04 April 2009

Cool Turtles I Have Known

Okay. This is me and I want to tell you guys some stories I know about turtles; some of these are true stories about turtles, some are stories I only heard about turtles and some are maybe stories I made up about turtles.

Number One

I have a cousin and we’ll call him Gary because that’s what his mom and dad, my aunt and uncle, named him. His name is Gary and when he was a little boy, somebody brought a turtle over to his house and showed it to him. Gary didn’t know it was a turtle and he said “COOKIE!” really loud and he snatched the turtle up and he put it in his mouth.

Nobody got hurt. The turtle was okay and Gary was okay. Still, it was an important day for everybody that was there. We all heard about it later. It’s the kind of story that families tell over and over and over again. I don’t know what happened to the turtle.

Number Two

There was a turtle named Maybelline because she had such beautiful eyes because Maybelline is a kind of eye make-up that girls wear sometimes. Anyway, she lived here and there around the Rio Grande in New Mexico until one day a kid snatched her up and put her in a box and then drove her up the bosque into Albuquerque. For a while, Maybelline lived in the pet store that where the boy sold her. Then the pet store sold her to me.

It was pretty good when Maybelline came to stay with us. We had a bunch of pets then and she just fit right in and became part of the family.

Then, one dark night a terrible storm blew in to Albuquerque and, while the lightening flashed blue and the thunder rolled heavy, a strong blast of wind opened up the screen door. In her fright, Maybelline slipped out that open door and nobody noticed until it was too late! We looked and looked for Maybelline that night. We got some flashlights and we looked under the bushes and, even though it was a silly thing to do, we called out, “Maybelline! Oh, Maybelline! Where are you?”

And we were really sad when we didn’t find her. We stayed up extra late that night and got up extra early the next morning, but we couldn’t find Maybelline.

Well. One whole year went by and we sure missed Maybelline. We managed to get by, somehow, but we often thought of her and how her beautiful eyes would sparkle when she saw a tasty strawberry.

Here comes the good part. After all that time (remember, we waited one whole year) a friend of ours called up on the telephone.

“You guys like turtles, right?” he asked us.

We said, “Of course. You bet. Sure thing. No problem.” And then we asked him, “Why do you ask?”

He said, “I found this really good looking turtle in the middle of a very busy street so I stopped and I picked her up but I don’t want to keep her so I thought I would call you and see if you guys together would want to see that she gets a good home.”

“Sure. Of course. You bet. Sure thing. No problem.”” we said. “You bring that good looking turtle right over here as quickly as you can.”

(Have you guessed it yet?)

When that guy, our friend, came over with the turtle he had found we took one look and we knew right away that it was Maybelline. Who else would look at us with such beautiful eyes?

Number Three

When I was a really little boy, long before I could ever read a book by myself, I had a little turtle with red cheeks that lived in a bowl with a plastic palm tree on a plastic island in the middle. I named that turtle “Rockla” and it was the same kind of turtle with red cheeks that my cousin Gary thought was a cookie when he was a little boy.

Number Four

Just the other day I read in the newspaper about a man who called the emergency line in his home town, that 911 number, and said, “I hab a turdel ond by dose” and all the emergency operators thought he was joking until the paramedic guys showed up and had to take it, a real life turtle, off his, a real life guy’s, nose with some pliers.

Number Five

When I was a little kid I had some friends who were boys and who were brothers and they had a big turtle but I can’t remember what that turtle’s name was. Anyway, one hot summer day when little boys like us, my friends and me, start getting sleepy and turtles like theirs just start getting energized, that turtle that they had decided to go swimming and that’s the last we ever saw of that turtle and we all remember how the grown-ups that summer kept making fun of us because we let a turtle run away. They’d act like they were acting like us and talk in funny, slow-motion voices and pretend to run in slow-motion calling, “Cooommmme baaaaaack, tuuuuuurtle” in slow-motion voices.

We looked everywhere for that turtle but we could never find him.

Number Six

They told us one time that some people think the whole entire world rests on the back of one big big turtle and I remember thinking then, at that time, that if anybody could hold up the world, a turtle probably could. It might make a little, soft noise and it might make a little, soft tear, but you can bet that turtle would never let the world drop. No way, turtle!

