25 April 2009

Being Realistic

I hadn't expected to see the old man for at least a couple of hours; he was always late though I knew he'd come equipped with excellent excuses and perhaps even gifts, so I'd saved The Sun Also Rises from English Honors to start (and, conceivably, finish) while I waited for him to show up at the bus station. I'd read a couple of magazines on the way from Albuquerque instead and mostly watched things out the window, watched the landscape shift into Texas.

So. I was pretty surprised to see him when I got off the bus in Amarillo. I had really wanted to at least start the Hemingway and wondered if I'd get the chance to read it in time for school. I knew I could start reading on the trip back but it was a pretty thick book.

He was sitting near the ticket counter, bent over with his elbows on his knees and a Chesterfield deep in the knuckles of his right hand, and he wasn't watching so I got up right in front of him. I had my The Sun Also Rises in one hand and my weekender in the other.

"Hey," I said and his head snapped up and, for a second, I don't think he knew who I was. The he grinned and stood up.

"Well, goddamn," he said. "Looks like you've growed some." He stuck his cigarette in his mouth and held out his hand. I dropped my bag and shifted the book to my left hand and we shook, three times, firm and short like I knew he'd do it. He glanced at the book, still grinning, and reached down for the bag.

"Let's get the hell outta here," the old man said. "I been here all goddamn morning. Couldn't remember which bus you was coming on so I been here for every damn one. Eastbound and west."

That was it, I thought. If he'd remembered which bus I was on, he'd have been late. As it stood, there were people all over town wondering why he hadn't shown up to see them, why he was late, and where the hell he was anyway.

"I got the Chrysler over there." The old man pointed with his chin and I had to double-step to keep up with him. He was wearing green work clothes and there was a lingering odor of crude oil but I couldn't tell if it was him or just Amarillo in general.

We got to the Chrysler and the old man put my bag in the back seat. I remembered the car but not the way I was seeing it. It looked badly used, dirty and dented, like it was the kind of car that left blue smoke hanging in the air behind it. It didn't look like I remembered it looking.

The old man grabbed a jacket off the passenger side floor. It was green like his clothes and I could see the places where company insignia had been removed. He held it and looked at it like he had never seen a jacket before, like he was puzzling out the whole business of sleeves and arms and zippers. He saw me looking and grinned.

"Come on, sport," he said. "Let's get going."


He drove, of course, all around town. He pointed at this and that building and told me the history as he knew it of each. This aunt or that old buddy or some second cousin or another little gal he used to run with had lived there, died there, done something funny or stupid there, and I wasn't much listening to what he was saying. I fingered the cheap paperback I held between my knees and struggled with the urge to just go ahead and light up even though I'd never smoked in front of him. Or any adult, for that matter. I had a practically full pack of Winstons in my pocket and hadn't had a smoke since Santa Rosa.

When the old man started talking about the leases he had or would have or was about to probably have if the deal went through though it was a sure thing whether or not some son-of-a-bitch at Phil-Tex knew his ass from a hole in the ground. I wasn't listening again, so I told him I was thirsty. That, me telling him I was thirsty, meant we were going to 16th Avenue. The old man lit a Chesterfield one-handed, left-handed, with a book of matches and turned a squealing left in front of and across two lanes of oncoming traffic. It turned out he was thirsty, too.


I remember we went to several bars there on 16th and I don't remember in which one I lost my school book. A do remember a roughneck taking it from me and swearing that he had known Hemingway, he even referred to him as "Papa," but I think he eventually gave it back. I think that particular guy was only making a joke about the uselessness of book-learning, but there were always so many guys like that in those bars. I think the old man might have been in on that jokes, but there were always so many jokes along 16th Avenue that I can't remember which ones the old man was in on, out of, or the butt of. I think.


I do remember the old man reaching over to a woman. She had the thin, burnt-looking hair that the old man really seemed to go for. He just leaned over and tried to give her a kiss and I'm pretty sure his mouth was open and I'm not so sure hers wasn't. And a bunch of guys who wore the same kind of green work clothes the old man was wearing, though theirs still had the company patches, seemed to think that wasn't such a good idea. The old man went down under the quick burst of blows from fists and boots, many of them steel-toed, and I knew that was a terrible idea. It seemed like somebody should step in to even things up a little bit and, surprisingly, I didn't do too badly.


