Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Journey to the Center of the Earth



Options by Alan

It was 1995, and the world seemed fine. After they got off the plane, the boys rented a car to find James, who was said to be at the Peace Festival at the foot of the range. A totem of sorts. Some place where the placards would go. A makeshift town circle. These were the notes. See you there in the morning.

For city folk, the mountains aren’t that unfamiliar. The steel is traded for soil…the height is still an inclination to believe in God. People still like to climb. The smells are different. That’s about it, might be a conclusion. But for suburbanites, there is something alien in the purity. A shameful dislocation for at least one in the group. He did not mention it to the others.

The mission to find James began with a map, several hoods, understanding of one’s breath at these heights, and ended with a tent tucked into the folds of the earth. He was with a lover, and so easily he made his departure, as if it were premeditated by at least one of the two of them. Then the options. Boys always like to believe in options. It’s almost as if their world depended on the right to view the land, the world even, from some serious and foreign height. They wore boots for it. They came prepared for what they thought was necessary, part of the deal.

For a moment, everything was still, and something felt familiar. It may have been the way the clouds descended over the tip of the thing and came to a spot just above the heart. And the way what was below was firm and hard. The top, the thinking, a mystery. The ground, an exhortation, a plea. Somewhere in between blood and guts. Branches reaching for understanding.

James placed a hand on a shoulder. Let’s get out of here, one of them said, the words like striations of earth carving out the landscape, which was otherwise miles of intractable snow.

***

Eloquent Disappearance by Sherisse

They could see from the bedroom window that the light had changed and the sun had started to set. Although she couldn’t navigate very well in the dark, not even with her glasses on, they decided to take the drive anyway. She had wanted to see The Cloisters, she said. She had not visited the gardens in over a decade and she missed their private and quiet beauty. She had not intended to arrive necessarily; she knew they might have to turn back. She wanted at least to experience the drive and, if lucky, to experience the reconfigured landscape, even if only from a distance, to rearrange the body according to elevation. To fall, obedient. She had kissed her first lover there (in a parked silver Honda beside the museum), a French-speaking girl several years older. In the middle of that darkness existed a more subjective longing and she wanted to go back to it again, to show him its lush and organized interior. There she had known, felt more directly, the true clasp of desire: they had fogged the windows and laughed, taken their clothes off and climbed on top of each other. This – the drive on this particular night – felt like a study, an academic experiment. There was the timing to mind, the now unfamiliar road, the limited light and all the other facts, how the car would have to be parked – and then what? She had pondered these things prior to the climb with him. Earlier, she had pressed her mouth to his fingertips and tasted into despair, into their needing a way out of stillness, the pursuit of some less linear ascent. They had agreed: if the top of the park was reached, they would not abandon each other. Instead, at the point of entry, they would disappear – one and then the other or both simultaneously – and they had discussed how the signage on the road would fall from view, all forms of report. The days between then and now would stretch sorely into some lovely birth, a more endless reflexive looking. Into their unspoken words, a timid light would pour. “Try it,” she had said, the mouth already filling with absence, folding in like a loose and tender leaving. The car would remain in neutral; some previous and perfect version would find the evening, reach in to rescue the blessedness of its architecture.

***

Past Due by Johanna

The only skin exposed burned at the top of his cheeks where the eyes begin their thoughtful burrow into the skull. The blowing snow pounded on his chest (his heart just a mumble) so that he had to hold his head down to withstand the force. This was the way home, or so he hoped. The landscape barren of markers, a white horizon blurred with the sky. He turned left at the last sign of civilization long ago and followed the sun (a muffled glow in the clouds that must be the sun) westward, back to her. He remembered her plum lips and the way she always kept a candle burning in the window for him. He shivered. His feet disappeared deep into the numb of snow. His pace slowed. He wondered if she’d ever forgive him.