Number Seven

On time when it was spring, we went to visit our friends Peter and Anne and they live way up in Taos, New Mexico. When we got up in the morning and they were making up the breakfast that we were going to eat, there was this big scratching sound from a big box they had. At first, nobody knew what it was and then we knew right away what we had heard. It was the turtles waking up. They had been sleeping all winter long in that cardboard box and then, that morning, they decided to wake up and look around.

We all went outside to eat our breakfasts and we watched the turtles blink at the sunshine they hadn’t seen in so long and then start taking big bites out of the daffodils which they hadn’t eaten since last year and we all kept taking big bites of pancakes and saying, “Good morning, turtles! Good morning, sleepyheads!”

Number Eight

One time a turtle saved my life. I was just going to college for my very second semester of my very first year and I was just walking down a very flat road in Sarasota, Florida, where my college was when I saw a sparkle in the bushes. I was much younger than I am now then and so I decided to go over and see what was sparkling there by the side of the road. It was a turtle in the weeds by the side of the road and the reason that turtle’s eyes were sparkling was because there was this crazy driver coming up behind me and he would have hit me unless his headlights had hit that turtle’s eyes and led me off the flat road to safety

Number Nine

Our latest turtle is really cool. We named her Cookie after the turtle my cousin Gary almost ate that time. This new Cookie got real sick one time and we had to take her to the veterinarian. The doctor told us all sorts of things we didn’t know about turtles. She told us they need Vitamin A for their eyes. She told us a vitamin shot every once in a while sure wouldn’t hurt them. She told us how old Cookie was by looking at one of her scales under a microscope. It turns out that Cookie is 6 years old.

Right now, Cookie is asleep in the garage in a box full of blankets and newspapers. That’s how she’ll spend the winter. When springtime comes, she’ll wake up and we’ll all be so glad to see her.

“Good morning, Cookie!” we will say. “Good morning, sleepyhead.”

03 April 2009

Bag of Guts

This is a true story and it happened in a town near here and it wasn’t that long ago. My friend’s cousin told it to him, he told it to me, and I’m telling it to you and it is totally true.

There was this kid named Tommy or Timmy Guttman or Tony Guttbaum or Guttfreid or Gutt-some-goddamn-thing-or-another. The important thing is that this kid’s last name started with Gutt. Maybe his family was from Germany or something. Whatever it was, his name started with Gutt and he was fat. I mean this kid was really fat. A complete pig. Enormous. Huge. Fat.

So, naturally, when this kid started school, the other kids, the normal-sized kids sort of latched on to him and started teasing him about being so fat. It was one of these really small towns with only one school so everybody knew each other from kindergarten until senior year. They started teasing Tommy or Tony or Timmy. Probably even some of the other fat kids at school teased him because, standing there next to Gutt-whatever, they didn’t look so fat anymore. It was practically fate or destiny that the other kids teased him, picked on him, and made up names for him. He’d been born for it. They called him “Jelly Belly,” “Porky Pig,” “Fatso,” “Blimp,” and whatever popped into their heads. By third grade, though, everyone had pretty much settled on calling him “Bag of Guts” because of his last name. And that’s the way it stayed until even some of the teachers thought of this kid as “Bag of Guts” like it was his real name. Hardly anyone even remembered what his first name was, that he even had a real name beside “Bag of Guts.”

By the time he got to high school, Bag of Guts weighed in around 400, maybe 500 pounds and his life was hell. He had taken so much shit for so long that it was pretty clear what the rest of his life was going to be like. He could barely make it to school anyway, could barely walk even, so he just sort of dropped out of school and nobody really came looking for him, no guidance counselors or truant officers came by the Bag of Guts’ house looking to get him to come back or anything. It made everyone’s lives a little easier to just not have him around. A few of the meanest, the most sadistic kids really did miss him but they just shifted their attention to the next closest, the next weakest kids and made their lives miserable instead. And some of those kids really, really missed the old Bag of Guts.

A year passes, maybe two years, and everyone is getting ready to graduate. Some kids are going off to college, some kids are going off to the army, some kids are just going to get a job, get pregnant, settle down, and settle in. The usual shit. Somebody spray-painted “Class of 19-whatever Rules” on some rocks. Graduation, caps and gowns, pomp and circumstance, best friends forever, don’t ever change, blah blah blah.

