Monday, October 4, 2010

Prospect Park Map

The Map Maker by Ellen

The cops asked us to make a list of the things Dad had taken with him, and one of the things he had left behind.

Dylan and I looked at each other, dismayed.

We weren't familiar with Dad's things. He had treated his clothes and tools with no sentiment and certainly no interest in how he looked to anyone else. He looked generic. Brown hair, brown eyes, medium tall, white tee shirt and blue jeans.

We went through his room. It looked empty, but it always did. We kept looking for another hour.

Dylan looked like he was asleep on his feet and he had school in the morning anyway so I sent him to bed. Maybe I wanted to be alone.

In the closet was a pair of boots, beyond shabby. More destroyed than even Dad would usually wear.
There was a suitcase, plain black with little ineffective wheels, and bearded with dust.

There was a map folded in the drawer of his bedside table.

In the dresser I found underwear, socks, tee shirts and three pairs of Wrangler jeans that I recognized from a trip to Sears two years ago.

I looked at my list of things left behind. They looked like all the things Dad would need.

I showed it to the cops in the morning after I got Dylan off to school.

"Huh," said the lieutenant who I thought of as ours.

It didn't sound like a good or optimistic grunt.

"Want me to look for more stuff?" I asked. I played with the zipper on my jacket until I started to hear the buzzing sound myself and then stopped.

"No, no, that won't be necessary."

They didn't think he had run away like they probably had at first. They thought something had happened to him.

I went back to his bedroom. Dylan wouldn't come back from school for a few hours and I had taken the day off from work. On top of everything I could feel myself being mad that I had to use a personal day for this.

The room wasn't pretty but somehow it felt more special and glamorous than before. Something important had happened here.

I couldn't imagine Dad being hurt or killed somewhere. He was like a piece of nature, a rock, or a piece of machinery, a tractor.

I could see him my mind, alone, which was how he liked to be. I could see him walking down the street from work, and instead of turning down the street to our apartment, he would stop in front of the discount store and look at everything for a long minute. He would go in without really thinking about it. He would let his feet lead him, and not think too hard as his hands reached for a new backpack, and a sleek packet of white cotton briefs. He wouldn't need much, but everything fresh. One pair of jeans. Boots with good soles would be the highest ticket item.

I took the map out of the drawer. It was laminated, a tourist map, too small to have any detail or usefulness. But I could see the creases where it had been forcibly folded for so long, and I could see a burn mark, where maybe a lighter had been held up to read it some night when the overhead light would have been to conspicuous.

I could picture him making or buying a new life, the way he made or bought everything else when he determined he really needed it.

I took the map and put another clumsy fold in it. I put it in my back pocket, and headed out to the school to walk Dylan home.


Slash and Burn by Lyle

I slash and burn my way through the park and then take a rest. I hear my father: “What’re you sitting for you ninny? Get up. Pillage. Destroy. Your brother wouldn’t be sitting there like a bump on a log.”

“But he’s not here,” I say. When I stand and turn around, I see my father’s lower lip tremble just the slightest bit. Seconds before I cut off his head with one clean motion. I put it on a pike and write an exclamation point where I leave it.

This is where I call my mother. She hysterical when I tell her. But she’s hysterical anyway. I hang up. More pillaging. I am green around the gills. I am green with envy. I am green and sappy. I am charbroiled. Stomp stomp splash through the creek. Murder a couple on a picnic blanket but no picnic basket. Stomp. Chomp. Squirrel. I come back around after impaling a hiker (sure, waterproof shoes will keep your feet dry), to Midwood Trail.

This is where I feel safe. Midwood. Halfway. Neither here nor there. Unapologetic neutrality. No dragons. No innocent villagers. Nothing but the soothing quiet and the shade of flora.

Well, no time to dilly dally. Get up. Slash and burn. Slash. And. Burn. This is for you, John. I’m sorry.


A Few Areas of Note at Prospect Park by Forrest

Midwood Trail: Two things indicated on Visitor's Guide Map likely never to be found--that is, the cartoonish mystery of the White-Out exclamation point and soothing splotches of color. Various cigarette burns, however, may correctly show potential areas of bear attacks and / or beer can pipes.

Sullivan Hill: Named for the second explorer of the region who accidentally passed through in 1897 while trapping squirrels. But the original explorer's name was also Sullivan; he was very clever and wiped out a small Native village here in a drunken rage. The second Sullivan, by all accounts, never touched a drop in his life nor did he consummate his only marriage. Confusion reigns today regarding historical legacy of both men.

Ravine: Has no name. Park management still looking into this.

Prospect Park Zoo: New visitors find it strange how the green algae on Nanny the polar bear sometimes resembles the Virgin Mary puckering her lips.