I have played hockey on the frozen ponds of fancypants Eastern prep schools and, when allowed, things like rugby and lacrosse. I know how to hurt people without seeming to do it on purpose, trained early in the quick and dirty. The old man was down with orange lipstick and a greasy fist working on his mouth and some major dental bills in his future. I reached down for his collar and, on the way, I'm pretty sure I broke the ankle of the guy who had hit him first. Somebody turned around and I was suddenly in my own world of lumps. I glimpsed an adam's apple and rapped it short and hard with my left. Simultaneously, I heard something pop near my ribs. I got my knee between a pair of legs, worked it, and heard a grunt and then a thin whine. I reached again for the old man and pulled a piece of his arm until his face was near mine. He grinned, spit blood and porcelain, and shot his right past my shoulder to smack some guy in the face. It was right between the eyes on the bridge of the nose and that guy fell perfectly backward like a bowling pin, bounced right back up, and chopped across the neckline of my collegiate crewcut.

"Sorry, son," the old man said and hit the guy again over the same shoulder in the exact same spot between the guy's eyes and that time the guy went down and didn't get up.

"Time to go," I said, squinting through a bloody eye I don't remember getting. "I've got your jacket."

"Well," said the old man, but for some reason he had another beer in his hand and, I'm pretty sure, his other hand on that same woman's thigh, high up near crotch. "At least somebody do."

24 April 2009

True Life Animal Stories

“Oh! Best Beloved....”

Number One

I sat in the bathtub with my poor sister's lame Valentine ribbon making smooth arcs around and across my legs. The hairs on them, my legs, were black and looked like underwater weeds. My mother still knock knock knocked and had begun to sound concerned. I licked the washcloth. I enjoyed the waxy thickness of the soap foam.

After my bath was over, after I knew my mother had drifted away from the door, I decided to wear my oldest swimsuit to bed because it was much, much more comfortable than my pajamas.

Any of them.

Number Two

I was coming out of the Pussy Cat Palace and I had changed all my money into quarters for the arcades when I saw her. She was in the doorway of one of those donut shops. She was one of those whores. She was one of those whores but she had a scar running through her eye and across her cheek. She didn't see me or even notice me for a while so I got to look at her before I had to pay attention to her. She was reasonably pretty but the scar, twisting down her face and accentuating the lines of the bones beneath her face and echoing the sweep of her shoulders and drawing me with it under the collar of her blouse, made her beautiful. She looked at me and noticed me staring at her after I had left her no other choice. She stared back and she sucked deep on her cigarette. The donut shop's flashing sign made her scar appear to pulse, to appear first convex and then concave and then convex again. When I stood next to her after she noticed me, I could see that she was much closer to my own age than I had expected, much closer to a normal age than the usual typical eighteen or nineteen going-on-two-hundred-year-old whore I usually saw outside that kind of donut shop.

"Hi," I said.

"Hi. Baby," she said and dropped her cigarette on the pavement, making no move to grind it out and not even attempting to say anything else. I stepped on the smoldering thing for her.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Angelique," she answered and pronounced it "angel eek." "Do you like to party? Do you want to date?"

"Yeah. Sure. I guess so. Don't you?"


"Where'd you get that scar there? On your face there?"

"Where do you think I got it?"

"I think you got it when the car went out of control and crashed over the barrier and landed upside down in the lake. That's what I think."

She looked at me with her head tilted to one side, a kind of schoolgirl gesture of puzzlement that also happened to cover the scarred half of her face with her hair.

"Close enough," she said. She hooked my arm into hers to drag me into the donut shop. I nearly blew the whole deal there arguing with her pimp while three policemen were looking at us. Her pimp could tell I wanted her badly and assumed I was a freak. We sat together in his booth in the donut shop while Angelique was in the toilet. He finally settled on forty dollars but then he nearly walked away with her, fresh from the rest room, when he found out that it was going to be in quarters. He made me feel small and made me walk up to the cashier to change coins back into paper money. The cops laughed at me the whole time.