There was one big party on the night of graduation, a bonfire out at the end of a dirt road into the woods, woods just like these, and about half the newly graduated seniors were out there going “woo hoo” and playing music on car stereos, drinking beer and wine coolers and peppermint schnapps.

All I know, all anyone knows, is that no one came home from that party. When the cops went out there the next morning to check, the fire was still smoldering and the cars were still there, maybe just running out of batteries and still playing party music. What the cops did find out there in the woods, woods just like these, and what freaked everyone out so badly, was a huge burlap sack, a huge burlap sack that someone had made by taking regular size burlap sacks and sewing them all together, an enormous burlap bag stuffed full of teenaged hearts and livers and intestines. One big, gigantic bag of guts and nobody has seen that Guttman, Guttbaum, Guttfreid kid since.

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02 April 2009

These Are Photographs

These are photographs, spread wing-like across this table,
and they sideways cut the membraned layers beneath my eyelids,
the slick part that slides across the part they call "hazel."
A twenty-sided construct rolls nearly as well as a sphere
and each side is a photograph
and when it stops rolling nineteen of them will not be facing up.
These clever arrangements of salts and metals
add together quickly, like an equation,
but can never solve, are never totaled;
the palm of this hand and the way it rests against that shoulder
remain so while other, clearer photographs develop.
This blur here implies motion.

01 April 2009

Heroes of Language (Part II)

My grandfather told me stories about his friend, an Indian named Enchanted Medicine Dog, and it wasn't until I began working in the library that I was able to guess that his old buddy had been the Sioux warrior Crazy Horse.

My cat is named Pencil and it has recently become apparent that she actually wants to write. Her scrawlings, from stylus held most clumsily between paw and tooth, cannot begin to yet be called language, but there is a meaning rich with feline sensibility and a kind of creeping logic there.

My fish, lock in their glassy locus, have taken to strange loopings that, when traced with soap slivers or grease pens along the aquarium planes, reveal alphabets or perhaps pictograms that point to icthic futures.

My wife, when sleeping, groans softly and runs her hands along my scalp to trace another man's name there.

31 March 2009

Accidental Seabirds: A Play

The Cast:

Natural Forces, male or female
Thing One, youthful male or female
Thing Two, youthful male or female
A Blacksmith, male
Mom, adult female
Dad, adult male
Junior, adolescent male
Sis, adolescent female
Little Bit, female child
A Booming Voice, male or female
The Crowd, male and female
(certainly, some of these roles may be played by the same actors)

[Pitch black stage. The sounds of movement--whispers, scuffles--grow to become audible but not nearly overwhelming enough to demand attention. Lights snap full on to bare stage with NATURAL FORCES way off to the back at the side. S/he speaks.]


I am called Natural Forces and I will be hovering around the edges of things this evening. As you may recall from what you’ve called your educations, I am usually symbolically and always only dimly understood.

It is easier for your teachers to talk to you with puppets than to tell you the truth. They will tell you the sun is an orange in the sky and it is easier for you to conceive the sun an orange than otherwise. Your teachers will show you a few nuts and seeds; these will be called planets and set to turning around the orange sun. And it is fixed in your heads that you can imagine the solar system. There are so many people who think the sun is an orange surrounded by walnuts glued to thread and that is how they live.

They have shown you filmstrips about anthropomorphic subatomic particles, and have fixed in your heads the notions of emotive protons and neurons with subatomic attractions and repulsions and uncontrollable excitments and personal subatomic names on their subatomic sweaters. A molecule is conceived of as an arrangement of teeny weenie Styrofoam balls and toothpicks. And there is a glimmer in your heads of how the world is bent and stopped and started again every fraction of every instant and that glimmer is wrong.

There is no more comfortable way to see disease, the way in which the body falls apart to senselessness and rot, than to make it a cartoon, grimacing animunculus under Van Louenhook’s glass, little Disney germs in army helmets fighting against the little good guy germs of health and hygiene.

These illusions are better, make life much easier, than it would be facing the workings of my machinery. You may not perceive my motives; you are not equipped to see my consequences.


Anyway, ‘nuff said. Check it out.

