. She’s not exactly like My Elyse. This Other Elyse is not as thin. Maybe an inch taller. My Elyse and Other Elyse look so much alike they could be twins, or at least sisters.

Other Elyse cleans the kitchen while I finish breakfast.

“I made coffee. We can have it in the garden like you asked.” Other Elyse heads for the backdoor with a tray containing a pot of coffee and two cups, cream and sugar. Telepathic message number two received.

I follow her outside to the table in the garden. This house, this garden, this Other Elyse is somehow familiar, yet still different. I pour us both coffee. She hands me the Obituary section of the paper. Addendum to message number two received.

“I know you think coffee should only be consumed black, but this morning I absolutely need cream and sugar.”

“Go right ahead,” I say. “Sometimes you need to change. Don’t want to be stuck in a rut.”

“No. One certainly doesn’t.”

After coffee, Other Elyse takes the tray with the used coffee cups and pot into the house. I straighten the sections of newspaper and fold them into fourths, leaving them on the table as I walk through the garden. The hydrangeas are in bloom, looking like giant pom-poms. I put on gloves from the potting shed and take a tarnished sterling silver fork and a kneeling pad with me to the New Dawn roses along the back wall and weed around the bushes for half an hour.

I go inside to Other Elyse. I had become so absorbed in my gardening I had forgotten about My Elyse and Other Elyse. This is quite perplexing. But clearly, Other Elyse has been receiving my telepathic messages. I feel very tired. I yawn and stretch in the kitchen doorway.

“Ready for a nap, Dan?” Other Elyse asks.

I nod my head and she takes my hand, leading me into the bedroom. I watch her as we undress. Naked, Other Elyse looks exactly like My Elyse, except for a slight pooch at the stomach, which I find quite sexy, and a birth mark on the side of her left breast shaped like France.

I’m awake at one fifteen. I send more messages while standing at the side of the bed. The afternoon sun is shining through the curtains, filling the room with a soft light. Other Elyse stirs, but doesn’t wake. I’m not sure if my messages are getting through. I concentrate harder and furrow my forehead, but that hurts, so I stop. I figure Other Elyse has gotten the message. I can tell, because she stirs in her sleep and mumbles an indistinct word or two. She’s a good receiver. My Elyse is never very good at receiving. It’s hit or miss. Mostly miss.

I slip on my purple, cashmere robe. This is my favorite robe. I’m not sure how I know it’s my favorite, but I do, even though I’ve never seen it before. I walk into the kitchen to make a cup of guava tea. The world globe is still on the table. The red dot has moved to Russia. I stare at the dot for several seconds then make my tea and head into the garden.

Other Elyse joins me in the garden with her cup of tea and a bowl of kumquats. She’s barefoot and wearing a yellow raincoat and yellow rain bonnet.

“I see the red dot’s moved to Russia.”

I nod my head. “I’m afraid it has.”

“Anything you can do about it?”

“I sent two messages earlier. That’s all I can do.”

We sip our tea in silence.

I notice the neighbor balancing on the back fence taking pictures of Other Elyse with his Cameramatic 500, the telephoto lens extending a full four feet onto our property. I can tell by his concentration he’s focusing on Other Elyse’s left foot — the perfect one. Most people can’t tell the difference, but while the right foot is near perfection, the left is perfection itself. I don’t know how I know this, but I do. It’s a fact, and I accept it.

“Hey! Stop that!” I throw a kumquat at him.

The neighbor drops the camera and falls behind the fence. The lens shatters on the ground near the New Dawn roses. I think of the glass I’ll need to suck up with the shop vac.

“My eye,” the neighbor cries. Or maybe it’s, “My thigh”. It’s hard to tell through the fence. “I’m gonna sue you.”

“You go right ahead, you big peeper,” I say, picking up pieces of broken lens. “I’ve got evidence.”

I send a telepathic message to the police with images of the crime.

Other Elyse and I go back into the house. The red dot has moved to Finland. We look at each other.

“You better get ready for work,” she says. “I’ll pack your dinner and make you a bite to eat.”

I put the pieces of broken lens glass on the table next to the world globe and go to the bathroom to shower.

When I come out, Other Elyse has lunch on the table—a sardine-and-watercress sandwich and a glass of Ovaltine. I hear a siren. It sounds like it stops at the neighbor’s. Another message received. I can only hope my messages to Finland got through in time, but it’s doubtful, since the red dot’s moved to Sweden. When I look closer, the red dot seems to have migrated toward Norway. Once it gets to Norway and into the fjords, it’s all over. I send telepathic messages to Sweden and Norway. All I can do at this stage is wish them luck and hope my messages have reached them in time.

“I’ve got to go,” I say.

“Don’t forget your dinner.” Other Elyse hands me the world globe. “I packed it inside so it stays warm.”

