Poetry

The Recipe

by Jane Gilday

.
THE RECIPE

Well, well I have love on my mind, I need a recipe, the old-fashioned kind
and I been looking here and there, been looking high and low
and I think I got something solid, something solid to hold.

Here it comes:
It don’t take no rush, it don’t take no thrill, it don’t take no kinda hush all over the world,
it don’t take no check, it don’t take no law, don’t take no kissing cousins or sweet grandma,
it just takes one part soul and one part light, stir them up kindly ’til they take up right
and you’ll have love, love, the real sweet kind, you’ll have love, love can make ya go blind.

Well lead me on:
it don’t take no dissing, takes no awards, don’t take no zoning board or border wars,
it don’t take no great divide or no vizier, don’t take no one-man-show or a luxury car,
it don’t take no court or election night, it don’t take no cloudy day or suspicious minds,
it don’t take nothing away, it don’t take sacrilege, it don’t take dead-end jobs or cherry pie,
it just takes one part soul and one part light, stir them up kindly and they’ll come out alright
and you’ll have love, love, the real sweet tasty kind, you’ll have love, love, the real sweet tasty kind.
Don’t take no amusement park, it don’t take no mountain hike, it don’t take no world premier,
or no fast motorbike, it don’t take under toe, it don’t take royalty, it don’t take by-the-hour,
it’s no spending spree, it don’t take no best-seller, don’t take no abuse, it takes no giveaways,
it never sings the blues, it don’t take no chains nor no weatherman, it don’t take no exit poll
or emergency plan, it just takes one part soul and one part light, you stir ’em up kindly
’til they come up right you’ll have love, love–the real recipe–from the good book of eternity.

 

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Jane Gilday is an artist, poet and musician who lives in Pennsylvania. Her artist statement: “jane gilday is 8 years old and likes to color”

Here’s a link to The Recipe on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user200829/the-recipe-by-janey-the

or Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSmhhQLjrCc&list=UU0mBECkX3hUOevWxgel1Icw

 

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Jane3

art by Jane Gilday

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Art, Interview

art by Jane Gilday

Jane1

Merida Review: How long have you been painting/writing/making music? (Yeah, we’re focusing on the art here, but it all feeds into each other, doesn’t it?)

Jane Gilday: been painting & drawing–“i wanna do coloring!”–as long as i can remember…my next-oldest sister, connie,(7 years older than me) also draws and paints, and from earliest days i wanted to do what she was doing..my mom played piano and i banged around on it, just making noise, but music making really grabbed hold of me at age 13, when the beatles hit the USA…zoom! never looked back…was playing in my first bands, for money even, by age 14.

 

jane9Arbor Birds

Acrylic on Panel

MR: What were some of your early influences?

JG: visual art: albert pinkham ryder….andrew wyeth…fabrics…wallpaper….my sister connie’s drawings & paintings…everything seen just looking at the world around me…the many, many amazing illustrations in a 1920’s edition of ‘my book house’ that mom had found somewhere…my sister still has some of those books and i’ve bought my own–the ‘good ones’ from the 20’s & 30’s–at local flea markets…music: all kinda pop-rock-folk music heard on radio starting in the mid-1950’s..the zillions of 45’s my sisters trudy and connie had…the classical music mom played on piano and listened to on records…later all the beatle-stones-brit explosion bands, then dylan, then holy modal rounders, new lost city ramblers, incredible string band, then tons of rootsy-folk music and jazz etc….then patti smith (whose music-critic writing in creem etc i loved before she started a band, television, tons more….oh THE BLUE NILE i love the blue nile to the nth degree—plus assorted poets for lyrical content & inspiration etc

jane13

Happy Woman on Stoop

Acrylic on panel

MR: Do you know what you’re going to draw/write/etc when you start a project? Or does it just kind of come to you? Or some of both? I guess I mean, how thought out is it, and how much is spontaneous? Does that make sense?

JG: some of both tho what i love best is just starting with no preconception and seeing what happens…i love on-the-spot messy accidents and getting to that totally empty blank-mind state when there’s no words, just visual visual visual…same with music, tho obviously some songs have more deliberate shaping & sculpting to them..but i always try to record new ideas as soon as possible after they’ve occurred to me….i.e. “first thought, best thought”

jane18Laptop Lounge Girls

Acrylic on panel

MR: Can you describe a day in your life? Any day.

JG: i wake up, have a bowl of the thick soups–more like stew–i make in crock pots, then an apple or orange…read while eating…then maybe play guitar some..then go to coffee shop for wi-fi..then do whatever seems like the best thing to do that day…no set pattern.

jane20Belladonna

Acrylic and interference medium on canvas

MR: Do you have a favorite of your own works?

JG: there’s a few, but one is ‘harmonious essence of genesis’, a madonna kinda thing, owned by michael joseph who lives in nyc…michael is the curator of ancient manuscripts at rutgers university library–it’s among my facebook photos…mike is a writer….another is called ‘crucifixion of kathleen’–a triptych, and i think all or part of it is somewhere among my facebook photos…it’s in a private collection in pennsylvania.

jane25

Autumn Moonrise on Rocktown Road

MR: How did you get from punk to banjo???

JG : imo punk IS banjo and banjo is punk is rock is classical etc….long before i went to nyc & played in ‘the the’ i was playing banjo, fiddle, oldtime & roots & folk & jazz etc– from age 15 on…..tho i use such terms for convenience’s sake, i dont really believe in punk or americana or jazz or rock or classical or folk or ANY other such academic-reactionary needless-meaningless ‘definition’..music is just music and there’s only two kinds: good music and bad music…as duke ellington aspired to in his music: “beyond category”..and .as louis armstrong said: “it’s all folk music–i aint never seen no horse play music.”…and as keith richards said: “there’s only one note–you just stretch it this was and then that way”

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Jane Gilday is an artist, musician and poet living in Pennsylvania. Her artist statement: “jane gilday is 8 years old and likes to color

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Poetry

Million Air’s Roe and other poems

by Jane Gilday

MILLION AIR’S ROE

Not the words they specify, instead
call it a zone, a territory or call
it home, a dwelling, a community,
a church, anything but an ice
cave, a glacier, a cathedral
stolen from the seasons unbound.
Paint yourself green then blue then
both and that’s getting close.
Down where the water turns to
more water and nobody has to
water it, down where liberty is
standing forever, down where
gulls cry all day long in swooping
joy for their wings, there is
where all is found and all is never lost

 

T-SHIRTS

T-shirts with slogans
with faces, with pictures
with numbers on bodies.
Bodies with tattoos
with baggage with both
with wrinkles with shadows
withholding thought.

 

AND THEY DO

I have met the 1,873 people I met
in heaven and like them all. Most
of them are always here but a few
move away–nobody knows where
to now and then. All the rest know
a good thing when they see it. And they do.

We can’t recall or feel the endings
too much to pay, know, too much.
So we recall a moving van, a transfer.
We recall smooth life goes on instead

Nobody here feels small or shamed, no
sorrow, no guilt. Instead spirits, joy,
delight like a garden. Sparkle of the
open halo and icons that aren’t just
decorations. The place just right.

Weary of all the who you are’s, you
recast the dimensions, being and
becoming the other who else you
are’s, a process of refinement.

Side to side, happy bottom, sway and
sway and sway. Shaking in wonder.
There are internal smiles, absolute no-clause
joys, ecstasy with no fine print or payback.
This is luck as a manifest state of states.
This is where light embraces you, when
all the baggage, burdens and boulders
have gone, flown away with rancor,
fear, shames, chains and regret. You
have won a triumph of this life.
And you are blessed.

You came out of that sad sunday
dream face of sleeping, free
of apology, free of subservience.
Wear the morning dress of a
dove and the wings of an angel.

Oh spinning orbits of desire,
of longing, of cinderella’s
sleeping beauty now unbound.

To not understand any of this. free
upon the fens, laughing in the
estuarial winds, feet wet in some
forever springtide, could you
conceive or dreams of more? No.
Who rides these sands, rides
upon centuries, in familiar arms
loving in all directions. Never can
I ever hope to be thankful enough
and never again do I wish to
forget any lessons, any graces,
any merit, beauty, worth or treasure.

This is all unmeasurable. Rightly so.

There is nothing to be done about it,
any of it, the past beyond redress
or alteration, the now always too swift,
too difficult, too demanding. The future
ever more likely to further remove hopes,
dreams, possibilities, gladdenings.

Some kind of two edge deal. All these gifts
but all these shipwrecks. A stormy night
on a perfect morning. I wanted to soak
under the downpouring and just weep.

 

TESS RIVERS

O, were we the same–in age in
inclination, in desire, drive, temperment.
You are the plaid girl, Wilkes-Barres,
1961, the greatest puzzle. Some gate
opened for one tiny moment between
vast dimensions, then decades ahead
knowing that lostness, that beyond all
reach, that empty question mark,
unsettle, unreal, lept from nowhere.

Kept from any attainment, ever.

 

BE BORN

You say no
but I say sure
I’m always bathing
in the water cure.
You see danger
I see oceans,
you see hazards,
I see motions.
You see darkness,
I see day glo
and I loved everyone
not long ago.

 

SATAN

satan created picture show
all them false dreams
down below

beezelbub made a motor car
everybody driving
to whiskey bars

 

HEXED

I been hexed by plenty witches
some close by, some long-distance.
Vexing yes but what care me,
having spell immunity.

 

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Jane Gilday is a visual artist, musician and writer who lives in the New Hope PA area. Jane is eight years old, kinda, who likes to color, sing imaginary songs and dream up stories. Water is her favorite molecule.

 

Photo by Eleanor Bennett

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Poetry

The street at the end of the world and other poems

by Cher Bibler

The street at the end of the world

quietly, quietly, it’s calling you
your soul throbs in spite of itself
you’ve closed your ears to the sound
but the vibrations shake your core
you find yourself looking for it even though you
swore you wouldn’t
it’s the place you can almost see when
you stumble home drunk in the
middle of the night
it’s the pool of light made by one lonely streetlight
it’s the bar on the corner where
people look hard and unforgiving
it’s the safe little house full of family that you
pass on your way
peeking in at the one window left ajar
letting the calm and peace inside escape
you watch it dissipate into the
night air you hold on to your aching
heart suddenly grown too large to handle
it’s the sound of your footsteps on the sidewalk
breaking the oily silence
it’s the memory of his skin pressed up against yours
long lazy mornings when all is
put aside it’s the shadow of a streetdog shirking
in dark corners watching warily as you
go by wondering why you’re there
why you’re disturbing his world
why you’re passing through his space

Tick Tock

Tick Tock
you will know
you will realize somehow that I’ve
tiptoed toward the door Tick Tock
you will wake up
you will realize something’s afoot
Oho! you will say What’s this?
I will grin sheepishly and say Nothing
that I was just going out for a
drink of water and hope you
don’t see my bag packed on the
floor behind me Tick Tock I will be afraid
to move afraid to breathe
you will look at me suspiciously
I will laugh at your skepticism
Who me? I will say and then
maybe you will fall back to sleep reassured
and I can make a run for it
Tick Tock

Poster child of sanity

You are the closest thing I have to
someone who loves me, so I
cling to you. You are my only hope.
You are surprised by this, you’re
not sure what I’m doing.
You like the attention, but the
intensity of it worries you a bit.
When I get angry and withdraw it,
try to move on (as I know is
best for me), you are shocked,
bereft from the loss.
This actually says more about you than
it does me, and I am not
a poster child of sanity.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Review and worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo.

She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in an indie film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, I am never sure when, was a finalist in the 2012  Faulkner competition.  Her poetry has appeared in such publications as This Side of Paradise, Blue Hour Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Thirteen Myna Birds and The Evergreen Review, as well as the first Blue Hour Anthology.

She  resides in Merida, Mexico, is supporting herself playing music, and serves as the content editor of In Other Words: Merida. You can hear some music at http://www.reverbnation.com/cherbibler

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Jane6

Artist: Jane Gilday

Lambertville Towpath, Blossoms

acrylic on panel

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Poetry

Sack and Roam and other poems

by Jane Gilday

SACK AND ROAM

tie a slip and you not
anything they taught
half a mind to shout
whole lotta get out

gitchee goomee gumbo girl
wetter than a pretty pearl
in every house right now
whole lotta holy cow

try this at home
kid you not
we sack and roam
mad daddies no catch up
to the new sissy strut

shake a leg and lend a hand
it dont matter how you stand
every sticker gonna bump
whole lotta here we come

give em plenty of rope
every nasty jackalope
diamond ring and ruby thrown
whole lotta no no no

hello future early bird
gimme goody goody words
monkey bizness gotta change
whole lotta free range

AINT THAT ENOUGH

got a buzzing in my belly
and it hits me like a rush
your skin is butter honey
gotta sweety sticky touch
you start talking bout your troubles
and i say hush hush
cause i love you
aint that enough

i wrap your sorrows in a package
to ship them on a trip
with a one-way ticket
nobody needs that kinda shit
i’ll be your life preserver
when the waters get too rough
cause i love you
aint that enough?

