A Collection by
Jeffrey H Toney, PhD
Stepping onto the grimy commuter bus, her beauty jolted me from my daily stupor. Bright red vinyl facing benches held three passengers, one seat unoccupied next to her. I joined her as we jerked towards the next stop. Leaning against the window, warm dry air blew past her cheek gently tickled by a tiny tear trail.
“What’s wrong?” My optimistic fool inquired.
We crashed hard, helpless passengers smacking onto hot metal bulging blisters borne from four tons colliding, her atavistic pop lipstick loam laced with blood, now crimson pin pricks on my glasses, salty on the tip of my tongue.
She was my silversword, a distant cousin to the daisy. Rare and delicate, slowly emerging from fecund volcanic ash, her beauty drew me in. Her shiny veneer reflected the sun as if each leaf had been dipped in silver pools, a sly alien dot rooted in the Haleakalā landscape, the only place on earth where she could be. Unlike the soft petals of her bright yellow cousin, hers had a sharp needlelike point that could draw blood upon the slightest touch. Blossoming only once, a strict requirement of conditions must be met for creation. I touched her, bleeding. She laughed.
One. Left foot tilting towards the right, head lunging for the staircase, saved by his right foot’s purchase on the glistening granite.
Two. A deep breath filled his frail lungs, grateful for this momentary save.
Three. Heart racing, pulsating at his temples, his toes.
Four. He felt her close. It will be OK.
Five. His eyes connected with hers, blue, calm, inviting.
Six. Leaning. Reaching. Empty space. Despair.
Eight. Electric darts, tiny, coalescing.
One. I feel dizzy. How did I get here?
Two. She kissed him, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine times…Home.
They had been chasing me for hours. I was exhausted, terrified yet becoming numb. I had almost escaped, if it weren’t for that damned feral cat’s scream, as I stepped on its tail bolting down the alleyway. I found myself on the tenth floor of some godforsaken building, stinking of tobacco and wrongdoing, navigating rusty fire escapes. They were on my heels every step of the way. My heart pounding, I stood before door # 1 and door # 2. What is this, somebody’s sick joke? Let’s Make a Deal? Opening door #2, I fell into the abyss, sweet relief.
Dr. Toney has published scientific peer-reviewedarticles, news media opinion pieces as well as short fiction stories in O-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal of The Veterans Writing Project, The East Coast Literary Review and in Crack The Spine. Recently, he was nominated for a PushcartPrize for his 100 word story, “The Quiet Raspberry Wormhole” published by Crack The Spine. He serves as Provost and Vice Presidentfor Academic Affairs at Kean University. He volunteers and fundraises for charities such as Music For Relief,founded by Linkin Park, and the RFK Center for Human Rights. He serves on the Steering Committee of theScience and Human Rights Coalition of the American Association for theAdvancement of Science (AAAS). You canfollow him on Twitter @jefftoney, read his blog on The Huffington Post(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jeffrey-h-toney/) and listen to his podcast about how anyone can contribute to human rights issues onTalk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria (http://carasantamaria.com/podcast/jeffrey-toney).
[Jeffrey Toney (r) with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda (l) at Relief Live, celebrating the 10th anniversary of Music For Relief at LA River Studios (November 14, 2015). Music for Relief has raised over $7 million for survivors of multiple disasters across four continents including Hurricane Katrina, China’s Wenchuan earthquake, a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan in 2010, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; see: http://musicforrelief.org/disaster-relief-programs/]