Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Red Bud

Red Bud


Damn Spring by Johanna

That damn spring. It either came too early or too late and she wasn't happy either way. Too early and she couldn't get enough of the snow. Too late and she was sick of wearing hats and mittens. Everyday she had to be reminded of their perpetual dependency on seasons. Coming home from school, the small tree in front of her house, What the heck was that tree anyway?, shared signs of growing, green leaves, falling leaves, bare branches, yellow buds and, finally, the appearance of flowers. Most people liked flowers. She didn't care for them so much. They made her sneeze.

She tugged on her sweater which never managed to stay down around her waste but pulled up over her jeans so that a small pudge of belly protruded. When did all her sweaters shrink? This year, last month, yesterday. Small mounds grew out of the front of her body like tumors and pulled all her shirts taught over their juggling flab. She tried to pull her jeans up, but that didn't work either. They hung down below her hips, threatening to reveal the five new hairs that sprouted from her pubis this morning. Her hips busted from her body as if to escape the uterus that was bound to betray her.

Red blossoms sprouted from the tree, a whimsical suggestion of love and renewal. The earth would awaken to a season of abundant growth. The rivers would soon rush behind her house. The birds already returned from their winter migration. Growth was upon them and she hated every minute of it.

***

This Is What I Think of When I’m near the House by Alan

This is what I think of when I’m near the house where Jenny Y used to live. Thick foliage, enough to provide cover for late night revelry. Or sneaking the fun out of the hours during summers or long Saturday evenings. She was, at first, a kind of early love never forgotten but never fully remembered either, as if set at that perfect distance away from the lens so as to provide shape but not suggest form.

There was a tree the sun would duck behind. There was a play the boy would sigh inside. There was a song beneath the red bud march. We were young and never quite free. Like a hundred thousand ants building the future. Like gravitational pull, like wires stretching miles, the wait was long for the mother and brothers to fall asleep. The lights flickered off one by one by one. It would get dark though it isn’t now. Her father was the gentlest man. Never heard him scream. But if he were to catch me there one of those nights waiting the wait. I’d catch a glimpse. Then the song, the song.

***

Ten to One by Forrest

One day they were all gone. They only packed two boxes, though not the withered houseplant. In less than three hours the house was dark again, unmade. For four weeks, no one heard anything else. Five movers visited but only stood outside, looking up at the red buds on the wild branches. Now, when six o'clock arrives, we are the last to know. They would often tell us that it must be seven. Eight to a house, brimming with joy, they sung. And then nine months later. What they would've thought to see us getting under ten one day.

***

Glow by Lyle

It’s not the tree, I said, tracing circles around her breasts as we lay naked in bed — her smoking a cigarette and looking over at that digital clock as it blinked, angrily, on the nightstand (why she had that thing, I could never remember, or imagine: it’s glow seeped between and through my eye lids as I slept, tried to sleep, no! even in my dreaming), on top of which also lay the photo of the redbud, full-bloom, a shock of flowers like her pubes that then reminded me of the the dark house, muddy with age behind it as if hiding amongst a flash — something dark, mysterious, unknowable — until, when I stopped, she asked, what is it then?

But one hand pushing buttons on the clock, the other idly tipping ash onto the floor.

***

Locusts by Nicole

I step on them because I can. Because it feels good when I pull their shells off the house and line them up in long rows on the cement by the air conditioner. It’s like Evil Knievel and his cars – but I start first with the very end of my heel and smash them slowly until I am standing on my tippy-toes. When I pick my foot up they are like dust, small and fine as the flakes of oregano mama uses to make spaghetti. I sit in the grass and blow my skin until all the pieces fly away and land somewhere no one can find them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Memory Hole


The Lost Transcripts of Stewart L. Rifkin, Entrepeneur by Alan

The first tenet of any good operation of this sort is to make sure that community is everything.

It shall be called “All Books” or “Every Book.” Perhaps it should read as one word: “Everybook” to ensure a kind of psychological coalescence.

The primary measure of veracity is the individual’s relationship to words – how they’re used, at what moments, with whom in mind, etc. Everything is a flammable cornucopia of possibilities in which the lie may be born, harbor itself, and create many lives.

The system is infallible if the system is watertight.

