In Transit

To see yourself in pictures that will never be taken: a ghost of a ghost. To feel these faux-polaroids in your mind’s hands and the shape of them, the wear in the corners from wallet’s contact, and the genuine smiles, the eyes getting in on it, the weight and the wait till “cheese.” To hear the sound of the word divorce. To feel this dissolution in the heart-hurt, the shortness of breath, the physical signs that tell you you are dying. To remember that sometimes your brain can’t tell the difference between emotional death and actual. To rehear these same words spoken by your parents when you were about the age your daughter is now. To sound out the syllables like some rehearsed song in a language you don’t understand. To recall a period of your life where you saw the things that separate–the screen doors, the foggy windows–and not the views just past them. To see your daughter’s face with that same far away look, that bubble world of unknowing. To get sleep using cheap beer and sleeping pills, and to cry your vomit into the toilet when the world comes back to you. To dump these pills and to buy more when you can’t sleep again. To get on a bus and a train with these bodies around you, and the way that spills collect in pools under certain seats like portents of doom, waiting for changes in inertia to strike unsuspecting feet and bags. To see what’s become of your life as one great spill, something to slosh around and rapidly change states. To fall asleep in transit and to wake up when a mechanical voice announces a stop you’ve never been to before. To get off the train. To wake up in night snow, midnight inebriation, and the no-feel of where your skin made contact with it. To leave vomit the color of your frostbit skin and to howl your pain at a moon covered by clouds. To be taken in past red letters and bright lights and hallways choked with sick people, and to almost see the label you will receive, Just Another Drunk Off the Street, and the stinging stain of this. To be visited by the receiving and the attending, and to be given literature with meeting dates and times as you convalesce in a rented bed, steep fee but not as steep as death.

To be let out after a time, and to read about continuing treatment, and to put this in your pocket. To breathe. To go to the place you remember and to make that first date, feeling almost remade, re-naissanced, reborn.

Featured Image

Kodachrome Life

My girlfriend surprised me with an early Christmas present the other day: a vintage Kodak Instamatic M2 movie camera from the mid-60s. The estate sale she’d bought it from included a similarly vintage indoor lighting kit and a projector for home viewing after you’d gotten the super 8 cartridge processed at a photo lab. I’d once shot in 16 mm on a Bolex back when I was a film student, but I’d never shot on super 8 before even though I’d always wanted to. I mentioned it in passing once, and she remembered. Just a really, really good gift.

Inside the box the camera and assorted gear came in, there was a small metal box. I guess the estate sale people didn’t notice it, because they never mentioned it to my girlfriend, and she didn’t even know it was in there until I started rooting around and found it under the projector.

Inside the small metal box were a collection of film spools. Picking one up and holding it to the light, I could tell it was already processed, but it was hard to make out what was on the film. I found a YouTube instructional on that model of film projector, managed to locate a pdf scan of the original manual. I spooled the old super 8 film on the projector and set it against the wall for my girlfriend and I to watch.

It was scratchy at first, blown out in spots, but I chalked that up to the film’s age. But it kept happening, over and over. Almost like a pattern. Clear, vivid shots of blue sky sliced by cirrus, wispy, curling, like ethereal hair, then darkness, scratched film, and color flickering by one frame at a time, accumulating shape and weight like painted cells from a bygone era where color film was hand-colored. And I realized that that’s what this was. We were watching the work of a visual artist.

Miasmas of color gave way to eruptions of pitted black, simulated static from strategic distortions of celluloid. Then figures, maybe human, definitely moving, almost imperceptibly slow, but then with sudden, sped-up writhing, close-ups of grotesques and detailed makeup that seemed almost anachronistic for how vivid and real it seemed to be, how modern. This film had to be decades old, but it seemed fresh–hard-edged. There were elaborate stagings of musicals kept silent in the film, then abrupt cuts to sidewalks and streets, the camera sometimes placed on the ground perilously close to passing tires as cars rolled by and over it. Frenetic hyper-fast cuts of neighborhoods as they looked 60 years ago, the passersby and their fashions, the cars they drove the only giveaway that this film was made that long ago.

I dug around for his name, or for titles scrawled on film tins, but there was nothing. This was some of the best experimental work I’d seen on film, and by all accounts, its filmmaker lived without ever finding much recognition, if any. A lifetime of work, relegated to a cardboard box that can be sold after you die.