Driving up to the hills, I tried to talk to my new whore.

"What's your name?" I asked her again.

"I already told you," she told me. "Angelique [angel eek]."

"I mean what's your real name?"

She didn't say anything.

"I will give you an extra twenty dollars that you may keep for yourself above and beyond what that pimp back there may or may not give you if you tell me what your real name is."

"Give me the twenty dollars."

I had to really arch my back to get into my jacket pocket and drive at the same time. I gave her two rolls of quarters. She snickered at the change but did not refuse it like her pimp had.

"Been saving up?" she asked me. "Out of your allowance?"

I said, "What is your real real name?"

"What do you think my real real name is?" she giggled while she stuffed the rolls of silver into her scrappy, crappy little clutch bag thing. The weight of the quarters made it heavy, made it bulge as if it were ripe.

"Well, you know, I think your real real name is...I think it is...Jane."

She held her swollen purse between her legs and pretended to be so surprised that her mouth actually fell open.

"You're absolutely right!" she exclaimed. "Why! That is absolutely amazing! I can't believe it! You must be fucking psychic or something!"

I thought, for a fraction of an instant only, of ripping that trashy little bag out from between her legs and just throwing it out the car window. I didn't.

"Isn't it? Just?" I said that exactly the way it sounds.

I imagined her in the kind of movie I could have made if I could have made the kind of movie she should be in. I was then, suddenly, and I remain, certain that it is possible to recreate the kind of beauty that pulses beneath any sequence of flesh and noise and that flickered in the disfigured whore that slumped next to me. The scar reclined with her; that alone was worth at least twenty-five cents.

"Angel...Jane," I called from the front door of the house I parked at. She emerged from my car, propelled herself from my car, and followed the sound of my voice inside the house through the door I had opened for both of us. I was surprised that she was actually there, that I had brought her to that house, and that she was actually following me into it. I was surprised that she allowed me to rent part of her self and surprised at my self that I had.

Hours later, after she had fucked me, when the lock on the front door turned just loudly enough to pull me back from sleep and the clicking of high-heeled footsteps approached the bed in the room where we lay, I was not at all surprised. I did not try to awaken Angel Eek/Jane or to conceal her. I was a little surprised, though, to notice that I was reaching for my trousers when the light was snapped brilliantly on.

Number Three

Where had the moon been that night?

I had know exactly where the moon had been that night because I was able to see where the stars were not. There were more stars in the sky that night than I have ever seen before or since. They actually glazed the sky.

Though it did not reflect, though it did not even dimly return the visual noise of our dying sun, I knew where that idiotic new moon was hung because it left a perfect hole in the sky and the crowd of stars, a hole in an otherwise perfect scattering of light.

That's how I had known where the moon was though I still wonder how I knew where to find a shotgun. What is important is that I found it. I had just known that when I reached for it, a shotgun would fall into my arms.

I had just known. That's all. And I had known enough to pump a shell into its chamber and I had also known enough to hold it up and point it out and assume an easy kind of crouch to catch the recoil should I have need to pull its trigger. Again. And again.

I had known enough to keep it pointed at Tom. I had known enough to know that no matter how much blood may have been coming out of his head, there would always be quite a lot left and that the best idea would be to keep that shotgun pointed at what he had become and what I had only been able to wound if even that. I saw blood but I didn’t see any pain on his face.

The hole in the sky had been where the moon would have been had I been able to see the moon. It was like damage in the sky, like I had really shot a clean, clear hole in the sky. I kept thinking to myself that I had gotten myself into a real situation and that I had been stupid to get myself there and that if I could have redone or done over the last thousand things I had done to lead me to such a position that I would have done anything, given anything, to have been able to have them redone or done over. I had wished for something to take my finger from that trigger and to stop that blood from moving down Tom's cheek, across Tom's jaw, and underneath Tom's shirt.