PATH

such a difficult path
to have to wander
wild and bluer
and yonder and yonder.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jane Gilday is a visual artist, musician and writer who lives in the New Hope PA area. Jane is eight years old, kinda, who likes to color, sing imaginary songs and dream up stories. Water is her favorite molecule.

diane grondin 3

Photo by: Diane Grondin

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Fiction

Jehrico and Chico the Mexican Orphan

by Tom Sheehan

“I swear,” stammered Collie Sizemore as he spouted to the patrons in Hagen’s Saloon in Bola City, “this gent out there has a little tyke with him looks the spittin’ image of Jehrico.” He was looking out the door of the saloon at the hitching rail. “Kid has the same eyes lookin’ at things like he’s ameasurin’ any way to get more out of it that’s been dead for so long it’s rusted or broke or half what it once was, and if that ain’t a clue for some shenanigans, I’d take it home and mother it, so to speak. You never saw the look-alike like this look-alike.”

He stared around the whole room, saw many of the familiar faces that had seen good old Jehrico at his very best, and further spent his thoughts; “Jehrico and Lupalazo and their whole gang gone for near a whole year now and this damned town just ain’t the same, but this kid I’m seein’ starts me to hopin’ all over again just like Jehrico was out and about afore we met him.” His wink of inner knowledge was as wide as a prairie schooner in the wind. And there was enough innuendo in his spouting that heads began to nod the affirmative way, and talk started, and laughter, and old Jehrico tales started all over again in solid rounds as good storytelling swung its way through the saloon.

Keen joy, laughter, hurrahs and guffaws made their bardic announcements. “Never was such a sight as him comin’ down the stretch with a real honest-to-goodness people’s  iron washin’ tub on a pair of old wheels he pulled free of some canyon yonder and brung home.” “Yah, well what about that cock-eyed burro or that damned if it ain’t or was a real wolf pup he skinkered on some jazbo waitin’ on revenge and who ain’t got half of it yet?”

The knee-slapping and table banging carried forth at each tale, like voice pages of a book.

Collie, of course, knew what was at hand: another good day in Hagen’s that he could talk about for another whole year.

Out front of Hagen’s, even as Collie Sizemore kept sizing up things, the boy Chico was staring at parts of Bola City as if he were star-gazing. “Is this really the place, Lew, where this Jehrico lives?”

“It was so the last time I heard, Chico, Part and parcel he is of Bola City.” His eyes went again to the Hagen sign and he offered up what he figured was his best advice of the day. “We best go wet these dry throats, Chico, if they’ll let you in. If they don’t, I’ll buy a couple of bottles and we’ll go smother it some other place real handy.”

He had a second thought and asked, “What will you tell this fella Jehrico if he asks you where you come from in the beginning?”

Chico Vestra replied, in his honest and best voice, “Soy un huérfano de una ciudad verde pálida, abajo en México.” His words carried close to 8 years of determination in them. In English he explained, “If he’s really from Mexico, he’ll know I said, ‘I am an orphan from a pale green city, down in Mexico.’”

Osgood, 32, ex-sheriff, ex-train robber, ex-prisoner of the territorial jail, now a miner convinced gold was always underfoot, had become so fond of the boy, he was afraid of what might happen when the junk collector met and came to know the boy as he did. There’d be a final separation without a doubt.

Sizemore stepped aside when they entered Hagen’s Saloon, but he said, “No chickens allowed in here.”

Osgood, surprised, bristled and replied, “You ain’t telling me he can’t come in here.” He looked down the full length of Sizemore, his face reflecting his measure of the man. “We’re just here looking for a father for him.”

Of course, Sizemore only heard what he wanted to hear, as he spun about and yelled out, “You hear that? Didn’t I tell you? He’s lookin’ for his father. I wish to Hell that Jehrico was here right now. We’d have ourselves a party, a celebration to end ‘em all.” Around the room he jumped and hooted, yelling all the way, “Wouldn’t that be a time? Wouldn’t it? My, oh my, just think about it. Makes me think the mornin’s  beans’re all sweet. Think on Jehrico findin’ this tyke and him not all used up.” His laughter was contagious, spreading like germs around the room, finding titters and guffaws and solid laughter that was first held in check and then let go like the customers were all saying “What the Hell!”

Surprised again, Osgood said, “Where is the Mexican junk collector? That’s who we’re looking for.”

“Hate to throw a downer at you, mister,” Sizemore said, “but Jehrico and Lupalazo brought their selves and kids down Mexico way ‘bout a year ago.”

Bobby Bell, Hagen’s bartender, looked at Chico and said to Osgood, “That boy, does he want a sarsaparilla, mister? He looks dry as a prairie skull. Bring him up here. I’ll fix his ailments, he got any.”

“He’s sound as a hickory bow, this boy, and just as true. Been on his own so long he owns where he’s been. But it’s never been home. I can’t make one for him, not the way I hoof around, but I heard about this Jehrico fella and Chico here’s a new image of him from what I heard along the trail all the way through some of them territories north of here and looking for life. Chico, he sees through things dead or not, useless or not, worth something or not. He’s special and needs a special man. That ain’t me and none of you here, from what I see and heard already.”

Chico was at the bar and the sarsaparilla was quickly in hand, as quick as the smile on the bartender’s face. “I knowed that boy was dry as a dead head out there. Look at ‘im go.”

All eyes went to the bar as Chico got his throat full of sweetness he’d never had, when suddenly, in that minute of quasi-glory, there came a yell from outside Hagen’s doors: “Hell, Collie, I damned well got you beat this time. My holler, it is. My holler.”

There was a pause, as if the suddenly-recognized voice of one of the newer town drunks, Cotton Grove, was assembling his words, as if waiting for the trumpets or bugles to accompany his announcement, which came clear, framed, but dependent on another’s earlier decree, Collie Sizemore’s; “Damned if it ain’t J&M or their lookylikes comin’ down the street and Jehrico’s walkin’ and leadin’ Mildred or her young one and there’s a Indian done tied up on Mildred like he ain’t goin’ anyplace but Hagen’s or Hell.”

The first thing said, or thought, was Collie Sizemore, upstaged for the very first time on his announcements to the Hagen’s crowd, saying, “I’ll never buy that drunk another drink long’s I live.”

The saloon crowd scattered and re-gathered in a line to get out the door to see the arrival of the favored and profitable junk collector supreme, at which bartender Bobby Bell said to Osgood, “Mister, you got all the stars gathered in your favor even if it’s daylight right now.” He looked at Chico, his drink consumed and staring at the bottom of the glass looking at the last drop, and advised, “And you got lucky again, kid. Plain all out lucky like the stars are your’n too, even in daylight. Why, we ain’t seen hide nor hair of Jehrico in a powerful long time. If that ain’t a charm for you, I’d chew it to a nuzzle.”

It was Jehrico, to the delight of the crowd spilling into the street, and Jehrico said right off, “Someone get the sheriff for me, like quick. I need him. And the doc, too.”

Chico and Osgood joined the crowd.

Sheriff Chuck Stocker, having heard the yell from Cotton Grove, was at the edge of the crowd and yelled out, “I’m right here, Jehrico. What’d this Injun do now? I think I seen him before. Is that Joe Dogtail?”

“It sure is, Sheriff, and he ain’t done anythin’ bad, but good. But you got to go out a few miles and see what’s left of what I saw.”

He wanted to say “Two bad cowpokes looking for the cheap way,” but it came out in his other language, “Dos vaqueros malos que buscan la manera barata.” And he quickly added, “Two hombres jumped the stage and killed the driver and all the horses and hurt the shotgun so bad I couldn’t move him, and Joe here killed the two bad gents, but got himself a bad shot I can’t fix and needs the doc too.”

Stocker issued his first question, “Know them bozos, Jehrico? Seen ‘em before?”

“Regulars they were, right here at Hagen’s. Luke Pollick and Jigger Ormsby, but both dead.
Joe here was more mad at them killin’ the horses than the driver and shotgun. But that ain’t all, Sheriff. There’s two passengers dead too, killed by Ormsby, cause Pollick’s gun don’t work no more, from what Joe says. Just jammed up, it did, so Ormsby, as Joe says, killed the horses and the drivers and the passengers. Just six shots all it took.”

The sheriff asked his second question. “How’d he get shot if there were only six shots took?”

“I figure,” Jehrico said, “that one of them went clean through one and hit Joe worse. It’s layin’ in Joe’s gut.” There was a pause and Jehrico proffered another statement. “Joe told me there were some other gents he saw hidden in the brush a hundred yards away, like they were part of the killers’ gang, but stay-aways. Not mixers.” And like he was tossing a clue on the ground in front of the Stocker, he asked, “That mean anythin’ to you, Sheriff?”

Stocker was nodding as if he was saying, “It sure does, Jehrico,” because his eyes went scanning through the crowd and Jehrico (and a few others) figured he was placing people that were in town at the moment, who had recently returned from elsewhere that he was aware of, or who was missing. The sheriff, of course, knew that Bola City had not grown so big that he couldn’t put a name and/or a face to some particular or peculiar characters, those that were on the other side of the fence or were fence riders, like shadows near evening, not quite evident, no firm silhouettes.

At the edge of the growing crowd, someone yelled out, “The doc’s comin’ with his bag,” And then added, “That Joe Dogtail’s probably got some white man’s blood in him now.” He looked around for agreeable comments, received none, and noticed Jehrico staring at him but not saying a word. It made him nervous.

The sheriff pointed at the livery owner and said, “Henry, rig up a team of horses for the coach and a wagon for carrying the dead back here and bring them out there soon as you can. I’m going out to check around.” His eyes scanned the crowd and he asked if anybody wanted to join him in a possible posse run.

No immediate response came from the crowd, and it was Lew Osgood who offered the only reply, “I’ve done my share of posse and sheriff work, Sheriff, and I’ll be glad to join you. My name’s Lew Osgood, but I have to leave my little buddy, Chico Vestra, with someone and I’d like it to be that Jehrico fellow. We both been hearing about him along the trail, all the way to the Nations.” His hand sat on top of Chico’s head. “Chico’s a fair right collector of things, too.”

The ground was broken for Chico, and Osgood realized the road was at least halved for the boy.

All this time Chico was staring at Jehrico, and Osgood could see he was probably looking into his soul and behind his eyeballs, perhaps the same way Jehrico looked at a piece of iron or lead he found beside the trail or at an old campsite. He knew he had come to the right place, at least for Chico. Jehrico would be a piece of home for him. His own intuitions had been right so far.

Jehrico, wide-eyed, a huge grin coming with the wide eyes, exclaimed, “Ho, ahora, es este un nuevo recaudador mexicano de bienes viejos o dañados para guardar, esto pequeño uno con ojos oscuros? This, of course, Chico understood as, “Ho, now, is this a new Mexican collector of old or damaged goods for saving, this little one with dark eyes?” It was said in Mexican undoubtedly as a welcome to Chico, and Chico and Lew Osgood were quickly aware of it.

Chico’s dark eyes had also made a transformation, and he replied, as he put his hand out to shake hands with Jehrico, “I speak good Inglés o norteamericano, too.”

Jehrico was delighted and shook Chico’s hand vigorously, and nodded at Osgood and the sheriff and promised, “If the boy has no mother and father, then I will be a father for him, but wait until he meets with Lupalazo, he will know he’s come home, all the way home. She comes right behind me. I had to rush Joe Dogtail here.”

The doctor, from his kneeling place in the street where he’d tended the wounded Indian, said, “He’s going to be okay, Jehrico. I can fix him up for you. Some fellows give a hand to get him to my office.”

The first two people to move to the side of Joe Dogtail were Chico and Jehrico, Chico saying in good English, “This is our first time saving something for good.”

There was an inflection in Chico’s words that only Jehrico understood. His nod was a solid affirmative to Chico Vestra’s first salvage job in the company of Jehrico Taxico.

By that time, Osgood and Sheriff Stocker were heading out of town, the pair raising dust as they rode, and a sheepish feeling seemed to come over those folks gathered in the street of Bola City, the way a single person shows personal embarrassment at having not stepped up when it counted.