I started cataloguing as I waited for the new film cartridge I’d ordered to come in. I tried finding his name out later, but everything turned up a blank. So, for the time being, I catalogued the work under the name John Doe.

In time, I had over a dozen short films catalogued with runtimes, brief summaries, and considerations of artistic merit. I suggested titles where appropriate and went ahead and paid a company to make digital copies for posterity. I wanted to have a positive ID on the guy before I started sharing his work on the internet, but I never did find out his name. Either way, his work found a footing early on, the older folks considering him a peer of Stan Brakhage, and younger people noting the logical progression from work like his to people like David Firth and Jack Stauber. It was incredible to see the explosion of interest, the way this thing seemed to take on a life of its own.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do–I mean what I really wanted do with my life there for a while. But when that package came in and I opened it, when I loaded that fresh, first film cartridge into my Instamatic, I knew.

Plum Sky

Casting a line off the edge of a barge micronation somewhere off the Adriatic, plum sky undulating like some childhood experiment with oil and water, and all of a sudden that seems so long ago, that 1990s childhood spent tinkering with PC parts, putting together your first computer, and now here you are thirty years later, in unclaimed waters, undisclosed location, starting some religion, maybe a country, you haven’t gotten that far, it isn’t clear yet, but it’ll be something different, whatever it is, so you return to these old practices and prepare the precepts for the initiates who will be here next day, their boat is coming in then and will promptly be destroyed upon their arrival, because there will be no need for transportation when everything they could possibly need is right here on this constructed island, when all of their needs can be met by the Almighty Godhead and all that he provides, on this barge that’s been assembled from the repurposed garbage floating aimlessly through the ocean, you’ve gone to great expense to have it collected, and you’ve studied all the major religions to make sure that you’re not treading over tired territory, that you haven’t accidentally plagiarized Zarathustra or anything, and you haven’t, not that you can tell, so you will now establish this colony in the ocean, this empire everlasting with yourself as omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent leader who will rule for now and all of time, for you have teachings prepared on the nature of time, you’ve presented them to the internet and have been brutally ridiculed, but that’s the measure of a great idea, isn’t it, the ridicule of small-minded people, and that’s what convinced you that you were doing the right thing, convincing others to worship you as a god on a barge of garbage floating out in the ocean, this is what you’ve been working toward all your life, the unadulterated adulation of others, the drowning in their praise, happiness everlasting, it is all yours to take as you prepare your vestments you’ve created, a robe also made of reconstructed refuse, it still stinks even, but that is the last stink of the world to be washed clean from you, you’ve prepared the sermon, you can visualize the rite even now, with you and the others dipping into the ocean to rid yourselves of the scent of the world, to replace it with something unsmelled and unknown heretofore, it will be a glorious birth of a new state, a new state of mind and of being, you’re sure of it, or else you wouldn’t have sunk all your savings into this construction, wouldn’t have sold all of your things and left everyone you’ve ever loved behind, so you need to make something of that sacrifice, now, and here, you’re sure it will be worth it, so you look once more over that plum, undulating sky, that dark mass that will be either your salvation or damnation, and you sit on this barge, and you wait for the coming day, and you hope beyond hope that they will come.

 

Featured Image

Sliding

Pet the cat. Thoughts coalesce when you pet the cat. It’s tactile, like a grounding method or something. You read that somewhere. Where did you read it?

It’s lost.

Do something. Touch the fabric of your shirt, smell the inside of a melted candle, but don’t touch the hot wax to your nose. Or maybe do. Maybe that’ll make you remember more. What are you trying to remember?

Lost.

Check your pockets. Some change, wrinkled receipts. A lighter. You don’t smoke, do you? You’re losing it. Okay, okay, what else? Keys. A little Buddha on a bent keychain. Buddha. Shakyamuni or Hotei? Skinny and serene or chubby and smiling? Why do you know these distinctions?

Gone.

Back to your pockets. Wallet, phone, knife. Phone. Unlock it with your password. Can’t remember what it is, but you’ll remember once you get there. Good. Check messages first. Nothing newer than three days old. You must’ve dropped off the face of the Earth. Vanished like a ghost. Ghost, spirit, scary stories, campfire, cold tent.

Gone.

Okay, sensory perceptions, then. Stale air on tongue, rusty breath. Need to brush. Itch on arm that’s getting worse the longer it’s ignored. Lifting up sleeve and finding a perfect, filled-in black square tattooed there. Three inches on each side, perfect lines, like it’s been stamped there or something. It hasn’t, though. Rubbing, scraping, and scratching do nothing. Spit shine. Nothing.

