Saturday, November 1, 2014
Tunneling by Alan
Hold your breath, he said. This contest had been a source of instigation as a child, burrowing into the mind like a thief’s magnifying glass or an engine’s purr. And if it were a true getaway, he would most assuredly lose…either because of the occasional cigarettes or the exhaustion and lack of sleep. For months at a time it would be three to four hours max. And then a week would end and he’d find himself hibernating for days. These kinds of massive runs became the norm. While in it, he’d continue to dream of epiphany. She cleansed his hands when he was young, offered a glimpse into her room, etc. The words she wrote excited him when he found them discarded on her driveway at thirteen. He stole them too, like the other things. Went out for late night joy rides. Ended up crossing over into the city of lights. The only thing separating one place from another was one fleeting length of breath. The lights blurred intentions while he counted: 36, 37, 38…she wasn’t in the car, but he imagined she was. She and everybody else in the city, the world. Look what I can do. I can make it all the way through.
First Day by Johanna
Although her future resided at the end of the tunnel she was reluctant to discover it. As her car whizzed through the noxious cavern, she noted the doorways amongst the white subway tiles and the concrete steps that lead up to them. She imagined the car halting, an accident up ahead. She imagined jumping from the vehicle, tearing her uniform plaid skirt and white button-down, slipping through one of those doors. A series of farther tunnels beyond, she’d find her way in the damp dark, tripping over rats until she discovered a society of rebels unfit for the world of comfortable conformity where she could shave her head and get in raging fights and drink until she puked. But the car kept zipping through the tunnel, the glare of lights passing one after the other until they merged into one. That was all she could hope for, the years to pass quickly until she could get the hell out of boarding school.
One Last Piece of Cake by Bill
They asked me to come home when they found Lawrence dead in his cell. I had never actually been there. It was never home, but it was where we were all from.
I’d only paid attention to what was happening from afar. I didn’t get close and I had not reached out to anyone. The call did not come as much of a surprise. I had wanted to stay distracted but distraction is always the easiest way to get mixed up in the things you have no interest in being a part of, so I packed a bag, filled up the tank, and drove back. The lights in the tunnel appeared green but I saw phosphorus and barium tracers in the spectrometry of the air as the bulbs whipped passed. I haven’t the slightest clue how to recognize synesthesia or where to go to get it tested. Maybe its just intuition.
Still once I got out the other side of the tunnel I pulled over at an all-night dinner with a pay-phone outside that in the middle of nowhere made for a convenient place to call Sally with an address and a few thoughts and then stepped inside for a cup of coffee and a slice of cheesecake. It is important to appreciate those things in life that make you happy when you might never have another chance to enjoy.
It is also important, on a personal level, that when I’m about to become a part of things I am not interested in being a part I have got Sally at my hip.
Phobia by Lyle
As they entered the tunnel, somehow, he felt, he’d been in this tunnel for a long time. “A long time,” of course means different things to different people in different situations and upon reflection he wasn’t so sure it wasn’t “a long time” after you wake up buried in a coffin (though dead is dead, right?). Not that he had ever been afraid of confined spaces — claustrophobia, someone one said. Yes, not that he had ever been claustrophobic. But sometimes these things happen, right? Go to bed one night and the next day you’re homophobic or whatever. (Homophobia is more of a hatred, he mused later. Based on fear, maybe, but not like acrophobia or agoraphobia or — but that’s not really important. Just a way to pass the time.) What’s important is that he felt confined. And that’s why what happened next happened next. That’s why he’s telling you this story about a tunnel. And none of it makes any difference in the least.
Middling by Forrest
Often you're taking me where I know you don't know where you're going, unless we're in a tunnel. Let it ride, you say, we can't get lost—either way, out the other side we go. Or we stop in the middle, I add. You can't fathom why. No one stops in a tunnel. You can't even remember the last time you say a car break down in a tunnel lane, forcing its occupants to walk the remainder. So I imagine tunnels, like this one, have perfect operating records in getting people to the other side, no matter what. Even if they walk it. The only problem is everyone zooming by. Because they know where they're going. They can't stop until the other end; and everyone else wishes they had gone in the other direction instead, though they still keep going. Don't wish in the middle if you have to, I want to say, finally recognizing which direction you think you're taking me.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Ivo, the big Czech sits at his desk, half-cocked out from underneath its surface with one leg thrust into the walkway. He just doesn’t fit under the space he's so big. His eyes studied the proofs from the most recent set of pages for the issue, layered across the workspace in front of him.