To avoid the perils of capitalism and to separate oneself from another, we must avoid the furnace of greed and keep a hand on the hose, so to speak. A fire extinguisher in the hand is worth two on the wall, behind glass, shatter in case of emergency, etc.

***

Practice by Bill

You have to let them get close, to surround you, suffocate and sting your eyes, feel it on your skin, singeing, sound rising, growing, forcing you to listen, because you’ll never be able to hear the sound of your own voice until you can pick it out of the crowd. The winds rise up. The smoke follows. The pyre collapses.

It could be a pit, it could be a sunken tomb. It could be an open shelf of stone atop a hill where they take their sharp knives to open the body and dedicate its matter to the gods of sky and air.

Anyway, in the end, time appears insufficient and never there is enough, to make a dent, to get all the way through the stack. They will temper your heart because you will never burn as brightly for yourself as you will for them.

***

The Desert Won't Let Me Forget by Johanna

The fire was meant to destroy my memories. I thought my memories were contained in the photographs inside those cardboard boxes. It felt like they were. Every time I saw one of those photos, those moments returned clear as the present. Not that the present is so clear. It is clearly wrapped up in memories. Unreliable memories at best. She wore a red dress in the black and white photo. We were in a desert, Death Valley. We fought the whole time. That song kept playing on the radio. Da da da da, la la, da da da. When she fell to the ground, I reached for her.

Standing over the flaming pile, I imagined a hole in my head burning through the memories the way a photograph stains brown and disintegrates when you hold a lighter under it. But I was wrong all along. Overly optimistic. The memories did not char and disappear but grew brighter and brighter until I thought I might go blind.

***

angryOrange by Lyle

It’s spring. Which means there is a slight breeze. It stokes the fires. In our hearts and dotted throughout the meadows, light green with budding grass. And angryOrange. We are all angryOrange. It runs like JavaScript through our DNA.It tells us that we don’t need books anymore. It turns us green from the inside. It makes us crave thin mints and powdered sugar. We are only watchers now; tenuous, brave — aren’t we? No one thinks about the fire-stoking ending though. That last letter on that last page in that last book curling up in a calligraphy of smoke. And then only the cicadas to keep us company.

Our angryOrange flattened and dissipated amongst the other living things without words. New languages were bound to bind to even… WasWere-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

***

The Pariah by Forrest

I took the book as far as I could with me, and let it go. It stayed there long after I was gone, I was told, along with the others left there by those who followed me, who would not be gone. The fires burned night after night for those who would not be gone, could I believe they stayed as long as they did. If I did not want my book, then no one would have theirs. No one, they insist. Night after night they took turns luring other books to the fire first followed by those who would have stayed after I was gone. Only the one who left told me this. Only the one who could not believe all the books were gone in the fires followed. Could I take only the one, I believe, then no one would follow me, and I let the one go who would not be gone. The fire burned night after night. No one would would have theirs. No one, I insist.

***

Mama Said by Nicole

Mama said on the day I was born Aunt Lucy was in the church basement making stock for the Sunday chicken dinner with Father Thomas. Mama was at home with Uncle Lenny who was burning trash in the grass lot behind our house. That was back in the days before the city took over our side of town and made the rule about paying to have trash picked up.

Mama says she was inside at the kitchen table and she stood up real fast to answer the doorbell when she felt like she peed on herself a little. But it wasn’t pee because it didn’t stop and mama called Uncle Lenny from the kitchen and he didn’t hear her. She says she called him so much her throat kinda went dry like when you stand next to a fire and breathe in the smoke too many times. So she lay down on the floor next to the rooster shaped mat that Aunt Lucy keeps in front of the kitchen sink. Mama would have me on the kitchen floor later – she said Uncle Lenny came in through the garage with an armful of old cardboard to throw in the fire when he saw her and called 911. And Uncle Lenny would hold mama’s knees open while he talked on the phone and they told him what to do.

But that’s not my favorite part of the story – this is. When mama looked out the sliding door she could see Uncle Lenny next to the fire pit throwing pieces of trash into the fire. She said he was burning old boxes from the kitchen. She said he moved around the fire and picked his feet up funny and sometimes waved his hands in the air. When he circled sometimes she could see him through the other side of the fire and he waved in and out like a ghost. She said she watched him and it almost looked like he was dancing.