Chico took a look and saw the pair disappear around a turn. He didn’t know if he’d ever see Lew Osgood again.

Stocker and Osgood looked around the site and found nothing that Jehrico had not told them about; all was as he had described … the dead driver and shotgun rider, the dead horses, the two dead passengers whose personal minor valuables were still in their possession. But it was apparent each man had been searched; shirts and vests had been ripped open and marks where their money belts were pulled forcibly from their bodies, the marks of the force visible.

“Killed for something the holdup men were aware of,” Stocker said, shaking his head in absolute question.

The livery man, Henry Tartan, came with a wagon and a team for the coach in tow. Only a young boy of 14 or so was with him, to be the second driver.

Osgood said to Stocker, “What’s going on in Bola City, Sheriff? Am I really seeing a message being sent by the people? Is there something I should know, now that I’m in the ranks with you, so to speak?”

The sheriff eyed Osgood’s stance, his wide shoulders, his hard-set chin, and had already measured his agility in the saddle. He found assurance and loyalty in the man, on which he was prompted to reply, “There sure is, Lew, but it’s all hidden. No one’s come to me or said anything openly, but there’s a big shadow hanging over the whole area and it’s has to be from one source. And I suspect that bodily threats have been made to keep things quiet. I have no idea. We have some big men in the area, hungry men, but nothing I know has been declared.”

Osgood wanted in, and made a declaration. “I’d be a good, quiet observer once we get back to town, once I’m sure that Chico’s been taken care of, accepted by Jehrico. Despite the boy’s abilities, he’s going to need a father, a mother, a family.”

“Well,” the sheriff offered, “He’s got the best in Jehrico and Lupalazo, that’s his wife. Jehrico traded with an Indian for her when she was tied on a horse and got the horse with the deal. Great story.” He chuckled loudly and added, “No doubts at all by me on the boy with them. And I accept your offer to help in any way. It’s needed. When we get the team and the coach started back, we’ll go check that brush and trees up there where Joe Dogtail said someone was hiding during the attempted holdup.”

In due time, the bodies were all placed in the wagon, the dead horses pulled off the trail and left for carrion eaters, and the two vehicles headed back to Bola City, driven by Henry Tartan and the youngster who came with him.

At the suspected hiding site, where Joe Dogtail said two men were hiding during the holdup, Stocker found nothing out of the ordinary in his search … no tell-tale signs that would give him any kind of a lead … no cigar butts, no trash of any kind, but a smooth place where perhaps two men might have sat on a poncho or saddle blanket playing cards while waiting for the stagecoach.

“Pretty cool, they were, if they were playing cards,” Stocker said, and Osgood got a small chuckle from the sheriff when he said, “And no discards visible either … but … “ and Osgood was looking at the ground where the horses had been tied off. He pointed to one spot on the ground bare of grass and a hoof print was clearly visible.

“Look here, Chuck. See this shoe print. I’ve seen that before. See how that shoe has heel and toe caulks on it. That’s special made.”

“I’ve seen a few like that,” Stocker said. “Why’s it so special to you?”

Osgood shrugged his shoulders and said, “Maybe nothing, but when Chico and I were coming down this way, just to find Jehrico if we could, and one night when the rain was in the air, we found a line camp up above Bola City, north of here, near the foot of a tall hill. It’s been used often enough from the things we found there, and that hoof print was fresh in the ground at the hitch rail. That was two days ago. I don’t call that a coincidence. Not this close. Not from someone who’s looking to stay hidden for a short time, at a place which is damned near here?
Is that worth a look?”

“Sure is, Lew. Let’s go see.”

When they spotted the line camp from a slight rise, Stocker said, “I know who owns this place, Charlie Evers of the Triple E spread. Edson, Evers and Edgerley, and Edson and Edgerley both bushwhacked in the last two years …”

“Leaving Evers as the lone owner?” Osgood said, as though it was not a question at all.

“Right you are,” the sheriff said. “Let’s see what’s around.  We might find something to follow up on.”

Back in Bola City, for two full days that Lew Osgood and the sheriff were off on their search, Chico sat in front of Hagen’s Saloon, his eyes looking at the trail into town. Jehrico could not persuade him to move at all. Dawn to dusk he sat there, and Jehrico and the whole town were amazed at the boy’s loyalty to a man who was not his father.

On the third day, when shadows first began to lean into town, Chico rose from his appointed place. People who were out and about, all knowing about the boy, spun around to look at the trail into town.

There came two riders, and Chico rushed toward them.

Word passed through Bola City as fast as a hot rumor.

In the saloon the crowd began to buzz, but no one rushed to greet the sheriff and Chico’s pal.

In one corner, at a crowded table, Charlie Evers sat with men in his employ. Some of them were known as bullies, but little had been said about them, at least openly.

One bystander, who had seen the arrival and Chico’s quick rush to his pal, came into the saloon and said to bartender Bobby bell, not a thing about Chico, but about the actions of the sheriff and the new gent. “Chuck’s out there with the kid’s friend and they’re looking at the shoes on all the horses on the hitch rails along the boardwalk. Even did the mortuary and the general store. Didn’t skip a horse in the whole bunch.”

Jehrico had come down from the room he had taken for a week, and heard the announcement made to Bell as if it was meant for the whole of Bola City. And with his knack of seeing into things, all around things, what things did or meant, he said, apparently also to all of Bola City, “Sounds to me like the Sheriff and Mr. Osgood have found somethin’ ‘bout them murders out there and are lookin’ for lost parts to go with it, and lookin’ right here in Bola City, of all places.”

The words of the Mexican junk collector, part owner of the Jehrico and Molly’s Emporium of Cleaning and J&M’s Emporium and Dance Hall, founder of townships, were as good and as solid as any piece of junk he had brought to life or to a new life.

And Charlie Evers was suddenly hit by a furious bolt of thought that the sheriff had a lead on his actions, not only for the past few days, but for a long time prior to that. His nerves began to tumble like they were in a shake-box the Indians made for their children. All that came to him was the prophetic voice of his wife who kept saying to him, “Charlie, It’s not right. You can’t make it right. It’ll never be right.” He also remembered his father saying, “She’ll have the last word on you, Charlie, so you better watch out.”

After silence from the street, with no more announcements, including Jehrico, Sheriff Chuck Stocker and Lew Osgood entered Hagen’s Saloon, with Stocker looking back over his shoulder at something he might have forgotten, or something he was trying to remember. While he approached the bar, Osgood slowly, like a shadow, slid to the other side of the saloon. Jehrico saw the movements of both men, and spotted Chico at the door. He motioned, subtly, to Chico to stay outside the saloon.

The sheriff, as casually as he could, said, “Who owns the gray at the far end of the hitch rail?”

In the middle of the room, a man stood up and said, “That’s my horse, Sheriff, if he’s got a black saddle and no saddlebag on. Is she okay? Anything happen to her? She’s been good to me.”

Stocker said, “Nothing, Luke, just wondered about her. Nice animal.” And he almost spit out the next question, “Who belongs to the paint at the other end, wearing four snow socks?”

“That’s mine, Chuck, and there’s nothing wrong with him and he ain’t missing me too much, is he?” A tall man, lean as a matchstick, stood beside his table, cards spread on the table, a pot worth two Saturdays sitting in the middle of it, and the drinks all gone bone dry with the betting.

“I think his axle’s broke,” the sheriff said, and the whole room had a great laugh, the ease coming swiftly after, the way a cake is smothered with sweetness in a baker’s hand.

Jehrico, still on the stairs, knowing Chico was still outside, out of the most immediate danger, nodded slowly, as if he had seen the sign of one of the old folks from the southern mountains, one of the shamans paying respects to the one god of the mountains, and knew the sheriff was setting the table for a possible visitor. He held his smile back.

Stocker, not done with his questions, and with Osgood situated at the far end of the room in a corner with unobstructed view in all directions, said, in a jaunty kind of voice, “And who owns that lumbago-stricken, arthritic-looking specimen of horseflesh with the ears of a clown in the suit of a palomino just outside the front door?”

It might have appeared that all of Bola City had needed that laugh, but more folks than Osgood and Jehrico were aware of the sheriff’s maneuverings.

Evers, of course, leaped up and yelled out in a frantic glee, for apparently the sheriff had not found out a thing about his exploits, his wife and father back in the mysteries of ignorance, “Hell, Chuck, everybody knows that’s my Cyclone, best hunk of horseflesh this side of the Mississippi, the Missouri and the Ohio all rolled into one pond.” He felt loose and free and away from suspicion. Far away. The sheriff was a dolt.

“And I bet he wears them special shoes you’re always talking about,” Stocker said. It was almost a question, and Jehrico could have easily twisted it that way.

But Evers leaped into the steel trap, “Wouldn’t let that critter wear anything else, Chuck, and Hervey burns them up special for me, just the way me and Cyclone like ’em,” and even as the words left his mouth, he was sorry he had said them. He could not bring them back.

It all flashed across his mind, the whole reality of the scene just acted out for him alone of all the people sitting in Hagen’s Saloon at the time. He reached for his gun, had it halfway out, and Lew Osgood, crack shot, knocked the gun out of his hand.

It was all over. Evers was convicted of murder, as were two more members of his gang; Lew Osgood had made a contribution to the folks of Bola City, not that he thought a helluva lot of them; Jehrico and Chico, both in new comfort zones, and knowing new destinies, went out to meet Lupalazo as she approached Bola City with a wagon train; and Chuck Stocker bought the Triple E spread from Charlie Evers’ widow (after Charlie was hung) and one day down the road he married her for good.

And Chico Vestra promised Jehrico that he’d pick the territory clean, right down to its bones before he was through, all the while knowing that Lupalazo had the softest hands he’d ever known and that she made the best enchiladas he’d never had before.

Life smelled good for him, for a change. And looked good. Deep in it he detected the solid good color of leavings more than a layer deep , the true arcs of precious remains, and laughter and happiness coming from a new place beyond.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His short story collections are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, from Press 53; and From the Quickening and A Collection of Friends, Pocol Press. He has 20 Pushcart nominations, 325 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, appeared in 5 issues of Rosebud Magazine, 6 issues of The Linnet’s Wings and 8 issues of Ocean Magazine. His novels include Vigilantes East, An Accountable Death, Death of a Phantom Receiver (an NFL mystery). Milspeak Publishers issued eBooks: Korean Echoes, 2011, nominated for The Society of Military History’s Distinguished Book Award and The Westering, 2012, nominated for a National Book Award. His newest eBook, Murder at the Forum, is released January, 2013 by Danse Macabre/Lazarus/Anvil Fiction.

His work is in Wherever It Pleases, Nervous Breakdown, Troubadour21, Stone Hobo, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Canary, Subtle Tea, Red Dirt Review, Nontrue, Danse Macabre, Nashwaak Review, Jake’s Locked-Room Anthology, Ray’s Road Review, The Best of Sand Hill Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, Blue Lake Review, Slice of Life, Blue Ridge Literary Prose, KY Story, Eastlit, and many more Internet sites and print magazines.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jane5

Artist: Jane Gilday

Red House, Lambert Lane, springtime

Acrylic on panel

Standard
Poetry

Always the Land and German Winter

by Cesar Love

Always the Land

When the storms end, he is quiet to all but the deaf

Many hear the whispers of streams, the mumbles of rivers
But below the threshold of a lapping pond
There are sounds as soft as a tadpole’s heartbeat

At volumes quieter than grass
The land delivers a wordless sermon
You are free to leave before the end, for the sermon has no end

Can you bear the spastic stillness?
If you can listen for ten minutes, you are free to ask a question.
If you can listen for an hour, you can ask for anything you need.

Ask, what about your bees?
The trellis on your porch, broken by the eight-foot weeds
It’s painted and repaired, ready for the blossoms
To greet the sun and moon, ready for the blossoms
To welcome back the bees.
Listen to the honey spinning into gold

Ask, what about the blackout?
Remember the fireflies you caught so long ago?
You hid them in a basement jar.
Realize you’re one of them.
Hands unlock the lid, hands let all of you free.
Listen to the land echoing your glow

German Winter

The months of small afternoons.
When days withdraw
Before children are home
And streetlamps
Labor the boggy hours

It is a weather without recess.
The gravity of snow
Upon coats and shoes
The roof tiles
Braving an adamant rain

It is a season for interiors.
The trusted sidewalk
To the cafés and pubs
The perennial scarf
For the pathway home

It is the season of stovewood.
A deepsome fire
Mulls the wine
Warm candles consent
The embrace of the eyes

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

César Love is a resident of San Francisco’s Mission District and an editor of the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. His book of poems While Bees Sleep was published by CC. Marimbo Press. He is on the faculty of the University of the Commons.