His hand almost mechanically dips into the re-used yogurt quart at the corner of the desk as his eyes break down the contacts. He pulls up one of the homemade pickled beets. He had made all of his money, but still he brings these beets every day and the thought of retiring wasn’t something you could expect him to entertain. That stock of once oppressed immigrant shot through with a pure love of earning a dollar. The shine of capitalism forever dazzling in their eye. And as no one would have thought to try and force him out - his vision maybe slightly hampered by a need for reading glasses but had otherwise remained almost superhuman. Ivo could have drawn the exact shape of the sun. He knew when the color coming off the proofing printer was starting to weaken, to call out micro-shifts needed by the retouchers - two points of black down here, bump up four points in magenta there.
He honestly made probably half his money from being hired by printer manufacturers to test and calibrate their latest machines. The only real issue was you didn’t want to get caught in the bathroom with him. Those beets weren’t doing anyone any favors.
The Blood and the Body by Alan
Evidence is a sequential organism plucked from its soil. It has pace, tone, feel, stem. Years. It was a child once. Its head will peek out from a hole. Maybe a garden. Who knows what lurks below.
The human, like an iceberg or certain vegetables, will hover years in this very predicament, in charge of its almost undoing. When it does finally happen, it might be “knife.” But more likely something that stops the magic internally. The body, skinned, has layers like a universe. Like a bloody red universe. That stains the hands of the creator as it is handled and everything else with which it comes in contact.
Someone will put all of this together if someone cares to look.
Beets by Forrest
Beets are blood, but he brought them home anyways. Need them for their hearts, for the working parts others wouldn't have. He cooked them all—only at night, so the neighbors could sleep—and let the stain fill him up to the bedsheets. Everyone who was invited saw. A record exists of containment and measurements but he is sure he will lose it later. If he hasn't already. Beets take up enough space as it is. All they have is each other. He considers a new cutting board. In the morning, trails on the linoleum with their gruesome little footsteps dragging themselves. He fears the neighbors will be suspicious should they look through the window. They will offer a knife to come inside, perhaps, and say their daughter has recently divorced, but is looking again.
Cut by Lyle
Cut. Cut. Cut. It wasn’t like it hadn’t happened before. Was it? Who knows. Nothing ever seemed like it happened before. Or did it? Maybe everything felt like it happened before. He felt pretty sure that this had. This drink. This little bit of booze. And the chopping. Always the chopping. He remembered that. Every weekend. Cut. Cut. Cut. Every weekend hoping that the weekend would not end. Cut. Cut. Cut. How many weekends he cut out of his life. How many times he cut himself out of his weekend. How many times he said “weekend.” How many times he cut, cut, cut. Now that he was counting, it was worse. He imagined more cutting. And he tried to stop imagining, but, of course, when you start trying to stop thinking about stopping you think of a pink elephant that stops thinking. Like a smear of blood across a glass slide. It’d happened a whole lot. They said beet red, but it’s more of a purple, all told. Over and over. It had happened. It had happened.
Monday, September 1, 2014
Out through the In Door by Alan
Walking in as if the sky never ended, the young man acknowledged to himself that the functionality of time might be lifted if everyone in the room carried with him or her a kind of nod of silent consent. Then the sky and gravity and purpose, the physiognomy of existence even, might shift. And like a great and mighty tectonic plate, a life would overlap with another’s. A wave would lick a pier. Two wings would collapse the light over the earth for, let’s say, prey. Day would turn into night, literally, and the darkness would be lit with the fire of life without borders, history, limitation, or rhyme.
This was the end of summer, of course, and his friends were not there yet. It was in these moments of waiting for something or someone when his mind would race with what might be called absurd or tinged with neon or dandy or whatever his parents would murmur when he was younger in that other language. No good guys or bad guys. Just life. Stepping back outside the door now, he imagined the entire edifice extending an arm around the ghost of him and everybody else in that world of right now and snapping a quick, innocuous selfie before slipping inside to smoke and mirrors.