***

Arms by Lyle

In the light of the TV, which flashed blue light across his legs outside the covers, he considered turning up the volume so he could hear what statistics they found about the batter. Maybe that the last time he was up and it was his birthday, he had hit a home run. Or had been beaned. Haha. Yeah, maybe that was it. What are the chances he gets beaned again? Very slim. Very slim that he would be here. Alone. Watching baseball. But there he was, a thousand miles from everything wishing that he wasn't. Somehow the tilt and pitch of the television light helped. Somehow the blur of arms and then getting ready again for the blur of arms... What was he thinking anyway? He sighed and turned off the TV. Outside, moonlight off the snow.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Two Chairs


Untitled by Sherisse

Someone in the house had just died. Dropped dead, in fact. In a closet of a bedroom with the clothes still hanging above, shirt sleeves hanging neatly from their hangers, dresses draped one each beside the other, no bodies inside of them, their colors and cotton, their simultaneous shape and shapelessness. In another room a couple was making love, their bodies clotted together, nude, out-loud moaning that puffed them up and colored their skin crimson, moaning that made the heart accelerate and the toes and fingers go numb, cold. From the center of the house, one could not gather, only guess, who they were; their anonymity had rendered them temporarily invisible or forgotten, and what was certain was that on this particular day they could not be known, not by their names or addresses or interests. The elegant pursuits and intricate schemes of the living: they didn’t matter now. What mattered were the items abandoned, the bag left on the bed, the upside down cups, two of them, the spaces that could not be occupied except perhaps by music, by space or emptiness itself, like a vitrine cleared of its contents, chairs reserved not for sitting but for some not yet fully formed future, some prognostication of sitting. The soul of these things. And the someones who occupied this day, their locutions, you might say they had been cruel and unnecessarily so. Their various vague and foreign disguises: moustaches, hats, trousers, footwear. There were no punched tickets in the pockets, only receipts collecting light creases, a little bit of lint.

***

The Lovers by Alan

Sometimes it takes a window to understand light. Sometimes it’s like I can’t believe I’ve been living in all this dark. It’s like what’s there, through curtain and glare, is a kind of fuzzy invitation to look inward and make sense (as in shadows, take inventory, check the mail) of the later frames.

The letters won’t read themselves, you know. It’s knowledge of the other that stands up the characters, aligns them with breath so that they rise and dip like a kite. Without is not tearing open. Without is just sky.

I want to tell you all why I left, but first I have to arrange the study. Then I will return to the table we inhabited and wait for the sun to go down. I will imagine us a pair of chairs separated by our desire for a sense of place. Here we are now. We offer the nape, half-lit, on the one end and then almost everything but some definition on the other. Be careful not to disturb the universe, my love. I will be careful not to disturb the universe.

Slowly the sequence to the season: Is there any other way? we think, on good days. Is there any other way? First to each other and then to ourselves. Moving in and then moving out.

***

Defying Evolution by Johanna

Charles Darwin invented the office chair. He placed wheels on the bottom of an ordinary chair. In this way, he could move faster from specimen to specimen. And so the chair evolved. Humans have evolved with the office chair. Necks and shoulders hunch over. Pelvis tilts back. Nerve compression in the lumbar. Pain in the coccyx. Muscle degeneration. Obesity. Early death.

“Sit anywhere you’d like.”

“I’d rather stand.”

I’ve given up chairs. Like some people give up chocolate or cigarettes, two vices of no interest to me. I’ll stand at counters. Eat at the bar. Type at my standing desk.

“Rest your feet.”

“I’m resting my tailbone.”

No one understands. My mother says I make her nervous, always hovering. In my office, I tower over cubicle walls. Co-workers hunch deeper as if hiding from me. My boss eyes me suspiciously. After work, I run ten miles. I eat one fish filet and one cup of salad. I sleep on my back.

“Have a seat.”

“No, thank you.”

I only sit in my dreams. There is a lounge chair. Plush and brown leather. It reclines. The chair is placed next to a window. The light comes in low and illuminates my elevated toes. I sink into the chair. The cushions fuse to my spine. I wake up restless and sweaty.

***

Minuteman by Forrest

For this work, meeting another morning, without him: notebooks, ledgers, the last legal pad she had from the office. A small table for that very reason. Imagining him seated before her with nothing else, no notes. Only what was inside him. He had experiences, once he recollected over trust fund certificates with his deceased wife's name, with another woman; and these she wrote down, instead of numbers, as numbers. Hotel rooms. Tallies. Barometer pressure. Algorithms forgotten. She hated them, all the numbers, and all their blind spots accordingly. The measurement of the inseam of his pants, for instance, the way he shifted. She saw it shift. It looked different at the table. All the numbers, these not belonging to him. All on the legal pad. He sold all the possessions. There was only the paperwork, and that in itself keeps the paperwork, she thought. Between them the little ill-stacked pile of All she tallies, trying to remember whether sunrise today is sooner or later by a minute.

