Berkeley Fiction Review, Volume 15

Page 1

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R e v i e w


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B e r k e l e y

F i c t i o n

University of California,

R e v i e w

Berkeley


P a t r o n s

Black Oak Books Copy Central, Bancroft Way Darin's Trucking Company T h e Musical Offering Classical Record Shop and Cafe Odyssia Caffe Bistro

Cover illustration by Jon Dalton Copyright 1996 by Berkeley Fiction Review The Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California. The views expressed herein are the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of the ASUC or the views of the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley Fiction Review is a non-profit annual publication. Submissions should be sent to 201 Heller, University of California, Berkeley, CA 947204500. The Berkeley Fiction Review is not responsible for unsolicited material. ISSN 1087-7053

Steven T. Carpenter Florence Muneno Josephine Muneno Rose Tsuyuki Lillian Young Rob and Mihwa Young


P a t r o n s

Black Oak Books Copy Central, Bancroft Way Darin's Trucking Company T h e Musical Offering Classical Record Shop and Cafe Odyssia Caffe Bistro

Cover illustration by Jon Dalton Copyright 1996 by Berkeley Fiction Review The Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California. The views expressed herein are the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of the ASUC or the views of the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley Fiction Review is a non-profit annual publication. Submissions should be sent to 201 Heller, University of California, Berkeley, CA 947204500. The Berkeley Fiction Review is not responsible for unsolicited material. ISSN 1087-7053

Steven T. Carpenter Florence Muneno Josephine Muneno Rose Tsuyuki Lillian Young Rob and Mihwa Young


C o n t e n t s

i

Last Stop River City

Lauren Alwan

1

Trading U p

Roy Glassberg

7

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

Sarah Odishoo

16

A Blur in the Crib

Kevin McCaughey

29

Tell M e You Ain't Mad

Doug Rennie

41

Feasts

Oscar Fuentes

48

Advice

Alana Ryan

70

Serendipity Burning

Alana Ryan

72

Free Verse

Michael Propsom

74

Brown and Lime Green

Martha Engber

88

The Island

Wyatt Bonikowski

97


C o n t e n t s

i

Last Stop River City

Lauren Alwan

1

Trading U p

Roy Glassberg

7

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

Sarah Odishoo

16

A Blur in the Crib

Kevin McCaughey

29

Tell M e You Ain't Mad

Doug Rennie

41

Feasts

Oscar Fuentes

48

Advice

Alana Ryan

70

Serendipity Burning

Alana Ryan

72

Free Verse

Michael Propsom

74

Brown and Lime Green

Martha Engber

88

The Island

Wyatt Bonikowski

97


One Morning in April

Craig Loomis

105

A Well-Tempered Bone Box

Gary Noland

111

Keepin 'em Out

Josh Stevens

120

What D o Minotaurs D o When N o t Killing People in Elaborate Mazes?

Alan Casey

140

A Soft Pencil

Andrew Wright

146

F o r e w o r d

T h i s past year the staff of t h e Berkeley Fiction Review embraced the dual roles of reader and writer, critic and advocate, servant and judge of short fiction. M u c h like the writer who scribbled in stolen hours , we p e e p e d at manuscript s between classes and during lectures. Just as our writers labored over the turn of a phrase, we debated in depth the craft of a piece or the honesty of its characters. And finally, with the same faith in literature that compels a writer to enclose a story, seal an envelope and lick a stamp, we have refined, bound, and packaged, in a frenzy of editing and type and art, a book. Editorial staffs run the second leg of a literary relay race, from an unblemished manuscript to the final, perfectly bound product. T h e fact that we carry someone else's work across the


One Morning in April

Craig Loomis

105

A Well-Tempered Bone Box

Gary Noland

111

Keepin 'em Out

Josh Stevens

120

What D o Minotaurs D o When N o t Killing People in Elaborate Mazes?

Alan Casey

140

A Soft Pencil

Andrew Wright

146

F o r e w o r d

T h i s past year the staff of t h e Berkeley Fiction Review embraced the dual roles of reader and writer, critic and advocate, servant and judge of short fiction. M u c h like the writer who scribbled in stolen hours , we p e e p e d at manuscript s between classes and during lectures. Just as our writers labored over the turn of a phrase, we debated in depth the craft of a piece or the honesty of its characters. And finally, with the same faith in literature that compels a writer to enclose a story, seal an envelope and lick a stamp, we have refined, bound, and packaged, in a frenzy of editing and type and art, a book. Editorial staffs run the second leg of a literary relay race, from an unblemished manuscript to the final, perfectly bound product. T h e fact that we carry someone else's work across the


finish line does, not make the victory any less sweet. Whereas writers have vision, we have a conviction in the importance of the vision we witness. Our stories provide the crucial freedom to peer, like the eyes of our cover, into the chaotic beauty of another imagination. As a journal, the Berkeley Fiction Review has nurtured this conviction through fifteen issues. It has consistently provided a forum for emerging writers and student staffs alike to flex their creative strength. However, we have changed the scope of the project with this issue. Our objective is not just to maintain a university publication, but to establish, with a quality book and our first ISSN, a national journal. In the face of severe budgetary restraints on education in general and the creative arts in particular, this is a bold position. As established university publications in recent years have faded to thinner and thinner volumes, we challenge what we see as a disturbing trend across the country. We invite our readers, as they travel through the images, absurdities, and humor of our stories, to join us in this sense of purpose.

L a u r e n Alwan

L a s t

J. Carpenter

S t o p

R i v e r

C i t y

stzsm&K

R

oads don't simply lead to geographic places. A road is a decision, a certain path''along precise points. I trust these decisions will take me where I need to go. Past signs that say 2000'motel rooms and Last Chance to Eat. Across a causeway over acres of dry crops and a dead expanse of creek, where spiders nest" under the rocks, signalling the dry year ahead. Past electrical towers that stand on-point in the tall grass. Beneath the delicate wires, snap-lines on a pale scrim that bathe the soft, brown hills in magnetic waves. This is the road that leads to River City, an oasis in the flat-


finish line does, not make the victory any less sweet. Whereas writers have vision, we have a conviction in the importance of the vision we witness. Our stories provide the crucial freedom to peer, like the eyes of our cover, into the chaotic beauty of another imagination. As a journal, the Berkeley Fiction Review has nurtured this conviction through fifteen issues. It has consistently provided a forum for emerging writers and student staffs alike to flex their creative strength. However, we have changed the scope of the project with this issue. Our objective is not just to maintain a university publication, but to establish, with a quality book and our first ISSN, a national journal. In the face of severe budgetary restraints on education in general and the creative arts in particular, this is a bold position. As established university publications in recent years have faded to thinner and thinner volumes, we challenge what we see as a disturbing trend across the country. We invite our readers, as they travel through the images, absurdities, and humor of our stories, to join us in this sense of purpose.

L a u r e n Alwan

L a s t

J. Carpenter

S t o p

R i v e r

C i t y

stzsm&K

R

oads don't simply lead to geographic places. A road is a decision, a certain path''along precise points. I trust these decisions will take me where I need to go. Past signs that say 2000'motel rooms and Last Chance to Eat. Across a causeway over acres of dry crops and a dead expanse of creek, where spiders nest" under the rocks, signalling the dry year ahead. Past electrical towers that stand on-point in the tall grass. Beneath the delicate wires, snap-lines on a pale scrim that bathe the soft, brown hills in magnetic waves. This is the road that leads to River City, an oasis in the flat-


Last Stop River City

ierkelev Fiction Review land. Visible over the next rise are the vast honeycomb rooves spread across the valley floor. Before, this was a quarter million acres of alfalfa, orange groves and dairy farms, but the fields were gradually abandoned and sold to developers who saw pristine communities growing along immaculate boulevards. They saw River City, a pastel sanctuary rising out of the loam. Now, each morning as the sun rises over the mountains, it warms the new asphalt and the clean white sidewalks. The pink stucco and red tiles glow like clifftop dwellings on the cinquaterra. In the driveways, speedboats rest on trailers. Children ride on bicycles in the circles of cul-de-sacs. T h e streets are n a m e d R i v e r s p r i n g Way and Clearwater Court.

Maybe you arrived in River City on schedule, or got there in the nick of time. Maybe you got there in spite of yourself. Or it could be that as your car rumbles over the highway and conducts the pulse of reflectors into your arms, and the bare winter light bleaches the sky and the clouds hang there like great gray stones, the highway takes you back to where the whole journey hinged.

They want to sit across from each other at the dinn e r t a b l e a n d ask e a c h other what was done that day. To place a hand on the b a c k of a b r o w n n e c k , tinged red from afternoons on the Delta. To have child r e n w h o will grow like c r o o k n e c k squash in the shadows of green leaves, to scrub the dirt off their arms a n d set their small overturned chairs upright again. This is the fountain of our spirit, the cradle of our dailiness.

You meet a boy from Newport Beach, one of a group who came north to work for a season's pass and spends the winters skiing, drinking, and taking ceramics at the junior college. You notice him at a party, still wearing his ski jacket, asleep in the arms of a girl named Goldie. His tan face is immobile, his blonde eyebrows arched and luminous, and his long fingers languorous around a pint can of beer. Your romance with him is marked by a series of sweet, transitory incidents. He plays Truth or Dare amid pyramids of empty beer cans, makes fun of the word ennui. You rummage for matches together, naked, at three in the morning, two pale specters seeking candlelight. And he skis more beautifully than anyone you have ever seen, leaning back, just the way you're not supposed to. Seamlessly, with his long legs fused, his 205s sweep in wide, measured counts over the snow, while his arms, spread like wings, trail his poles behind him. You are on the pill and never take it on schedule. W h e n your period is late, he offers to sell his rusted Fairlane to pay for an abortion. His chivalry makes you feel guilty, and you know this romance will not endure another scare with the pill. So when your period finally does arrive, you make an appointment at the health clinic where a new device is offered, free of charge.

Maybe you are o n e of the people who steps from the sidewalk to t h e cool grass, t h r o u g h t h e front door a n d safely into t h e a r m s of your c h i l d r e n .

GabrielLucero

A road is an aspiration, purposeful and direct, and River City, a future destination. Getting to it has been a major strategy of your life. At nineteen, unlike the road, you are uncertain, imprecise, and full of unformed, fervent intent. What you do know is that pregnancy will not interfere with college, travels, or romances with the boys who leave flannel shirts and packs of rolling papers on your bed.

A road is not ambiguous. It cuts across the landscape like a


Last Stop River City

ierkelev Fiction Review land. Visible over the next rise are the vast honeycomb rooves spread across the valley floor. Before, this was a quarter million acres of alfalfa, orange groves and dairy farms, but the fields were gradually abandoned and sold to developers who saw pristine communities growing along immaculate boulevards. They saw River City, a pastel sanctuary rising out of the loam. Now, each morning as the sun rises over the mountains, it warms the new asphalt and the clean white sidewalks. The pink stucco and red tiles glow like clifftop dwellings on the cinquaterra. In the driveways, speedboats rest on trailers. Children ride on bicycles in the circles of cul-de-sacs. T h e streets are n a m e d R i v e r s p r i n g Way and Clearwater Court.

Maybe you arrived in River City on schedule, or got there in the nick of time. Maybe you got there in spite of yourself. Or it could be that as your car rumbles over the highway and conducts the pulse of reflectors into your arms, and the bare winter light bleaches the sky and the clouds hang there like great gray stones, the highway takes you back to where the whole journey hinged.

They want to sit across from each other at the dinn e r t a b l e a n d ask e a c h other what was done that day. To place a hand on the b a c k of a b r o w n n e c k , tinged red from afternoons on the Delta. To have child r e n w h o will grow like c r o o k n e c k squash in the shadows of green leaves, to scrub the dirt off their arms a n d set their small overturned chairs upright again. This is the fountain of our spirit, the cradle of our dailiness.

You meet a boy from Newport Beach, one of a group who came north to work for a season's pass and spends the winters skiing, drinking, and taking ceramics at the junior college. You notice him at a party, still wearing his ski jacket, asleep in the arms of a girl named Goldie. His tan face is immobile, his blonde eyebrows arched and luminous, and his long fingers languorous around a pint can of beer. Your romance with him is marked by a series of sweet, transitory incidents. He plays Truth or Dare amid pyramids of empty beer cans, makes fun of the word ennui. You rummage for matches together, naked, at three in the morning, two pale specters seeking candlelight. And he skis more beautifully than anyone you have ever seen, leaning back, just the way you're not supposed to. Seamlessly, with his long legs fused, his 205s sweep in wide, measured counts over the snow, while his arms, spread like wings, trail his poles behind him. You are on the pill and never take it on schedule. W h e n your period is late, he offers to sell his rusted Fairlane to pay for an abortion. His chivalry makes you feel guilty, and you know this romance will not endure another scare with the pill. So when your period finally does arrive, you make an appointment at the health clinic where a new device is offered, free of charge.

Maybe you are o n e of the people who steps from the sidewalk to t h e cool grass, t h r o u g h t h e front door a n d safely into t h e a r m s of your c h i l d r e n .

GabrielLucero

A road is an aspiration, purposeful and direct, and River City, a future destination. Getting to it has been a major strategy of your life. At nineteen, unlike the road, you are uncertain, imprecise, and full of unformed, fervent intent. What you do know is that pregnancy will not interfere with college, travels, or romances with the boys who leave flannel shirts and packs of rolling papers on your bed.

A road is not ambiguous. It cuts across the landscape like a


Berkeley Fiction Review

Last Stop River City

swift incision. And in the sharp chill of a. January morning, an icy stretch of the interstate takes you to the health clinic to have an I U D inserted. You enter the squat green building determined. Determined that, when ready, you will have a man and a house surfounded by warm grass, and you will live with him to gather in the scent of your child's hands. In the examination room you unlace your boots and lay on the table. You are secure, empowered. It is only you that can take care of yourself and guide your life, not your teachers, not your parents, not your boyfriend. You set your feet into the stirrups.

Other women live with chronic inflammations, and low-level non-specific infections. Bacteria lodges in the fertile sf)ace between the filaments of the wire, causing pain, bleeding and fever. For t h e m , the device burrows in, and perforates or becomes embedded in the uterus. But you are one of the lucky women. T h e device is successful. It purrs, asleep in your membrane, designing your future. In time, it will render you as vacant and fallow as the fields surrounding River City.