But mama told me this story a long time ago. It’s my job to burn the trash now. The city says we can’t but Uncle Lenny and I do it anyway. Sometimes when I circle the fire I think about Uncle Lenny on the day I was born. I think about what we might look like to someone inside the house curled on the floor with her head rested on kitchen rug. I move behind the fire and cross paths with Uncle Lenny to make our bodies wave. I imagine that mama is watching me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Green Sands



Papakolea by Johanna

The woman stood just beyond the roving perimeter of sand and sea. She watched the waves lift bodies and place them back down. She heard the laughter of people diving under and smashing against the ocean's force. She took a step forward. The water overcame her feet, and as it pulled back, buried them. She imagined urchins, jelly fish, sharks, and Man-o' -War. She took a step back.

A young girl nearby twirled and skipped in the shallows. “Daddy,” she asked, “Why is the sand green?”

Her dad reached out to her as the water came up around her waist. When she stood firm, he let his arm hang back by his side. The woman listened. “From a volcano,” he answered. “The ocean picks up eroded olivine from this cinder cone and washes it on shore.”

“No, dad,” she said, “I mean the REAL reason.”

“Oh, you want the REAL reason.”

“Yes!”

“Okay,” the dad started slowly, “the green sand is actually mermaid glitter.”

“What's that?”

“Like fairy dust, only the mermaids use it to lure sailors under the water to their coral reef castles where they hold them prisoners forever.”

“How can they breathe down there?”

“The mermaid magic.”

“Oh, yeah.” The girl leaped out of the water and ran up the beach. She fell to her knees and began to dig a tunnel. The dad followed close behind.

The woman grabbed a handful of sand and examined the grains. She held them up to the horizon. She searched to see if anyone watched before she closed her eyes and sprinkled the mermaid glitter on her head.

***


A Walk by Forrest

Too late considering this bathing along the shore, not farthest away from her watching, older this time, so as not trying to pay attention in any faulty way, soon even wishing, patient, in the painless hope of someone else talking while walking, no one she knows, of course, who wouldn't belabor the opportunity, asking her sister her dainty name, hand extended friendly for her taking, no one noticing her not noticing, feeling much, much sunnier without her walking reminder, the little sister further away, much, much smaller, another set of prints in her sand.

***

Tides by Lyle

I had been buried in the sand for quite some time (such a subjective sentiment, time). Those monsters laughed and played in the tide while I baked. My toes began to curl in the sun. God — the sand! It was everywhere in my mouth. And worse! Given my proclivity to squirming, this immobility was — ironically, I suppose — paralyzing. Narrating my circumstances, I had hoped, if only to myself, would distance myself from this mockery of justice but it did nothing to alleviate the nausea. It was as if my whole body was being choked in a blood pressure cuff. An odd metaphor, to be sure, but even the blackness of the cuff is appropriate. I blinked as one of them ran by so that I would remember if they ever let me go. Beasts! Savages! I yelled. Thieves — again ironic (was this irony somehow a salve?) considering the crime I had been accused of. But the long, slow sigh of waves, their laughter (laughing!) and the gentle sea breeze carried my invectives off. Monsters, I sobbed. I could feel my will bending to theirs. This visceral, putative measure was working. Mortal wants carried me off.

[When you remember how you used to be, sometimes it makes you forget who you are.]

My breath became jagged and shallow. I confess I cried. I confess to everything. But it was too late. The tide had already begun to rise.

***

Samantha Who Listens to Music at the Beach by Alan

She liked to listen to Jose Gonzalez’s Veneer album at the beach and listen for how the waves, as they moved across the shore, would mingle with the nylon strings or, rather, the fingers strumming across the strings. Big haunting chords sprayed with sunlight. There is no such thing as a hiding place in this life, she would think as the music grew more intimate.

Someone would call to her, make a gesture toward the water. In these instances, she’d smile knowingly and, for the most part, simply let the energy of opportunity slide past her. Past last night’s prints in the sand, the undisturbed ones. What are the chances of that, she would think. To see the world in a grain of sand has absolutely nothing to do with eternity. Everything to do with intimacy.

And then at the point the water would reach her toes later in each afternoon and the crisp winged winds of evening’s promise would draft a few lines across her face, she would consider getting up, examine the urge as if sticking one’s hand into the body of a guitar or a summer or some other music-making thing.