***

I Know Where She Keeps the Key by Bill

The door closed behind me with the almost exact amount of force required in one quick touch to push it shut, overcoming the friction of the latch against the strike-plate and settle secure in the frame without undo noise on impact with the jamb. I did not remove my jacket or my scarf. The air in the apartment was warm and the discomfort and itchiness if I stayed too long seemed desirable, necessary. Deserved. The windows being closed kept a scent of toffee and clove in the place from candles I could tell let off their scent even when unlit.

I used scent in place of odor intentionally.

Though the actual consideration was fractional at best – happening in my mind in a sequence of calculations underwritten semi-consciously by what I am now reviewing in a somewhat reductive loop to attempt to unpack – it was consideration none-the-less of what I can only best describe as political mixed with personal appreciation. It was responsible and irresponsible. Hell, it was personal and odor felt too judgmental, like a mischaracterization.

The chairs too I am trying to decide between. What is it that I can infer from this? What is here? A single occupant at the table keeping the present focus in front of them and the less exacting concerns at arms reach? Or were there two?

Which didn’t push the chair back in? And the table. Is there a folder on that table with briefs on pending legislation? Committee and donor dossiers? Is there a ledger of clients? A calendar with regular appointments, doctors visits? How closely does one profession mirror the other on paper and how silly of me to have never realized before.

***

It's almost as if... by Lyle

It. Is. Almost as if something started here with people. But there's nothing that has to make it that way. Residue, invisible, of human-ness like sallow, sick fucking ghosts who were never human to begin with.

Let's start over.

Sometimes in the right light, I can barely see him and sometimes in the right light I can still... It doesn't matter anymore anyway.

The Singularity occurs every day. Every goddamn day forever.

Sometimes a pile of books on a table is just some books someone doesn't want to read even though they tell you that they do. It's not about desire so much as it is about comprehension. You moron.

And people in general. You know what they're like. People. Hellish. You understand, don't you?

What was your name again? I don't remember anymore. But there you are. In the window. In the wind. Disappeared.

It's almost as if things get away from you and no matter how hard you try you can't get them back.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Jury Duty



Sailing The Painted Gliders by Bill

I sat down on a stone bench. I thought of laying right on the ground, imagining wetness out of the earth pushing up around me instead of hard concrete against my shoulder blades all the ballooning sections around my middle. Helen wandered off and we could hear her for a while pushing buttons on a console for information. I thought about offering to take some pictures of Melanie and Hank, but they probably would have taken me up on it and I really didn’t want to risk dropping my camera. I guess we expected rocks to stack, but there were none. Rather they were already done, already stacked. Made to look solid like it wasn't ready to fall over in the full course of time. The building was saturated with existence belying time. All the buildings, the whole city, thick and full and immobile with constant motion. Then one day it will all settle back down into the muck, push up more mud, wait, push down and push up again. Eventually the whole city will be a swamp again we might wander through if we choose to wait long enough. All the moisture will pull the heavy stone down into itself, using the weight of itself and its sheer mass to rise up again. What a city is, a swamp can be to, and what a city does a swamp matches just as well.

***

Decisions by Alan

Above us all only truth and sky. And if truth is sky, then is it endless? Does it stretch and bend into the nothing that is infinity? And if our understanding of infinity is limited, is truth a compartment in which we store our nothing?

We ‘re on line for jury duty today. My lies and me. We walk into a building made of sky and the proportions outlast us. A man with a gun for an arm directs us to disassemble. There are tourniquets pinned to the wall for emergency use only. The crowd waits to be named. The waiting is a pillar.

When we’re called, it’s a choice to run or not. We will dash the fastest in this race. Take the liberty and press it firmly against the face and run to river and liftoff in grace one final jump, which will not be final but obsolete save for the few breaths of fresh air and the imagined sequence of wings.

***

Guilty by Lyle

Call it a placeholder. We find dogs to feed on the perimeter. We eat dog at night around the fires in barrels when we can no longer stand the sound of our own hypocrisy. Shorthand. What's shorter than guilty? We all know that one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ruins & Remains


These Trees by Alan

In the incandescent rumination of “god’s inner country,” as it was referred to by those who lived just outside of it, we all stretch our limbs toward the sky. Our days are filled with memories that scorch and nights that last just long enough to cool them. We are this family of stiffened longing. We dress desire up in gold and send it into the earth. It stays there while we whisper for some unnamable season to return. These poses we hold with bated breath.