With the thick layers of winter clothing peeled away at your pelvis, the nurse tells you to breathe, and then dilates your cervix: She tells you to keep breathing. You can hear the sound of hemostats on the metal tray, and outside on the road snowplows.move hulls of frozen water. Inside you, the speculum is an alien, cool and smooth. T h e nurse jars the tight aperture of the cervix, and the eontractions wind into a heated, tight coil. They break and spill over your gray wool legs, up over the corduroy skirt; across the blue ripstop of your periphery. Don't close your-eyes, they say, Sit her up a little. Your skin waxes cool and d a m p and lures strings of wet, serpentine hair to your throat. You imagine his body, a vast lakebed, covered with trails where you search for hotsprings and become lost. His skin is warm, dry sand .and his hair glitters between your fingers like yellow*embers of pine needles. You move over him like grass*fire. It's in, the nurse says, pushing away on the three-wheeled stool. She tells you to sit up slowly, that yon must have forgotten breakfast, and this made your central nervous system weak. She hands you a small paper cup of orange juice, a salted cracker. Your pejvis radiates, awash in waves. They-extend outward, crest in a high, tight curl, and then recede, to begin again. You envision h i m riding those waves in the morning sun, his board catching the curl, weaving through it. The sun pierces the wave at its peak, and he heads down the face and rides it to shore. Inside, snug against your uterus, is a small plastic butterfly, a polyfiber- wire curled around it like a cat asleep on the hearth.

T h e last time you saw your skier he was leaving for Idaho to plant trees for the summer. You follow him to a hill to sit b e n e a t h an electrical tower and watch the moon rise, and together slowly disappear into the tall grass. Nearby,- houses with windows wide-open like eyeยง watched while you were magnetized by a kiss, one that had you run, possessed, to stand at the open window and let in the lightening. In subsequent winters, whenever you carry your*skis td~ the chairlift and snap^your boots into the bindings, he is there, being poured into your body, through your skull and into your torso, arms and legs. As you float over the snow, he is a guide, the muscles in your legs, the balance in your hips. Some years pass, and you hear your skier is back -in Orange County, building houses and learning how to sky dive. He is spotted at construction sites, framing walls and cutting cocaine. You want to contact him, to tell him how, even after all this time, he is teaching you about the nuance of small, fluid movements. Before you have a chance to call him, he makes a jump over the Mojave desert, over a flat, distant world where the daylight blazes through his eyes and the plane engines rumble against his body. He jumps to be suspended in a place where time and form are still. He jumps to hear the thunder in his ears, and to fall, buoyed by the pressure of his body against the air. To trick death and gravity by the explosion of his canopy high above the desert. You never reach him. It was that day his parachute tangled and he fell through the sky with nothing to hold onto but the shrouds of the canopy. Trapped in the cradle of the harness, his body sliced through the blue light of the sky, accelerating and dragging against the invisible, inconsequential


Berkeley Fiction Review

Last Stop River City

swift incision. And in the sharp chill of a. January morning, an icy stretch of the interstate takes you to the health clinic to have an I U D inserted. You enter the squat green building determined. Determined that, when ready, you will have a man and a house surfounded by warm grass, and you will live with him to gather in the scent of your child's hands. In the examination room you unlace your boots and lay on the table. You are secure, empowered. It is only you that can take care of yourself and guide your life, not your teachers, not your parents, not your boyfriend. You set your feet into the stirrups.

Other women live with chronic inflammations, and low-level non-specific infections. Bacteria lodges in the fertile sf)ace between the filaments of the wire, causing pain, bleeding and fever. For t h e m , the device burrows in, and perforates or becomes embedded in the uterus. But you are one of the lucky women. T h e device is successful. It purrs, asleep in your membrane, designing your future. In time, it will render you as vacant and fallow as the fields surrounding River City.

With the thick layers of winter clothing peeled away at your pelvis, the nurse tells you to breathe, and then dilates your cervix: She tells you to keep breathing. You can hear the sound of hemostats on the metal tray, and outside on the road snowplows.move hulls of frozen water. Inside you, the speculum is an alien, cool and smooth. T h e nurse jars the tight aperture of the cervix, and the eontractions wind into a heated, tight coil. They break and spill over your gray wool legs, up over the corduroy skirt; across the blue ripstop of your periphery. Don't close your-eyes, they say, Sit her up a little. Your skin waxes cool and d a m p and lures strings of wet, serpentine hair to your throat. You imagine his body, a vast lakebed, covered with trails where you search for hotsprings and become lost. His skin is warm, dry sand .and his hair glitters between your fingers like yellow*embers of pine needles. You move over him like grass*fire. It's in, the nurse says, pushing away on the three-wheeled stool. She tells you to sit up slowly, that yon must have forgotten breakfast, and this made your central nervous system weak. She hands you a small paper cup of orange juice, a salted cracker. Your pejvis radiates, awash in waves. They-extend outward, crest in a high, tight curl, and then recede, to begin again. You envision h i m riding those waves in the morning sun, his board catching the curl, weaving through it. The sun pierces the wave at its peak, and he heads down the face and rides it to shore. Inside, snug against your uterus, is a small plastic butterfly, a polyfiber- wire curled around it like a cat asleep on the hearth.

T h e last time you saw your skier he was leaving for Idaho to plant trees for the summer. You follow him to a hill to sit b e n e a t h an electrical tower and watch the moon rise, and together slowly disappear into the tall grass. Nearby,- houses with windows wide-open like eyeยง watched while you were magnetized by a kiss, one that had you run, possessed, to stand at the open window and let in the lightening. In subsequent winters, whenever you carry your*skis td~ the chairlift and snap^your boots into the bindings, he is there, being poured into your body, through your skull and into your torso, arms and legs. As you float over the snow, he is a guide, the muscles in your legs, the balance in your hips. Some years pass, and you hear your skier is back -in Orange County, building houses and learning how to sky dive. He is spotted at construction sites, framing walls and cutting cocaine. You want to contact him, to tell him how, even after all this time, he is teaching you about the nuance of small, fluid movements. Before you have a chance to call him, he makes a jump over the Mojave desert, over a flat, distant world where the daylight blazes through his eyes and the plane engines rumble against his body. He jumps to be suspended in a place where time and form are still. He jumps to hear the thunder in his ears, and to fall, buoyed by the pressure of his body against the air. To trick death and gravity by the explosion of his canopy high above the desert. You never reach him. It was that day his parachute tangled and he fell through the sky with nothing to hold onto but the shrouds of the canopy. Trapped in the cradle of the harness, his body sliced through the blue light of the sky, accelerating and dragging against the invisible, inconsequential


Berkeley Fiction Review friction of air. A road, in the end, is the vestigial tracks .of our movements. On the road" to-River City there is a junction where one could change course in any direction. Restless, anxious and untethered, today you want to go in all directions at once. You want to charge ahead in grand steps, speak in broad sweeping statements, disregard focus and precision. You are unfettered and childless, your careful choices have made it so. Ahead at the horizon, the clouds against the blazing sky are bruised "with the colors of sunset. And in the chrome oval of a Peterbilt tanker, I see the reflection of my car speeding over a slab of highway, out of a bleeding sky into the third millenium, to any place I choose. Electrical towers move in procession across the valley, as if all the men I have ever known are traversing my landscape, linked to one another by a charged line that holds all my unexplainable energies and attractions. And River City is behind me. It is not an exit that I will take, but-a place seen only from a distance. As a blur from the scarred roadbed, or from the perch of a hill in a tangle of arms and grass and hair. Or glittering in the night, like a jewel box seen from an angel's precipice before hurtling to earth in the tangled cords of dreams.

Roy Glassberg

T r a d i n g

Up

je3&S&*.

S

o what did I do that was so wrong? So dumb? What? So I didn't buy a God damn warranty that Consumers said in black and white was a rip-off. Does that make me a fool? I'm not stupid. I did my homework. I had a copy of the Blue Book from the union guy where I work—that's the Lucky's warehouse off of 980 —and I also had the article from Consumers on how to trade up, how'to negotiate it, you know, so you don't get screwed (fat lot of good that did me)—and,I also did some other stuff I'm gonna tell you about in a minute; but I figure that someplace in the sky it's written in stone, big letters: THEY


Berkeley Fiction Review friction of air. A road, in the end, is the vestigial tracks .of our movements. On the road" to-River City there is a junction where one could change course in any direction. Restless, anxious and untethered, today you want to go in all directions at once. You want to charge ahead in grand steps, speak in broad sweeping statements, disregard focus and precision. You are unfettered and childless, your careful choices have made it so. Ahead at the horizon, the clouds against the blazing sky are bruised "with the colors of sunset. And in the chrome oval of a Peterbilt tanker, I see the reflection of my car speeding over a slab of highway, out of a bleeding sky into the third millenium, to any place I choose. Electrical towers move in procession across the valley, as if all the men I have ever known are traversing my landscape, linked to one another by a charged line that holds all my unexplainable energies and attractions. And River City is behind me. It is not an exit that I will take, but-a place seen only from a distance. As a blur from the scarred roadbed, or from the perch of a hill in a tangle of arms and grass and hair. Or glittering in the night, like a jewel box seen from an angel's precipice before hurtling to earth in the tangled cords of dreams.

Roy Glassberg

T r a d i n g

Up

je3&S&*.

S

o what did I do that was so wrong? So dumb? What? So I didn't buy a God damn warranty that Consumers said in black and white was a rip-off. Does that make me a fool? I'm not stupid. I did my homework. I had a copy of the Blue Book from the union guy where I work—that's the Lucky's warehouse off of 980 —and I also had the article from Consumers on how to trade up, how'to negotiate it, you know, so you don't get screwed (fat lot of good that did me)—and,I also did some other stuff I'm gonna tell you about in a minute; but I figure that someplace in the sky it's written in stone, big letters: THEY


Berkeley Fiction Review

Trading Up

WIN AND YOU LOSE, and thafs it, that's the way it is, forever and a day—period. Shit! So anyway it's Tuesday, which is my day off and also the end of the m o n t h , which Consumers says is the best day to buy because these guys are trying to make their quotas. So I go on over. I don't know if you've been there, but as far as you can see, straight down from MacArthur almost to the Paramount, it's the same thing over and over: pennants flapping on strings and the little houses in the middle where the guy comes out—BUY, SELL, TRADE, E-Z TERMS , woo, woo, woo. So I pick the first one (it's gonna make a difference, right?) and the guy comes out, thick white hair, a shiny suit, and the complexion of an alcoholic that's stopped drinking for a while, and of course the big smile and the handshake. How do you do, blah, blah, blah, the weather this and that, so finally he gets around to it and says, "What can I help you with today?"

maybe •a little sweetener we could talk about, would yoii be-prepared to buy from us, today?" "Well, I'mean sure. If it's the dream deal, sure, why-not? I got- my checkbook, J got the paperwork right here," I said and patted-rnyback pocket. "Oh man, you-are-in-luck! M^ managerjust had'a baby girlyesterday. He's on cloud nine. Authorized me to sign anything. But first, are there any questions I'can answer for you about Bob?" "OK, sure,' uh, are there any problems with his stability— any difficulties making decisions'or saying no?" These were some of the questions that they listed in Consumers. "All of our personas are bench tested for "seventy-two hours, screened meticulously for any turpitude,Tetishism or phobias. Any dings get straightened out before tile unit goes out .on the lot. If we can't fix the-pro ; blem we have to disclose it. That's the* ; law, my friend." "How many years on the libido?" "Well, lets seef and he consults his book.- "WeVe g6t it listed . . . at forty-five." "Original?" He looks afrne like'I somehowJfurt'his feelings'. "As I'm sure you know, sir, California law prevents us from tampering with the libid6. T h e seals are intact;'we couldn't set it back even if" we wanted to." "But still, that's a lot of years, wouldn't you say? ^Performance is important to me." "Oh, sir: . ." He shook his head. "I'm ^afraid*there's a bit of mythology here that needs dispelling. Modern research has shown that-men are'perfectiy capable'of enjoying themselves well into their eighties. In-fact. . ? "Oh come on, don't give me-that politically correct bullshit! You"know as well as I do it slows down: "Even I . . . ." "Sir?5' ". . i have'read that many men reach their peak at eighteen or even earlier."* "Well I won't argue that, sir, but let's say we could sweeten

So I say, "Well, I'm lookin' for something that's got some earning power, you know. And low shame. Somethin' that's gonna get me where I want to go." "Is aggressiveness, the old get-up-and-go —are those virtues important to you, sir?" "Absolutely. Yes." "Well that's amazing. Just incredible! Because we've got something that just came in. This is gonna knock your socks off. Belonged to one of our own salesman, Bob. Terrific guy. Our top producer for the last two years'. There's nobody, absolutely nobody, that could say 'no' to the guy." And he gives me this little nod. "Might that be something you'd be interested in, sir?" "Well sure. I mean hey, it can't hurt to look." "And will this be a straight purchase, sir, or are yoti planning on trading yourself in?" "Well, I don't know if I'm ready to purchase, I mean, right this very second. And as far as the trade-in, thafs . . . well, that's gonna depend on the deal don't you think? So maybe we're gettin' aiittle ahead of. . . ." "But if we were able to get you exactly what you wanted at a price you could afford, and top dollar on the trade-in, and


Berkeley Fiction Review

Trading Up

WIN AND YOU LOSE, and thafs it, that's the way it is, forever and a day—period. Shit! So anyway it's Tuesday, which is my day off and also the end of the m o n t h , which Consumers says is the best day to buy because these guys are trying to make their quotas. So I go on over. I don't know if you've been there, but as far as you can see, straight down from MacArthur almost to the Paramount, it's the same thing over and over: pennants flapping on strings and the little houses in the middle where the guy comes out—BUY, SELL, TRADE, E-Z TERMS , woo, woo, woo. So I pick the first one (it's gonna make a difference, right?) and the guy comes out, thick white hair, a shiny suit, and the complexion of an alcoholic that's stopped drinking for a while, and of course the big smile and the handshake. How do you do, blah, blah, blah, the weather this and that, so finally he gets around to it and says, "What can I help you with today?"