Gone.

Nowhere neighbors nesting near nurses, nails nipping notations (nevermind nightwood), notwithstanding nestled noses; nearsighted nuns negotiating Nicean niceties.

Name.

Gone.

Feel around darkened corners of a room you remember smelling once, like a dusty old book this room, and the feeling of remembering a memory that’d been missing for decades, that book with a page ripped out of same, crumpled up, burned, flushed down waterways only to reassemble in its current form, somehow, a simple impossibility, but here it is, a memory coming up and out of this inner abyss, this inward twistedness, can even taste its metallic clinging bitters like nettles on the skin, running water over same, cold in temperature but not in feeling, still burning, and isn’t it fucked how this is a memory you cling to, simply because It Is A Memory That Refuses To Fade, so you let it play, let it cycle through without stopping, because the celluloid will jam and burn if you don’t, so the picture flickers through.

Stop.

But it won’t, not now, not when you want it to, it will send its information filter flying through filament traps in your mind like shutters clocked at twenty-four, blistering past, data cascades like avalanches of ones and zeroes, interpretable only in sleep, in dreams that you accept at face value during the course of but doubletake at once awake, wondering what the fuck it is you just dreamt, and why, dreamt not dreamed, and that’s something else you remember now too, scrolling through this fetid feed like galoshes sloshing through sewer contents at night, running through the innards of your city like an intrepid intestinal traveler, tapering this way then that when your feet don’t make purchase, then do, contact imminent with bricks laid centuries before you were born, and you’ve never felt more alive than in this moment with the balaclava tucked tight over your nose, filtered breathing, thinking that a Cockney accent might render it bolly-clahv, can’t help but think in this accent now, internal monologue going British, that’s a right nasty meat piece you’ve got there, in prime primal fashion brandishing a peace that can’t be bought but can be sold, mass-produced and disseminated like so much newscopy to chew on, Chungus Leafleg V is your name, there’s a line of them, a lineage, all the Chungi really had a time, and it’s something to do anyway, watch the words tumble out your mouth like a 19th century Freak Show, acquiring language even as you’re speaking it, and the thing about multitasking is that you can never do every task completely well–call it an overclock of the soul, a restructuring of the mind, gathering memories like drops in a bucket that keeps overflowing from a summer storm, power flickering out, and heat like its own separate entity–you know this place (not consciously, but it won’t exactly leave your mind either), and it gets trapped to the point where all you can do is rattle off names and dates, your personal history, like you’ve got the textbook memorized (social studies class as a child taught you well), yes just names, dates, and places but nothing of their substance, none of the really juicy details that make up a personality and individual; anyone could have these facts, could spew these words, so you’ll need those things that can’t be replicated–you’ll need the look of realization when a memory of a childhood barbecue comes back with waves of heat refraction shimmering off the top of the grill, and the way that every burger managed to disassemble itself and flop onto your T-shirt before it could find your mouth; you’ll need the image of sliding down a plastic slide that’s been baked in the sun, nearly melted, with a garden hose propped under one of the handrails at the top, sending down water that should ostensibly cool it down but doesn’t, not really, but it doesn’t matter because you’re sliding down now, sliding toward an inflated pool at the bottom, sliding for a second, sliding for a week,

a month,

a year,

a decade,

a lifetime.

Anagram Days

Days like magnet letters on a dusty refrigerator, speckle stains of barbecue sauce and ketchup like culinary crime scenes as an animal collects leftovers from where they’ve fallen–from a midnight sandwich or sunrise coffee-and-bagel.

You can learn a lot about someone from the stains they leave behind.

It’s collecting bruises in a ten-dollar-a-class dojo, swishing trial size mouthwash in the dojo bathroom because it always burns your mouth and helps distract you from the pain of the mistakes you’ve made.

It’s coming out in muddy brown dusk with sky the color of pre-tornado, leaves more like slush than tree structures, coming into the night that’s just now arriving, with lighter fluid in one pocket and a matchbook in the other, only feeling comfortable when you have the capacity to make fire at will, not even for nefarious reasons, just reveling in the fact that if you could go back in time, right now, even as you are, and show this to cavemen, you would be God to them. God in ripped jeans and scuffed-up sneakers.