[Music of some sort. Nothing cheesy--a small ensemble of woodwinds or a gamalon or talk radio tapes played backwards.

THE CROWD filters onto the stage and NATURAL FORCES blends in with their activity, is quickly lost from sight. THE CROWD works in a friendly, cooperative fashion to construct a modular set that, at first, resembles some sort of medieval village. As the set is quickly completed, THE CROWD begins to assume roles within the context of the actions to follow; i.e. in one sequence, a particular CROWD member may assume the role of cafe patron while the principals emote and strut and, in another sequence, slip into the role of policeman. Etc.

THE CROWD breaks into small groups and begins to arrange itself in the manner of townspeople--shopping, selling, gossiping.

Enter two youths wearing THING ONE and THING TWO sweatshirts.]


Oh, Thing Two. This whole Middle Ages stuff is absolutely terrible. I am getting absolutely, terribly sick and tired of alchemy and astrology. I ache for chemistry and astronomy. I need physics and biology. I want to read books written in a vernacular tongue. I want to grind lenses so that we can see some different things. I need to send and receive messages over great distances. I’m tired of talking to priests


I’d like to go to Italy and sit in the sun and invent a machine, a machine mind you, that could fly. I would use it to find Prestor John in his Asian kingdom. I would fly to Africa and see the palace of She Who Is To Be Obeyed. I would like to visit the moon.


Okay. That’s the idea. I think you’re on the right track. But rather than posit a future, I would rather take this time to dwell on the misery of the present.

You know. Cathedrals. Crusades. The Plagues. No cable. I really think we were born in the wrong century.


Oh, yes, Thing One, I must agree. If we had lived in the Age of Philosophy or with the Noble Romans, think how we might have flourished! Think what possibilities for change may have existed for us. With what we know now, we could have constructed Pliny’s zoological garden. With the machines I may invent from linen and bronze, we could collect the griffen and giraffalope and those little pygmy guys with one eye in their tummies. We could do it, Thing One. We really could.


Well, yeah. We could do that, too. But I thought more to think of things more new. To try to think of things not yet imaginable, to name a color unseen, to watch a sun blaze a dawn that is yet to be novaed into existence.

I was lamenting, Thing Two, our place in history when so much past and so much future weigh so heavily on this feeble slip called our present.

And we here, Thing Two, we rot in an Era of Closed Minds when change of any nature is viewed as heresy.


Or the future! When things untold exist yet still in the minds of men unborn. Some earthly heaven yet to be terrestrial. The future time when all humors become equal within the tides of men; when angels return to earth to guide our hands upon the plows of Utopia.

[A member of THE CROWD steps slightly forward to insinuate his role into the consciousness of the audience. Things like this should happen periodically throughout the play; i.e., it would not be untoward for a member of THE CROWD to go offstage to retrieve, open, and drink a beverage. However and for sure, this time, THE CROWD member steps forward to announce...]


I am a character in another play altogether written by a friend of the author of this play and his name, the guy who wrote the little play within a play that I am in, is named Perry Novelli. I don’t know what the name of the play within a play is but I am the Blacksmith. I have a little part and it goes something like this:

[clears throat; THING ONE and THING TWO have become secondary, at least, and tertiary if possible. They fade while the BLACKSMITH takes his place]

[music/chorus/revolutionary opera]

Turkey and ham
Turkey and ham
The wind don't grow no
Turkey and ham

[lather, rinse, repeat]

[THE CROWD retreats to pantomimed applause as THING ONE and THING TWO casually wander back to their prominent marks]


Ahem. Harumph.


Have you ever even thought about economics? I mean real economics, something beyond a tangible barter, something more than trading an animal’s skin for a bag of corn? About buying on credit? About the possibility of buying on a margin? About bankruptcy and rollovers and mergers and stock splits?

I’m just asking...

[THING TWO looks downright puzzled.]

And what about knowledge? What if everyone could read? What, Thing Two, if you can imagine, what if everyone could write? What new stories would we hear? What new languages would we learn? What kingdoms lie there dormant in those yeomen’s brains waiting to be structured and expressed through syntax? What empire of mind and soul is destined for some other aspirant’s grasp? And here we languish, dear Thing 2, in the Land of the Iron Sausage, under gentle dukedom’s hand, while even our poor local library has been sealed as tightly as the fists of our merchants and the knees of their glassy-eyed daughters.