maybe •a little sweetener we could talk about, would yoii be-prepared to buy from us, today?" "Well, I'mean sure. If it's the dream deal, sure, why-not? I got- my checkbook, J got the paperwork right here," I said and patted-rnyback pocket. "Oh man, you-are-in-luck! M^ managerjust had'a baby girlyesterday. He's on cloud nine. Authorized me to sign anything. But first, are there any questions I'can answer for you about Bob?" "OK, sure,' uh, are there any problems with his stability— any difficulties making decisions'or saying no?" These were some of the questions that they listed in Consumers. "All of our personas are bench tested for "seventy-two hours, screened meticulously for any turpitude,Tetishism or phobias. Any dings get straightened out before tile unit goes out .on the lot. If we can't fix the-pro ; blem we have to disclose it. That's the* ; law, my friend." "How many years on the libido?" "Well, lets seef and he consults his book.- "WeVe g6t it listed . . . at forty-five." "Original?" He looks afrne like'I somehowJfurt'his feelings'. "As I'm sure you know, sir, California law prevents us from tampering with the libid6. T h e seals are intact;'we couldn't set it back even if" we wanted to." "But still, that's a lot of years, wouldn't you say? ^Performance is important to me." "Oh, sir: . ." He shook his head. "I'm ^afraid*there's a bit of mythology here that needs dispelling. Modern research has shown that-men are'perfectiy capable'of enjoying themselves well into their eighties. In-fact. . ? "Oh come on, don't give me-that politically correct bullshit! You"know as well as I do it slows down: "Even I . . . ." "Sir?5' ". . i have'read that many men reach their peak at eighteen or even earlier."* "Well I won't argue that, sir, but let's say we could sweeten

So I say, "Well, I'm lookin' for something that's got some earning power, you know. And low shame. Somethin' that's gonna get me where I want to go." "Is aggressiveness, the old get-up-and-go —are those virtues important to you, sir?" "Absolutely. Yes." "Well that's amazing. Just incredible! Because we've got something that just came in. This is gonna knock your socks off. Belonged to one of our own salesman, Bob. Terrific guy. Our top producer for the last two years'. There's nobody, absolutely nobody, that could say 'no' to the guy." And he gives me this little nod. "Might that be something you'd be interested in, sir?" "Well sure. I mean hey, it can't hurt to look." "And will this be a straight purchase, sir, or are yoti planning on trading yourself in?" "Well, I don't know if I'm ready to purchase, I mean, right this very second. And as far as the trade-in, thafs . . . well, that's gonna depend on the deal don't you think? So maybe we're gettin' aiittle ahead of. . . ." "But if we were able to get you exactly what you wanted at a price you could afford, and top dollar on the trade-in, and


Berkeley Fiction Review

Trading Up

the deal with, a little compensation. Let's say a sincerity-package—or a sensitivity package? Two h u n d r e d hours. Prime hours, sir, n ot the midnight to seven (If you'll pardon my French) 'crap'-you might find down the street. -Many women, good lookers too, prefer sincerity or sensitivity-to a youthful libido. Just look at the singles ads." "Well . . . " "So which would you be interested in,-sir, the sensitivity package or the sincerity package?" "Well I don'bknow, I hadn't uh. . . . the sensitivity package?" "A wise choice, sir. And can I give you a bit of advice??' "Absolutely." "A lot of, these sensitivity kits you find elsewhere, they look like they came from the factory, 'Made in the U.S.A.' and all like that. But a lot of tjiem are knockoffs — from Baghdad or Teheran, or from across the Pacific, if you get my drift." "Oh for God's sake!" "It's true, sir. You see the governments over there change the name of some district or other to "Usa." That's how they get away with it. If you look at ours there's periods after each of the letters —U.S.A.—that's how you can tell." "Well thanks./That's good to know. I appreciate the tip."'But while I'm saying this I'm having trouble looking-at him:' My eyes keep slipping out over the lot, trying to pick out which one is Bob. So he asks me, "Would you like to check out our idealizations? A lot of people enjoy looking at them." And I say sure. I tell you, they have really improved the 'dealizations since the -last time I was on a lot. What they used to have were just these cardboard-cut-outs like you see in the lobby of .theaters, or in video stores. And just like the cut-outs can give yo'u*a taste of what the movie's gonna be like—kinda get you stirredaip to see it—the 'dealizations do the same thing for the persona you're thinking about buying. But the way they got it now, only the cheapest items on the lot have cardboard 'dealizations. T h e rest of them-are all plastic—the same stuff they used to have in the windows of Chinese restaurants. Totally realistic—you had to stick your nose right on the glass to see if the chicken double

mushroom or whatever was real or fake. So anyway we walk out on the lot and the first 'dealization we see is this big guy standing legs apart with Kis arms around a couple of babes in mini-skirts, tight as shrink-wrap. He's got a bandanna on his head, black shades, gold earrings, gold chains, and a machine pistol in each fist, blasting away. On one of his legs he's got another babe hanging on, and on the other there's a sticker with day-glo letters: "$1600 dn, 2 mo no pay" plus that stupid government warning that they have to put on: "These figures are idealizations and may not represent . . . blah, blah, blah."'

10

11

"A repo," says the salesman, referring to the dude. T h e next 'dealization was that of a lady serving up a holiday feast. She's about to set a huge turkey, crispy brown, with cranberry, rings down on a table. G r a n d m a a n d G r a n d p a are applauding, the kids are beaming, and the husband's looking up at her adoringly, love in his eyes. Next came another family scene. (I guess they*want to keep the family stuff together.) This one has a m o t h e r a n d a father in the front, pointing and cheering for a kid whoVdepicted doing stuff in several different scenes. In the first, he's a boy scout getting a badge, in the second he's winning a race at school, in the third he's vacuuming the-ntg, arid in the last he's giving the big speech at graduation. (I guess with kids the way they are today, a lot of parents-are looking to trade up —which pissed m e off because I know my dad woulda never jdone that for me, even if that stuff had been available back then.) After*that comes this guy in a white tuxedo with a martini glass in his hand standing by a roulette table. It had rained the night before so the glass was actually full. But there was a drowned sow bug "floating in it,-which the sales guy flicked out with his thumb. And then some of the others I remember: a rock drummer banging away in a blue spotlight with babes climbing up onto the stage; a mountain man with a beard and a far-away look patting a collie with saddle bags holding beer; then a* babe with her bodice ripped open leaning backwards in the arms of a guy with


Berkeley Fiction Review

Trading Up

the deal with, a little compensation. Let's say a sincerity-package—or a sensitivity package? Two h u n d r e d hours. Prime hours, sir, n ot the midnight to seven (If you'll pardon my French) 'crap'-you might find down the street. -Many women, good lookers too, prefer sincerity or sensitivity-to a youthful libido. Just look at the singles ads." "Well . . . " "So which would you be interested in,-sir, the sensitivity package or the sincerity package?" "Well I don'bknow, I hadn't uh. . . . the sensitivity package?" "A wise choice, sir. And can I give you a bit of advice??' "Absolutely." "A lot of, these sensitivity kits you find elsewhere, they look like they came from the factory, 'Made in the U.S.A.' and all like that. But a lot of tjiem are knockoffs — from Baghdad or Teheran, or from across the Pacific, if you get my drift." "Oh for God's sake!" "It's true, sir. You see the governments over there change the name of some district or other to "Usa." That's how they get away with it. If you look at ours there's periods after each of the letters —U.S.A.—that's how you can tell." "Well thanks./That's good to know. I appreciate the tip."'But while I'm saying this I'm having trouble looking-at him:' My eyes keep slipping out over the lot, trying to pick out which one is Bob. So he asks me, "Would you like to check out our idealizations? A lot of people enjoy looking at them." And I say sure. I tell you, they have really improved the 'dealizations since the -last time I was on a lot. What they used to have were just these cardboard-cut-outs like you see in the lobby of .theaters, or in video stores. And just like the cut-outs can give yo'u*a taste of what the movie's gonna be like—kinda get you stirredaip to see it—the 'dealizations do the same thing for the persona you're thinking about buying. But the way they got it now, only the cheapest items on the lot have cardboard 'dealizations. T h e rest of them-are all plastic—the same stuff they used to have in the windows of Chinese restaurants. Totally realistic—you had to stick your nose right on the glass to see if the chicken double

mushroom or whatever was real or fake. So anyway we walk out on the lot and the first 'dealization we see is this big guy standing legs apart with Kis arms around a couple of babes in mini-skirts, tight as shrink-wrap. He's got a bandanna on his head, black shades, gold earrings, gold chains, and a machine pistol in each fist, blasting away. On one of his legs he's got another babe hanging on, and on the other there's a sticker with day-glo letters: "$1600 dn, 2 mo no pay" plus that stupid government warning that they have to put on: "These figures are idealizations and may not represent . . . blah, blah, blah."'

10

11

"A repo," says the salesman, referring to the dude. T h e next 'dealization was that of a lady serving up a holiday feast. She's about to set a huge turkey, crispy brown, with cranberry, rings down on a table. G r a n d m a a n d G r a n d p a are applauding, the kids are beaming, and the husband's looking up at her adoringly, love in his eyes. Next came another family scene. (I guess they*want to keep the family stuff together.) This one has a m o t h e r a n d a father in the front, pointing and cheering for a kid whoVdepicted doing stuff in several different scenes. In the first, he's a boy scout getting a badge, in the second he's winning a race at school, in the third he's vacuuming the-ntg, arid in the last he's giving the big speech at graduation. (I guess with kids the way they are today, a lot of parents-are looking to trade up —which pissed m e off because I know my dad woulda never jdone that for me, even if that stuff had been available back then.) After*that comes this guy in a white tuxedo with a martini glass in his hand standing by a roulette table. It had rained the night before so the glass was actually full. But there was a drowned sow bug "floating in it,-which the sales guy flicked out with his thumb. And then some of the others I remember: a rock drummer banging away in a blue spotlight with babes climbing up onto the stage; a mountain man with a beard and a far-away look patting a collie with saddle bags holding beer; then a* babe with her bodice ripped open leaning backwards in the arms of a guy with


Berkeley Fiction Review

Trading Up

a frilly shirt and a sword; and finally, closest to the street, up on a wood platform with a sign "Special Of The Week," was this business scene. In it, a fatherly looking C E O type with a stomach and white hair is slapping a handsome guy on the back and handing him an oversized check. T h e boss' eyes are brimming with pride. T h e handsome guy has a great suit, snug, with his chest puffed out, and on the check is written, "Million Dollar Round-Table Potential." But that's not all:- leaning in through the door, watching the whole thing, is the secretary, who looks hot with her lips parted, her nipples pushing on her blouse. "Wow," I thought. "Lgotta have that! That's it! Exactly!" "That's Bob," whispers the sales guy like we're standing in a church.

me. So I'd like you to know, if Bob is too high-powered for you, if he's more than you had in mind t we've got a glut of mildmannered units sitting behind the shed I could show you." "That's OK," I said. "Nothing's perfect; I'm sure there'd be a ding here or there with them too." "Fine," he said, and.he nodded like he was proud of me. "I think you're making the right decision." But I was suddenly nervous; things were going too fast. "What kind of. guarantee do you'offer? I mean if there's a problem, or *if it turns out I'm dissatisfied with myself?" Jt was something I had to ask; I couldn't let him think I was too easy. "Well, unfortunately all of our personas are sold on an as-is basis. But we do offer optional warranties on our most dependable selections, and I'm proud to say yours does qualify. We'll run over the details in a minute. But would you mind if I had our psychometrician check you out now, sir? It only takes a minute", and it will help us to present you with our very best offer, on the trade-in "

For a minute neither of us said a word. I couldn't take my eyes off it. So finally he clears his throat and says kind of embarrassed like, "Sir, I . . . I have a bit of a favor to ask." "Yeah, an' whafs that?" I'm a little suspicious. "As I said before—earlier in our conversation—state law requires that we1 disclose any problems with a persona that can't be repaired. And I know that a sharp consumer like yourself is not going to let that pass. I bet that you've been waiting for just the right m o m e n t to surprise me with it. So as a favor . . . I mean, what I'm asking is: could we review the negatives now? Get it over with?" •

"OK, all right," he says, and he shuts his eyes like he's ashamed of what he's about to say. "First of all I have to tell you that personally I had very mixed feelings about Bob. Don't get me wrong. A great guy. But a lot of us here were uncomfortable working with him. You see he was so successful at what he did that he made the rest of us look and feel like lesser men. T h e boss was always on us. 'Why can't you be-more like Bob/ he would say. 'He could do it, w h y c a n ' t you?' There was a lot of envy, a lot of jealousy among us here on the staff. I don't know how you are, sir, bu t speaking for myself, I would feel very uncomfortable if I felt everybody I worked with wanted to be

"No problem whatsoever." "Hector!" he shouts, and out comes this fat kid wiping the remains of his lunch on his pants with.one hand while pulling a Pep Boys "diagnostic center" on a hand truck with the other. I had loaded up on some cheap psychotherapy, sixty bucks worth, just before coming over—not a permanent fix, but good enough to quiet any chattery insecurities for a day or two —and that piece of crap he had there wasn't gonna catch nothing. T h e kid,hooks me up, the whole thing takes a second, and he hands the sales guy the report. "Well," he says, shaking'his head sadly. "Looks like we've got a few problems here." "I'm sorry . . . I'm not sure . . ." "Well,-there's that business-with your little sister—maybe you've repressed it—and those odd fantasies you had about your gym coach. We can't do those kinds of repairs here in-house, and I have to tell you, sir, people worry about stuff like that: too much energy having to repress- or deny, and' there's always the danger of incipient paranoia, Even if we were to wholesale you

12

13

"Sure, go ahead. I'm not hard to get along with. Whatever's best for you."