***

Step Lightly by Bill

Looking down at the pigeon's carcass, thinking it had nearly gotten away when it smacked into the side of the train by a strong unexpected gust of wind to land painfully and fatefully with its back to one of the stray feral cats that lived along the barrier fences of the line, its wings untouched and splayed like an angel in glory on the concrete connected to a red and devoured ribcage where it had fallen once the little carnivore was done I decided I was tired – of winter, and the city and all of the phone calls about the case and needed to feel sunlight and the sound of waves.

***

Untitled by Julianna

We went to Myrtle Beach for vacation and my wife painted her toenails. Figures. When does she paint her toenails at home? Never. At home she wears the same green sweatshirt every goddamn day and she doesn’t cook. She used to cook. She used to paint her toenails. She used to walk around the apartment in panties. Cute ones. Ones with little bows and lace and whatnot. Now? Nothing. Now I have no idea what my wife’s underwear looks like, except when I see it in a heap on the bathroom floor, bundled up with her sweat socks. Sweat socks and underwear sitting there on the bathroom floor. They sit there for days sometimes. Sweat socks and underwear mocking me while I do my business.

I spent two weeks’ goddamn salary on Myrtle Beach. I coulda been home. It was the playoffs. And what does my wife do? Reads books in a lawnchair and takes pictures of her feet.

That’s me, by the way, out there in the water. No, not that guy. That one. No, to the left of that one. The one with the arm. No, not that one. That one. That one. That’s me. I think it is. Yeah, that’s me. I’m pretty sure. That one.

***

Sea Glass by Nicole

There are bits of sea glass lined up on his dresser. They are perched in a row over his Boy Scouts of America sash. His window lights up the row of shapes two or three at a time. Sometimes, I can see him walking the shore from my bedroom window. He comes out in the mornings before the beach is crowded and hot. He examines each piece with his hands, feels for smooth edges, and fingers the acceptable pieces into his pockets. I count the pieces as he picks them up and wait for them to show up in the row with the others. I like it best when he throws the sharpest ones back into the ocean. Someday it will be the two of us together reaching our hands up over our heads to toss the pieces into the waves. The water will keep the pieces until they are ready.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hey look a golf cart



Untitled by Julianna Spallholz

That was August. Now it’s December. Christmas in three days and finally, praise Jesus, you not here to as usual ruin it. I’m so glad the bitch is gone.

Admittedly I am not a winter person. I prefer tank tops, prefer light. But when shit sucks anyway best not to keep company with those who make it suck worse. That’s what my grandma always used to say.

Our house is just above the activity, just out of sight, just over the hill. That’s our son in the foreground, about to enjoy his win in the Zucchini Festival costume contest. As you know, our son takes things very seriously. He beat out Abe Lincoln. He beat out last year’s Miss Zucchini. I took pictures because I am his mother, because I show up smiling for these sorts of things, because I am his mother, because I take pictures, because I am his mother.

After the contest was completed our son went for a victory lap in the golf cart, which was driven by darling Rosemarie who manages the general store. Our son held his blue ribbon in his fist and absorbed his village as it went by. In the evening, there were fireworks. All in all, it was a fine summer day in a quaint small town in New England, no thanks to you, no thanks to you.

Please give my best holiday regards to your brand new surprise live-in girlfriend who is eighteen years our junior. Just in case you were concerned, his presents are wrapped and ready, arranged thoughtfully beneath the tree. The lights are hung. The nativity is set. Cookies are in the fucking oven.

***

Playful by Forrest

The deadly art of my ninja clan, forged through years of televisional exposure to underground mutagenic protoplasm, is something I feign to describe to the uninitiated outsider. Every summer, across this lawless realm, hundreds of festival barbequées disguised as former lords reveal themselves all the same as brazen usurpers of their vassals' wives—thus, at request (and advance payment) of concerned parties, I intervene so that an ancient code of honor may be preserved. Often these transactions are better disposed of at a distance, the blowdart being my preference for lethality and the sudden, low note singing from my blowgun, a sound which returns me to my adolescent training. Many a can of Old Milwaukee have I strewn upon the trampled ground in this fashion. And yet, as the one-twelfth steed of this modest cart whisks me away, I consider whether child's play has been perverted into an art with no end, or vice versa. The courtyard of my dōjō fills not with an introspective air of regret, but the beratement of ancestors instead for my sentimental weakness carried against those cold autumn winds of change. Lonely are the nameless masters, it heeds. And abide I must! For there is always another layer to peel away from my famished body.