[Some townspeople have begun to throw the two sidelong glances as the content of their conversation has become clear.]


Perhaps our mouths should mimic our fellows’ minds and fists and knees. This broadcast of such sentiments might quickly be misunderstood.


Hmm? Oh, piss on these, on these, on these...people!

[People have really started to notice now, have stopped what they are doing to listen, have even taken a few steps toward the two.]

Oh, God in Heaven, if only some wheel would turn; if only there did exist a lever and for that lever a fulcrum from which to start this dear world turning once again. And in which direction would such rolling take? I swear to you, Thing 2, that I would not care if this darkened rock climbed up toward some brighter light or teetered even further back toward the dung-heap from which it surely was once plucked. I wouldn’t give two snaps as long as we were moving.


I beg you stop this speculation and stop it in such a public manner in such a public place.

[THE CROWD is seriously interested in the conversation now and has begun to comment amongst itself. They mumble, “Peas and carrots. Peas and carrots.”]


If there could only be a cleansing rain, a deluge of baptismal waters--or, of fire, if needs be must--to wash or burn or somehow scour these rusted armors of idiocy from the limbs of the brains in our heads. I crave the giddy liquor of potential, of chance, of uncertainty, and of transformation! I would drink most deeply from the cup of he who would offer me an unfamiliar draught.


Would you just shut the fuck up....

[As THE CROWDbegins to move in a concerted and menacing manner toward THING ONE and THING TWO, NATURAL FORCES steps forward to high visibility.]


Pardon me; excuse me. The Mongol hordes are here.

[Stage goes to deep black. A single voice says “Oh, shit.” Again, there is the sound of shuffling. The lights slowly rise.]

[The village has been slightly modified and now looks more or less like a theme park. Fakiness is somehow emphasized, commercialism and product marketing can be reflected in the type and nature of visible advertising, souvenir-oriented “Shoppe” names, etc. Shopping type “musak” grows to an audible but unobtrusive level. THE CROWD settles into roles of park-goers, big animal characters, concessionaires, etc.]

[A family unit--DAD, MOM, SIS, JUNIOR, and LITTLE BIT enters. Costume cues should read tourist without screaming. Please no cliché Bermuda short, camera snapping, hideous sunglasses, etc. They are on vacation but they are more or less realistic.]


Okay? Where exactly are we now? Who’s got that map. The one with all the zones in different colors. What zone is this?

[MOM pulls LITTLE BIT closer to her side and begins to dab at the child’s face with a tissue.]



[LITTLE BIT emits muffled, whining grunts of discomfort and embarrassment.]


For Christ’s sake, who’s got the map? Junior? Come here, son.


I don’t know. I gave it to Sis.

[SIS is suddenly aware of the action and she freezes for an instant. Quickly though increasingly frantically, she inventories her pockets, bag, and immediate surroundings. No map.]

[quiet, yet extremely menacing.]

Goddamn it. I gave it to you. Come here, son.


Honest, Dad. I gave it to her and she said she’d give it back and she didn’t and it’s not my fault, Dad. Honest.

[MOM looks up sharply at the sound of her son’s urgency and glances at her eldest daughter. LITTLE BIT has turned stiff.]

[taking a hesitant few steps toward her father, a step back, another forward]

No, Dad. He’s right. It’s my fault. I used it to sit down on the curb and forgot to pick it up. I can get another.

[doesn’t turn around, still stares calmly at JUNIOR]

Stay out of this, missy. Now, son, where is the map I gave you?

[a gesture of reaching aborted; a glance at each of her children]


[as calmly as you please]

I said that all bitches should back the fuck off.

[They do, glancing at each other and at LITTLE BIT.]


No, dad, really, I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry dad oh please I’m sorry I’ll go get another one right now.

[Passersby have begun to notice that something is wrong with the scene but it is not clear what the tension the family generates might mean]


Frank? Please.


I asked you a question, son. Where’s the map?

[NATURAL FORCES emerges from amongst the other park-goers. She looks at the family, the rage on one face, the fear on another, the loathing both self- and otherwise upon another. She gestures first to the audience and then to the family itself, an introduction of sorts.]