This year César Love created a bridge between the poets of Mérida and the poets of the San Francisco Bay Area, sharing their poems at each others open mics. He brought to San Francisco the work of Mérida poets Itzel Gallegos, Fernando de la Cruz, Jonathan Harrington, Cher Bibler, and Feliciano Chan. In Mérida, he read the work of Bay Area poets Gerardo Pacheco, Dan Brady, Alejandro Murguía, Jeanne Lupton, and others.

 

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jane15

Artist: Jane Gilday

O Blessed Gaze

Acrylic on panel

Standard
Poetry

Three Tanka

by Virginie Colline

Two brown legs dangling
off el pontón de madera
time is fraying away
along with the rope soles
of the fisherman’s shoes

A sweet toothless smile
set in a millennial face
the Mexican woman
offers her chocolate skulls
to the children of Calle Aldama

Bought for a song:
Romancero Gitano in tatters,
a pretty petticoat
and a pair of ballet shoes
with no strings attached

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Virginie Colline lives and writes in Paris. Her poems have appeared in The Scrambler, Notes from the Gean, Prune Juice, Frostwriting, Prick of the Spindle, Mouse Tales Press, StepAway Magazine, BRICKrhetoric, Seltzer, The Orris, Overpass Books, Dagda Publishing, The Four Quarters Magazine and Yes, Poetry, among others.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

jane14

Artist: Jane Gilday

See Far Woman Dawn

Acrylic on panel

Standard
Fiction

Staircase Hourglass Sundial Sand

by R V Branham

 

Injury, n. An offense next in degree of enormity to a slight.

 — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

 

 

STAIRCASE:  “What do you mean by this,” the urgent care admissions clerk asks.

Pobrecito, todo chingado sin madrelike, todo Ground Control to Major Tomlike.

Geof Reid is at Sunnyside Medical Center, on an ambulance stretcher, waiting to be seen by a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, by a nurse’s aid, pillpusher, sawbones, homeopath, curandera, witch doctor, faith healer, psychic surgeon. (The ambulance and its attendants long gone.) At this point he’ll settle for a Psychic Friend. He probably needs, in fact, to start with Roentgenograms. Instead, he has an urgent care admissions clerk with claw-hammer eyes.

It is Geof’s fourth visit in two weeks — or is it his fifth? — They must be as sick of him as he is of them. He should ask Customer Services about renting a suite.

The first was when he brought in his son Drew for his annual check-up, annual shots.

Drew, barely eight, in eighth grade — taking Saturday seminars at PSU, Drew stuffed every science magazine he could find into his knapsack before they left.

The second visit was occasioned by Drew nearly having his right eye gouged out before or after earth science by a girl named Gretchen Triplette waiting for him on a staircase landing.

Drew nearly gouged Gretchen’s eye out, too. Good show, Drew’s grandpa would say, if still corporeal enough to be saying what grandpas say — and fortunately Gretchen’s father is a former associate of Geof’s father, so no attorneys were retained.

The third visit, he’d rather not think about. All the tubes leading into and out of his comatosely cyanotic father, yellowish uric or grenache white-wine-ishleachings or infusions.

This is his fourth visit.

No, it is his fifth visit, not his fourth.

The fourth visit, well let us draw a white hospital curtain around the amassed grieving and keening family members, an exploded view for a psychology textbook.

Geof came in a while ago by ambulance; since he has no actual identification with him, and even because the computers are down, they are sclerotic in attempts to verify account information. In the meantime he is strapped into a stretcher with a blanket the colour of a bruise or exit wound. Geof miserably tugs at his red goatee.

— His maternal abuela would have called him “Barbarosa.”

Even flat on a stretcher, Geof feels a tag team of sciatic agony sent up tingly legs to injured back and down to numb legs again.

Since he only remembers the first three of his Kaiser medical record numbers the urgent care admissions clerk asks questions so as to fill out forms. When asked his occupation he states “Film critic and crime beat reporter” and then adds “Landlord, really” and when the urgent care admissions clerk asks who he writes for he tells her, “Journal of the Plague Years: Northwest Music, Art, Sex, & Politics.” The urgent care admissions clerk says she doesn’t let her kids read that kind of trash, and then proceeds to tell him his name should have two ef’s at the end and he suggests she take it up with the hospital where his namesake and paternal grandfather was born. — At least she’s never seen his cable access show. If she had, the urgent care admissions clerk would no doubt have thoughts to share.

The computers must be back, because the urgent care admissions clerk is again in Geof’s face. “What do you mean by this,” the urgent care admissions clerk demands again.

He remembers her demanding before, she must have. “By what,” he says back.

“When I asked you, under ‘illness or injury.’ — ”

And your question?”

“Under ‘illness or injury’ you said, ‘Staircase’…” From the first to the second floor of the apartment building is a gauntlet of children’s toys or parts thereof.

Plastic masts to sunken toy ships, tiny bazookas and bows-and-arrows of missing-in-action troops and exterminated tribes, hubcaps to thrashed toy cars, maimed animal toys from popular cartoon characters, all, from endangered species.

Geof’s eyes open.

He is fascinated by these toys jutting from coffee grounds and egg shells strewn down the staircase where he just now has stepped on a golden plastic mast to sail down the stairs.

No smooth sailing there. More a pell fucking mell leap into the void. More a tracking shot. Spine bumping against each step. Snakes. Ladders. With close-ups.

Dem bones. Eschatology recapitulating scatology, chakra by chakra. His brain hurts. Fractal zooms.

Eisenstein would never shoot this scene that way. Wenders, probably not. De Palma, maybe.

Pinned to the stairs by pain and disbelief, he reels in a recurring dream, a dream with a dream staircase guarded by a scrofulous dragon, a staircase he must climb in order to rescue his one-eyed son or his willfully blind father.

Father, son, distinctions here have no difference. It is a dream, after all.

They are in trouble, one or the other — son, father, grandfather — for getting into a fight at school and they do not want to discuss this with Geof, not even with a scrofulous dragon breathing brimstone down all their necks.

Geof has never felt that his father trusts or believes him, and detects skepticism from his son Drew. In this dream of stairs he has to reach them, explain. But the dragon… “Shit.”

Geof looks up to see the neighbor from the apartments across the courtyard. The neighbor who always tosses plastic bags of clotted sand and cat turds over the fence and back to the dumpster. — Thus causing Daphne to go yell at her whenever the burst plastic sends tapered cat turds and sand clots across adjoining carports.

The neighbor who has rowdy boyfriends over when her speedfreak plasterer husband’s gone, the neighbor whose slutty teeny-bop daughter Ginny stands outside the corner convenience store and asks strangers to buy PBR for her.

The neighbor whose two rugrat troll sons always leave these toys or trade up by trying to steal Drew’s GameBoy. — In exchange for which Drew is permitted by the older boy troll to pick on the younger.

The neighbor beaten by her speedfreak plasterer husband every other weekend. The speedfreak plasterer husband who has a Prince Charles-like chin — which is to say no chin at all at all; the speedfreak plasterer husband who never buckles up or makes the kids buckle up when tearing out of the alley at any and all hours in an Ebola-red truck with expired Idaho plates.

Geof, astonished, says to the neighbor:

“Was that an earthquake?”

“No.”

“Oh,” he says. Then:

“There’ve been a few rumbles, lately.”

“Yes,” the neighbor agrees, then, “not today.”

Then, “I heard the noise a while ago.”

“When?” he ponders.

The neighbor backs away. Her black eye has faded to smudges of amber and green just above the cheekbone. Like a Weegee classic New York City crime-pix retouched with hi-liter.

“I’ll call an ambulance.”

“I have Kaiser,” Geof is surprised to find himself say.

“Don’t move,” the neighbor with the Weegee eyes tells him.

“Don’t worry,” Geof reassures the neighbor.

As soon as she leaves he starts to get up, tries to, reaches for the stairs’ hand rails, pulls himself up, tries to, but the pain causes him to lose consciousness.

#

The dream dragon is more intent on guarding its hoarded treasure than in dealing with Geof, his son, or father.

Geof shouts for his son or father to go to their room, still time out, no videos, no Nintendo. He says they narrowly gouged that girl’s eye out. Yet when Geof raises his sword, the scrofulous dragon yawns and sparks of slag cascade down the staircase. Geof’s eyes close. “Left knee.”

“What?”

“Turn over, bend your left knee,” the Roentgenogram tech tells Geof.

Left knee.”

He notices a tattoo on the Roentgenogram tech’s wrist, wants to ask if the tattoo motif is Celtic or Mayan. Or both.

What Geof says is, “It hurts.”

He hears a soft click of wooden beads.

“Don’t be such a wuss.”

Geof turns to see his wife Daphne. Braids newly beaded, nails, newly manicured, do not make her look any less harried, tired. Invoicing does that. But invoicing also provides medical bennies for both of them, including wrist braces she now wears.

Geof’s exwife works for State of Oregon Justice Department Child Support Unit and provides Drew’s medical bennies.

Daphne then tells Geof about his dad, about his mother phoning.

“Says it doesn’t look good. I think you should call her,” Daphne says, “No matter what kind of bastard your father’s been.”

“He never showed you respect…”

“Fuck that,” Daphne says, “Man tried hard. Behaved fine by me for a man who grew up in Kansas City in the 30s. What you mean is he never showed you respect, and that’s between you and him. Don’t pin that on me. Just call your mom.”

“They have our phone number.”

“Call your mom.”  HOURGLASS:Geof Reid floats on a couple of ten milligram Flexoril tablets.

The TV is on, tuned to the Invertebrate Channel™, yet Geof hardly watches a black widow spider with secondary sexual characteristic belly markings, hardly watches a black widow spider devour her mate, in close-up, he barely registers her.

He recalls a thing his son Drew told him, about species of tiny spiders that eat the webs of black widows, steal their silk — and actually get away with it.

In fact, Geof does not so much watch video black widow predations directly, but watches, rather, the cathode reflected on a glass cabinet bearing familial bibelots and curiosities.

The only thing he acutely registers is his back. Geof hardly hears the laptop’s beep as its battery runs down.

He’s been following late-night Sunday drivebys online, seven dead so far this year, cutting and pasting for a research file — great article there, even a book. Lately, he hasn’t heard the driveby gunfire, the Flexoril knocking him out by then. His laptop is perched on a pile of biographies of Sergei Eisenstein, in English, Russian and in German — a PSU library overdue or two — biographies used as source material for his own bio on Eisenstein’s misadventures in Mejico with FridaKahlo and Leon Trotsky, a bio now languishing on an agent’s desk.

Somewhere in the pile are cassettes and cee-dees he is supposed to review.  Most interesting one’s a vinyl ee-pee from a Mexican synthduo, Los Ambrose Bierces — and yes but does the world need Kurt Weill and Kraftwerk done in Spanish?

Geof hears the mail slot. Rent checks dropped through the slot he notices; those are set in a pigeonhole by the winecork-lined workstation.

Geof is never so fucked up as to ignore a succulent check fall into the mail slot. Never.

So fucked up.

A Reed alumni newsletter goes straight to the recycling bin, after peeling off unfranked Alice B. Toklas and Charles Bukowski stamps. — A postally-maimed New Yorker, Harper’s, and Drew’sScientific American and Science News are added to an ever-toppling pile of to-be-reads. — The black widow documentary sound is turned down. Speakers from the dining room and a carousel cee-dee player ensure hours of Keith Jarrett’s Sun Bear concerts. Almost Glenn Gould-like mewling and keening, pyropianisms.

Geof returns to the sofa, elevating and propping his legs against a sofa arm, his knees propped by pillows. He is distracted by wind blowing from the Columbia Gorge, blowing into Northeast Portland, leaves, shaking and rattling them loose to fly down to cover lawns and side-walks. Every time Geof, or Daphne, or Drew opens the front door, brittle amber-rust and purple-mottled leaves come rattling inside from up the stairwell.

Geof thinks about the voicemail messages. One is from a publicist, announcing a rescheduling of the director’s cut of something or other — the publicist accidentally hung up before revealing the movie’s title.

One is from his mother. He erased that. Another he erased before listening to.

Another, from Sam, his editor at Journal of the Plague Years, he wishes he’d saved. Sam wants revisions of his most recent piece. She does him the courtesy of discussing, negotiating, requested cuts or revisions. She detests complex sentences and makes him fight for every adjective, every semicolon.

And she always wants more theory, though expressed simply. Film theory. Political. Theological. Metaphysical. Linguistic. Anthropological. She loves systems, theories, philosophies — especially if accompanied by a cute anecdote. See Jane, See Jane signify — Geof hates theory to pieces.