Burn Against, Speak After by Bill
You know my name. But please, don’t speak it out loud.
And of course, no pictures. Nice enough place here. Quiet, and unlikely. The people seem fine, if hushed and dark, so you have to follow lines of pale light above your head to find the way outside again, but maybe that’ll keep the Wing Grave away.
Our expectations tend toward an irrational awareness, a failed perception of the nature of the people near to us, and the nearer they are the poorer our expectations become as we expect them know us better. Take the manager here, in love with the bartender. I order another bourbon and leave a five on the counter with my current number written on it.
Desire is the enemy of precision. Madness the only bridge between the two.
I let it ring when the bartender calls and go back toward the cabin. Alone all I can do is stare at the moon and hope I don’t pass out drinking too much champagne in the hot tub. Together we could dance in the firelights, listening as the roof buckles and the flames burst through and the low echoing chirp rumbles in the woods as morning comes bringing the Wing Grave.
Dry Creek by Johanna
It was dim and uncertain and he took her hand anyway relieved when she didn’t pull away though his palm began to moisten and stick uncomfortably but she held fast until he gave her a little squeeze and released, that one touch being enough to satisfy him for a time, to assure him that she was still there because although she sat beside him day in and day out, he couldn’t really see her if seeing is truly understanding as she remained an enigma to him and with his other hand he lifted the mug to his mouth and looked up at the mirror behind her where he could see the back of her head blocking out all of his reflection but his eyes and the rim of the mug and he saw for a second that she wasn’t actually there at all, she had been replaced by a more obscure form so he dropped his glass and stood to leave, but she cried out, “Where are you going?” and he said, “I thought it was real, but it’s not real. It’s all dried up. There’s nothing left of us. We’re crackling dirt searching for rain,” surprised that he spoke in metaphors because it wasn’t really like him but it was the first thing he thought of when it came time to explain his sudden departure: the arroyo he used to explore in as a child and the day the rains came and he ran for his life from the flash floods and how the next day there was nothing again, only dark clay – she seemed to understand this though she was from some other world where creeks never dried up, and she nodded her head in agreement, so he left, he left her sitting there alone, the back of her head nodding.
Wash by Lyle
The smoke won’t wash off, he said to me. But I knew it already. My clothes, my skin, even my eyes were a washed out gray. Sometimes I would stand in the room, very still, and people would file right by me as if I wasn’t there. My nostrils, clogged with skin-like layers, smelled only the smoke but I wouldn’t have changed any of that. I sleep in a smokey room at the Dry Creek Cafe. I drink beer in the smokey room there. I am part of the smoke now, ethereal and thick. I know, I said to him, but he was gone already.
Dry Creek Cafe by Nicole
It really doesn’t matter if I’m on the inside or the outside of this bar. I adjust the rearview mirror to check my makeup and attempt to move my bangs, but my fingers are caught in the too stiffly curled hair Jamie teased up an hour ago. The makeup on my face feels heavy and Halloweenish. I shift my knees back and forth to try and adjust my shirt, but my heel hits the brake and red light illuminates the cars parked in the grass lot behind me. The waist of Jamie’s skirt is cutting into the skin around my stomach and I want to unbutton it so I can take a breath. I imagine the irritated red line the waistband will leave on my skin. Jamie’s clothes are always two sizes smaller than what a rational person would wear. I click and unclick the windshield wipers and watch the clock. Why do I always seem to be fifteen minutes early? I should be fifteen minutes late. Make the guy think I’m not coming. Out of washer fluid I move to the blinker and shift the turn signal from the right to the left side of the car. In the dusk the yellow light reflects off the windows and chrome bumpers of the other cars. I want to leave. I run through a list of excuses. A sudden headache? Stomach flu? Food poisoning? I raise the stakes. Make a more believable story so Jamie will stay off my back. Maybe I hit a dog on the way over and have to rush him to the emergency vet and wait for his family to come. I could send a message to the guy through Facebook telling him I am so sorry and I will call him when I get a chance. Is that too much? I could always say I didn’t see him there. Say I looked and no one was wearing the John Deere hat he described on the phone. Jamie would be disappointed, but I could take a hot shower and put on reasonably sized clothes. What does it matter? I jam my fingers under the waistband of the skirt to pry it from my stomach. Move to fix my stiff itchy hair. I turn the ignition off. Ten more minutes of waiting.