***

Lake Atitlan by Johanna

The lake shimmers just beyond the forest dense with chacas, the tourist tree because its skin is red and peeling. We prefer the hardwood of the pine that burns longer. My husband chops at the trees, splitting the logs into small stackable pieces. I lay out an old blanket. I remember when I spun the cotton, my oldest son, Pedro, suckling at my breast. I wove the yarn and dyed it bright blue from the indigo plant. It was so dark then, the white pattern, so clear. But I have had six children since then. I have draped this blanket to carry them on my back. I have wrapped it to keep us warm. I have covered their little bodies with it while they slept. Now, it is faded and old.

My husband places the small logs with great precision on top of the blanket so that there are barely any cracks between them. He heaps them three feet high and I tie the loose part of the fabric tightly into a strap before he helps to heave the band up and across my forehead. I can feel the rough wood pile against my back as I lean forward to counter the weight and keep from collapsing into the lake. Though, the day is so hot, the lake looks welcoming.

The lake gives so much and takes so much away from us, like Ernesto when his fishing boat capsized and Angelina when she was bitten by a snake. Their spirits always walk ahead of me as I follow the trail, surefooted through the woods, carrying my load as I have for all these years.

***

No Home by Lyle

Since I've been gone: fingerling potatoes and carrots and baby's breath and nails. There is dirt on my headstone but none on my grave. I consider myself mutually exclusive. The inevitability of home. The inconsistency of home. Come home. Never come home. Neither bread nor fire in my hearth and the wind blows inconsolably. Worse yet, the thought of the pantry – potatoes and carrots – is ash. The memory of the path to the splintered door – baby's breath and nails – nothing but cinders. Since I've been gone, everything is still combustible. Take precautions: there is nothing more incendiary than time.

***

The Very End by Forrest

Down to two is nothing much for, they say, survivors. Anything looks well, any tree is a periscope for an ant. You lie down on felled branches et voila. And, yes, we have been here forever. Or at least for a time. A meteor broke straight above us while we watched, and you quipped, Tunguska. So we both should be dead, in other words. Yes, yes I think so, though it's still light and airy about and we haven't forgotten about being famished. We did forget about all the others who wanted to be here at the very end of it, though you and I only look out for each other. Eating can wait. The fire, after all, did put itself out.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pet Shop



The Pet Shop by Alan

To make amends with his imaginary friend, the illustrious and forgiving (to most) Van Hulsitor, Jeremiah decided to visit the local pet store, which all the boys in his grade had dubbed “a weird vibe” based on their respective mothers’ lay evaluations in between car rides to and fro matches. The first thought was something in the reptilian family, but the stock was slim pickins. “Be careful for Solomon,” the disenchanted man behind the counter warned. “He’s a bit temperamental these days.” Solomon was busy negotiating a deal with a small albino mouse it seemed. Something serious. Jeremiah chose not to disturb him.

Then there were the crabs. Buckets full of them. They seemed to converse with one another in a series of gestures and genuflections. It was like church, thought Jeremiah. The congregation, the pews, one on top of the other. Van Hulsitor might like that. It was, after all, in church when the offense took place. Somewhere between the sermon and the trip to the bathroom. It was quiet. So quiet in the hallway. No one but the two of them. Until Jeremiah, once again, made the mistake of turning on the light.

There are some creatures that are nocturnal. The man behind the counter had loose and flexible handwriting. The characters seemed restless. The room in the back had no lights. Jeremiah entered cautiously, dared not let his friend know what he felt he had to do.

***

Clever the Dog by Johanna

Clever sat in front of the barber shop on the third block from the painted boulder two blocks from the smashed guardrail one block from his home. Home was a new word for Clever. He had spent most of his life roaming the streets of Grainville, the next town over. It was in Grainville that he got into his first fight and tore the ear off of a pit-mix trying to steal his garbage pile. It was also where he conceived his first litter after a late night howling. In those years, he had managed to escape Animal Control six times without a scratch. But the winters got colder, the scraps sparser and he slowed down. They found him jaywalking at dusk. He swore they gloated as they threw him into his cell at the pound. Steady meals and warm shelter aside, he hated being behind bars. He was a vagabond meant for the streets with freedom to roam. When they put him on a leash for a walk, he struggled futilely to tear his head from his infuriating collar.