***

Something Meanwhile by Lyle

And before you know it, you're in the middle of something. The X, she tells you, says just here somewhere.

There is a wedding—Abe Lincoln, a chef—she checks off the rest of the list. Yup, all there.

Meanwhile: after studying the map, you're not so sure about anything.

And here's the mossy retaining wall, she points to the map and the wall—taptap.

Something, you say ponderously.

There is a small crevice in the retaining wall, you realize suddenly (and at the exact same time that you realize they are everywhere in the retaining wall—in fact, that is how retaining walls are built: at that exact moment you also think maybe that is part of the definition of a retaining wall; at least, you believe, suddenly, it is a solid connotation).

Well then, she says. Yes, you concede.

And then, from the wedding party: Hey look a golf cart.

Click.

***

This Holiday by Alan

This holiday. Like all holidays, I will consider the festive and rub up against the festivity. What I mean, of course, is that I will take no prisoners – roll out the golf cart, so to speak. We will paint the course, appropriately, green, and if the course is already green we will discuss another color, something 19th-century, perhaps. And the entire family will be there. I will make them…

Stop…quiet on the set. In all seriousness, this is not quite the way I envisioned it. We’re all over the place here. And you’re not making any sense. The little one is flexing too much and the smiles are too believable. Dress it up with artifice. Don’t you know you’re not supposed to be doing this? Don’t you know the date? The sun is out. The birds are chirping. There are thousands of parking lots of people making plans dishonestly in America and you have to pick the one that doesn’t have the wherewithal to get it together? And another thing…who put that golf cart in there?

What golf cart?

***

In the Light Thrown Down by Bill

Over time, building from one year as a notion then become a thought, growing the next year into a sense and after into a shared feeling about the party, a communal disconcertion and finally into a fear – a dread – whenever anyone showed up in an exceptionally outlandish fancy dress, such as the sheer dervish costumes Betty and Matilda wore last year.

The concern was felt as a flutter of unease as guests arrived in on and under outlandish transports. Korigar's entrance on a bull a few years back and then again the following year, reasoning that a repeat would be the most austentatious choice, had matched for a slight prickling of hairs on the back of necks Joseph's arrival in a convoy of four-wheeled ATVs.

The exotic – foods like the white cobra fritters, or drinks, like the rum specially distilled from a sugar-cane which only cultivates symbiotically with an especially aggressive species of fire-ant entomologists claimed were the most war-prone organism on the planet – haunted the guests throughout their revels.

The bizarre, the strange, the rare, the exuberant and humorously mundane, like the golf carts this year taking the guests from one part of the party to the next, all worked to build toward this apprehension which in some ways was the signature of the party, rising in nervous glances and anxiously held breaths as the festivities approached their crescendo – that the party would never come to an end and that they all, dressed in their funny attire, would be trapped there, forever celebrating.

***

I’ll tell you again how it happened … by Nicole

There was a white golf cart the day Bobby joined the army.

Mom’s face cracked like a soft eggshell against the counter.

Bobby’s top and bottom buttons were always mismatched.

Dad walked in circles, pulled his hair, and shut his eyes.

It would happen sooner or later.

Fear inside my chest like pounding on the concrete belly of a pool.

And next door a family celebrates.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Storm


Storm by Johanna

Returning from the funeral. Quiet but for the wind. There is no rain, no thunder, only the distant flash of lightening in the eastern plains. Was it a night like this one? Driving north on the front range we watch the bolts strike out and reach the far corners of the dark sky with branching fingers. The darkness alight with hidden objects – billboard, farm house, factory, a car abandoned on the side of the road. Is this how it happened? I roll down the window and the air is warm and thick. The taste is metallic. My arm hair bristles. Did she see the car coming? A flash just bright enough to show us the world.

***

Occasional by Forrest

Out of the way, the storm chasers had fled towards the danger, only returning at dusk, but still hungry. We had a few eggs left which hadn't flown away, a loaf of bread not broken. We'll eat it all, they boasted, and we believed them until they did eat it all. Then they noticed we had nothing left, and asked if they could have that as well. We gave them the last of it for their equipment to record. They laughed, patted each other on the back. The best yet! they cheered, watching the dials move, the needles tremble. Our admiration was a helpless thing, little more than what the weather can be on occasion here, waving to the gathering crowd.