At any rate, if he doesn’t get back to her within twentyfour hours, then she does what she deems best. Geof cannot recall when the bitch goddess left the message.

Should he call, negotiate?

Or was the erased message from the landscape guy?

Daphne told Geof to call the landscape guy, have him send a wetback out to rake up, sweep up, bag and haul away the leaves.

So Geof told her that the wind from the Gorge will only rattle more leaves loose just as soon as the landscape guy’s wetback rakes, sweeps, bags and hauls away the fallen ambermottled and purplerusted leaves.

Daphne said they’ll just call back the landscape guy and his wetback. And for all Geof knows, the landscape guy called and Geof fucked up, goofed, erased the message, consigned its digitized bytes to a telecomm hinterhell.

Geof notices the crimson hourglass of the black widow filter into his Flexoril fog. Notices red triangles drawn on the dee-vee-deejewelbox labels. There is a shitload of dee-vee-dees he has to return to a publicist — letterboxed foreign films mostly, scheduled for the film festival in late February. Amongst the dee-vee-dees is a rediscovered Chinese epic, a Sino-Soviet coproduction.

The only thing Geof likes about that particular film is the raggedy-clothed monk’s hourglass used to time the eternal warrior sent to confront a brimstone-breath dragon now residing in the verdigris-stained temple. Crimson of the black widow’s belly the same colour as the Chinese monk’s hourglass — the monk is actually the warrior’s father, and in penance for causing his mother’s death joined a Buddhist sect. Crimson the same colour as the sand in the three minute egg timer for calling time out when Geof or Daphne used to send Drew to his room for a few eternal minutes.

The worlds found in an egg timer. Turn the egg timer over and the sand runs back or forth twice, thrice, depending on the severity of Drew’s trespass, how many times he called them neofascists. Or shouted out that there were twelve gods during Mass, then rattling off Greek and Roman name variants before Daphne shut him up. But it has been years since they used the timer for that sort of thing.

A car horn outside honks.

Geof forgot to set the oven timer when he put the lasagna boxes into the oven. The horn again honks, his exwife’s horn. Geof and Daphne have Drew this weekend. He hears Drew bound up the stairs.

Then other steps, those of his ex-. What this time? He knows the child support check cleared; he always calls the bank to verify this. He hears Drew insert the key into the doorknob and turn it, then into the deadbolt, sees the door swing open.

“You’re letting the leaves blow in, Drew.”

Drew does not close the door. “Hi, dad,” he shouts, loaded with a knapsack and an overnight bag and hoisting a pile of thick books across the room. Geof sees a title: The Coming Plague. Drew comes to Geof, sets the books on the coffee table and the knapsack and overnight bag on to the floor before bending down to hug him. “Got any Pearl Jam,” his son asks, as usual. (Geof hates Pearl Jam, and Drew knows it.)

The eyepatch makes Drew look piratical. The visible (left) eye, hazel, is hard to read — blue is a recessive gene, hence Drew has inherited his mother’s almond hazel eyes.

Geof realizes he cannot smell his son; sinuses fucked up. Is it the bronchial asthma and æternalearnosethroat cycle of infections or the shot septum from the cocaine cowboy years?

His son Drew pulls away: “I smell some thing…are you burning the boxes again?” Drew makes for the kitchen.

“Careful with the oven,” Geof calls after him. “Grab the potholders.”

“Hey,” his ex- shouts to him from the stairs. “Better call nine-one-one. The slutty brat’s slutty brat next door is passed out on your lawn.”

“Again?” He slowly gets up. Tries to remember where he left the cordless phone.

The ex- comes through the doorway, wipes her feet, admits more leaves. He expects the ex- to ask him if he thinks she has put on any weight, to which he usually replies, “You’ve put on grams.” She doesn’t ask; and she hasn’t. The ex- wears a white crushed silk jacket with trashy goldcoloured silkscreen, “One-Cup-Wet-Noodle Dragon Lady” ensemble, she calls it — “One-Cup-Wet-Noodle” is a Japanese pejorative for premature ejaculators — referring to the time it would take a male college student to jerk into and hump a styrofoamnoodlecup. Geof turns to the ex-: “How do you know the slutty brat’s slutty brat’s a slutty brat?”

“Because Drew says she wanted to play Spin The Bottle with him.” Geof laughs; the ex- tries not to. “But. Really. ’S serious. Breathing’s irregular. She dies, her cunt mom sues your ass. Cunt mom sues, you and Daphne lose this place, file bankruptcy, move under the Morrison Bridge. And my son loses support checks.”

“That little slut: first name, Ginny.” Then: “You’d just be pissed about losing every other weekend to yourself.”

“You burned the lasagna again, dad,” Drew shouts from the kitchen.

“Again?” the ex- asks Geof.

From the kitchen: “Why are there leaves in the oven, dad?” Then: “I’ll make some bread.”

Drew makes bread from scratch; he learned from his maternal grandma and is extraordinarilly good at it and says he wants to have his own bakery when he grows up; has even enquired about getting an Employment Identification Number, like his grandma. Pounding and kneading dooes wonders for Drew, according to his school therapist.

“Be right back,” Geof calls to his son as he limps toward his ex-. “We have to go see a neighbor.”

“Just call nine-one-one,” his ex- says.

“Guy’s a drug dealer, I don’t want him to come over and blow us away.”

“A drug dealer? You have me dropping off my son —”

“Our son.”

“— to stay next door to a drug dealer.”

“Okay. Probably a drug dealer. Possibly. Maybe just a speed freak, probably too whitetrash for černobyl. Possibly. And there’s a drug dealer on every corner of every neighborhood in this town, so don’t bust my balls. Let’s just go get her mom, she was decent enough to call an ambulance when I fell.”

Going down the stairs after his ex-, Geof finds himself thinking of his ex-’s ghostly gash of a Cesarean section scar, a silver lining that Geof always finds — Oedipally? — adorably sexy — he was himself delivered by Cesarean section; the ex- is completely unselfconsiouslike about hers, wearing the skimpiest of twopiecers by cigarettestub-, and sodacan-, littered poolside or by she-scours-oilspilt-seashore.

Daphne too has a cute ghost of surgical incision scar, from a premetastatic ovarian surgery. Such a tiny scar for such a major event.

“You said her kids leaving toys on the staircase are what caused the accident.” Then, looking at him: “What’s with the wamble?”

“The what?”

“That staggering limp! You’re such a ham.”

“I have a back injury, you know.”

“A back injury, the drama queen says.”

“I get an MRI next week.”

“They only do it because you have the insurance.”

“I might need surgery, might need traction.”

“My mom was in traction for months and she didn’t bitch about it.”

“That’s what my other wife says.”

The slutty daughter of the slutty mother is passed out on the lawn, between the birdfeeder and the sundial, sweater and tshirt bunching up towards her shoulders, skin turning a goosepimply blue to match the pale winter sky. She is on her side, clutching a notebook with cutesy kitty decals on it, drooling on to blades of grass and broken bottleshard.

The name “GINNY” is written in a script not unlike graffiti gracing the neighborhood.

“Breathing’s okay,” Geof says and pulls the sweater and tshirt back down, “Who’s the drama queen? Look we can do three things here: Rape her, rape and kill her, or just get her mom over here.”

“What about just killing her? You forgot that option. Just like a male.”

“Let’s just go get her mom. Remember when you passed out in the swimming pool?” Geof is halfway across the courtyard when he is bashed by a flying video cassette tape.

“I tell you what I’m doing!” His ex- rushes to his apartment building, to his apartment. “I’m calling the cops!”

She rushes back upstairs.

Geof feels his forehead, runs his hand through his thinning hair, smearing a trail across his bleeding scalp.

The videotape is a Multnomah County Library VHS in a clear plastic case. The Wizard Of Oz.

There was an hourglass in that film, wasn’t there?

The neighbor and her plasterer husband slam each other across the livingroom of their apartment like anorexic sumo wrestlers.

The torn garnet curtain and picture window lends their fight a theatrical flair.

Sirens call from the distance.

The neighbors stop fighting.

The plasterer husband hooks the curtains back up, ignoring Geof’s hand-waving. The neighbors crank up the radio to Classic Rock. Aerosmith.

Geof turns around.

Dream On.

The police are still with the neighbors when Geof’s ex- leaves him with their son. An ambulance has already taken the slutty brat away from the front lawn.

A police tank arrives, parks across the street.

“Don’t let Drew see any of those Hong Kong movies,” the ex- tells Geof as she hugs Drew goodbye. Then, to Geof:

“Too fucking violent… Shoving chopsticks up someone’s nose to kill them. That’s sick.”

“That’s a Japanese Yakuza movie.”

“Then no Yakuza movies, either. And call your mom.”

“Daphne put you up to this?”

“Yes. Who gives a rat’s assignation about your father? Who cares if he never believed you?”

“I care.”

“Christ. If I hear one more time about how your dad didn’t back you up when you were caught plagiarizing that thesis —”

“He didn’t, and I didn’t.”

“That thesis you’d written for someone else, right?”

“My exact point.”

“You’d been paid top dollar for that thesis, that thesis that you’d submitted a year before. It was dishonest of you to ‘recycle’ it. And lazy.”

“It wasn’t theft.”

“Yes. It was.”

“Wasn’t plagiarism — can’t be theft from myself. There was no explicit contract forbidding reuse.”

“There was an implicit contract,” she says, finding herself sucked in.

“Was not.”

“Who cares — You weren’t expelled, or even failed. Unlike the lazy ass who paid you for that thesis. And no jury in heaven, purgatory, or hell would have convicted that lazy ass if he had wasted your sorry sadsack ass after being expelled, all you had to do was write another one —”

“— Just write another one, are you insane — ?”

“— Your mom backed you up during all of that self-inflicted horse shit, you’ve told me. Your mom’s a saint, so call her. Don’t be an asshole.” She smiles sarcastic. “You are a lucky seventh idiot bastard son of an idiot bastard son.”

“How is that?”

“I like Daphne. She’s good people. You marry a good person who then inherits an apartment building. Lucky.”

“We still pay a mortgage.”

The ex- waves her hand.

“My rent’s twice your mortgage, and you’ve got six units!”

Then, pointing at the apartments across the courtyard, the ex- adds:

“Call my pager if any thing happens. And if any thing happens to Drew, you will die.”

“Show’s over. Cops’re here. Nothing’ll happen.”

The ex- gives a final dismissive wave:

“Exit stage left.”

The knock-down dragout fight across the courtyard starts up again when the police and their police tank and black marias with their “The City That Works It” painted on their doors finally depart.  SUNDIAL:  There is a sere sundial on the lawn in front of Geof’s and Daphne’s apartment building — it is a northern exposure and gets no light ever.

And spiky moss covers the north side of the pedestal, all micro triffidlike.

The day is clear but cold; clouds approach, perhaps bearing more rain.

Geof wears one of his favorite winter coats, sheared from alpacas, from the altiplanos of South America.

His father, he remembers, gave this to him when he graduated from college. They weren’t speaking at that point, but did still exchange gifts at the appropriate holidays or milestone occasions.

There is broken glass from bottles of rotgut wine and malt liquor at the base of the sundial, along with tapered pale garlands of album græcum.

Drew could cut himself on that glass. — And the ex- would never let him forget, if she let him live.

And hair there, hair the colour of microbrew pale ale everywhere on the lawn, as if some body got her or his hair cut by a marine corps barber.

One of the rugrat trolls from across the courtyard has hair that colour — the one Drew picks on. Geof remembers some thing from his childhood, a specific act of logical cruelty involving someone’s hair. He cannot recall the colour but the memory creeps him out.

The hair and the glass also makes him think of his so very-recently-dead father appearing to him in a dream the night before, saying he wasn’t dead, was really in the Witness Protection Program and might not be able to drop around for a while, and of course it being a dream there was a test and his father was administering the test and accusing him of cheating before the test even began, saying Geof lacked Ethics and railing against Kids Today! — His father who made a smallish large fortune in a rotten real estate venture and then spent half that money hiring attorneys to finesse the legal fallout.

Geof sees the Nation of Islam neighbor from across the street walk past with a bag of groceries. He greets him and waves and the Nation of Islam neighbor flips him off. A middle fukka-you-ofay-redneck-cracker finger.

Whenever he tells Daphne or the ex- that he wishes there were more Nation of Islam members in the neighborhood, they tell him he is so full of shit an enema could not save him.

At this point he tells them of seeing the Nation of Islam neighbor chase away dealers, backed up by his shotgun-toting wife.