When the little girl came in on that fated spring Sunday and begged her begrudging father to take him home, he finally saw his escape. He wasn’t fazed when they took him to a new town or when the little girl named him Clever and expected him to sit for regular grooming sessions. He knew his time would come and it did. One day, she opened the door for a package delivery and Clever cleared right past both sets of legs and kept on running. Of course, before long he was lost. He had never been to Red Crest before. He had no idea where to go.

It was early evening when the car lights rolled into the alley where he hid, trapping him. The father grabbed him by that blasted collar and threw him in the car. As tough as he was, the large hands of the father on his nape discouraged any fight he might have had left after his great escape. The father did not take him straight home. Instead he took him here, to this spot in front of the barber shop. They sat in the car in silence for a while with the heat running until the father finally spoke.

“See those two storefronts there, across the street? One’s a pet shop. You’re too straggly a mutt to go there. That’s where the fine breeds are sold. That’s where I wanted to buy a dog. Lucky for you, my daughter insisted we get a stray from the shelter. She’s got a big heart that girl.”

Clever listened intently. For the first time, someone spoke to him without yelling or condescending. The father lowered the fan on the heater and continued, “See that other storefront. That’s where they butcher the meat and that’s where you’re going to end up if you ever run away again.” The father turned to look him straight in the eyes and what he saw there must have convinced him that his message got through because he started the car and drove home. Clever did not take the threat lightly. He had no doubt that the father meant it.

At the house, the little girl squealed with delight to see her dog again. Father glared sternly from above. Clever hung his head low and obeyed. After a few months, he got used to the comforts of home—the petting, the treats, the yard where he could bark at pedestrians. But every once in a while, when he got an itching to run, he’d walk here, sit and stare at the two storefronts, remembering his inescapable fate.

***

The Late February Sunlight by Bill

Trumbling into the parking lot the big pick-up with the quorum of us in the back kicked up a fart of dust after I knocked on the window indicating we should stop when I saw the sign for the pet shop figuring this strip mail ought to be a low-key spot to wind down and regroup. Of course he tossed us a bit against the side of the bed with a sharp left turn to come up short of a sudden right in front of the coffee shop. The truck’s owner sure had a black hand sense of destiny about him.

Who knew what town this was, hours from the capital. We’d beat a hasty retreat from the conference on the advice and seeming concern of someone I had to try hard not to think about. Despite the suddenness of our arrival to this nowhere place, Rob yawned ambitiously against the sunlight and the rest of us moved a little slow and chilled, clutching a bag here and there began to shift upwards, Gail and Cliff jumping off the side edge of the truck under the propultion of caffeine promise and the rest climbing down off the rear bumper. The driver stood by his open door, stretching big and yawning in his jeans and tucked in western shirt and not to be outdone by his truck he let a loud fart rip in the wind. A few more days like this and I'd hire him full time but for the moment it was all I could do except wonder if another UN delegation had ever arrived in such a fashion anywhere. Probably.

***

The Red Crest Pet Shop Review by Lyle

The Red Crest Pet Shop, is difficult to describe. The front sign, of which I have provided a photo, contains two perfect circles, as if wormholes from (to?) another time and place. But the shop itself is orally inimitable, and thus, indescribable, especially as the shop owner forbade me from using metaphor (they are not animals to be understood as anything other than themselves, he told me) or from objective description (these are exotic animals, the likes of which you have never seen, he pressed — they must be experienced first hand), which precluded photography inside the shop. So I am left with the shop sign itself. The images on it are not accurate in the least — such common animals as snakes or cats or goldfish do not exist in Red Crest. They are otherworldly animals of which you have not heard. The best indirect referential statement I can make is that only the sizes of these images come close to how different these “pets” are from your pets. Look at the sizes! In relation to each other. In relation to their representation. I have inspected this image for far too long as I have nothing but memory and radio silence to report otherwise. I have been constricted, so to speak. Go see the place for yourself; though be forewarned, you may return with nothing — that most absurd of all animals.