***

Malice by Lyle

Out the car window the signs & marquees gave way to storm clouds in that woozy way alcohol has of double exposing images in your head over time as you stare out the window of a car. Strung together by time and distance. An equation, perhaps. And you driving said something to me or not to me now and again. Sometimes with a light laugh afterwards and I smile and am warm in the heater-filled compartment watching the clouds roll in quickly and with malice.

***

When the Aliens Finally Arrive by Alan

I saw this coming in one of my earlier journals. It was several years ago. Don’t quite remember when. I was driving to Tennessee with Tim in the front seat mad with joy and love and cigarettes and nothing to fear. All of a sudden, the idea for a horror story.

When the aliens finally arrived, I shared with Tim, they made their way onto the systems that connected us. They bore into the wires that ran across the country and crept inside the billboards and interstate signs. They marked our tepid crossings with deep and profound vigor. They studied us as a race. They came from the clouds like a gentle rain.

How did you know they were there? Tim was curious. I was writing while driving, looking up between mile markers. I was sketching furiously in the fading light. The characters on the page began to lie on top of each other as it got darker. The more I wrote, the less I understood.

Maybe only we could see them. Tim was wild-eyed now. I stopped and looked up, away from the road. His head was half-out the window, his smile a kite in the wind.

Who?

The crazy ones.

The crazy ones, I repeated. Years later. In the onset of winter. At the sign of a storm.

***

American Wedding by Nicole

It happened in a court house. In a room with a conference table. In a little town I had not heard of the year before. Just the two of us, your brother, a judge on his lunch break, and a gray copy machine with it’s back turned to the room.

The judge pronounced my name wrong and again pronounced my new hyphenated name wrong. When it came time I dropped the ring. Watched it roll under the mahogany table before squatting down in-between the vows and my turn to say I do. I had been married once before. So long ago that it seemed like a dream. The memory folded in on itself like a worn blanket in the bottom of a closet.

I felt the carpet against my knees the hem of my black and white dress pushed up against my thighs as I stretched my fingers under the swivel chair. I must have made a terrible bride. I refused a new dress. I refused a new ring. I refused to let anyone where it seemed there was only us and more us.

I left my family for this tiny room. 1500 miles of distance and my first snow. The wind waiting outside to burn my cheeks. For my hand franticly searching. For the ring I would return to your finger before exiting the room and making the long drive home.

***

Unpredictable Variations on the Face by Bill

A quick line of them walked in at dusk, five shadows dug against the storm clouds and encroaching night wearing long gray coats and fine, brilliant red scarves. Their necks and cheeks gleamed with freshly shaved skin. The smell of vetiver came ahead of them. Their shoes clicked on the boards and their arms swung easily at their sides. The knives we all knew were tucked away in their vests against the side of their ribs on the far side of their heart. Among them I recognized my friend, so different and strange with the dark hair.

It was stupid to come in tonight with only a pen, when they had been reported so close to the border of the county. A pen is of such limited use, sharply tipped but easily bent or broken if the blow strikes a bone. A hard knife with a strong tang will break through half the bones in the body on a good thrust. Best bet with a pen is an ice-pick strike — the brain stem or the eye.

They approached the bar as I rose and came toward them from the back of the room. I kept my head lowered, staring shoulder level, letting my gaze rise only as I passed my friend, asked and answered our questions in quick succession of eye movements. They moved around me and waited. Finally I reached out a hard and pull the scarf from one of them. The softness of the fabric was exceptional as I placed the center of the scarf over my eyes and tied it off behind my head. They placed their hands on my shoulders and led me toward the door and out into the night with the pen still in my pocket.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rainstorm



Rainstormer by Alan

In the world of ghosts, a silhouette is used to incite a riot. It’s Platonic. Mimesis. An affront. Certain parties are likely to get agitated, which can lead to unpleasant marauding of said premises or general haunting.

There was a cat once. In love with a dreamcatcher set against a window overlooking the forest. Outside it was rainy. Perfect weather for goblins and dance. Before the trees, a screen. Before the apparition, a suggestion in the corners. Lines flashing across the eye the way an old television set establishes itself and gets its footing. Blurry derivations and intimations. The whole scene, they said, happened in a heartbeat, which was about right for the spook and the dash for the door.