There There by Forrest Roth
When he met her there there was nothing but smoke there there even a Sorry For Our Smoke sign with bar girl making extra round to wipe off the residue that smoke accumulates there there by the grace of god go I there there amongst them but it's not so bad there there being a new state law now clearing the smoke so he could see her there there she wanted to be with him eating fried catfish and drinking longnecks by the dock there there he sat coughing in front of her wanting badly to explain he deserved his coughing and what was following very closely behind it but much rather hear her voice inflect there there settling in his last good bronchiole the speck.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
There’s a feather that splits me in two today. Slow is its descent to the ground. It conducts both sides of an orchestra with equal ease. See how it effortlessly strides from side to side then up and down. There is its music.
We have two eyes that see the same thing. We have two ears that hear the same songs. We have two hands that touch the same skin. Every day, the same skin. The same thing.
But we have a heart that is carved in two that feels simultaneously. One half is complete blue, in the sky. It is the sky and the heaven above it and in it that we always wanted to believe in. It has always been there, in the blue.
The other half is utter white, hard to look for too long. People say it’s because of the sun, but I think it’s because of what people have done with its light.
Suicide by Johanna
This is how it feels here. There is sky and there is snow and both stretch endlessly out of sight. The haze is the wind in your eyes. The chill of your eyeballs frosting over. You are alone. You are far along the frozen shore. You stop. Silencing the crunch of your boots on the ice. You listen. Nothing. Not like the quiet of cheerful forests you are familiar with-- leaves whirling, birds peeping, squirrels chattering— nothing but the sound of your own straining breath. You inhale. The air scratches down the corridor of your throat and crystalizes in your expanding lungs. This is how it feels here, like one more step and you might be lost forever. You could slip from the shore on an ice floe and float into a better dream.
You take another step.
The Blue At by Forrest
Move, flight. Twenty rows ahead. Almost steerage. Piloting, I know. Who's around, just about. Excuse me I think there's been a mistake you see. Seatbelts forever indicated. Can still spell gin. Smoke for all I care. The masks will descend. Blow into. Crouch against. Lift above head. Pull over. Leave me here. I drop best at altitude. Every fell chance in a lap. Clouds in clouds until we happen again.
Anchorage by Nicole
The practice of leaving never suited her. Dividing up possessions and inventing room for nostalgia was a waste of time. She was more practical than that. Especially skilled at breakups, she would pack her lover’s things and leave them stacked in a corner of the living room or pushed into the hallway closet. Nothing sloppy, no time for grief, just the simplicity of moving on.
So she didn’t really expect it, to feel like this. After informing him that it was over she didn’t want the packing or the hassle of replacing DVDs and blenders when 50% of her apartment was gone. She picked a destination from a list and told him to send her a text when he was done. She thought she could avoid it.
But this, this time it followed her. It was weighing heavy like his face when she watched him spin his fingers around the key ring, turning again and again until the key was free. When she looked out the window the tip of the wing seemed to follow her. A smooth gray outcrop in her peripheral that made her want to keep looking back. A spot in her vision that would not clear - not even when she blinked and blinked and blinked.
Anchorage by Lyle
Such vastness is both comforting and terrifying, never mind the soaring aluminum tube and no wood to knock on. Why can't we just time travel, says the kid across the aisle to his mother who grins sheepishly and flips the page of her magazine (Good Housekeeping or something along those almost sexist lines -- is there bad housekeeping?: of course there is). I think, Time travel? And miss all this nothingness? Don't you bet on it, kid. I fall asleep with the tick of pages being flipped under the hoarse roar of the engines sucking up and expelling air.
Friday, July 4, 2014
The Attendant Spider Ushers in A Very Small Fly by Bill
Fall, you say. One last tickle. A grand sound full of the dust of stars. Dying and sad swinging in the middle of the room, glaring at the ring of the telephone, a sound like an angel disguised as us.
The way I feel under your command.
Fingers might have once been enough. We could have been free long before this, now all we have left is the waiting. The long and terrible waiting, like the mail too slow and all of a sudden gone left unfilled with nothing but a senseless card, giving away soap, or sugar. Better it were woad, or a sword. Lips might have once called us home, and all the words I cannot say because I left them with you could have opened the door. And there is no sound left with the power we need.