I tuck the world globe under my arm, the warmth of my dinner radiating from the orb. Other Elyse kisses me on the lips as though she thinks she’ll never see me again. My Elyse never kisses like this, but now’s no time to make comparisons. I head out the door.

A block down the street, I realize I’ve forgotten my jacket again. And my keys. I send a telepathic message as I head back to the house.

A woman answers the door. She looks like My Elyse and Other Elyse, except she’s Asian. Japanese, I think, but I’m not sure. Perhaps Korean. She’s wearing a red silk kimono with a blue-and-gold peacock embroidered on the back.

“Thank goodness you’re here. Norway’s been trying to reach you. Don’t forget your slippers.” She points at my shoes.

She takes the world globe. As I take off my shoes and put on my slippers, I notice the red dot has moved to the center of Norway. Asian Elyse leads me into the study. “I’ll make tea,” she says, placing the world globe on the edge of the desk in the center of the room.

I sit at the desk and position the International Receiver onto my head. I lower the visor and adjust the antennae. Norway and Sweden are on the line. There is static. I adjust the frequency. Finland is also on the line.

Asian Elyse sets the tea tray on the desk. “The tea needs to steep a bit longer,” she says, moving behind me, adjusting the potentiometer on the back of the International Receiver. Static on the line recedes.

“We couldn’t stop it,” says Finland.

“It seems to be fond of the moose,” says Norway. “That’s kept it from going into the fjords for a while.”

“You need to keep it landlocked,” says Sweden. “Once it gets into the water, we’re done for.”

“Norway, you need to force the red dot west,” I say, breaking in. “Herd the moose inland, and the red dot will follow. When you get the red dot close to the Swedish border, fly in several helicopters and drop fish paste on the red dot. This will attract the foxes. The moose will flee south, but the red dot will be weighed down with fish paste and unable to follow. Then the foxes will move in, lured by the smell of fish, and feed on the red dot. After the foxes leave, move in and make sure every remaining piece of the red dot is recovered and incinerated.”

Asian Elyse pours my tea into a china teacup with an image of a dragon encircling the lip.

“What about the red foxes?” asks Norway. “Won’t they be harmed from eating the red dot?”

“At most, only indigestion,” I say. “If they get it bad and go down, pump twenty milliliters of pepto into them and call me in the morning.”

Norway, Sweden and Finland sign off and I remove the International Receiver.

“Another crisis averted. I think.”

Asian Elyse smiles at me as she takes the International Receiver and places it back on the desk.

“You did well today,” she says.

I nod in agreement. It may be a bit early to claim victory, but I have faith in the plan. I drink the tea she brewed. It’s Ti Kuan Yin.

Asian Elyse removes a pair of stainless steel chopsticks from the cup of pens on the desk, hands them to me, and unveils dinner. Steam rises from the sauerkraut and sausages nestled in the lower half of the globe.

After dinner and a short nap, Asian Elyse massages my back, walking along my spine from cervix to coccyx, while reciting haiku and tanka. She balances on my shoulders, digs her toes into taut muscles. I sigh with relief as the weight of the red dot scare rises from my body.

The blue light on the side of the International Receiver blinks. Asian Elyse leaps from my back, kimono billowing behind. She removes the receiver from the desk and helps position it on my head.

“I need to go,” I say, removing the receiver and placing it back on the desk.

I slip on my clothes and head for the door.

“Don’t forget your globe,” she says. “I packed your favorite — brown sauce noodles.”

I tuck the globe under my arm and head out the door. I notice my shirt is misbuttoned, the left front tail longer than the right.

Asian Elyse rebuttons my shirt, pulls on my lapels, drawing me closer.

“Come back soon.”

She kisses me with a brush of her lips, as light as a breeze from a butterfly’s wings.

I don’t want to leave, but I head out the door. Duty calls. Asian Elyse stands in the doorway as I walk down the steps and turn left on the sidewalk. I glance back as the door closes. I walk another minute and remember I’ve forgotten my coat and keys again. I turn around.

The door is locked. I ring the bell.

“Hard day on the job?” My Elyse asks.

My Elyse is in her pink, angora robe and slippers. The smell of breakfast wafts from the kitchen.

“I received your message,” she says as she takes the globe, placing it on the entry table. “I’ve been working hard all day on it.”

I walk into the kitchen, avoiding the bear-trap shaped omelets placed in strategic positions around the breakfast table. In the center of the floor is a towering stack of waffles reproducing the Empire State building in one two-hundredth scale. Melted butter and maple syrup drip down the west face of the structure.

My Elyse stands next to her creation, spatula in hand, smiling.

Ray Carns lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where he is enrolled in the Creative Writing Program at Phoenix College. Ray’s entries in the Maricopa Community Colleges Creative Writing Competition have earned him Honorable Mention for both a one-act play and short story in 2010 and Third Place for a one-act play in 2011. Ray has fiction forthcoming in the Journal of Microliterature and poetry in this – a literary webzine.