A ghost perturbed is enough to lead a cat out into the rain.

***

There Are Many Paths Home But Only One Way to Leave by Forrest

White cat waits. Waits its turn brought wobbly by shopping carts on rubber wheels she leaves out front, a second-hand name tag hung on her old sweater with soiled yarn flowers preferring, “How May I Assist You Today?” She passes three, four doorsteps, self-debates theology at her own occasionally speaking aloud. Instance fails rationalization: any white cat then having agreement welcoming her back. Again. On floorboards near the stairway stalking frowned upon but having ignored her well this long this one white cat rushes in turns body upwards its whiskers making febrile signals.

A lambskin boot for sleep. She mutters. Christ. Again.

Why, it had been saved, hadn’t it.

But a recent neighbor, no less than someone newer—that is who restores the white cat to its comfort until it sees her picking up mail. Letters with no original salutation. Wickedness from the city claiming front porch and the façade. Her pacing. Yes, she’ll tape over that mail slot. Rotary phones accumulated in the kitchen where she calls him an impatient father. That’s a ring that’s a ring that’s a ring that—

Is what she wants to ask him about him for several months more, and more of a remarkable likeness sent was his pencil sketch of her thirty-fourth birthday than this white cat accustomed to her plodding. She discovers it curled in a ruined corner, it watching her watching. Conversational, she means, is attendant sincerity would it search every room, every other bend sunlight doesn’t dance upon, while the white cat takes scrambling breaths for rest from such help.

She’ll lock it out tomorrow. Thinking she’s better as she shouts—yet will she come grumble her Christs. Will a white cat jump from her arms.

Unless singing on the other end of the line speaks it away.

***

Cat Hell by Johanna

She winked her green eye as she twisted her whiskers and purred. Her throne of bones encased in flames.

“What am I doing here?” I asked.

“Don't you remember?” the cat said with a devious smile and I was suddenly consumed by gray memories: a window covered in frost, a bird (what kind of bird?), a raven mocking me, a convulsion of sneezes, a wide-eyed kitten wrapped in a blanket, a grove of tall trees, day shifting into night, walking away, arms swinging, a wretched yowl.

My skin singed as fires spurted in gusts all around me and I stuttered, “But, but... I couldn't keep it... I'm allergic...” I sneezed. “I had no where...” I sneezed again. My eyes teared and itched. I felt my swollen face. My throat closed tight. “I'm sorry,” I wheezed, “I didn't know.”

***

Screen by Lyle

Screen—a protective device, as from heat. Something that conceals. To conceal from view or knowledge, therefore, to see is to know (even biblically perhaps—a complicated metaphorical system. A window screen does quite the opposite in one sense. It lets air through. Osmosis as knowledge. But it also keeps bugs out—you will not know mosquito bites or the blue buzz of a fly. And it keeps things in, to an extent. A cat, perhaps learned in the language of boundaries, surfaces, containers. But the storm rolling in will pass through unless it is projected onto the screen and it is in fact not something one can see through, an ontological foreshadowing of the act of seeing or lack of that ability. All of these airy meanings are but perforations leaving the raggedy language an invisible border around the inevitable, awe-inspiring and treacherous nothingness behind it. But then language—I tell you, STOP!, becomes a cuirass and the void is screened off, reflected back on itself if only for a few moments and it is just a cat slapping her claws into the holes as she ferries in the northern. The first of the year.

***

Untitled by Nicole

To say it was obscure would be an understatement. It was more like this. The flash. The glimpse of something between what you think it is and what it really is. Her eyes on mornings like this. Not really gold or blue or amber or green. No, it’s just dark. The stare. The look that says “wait.” Just like that. “Wait.” And between us? A pause that will never be recovered.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

South Street Seaport

(courtesy & © Haik Kocharian)


Unpopular by Lyle

Once again I have failed. Not, I believe, in the way your would think primarily.

I waited the storm out up on the bluff. In fact, I watched it roll in, my legs dangling down the. I could dip the tip of my sneakered foot into the odd calm of the milky substance, which had risen and then stopped. Already the bones began to surface, grim bubbles. The bluff, by then, underwater but for the slightly sloped steeple of grass under my exposed buttocks. The sun, on a string, hissed and stopped as it dipped slowly into the water then rose up out again to steam the air with the broth-y brine of bones.