***

Who Doesn't Love Sausage by Forrest

Because stories are the worst possible vehicle for sincere confession: I haven't been the only proprietor of the Red Crest Pet Shop to pass off expired merchandise to Farmer Jed's Meat Market next door. In fact, I've been told by my wife's grandmother, a clandestine arrangement has existed between the Pet Shop and Farmer Jed himself since Red Crest's incorporation in the 1940's, mostly in the form of Jed sending business back to us—senior citizens stocking up on ground chuck who miss the presence of a cocker spaniel, foodie hipsters buying python meat who are overly curious, that sort of thing. There's an odd correlation between the two that people who never run a pet shop are aware of: the devoted carnivore needing animal company. You'll see what I mean, Jed told me once as he picked up some rabbits laid low by a malfunctioning A/C one night out back. I still didn't feel very good about it. Only because the whole arrangement had a certain sense. Maybe Jed's customers knew what they were buying. Or none of it made any difference—we're better off that it came from next door instead of Argentina, I can hear the good folk of Red Crest say. I'm not really speaking any revelations here. That's what bothers me. What good's a confession, I tell my wife, when no one in town cares one way or the other? Feeding our lone goldfish, she shrugs her shoulders. She thinks it'll grow large enough someday to set it free somewhere. I doubt it has any conception of the outside, a world where there are always honest people lurking.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grounded



WRK by Alan

To shape the channeling of history. To redirect the norm towards collaboration. Free market. Open source. Explosion. The basement tapes. This is how young Bartholomew swore he would change the face of music. From his parents’ basement.

One made the sound, the other reconfigured it. In between, an army of fanatics who, like good mammals, circled around prey or offspring or both – whichever fed the hunger most. And then the thumping. And then the lights. The name of the band was incidental but noteworthy nevertheless. There were drugs involved, most assuredly. An offhanded remark, a vowel slipped out. One way of articulating the message, a future critic would note, was in the omissions. There is no time in the modern world for the details. Only big picture. This he knew. He worked it.

***

Vanishing Act or The Vanished by Lyle

And just like that, Dwayne was gone. In an actual puff of smoke. He had threatened this, but it was Dwayne. We never believed him. And then, ten years later, suddenly he was gone. We called it his vanishing act. Or rather we called his talking about it the vanishing act. Then after he vanished, we began to talk about his disappearance as the vanishing act. A slight semantic shift that emotionally took its toll on some of us. You’ll see, he’d say after we laughed about his mullet or threw his shoes in a tree. You’ll see. One day, I’ll vanish and you’ll be sorry. We didn’t know if the two things were related — his disappearance and our regret (some of us even bandied around the word, guilt). You’ll see, he’d say. We started calling him Dwayne “the vanished” but all he’d say after a while was, You’ll see. Why he decided to do it in the middle of the annual concert, we don’t know. And for that we were sorry (or at least I was). Sometimes we watch the video. It’s always so quiet when we do as if making a noise will change the outcome. You’ll see, somebody will mutter after it's over, and we’ll laugh nervously, but Dwayne is vanished and our fun just feels mean.

***

Unarmed by Johanna

“Put your hands up where we can see them,” they yelled.

I froze. My eyes darted around my torso trying to locate my hands. It was dark and difficult to see. Fireworks exploded above their heads. Hip-hop blared from speakers. The crowd circled and mumbled excitedly.

“Hands up,” they shouted.

But I had no hands. I had no arms either. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the sensation of raising my hands, my arms lifting as if to take flight, my chest and heart rising with powerful intention. My arms could stretch far enough around to embrace the whole stadium. I could cradle them all. But only the corners of my mouth went up, in a smile.

I heard a screech. A woman nearby. The shrill in her throat broke me from my fantasy. My head flung up in alarm before I fell down from the impact of their bullet piercing my chest.

***

Showdown by Forrest

Orangeboy's sack had life, and when the crowd drew away from us, we all understood its terrible silence. Only Yellowgirl remained with him and me in the center, almost lost in the smoke machine smoke descending. The band had quit their drum solo to watch closely, too, see who would really show here. And I had thought I had—because Orangeboy's got his arms concealed under that ill-fitting sack like Clint Eastwood's spaghetti western poncho. My moves get Yellowgirl into mine, though, shocked as she was. She said thanks. Didn't mean it. A shower of glitter fell, a pyro column went off, someone in the crowd yelled something regrettable, forgettable. Yellowgirl started reaching. She wanted Orangeboy despite me holding her back. The noise made him into just another balloon we knew would disappear soon, maybe forever. I'd try to make her grateful for the crowd's parting so we could watch him leave, but the band started up again, pointing their guitar frets at something else to take his place. The crowd knew this show wasn't going to happen.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tunnel


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.