I was not able to feel thoughtful for long. I began to feel tired and I grew anxious, as if what I had been able to do with the shotgun had become more and more than merely possible. As if that, because I had curled my finger around that rigger, I had become required to pull it. Again. I would have rather jerked the barrel up to the moon that was not there and just shouted "bang." I could have looked down at Tom and said, "Whoa. Too weird, huh?" I would rather have given that weapon to him, apologized for acting so dumb and frightened like a little kid, and been forgiven by him. I would rather have held the hand he had that wanted to curl around his head but couldn't. I would rather have done all sorts of goddamn things but I was afraid and, instead, I waited and waited and waited for some kind of space to be filled with something that meant something. I waited until my arms just couldn’t hold the shotgun up any longer. Again.

Number Four

I think I must be psychic or something because I couldn't even seem to help myself, I couldn't even stop myself from twisting the wheel and putting the Datsun into a dangerous power slide to get into the parking lot of a deserted motel on a twilight highway. Something washed over me there that came from inside my head but hadn't been there before. It was something like wave after wave of big dead people's feelings.


"That there's Jane Mansfield. No shit," lurched out of Bill's mouth.

"What?" was all that Tobe could manage to say and he spilled his peanuts when he stood up, too.

It was, indeed, Jane Mansfield and she removed herself from her convertible automobile like a diamond dragging itself through a slaughterhouse. She was crying. And she wobbled on her high high-heels. Tobe and Bill watched her wobble and they watched the exquisite moisture from her eyes trace her exquisite cheekbones and then they watched her wobble again. They separately wondered if they were really so lucky.

"He's not here yet. He won't be here for years," Jane Mansfield sobbed but the boys couldn't hear her. They were bumping against the inside of the window with the flies.

"She's crying," whispered Tobe though not to Bill.

By that time, Jane Mansfield had entered the motel office and stood leaning against the Tom's Snacks vending machine.

"Do you know him?" she asked them. "Do you know where he live? Robert Masterson?"

The boys could only barely look at each other and then only just barely back at her.

"Do you know him? Robert Masterson? I have to find him. Does he live near here? Has he been here yet?"

Tobe relocated his forgotten throat, his recently petrified vocal chords.

"What?" he managed.

"We don't know no Mastersons. There's a fellow named Matthews down near Nokesville," Bill offered. "Are you Jane Mansfield? I mean, are you really her?"

"Yes. No. So what?" said Jane Mansfield. "Robert Masterson. Is he here yet? Is he going to come? He drives a brownish Datsun."

"What?" Tobe asked her and Bill at the same time. He felt certain that one of them was bound to know what everybody was talking about.

"I don't know," Jane Mansfield said. "It's a kind of car, I think, and it's called a Datsun. Or a thing that sounds like Datsun. I don't know." And then she slid down the side of the Tom's Snacks vending machine and sat on the floor of the motel office and they could see the tops of her nylon stockings dark against the skin of her thigh. They could see the strap of her garter leading up underneath her skirt. The little dog that she had left in her automobile started to bark in a squeaky kind of way.

"Oh. Missy," said Tobe but he was afraid to do anything more than that, afraid that whatever he did more than that would be the wrong thing. He remembered that it usually was.
"Could I get you a cold drink>" Bill asked Jane Mansfield and found his hand already in his pocket searching out the change he would need if she wanted him to buy a soft drink for her.

"No, thank you. It doesn't matter. Yes. He won't be here for a long time. I just know it. A 7-Up would be nice. He won't be here for years and years. No, I think I'd like a Crush. A nice, cold Orange Crush. Do you have a straw?" Jane Mansfield seemed to be rambling. "It's going to be a long, long time before he gets here. It's going to be too late."

"Would you like to leave a message?" Tobe asked her. "We ain't got no straws."
I shifted back into first gear not quite believing I had driven into that dead motel's parking lot in the first place and struggling to sort out or understand the vision that had accosted me there. I was also grateful that I was late because I don't think I could ever have standed to have a girlfriend like that who got her and her little dog's heads cut off.