So you see how I have failed and there is no one to see the drop of water fall from the rubber toe of my shoe — I have failed to populate the world — or hear it splash.

***

Mangled by Alan

Franklin’s leaving was quite the scene. The entire department was there when it happened, of course, busy at work on the new designs and intermingling gossip transcribed by the surreptitious glance and notion towards. We believed in bandanas for the week. Someone hashtagged that stripes were in. There was another storm coming, Felix squeaked from the mail room.

If the last four weeks were any indication of his dissatisfaction, I never knew. If his gentle retractions should have given him away, I didn’t look up from the page. The shape of his mouth, his jeans, the way he handled my jaunts into indifference. My stoic repose. My statuesque ingratitude. These are images I’m left with in his wake.

We come into this world shaken by love and we will leave it the same way someday.

***

Untitled by Bill

I swear it was a man in leather kit - full pants, and sleeveless coat with no shirt. But cheap, poorly made, and coated in plastics to preserve it like the couch in the living room of his father's apartment years back. He walked in on dad and dad's girlfriend naked and sweating crumpled together on that couch once. Now its the end of summer and grasping at the fall his hunter's garb lined foolishly with felt he sweats, a strip mall Safarian stalking a decent gelato in an urban jungle where fifty thousand tourists a day traipse un-eaten through well tended paths. His never sharpened machete only used on the hedges around his mother's house.

This is the middle, where it has to grind out. He simply looks as foolish as we all feel. The middle where nothing happens, where there has to be only the pounding pounding pounding of movement. The same movement, over and over again, again and again and again, like his father's hips moving up and down between that woman's legs with the skirt around her ankle.

Mom had asked him if he's seen the skirt, the black and white striped one, a couple days earlier. This was a few years before she shacked up with Byron just to cut through some of the loneliness of an abandoned cuckqueen, and then it was there dangling over the floor. There it was on the mannikin before he threw it or close enough, the same colors, dad's key that he still had turning in the lock until the act itself is meaningless and the heart, the love, is just pouring out of all of them.

The faces that you meet become featureless patients awaiting triage, their faces wrapped in wet linen clinging to their features and destroying any individuality, the human removed from the being except for the relentless communal eventuality. Sawdust soaking up the blood where he fell out of the window and cut himself.

***

Business by Forrest

When the monsoon rains come, the market street proprietors must bring in their mannequins quickly, or risk losing them forever in the flood. I have lost a few this way myself and, other than they are not cheap to come by, I have learned to rue the disappearance of each one more than those in this coastal province who mind their own business: a grandmother here, a six-year old there, what does it matter. They tell us during the funeral that it does. By that time, I've already spent most of the week, once the clouds have passed, searching for my lost mannequin and finding instead distant relations who I had thought been swept away during the previous flood, or another hapless bystander who went out photographing the downpour. It is sad and inevitable, yet very few things can be dressed up as mannequins suitable for a drowned town. I've tried broomsticks potted in pails of hard cement. Once even a distant relation, until someone reported me. It is sad and inevitable. There are some perfectly good mannequins around, waiting to help out. If only it didn't rain so much; then everyone in this forsaken tourist trap would mind their own business.

***

Untitled by Nicole

Today they are dragging the lake. You know, out behind that old house with the orange shutters that are falling off at the sides? The ones with the sun and moon painted on them? The police are out there now. I can see them from my window.

I am watching but I won’t look for too long. I don’t want to see when they pull it out. It’s more than old condoms and beer cans and lawn mowers thrown over the sides.

Today they are dragging the lake. Someone that looks like James’ brother is wearing diving gear. They have maps spread out on the hood of one of the cars. I can’t see the map, but I see where they are pointing.

I am watching from my window. Don’t worry. I don’t move the curtains and am only looking through the place where the fabric folds apart. Don’t worry. I won’t look for too long.

Today they are dragging the lake. There is a yellow crane and they are dropping something into the water that makes ripples. Like the bathroom wallpaper - big circles that move in and out when you stare and don’t close your eyes.

I’m watching and they pull it up. The water falls out of the sides and drains back into the lake. Your box looks different. The paint has peeled up. But I can still see the flowers I painted. The dark circle in the middle and each loop of petal as big as your hands.

Today they are dragging the lake. I can’t keep you anymore. I’m sorry, you know. I am. I’m watching but I’ll stop looking soon.