^l


Berkeley Fiction Review

Trading Up

a frilly shirt and a sword; and finally, closest to the street, up on a wood platform with a sign "Special Of The Week," was this business scene. In it, a fatherly looking C E O type with a stomach and white hair is slapping a handsome guy on the back and handing him an oversized check. T h e boss' eyes are brimming with pride. T h e handsome guy has a great suit, snug, with his chest puffed out, and on the check is written, "Million Dollar Round-Table Potential." But that's not all:- leaning in through the door, watching the whole thing, is the secretary, who looks hot with her lips parted, her nipples pushing on her blouse. "Wow," I thought. "Lgotta have that! That's it! Exactly!" "That's Bob," whispers the sales guy like we're standing in a church.

me. So I'd like you to know, if Bob is too high-powered for you, if he's more than you had in mind t we've got a glut of mildmannered units sitting behind the shed I could show you." "That's OK," I said. "Nothing's perfect; I'm sure there'd be a ding here or there with them too." "Fine," he said, and.he nodded like he was proud of me. "I think you're making the right decision." But I was suddenly nervous; things were going too fast. "What kind of. guarantee do you'offer? I mean if there's a problem, or *if it turns out I'm dissatisfied with myself?" Jt was something I had to ask; I couldn't let him think I was too easy. "Well, unfortunately all of our personas are sold on an as-is basis. But we do offer optional warranties on our most dependable selections, and I'm proud to say yours does qualify. We'll run over the details in a minute. But would you mind if I had our psychometrician check you out now, sir? It only takes a minute", and it will help us to present you with our very best offer, on the trade-in "

For a minute neither of us said a word. I couldn't take my eyes off it. So finally he clears his throat and says kind of embarrassed like, "Sir, I . . . I have a bit of a favor to ask." "Yeah, an' whafs that?" I'm a little suspicious. "As I said before—earlier in our conversation—state law requires that we1 disclose any problems with a persona that can't be repaired. And I know that a sharp consumer like yourself is not going to let that pass. I bet that you've been waiting for just the right m o m e n t to surprise me with it. So as a favor . . . I mean, what I'm asking is: could we review the negatives now? Get it over with?" •

"OK, all right," he says, and he shuts his eyes like he's ashamed of what he's about to say. "First of all I have to tell you that personally I had very mixed feelings about Bob. Don't get me wrong. A great guy. But a lot of us here were uncomfortable working with him. You see he was so successful at what he did that he made the rest of us look and feel like lesser men. T h e boss was always on us. 'Why can't you be-more like Bob/ he would say. 'He could do it, w h y c a n ' t you?' There was a lot of envy, a lot of jealousy among us here on the staff. I don't know how you are, sir, bu t speaking for myself, I would feel very uncomfortable if I felt everybody I worked with wanted to be

"No problem whatsoever." "Hector!" he shouts, and out comes this fat kid wiping the remains of his lunch on his pants with.one hand while pulling a Pep Boys "diagnostic center" on a hand truck with the other. I had loaded up on some cheap psychotherapy, sixty bucks worth, just before coming over—not a permanent fix, but good enough to quiet any chattery insecurities for a day or two —and that piece of crap he had there wasn't gonna catch nothing. T h e kid,hooks me up, the whole thing takes a second, and he hands the sales guy the report. "Well," he says, shaking'his head sadly. "Looks like we've got a few problems here." "I'm sorry . . . I'm not sure . . ." "Well,-there's that business-with your little sister—maybe you've repressed it—and those odd fantasies you had about your gym coach. We can't do those kinds of repairs here in-house, and I have to tell you, sir, people worry about stuff like that: too much energy having to repress- or deny, and' there's always the danger of incipient paranoia, Even if we were to wholesale you

12

13

"Sure, go ahead. I'm not hard to get along with. Whatever's best for you."

^l


Trading Up

Berkelev Fiction Review to Mexico we'd still have to disclose. I'm afraid we're looking at a six to eight hundred dollar ding right there. Lets see what else we've got." He made little popping noises with his lips as he scanned down the list. "A little inadequate in humor, taste, and self-esteem," he said, "but the good news is that we don't get a lot of demand for the first two, and Hector's got a set of Leo Buscaglia tapes that can keep the third pumped up." I waited for him to continue. "So?" "Best we can do is seventy-five bucks on the trade-in." I was stunned. I guess he could read the disappointment in my eyes— and, I don't know, maybe he felt sorry for me. "Look," he said, "swear to me that you won't say a word to my manager; I'll write it up as ninety. Screw it—a hundred and ten! What with the new baby, he'll never notice." "So what does it all come to?" I asked. "The payments. . . ." "Affordable, sir. Just $ 340 a month." I couldn't think of anything. I couldn't think what to ask. All of it from Consumers, everything-gone from my mind. "And remember the sensitivity package." He was standing too close. "Two hundred prime hours." "I don't know. I need to think a bit. Let m e come back tomorrow." "I'd act fast if I were you, sir. There's no guarantee that Bob will be here when you come back. He'll be going fast in my opinion. You know how hungry most men are for success these days." T h e sun was setting. The pennants had stopped flapping. I was tired and I'm thinking to myself, "What the hell—if I go somewhere else, what's gonna happen? Are things gonna be that different?" So I said, "OK, toss in a set of listening skills and we've got a deal." "You're a sharp trader, sir," he chuckled. "Maybe we should hire you." So while I'm signing the papers, writing him a check, trying out my new aggressive handshake on Hector-all the while this is going on, he's still working on me. Do I want to purchase a warranty? yatta this, yatta that. But they said in Consumers to

14

forget it—it's a bad deal. Sometimes the company goes out of business and then what do you do? Or sometimes you find out later that all you're entitled to is ten hours of Reichian body work or some hocus-pocus past life bullshit —everybody's an Egyptian Pharaoh or had their head cut off in France—so I said no. But maybe I should have said yes, because I didn't get more than five blocks when I broke down — right in the middle of the intersection—stuck, inconsolable, weeping for lost love.

]. Carpenter

15


Trading Up

Berkelev Fiction Review to Mexico we'd still have to disclose. I'm afraid we're looking at a six to eight hundred dollar ding right there. Lets see what else we've got." He made little popping noises with his lips as he scanned down the list. "A little inadequate in humor, taste, and self-esteem," he said, "but the good news is that we don't get a lot of demand for the first two, and Hector's got a set of Leo Buscaglia tapes that can keep the third pumped up." I waited for him to continue. "So?" "Best we can do is seventy-five bucks on the trade-in." I was stunned. I guess he could read the disappointment in my eyes— and, I don't know, maybe he felt sorry for me. "Look," he said, "swear to me that you won't say a word to my manager; I'll write it up as ninety. Screw it—a hundred and ten! What with the new baby, he'll never notice." "So what does it all come to?" I asked. "The payments. . . ." "Affordable, sir. Just $ 340 a month." I couldn't think of anything. I couldn't think what to ask. All of it from Consumers, everything-gone from my mind. "And remember the sensitivity package." He was standing too close. "Two hundred prime hours." "I don't know. I need to think a bit. Let m e come back tomorrow." "I'd act fast if I were you, sir. There's no guarantee that Bob will be here when you come back. He'll be going fast in my opinion. You know how hungry most men are for success these days." T h e sun was setting. The pennants had stopped flapping. I was tired and I'm thinking to myself, "What the hell—if I go somewhere else, what's gonna happen? Are things gonna be that different?" So I said, "OK, toss in a set of listening skills and we've got a deal." "You're a sharp trader, sir," he chuckled. "Maybe we should hire you." So while I'm signing the papers, writing him a check, trying out my new aggressive handshake on Hector-all the while this is going on, he's still working on me. Do I want to purchase a warranty? yatta this, yatta that. But they said in Consumers to

14

forget it—it's a bad deal. Sometimes the company goes out of business and then what do you do? Or sometimes you find out later that all you're entitled to is ten hours of Reichian body work or some hocus-pocus past life bullshit —everybody's an Egyptian Pharaoh or had their head cut off in France—so I said no. But maybe I should have said yes, because I didn't get more than five blocks when I broke down — right in the middle of the intersection—stuck, inconsolable, weeping for lost love.

]. Carpenter

15


Notes from the Flat Earth Society is there hope. If you have any doubt, look at religion, politics, sex. Satiation-the sin, the cynic, or say the sinique. You don't want anything you can get, and anything you can get isn't worth it. T h e Chinese -understood: May you get what you wish-the ineffable curse. Understand this: I may wish that you understand this, but I'don't want you to. All things being equal, you won't.

Sarah A. O d i s h o o

N o t e s F l a t

f r o m

E a r t h

t h e S o c i e t y

^ÂŁS0ÂŁSk

Let me repeat with quiet force: I was, and^till am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy buf all the mdre seductive cast of demeanor. Exceptional virility often reflects in the subject's displayable features a" sullen and congested something that pertains to what he.has to, conceal. And this was my case. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita I. et m e say from the beginning it has been only in the futile that I find-release. Or so it has seemed to me in hopes and in beginnings. Nothing satisfies that satisfies. Only in what continues to whet the appetite, Tantalus my saint,

L

16

II. T h e university visits follow the same'routine. I am met at the airport by a bunch of college kids eager to hear whispers from the nether world-called POESIS. We crowd into one car (they had drawn lots, tossed coins, Indian wrestled, and walked over hot coals to meet the Poet-Me). I get to sit in the front seat of what was usually a yellow Volkswagen Bug with a busted muffler and three girls, wedged into the back seat, sometimes four if they were small* enough, whispering and giggling in between those long pauses before one of them would ask, "When did you start writing poetry?" "When I was too young to know it." T h e driver, usually a pockrharked, thinly bearded young man, thimas his voice, his clothes reeking of pot, sweat, and the musty odor of basements Would turn and smile knowingly at them as if he would have said the same thing. They would hold onto that quote and years later tell their husbands when they read my name in the only"poetry magazine they still subscribed to, "He was brilliant even then." Sometimes, I wouldn't be as lucky. I would get a middleaged man,'balding, wearing thin, a* Sunday poet who worked for a corporation-but who once had aspirations. Tough. He would ask ^questions too, but mostly he answered the questions in long-winded-sentences,-pausing insignificantly, squinting at me,-checking to see if I was appropriately dumbfounded by his brilliance to race to some hotel telephone to call my editor. No perks in this: he wasn't even good to, look at. Finally, I would step out of his car", stumble, feeling as I do when I leave a movie in the middle of the day, hying to get used

17


Notes from the Flat Earth Society is there hope. If you have any doubt, look at religion, politics, sex. Satiation-the sin, the cynic, or say the sinique. You don't want anything you can get, and anything you can get isn't worth it. T h e Chinese -understood: May you get what you wish-the ineffable curse. Understand this: I may wish that you understand this, but I'don't want you to. All things being equal, you won't.

Sarah A. O d i s h o o

N o t e s F l a t

f r o m

E a r t h

t h e S o c i e t y

^ÂŁS0ÂŁSk

Let me repeat with quiet force: I was, and^till am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy buf all the mdre seductive cast of demeanor. Exceptional virility often reflects in the subject's displayable features a" sullen and congested something that pertains to what he.has to, conceal. And this was my case. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita I. et m e say from the beginning it has been only in the futile that I find-release. Or so it has seemed to me in hopes and in beginnings. Nothing satisfies that satisfies. Only in what continues to whet the appetite, Tantalus my saint,

L

16

II. T h e university visits follow the same'routine. I am met at the airport by a bunch of college kids eager to hear whispers from the nether world-called POESIS. We crowd into one car (they had drawn lots, tossed coins, Indian wrestled, and walked over hot coals to meet the Poet-Me). I get to sit in the front seat of what was usually a yellow Volkswagen Bug with a busted muffler and three girls, wedged into the back seat, sometimes four if they were small* enough, whispering and giggling in between those long pauses before one of them would ask, "When did you start writing poetry?" "When I was too young to know it." T h e driver, usually a pockrharked, thinly bearded young man, thimas his voice, his clothes reeking of pot, sweat, and the musty odor of basements Would turn and smile knowingly at them as if he would have said the same thing. They would hold onto that quote and years later tell their husbands when they read my name in the only"poetry magazine they still subscribed to, "He was brilliant even then." Sometimes, I wouldn't be as lucky. I would get a middleaged man,'balding, wearing thin, a* Sunday poet who worked for a corporation-but who once had aspirations. Tough. He would ask ^questions too, but mostly he answered the questions in long-winded-sentences,-pausing insignificantly, squinting at me,-checking to see if I was appropriately dumbfounded by his brilliance to race to some hotel telephone to call my editor. No perks in this: he wasn't even good to, look at. Finally, I would step out of his car", stumble, feeling as I do when I leave a movie in the middle of the day, hying to get used

17


Notes from the Flat Earth Society

Berkeley Fiction Review to the light. Wherever I was, I was lost.

I wonder. What would I have done had she said no. V. A hundred of them. I mean, I have slipped into-I like that better than "fucked"-at least one hundred. After a while they look the same, even though I know they're all different. If you do it in the dark, it's one woman. Sometimes she's in heat, other times she's not. Sometimes it's good, most times not. But you can never tell. I-mean it's not her looks. You can't tell by looks. She can't be ugly, of course. When she looks good to you, just watching her come through a doorway, the black fit of her pants curving around her hips and. down her thighs, the slight lift of her breasts and the way they sway slightly as she walks toward you, almost into you, her eyes in yours, you can almost feel her in your pupils, double, slip into the crevasse ,of your brain. T h e n inside she reaches over to her hip and undoes her slacks, lets them slip down her thighs to her ankles, still staring through you, she crosses her hands and raises them slowly as if to some kind of music in her brain, yours. Her sweater up until her breasts stretch smooth,.rosepetal ripe, her arms crossing her face and lifting her-whole torso to a cathedral height. Her thumbs inside the elastic of her pink silk panties, she runs them down her legs, one foot then the next. There. Then you notice the hair on her head and between her legs are not the same color, some closely vaulted fur, a finely curled seawashed version, a down. Is that a fall? And you feel her, not with your hands, b u t with some other part of your brain, rubbing u p against her, licking and lascivious, feejing her insides. Then you become some part of-thq very odor she exudes. You become her, she you. then you aren'tyou anymore. Now that's a cosmic orgasm.