At this point Daphne asks why they still have cracker white trash tweaker neighbors.

Geof frowns as he cuts across the lawn, past the sundial, to get into his car, a Hyundai. He’s been so wanting to clean the broken glass up since he noticed it last week but he has too many appointments today. “Just lie down,” the MRI technician tells Geof.

Geof, dressed in a paper gown, feels a cold draft on his testicles and dick. “Can I ask you some thing,” he asks the technician.

“Okay.”

“Do I smell bad?”

“What?”

“Do I smell funny?” Then, “Never mind. Forget it.”

The technician looks at him.

“…This’ll take about forty-five minutes altogether. Some people find this very uncomfortable, but it’s not painful.”

Geof lies down on what could be an examining table at the foot of what could be a very large frontloading laundromat dryer, the one into which half the planet’s left socks vanish.

“And don’t move,” the technician tells him and then leaves the room.

The table moves, the table Geof is lying on, taking him from the gleaming white room with its toobright lights, and he is inserted into the chamber. He remembers a scene from a Kubrick.

Open the pod doors, HAL,” Geof says.

“…’Smatter,” the technician says. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Geof says.

“What,” the technician says.

Looking up, he sees light reflected from the room outside into the chrome rim of the chamber.

There is a series of percussive movements in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Chamber as the MRI reverses the magnetic spin of Geof’s very atoms, allowing sagittal, double-echo sagittal, and axial images to be taken through his lumbar spine.

He knows these anatomic terms because he glanced at the technician’s notes — “lumbar” seems redundant. The percussive noises remind Geof of the Bang On A Can Festival he went to in New York years ago. A white of Christmas light bulbs dances in the trees as Geof heads downtown, cutting through the redbrick warehouse labyrinth of the eastside industrial district.

The palimpsest of cobblestone, abandoned rail track, and worn asphalt is hell on the tires.

He makes the Hawthorne bridge, westbound. But the bridge has been raised so a boat can pass, so he has to stop — this steelgrated bridge gets icy in the season of misted burgeoning skylines but really is the best route to downtown. Geof turns on the radio for news about the recent drivebys but there is only more Truth & Forgiveness Hearings crap — so what’s with the “The Secret War”? Nothing secret about shoot outs at federal buildings all over the country — couldn’t get a passport without being caught in some god damn faction’s crosshairs, so why not just call it by its real name, “The Dirty Little”?

He tunes in-to NRK, to a song sung by The Presidents Of The United States of America, about stepping on kittycats.

Geof looks up, a mere glance, at the soon-to-be federal court building, at the arcs of welders, splatter and slag sparking down with the drizzle, splashing against the girders. He thinks of the dream dragon.

Thinks of his father, who never believed him when he said he hadn’t taken the change from his father’s coin roll to buy comic books. — Fantastic Four and Spiderman, his favorites from Marvel, and The Flash and Green Lantern, from DC. — He thinks of the workers up on the girders — must be nativeamerican — after all, Mohawks built the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, half the bridges in Canada and New England. — Thinks of the Ojibwa Chippewa on his father’s side of the family, of the Huichol, Pima, Comanche, Sinaloa, and Maya on his mother’s. — Splatter and slag. Red lights ahead. — His father never apologized after later finding the coin roll in his car. Striped wood and aluminum arms lower to block traffic as the bridge is raised to let a boat pass.

Geof slows, gently taps the brake, and skids into the jeep in front of him. He gets out and the burly driver of the jeep in front of him gets out. “Wwwawatch it, jjjjejerkoff.”

The stammering jeep driver has lime-green hair.

Geof starts to apologize and the other driver continues to berate him. There is no apparent damage to either car. “Look,” Geof declares. “Nothing happened.”

“You wwuwere lucky, ffffufuckwad.”

“We were both lucky.” Geof checks on his father before picking up his son from the optometrist appointment. — Daphne volunteered for overtime today, and already dropped Drew off at the doctor’s.

He sees John Triplette, an associate from his father’s public relations firm, and nods slightly to him. His mom Dora is in the back row, away from the stink of floral arrays, with friends and relatives Geof barely remembers or recognizes — except for slacker dyke sister Gloria and her cocksure turkeybaster kid with two effs in his name. It has been years since Geof saw his nephew and he is amazed how the vicious little bastard’s grown.

And truth be told, Geof has no quarrel with dykes, turkeybasters, or vicious little bastard nephews, once indeed having shot his spunky wad into the pool so to speak for a trustafaridykester who dropped out of college in her third trimester and — last he’s heard — teaches at Rutgers University.

The ex- is there, too, wearing her “Fuck-Me-On-The-Stairs” jacket, and slung on her shoulder is a pink fur-lined valise like a cunt.

“Daphne had to do overtime.” He manages to choke back sobs as his mother hugs him.

“¿Porqué no visitas?”

Pardona me. Yofue. MiinfermidadPardona me.” Geof goes to the front. Checks his father.

Yup, still dead. Favorite watch, an old Rolex. Favorite shirt and tie, a bit faggy. But his father was a dandy and liked to shock his pallsywallsies on the green. Favorite ring, Princeton, Class of 1946.

The cosmetologist made his father look to be wholly foolish, a defanged and deballed lion, a sacred clown. These rituals, he thinks, are too ironic to be barbaric.

“I just.” He finds napkins in his altiplano jacket, paper napkins from Coffee People, some already stained with coffee and crystallized snot, and uses the cleaner ones to wipe greasepaint away from his father’s collapsed face.

An event horizon to the black hole of death.

“Just wanted to.” He wants to say some thing sarcastic and spiteful and unforgivable — a cut or fade to black, not a dissolve, wants to tell the old man he just wanted to make sure it was him and wants every body to hear him say this but the words fail to ignite and the flames catch in his throat, sparks descend down the stairwell, slag and splatter, back down his gullet.

#

Geof picks up his son from the doctor’s before going to the screening. He can tell Drew knows he’s been crying — though he doesn’t know what or if the ex- told his son about grandpa — and can count on Drew to say nothing to him about it. Drew asks how there can be measurable objects in the universe, like quasars, that are apparently five billion years older than the known universe.

“Because they are remnants of the universe before?”

Exactly!” Drew laughs. “Exactly!” Then: “And the math on this is a real bitch.”

“Watch your fucking mouth.”

Drew laughs.

“No. Seriously. And don’t tell your mom I took you to this film.”

“Why?”

“She’ll bust my chops.”

“…Why doesn’t mom like action movies?”

“She thinks cinematic violence is bad for kids.”

“Our teacher says that about cable TV programming.”

He considers telling Drew she’s probably right, but for the wrong reason: Cable’s just subfuckin’moronic.

Instead he says, “Just look at me, Drew. I’ve seen twenty thousand films; half containing an average of, say, twenty-point-five killings. — I’ve seen —”

“Four-hundred-and-ten-thousand,” his son tallies.

“Yeah. I’ve seen four-hundred-and-ten-thousand people killed. So just look at me.”

His son laughs: “You’re a weirdo, dad.”

The Movie Palace is in a splendid old brick building, unassuming and plain on the outside, elegant on the inside.

A former British Consulate, then Freemason temple, it still has its original chandeliers, ornately carved ceiling, mezzanine with crimson carpet and leather chairs set in front of backgammon tables or chessboards, the odd presidents’ deathmaskmothattacked Oriental rug, and a courtyard with ferns, fountain, and verdigrismottled sundial.

Geof is lucky enough to find a parking space.

His watch indicates he is half an hour late — which should make him fifteen minutes early.

These things run on Standard Publicist Time. The marquee reads:

ONE COP, ONE CROOK, 10,000 BULLETS …

“Look at that.” Drew points to a car parked in front of them, a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce. —  Geof shrugs: “So?” — Drew points at the Silver Cloud’s bumper sticker: “LIVE SIMPLY SO THAT OTHERS MAY SIMPLY LIVE.” — “That,” Geof says, managing not to laugh, “has a certain elegant entitlement.” — Drew sees a bento cart at the next corner. — “Can we get teriyaki?” — “After the movie.”

Geof and his son pass through metal detectors, which go off.

A tattooed woman wrestling with the popcorn machine basket waves them through.

“Sorry, I forgot to turn off the damn things.”

Inside the theatre, the usual crew:

Sergei, the mad Russian Stumptown Senator & Sun third-stringer, with the odd byline in Fangoria or Spin — also Veep of the PSU Film Society — and so soon departing for Mexico and Guatemala on his annual workstudyhejira — credits to go towards his interdisciplinary archæology and film production degrees.

Marvelous Harve, the Portlandic Weekly Herald & Argus film critic and presskit whore with knapsack and taped-together hornrim glasses.

Cecilia, a fellow Reedie who writes for a biweekly Eugene anarcho-slacker staplezine called The Snark, as well as for Stumptown Sputnik (which doesn’t take any adult advertising because they have integrity, and doesn’t pay anyone, especially when they promise to do so).

She is excited about a piece she just sold to Twist, after getting a killfee from Sulky.

Every body says hi to Drew, compliments him on his eyepatch. Every body compares various blue, yellow, and white asthma guns with the child’s — commenting on which look all scifi movie space ship miniaturelike, then asks him when he’s going to write his first review.

“Do I smell funny,” Geof asks Cecilia and Sergei.

They laugh; look at him, each saying, “No.”

“My doctor says I smell funny. I shower.”

“He does,” Drew affirms.

With or without Drew, Geof always sits with Sergei and Cecilia, who always whisper to each other throughout the film. Usually, the film at hand is so awful Drew does not much mind. Sometimes Drew asks them to please shut up.

Marvelous Harve always sits a few rows to the front of every body, making a point of having a notepad and tiny flash-light. Two minutes after the opening credits Harve gets up. — Two minutes after the opening credits Harve always gets up.

Cecilia whispers to Sergei, “What do you think?”

“I bet five he does.”

“I bet a cappuccino that he does.”

“Hey,” Cecilia whispers to Sergei, pointing at a gentleman with a very small bald spot and a very long ponytail who sits several rows in front of them. “Isn’t that Stella Capra’s husband, Uggo?”

“Ssshhhhhh.”

“Think he knows you porked his wife last year?”

“Uggo?” Sergei asks, “where?” Then, seeing him: “Oh, yeah. You know, he heads Television Studies now.”

Ssshhhhhh.”

“Hey Uggo,” Geof starts to call out but Sergei kicks him hard as the lights dim, the curtains open. Show time.

On screen the Hong Kong cop hero tells of his immigrant petty criminal Yakuza father who repeatedly accused him of stealing when he was a small child, who never believed him when he denied it and accused him of lying and beat him with kendo shinai; and how there was trouble and his mother died and the neighborhood went kaboom (or boom, ka-) (there are issues of dialect as well as dialectic, to say nothing of how to express the postindustrial quasispectral world in still-Taoist ideograms) and his father disappeared into the endless Hong Kong Triad backalley underworld, fading to black, and he was raised by his uncle and aunt and grandmother.

The Hong Kong cop relates this to a colleague while shoplifting bootlegged merchandise in a department store.

In a repeated scene, not quite a leitmotif, the Hong Kong cop hero keeps going back to what is left of his old neighborhood — shoplifting in markets and boutiques, most rebuilt since the boom, ka-.

The cop hero stands in front of a metastasized glowing tin shed of a factory with pincers extruding from the roof all Japanese atomic crabmonsterlike and backflashes to his smiling mother singing him to sleep and then the neighborhood going boom, ka-, everything flying, seeking its own vector as order unfolds into resplendent chaos.

#

Marvelous Harve eventually comes back into the theatre with popcorn and a candy bar. Gets up a few minutes later.

After the film villain named Dragon, who runs a Hong Kong Triad, is shot, stabbed, immolated, and defenestrated from the balcony of a luxe suite on to a staircase floors below, to then crash through the landing rail and be impaled on a sundial in the garden below that — all this done to the Dragon by his long-lost son who has become the shoplifting policeman; after the Chinese credits with French subtitles roll by. Drew reminds his father Geof of the bento cart. Geof gives him a ten dollar bill. “Get me chicken with rice and just a splash of teriyaki.”

“The noodles are better.”

“I want rice.”

After the publicist gives every body press kits and posters and tshirts and key chains and cee-dee soundtracks, every body goes back down to the lobby to get the newest Portlandic Weekly Herald & Argus.

Marvelous Harve dismissively waves to them as he exits the building, clutching a Portlandic Weekly Herald & Argus. Drew returns with a white plastic bag containing black bento trays.

Geof has already grabbed the new Portlandic Weekly Herald & Argus from a lopsiding lobby news rack, and is checking it against last week’s press releases.