The head of the hammer drags across the floor, and the head strikes the strings somewhere in the belly and we can no longer afford to lift this awful sweet sword but the hammer we somehow get up even as we stagger under the weight and once more the ending has arrived, the concert is done and over with the doors closed and staggering barely able to see we cut ourselves stumbling in the wreckage as the rumbling final notes roll away through the dust, waiting again, waiting now and then and forever except we can bear it so long as it sit aside your indignity, because we know you have nothing to say, no other critique, except that it took too long.
Instrument by Forrest
The brothers, selling their next-to-last piano before Berlin fell, found better peace in a nest of spiders playing inside what remained of the last. It had never been used—a showroom-only model the elder treated as a souvenir snowglobe, growing fond of it over the years from its uselessness, while he regarded the younger inseparable from his ledger, knowing there was nothing to write in it. He had meant to ask him about that. For as long as they could remember, the elder lived in the room a floor above the piano while the younger kept the basement; and, with both closely equidistant to it, the piano held them in fixed orbit while the building crumbled, each withholding entreaty from the other, When do we sell? It was not to be a question. It was the first and last thing they saw each and every day, and it made the brothers forget they were the last person they saw before retiring. In the dark they watched them, even scurrying across the ceiling. It's good, they both thought separately, there are still spiders he cannot see. Some would fall upon his brother from slender threads, they both knew, failing to sense the tautness apart from a joy dampened in another room.
The Last Thing to Go by Alan
The last thing to go before one leaves this plane is sound, they say. First the vision. Then the touch. Then smell. Then taste, believe it or not. One would think taste would go much earlier.
They say one can hear the passing as if in a wind tunnel. As if cupping the ears when concentrating really hard. That’s when a slight tap behind the skull can be become thunder. That’s when the avalanche starts. And then one thing ends while another continues.
For some, it’s as if some aged instrument remained in an empty room, the house vacated. The note still reverberates. Over and over. And the instrument, too heavy now to be lifted, staid but never quite finished.
The pianist had had enough by Lyle
He'd taken his lumps because the pay was good, but the lobby got more crowded and fewer people came to see him until he was under the stairs, the plashing of the fountain drowning out the tinkling vestige of himself (not to mention Chopin) leaking out around the balustrade and perhaps, he mused momentarily happy, lifting a rich woman's short skirt. His fingers began to slow, where they should have, to be sure, but did not pick up again. This last thought, crackling vaguely through his brain, melded with the final ping as he let his finger rest on the key and exhaust itself.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Hula Girl By Johanna
Even from a distance I could tell she was full of potential energy by the way she tap tap tapped her heel on the rim of the stool leg, like if I shook her up she might pop, maybe even explode. Intrigued, I bought her a drink and waited for her guard to drop.
On her second daiquiri, she’d told me that she had moved to the landlocked Mountain West from the Pacific Islands. She didn’t know anybody. She didn’t have a job.
“I took a chance,” she said swinging her long black hair over her shoulder with a smile.
But I suspected there was more to it. “Why here?” I asked.
“I don’t know, just something different.”
“But any place is different. You could have gone anywhere.”
“Not anywhere.” Her smile puckered and she tap tap tapped her fingers against the bar. Her eyes searched the room uneasily.
“Let me get you another drink,” I said.
“If you must.”
On the third daiquiri, she got up to dance to a reggae song on the juke box. Her eyes closed as she swung her hips in small circles as if they were spinning a hula hoop. She was somewhere else, somewhere with the sound of the ocean breeze through palm trees. She laughed and I leaned in to listen.
Short Time with Hula Girl by Forrest
With dashboard Jesus going out the windshield, hula girl moved in on his turf. I spent nearly three months in traction mulling over how I hadn't managed to follow him, my best charm against dumb accidents. So it happens. All around the world Jesus sits on every other dashboard and most of them go busto at some point. Realizing that was more painful than the shaft they put in my leg. If I had wanted a token decoration, I would've put hula girl in there and be done with it.
And, for a few pleasant memories, I did when I got my new wheels. No one's ever that healthy after a hospital discharge.