It’s learning how to lucid dream and astral project, alternating every other night, living then living again, then taking off work for an entire week to do nothing but sleep, actual sleep, deep sleep, nothing but darkness and time to fill you all up.

It’s all about variety.

So the other day I was walking home from work, same route I always take, straight down Fourth, sun staring at me over the hills, feeling like a forlorn traveler from biblical times, not even one of the memorable ones, and I saw this, felt it, until the setting overtook plot, brought me back, to an old man with wild eyes in the middle of the street, pointing his finger, wearing flip flops and socks, accusing the man he was pointing at of stealing same, and the other man was looking for help, looking for a way out, so I got between them, got between as others watched or took out phones–not to call the police but to record–people watching people, an American pastime, and I assumed an authority that came from nowhere, that I gave myself, in order to do what I thought was right.

The old man called me a faggot.

But hey, there was no violence, and it ended with him flip-flopping his way away down the middle of the street while cars honked and tried to go around him. The guy I helped remembered my name a week later when I happened to walk past him again.

So that was cool.

To get home and to be lighting this cigar that we are looking at right now, in crystal-prism clarity, smoke trailing into clouds, and we can roll this CLOUD into the rest of the neighborhood, collect PARKED CARS and TREES so that they will all be one and we can gather this here, now, in our backyard, the one we pay taxes for, and build a bonfire, yes, a great big one, one that has STICKS and LEAVES and BITS OF PAPER that we have FOUND.

So what do we have?

An arm, a leg, a couple eyes. Two ears. Some other appendages. Hair, toenails, and an awful lot of capillaries. Enough inner piping to plumb a city. Cells that are themselves self-contained living things. Neurons and tissue that somehow contain memory. An aching-longing for connection and understanding in a vast, uncaring emptiness that’s occasionally decorated with the odd flower here, ray of sunshine there. And that?

That is okay.

Aesthetic Choices

You’ve made all the changes in your life that you deemed necessary on the path toward Moving On. You’ve arranged for yourself a space that is yours. No one can enter this space for fear of electroshock. You’ve taken all the necessary precautions. You’ve put newspaper around your couch. You’ve wallpapered your house in leaves that you collect right at the point of tree departure. You waited under trees, sometimes for hours, to collect these leaves. They had to be falling. You’ve made an effigy and burned it and in the process singed off your eyebrows. You played it off like it was an aesthetic choice. You’ll use the word aesthetic more, you decide. You’ve realized that there is no brilliant a-ha moment, and that it’s more like listening to a-ha on YouTube repeat with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s by your side, watching Take On Me until it means nothing at all. You’ll collect all of the waste you make and pile it in a room instead of in the trash. You’ll tell yourself that you’re building a modern art installation, try to figure out how to get people to come to a mini gallery that’s just your house. You’ve seen things like this before in art documentaries, so it’s okay. The singed eyebrows will give you an air of artistic mystery. You’ll do things like pile all the baskets into a shopping cart and then fill the baskets with groceries and unload each basket on the conveyor belt, one after another, because you like the look and feel of the baskets in there, littles to a big. You’ve looked out there for a person who says and does even a modicum of these things, but you haven’t found them yet, so you make spider webs of aesthetic choices in the meantime. You collect gourds and turn them into instruments with which you can play vaguely Renaissance type songs in your house that has been emptied of everything except for what’s in the Waste Room, which has now become the Everything Room. You consider breaking down the rest of your house until it’s nothing but the ER and living in that space you made. You could use the refuse of the house to build a fourth wall, but you might just bring the refuse into the ER too. You pile on shirts and pants at the resale shop until you become a rolly ball of a person and then pull the tags out, one at a time, to pay for them. You decide you no longer need a closet. If you wear all of these things at once, it’s like you’re not feeling anything at all. The way that you paint is that you place a canvas beneath you and crane your neck and pretend like you’re filling in the blanks in the sky. The resultant drops become the painting and you sell it right away through a garage sale that’s really just an art sale on your lawn. You only sell the one, but you are not discouraged. You are fierce. You’ve been living post-him for nine months now. You’re now able to chart the breakup in babytime. You consider finding mothers who just delivered today so you can find birth in death, but you decide that this will be a difficult endeavour. You break open a bag of potatoes and line them up on your kitchen floor so that they can build sprouts and you can have a potato garden for all of time. You won’t break down the house anymore, but will instead cover its walls with your work. You will run into the rain and let it plaster your abundant clothes to your skin, making you a soggy multicolored marshmallow. Some nights you’ll let the rain weigh you down and you’ll collapse on your back with the clothes as bedding. Some nights you’ll run naked through the streets and jump and grab at streetlights so that their power can be yours. Some mornings you won’t want to get up, but some mornings you will get up despite this. You will spite all the things that need spiting. You will jump through the sprinklers. You will open the fire hydrants. You will trail paint behind you, spilling onto the ground, because you’re Moving On.