“Sergei. You owe me a cappuccino for last week.”

“Hey!” A hand grabs Sergei’s shoulder.   “Good to see you guy.” Uggo’s hand. Sergei jumps out of, then back into, his skin.

“Oh — oh — Uggo!”

“You still owe me a term paper, guy.” Uggo looks at his watch. “Have to pick up the noneck monstrosity from day care.” Then to Geof: “What happened to your cable show?”

“It was just a temporary gig,” Geof says.

But Uggo is out the door. As he departs, Cecilia turns to Sergei: “He knows.”

“Nah,” Sergei says. “He doesn’t. He can’t.”

“I heard he likes to watch,” Cecilia says.

“Besides, who cares what a trophy-hyphenator thinks.”

“A trophy-what?”

“He was married once before, and he has not one, but two hyphenates for his last name.”

The publicist arrives with a tray of cappuccinos. “Gotta make like a particle and split,” she says and does so. Every body goes out to the courtyard, with its gurgling fountain and black and white floor tiles looking like a barbershop where Mafioso get whacked or like an infinite chess board where the Red Queen demands decapitations, and where a few white tables and plastic chairs are set up. They find a table that isn’t too wobbly or filthy and find chairs that aren’t cracked or chipped or covered with bird shit and drag them to their table and then they sit.

Drew takes each ribbed ebony sarcophagus from the bag and passes the one with the rice to his dad. “Anyone else want any,” he asks the group as he passes a pair of chopsticks to his dad. “I can go get some more.” Sergei and Cecelia decline. “I didn’t know she was in on the bet,” Drew says.

“You kidding,” Sergei replies. “She started the tradition.”

“At least Marvelous Harve didn’t stay to lecture us about how film’s gone dead up the ass ever since Fassbinder died —”

“I’ve seen a few,” Drew says, “a bit Angsty but they’re not bad.”

“Listen to the kid tell us about Angst,” Sergei says. “The only thing you need to know about Fassbinder is that he made fifty movies in twelve years, some of them over eight hours long, and most perfectly calibrated in one way or another but only in one way or another — and he died at his editing table of a heroin-cocaine overdose and that you need to do lots of coke or heroin to get into his films. But. You’re a kid and we don’t talk about that around kids. Marvelous Harve always rewinds to a particular scene in Fassbinder’sLola — I think it was Lola — he’ll go on and on about Fassbinder setting up an impossible scene where his male and female leads are in a parklot at night and are about to kiss and the audience wonders how they’ll pull off the shot off because the actor is lit with blue gels and the actress with soft red gels and just then as the two’re about to kiss they turn and hold up their arms because of the whitelightwhiteheat glare of a large automobile’s headlights as it comes into the lot.”

“And since he’s not here you’ve got to repeat it verbatim,” Cecilia comments.

“Look.” Sergei turns to her. “I’m warning him, okay?

“Speaking of warning. Got all your boostershots?” Geof enquires.

“Of course.”

“So.” Cecilia continues: “Going to bone your teacher Stella again this year?”

“The kid,” Sergei mutters, pointing to Drew.

“Stella Capra?” Drew asks.

“Yeah,” Cecilia says.

“I audited her Mayan astronomy course last summer.”

“Go on,” Sergei says to Cecilia, “Go on. Ask Drew if he boned her —”

Drew blushes as Cecilia and Geof do doubletakes. Cecilia starts in: “You should watch what you say around kids —”

“It’s okay,” Drew says to her. Then to Sergei: “I’m not that precocious —”

“I should hope not,” says Cecilia.

“Besides,” Drew adds, “her grasp of geology is shaky at best, and she’s over-rated as a Mayanologist.”

Geof picks at his sarcophagus of bowl and stops when a crimson drop falls onto his white rice.

“You okay?” Cecelia asks him. Another drop falls, then another, another.

“That’s disgusting,” Sergei says.

“Shut up, Sergei,” Cecelia says. Then to Drew: “Go to the restroom, and get a bunch of paper towels. Dampen them.” And then to Geof, “Tilt your head back.”

“I’m okay. I get these sometimes.”

Tilt your head back.”

“Yes, mother.”

Just shut the fuck up, Geof, and tilt your head back. And call your doctor’s advice nurse when you get home.” The bleeding stops, gradually. They drink another round of cappuccinos in the courtyard, watch the brief afternoon sun do its shadows and light dance with the sundial — and try to ignore the dandruff kernels and popcorn flakes on Sergei’s black tshirt — and discuss the office politics of their various publications, and all the vaccines needed whenever going abroad.

Cecilia astonishes every body by telling of attempts to impregnate herself with the services of a local fertility clinic. Actually, she explains, they have fertilized Andrea’s eggs and implanted one in Cecilia, or tried to. That way they are both the parents.

She also tells of an incident a few months back where they initially decided to go lo-tech turkey baster and they had three guys doing a circle jerk in a guest bedroom and when the cup was quarterfilled one of them took it into the dining room where Andrea would route it to their bedroom where Cecelia awaited the demon seed. Only there was a cable guy doing repair and after he used the bathroom he asked for coffee and thought that the cup had nondairy creamer, and afterwards wanted to know the brand. And the three guys were too tired and discouraged to try again. Hence, the fertility clinic route. And in a few years they want to implant a fertilized egg from Cecilia so that Andrea carries a baby to term, though not now. Right now, it’s Cecilia’s turn. “It’s just not working,” she finally says.

“But why,” Sergei asks, bemused, “why a baby?”

“My clock is ticking.”

“How does Andrea feel about it?”

“Andrea comes from a big family — she’s supportive.”

“Supportive?” Sergei laughs. “Supportive, good. I s’pose if she’s letting them suck out eggs and freeze them before popping them into you, I s’pose she’s supportive. You know you’re only twenty-five.”

Cecilia laughs.

“But my eggs aren’t going with the plan.”

“Silent sperm,” Drew says. Every body looks at him.

“There’s an article about environmental pollution and resultant reduced sperm motility. Pollution’s not the only factor.”

“Listen to him,” Sergei says.

Cecilia pauses, turns to Geof:

“Really sorry about your dad.”

“What about his father,” Sergei enquires. Then: “Geof never talks about his father.”

Geof reaches for his coffee and is tempted to ask her to pass the nondairy creamer. Cecilia looks at Geof. “Nothing,” she says to Sergei.

He died,” Drew says, surprising Geof.

“You heard Cecilia,” Geof says to Sergei.

He looks at what was his lunch, looks at the black sarcophagus of bowl, at the white grains swamped by clotted blood.  SAND:  Geof and Drew go home.

This time Geof takes the Burnside Bridge across the sluggish-unto-sclerotic Willamette, to avoid any ice.

There are orangeorange cones funneling the traffic down to onelane each way and the flow slows as Geof and Drew merge into a queue. — The day has become overcast and a sullen bluegray glare is sent bouncing everywhere. — To the north Geof and Drew see the Steele and Broadway bridges and the immense Fremont Bridge of suicides, and to the south a glinting blur of metal rushing across the Morrison and (mostly hidden Hawthorne) bridge(s), and the doubledecked glittering bumpertobumper double-arch of the Marquam Bridge — the Marquam arcing as it takes I-5 across the Willamette, and shows off pretty city lights for outoftowners. Drew points out a billboard for the Gay Golf Channel™.

Drew next points out the river’s ripples below the Morrison Bridge, river water against bridge foundation piers and bridge against river water — slicing water into rippling vee-formations, and then reminds his father that none of the bridges are earthquakeproofed, and Geof says he’d rather not hear this right here right now.

Before the signal completely craps out they hear an old Ramones song on NRK, I Wanna Be Sedated, and Drew sings along. Drew comments to his dad above the bompbompabompa of the radio about how the car’s radials make strange and soothing musics in response to the buckling city streets around Lloyd Center. They take the freeway and Drew plays a favorite car game, calling out “Ouboros,” to which Geof replies, “Subaru?” There is a familiar homeless person at the Lloyd Center turn-off, with a sign: WILL WORK FOR FOOD.

“Why don’t you ever give him money, dad?”

“He’d spend it on —” Geof stops himself short; that is what his father would have said, that the bum would spend it on wine.

“You buy wine,” Drew says. “You probably have a case in the trunk. Give him a bottle.”

Geof pulls over, gets out and opens the Hyundai’s trunk; he runs back to the offramp panhandler and gives him a bottle of Italian merlot. The offramp panhandler tries to tell Geof he is in a 12-Step Program but Geof is running back to his car. The neighbors across the courtyard are at it again.

Drew is in the kitchen making foccacia when there is a loud pounding on the door: “Get that, dad.”

The knocking continues. Rugrat troll eyes glance at Geof through the mail slot as he goes to answer the door. The slot shuts.

“Hello,” the neighbor says to him, loudly. Geof can tell she is furious, by her agitated eyes, by the vein pulsing fiercely on her forehead, by the spittle flying with each word, and by the way she clutches at her little son, whose hair has been very badly shorn. “I know you laugh at us!” Her son looks like the kids you see in a cancer movie, when they do the obligatory children’s hospital scene. “I know,” the neighbor tells him, “I know you think we are white trash rednecks, but I want to know what sort of parents raise their boy up to do this to my baby!”

“What?” The hair on the lawn. “Drew,” Geof calls, no, yells, to his son. “Drew, right here, right now!”

“I don’t want to hear your son’s lying ass.”

She pivots to stomp back down the staircase, her whimpering redneck rugrat troll in tow.

Drew comes to his father, wiping his hands with a towel.

“I didn’t, dad. Honest.”

“Didn’t what…?” Geof regards his son, the lying son of a bitch.

“Whatever you’re going to blame me for, I didn’t.”

Downstairs in the courtyard there is screaming. Daphne is home, screaming at the neighbor: “You get your Jethro-clone redneck ass out there and clean up that sand and cat shit before I call the cops.”

“Kiss my white ass,” the neighbor calls back: “Look at what your boy did to my baby.”

I don’t care if Drew cut his dick off and fed it to your cats,” Daphne is heard to reply. “Unless you clean up that sand and cat shit right now I’ll call your landlord.” There is scuffling and the sound of wood hitting flesh. The neighbor screams and uses the N-word and Daphne tells the neighbor to cunt off and the neighbor’s flipflops echo back across the courtyard. (Geof is a bit shocked at Daphne’s language, language Daphne picks up from her reading group, language Daphne picks up from the ex-.)  Daphne storms up the steps.

“Honest. I didn’t, dad,” Drew repeats. A smile (incriminating?) forms on his face.

“Then who did,” Geof asks. He knows that smile ironic. From a slightly opened window, the voices of the neighbor and her speedfreak plasterer husband can be heard to converge: “Out.” — “Your.” — “My.” — “Out.” — “My.” — “Fucking whore.” — “Fucked Ginny.” —

“That’s it!” Daphne barges through with a janitor’s broom, slamming the door behind her. “That’s it, Geof! I’m calling their landlord!” She shuts the window. “I do not fucking need to hear that vile horse shit! Where’s the phone number?”

“On the fridge.”

Geof looks at his son.

“I didn’t do it, dad.”

“Where is the god damn telephone? Never mind, I found it.” Then, “I got there just in time, Geof. They were going to shut the lid to —” Daphne looks at Drew. “I talked to your mom, Geof.” She looks at her husband, turns away, and looks back. “You okay?”

“Fine.”

“You look like you should lie down.”

“Dad had another nosebleed today.”

Daphne turns to her stepson: “What do you mean another?”

The neighbors are still to be heard screaming in their downstairs apartment across the courtyard, voices now muffled, words unclear.

“Dad. I did not.”

“What,” Daphne says. To Geof: “What did he do?”

“Neighbor says Drew hurt her kid.”

“Did not.”

“Good. Brat deserved it, probably.”

Geof hates that, hates it when Daphne undercuts his authority. Geof sees his son Drew bite his tongue, trying not to smile or grin or show any expression, which terrifies Geof. Geof knows this one, too; has done it himself. He could slap that shitty smile off Drew’s face. “Like you didn’t try to poke the girl’s eye out?”

“Foccacia smells great,” Daphne says from the kitchen as she dials: “Hello.” Pauses, listens: “Voicemail sucks.” Then:

“Hello, this is Daphne Reid, owner of the apartments across the courtyard from yours. About your tenants in Apartment B.”

“I did not.” There are sirens, only they sound like they are going away, dopplering red shift. Gunshot. A bullet flies into the room, shatters the window, flying seconds per second, shatter and slug whizzing past Geof and Drew. Geof reaches for Drew, embraces his son, and they fall to the floor, fall to safety. There is then another gunshot. Again. From across the courtyard. Then another. Again. Daphne crawls to them. “I didn’t.”