I had remembered buying her with someone I was seeing after graduation, our trip to Honolulu, strictly a gag to toss in some box later. I was more serious about dashboard Jesus. Hula girl was kitsch. Dashboard Jesus could have the sexy hips, too, I tried convincing myself—I just had to think about it hard enough. Then he did, but only after the break-up. Very inconvenient timing on his part. But like I should talk.
Yes, I see hula girl's supposed to be an unconscious stand-in for her, the one I shouldn't be attached to now. Neither of them, to be sure, can be a stand-in for dashboard Jesus, his own sexy hips, his kitschless smile. Someone could care about me, except there's still a long, slow pain I feel which shoots up my leg as I push the clutch, a vague forsaking of something I had missed from afar: a turn, a warning, a warm breeze passing through and finding my face.
The Pineapple Queen Revisited by Alan
Along the loneliest road in America, which is any road heavy with memory, a car romped through the succession as if it were the supreme conduit – Wallace Stevens’ necessary angel, lightning rod, adolescent book thief in a mall full of adults with nowhere to go – whilst the figure on the dash froze time incessantly.
(And then again, it was still there, days later, only transposed, transliterated, trans pacific, transit, the pinnacle transformer. The pineapple is the secret codes of summer. In it, the image is transfixed – not the eye. In it are shifts from hula to fruit to soma to soup. The ride is a loop.)
It was all he could bear.
Wither Betelgeuse by Bill
Fremulon Jakes gives up drinking just before the stuff already in his stomach decides to come back the way it went, staring at the hula girl chotchkie on the dash trying to right himself after the horizon lost some its fixedness, curving here and there along non-Euclidean lines and twirling along like it was a child’s picture-mobile, watching for the emergence along the line of the fat roundness of the ships low in the sky.
He really hopes he will just pass out before they reach the airfield so he won’t have to actually walk toward and climb aboard the ship under his own power. It would all go so much smoother for everyone if he could just wake up off-planet.
Good Times by Nicole
Do you remember who was driving on the way to Salt Fork after Bobby Joe came back from the war? I think it was Chuck. He kept turning the lights on and off. Looked like some God Damn video game with the yellow line feeding into the car like pac-man. He would turn the lights on and off and that car was a piece of shit. Loose wires or something like that. He was always fixing it. He had this hula girl on the dashboard that would shake her ass from side to side. She danced while the lights flashed on and off like a camera with a low battery. What do you call it when you only see something for a second? A snapshot? That’s what it looked like. A flash and we could see trees and shadows. A flash and we pass a bridge. A flash and nothing but the dam dark road. There was this dude walking along the shoulder. Bobby Joe left the lights on and we could see him moving back and forth like a pinball. Chuck, or maybe it was Bobby Joe, thought it would be real funny to get close to the guy, you know scare him like we were going to run him over, rev the engine and shit. He was an old fucker like Mr. Magoo. Suspenders and everything. Probably sauced out of his mind so he didn’t even realize we were right on his ass at first. His face man, when he saw us? I have never seen anything like that before. Eyes all round and his face gone long. His mouth hanging open like a pulled rubber band. He started running and kept looking back. His face got longer every time he looked at us. It was like that painting, with the alien dude holding his hands on the side of his face? The yell? The Scream? Whatever – you know what I mean? Anyway he was screaming stuff like something about his sick mom and how he needed to go home to her. How there would be no one to feed his three legged dog or some shit. Bobby Joe, or was it Chuck, just kept following him real close. Tapping the bumper on the back of his knees every once in a while so that he would jerk forward and run a little faster. We ran that bastard until he started crying and holding his chest. Calling please, please, please like the old guys do in movies. Bobby Joe pulled around the side of him, You alright old timer? The bastard just kept saying please, please, please. Chuck threw half a bottle of JD at him. It hit the ground and didn’t break. Lucky son-of-a-bitch. Like someone throwing a 20-dollar bill at his feet. And man, Bobby Joe hooked it out and passed the old bastard so quick I didn’t even get a chance to see his face like I wanted to. He was probably faking anyway. Probably laughing his ass off.
Man those were good times, know what I mean?