button

THE UNSPEAKABLE THING

There are things you can do to pass the time as you build up the courage to walk up to the Coward’s front stoop and ring the bell with the piece tucked neatly in the waistband behind your back as all the old movies suggest. You can sit quietly in your car and create a cigarette ashpile on your lap. You can listen to cicadas drone and record the cacophony on your phone, play it back real slow so they all sound like they’re yelling for the rest of their lives, which are usually short for insects. You can think some more about The Unspeakable Thing that he did to you that similar summer day all those years back and smell the mud that went up your nose as he pressed your face against same, as the feeling went out of your hands, then wrists, then the Other Place, and the nondescript backyard’s lawn’s grass blades waved back and forth rhythmically to the force of his thrusts. You can ponder the etymology of a word like “unspeakable”–an innocuous word, and one you think you could get to the root of if you really wanted to.

You could instead use the human-specific gift of foresight you’ve been given as a member of the species and think of all the possible scenarios that might go down when you march right on up to that stoop and try to force your bladder to do things against its will as the Coward did to you for very different reasons all those years ago, try not to pee and negate the whole thing when he finally answers the door, when you’ll make just the right scowl of vengeance, the one you’ve been practicing in the mirror all week and let the weight of what’s about to happen really sink in for him before equipping the piece and using it on him. But the trick, you realize, is to use it at just the right moment so as to ensure that his last human thoughts will be on the unimaginable error of his ways and not on something like how funny his show was before he had to get up and answer the door. You can’t wait too long, either–you wouldn’t want him praying for forgiveness or actually asking it or anything like that. It’s all about timing. You know that.

It occurs to you that relieving yourself might be unavoidable, if not desirable for what needs to be done. Considering you unintentionally relieved yourself after he relieved himself in a very different way inside of you, the reaction might be a Pavlovian one, and could very well be activated the second you see his face again. But normal people don’t piss their pants. Crazy people do. And if he thinks you’re crazy, he’ll be scared. Again with the whole last thoughts thing.

You consider what the headline might be for something like this. Something involving “outrage as,” most likely, like: “OUTRAGE AS GUNNED-DOWN VETERAN FIGHTS FOR LIFE,” “OUTRAGE AS VET SHOOTER REMAINS ON THE RUN,” “OUTRAGE AS DES PLAINES MOURNS ITS HOMETOWN HERO,” etc. The anger you feel at the inevitable headline-related injustice is useful. It’s just what you needed, frankly, and so you get out of the car and march right on up to that stoop and let your bladder know that it can do just about whatever it wants right about now. And you ring the doorbell, which sounds lovely. And you wait patiently. And you don’t hear any prior door-approaching footsteps, which is odd, but the door awkwardly jars open a couple inches, then another couple as the Coward holds the door with one hand and struggles to wheel backward in his chair with the other. And you find yourself unintentionally helping him open his door to you, to the man he raped all those years ago when the man was a boy, to the man who will now end his life just as soon as suitable last thoughts can be assured.

And you try on the practiced scowl and stand there ominously once the door’s all the way open and propped against his chair’s right front wheel, and the bladder lets go in Pavlovian fashion just as you thought it would, and he sees the pee stain right away with the eye that wasn’t blown away by the IED, can’t smell it with a nose that is no longer on his face, and has trouble speaking about it with lips that have been grafted from ass flesh, but you come to understand that he has a change of pants inside if you needed them, and he understands if you don’t want them.

You listen to the cicadas droning their insectal/coital chatter. To the cars Dopplering past each other far away on busy streets. You feel the urine warm first your genitals, then your thighs, then trace ticklish lines down both legs. The piece feels unnaturally cold against the skin of your back, its muzzle threatening and grazing the Other Place.

Your head is very, very hot.

And you march right on inside, and will you bwait juss a second while I bit the pants he asks against the grafted ass flesh, and you will, and you close the door more so others won’t have to see the squalor of his house than the growing stain in your pants. And replacement pants have been fetched, and they’ll do you a whole hell of a lot better than they’ll do him with his atrophied legs and his left foot missing in action.