An aneurysm, I think.

[S/he waves his/er finger around until it stops on MOM who drops like a rock, boom, as the lights go pitch black. A single voice says, “Whoa. Did you see that lady pass out?” More shuffling as the sets are once again modified. After a while, the small noises fade as the sound of rain rises. After sufficient duration, a lightning flash and a peal of thunder should startle everybody. The lights grow though only enough to simulate a dark, windy, rainy, thunderstorming night.]

[Dark. Wind. Rain. Thunder. And a figure against what we can now see is the parapet of a castle. Another figure carrying a flashlight or a lantern or a torch or something approaches from behind.]

[sotto voco]

Thing Two! Thing Two! Is that you?


Of course it is. Be quiet!


Thank God! I’ve been out here for hours.


Oh, Thing One, be serious. You’ve been out here for fifteen minutes at the very most.


Well, it sure seems a lot longer than what you just said.


Are you sure they’re asleep?


They were. If you keep making so much noise, they’ll probably wake up.


Okay,. okay. I’m sorry.

[They move together closer to the edge of the stage and off to one side.]


There, now. Do you feel any better.

[drawing his jacket or cloak or space blanket or what ever closer about himself]

Yeah. A little.


Okay. You start.


All right.

[pause; deep breath]

All right. I like to pull the plug on the bathtub but then stay inside laying as flat as I possibly can and feel the sensation as the water drains away and the temperature changes and the texture of the change between bath water and air feels heavy like the gravity that follows the waterline to surround my limbs again with their own weight.


Ooo. I like that. Do another. Do another.


Very well, but just one. I like it when I am far away from the ocean, miles inland, days inland, with no trace of salt mingled in the atmosphere and I see a gull. There, somewhere near some pile of garbage, to see an ocean bird...it’s like being two places at the same time. The sound the bird makes.


That was even better than the first. I like the ones about water. Do another one. Do another one with water in it.


No. It’s your turn. You do one now.


But you do them so well. I want to hear another of yours.


I think not.

[Lightning crashes and strikes THING TWO dead. The stage, of course and once again, goes pitch black.]


That’s it, you two. I want you back in bed and asleep in five minutes or I’m coming down there.

[Again and of course, there is the usual scuffling and shuffling. The sounds of set rearrangement, so familiar and so comforting, again insinuate themselves throughout the theater.]

[Eventually, the house lights go up and everyone (audience, actors, staff) goes home.]

30 March 2009

Most of the Twentieth Century and Practically All of the Twenty-First

Making love while bombs fell
Our narrow patch of floor
And dirt drenched blankets
All walls trembling as we
With shock and awe
Lamps swinging though not exactly wildly
In the age of “It’s just like a movie”
Not much like a movie at all
With Thanatos and Eros in the front row anyway,
On the glare horizon, cities burning.
Overhead, just above us here, cities burning.

Some other family’s heirlooms
And knick-knacks and trash now
Burned and dirty and water-damaged
Rarely worth even cursory scavenge
Just more things to walk upon
To kick aside to make a space
To make a space for dirt drenched blankets
To make a place to spend the night
And make love while bombs fall

29 March 2009

11 Ways of Looking at Lisa

She's stealing, stealing, stealing money at work all the time. In her hands, credit card charge slips transform themselves and ones and fours and sevens become nines, threes fill in to eights, zeroes fall into unexpected but significant places, and the cash in the coffee can on her closet's top shelf rolls tightly around itself, a cocoon in which her brooding future incubates.

She never eats it herself but she often steals meat from the kitchen to bring home to her dog. Her boyfriend will often steal if from them both. She can smell it on his breath.

His drinks will almost certainly appear on some other drunk's tab and that is a kind of victory, a kind of seduction performed with alcohol and a BIC round-stic fine point pen and it will almost certainly work and he will certainly drink more and she will glow with the gifts she's given, setting up shots of raw vodka all around.


She's breaking things in the kitchen and it punctuates the things she says.

She's asking, "Are you happy now? [crash] Is this what you want? [crash] Is this the way you want things to be? [crash]" and the shards of Corning Ware and Pyrex and glass arrange themselves across the linoleum like messages, like codes, like hieroglyphic gestures and they glitter as they spin toward brief rest in litter under her 100 watt bulbs. There is a clarity to this performance, its meaning quite clear, yet it will remain a kind of performance.