Number Five

We climbed over the fence, my mother's sister's daughter and me. We were not allowed to swim in that particular pool at any time, but because the night was dark enough and because there was going to be no moon we decided to swim in it. The chain-link fence was a bitch.

Terri stripped off her clothing quickly with an ease and grace of unselfconscious selfabsorbtion that I wished I could emulate. I was struggling with my jockey shorts when she was already cutting through the neon night water.

I only briefly noticed the ribbon of opaque red that trailed her, that hung in the water behind her to mark where she had been. When the white white skin of her back floated above the skin of the water, there was a dark wonderful flower growing around her in the pool and it was beautiful even as its outline spread and dissolved. I was making a noise that would have been screaming if I could have made that noise. I noticed that I had stepped free of my shorts but was still wearing my socks.

She was dead before I could do anything other than notice she was dead.

I was fumbling for phone booth change in the place where the pocket of my jeans would have been if I had remembered to wear my jeans. My hands made crab movements all their own against the bare skin of my tight and I was standing in front of a Quik-Stop pay phone wearing only socks and trying to think how I could explain that my cousin was floating dead in the country club pool and how the worst days of my life were just starting.

23 April 2009

30 Seconds Over Tokyo

"JE-sus!" I said when it hit me. "She's leaving!"

And I got to the window quick. Susan was leaving. She had shrieked out the front door and down the short flight of steps to the driveway. I had framed that window's pale sills myself several years earlier. It had been a satisfying project and looking through it was satisfying as well.

While searching her purse for her keys to our car, she lost control of herself and she knew I was watching her. A shower of stubs, wads, Certs, money, coupons, receipts, tampons, hair clips, trash, and lint flew across the Volkswagen's hood. Susan shrieked again. She picked up a rock, threw it at me and (though she missed the window) actually hit the side of the house.

"She's going to stamp her foot," I thought and smiled when I saw her do it. I waved. I felt so mature, so grown-up. For years, I felt that I needed facts and information to understand people. I had only recently discovered the distinct advantages of thoughtful guessing.

Then she found her keys and I knew she was going to do that, too. She gunned the VW backwards out of the driveway and "whoosh" I said, making my hand do what the car did.

22 April 2009

Mythic Ambidexterity

The kind of mirrored skills
A precious proficiency for literature and film
Though not found in nature
One hand writing
The other hand writing
All different messages
Or maybe the same
Or maybe reversed
Or maybe one hand rolls a cigarette
And the other does needlepoint
Or maybe one hand writes a novel
While the other does the dishes.

A young musician chops his mother’s vegetables in a steady 4/4 beat
But he taps out a crazy 3/7 with his feet and the whole thing sounds so funny to him.

A fisherman turns a bowline knot one-handed
And keeps baiting hooks with the other and he don’t even notice.

A majorette rotates through her cartwheel
While her baton just keeps on spinning and won’t ever stop.

Walking down the sidewalk with Carl and
we are watching for fossils in the cement
And I’m rubbing the back of my neck at the same time as
I’m tracing a trilobite’s outline in my pocket.

21 April 2009

Deus Ex Machina

Special Education sucked and even though something like that wouldn’t happen in today’s modern society, when it’s 1965 and it’s a pretty small town in the far far-away miles from any large town and you’re only in the third grade anyway and you still limp and one of your eyes droops and there’s “epilepsy” talk floating around downstairs when they think you’re asleep like you can’t use a dictionary anymore even if you already know what “epilepsy” and “thrombosis” and “embolism” and “intra-cerebral hemorrhage” more or less mean and it’s pretty obvious you need more attention than your old regular third-grade teacher can give you with a whole class full of regular normal kids so basically when it’s time for you to go back to school they send you into the big room with the mongoloids and the retards and the really messed up kids you hardly ever saw before with even their own special bus.