III. Weather. Gray. Or not. T h e color of paint chipping off a weathered door. Racing the expressway, ground slipping fast underneath, to the edge. I believe the earth is flat, and going too far, I will fall off. Ask anyone. Ahead, the fence of skyscrapers keeping me away from borders, from the natural. Barriers. Tall and black, these picket fences. Nothing I can run my fingers along and closer, concrete and glass disappear top first. Lake Michigan-a moat I can't see across. Safe here,, the city, sky and water not admitted. Barred, if you will, by a profligate imagination. IV. "You are so lovely. Can I jump on you?" "What'd you say?" her slow southern drawl made four words into three. "I said, 'You are so lovely. Can I jump on you?'" "Oh," she tilted her blonde head awayjrom me, looked down my body cramped behind the steering wheel of the car I had stopped to pick her up in, then licked her upper lip in consideration, rehearsing a role she played to a standing, or should I say, rising audience. Neck slick with sweat down to the cleavage, pearjs, I swear, pearls of moisture balanced ever so lightly between her breasts, those overripe orbs glistening onyx under her Danskin leotard, waiting to fall-there's that word again-out, or be ^plucked with the tongue, or like some ancient instrument, be played tongueout-of-cheek now, earnestly, and hear a music sung low in the throat, a pearl "of some oyster's irritant, some cinder promoting/iris and spangle." Her hips broad and presumptuous, banging like a drum under mine, beating a rhythm, a method to my madness that even now beats in my head as" I lower it to hers, waiting/the climax.

In bed, well that's different. With most women, after a.couple, of times, at the most, it's a dry, and I don't use the word lightly, experience. But I guess for the first couple of.times it's worth it. A lot depends on your frame of mind.

"Yeah. I guess so," she says, not knowing she's slammed the door sjiut.

18

19 *


Notes from the Flat Earth Society

Berkeley Fiction Review to the light. Wherever I was, I was lost.

I wonder. What would I have done had she said no. V. A hundred of them. I mean, I have slipped into-I like that better than "fucked"-at least one hundred. After a while they look the same, even though I know they're all different. If you do it in the dark, it's one woman. Sometimes she's in heat, other times she's not. Sometimes it's good, most times not. But you can never tell. I-mean it's not her looks. You can't tell by looks. She can't be ugly, of course. When she looks good to you, just watching her come through a doorway, the black fit of her pants curving around her hips and. down her thighs, the slight lift of her breasts and the way they sway slightly as she walks toward you, almost into you, her eyes in yours, you can almost feel her in your pupils, double, slip into the crevasse ,of your brain. T h e n inside she reaches over to her hip and undoes her slacks, lets them slip down her thighs to her ankles, still staring through you, she crosses her hands and raises them slowly as if to some kind of music in her brain, yours. Her sweater up until her breasts stretch smooth,.rosepetal ripe, her arms crossing her face and lifting her-whole torso to a cathedral height. Her thumbs inside the elastic of her pink silk panties, she runs them down her legs, one foot then the next. There. Then you notice the hair on her head and between her legs are not the same color, some closely vaulted fur, a finely curled seawashed version, a down. Is that a fall? And you feel her, not with your hands, b u t with some other part of your brain, rubbing u p against her, licking and lascivious, feejing her insides. Then you become some part of-thq very odor she exudes. You become her, she you. then you aren'tyou anymore. Now that's a cosmic orgasm.

III. Weather. Gray. Or not. T h e color of paint chipping off a weathered door. Racing the expressway, ground slipping fast underneath, to the edge. I believe the earth is flat, and going too far, I will fall off. Ask anyone. Ahead, the fence of skyscrapers keeping me away from borders, from the natural. Barriers. Tall and black, these picket fences. Nothing I can run my fingers along and closer, concrete and glass disappear top first. Lake Michigan-a moat I can't see across. Safe here,, the city, sky and water not admitted. Barred, if you will, by a profligate imagination. IV. "You are so lovely. Can I jump on you?" "What'd you say?" her slow southern drawl made four words into three. "I said, 'You are so lovely. Can I jump on you?'" "Oh," she tilted her blonde head awayjrom me, looked down my body cramped behind the steering wheel of the car I had stopped to pick her up in, then licked her upper lip in consideration, rehearsing a role she played to a standing, or should I say, rising audience. Neck slick with sweat down to the cleavage, pearjs, I swear, pearls of moisture balanced ever so lightly between her breasts, those overripe orbs glistening onyx under her Danskin leotard, waiting to fall-there's that word again-out, or be ^plucked with the tongue, or like some ancient instrument, be played tongueout-of-cheek now, earnestly, and hear a music sung low in the throat, a pearl "of some oyster's irritant, some cinder promoting/iris and spangle." Her hips broad and presumptuous, banging like a drum under mine, beating a rhythm, a method to my madness that even now beats in my head as" I lower it to hers, waiting/the climax.

In bed, well that's different. With most women, after a.couple, of times, at the most, it's a dry, and I don't use the word lightly, experience. But I guess for the first couple of.times it's worth it. A lot depends on your frame of mind.

"Yeah. I guess so," she says, not knowing she's slammed the door sjiut.

18

19 *


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

VI. Ritz-Carlton. When I hear a name like Ritz-Carlton, I think of, well, the Grand Hotel with bus boys in dark uniforms and caps holding suitcases marching through a lobby the size of a football stadium, and one of them holding a card glancing at it o c c a s i o n a l l y a n d c a l l i n g in a P h i l l i p M o r r i s v o i c e , "Pagingmistersmiiiith" and turning his head from side to side for a response, with chandeliers dotting the ceiling into a hallway that goes into a mirror-infinity and women with foreign faces", broad-rimmed hats and cloches being pulled by salukis and afghans toward the massive doors while the head manager stands behind the mahogany counter with a bell and a large hotel register, resting elegantly for someone to sign, with the air punctuated by the slim chime of a request to be taken to a suite of rooms that overlooks the most beautiful face of the city imaginable where at night lights twinkle from the ground more brightly than the sky. A Pity.

pose unless you've fallen off the sphere it doesn't make sense. It happens all of a sudden. First you believe that everything is, has been, and will be terra firma under your feet, and you keep walking, ninningskippingjumping, doing cartwheels, racing like those characters in a cartoon after, something you really want but before you know it-in fact, there you are standing over the abyss-you have left ground entirely and you look down for a split second unconvinced, trying to get back to the .abutment before you p l u m m e t off into Godknowswhere and if you're lucky-damn few .at that-you can crawl back and know-know deeper than .anything else in your whole life that the world is dangerous and the edge is where you didn't expect it and will always be where you don't expect it, and when you try to tell people, they don't believe you. They scoff, mock, laugh, and if you really insist, they think you're crazy. Of course, if you're a poet, they think you are talking about poetry, and they then expect madness-that' s when they call'vou profound. What insight! How deep! But poets, they know when you say the earth is flat that you're not talking about the poem, the piece of paper. They know, if they're worth their salt, whatthey've always known, suspected. Nowhere is safe. You could fall off the edge at any moment, the invisible depth swallowing us whole, and we, we, the unfaithful, not knowing how to fly, dive darkly into our own disbelief.

VII. Take the scotch out of the suitcase, set it by the bed. Unpeel the glass like an onionskin, and pour. Turn on the TV, anything, it doesn't matter. No ice. It's cold enough in here. In these hotel rooms, I think of Humphrey Bogart, lying on the bed with scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other, the tough silent solitary type, stoic, tight-lipped, and hard-drinking. Pity.

But the damn thing is, you want to believe, have the same faith you did before you hit the edge, the same anticipation, the expectation that, yes, it's there, the earth, and you can never go too far and if you go far enough-reach, step over-that moment and all those moments before are as delicious as a blueblack plum on a hot summer day, the sun church-high in the birthdrowse of days, and the chalk-cliff pink waiting to appear with the first bite.

VIII. I don't know how I got mixed up with her. -Her eyes like quicksand—the kind that when you struggle to get out of you sink deeper into. She was the wife of one of my students. IX. I said I believed'the world is flat. I joined a society. O n e with 4,000 members that also believe. Six hundred years have passed since C o l u m b us tried to change people's thinking, and now they're all converts. But 4,000 remain faithful; however, I sup-

X. Later, after you have had three drinks, enough to soften memories, the self-lacerating ones, the telephone rings and either a young girl's voice or the ingratiating one of the middle-

20

21 1


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

VI. Ritz-Carlton. When I hear a name like Ritz-Carlton, I think of, well, the Grand Hotel with bus boys in dark uniforms and caps holding suitcases marching through a lobby the size of a football stadium, and one of them holding a card glancing at it o c c a s i o n a l l y a n d c a l l i n g in a P h i l l i p M o r r i s v o i c e , "Pagingmistersmiiiith" and turning his head from side to side for a response, with chandeliers dotting the ceiling into a hallway that goes into a mirror-infinity and women with foreign faces", broad-rimmed hats and cloches being pulled by salukis and afghans toward the massive doors while the head manager stands behind the mahogany counter with a bell and a large hotel register, resting elegantly for someone to sign, with the air punctuated by the slim chime of a request to be taken to a suite of rooms that overlooks the most beautiful face of the city imaginable where at night lights twinkle from the ground more brightly than the sky. A Pity.

pose unless you've fallen off the sphere it doesn't make sense. It happens all of a sudden. First you believe that everything is, has been, and will be terra firma under your feet, and you keep walking, ninningskippingjumping, doing cartwheels, racing like those characters in a cartoon after, something you really want but before you know it-in fact, there you are standing over the abyss-you have left ground entirely and you look down for a split second unconvinced, trying to get back to the .abutment before you p l u m m e t off into Godknowswhere and if you're lucky-damn few .at that-you can crawl back and know-know deeper than .anything else in your whole life that the world is dangerous and the edge is where you didn't expect it and will always be where you don't expect it, and when you try to tell people, they don't believe you. They scoff, mock, laugh, and if you really insist, they think you're crazy. Of course, if you're a poet, they think you are talking about poetry, and they then expect madness-that' s when they call'vou profound. What insight! How deep! But poets, they know when you say the earth is flat that you're not talking about the poem, the piece of paper. They know, if they're worth their salt, whatthey've always known, suspected. Nowhere is safe. You could fall off the edge at any moment, the invisible depth swallowing us whole, and we, we, the unfaithful, not knowing how to fly, dive darkly into our own disbelief.

VII. Take the scotch out of the suitcase, set it by the bed. Unpeel the glass like an onionskin, and pour. Turn on the TV, anything, it doesn't matter. No ice. It's cold enough in here. In these hotel rooms, I think of Humphrey Bogart, lying on the bed with scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other, the tough silent solitary type, stoic, tight-lipped, and hard-drinking. Pity.

But the damn thing is, you want to believe, have the same faith you did before you hit the edge, the same anticipation, the expectation that, yes, it's there, the earth, and you can never go too far and if you go far enough-reach, step over-that moment and all those moments before are as delicious as a blueblack plum on a hot summer day, the sun church-high in the birthdrowse of days, and the chalk-cliff pink waiting to appear with the first bite.

VIII. I don't know how I got mixed up with her. -Her eyes like quicksand—the kind that when you struggle to get out of you sink deeper into. She was the wife of one of my students. IX. I said I believed'the world is flat. I joined a society. O n e with 4,000 members that also believe. Six hundred years have passed since C o l u m b us tried to change people's thinking, and now they're all converts. But 4,000 remain faithful; however, I sup-

X. Later, after you have had three drinks, enough to soften memories, the self-lacerating ones, the telephone rings and either a young girl's voice or the ingratiating one of the middle-

20

21 1


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

aged man reminds you it's time for the ritual last supper, where at least twelve gather in your name. Time to put on the mask, ah, but which one? You know what psychoanalysis is according to some very learned psychoanalysts-a study in self-deception. Now that's a good one-a vicious circle, or sphere, the world is still round and all is well. If you wear masks and you believe them, then what is deception? If you wear masks and you know they're masks, then you're not deceiving yourself, only others. You know it, and do it for a" reason. If you don't wear any masks, they think you are crazy-the earth is flat. Humphrey Bogart to nigh t-tigh flipped and hard-drinking-hard to do both.

a strip-tease artist standing in front of you, she unveils, dances, showing you her bare essentials, and you are both aroused and arousing, and the question "how- long can I be tantalized?" How long will it take before I know I have her or I don't? And I will suffer either way, but-here in this tension between yes and no, I live ever so lightly. XIII. Things are easier when the world is flat. You-don't have to imagine that the earth bends info a curve where you don't see it. You're walking on a hard, flat, city sidewalk, and the earth looks flat, and once in a while you go down a hill, and for a few seconds you may even think, "hey, this might be the down slope of that curve those guys were talking about." But faster than you get down that curve? you're going up again, or flat, and no matter how far or where you go, it's always flat. You never once see the world as round.

XI. Eighty percent of taste is smell. That's a fact. Scientists are studying olfactory nerves and which parts of the brain work as receptors for them, but the code for how we smell is elusive, remarkably elusive. They know that olfa'ctory regions are- the parts of the brain that regulate emotions. And in lower mammals, the sense of smell is the primary thing that provides sexual arousal. So those functions, which in us are related to joy or fear, are sexual and intimately connected to our nose. So really, the most sexual part of us is the nose. T h e brain nose. Smell it? XII. T h e scent of her eyes. I suppose I knew when I first saw her that she could sniff me out. I kept my distance like a dog, she outside the fence, and I was protected. Stan was a good student, even an excellent one. They had been married for a few years'. So had I. We could make a foursome, I thought. " Covet thy neighbor's wife. That was my c o m m a n d m e n t . Coveting was fun. No pain and all the pleasure-you know, standing arm to arm, her fingers touching yours as you light her cigarette, coming up behind her in a group to remind her dinner is ready, leaning against her to whisper "what do you want to drink," and the scent of spiced apple-lingering in the back of your mouth, the slight bitter aftertaste. Wanting and not having, the thought of not-ever-having, like

22

But way back in the third-grade part'of your brain, you remember those books where scientists tell us that they have spent a hell of a lot of time coming to the conclusion that the earth is a sphere, round as this rubber" ball, and without ever leaving their tables arid compasses, they're telling us that" what we see is not what we get. So much of our lives we walk around seeing one thing and believing, while having faith, that is, in quite another. I don't have much. Faith, that is: Who am I going to believe-my'eyes or them? So the whore thing is simple. Flat. XIV. My mother thought I was a homosexual when I was'seventeen because I didn't have a girlfriend. I never brought any of them home. Faith runs'in a family.