And he points out the bathroom for changing, or baffrum as his mangled lips render it, and you change right there in front of him instead. You let him see the body he had once, the body you now have. And the piece falls from your waistband, and you leave it lying there on the floor.

Blease juss do it, he says.

But you don’t do it.

You leave.

button

PICKING

Beer foam collected on the bristle tips of Poppy’s mustache, fiber optic cables jutting out at odd angles and leaking, spilling their essential fluids down onto tongue that was searching and seeking and only occasionally finding. Eyes bulged out of skeleton sockets, the skin paper and threatening to tear in the spots where veins were busy pumping and convulsing to keep Poppy alive as he licked for beer and collected his covert McDonald’s cup, the other hand on the wheel and calibrating, adjusting and correcting with a deftness that could only come with practice. And Cal was in the passenger seat with his eyes hardly seeing above the dash, his child’s eyes so unlike the bulging skeleton ones of Poppy as he sat and prayed the prayers that Momma recited on windy nights when Poppy was Out and About and just not quite able to come home that night.

Sunlight glinted off the hood in metallic flames that danced in Cal’s eyes as Poppy reached down for the cup and kept eyes cupbound with the horns and the muted yells to bring hands back to 10 and 2 and he’d give such a Chuckle then and look over at tiny little Cal, miniature Cal who wasn’t buckled in and that bassy laugh would worm its way into Cal’s babychest and tickle his lungs till he couldn’t breathe and could only laugh to relieve it, only laugh to stop Poppy from looking at him with those skeleton’s eyes and put them back roadbound so they wouldn’t Get Hurt, only ever a possibility of Getting Hurt and never anything worse in Cal’s tiny childbrain but that was enough for him and so he made sure to give Poppy a good Chuckle.

They were Picking, or at least ostensibly so, and it was late enough in the season where even errant garbage cans were to be searched and dumped and sifted through, as long as the hood was apt to be deserted and not the type to call the poe leece, because you don’t want to have the poe leece come for Poppy, Cal, so tell me if you see em. Red and blue and we’re through, okay Cally? Red and blue and we’re through.

I say ostensibly cause Momma hadn’t come home from her third shift the night before. She was always so tired as Cal’s childeyes could see, always chuff and sigh and sort of buckle on creaky chair they’d found in Picking, her eyes lighting on the scratches in kitchen table, the spots where the graffiti’d been washed clean but the knife scars would always remain, and she’d say I’m tard just like that with no high “I” or lilting “R,” just tard and she’d look at Cal with the soft eyes she gave him and wouldn’t ever look for too long before she got up and out to do it all over again. But she did none of that the night before. The night before, according to Poppy, she’d been Out and About.

Slouched figures sat stooped on stoops with the brown bags hiding bottles between legs as they watched Poppy swerve his way down car-lined street and scrape firelight on errant mirrors, the tiny things going pop and snap off of hinges as they launched forward and danced their light in Cal’s eyes only briefly before crashing down on pothole-ridden street, the glass sometimes collecting in the holes and scattering out into glittering flatlands and jagged skyscrapers, tiny cities waiting for the dirty rain to come holebound and fill and level out till the mirror city was nothing more than a mirror Atlantis and Poppy was long gone and could never see his work.

Cal saw Momma before Poppy did, and she was none too tard as she sat stoopbound with her soft, Cal-given eyes closed and lips touched lightly on cheek, then neck, then lips of another man, her hands searching and seeking and very often finding. And Poppy saw in time, and there weren’t no Chuckle, no not at all as the wheel turned with 10 and 2 sent spinning as hand went over hand and repeated, as tiny Cal went scrunched against car door and very nearly out window, the tires screaming injustice and wafting out their burning just before the hit.

Stoop bricks flew through air still whistling with car and human screams and made purchase with wall, window, wire on the rebound that knocked out telephone service for the rest of the day as McDonald’s cloud followed Poppy out with his voice up and ready for a big Tell like he’d always give Momma, like I Tell you what or I ain’t gonna Tell you twice and all the rest, but the stoop man weren’t Momma and he weren’t pleased none as he gave Poppy a pop on the mouth where the beer-tipped bristles were, cleaned them right off as Poppy staggered back and fell stoopbrickbound with eyes up and whites showing for the briefest of moments like glinting mirrors waiting to shatter in pockmarked street, waiting to make another Atlantis down here in the hood with its maker nowhere in sight.