And that’s where they stuck me after I got out of the hospital. I still had physical therapy every afternoon after school with either my mom or a nurse pulling on my legs and arms usually until I cried and then a little bit longer. I also had speech therapy three times a week at school where I was excused from bead sorting exercises and went to the room by the nurse’s office and said “pa pa pa” for twenty minutes while the speech therapist held a mirror in front of my face saying “pa pa pa,” too, and I would try and try and try to keep watching her lipsticked lips and not ever look at the mirror but it was hard but at least I usually didn’t cry until I was on my way back to the Special Ed room and I could hear the hoots and moans of my new classmates. Sometimes some one or two of them would see me as I slipped sideways through a crack in the door and would say, “Hi, Naomi!” and then some other few would start saying “pa pa pa” because a lot of Special Ed kids took speech therapy and knew the exercise.

I usually just read library books all day at a table under the window anyway since I could still read and do math and everything even if my side was twitchy and I had all those scars. That’s what I was doing and that’s where I was when Diana finally came over, came rolling over with her arms all hooked up and crooked and her feet sort of pulling the wheelchair along. She was scooting herself toward me, little bit by little bit, and a foamy white rope of slobber was dangling from the corner of her crooked mouth and as she breathed it would go part way back in her mouth and then fall back out as she exhaled. No way was I looking up from my book and I tried to let my lengthening hair cover my face and eyes.

Finally, even though I was mostly looking straight at the pages of my book, a book of Greek mythology I had read and reread millions of times, I could look sort of sideways down past the edge of the book and see her navy blue Keds with the scuffed-up dirty toes from all her scooting right next to my everyday loafers which were kind of getting scuffed-up, too, because of my limp. I just had to look up and try to ignore her saliva string, the big dark wet spot on her corduroy jumper.

“Uh yeed?” she asked me.


“Uh yeed?” she repeated and waved a twisted little arm sort of at my book.

It took me a second.

“Do I read?”

She nodded and made a noise.

“‘Course I read. Why else would I be sitting here?”

“Yeed a may?” she continued. “Yeed. A. May?”

I thought about it.

“Read to you?”

Again, she nodded and made the “yes” noise.

“Can’t you read?”

She looked at me for a moment, wobbling and squirming in her chair.

“Ant unna ayesh,” she said and waited for me to figure it out.

“You can’t turn the pages?”

She nodded vigorously and then twisted herself, small and knotted in the huge looking wheelchair, to gesture back over her shoulder with her chin, to point with her chin at the Special Ed teachers behind her.

“Ay ont ep may.” She tried to whisper but it didn’t really work since she had to struggle so much to say anything at all.

They wouldn’t help her and already it seemed that was about what to expect here in the big room and I, maybe now we, were pretty much on our own. Most of the Special Ed teachers spent most of their time walking around the tables wiping stuff off of people and pulling things out of their mouths and saying “Good. Good. Go-oood.”

“Jeez,” I said. “Scoot over in here and I’ll hold the book like this, see, and we can both read it but I’m not going to read aloud if you can read to yourself. Tell me when to turn the page, okay?”

“‘Kay,” she answered and we spent the rest of that period together and even all of the next period reading together. When the real ‘tards were doing zippers-buttons-snaps-&-bows, Diane and I were reading about the Gorgon, Persephone, and Io. I turned the pages and found out she a was faster reader than me even with all those Greek names and was always waiting for me to finish the page which made me a little bit nervous and I sort of starting skipping words to keep up.

“Have you read this one before?” I finally asked her.

“Yethsh!” and the force and the suddenness of her reply pushed another puddle of spit-foam out of Diane’s mouth and it dripped across her chin to splash in her lap. “Aye ofv ayih!”

“Yeah, I love it, too.”

We didn’t say another word to each other until it was time for special Special Ed recess when they made us go outside and play by ourselves and sometimes I would look at my old classroom and see the stuff my old friends had taped up on the windows like geometric snowflakes scissored out of huge sheets of newsprint or tempera paintings of some field trip they’d taken to the dairy farm or the state capital or someplace like that.