•

XV. There are two kinds of women: the kind who want to worship you and the kind you want to worship. They're never the same woman. These are two distinct types. T h e kind who want tonvorship>you have no mCmbry at all;

23


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

aged man reminds you it's time for the ritual last supper, where at least twelve gather in your name. Time to put on the mask, ah, but which one? You know what psychoanalysis is according to some very learned psychoanalysts-a study in self-deception. Now that's a good one-a vicious circle, or sphere, the world is still round and all is well. If you wear masks and you believe them, then what is deception? If you wear masks and you know they're masks, then you're not deceiving yourself, only others. You know it, and do it for a" reason. If you don't wear any masks, they think you are crazy-the earth is flat. Humphrey Bogart to nigh t-tigh flipped and hard-drinking-hard to do both.

a strip-tease artist standing in front of you, she unveils, dances, showing you her bare essentials, and you are both aroused and arousing, and the question "how- long can I be tantalized?" How long will it take before I know I have her or I don't? And I will suffer either way, but-here in this tension between yes and no, I live ever so lightly. XIII. Things are easier when the world is flat. You-don't have to imagine that the earth bends info a curve where you don't see it. You're walking on a hard, flat, city sidewalk, and the earth looks flat, and once in a while you go down a hill, and for a few seconds you may even think, "hey, this might be the down slope of that curve those guys were talking about." But faster than you get down that curve? you're going up again, or flat, and no matter how far or where you go, it's always flat. You never once see the world as round.

XI. Eighty percent of taste is smell. That's a fact. Scientists are studying olfactory nerves and which parts of the brain work as receptors for them, but the code for how we smell is elusive, remarkably elusive. They know that olfa'ctory regions are- the parts of the brain that regulate emotions. And in lower mammals, the sense of smell is the primary thing that provides sexual arousal. So those functions, which in us are related to joy or fear, are sexual and intimately connected to our nose. So really, the most sexual part of us is the nose. T h e brain nose. Smell it? XII. T h e scent of her eyes. I suppose I knew when I first saw her that she could sniff me out. I kept my distance like a dog, she outside the fence, and I was protected. Stan was a good student, even an excellent one. They had been married for a few years'. So had I. We could make a foursome, I thought. " Covet thy neighbor's wife. That was my c o m m a n d m e n t . Coveting was fun. No pain and all the pleasure-you know, standing arm to arm, her fingers touching yours as you light her cigarette, coming up behind her in a group to remind her dinner is ready, leaning against her to whisper "what do you want to drink," and the scent of spiced apple-lingering in the back of your mouth, the slight bitter aftertaste. Wanting and not having, the thought of not-ever-having, like

22

But way back in the third-grade part'of your brain, you remember those books where scientists tell us that they have spent a hell of a lot of time coming to the conclusion that the earth is a sphere, round as this rubber" ball, and without ever leaving their tables arid compasses, they're telling us that" what we see is not what we get. So much of our lives we walk around seeing one thing and believing, while having faith, that is, in quite another. I don't have much. Faith, that is: Who am I going to believe-my'eyes or them? So the whore thing is simple. Flat. XIV. My mother thought I was a homosexual when I was'seventeen because I didn't have a girlfriend. I never brought any of them home. Faith runs'in a family.

•

XV. There are two kinds of women: the kind who want to worship you and the kind you want to worship. They're never the same woman. These are two distinct types. T h e kind who want tonvorship>you have no mCmbry at all;

23


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

the kind you want to worship have a tyrannical memory. - I mean, women who are looking for someone to worship are on the'prowl, nervous, jittery, anxious to please, ready to spend, make all kinds of concessions. Their eyes have the vague wandering look they get in-a supermarket: they rest on something they think they would like to buy, but once they have put it in their cart, they're looking again. That's what I mean about memory.

lophane. You can see right through it, knowing all the time that the cream oozing out between the yellow cake ovals is ersatz cream, and the cake tastes like a kitchen sponge. As soon as ydu've licked the last pearl of lard from your finger, your stomach has stopped growling but you're still hungry, and the oily taste in your mouth remains until you've taken a swig^ of machine coffee with non-dairy creamer to clear out the bookworm taste. In fact, I suppose junk food i& just that-a bookish idea of food. Think about'it. Junk food is an idea-an abstraction to fill the mouth. Eating words-Twinkies, Oreos, O-Ke-Do-Ke's, Doritos, Ho-Ho's. If yoli say them, they don't stay long on the tip of your tongue. They fill up your mouth with vowels, spaces, then you swallow, and they've evaporated.

T h e ones you worship? They seem to be unaware of you or anybody in the room, but .a kind of 360 degree vision knows you're there and can avoid you. It's off-putting and attractive at the same time. In fact, it seems that's just the mystery-how they can arouse opposite feelings in you and sustain them. W h e n they do talk to you, they fully engage you as if the room were between the arcs your bodies make leaning toward each other. They.look either at your eyes or lips^ neither of which is comfortable. In fact, both disturb. They seem not to want any-more than this, and much more. They're the Gold Cards-you buy, b u t t h e y have it on record what they gave you, and whether they collect it or not, you know-you are in debt to them. There's only one way to pay. "You must change your life," Rilke said. Otherwise, you go bankrupt. Oh, you can't worship more than one of these women at a time. You'd end up blowing your brains out. Madonna and whore is too simple a classification. Angel legs: one foot firmly in the heavens, the other infirmly on earth, and the man lying face up between those legs-all he wants above him and no way to get the word to her thafs on the tip of his tongue. No easy task-the metaphor. Well, you have to like the image, after all. There is a danger. It could happen.that you would end up worshipping the worshipper. That's a man's tragedy. He's reduced to rubble. He worries about her memory: if she's going to remember to come home, to meet him at the comer outdoor cafe, in her bedroom. Out.of sight, out of love. Swann got caught in the lover's shopping mall: he devoured her and like junk food, she didn't satisfy. He stayed hungry. It's all in the eel-

24

Swann knew it all along. He was getting what he saw. She satisfied his bookish hunger, but his stomach still growled.

i

XVI. There's something comforting about anything wrapped in plastic. It's all man-made. Look at the ingredients: chemicals. I suppose they could even say, "Nothing Natural." There's nothing mysterious about what's in it. Nature has a way of keeping secrets. I mean, what is photosynthesis anyway? It makes plants green. They can 'tell you how, but you can never get the why. You never see it, I mean, the motherlode of sap turning water to wine and pouring its juice into those self-publicizing leaves. With plastic, well, it's the only product that nature didn't put her motherly fingers into. And notice, Mother Nature can't destroy it either. Plastic is here' to stay. Even if everything else goes. Now that's hope-immortality. After all, in nature, everything that's created is destroyed or self-destructs. But not plastic. Plastic is American. There's nothing that can't be made, replicated, duplicated, or reproduced in plastic. Look around: bags, bottles, corks, canisters, carpets, canapes, dressers, dolls, doilies, forks, spoons, knives, grass, flowers, birds, ice, cars, tables, chairs, bombs. Name it, its double is in plastic. There's a certain reassurance in knowing that some things

25


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

the kind you want to worship have a tyrannical memory. - I mean, women who are looking for someone to worship are on the'prowl, nervous, jittery, anxious to please, ready to spend, make all kinds of concessions. Their eyes have the vague wandering look they get in-a supermarket: they rest on something they think they would like to buy, but once they have put it in their cart, they're looking again. That's what I mean about memory.

lophane. You can see right through it, knowing all the time that the cream oozing out between the yellow cake ovals is ersatz cream, and the cake tastes like a kitchen sponge. As soon as ydu've licked the last pearl of lard from your finger, your stomach has stopped growling but you're still hungry, and the oily taste in your mouth remains until you've taken a swig^ of machine coffee with non-dairy creamer to clear out the bookworm taste. In fact, I suppose junk food i& just that-a bookish idea of food. Think about'it. Junk food is an idea-an abstraction to fill the mouth. Eating words-Twinkies, Oreos, O-Ke-Do-Ke's, Doritos, Ho-Ho's. If yoli say them, they don't stay long on the tip of your tongue. They fill up your mouth with vowels, spaces, then you swallow, and they've evaporated.

T h e ones you worship? They seem to be unaware of you or anybody in the room, but .a kind of 360 degree vision knows you're there and can avoid you. It's off-putting and attractive at the same time. In fact, it seems that's just the mystery-how they can arouse opposite feelings in you and sustain them. W h e n they do talk to you, they fully engage you as if the room were between the arcs your bodies make leaning toward each other. They.look either at your eyes or lips^ neither of which is comfortable. In fact, both disturb. They seem not to want any-more than this, and much more. They're the Gold Cards-you buy, b u t t h e y have it on record what they gave you, and whether they collect it or not, you know-you are in debt to them. There's only one way to pay. "You must change your life," Rilke said. Otherwise, you go bankrupt. Oh, you can't worship more than one of these women at a time. You'd end up blowing your brains out. Madonna and whore is too simple a classification. Angel legs: one foot firmly in the heavens, the other infirmly on earth, and the man lying face up between those legs-all he wants above him and no way to get the word to her thafs on the tip of his tongue. No easy task-the metaphor. Well, you have to like the image, after all. There is a danger. It could happen.that you would end up worshipping the worshipper. That's a man's tragedy. He's reduced to rubble. He worries about her memory: if she's going to remember to come home, to meet him at the comer outdoor cafe, in her bedroom. Out.of sight, out of love. Swann got caught in the lover's shopping mall: he devoured her and like junk food, she didn't satisfy. He stayed hungry. It's all in the eel-

24

Swann knew it all along. He was getting what he saw. She satisfied his bookish hunger, but his stomach still growled.

i

XVI. There's something comforting about anything wrapped in plastic. It's all man-made. Look at the ingredients: chemicals. I suppose they could even say, "Nothing Natural." There's nothing mysterious about what's in it. Nature has a way of keeping secrets. I mean, what is photosynthesis anyway? It makes plants green. They can 'tell you how, but you can never get the why. You never see it, I mean, the motherlode of sap turning water to wine and pouring its juice into those self-publicizing leaves. With plastic, well, it's the only product that nature didn't put her motherly fingers into. And notice, Mother Nature can't destroy it either. Plastic is here' to stay. Even if everything else goes. Now that's hope-immortality. After all, in nature, everything that's created is destroyed or self-destructs. But not plastic. Plastic is American. There's nothing that can't be made, replicated, duplicated, or reproduced in plastic. Look around: bags, bottles, corks, canisters, carpets, canapes, dressers, dolls, doilies, forks, spoons, knives, grass, flowers, birds, ice, cars, tables, chairs, bombs. Name it, its double is in plastic. There's a certain reassurance in knowing that some things

25


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

are known quantities, we know what's in them, how they are made, and that they can be counted on-the certainty of sameness. In women who worship you, there's a mediocrity. They look alike, that look of ersatz affection, admiration, Jhe long stares, the crumpled defeated look, the gypsy despair. It's quite winning, really. I like mediocrity. With mediocrity, you're always at your best. T h e problem is it doesn't last long, either for her or for you. I suppose it has to do with memory. I don't have much. Memory, that is. I don't remember one woman from the next. T h e ones I do remember, I try to forget. They were begetters. Like Eve. You know, they bore more problems than the rib that conceived them. A whole unspeakable history. Was it worth it? No. A most emphatic no. Adam, I'm sure, would have agreed.

All the duties and convenience of marriage and crimes and laws of it take over, rule with* the inexhaustible fund of situations. And soon, you are Mr. Hyde again, hiding and hating her and yourself, and out on the prowl, looking for another reflection.

T h e problem with worshippers: mechanical, boredom. At first, there's the high, of course, of finding someone who looks into your eyes and sees someone you didn't know was there, or if you even suspected that the resplendent being existed, few had discovered him. Now, in the eyes of this new creature, you see yourself reflected authentically. i It's as if one ordinary morning you awoke, stumbled into the bathroom, and accidentally caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Instead of the afflicted, jaded, r u m p l e d image you expected to see with dried spittle outlining one side of your chin and hair oily and slicked down on one side with ,the other side electrified and standing upright and at attention, -you see a transformed image-a kind of Jekyll and Hyde in reverse. That image of yourself you have entertained since adolescence, full of vitality, kind of mystical, glowing, radiantly alive, looks back at you. You are undone. This New Creature has given,you back to yourself, has seen you as you truly are. It's hard being a narcissist-so few. mirrors reflect adequately.

XVII. That's why you need to worship a woman. Worshipping, that's poetic self-deception par excellence. Worshipping is a study in futility. Happy love has no history or literature. When love is fatal, doomed, frowned upon, that's when romance is elevated. Poets delight in the arousal of the sense-not their consummation. Thafs a fundamental fact, as Tantalus is my saint. By idealizing our lust, we satisfy our desire to escape-escape from that everyday mechanical background of our lives. Then adultery becomes a most remarkable occupation, one we are obsessed by. Coveting the sole commandment. Look at our literature: what would happen to writing without adultery? In any case, ifs not so much adultery as thinking about adultery. That's another fact. Look around. All the ill-assorted couples, t h e disappointed, deceived, rebellious, p r e o c c u p i e d ; shameless, and unfaithful, in remorse or terror, looking for and delighting in the disquiet of temptation, the secret rendezvous, the escapes. What dbes all this have to do with worshipping a woman? We hanker after unhappiness, and a woman, one whom you can worship, usually doesn't care if you're a live doornail or a dead lizard. You've* always -suspected the difference didn't matter-that your life has been so meaningless and inconsequential, so paltry and squalid, that no one in her right mind would give you the time of day. You know you have never been seen because there is literally nothing of worth to see. A woman who recognizes this and doesn't squash you like a disgusting beetle is worthy of worship.

But all too soon, probably after a couple of weeks in bed and out, something happens. Routine. Fights. About whether you should shave, cut your hair, what shirt you should wear, why she's watching you while you read, who should make dinner.

XIX. She was different. I know, everyone says that. But she had a seductive intelligence. She was good enough to look at, but

26

27


Berkeley Fiction Review

Notes from the Flat Earth Society

are known quantities, we know what's in them, how they are made, and that they can be counted on-the certainty of sameness. In women who worship you, there's a mediocrity. They look alike, that look of ersatz affection, admiration, Jhe long stares, the crumpled defeated look, the gypsy despair. It's quite winning, really. I like mediocrity. With mediocrity, you're always at your best. T h e problem is it doesn't last long, either for her or for you. I suppose it has to do with memory. I don't have much. Memory, that is. I don't remember one woman from the next. T h e ones I do remember, I try to forget. They were begetters. Like Eve. You know, they bore more problems than the rib that conceived them. A whole unspeakable history. Was it worth it? No. A most emphatic no. Adam, I'm sure, would have agreed.