Another. Not semi-. Still, the gunshots, the bullets, come. Again, again. Another. Another.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

R.V.  Branham was born & raised on the California/Baja border, & as an adolescent wound up in El-lay. When not co-hosting a floating æther-den, R.V. attended U.S.C., El Camino College, Cal State Dominguez Hills, & Michigan State University. Day jobs have included: technical typist, photo-researcher, x-ray tech. intern, interpreter, social worker, & Treasury Dept. terrorist. His short fiction has been published in magazines such as 2 Gyrls Quarterly, Back Brain Recluse (UK), Téma (Croatia), Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Midnight Graffiti, & Red Lemonade (online), & have been collected in such anthologies as Red Lemonade’s Hybrid beasts (available as an e-book), Full Spectrum 3, Drawn to Words, Mother Sun, & several Gardner Dozois anthologies; many of his short stories have been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, & Spanish; his plays, Bad Teeth, and Matt & Geof Go Flying, have been performed in staged readings in Los Angeles & Portland; he attended writing workshops run by Beyond Baroque, John Rechy, Sheila Finch, John Hill, & A.J. Budrys. He has translated Laura Esquivel into English & several of Croatian poet Tomica Bajsic’s poems into Spanish. Back in the day he co-hosted a floating æther-den (it was the 70’s). He is the founder & editor of Gobshite Quarterly—a Portland, Oregon-based multilingual en-face magazine of prose, poems, essays, reasoned rants, & etc.; & author of a 90-language dictionary of insult & invective, obscenity & blasphemy, Curse + Berate in 69+ Languages (published by Soft Skull); & edited & published a bilingual edition of Luisa Valenzuela’s Deathcats/El gato eficaz.

 

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 Jane8

Artist: Jane Gilday

Woman in Pink

Acrylic on archival paper, mounted on board

Standard
Fiction

The End of Everywhere

by Geoff Schutt

 

You are in your room at The Melrose. The bottles of California champagne are lined up along the windowsill. The drapes are closed, except for the very middle, a crooked spot where the drapes meet, allowing enough of an opening for the night light to come in. Maybe the moon’s full, and that’s why it’s so bright outside. You don’t know. Maybe it’s lights from the street, or a light from the office that finds its way in. You’ve kept the light inside off because it makes you feel safer somehow, as though nobody can see you, that you are hiding and have some time to think, even if you aren’t thinking about much right now. Well, you are thinking about ice. The California champagne (and you love thinking those two words together, because they don’t go together at all – together, they sound pretentious and cheap) is warm, and there’s no working ice machine at The Melrose, and you’d probably have to go back to the gas station for a bag of ice if you really wanted to chill one of these bottles. It doesn’t really matter, though does it, warm or cold. You take one of the bottles and give it a good shake. Warmer, it’s bound to give a bigger boom when the cork comes out, and the liquid bubbles all over. You tear off the gold foil with your fingernails, twist off the protective wire holding the cork in place, and begin to turn. But before you can even really get a good twist on the cork, there’s a knock at the door. You put your thumb over the cork in case it decides to explode without your okay and hold the bottle close to your body as you press yourself against the door and say, Who is it?

Greta, of course.

You let her in.

She sees the bottles of champagne, which are visible while the door is open. Then the darkness envelops the two of you, except for the slit between the drapes.

Greta doesn’t try to turn on the light, and she doesn’t ask you to turn on the light either. You are sitting next to each other on the bed.

She is looking at the bottle you are so carefully holding, your thumb pressed down so hard it begins to hurt.

Open it, she says.

So you begin to twist and it doesn’t take long and the cork indeed pops and hits the ceiling, straight up, and the California champagne is flowing over the bottle like a volcano has erupted. Greta leans forward to lick the side of the bottle.

It’s warm, she says.

I know. I’m sorry.

Do you have any ice? you say after a brief pause.

I don’t mind, Greta says. She takes the bottle from you and drinks, even as the remnants of the eruption of bubbles and liquid drip onto her blouse.

It’s probably about the same if we did have ice, you say.

Greta says, It tastes wonderful, and she hands you the bottle, and you drink from it just as she did, feeling liquid stain your shirt.

You pass the bottle back and forth until it’s nearly empty. The stuff goes down incredibly smooth. You are amazed, and feeling a distance, weird sort of buzz at the same time.

I was going to be the next big thing, you say quietly.

What stopped you? Greta says.

You take another drink. There are perhaps a couple of long swallows each left. You look at her, seeing the shadow side of her face, her outline, a silhouette of a female you are attracted to, and yet you cannot allow yourself to be attracted to, but rules be rules, and rules are meant to be broken, and you can’t help how you feel, and you are attracted to her, and the only thing you can say to Greta is something to answer her question, and then you can turn your face away and not be so entranced by her, when you just wish she would love you, just love you like nobody else ever has, with no questions, no holding back, existing right now in the present, just the two of you, and warm California champagne gone straight to your heads and sitting even warmer in your stomachs and you want her so much but you have to slow down your breathing and try to answer, don’t you. just try to answer so you can turn your face away and not succumb to her even if she is not asking for one damn thing from you.

What stopped me, you say – and then take on the remaining swallows – was me.

That would’ve, should’ve, been the end of it. Go on to another subject. Or don’t talk at all. But this is Greta and she is beginning to get to know you, or wanting to know you, and she says, You’re here, and I don’t see you doing anything to stop yourself.

Odd, isn’t it, how your face hasn’t turned away, how even as you answered her in the first place, you kept looking at her, as much as you can see of her. Odd isn’t it, you are thinking, handing her the bottle, watching her head and neck arch back to take in the California champagne and marveling at her outline, as if you were at a museum, admiring a great work of sculpture, and even though there are signs everywhere telling you not to touch the artwork, you cannot resist and you touch. You need to feel what a work of art feels like. Feel it beyond the buzz of the alcohol. Feel it inside yourself like you are reopening a scarred love.

God, she is so soft.

***

When will your husband be home? you ask. I heard you fighting. You know how thin these walls are. I can’t help it if I hear things.

Tonight’s different, Greta says.

If he ever did anything to you, and I heard it happening, I would be breaking down your door in a second to help you. You know this, yes?

She looks at you, and then at the draped windows. I know, she says. I trust you.

Maybe it’s the cheap California champagne, or maybe it’s just built-up emotion, but her words hurt you somehow.

But how can you trust me? you say.

Greta keeps her gaze straight ahead. I have this sense about people, she says.

Open another bottle, Greta says.

Bottle number three. You don’t shake it this time. Still, warm cheap champagne bubbles over and you lose a portion of the liquid. Doesn’t much make a difference. There are seven bottles left. You could drink yourself to death, though you don’t recall any stories about a person dying from drinking too much cheap champagne.

You’re suddenly self-conscious. You’ve been sharing the bottle, but now you wish you had real champagne glasses. Even plastic ones would do. There are the two plastic cups in the bathroom you haven’t used yet. You go and get those and return, and pour Greta’s full, and then your own.

Here’s a toast, you say, holding up your plastic cup.

Okay, Greta says, and she lifts hers.

But fuck if you know what to say next. Greta’s eyes are so beautiful, looking at you, waiting, trusting you without any reason to trust you.

Here’s to tonight, you say, and the two of you click plastic cups and take a sip. The more you drink, the easier it goes down. The room temperature bubbles sting your throat, but you like the sting, the small amount of pain, because you feel you should be experiencing more pain than this, though you’re not sure why, and any pain or discomfort is better than none. It’s insane to think this way, of course. You even know it’s insane to think this way. It’s amazing, you think, how aware of some things you can be when you’re on a buzz that at any other time you would just be oblivious. That said, you wonder about what things you are oblivious to when you aren’t on a buzz, when you are sober.

You have a thought, brought on by the buzz. You have a pocketknife that belonged to your grandfather. You father gave this to you after your grandfather died. It was one of those belongings that was precious enough to take with you, to this place, where you’ve ended up, in the middle of nowhere or at the end of everywhere. And you’ve protected it during this journey, away from home, away from everything you could call a normal life – or at least, your normal life. So you have this thought, this abrupt through, that maybe you and Greta are in the same boat, like a raft or something, as if the larger ship you were aboard has sunk and now you are drifting in the sea, waiting to be rescued and there’s no guarantee that anyone will ever find you. You need to make amends while you’re still alive, still breathing, even if your amends are made to a person who was a complete stranger just days before.

You find the pocketknife, even in the dark. Your eyes have adjusted enough to the shadows.

You pull open one of the blades. You hand this to Greta.

I want you to cut me, you say. We’re in this together now, both of our lives, you say. I want you to cut me and then I’ll cut you. And then we’re family, and once we’re family we can look out for one another. Not just now, tonight, I mean, but after tonight. For the rest of our lives.

You keep going on, a rambling you just talking and talking.

If you don’t want me to cut you, that’s okay, you say. I can’t even tell you exactly why. Like you can’t tell me why tonight is so different with your husband being gone. He’ll come back, I know he will, but until then, you’re welcome here, and I’m glad you’re here with me, and I am asking you a big favor, I know.

Greta laughs. Not a big laugh, but a tiny one, half of it kept inside, and she’s smiling too.

We did this as kids, she says. Me and my friend, I mean. Blood sisters.

You hand her the knife. You roll up the sleeve on your shirt. You place your finger on the inside of your elbow.

That’s not how we did it, Greta says. We used our thumbs.

I want you to make a cut right here, you say. I want you to make it deep, so I bleed. I want to bleed. I need to bleed.

And Greta, she could be making all kinds of excuses as to why she will not cut you, how this is wrong, how it’s crazy to be slicing into each other, or at least, into you, but she doesn’t, and now she is completely serious, no laughing, or smiling. Just to the task. You made a request, and she is completing it. She places the blade against your skin. You close your eyes and wait. You hold your drink with the other hand. You cannot watch her cut you, though a perverse side of you wants to – a perverse sexual side of you that finds this activity somehow stimulating.

No, no – pain – pain is what you want. You know how dull the blades are, really. You know. You know she will have to dig deep to break skin. She may not know how deep she needs to dig, but you know, because you have tried this already, by yourself. Trying to feel the hurt you have caused people you love, and in doing so, trying to call up your grandfather’s ghost so you can speak to him, and ask him for his wise words, as in, here I am, but what do I do next? How do I get back? How do I find home?

Greta has placed her plastic cup on the worn carpeting. She is holding your skin taught with one hand, and has the blade against your skin with the other. You can feel her struggle with it. You can feel the cold metal on your skin, even this thin blade of the pocketknife, how cold it is, you can feel this, and you can feel his trying to make you bleed, and you feel her life the blade when she is not successful at drawing blood, and now you are ready to open your eyes and tell her that it’s okay, it’s a dull blade and this was a bad idea, that you didn’t know what it was going to accomplish anyway, and that she shouldn’t feel bad and that you’re going to put the knife away and that the two of you can continue to drink until you pass out, if that’s what she wants, or talk, or both, or stop drinking the cheap California champagne that’s giving you such a weird kind of buzz and maybe go out somewhere for a cup of coffee – yes, actually leave The Melrose, this dump of a motel, together, and go out, together, and forget about husbands and wives and have a conversation as two people who have been very hurt by their circumstances, no sense to place blame anywhere, just to talk about things, and get everything out into the open.

You don’t open your eyes though. And Greta does not give in to a dull blade. You can only imagine what she does by the way it feels. You can only imagine that she has lifted the blade a couple of inches into the air and now stabs your arm with a surprising amount of force, and you feel the emotion of bleeding instead of the pain, but there’s no such thing is there? To feel bleeding the same way you might feel happiness or sorrow.

Now do it to me, Greta says.

You open your eyes. Your arm is bleeding – not a lot really, but it is bleeding, and Greta has her own arm waiting for you, and she presses the pocketknife into your hands, and she closes her eyes.

Please do it quickly, she says.

I’m ready, she says.

What are you waiting for? she says. I’m ready.

an excerpt from a novel-in-progress

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Geoff Schutt’s short fiction has appeared in The Quarterly (edited by Gordon Lish for Vintage Books/Random House), The Best of Writers at Work, The Wastelands Review and The Laurel Review, among others. He has received three artist grants for his fiction-as-performance art from The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. His novel-length work is represented by James McGinniss of McGinniss Associates Literary Agency, New York City. More about Geoff Schutt is available at his blog, “This Side of Paradise,” at http://geoffschutt.blogspot.com

 

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jane16

Artist: Jane Gilday

Hero Fool Beast

Acrylic on panel

Standard