Commerce by Lyle
Before the apocalypse was really after the apocalypse. People walked their dogs and ate sandwiches, to be expected. But the lavender lipped ladies spilt breast bones on the boardwalk like so much halloween candy and their bruised eyes smeared at the corners. But then the fear of war was always eminent. Just around the corner pausing for lunch. Salvation: always a bitter stalk next to suicide. But on down the road we trundle. Barely a whisper of wind — barely a hip shake from her before - after - during the apocalypse. Just barely a sigh from her lips.
(for Frank O’Hara)
Saturday, May 3, 2014
21 by Alan
The odds that the chances of the odds are not quite what they used to be are quite low, I thought in my head. It was a passing thought only really conceived because I think of age when I’m in this town. I think of how lucky I am to be riding through these neighborhoods once again like I did when I was 21 and worked in the assisted living facility. I wasn’t dealing blackjack back then. I worked in the kitchen with the old group of boys. We took long drags on breaks and did everything we could to see them smile.
Gerta’s odds were the same as they always were. The same as all odds are, all the time. Stick around long enough and the thing you’re trying to pull will eventually come out in full bloom. The man pulling radishes and all that. It’s a kind of philosophy on life, a didactic speech from a boss given to her younger employees after locking up. They’re leaning against the car now, itching to go deep into the night, turn off the headlights. She’s still saying to them, still urging them forward with her flashlight.
Gerta loves her blackjack like an old bird loves the limbs it sways on, it sings on, even if the songs are a little more sour now and the beak doesn’t bend a note like it used to. But so much depends upon that table in room when the sixth card is drawn and the number is had and all the money in the world means nothing without the miracle light of luck. So much depends upon that returning home and those rides through blocks that we can never feel the same way again until we do.
The Win by Forrest
I lost it all at Eldergarden, even my last two nickels paired up on the table like my paltry manhood in her clutch. Have rolled, been rolled. I could admire her, I thought. Card after card she draws and still beats the house. Namely me. I get stories about Atlantic City, some place called L'Auberge along the Louisiana bayou Interstate, and the Biggest Little City in America—you know, she sighs fondly, the town with the juiciest cheeseburgers. All those classy joints. She pulls her chair closer to the table. She smiles as if remembering who I am. I learned Blackjack tricks from someone as young as you, she says, perhaps realizing from the clock behind me that The Wheel of Fortune is starting soon—and you're a much better loser than he was. With one finger she pushes a nickel back to me. The other, however, she picks up, kisses, and puts it in her pocket. The room gathers excitement: the returning champion on The Wheel is a retiree, and with sixteen grandchildren to boot. The room chants, Trip to Venice! New Ford with a Hybrid! But she can't be impressed by the mere material as she leaves me for the adult's glorified spelling bee. The winning word of winning is already on her lips: the name of a seventeenth grandchild yet to be born, the name of someone who will flee in a rainstorm with the last hundred and twenty-seven dollars in his world.
Ideophobes and the Self and Ms. Kranston Playing Cards by Lyle
But when it’s clear thought — pure for just a moment even — there’s nothing more real, she said and opened her eyes.
Hit me, she said.
Not like memory, you understand. Not like memory at all. Memory is manipulation. You remember what you want to remember. Bend it to your will, whether you know it or not.
Ah, she said and closed her eyes again, her fingers drumming the table beside her cards, but unconsciously, as if she were far away and her body had taken over — muscle memory bent to her will though that too was gone.
Just now, she said, opening her eyes. I completely lost my identity. You know how they say you can never imagine yourself dead? That it’s always at least you looking down at you or your body? Boloney. Ideophobes. All of ‘em. There’s monks up in the Himalayas that have reached nirvana and are no longer attached to… she waved her hands, palm up, up and down her body and shook her head.
Hit me, she smirked.
21 — Very nice.
She smiled and looked me deep in the eye and arched an eyebrow.
Wizened by Johanna
She never wanted to be old. One day, she woke up and her skin was tracked with wrinkles and blue veins, her bones shifted uneasily in their joints, her muscles refused to stretch. She tried to remember how she came to be that way. For years she partied hard, drinking whiskey like water and smoking anything they passed her. But she could not remember slowing down. Everything was fast and all at once it stopped. She cried a little at her fate. Until she discovered that her untimely decrepitude came with extraordinary power, invisibility. She wrapped herself in an imagined cloak, plum and velvet, and used it to roam the wrong neighborhoods, sneak into movie theaters, pass out sugar to children, and cheat at poker.