All the duties and convenience of marriage and crimes and laws of it take over, rule with* the inexhaustible fund of situations. And soon, you are Mr. Hyde again, hiding and hating her and yourself, and out on the prowl, looking for another reflection.

T h e problem with worshippers: mechanical, boredom. At first, there's the high, of course, of finding someone who looks into your eyes and sees someone you didn't know was there, or if you even suspected that the resplendent being existed, few had discovered him. Now, in the eyes of this new creature, you see yourself reflected authentically. i It's as if one ordinary morning you awoke, stumbled into the bathroom, and accidentally caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Instead of the afflicted, jaded, r u m p l e d image you expected to see with dried spittle outlining one side of your chin and hair oily and slicked down on one side with ,the other side electrified and standing upright and at attention, -you see a transformed image-a kind of Jekyll and Hyde in reverse. That image of yourself you have entertained since adolescence, full of vitality, kind of mystical, glowing, radiantly alive, looks back at you. You are undone. This New Creature has given,you back to yourself, has seen you as you truly are. It's hard being a narcissist-so few. mirrors reflect adequately.

XVII. That's why you need to worship a woman. Worshipping, that's poetic self-deception par excellence. Worshipping is a study in futility. Happy love has no history or literature. When love is fatal, doomed, frowned upon, that's when romance is elevated. Poets delight in the arousal of the sense-not their consummation. Thafs a fundamental fact, as Tantalus is my saint. By idealizing our lust, we satisfy our desire to escape-escape from that everyday mechanical background of our lives. Then adultery becomes a most remarkable occupation, one we are obsessed by. Coveting the sole commandment. Look at our literature: what would happen to writing without adultery? In any case, ifs not so much adultery as thinking about adultery. That's another fact. Look around. All the ill-assorted couples, t h e disappointed, deceived, rebellious, p r e o c c u p i e d ; shameless, and unfaithful, in remorse or terror, looking for and delighting in the disquiet of temptation, the secret rendezvous, the escapes. What dbes all this have to do with worshipping a woman? We hanker after unhappiness, and a woman, one whom you can worship, usually doesn't care if you're a live doornail or a dead lizard. You've* always -suspected the difference didn't matter-that your life has been so meaningless and inconsequential, so paltry and squalid, that no one in her right mind would give you the time of day. You know you have never been seen because there is literally nothing of worth to see. A woman who recognizes this and doesn't squash you like a disgusting beetle is worthy of worship.

But all too soon, probably after a couple of weeks in bed and out, something happens. Routine. Fights. About whether you should shave, cut your hair, what shirt you should wear, why she's watching you while you read, who should make dinner.

XIX. She was different. I know, everyone says that. But she had a seductive intelligence. She was good enough to look at, but

26

27


Berkeley Fiction Review after a while, I would want to tell her things, want to hear what she saw, see how her face would light up when she saw me. Even though a dozen people were in the room, I would be the only one. I r e m e m b e r when she read the article I had written on Auden's "The Mirror and the Sea," and the way she took the pages in her hands, nestling in the corner of my couch, tucking her bare feet u n d e r the cushion. Resting the pages on her knees, she cupped her body toward the storm of words, soaked and slippery, and she disappeared. When she finally looked up at me, fire-hearted, obliterating thought like a kiss, the sharpsweet plumsmooth hot-to-bite skin under my nose, I knew then that I got what I wished for. XX. T h e y took m e to o n e of those dimly lit restaurants with upholstered captain's chairs and paintings of the Coliseum and the Parthenon. Everyone nervously asking the (.maskable with voices raised razorblade-sharp as if a team of interns had been asked to dissect the poet's throat. A blonde was chosen to sit next to me. Dessert, I supposed. Older, she had a face that looked as if she went right from adolescence to middle age without a transition, wrinkles under the eyes, furrows in the brow, tight-lipped and hard-drinking. My just desserts? She leans over and asks, "What do you want to drink?" Everything changes once you see the world flat as a page. Everything.

28

Jun

Fujita


Berkeley Fiction Review after a while, I would want to tell her things, want to hear what she saw, see how her face would light up when she saw me. Even though a dozen people were in the room, I would be the only one. I r e m e m b e r when she read the article I had written on Auden's "The Mirror and the Sea," and the way she took the pages in her hands, nestling in the corner of my couch, tucking her bare feet u n d e r the cushion. Resting the pages on her knees, she cupped her body toward the storm of words, soaked and slippery, and she disappeared. When she finally looked up at me, fire-hearted, obliterating thought like a kiss, the sharpsweet plumsmooth hot-to-bite skin under my nose, I knew then that I got what I wished for. XX. T h e y took m e to o n e of those dimly lit restaurants with upholstered captain's chairs and paintings of the Coliseum and the Parthenon. Everyone nervously asking the (.maskable with voices raised razorblade-sharp as if a team of interns had been asked to dissect the poet's throat. A blonde was chosen to sit next to me. Dessert, I supposed. Older, she had a face that looked as if she went right from adolescence to middle age without a transition, wrinkles under the eyes, furrows in the brow, tight-lipped and hard-drinking. My just desserts? She leans over and asks, "What do you want to drink?" Everything changes once you see the world flat as a page. Everything.

28

Jun

Fujita


Kevin M c C a u g h e y .

A

B l u r

i n

t h e

C r i b

,-ftÂŁ3&ÂŁSk

P

ad La Verre's sister gave birth to a baby, and the baby was to be named in his honor. Little Pad. It made .his heart jounce. There was a catch though. His sister, who was eccentric and capricious, insisted that Pad make the journey from Denver to St. Louis for the christening or the child would be named after Pizarro, the Spanish explorer. Pad La Verre was hot much of an explorer himself. He did not even own a car and was flat broke. But he was a great believer in the goodness of the human heart and he determined to try

I. \ t

29


Kevin M c C a u g h e y .

A

B l u r

i n

t h e

C r i b

,-ftÂŁ3&ÂŁSk

P

ad La Verre's sister gave birth to a baby, and the baby was to be named in his honor. Little Pad. It made .his heart jounce. There was a catch though. His sister, who was eccentric and capricious, insisted that Pad make the journey from Denver to St. Louis for the christening or the child would be named after Pizarro, the Spanish explorer. Pad La Verre was hot much of an explorer himself. He did not even own a car and was flat broke. But he was a great believer in the goodness of the human heart and he determined to try

I. \ t

29


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

his thumb at hitchhiking. Hitchhiking, he had heard, was an art, and he was certain that a young man of twenty, with wavy hair and a puerile complexion, would be artful enough to speedily land a seat in an air-conditioned and sporty vehicle. His nephew's christening was to take place on Sunday, and to be safe, he hit the road on Thursday morning. He positioned himself at the on-ramps of Highway 70 with nothing but seven dollars, a can of chewing tobacco, and some pistachios in his pockets. By Friday evening, however, he was still in western Kansas. He spent that night at the edge of a field just off the highway. T h e sibilant swish of eighteen wheelers cutting the air lulled him to sleep and provided a soundtrack for a dream he had of Little Pad. Nothing moved in the dream. He saw one of those old tinny black-and-white photos, a daguerreotype. There was a black crib with a baby inside, but the baby was such a blur, a chemical smear, that Pad could make out no detail of its features.

stool at the counter. It was an old-fashioned "cafe, homey and comfortable, with booths up against the windows and stools at the counter, and an overhe'ad ceiling fan that churned the greasy air. A white-haired woman with -penciled-on eyebrows poured him coffee without asking, then went about her business, serving a broad-bac'ked trucker a few stools down. T h e trucker had-his finger on the page of a-large book on the counter before,him. ,When the waitress returned, she drew a pad and pencil from her apron and said, "What can I get you, honey?"

m

He hiked for a ways along Highway 70 until he came upon a truck stop. There was a cafe, a gas station, and a convenience store. T h e name of the cafe ,was Coffee. Attached to s the roof was a giant plywood facsimile of a coffee cup, ; with a gray swirl of plywood steam rising from it. Below, in smartly slanted letters; it said, "Piping Hot!" Pad had eaten nothing but pistachios and a lip full of tobacco in the last forty-eight hours, and so Defore Jie hit the road he decided to treat himself to a coffee and a couple slices of toasted wheat with jelly. The thought of food made his tongue tremble. He pushed through the door of Coffee and straddled a swivel

T h e waitress had a name tag pinned to her uniform. It said "Spyglass". * "That's a nice name," Pad said. "Oh that," she said, tapping the tag with her pencil. "It's a very c o m m on Christian name in this part of Kansas." Pad ordered his toast. Spyglass scribbled on' her ticket. She smiled and turned around and stuck the ticket onto the carousel behind her. Halfway through his second cup of coffee, Pad began t a feel warm inside, and the caffeine buzzed through his veins like sweet electricity. Though he was by nature reserved, the coffee inspired his voice, and when the woman gave him a refill he said, "I'm hitchhiking. It's my first time." "Wonderful thing, hitchhiking," she said. She leaned on her elbows and looked over Pad's head dreamily. "Have you ever hitched?" he asked. "Sure. There was a time when we all did. All my family anyhow. On Sundays all six of us would hitch together out to the pond for picnic and swimming. We had a car, but it wasn't the same—driving. Know what I mean?" Pad nodded "out of politeness. Just then a fearsome noise came from the throat of the trucker. He raised his coffee mug and drank the entire cup down. Then he lowered his head back to the book. " D o n ' t mind him," Spyglass said. "Tiger's a cynic." She pushed away from the counter and asked Pad where he was headed to.

30

31

In the morning, despite the strangeness of the dream, Pad La Verre felt rested and chipper and crawled out of his irrigation ditch. He stretched his arms over his head, bent over, touched his toes, then, hands on his hips, puffed up his chest with a lung full of early morning, north-Kansas air. There would be no threat of rain today. It was one of those bright and cloudless April days when the sky looks especially low, as though it were stretched elastically from horizon to horizon.


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

his thumb at hitchhiking. Hitchhiking, he had heard, was an art, and he was certain that a young man of twenty, with wavy hair and a puerile complexion, would be artful enough to speedily land a seat in an air-conditioned and sporty vehicle. His nephew's christening was to take place on Sunday, and to be safe, he hit the road on Thursday morning. He positioned himself at the on-ramps of Highway 70 with nothing but seven dollars, a can of chewing tobacco, and some pistachios in his pockets. By Friday evening, however, he was still in western Kansas. He spent that night at the edge of a field just off the highway. T h e sibilant swish of eighteen wheelers cutting the air lulled him to sleep and provided a soundtrack for a dream he had of Little Pad. Nothing moved in the dream. He saw one of those old tinny black-and-white photos, a daguerreotype. There was a black crib with a baby inside, but the baby was such a blur, a chemical smear, that Pad could make out no detail of its features.

stool at the counter. It was an old-fashioned "cafe, homey and comfortable, with booths up against the windows and stools at the counter, and an overhe'ad ceiling fan that churned the greasy air. A white-haired woman with -penciled-on eyebrows poured him coffee without asking, then went about her business, serving a broad-bac'ked trucker a few stools down. T h e trucker had-his finger on the page of a-large book on the counter before,him. ,When the waitress returned, she drew a pad and pencil from her apron and said, "What can I get you, honey?"

m

He hiked for a ways along Highway 70 until he came upon a truck stop. There was a cafe, a gas station, and a convenience store. T h e name of the cafe ,was Coffee. Attached to s the roof was a giant plywood facsimile of a coffee cup, ; with a gray swirl of plywood steam rising from it. Below, in smartly slanted letters; it said, "Piping Hot!" Pad had eaten nothing but pistachios and a lip full of tobacco in the last forty-eight hours, and so Defore Jie hit the road he decided to treat himself to a coffee and a couple slices of toasted wheat with jelly. The thought of food made his tongue tremble. He pushed through the door of Coffee and straddled a swivel

T h e waitress had a name tag pinned to her uniform. It said "Spyglass". * "That's a nice name," Pad said. "Oh that," she said, tapping the tag with her pencil. "It's a very c o m m on Christian name in this part of Kansas." Pad ordered his toast. Spyglass scribbled on' her ticket. She smiled and turned around and stuck the ticket onto the carousel behind her. Halfway through his second cup of coffee, Pad began t a feel warm inside, and the caffeine buzzed through his veins like sweet electricity. Though he was by nature reserved, the coffee inspired his voice, and when the woman gave him a refill he said, "I'm hitchhiking. It's my first time." "Wonderful thing, hitchhiking," she said. She leaned on her elbows and looked over Pad's head dreamily. "Have you ever hitched?" he asked. "Sure. There was a time when we all did. All my family anyhow. On Sundays all six of us would hitch together out to the pond for picnic and swimming. We had a car, but it wasn't the same—driving. Know what I mean?" Pad nodded "out of politeness. Just then a fearsome noise came from the throat of the trucker. He raised his coffee mug and drank the entire cup down. Then he lowered his head back to the book. " D o n ' t mind him," Spyglass said. "Tiger's a cynic." She pushed away from the counter and asked Pad where he was headed to.

30

31

In the morning, despite the strangeness of the dream, Pad La Verre felt rested and chipper and crawled out of his irrigation ditch. He stretched his arms over his head, bent over, touched his toes, then, hands on his hips, puffed up his chest with a lung full of early morning, north-Kansas air. There would be no threat of rain today. It was one of those bright and cloudless April days when the sky looks especially low, as though it were stretched elastically from horizon to horizon.