"Are [smash] you [smash] happy [smash] now? [smash]" she wails, forlorn in anger and gathering repent.

He is thinking.

He says, "I'm thinking. I'm thinking."


She's working on the StairMaster and it's been 45 minutes. The sweat spreads but does not fall from her face, her lips, her chin; it outlines its own movement across her shoulders and down the furrows of her vertebrae. It is hard for her to concentrate on the article in the Harper's magazine she holds. She savors the movement of her thighs, her calves, her ass as she climbs and she lets the magazine slowly fold itself closed and then it slip to the floor beside the machine and she lays her forehead between her hands and she keeps climbing.


She's drinking and she's drunk and crawling around the living room floor, a mosaic of cassette tapes and CDs spread underneath her elbows and her knees and she's looking for something particular, a special song to accompany this special moment spread underneath her elbows and her knees and she's looking for something particular, a special song to accompany this special moment and she knows it here somewhere and if she can just remember who sings it and what album it's on and where that album is, she can listen to it over and over and over all night long and she keeps looking because she knows what she wants to hear.


She's dragging her nails across the plaster of the bedroom wall and making noise, plenty of noise, and it all means she likes having sex. Her back is arching and her shoulders toss and her breath goes in and out like cats gasp and it comes out like a long, drawn out "oh, fuck" and that noise rises and hardens as it escapes her swollen mouth and everything she does and says is absolutely inspiring and he's working at it hard, he's trying his best and she's rocking.

"Fuck, baby. Oh, fuck."


She's driving fast across west Texas plains in a car that's about to break down on roads she's deliberately not chosen, roads she's deliberately just taken for no reason at all. She has chosen not to add any oil to the engine and the temperature is rising and she's singing along to a radio station that has seemed to just appear on the dial and she really doesn't know the words to the songs, so the sounds she makes are just a split second behind the sounds the radio is making.

"Heartache hmm hmm hmm and whiskey hmm hmm hmm," she sings. "Lovin' arms hmm hmm hmm and freight trains moanin' hmm hmm hmm."

At the same time, she's thinking, "This is the life, sure enough."


She's getting ready for another party; she has them quarterly. She is vacuuming the living room carpet and cutting up the vegetables and working on her hair and working on her face and opening bottles of wine and setting out plates and napkins and silverware and picking out some music all more or less simultaneously and when guests start arriving she is more than ready.


She's screaming at the boys in the car who yelled at her but they're not listening; they're already way too far down the street for her voice to reach them though she can still hear the heavy thud the music they play makes.

"Fuck you!" she screams but it is a thin sound and is quickly lost in the air, unravels and disappears until only dogs can hear it.

"Fuck you, you fuckers!"


She's counting boyfriends like counting prayers with a rosary; she lays out their photographs like a collection of holy cards, like a dealer starting another game of casino blackjack with all the odds behind her. She makes a circle, she makes a star, she puts them in a long, long row. She picks them up like paper dolls.

"Hey, you!" she pretends one of the photographs says. "You were mean to Lisa."

"I was not," she pretends to make another picture say. "She's a bitch and she was mean to me."

"Take that back."

"Make me." And then she pretends the pictures fight and she jiggles them both across each other and the sounds she makes sound like fists hitting flesh and grunts of pain. She pretends the good guy's picture wins the fight and then she gathers all the photos together into one neat stack and puts them back in the envelope in the box in the drawer in the dresser in the room she calls "spare."


She's laughing and the dog is in the water and across the brown, flat river the new condominiums with red tile roofs are laddered up the mesa, rising like dull bees from the cottonwood bosque. Even Ray-Bans cannot control the vibrating reflection of the sun in the water in her eyes in the windows of the houses half a mile away.


She's sleeping while the morning sunlight enters the east window and he sits in the wing back chair that sits in the corner of her bedroom and he watches it, the light, and the way the sheets are tangled around her legs and the way the arrow of soft, fine down tracks her spine and the way the growing light has made her perspire and how each tiny hair has begun to glisten, to shine golden in the curves her back has made this morning.