And the car stopped screaming but Momma didn’t, with the wail carrying and wavering on the breeze as Cal sat quietly in smoking car, as the poe leece sirens wailed and cried too and the lights started flashing from way back down the street. Red and blue. We’re through.

button

THE CURER

Dirty fluorescence darted over eyes, mouths, ears. Pudgy repugnant hands stuck in mid-fiddle as the patient’s eyes came up for reassurance and were granted it just as swiftly from the curer, which is what she’d taken to calling herself on the nights when it all seemed just a little too much to handle. It was either stockinged feet dampening the midnight tracks with heels held in hand and hazy trainlight threatening from afar as tonight would be the night she’d do it or else going by the silly name. She took the name.

The fingers exploded from hands engorged to lamb chops, uncooked and sloppy. He had tits, pendulous ones, ones that threatened hers in size and heaved terribly whenever he cried, which was often on these Friday night visits. And he’d Tell, and he’d do his tit heave and his tit cry, and she’d cross and uncross skirted hams and check watch and picture stockinged feet dampening on midnight-lit tracks and open her mouth very wide during those crying sessions when the patient’s eyes were shut tight against the tears, open her mouth incredibly wide and swallow him whole in her mind, eat him up and explode stomach-first like some human slitherer, her skirted hams vesitigial and waiting to fall away.

Maybe she’d bring a gun to their next session. She’d pull out a pistol while he was doing his inevitable Tell and she’d put it in his hand and say Okay. And he’d look at her with tit heave paused and see her intent and maybe even stop crying. She’d grab him by exploded finger and guide him past the trigger guard and say Okay then do it.

But she remained ineffably adept, even in the midst of the Tell and the tit heave and the sweat that glittered in mucoidal droplets at nose’s tip and threatened to fall on putrid lap. Shifted face into pretty concern or pretty shock or pretty authority. Always pretty something and attentive, with eyes shining bright and idealistic even in that dirty fluorescence, practiced looks of attention and intent she looked over in lighted mirrors at home, mirrors that opened up pores to moon crater size, where she could open her mouth incredibly wide and eat herself whole if she wanted to. And she’d tweeze and pluck and squeeze and smile her authority and give pretty solemnity and even crack at pupils’ hollow a little bit and like smile with the eyes even as she ate herself whole on the inside.

And the sessions would end after a big climactic Tell, replete with blubber and hitchy pathetic sobs and he’d cry and say he needed it, as if there was any other way and she’d give pretty authority with just a touch of pretty pity, and that’d give him all he needed until next week, and she’d pretend not to notice his tic-like way of staring at her ass as she got up and left before him, almost bolting and leaving dirty fluorescence to find dirty lamplight out in the night with dampened, stockinged feet still in heels and not yet wobbly but almost psychosomatically so as she walked from one session to the next as she called it, this next session in graffitied bathroom with bassy beat pounding out the one in her chest and the revelers all Outside as she was now Inside the stall, as some anonym was Inside her and giving her a different kind of Tell and she was making all the noises she practiced and kept to herself and even recorded for playback to check pitch and timbre and maximum sex appeal and maybe adjust for the next time, the next Tell in some other tagged stall with some other anonym on some other Friday night.

And so the curer came rollicking down tracks set impossibly close and wobbly and twisting and tracing lines made mapbound with midnight light coming dirtily down as trainlight ran adjacent and refused to be heeded in inebriation. As stockinged feet collected moisture in the fog and transmuted it down on fickle train tracks, left pretty tracks from pretty feet as the curer opened her mouth very wide, impossibly wide and turned to face silly little trainlight down and out there in the foggy black. As she walked nimbly on through the buzz and anonym soreness and mentally unhinged jaw in preparation for the biggest meal she’d ever know.

Train gave futile cry and screamed off into the night without knowing what was coming for it. That it was another patient to be cured, its Tell untenable and so futile. Terribly, unmistakably futile. Pretty, stockinged feet marched on along fickle tracks, heels held aloft and out to the side in balance compensation. Wobble. Tip. Adjust. Wobble. Tip. Adjust.

That same train scream in the night and her mouth opened wide, ready to devour and cure and heal and set things straight so there’d be no more anonyms or sessions or tit-heaving patients.

A blare.

And a cry.

And a squeal.

Driving steel on steel.

button