Children's Corner: A complete misnomer. Children do not own anything there and thus can escape rather easily.

Carousel: Removed in July 2007 due to fatal unicorn accident, this despite large organized parent protest after public announcement of the decision. Temporary memorial erected by the deceased's family removed by legal injunction from state government officials. Plans to pave and convert into a parking area for Children's Corner put on hold due to massive budget cuts. Plot currently sitting vacant. It has not been mowed in quite some time.


Order by Bill

Still worried. I could use some more hope in my oatmeal. You’ve dangled off the page edge again, left the window open for the last 29 months, so the entire sill is covered with that black city dust and looks like the ties holding up the subway tracks. Those big particles that get you coughing in the morning when the wind kicks in, but they say it isn’t gonna do too much damage to our lungs. I push the blankey you brought back onto the floor. Still too hot in here, and I might just be delirious.

Once again I’ve quit my job. Just checked out on the you need to find someone who comes a shave closer to giving half a damn. I think the term I actually used was half a two-assed rat’s taint. They certainly did not appreciate my decorating the office with burned up maps, and probably didn’t bother to say much on account of the battle-axe I fashioned out of the keyboard during our last conference call with the client. We still got the account, and that was when I knew it was time to leave. There can be no hope - not a pretty email address crumpled up on a napkin hope and not sunshine breaking through the rainclouds after a week hope - when people are willing to accept the removal of the barriers. Those kinds of people, who see you take the barriers down and like cows just start to mill blindly into the open space where you happen to be standing with the air hammers, they are the dangerous ones. You can drive them right over the edge because they will never know how far they are from where they should be.

For now I think I’ll clean up this place a little bit. I’m going to leave that black dust on the window sill, but I’ll wash the curtains at least. And probably the walls and repaint in here next week, but first I want to paint all over the walls and draw shit in markers. Maybe I’ll punch a whole in the wall and cover that up with a steel plate and hang your map up above it. And some day if you ever come home you can run your finger through that one small patch of blackness that I’ve left for you in front of the window.


Wild Like Fire by Beth

And sometimes she wants to get out of the car, right after they break out of the city or right before going in. Swing the heavy door out and open, sneaker scuff once and twice on the rumble strip, and then she’s on the shoulder, gray sand strewn with broken red taillight. She’s down the embankment, tall grass swishing around her legs, legs ahead of her, unbalancing her. The woods ahead, the places the sun reaches and the places it does not. Brittle sticks sticking out, low branches on the trees, she crashes through, she dodges trunks the way she has learned to dodge people on the sidewalk, her eyes low, anticipating.  Keeps on beyond the ding of the car door open, beyond the traffic river-roar, footfalls deep in pine needles and black mud that sucks at her shoes.

Once she saw a kid with a lighter, teenage, holding it up to the map of Prospect Park, flame close enough to melt the cover, the smell of plastic burning acrid. She saw him, one hand on the lighter, the other cupping away the wind.  She saw how bad he needed that wildness, a dusktime kid outside a park of paved trails, outside bikers and runners steady on the hamster wheel. A park full of city. A park with cast iron gates that locked him out at night.

Sometimes she wants to, but she doesn’t. She never does.


Park the Metaphor by Alan

Map the park, punk. I dare you. Go ahead. Try to navigate its turns and yearns. Begin to wade in some kind of body of water that is larger than most views you’ ve entered. Hike the hills, tag its trails, pin the genre on the pagoda. Balance yourself on the bridge, caress the gentle urgings of the carousel, sweet timely urgings. Run the arches to the drive. Compare them as destinations. Compare them to zoo. Compare them to the children’ s corner, to the children themselves. What’ s that? You once were? Think you still are? Map it, and see for yourself. Park it for a while. Then come back to me. We’ ll talk about it then.


XOXO by Johanna

Dear Manhattan,

I'm not old enough to remember you in your prime, but I still remember the eighties and nineties when you reeked of vagrants and streamed creative spooge. I miss the way we used to be, when juice bars were fronts for drug dispensaries, when a fifteen-year-old didn't need I.D. to get into your clubs, when artists could still afford to live in Alphabet City and Harlem, when you could drive through Times Square to laugh at heads bouncing off of Johns' laps, when taxis didn't take credit cards, when the Bowery was still a great place for a riot. I miss the way you were perverted and dingy, unpretentiously punk, and always, always, on the edge of something disgustingly spectacular. I'm sorry, but I can not forgive you your bourgeois homogeneity and double-decker tour buses. You may have cleaned up, but you're boring. I'm leaving you for someone else. I'm moving to Brooklyn.

See you on the Q train.