20 April 2009

Public Displays of Affection

First of all, I've never liked the notion of people making out in public. Beyond the tasteful peck, I never felt comfortable doing it and I don't really feel comfortable when other people are doing it, especially when one of them is this girl I used to practically live with. It makes me wonder what else is going on in private, especially when she bends this guy who's not me's head way far back, her hand all along the side of his face, and she opens her eyes to search through the generalized movement in this bar to find my eyes upon her and she smiles while she's kissing him and it's all so very much on purpose, the way her pupils are pushed to their limits to keep me in sight and the glimpse of tooth I catch when she bites his lip and now I feel sorry for this guy which is something I really feel uncomfortable doing since he's leaning against a woman for whom I once had (okay, I admit, still have) strong feelings and I never liked him in the first place, even before he started doing things like leaning into Valerie so she could gnaw on his face and smirk at her ever-so-ex-boyfriend over his shoulder without him having any kind of clue whatsoever what she was doing or that even though I feel sorry for him, I still wouldn't mind being him.

These are complicated feelings I realize, but I also know I wouldn’t hate her so much if I didn’t still love her so terribly much. Or just so terribly. That’s why this stupid bar napkin is so full of such stupid scribblings. I guess that’s what I do best.

His hand is on her hip but thinking about drifting down to her ass. I remember when my hand used to do the same kind of thing but now all it, my hand, can do is remember and write about remembering. I can’t imagine she’s happy, that Valerie is enjoying this but I can imagine the pain she knows I feel makes the pain I know she feels seem reasonable, seem manageable, seem like it might be bearable in the long run. His hand is migrating and I wonder if it, his hand, is having a feeling. I can see the way she is slowly moving back and forth, the soft echo of movement in the past and movement in the future. It describes a kind of motion that expresses a kind of feeling that I haven’t been able to have in a long, long time.

I need another napkin.

The waitress has distracted me and Valerie has distracted her man enough to be able to scoop some of his money off the bar and even if he noticed, which I don’t think he did, I don’t think he’d care. After all, it’s only paper and, unless things have changed a lot which I don’t think they have, she’s not wearing any kind of underwear. I think I ordered another drink but I won’t be sure until it gets here. I’ve got my own money.

It is a drink but it’s not the drink I asked for. Should I care? Or should I pay? Is it really a question? Look out; here comes my money!

I can’t quite believe that Valerie sent this drink to me. Will this kind of strangeness never, ever stop? Why is she wiggling her fingers at me like that? Why am I waving back? Why am I putting this glass to my lips and wondering if it is poison? I already know it is poison. And it tastes very, very good.

19 April 2009

Alternative + Function

Even from under the covers in a completely other room, she could hear the gnawing sound of the dot-matrix printer as it chewed through 10 or 20 or 75 or 350 new pages of his paper, his article, his poem, his thesis, his proposal, his short story, his dissertation, his novel, his book. She had lost track of them all, his projects and his product, and she couldn't tell the piles of paper that slouching around the apartment apart anymore. They had become furniture, had become places to put coffee cups and ashtrays. And every night there was the muted clatter of his fingers on the keys to the computer and then a moment of silence while the machine organized what he had told it and then there was the whining saw of the printer that would begin again and then continue and continue and continue for sometimes 10 and sometimes 20 and sometimes 180 minutes while the paper moved through it from crisp blankness to grey order, scrolls of text bordered by what she always thought of as albino caps, caps like the ammo she'd had for the six-guns she'd worn in grade school. These were her nights and she held the blankets close about her with the corner in her teeth, a pillow over her head and a pillow between her legs. These were the ways she slept.

Her mornings were easy. She would slip out of the bedroom and begin to make coffee. She would open the curtains and the blinds; she would find the morning paper and begin to read it. She would clean the kitchen and feed the pets–seed and water for the birds, a scoop of canned for the cat. He would find her at the table near the window and she would be drinking her coffee and reading her newspaper, the birds would be screeching from their cage and the cat would be lying across the patch of sunlight that slashed the tablecloth, the cat would be curled against a warming pile of computer paper.

"Well?" he'd ask her. "Did you read it? What did you think?"

"I thought it was interesting," she'd answer and pour herself another cup of coffee from the second pot she'd made, start looking for her horoscope to see what kind of day it was going to be.