Berkeley-Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

"I'm trying to make it to St. Louis tonight." "Pretty city," she said. T h e trucker licked his finger and made a production of flipping the page in his oversized tome. "I'm an uncle," Pad said. "The kid is getting christened. They named him after me." As soon as he spoke these words, a vision struck him, a cold wave down his back.'He*saw himself in a photograph, dark and grainy and a little out of focus. He was bending over a stroller to pick up a child, but the child's mouth was open in fear. "And what name might you go by?" the woman asked. Pad did not answer. He felt out of breath, as if he'd been underwater. "What's your name, sugar?" "Pad," he said. "That's a good name," she said, running her pencil behind her ear. "Do you think I'll make it to St. Louis tonight?" "You still got a ways to go. But it's early and you look like a clean kid. I don't see why you won't." "It's really important to me, since they named him after me." "Now that is something." She touched his arm lightly with her long white fingers, then whispered, as though they shared a secret, "Wouldn't it be something if the *kid ended up naming his son Pad, too?" "That would," he said. "I got a niece with my name, but like I said, there's so many of us around these "parts that who can say?" Pad La Verre paid the good waitress and rose from his stool. T h e fat trucker had turned his head and was staring at Pad, chin o n his shoulder. Pad gave him a friendly' nod, b u t the trucker said, "You ain't gonna make it." "You hush, Tiger," Spyglass said. The woman placed her elephant-skin elbows on the counter and leaned towards Pad selfimportantly. "Don't mind Tiger. He's got no faith. Too many books scurrying 'round.his thick head. You ought to use a sign." "You mean write 'St. Louis' on a big piece of cardboard?"

"You could do that. But I think a picture would do you m u c h better. Pictures attract people like flies to the dead. Know what I mean? You could draw that big arch they got in St. Louis. A picture paints a thousand words,-they say." "Give m e a thousand words any day," the trucker said, and he made a face, then dipped his head back into his big book. Spyglass scowled at him, then .patted Pad's-hand encouragingly. She went to the back room and fetched Pad a'large cardboard box. "You'll have to walk oyer to the convenience sto,re for pens and what not," she said. "Get a. move on now, or you'll never make Carcasonne." "St. Louis," he corrected. "It's a metaphof," she said. "My ass," said Tiger Baldwin.

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Pad left the cafe and walked along the parking lot to the Quick Stop. To his left cars and trucks buzzed along Highway 70. H e - h a d five dollars and a little bit of change, and only enough tobacco for about .two Wads. He bought-a thick black marker, a ball point, a pack of razor blades s a n e could cut the box neatly, a Twinkie, and aÂťsmall carton of strawberry-flavored milk to share with the first kind driver to give him a lift. Outside the shop-he made himself comfortable a t a picnic table. He took a razor and cut one" side away from the box. T h e n he began to outline S T LOUIS with ball-point. He didn't feel confident enough to draw a picture, and though Spyglass appeared to be very wise, Pad wasn't convinced a picture or symbol would be all that effective. A combination' of lettering and picture would suffice. He drew a pretty bad arch. He couldn't give it any oomph. It looked like an upside down U. He tried to shade it, to give it dimension, but t the$e shady squiggles only, made it look like it was in need of a shave. T h e cars that left the diner, service, station, and convenience mart drove, by him slowly. T h e drivers took a good look at the sign. They seemed to be very curious. He saw a station wagon


Berkeley-Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

"I'm trying to make it to St. Louis tonight." "Pretty city," she said. T h e trucker licked his finger and made a production of flipping the page in his oversized tome. "I'm an uncle," Pad said. "The kid is getting christened. They named him after me." As soon as he spoke these words, a vision struck him, a cold wave down his back.'He*saw himself in a photograph, dark and grainy and a little out of focus. He was bending over a stroller to pick up a child, but the child's mouth was open in fear. "And what name might you go by?" the woman asked. Pad did not answer. He felt out of breath, as if he'd been underwater. "What's your name, sugar?" "Pad," he said. "That's a good name," she said, running her pencil behind her ear. "Do you think I'll make it to St. Louis tonight?" "You still got a ways to go. But it's early and you look like a clean kid. I don't see why you won't." "It's really important to me, since they named him after me." "Now that is something." She touched his arm lightly with her long white fingers, then whispered, as though they shared a secret, "Wouldn't it be something if the *kid ended up naming his son Pad, too?" "That would," he said. "I got a niece with my name, but like I said, there's so many of us around these "parts that who can say?" Pad La Verre paid the good waitress and rose from his stool. T h e fat trucker had turned his head and was staring at Pad, chin o n his shoulder. Pad gave him a friendly' nod, b u t the trucker said, "You ain't gonna make it." "You hush, Tiger," Spyglass said. The woman placed her elephant-skin elbows on the counter and leaned towards Pad selfimportantly. "Don't mind Tiger. He's got no faith. Too many books scurrying 'round.his thick head. You ought to use a sign." "You mean write 'St. Louis' on a big piece of cardboard?"

"You could do that. But I think a picture would do you m u c h better. Pictures attract people like flies to the dead. Know what I mean? You could draw that big arch they got in St. Louis. A picture paints a thousand words,-they say." "Give m e a thousand words any day," the trucker said, and he made a face, then dipped his head back into his big book. Spyglass scowled at him, then .patted Pad's-hand encouragingly. She went to the back room and fetched Pad a'large cardboard box. "You'll have to walk oyer to the convenience sto,re for pens and what not," she said. "Get a. move on now, or you'll never make Carcasonne." "St. Louis," he corrected. "It's a metaphof," she said. "My ass," said Tiger Baldwin.

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Pad left the cafe and walked along the parking lot to the Quick Stop. To his left cars and trucks buzzed along Highway 70. H e - h a d five dollars and a little bit of change, and only enough tobacco for about .two Wads. He bought-a thick black marker, a ball point, a pack of razor blades s a n e could cut the box neatly, a Twinkie, and aÂťsmall carton of strawberry-flavored milk to share with the first kind driver to give him a lift. Outside the shop-he made himself comfortable a t a picnic table. He took a razor and cut one" side away from the box. T h e n he began to outline S T LOUIS with ball-point. He didn't feel confident enough to draw a picture, and though Spyglass appeared to be very wise, Pad wasn't convinced a picture or symbol would be all that effective. A combination' of lettering and picture would suffice. He drew a pretty bad arch. He couldn't give it any oomph. It looked like an upside down U. He tried to shade it, to give it dimension, but t the$e shady squiggles only, made it look like it was in need of a shave. T h e cars that left the diner, service, station, and convenience mart drove, by him slowly. T h e drivers took a good look at the sign. They seemed to be very curious. He saw a station wagon


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Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

approach, a man driving, a woman in the passenger seat, and a brood of children horsing around in the back. T h e woman tapped on her husband's shoulder and the wagon slowed to a stop, went into reverse, and backed up. Pad grabbed his gear and ran toward the car. T h e woman rolled down her window. "What is that?" she said. "It's the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis." "Oh," she said. "I thought it was a handle." "A handle?" Pad said. "A handle for what?" "I don't know," she said. "Maybe a suitcase handle." "Why would I draw a handle?" She closed her mouth tight, in a way that admonished him. "I have no idea," she said, a little haughtily. Then she turned to the driver and said, "Robert..." And the car drove away down the ramp. Pad followed it with his eyes, watched it merge with the traffic, belching gray smoke from its exhaustpipe. He set down his gear, all but the sign, and attempted to reevaluate it. It didn't look like a handle any more that it looked like the St. Louis arch. But the sign had not been a complete failure. He'd had a nibble. He'd inspired curiosity. And so he decided to stick with this general design, only improving upon it a little. Sitting cross-legged o n the grass, his sign in his lap, h e sketched. He reinforced the arch, and although it still looked like an -upside down U, it gave the impression of being structurally sturdier than before. As he was reinforcing, Spyglass emerged from the cafe. She stepped lightly in her sneakers and thick nylons. Tiger "Baldwin walked alongside her, hunched forward a little. He had a tattoo on his arm. There was a skillful depiction of a bearded man, his arm reaching out to touch the hand of a smaller and naked man. Pad thought this was interesting: a tattoo of two arms on your arm. A thermos dangled from one of Tiger Baldwin's big fingers. "Let's see what you got there," Spyglass said. "Oh." She turned her head. She backed off a few steps and put her hand on her chin.

"The arch," she said, "is just floating on a brown cardboard sea." She took the sign-from.Pad and held it at arm's length. "Why don't you put some buildings below, so everyone will know it's the St. Louis skyline?" Tiger Baldwin kicked at a loose pebble and shook his head. "Shit" he said. Tie unscrewed the lid of the thermos, and steam snaked .into, the cool air. He drank down a mouthful of coffee. "Don't you think so?" Spyglass said. "Tiger?" "He ain't gonna make it" Tiger said. "Tiger, be supportive." "I like your tattoo," Pad said. Tiger Baldwin eyed Pad suspiciously. "I did that myself," he said. Pad was impressed. "It's wonderful." Tiger nodded. "I used dyes made from colored crayons and silk worms and poked myself with a knitting needle. My arm swelled uÂŁ like a balloon. Like Popeye's arm." "That's something," Pad said. Spyglass said they had better leave him alone if he was ever going to get a lift. Tiger coughed and slurped his coffee, and they turned to go. Pad went to work on the buildings. These were fairly easy to draw, being not much more than differently sized boxes. It was simple to make them look three-dimensional too. He just shads ed the lines on one side of the buildings with his black marker. All he had to do was picture where the sun was and what its light was doing. A few- cars passed as he was improving his sign, but Pad did not worry. With ftps new approach, he was sure all the drivers would know what he meant and be glad to give him a lift, possibly all the way to his sister's door, where he would rush to the nursery, fling the doors open, and embrace his Little Pad. T h e n another startling snapshot appeared in Pad's mind. He saw the child, young Pad. There was white everywhere. But the baby's face was blue, and all around him a vast field of brilliant snow. Light streamed in from all directions, piercing light, but no color, except on the baby's puffy and horribly blue cheeks.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

approach, a man driving, a woman in the passenger seat, and a brood of children horsing around in the back. T h e woman tapped on her husband's shoulder and the wagon slowed to a stop, went into reverse, and backed up. Pad grabbed his gear and ran toward the car. T h e woman rolled down her window. "What is that?" she said. "It's the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis." "Oh," she said. "I thought it was a handle." "A handle?" Pad said. "A handle for what?" "I don't know," she said. "Maybe a suitcase handle." "Why would I draw a handle?" She closed her mouth tight, in a way that admonished him. "I have no idea," she said, a little haughtily. Then she turned to the driver and said, "Robert..." And the car drove away down the ramp. Pad followed it with his eyes, watched it merge with the traffic, belching gray smoke from its exhaustpipe. He set down his gear, all but the sign, and attempted to reevaluate it. It didn't look like a handle any more that it looked like the St. Louis arch. But the sign had not been a complete failure. He'd had a nibble. He'd inspired curiosity. And so he decided to stick with this general design, only improving upon it a little. Sitting cross-legged o n the grass, his sign in his lap, h e sketched. He reinforced the arch, and although it still looked like an -upside down U, it gave the impression of being structurally sturdier than before. As he was reinforcing, Spyglass emerged from the cafe. She stepped lightly in her sneakers and thick nylons. Tiger "Baldwin walked alongside her, hunched forward a little. He had a tattoo on his arm. There was a skillful depiction of a bearded man, his arm reaching out to touch the hand of a smaller and naked man. Pad thought this was interesting: a tattoo of two arms on your arm. A thermos dangled from one of Tiger Baldwin's big fingers. "Let's see what you got there," Spyglass said. "Oh." She turned her head. She backed off a few steps and put her hand on her chin.

"The arch," she said, "is just floating on a brown cardboard sea." She took the sign-from.Pad and held it at arm's length. "Why don't you put some buildings below, so everyone will know it's the St. Louis skyline?" Tiger Baldwin kicked at a loose pebble and shook his head. "Shit" he said. Tie unscrewed the lid of the thermos, and steam snaked .into, the cool air. He drank down a mouthful of coffee. "Don't you think so?" Spyglass said. "Tiger?" "He ain't gonna make it" Tiger said. "Tiger, be supportive." "I like your tattoo," Pad said. Tiger Baldwin eyed Pad suspiciously. "I did that myself," he said. Pad was impressed. "It's wonderful." Tiger nodded. "I used dyes made from colored crayons and silk worms and poked myself with a knitting needle. My arm swelled uÂŁ like a balloon. Like Popeye's arm." "That's something," Pad said. Spyglass said they had better leave him alone if he was ever going to get a lift. Tiger coughed and slurped his coffee, and they turned to go. Pad went to work on the buildings. These were fairly easy to draw, being not much more than differently sized boxes. It was simple to make them look three-dimensional too. He just shads ed the lines on one side of the buildings with his black marker. All he had to do was picture where the sun was and what its light was doing. A few- cars passed as he was improving his sign, but Pad did not worry. With ftps new approach, he was sure all the drivers would know what he meant and be glad to give him a lift, possibly all the way to his sister's door, where he would rush to the nursery, fling the doors open, and embrace his Little Pad. T h e n another startling snapshot appeared in Pad's mind. He saw the child, young Pad. There was white everywhere. But the baby's face was blue, and all around him a vast field of brilliant snow. Light streamed in from all directions, piercing light, but no color, except on the baby's puffy and horribly blue cheeks.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

W h e n the image faded, he found that he was holding his strawberry milk. He had no recollection of picking it up. He opened it and poured it over St. Louis, and the pink smear of the city was the color of baby flesh. A car slammed its brakes imfront of Pad. It was a new Ford, a rental car, Pad could see. Two men stepped to and came directly towards him. They wore white tuxedo coats and black ties, and their shoes were shining. Pad asked them if they were headed to St. Louis. O n e of them, a thin fellow with a wisp of a mustache and a cigarette in his mouth, stepped up and removed his sunglasses. He said, in a high-pitched English accent, "Is that a F u n n y Pinky Monkey you've got there?" "Excuse me?" Pad said. "We're talking about your picture," said Mustache. Stubby Beard took a few steps towards him, and in. a voice meant to be calm, said, "No .trouble, all right?" And then, without warning, Beard was upon him, wrenching the sign- from Pad and flinging it to Mustache, and in two lightening strokes, driving a fist into Pad's stomach and an elbow into his larynx. Pad dropped to his knees. "All right," Beard said. "Now we can talk." He wiped his palms on his slacks. Pad drew his hand across his bloodied mouth. "Don't mess about," said Beard. There was a m o m e n t of silence. "We're interested, all right?" "Okay," Pad said with uncertainty. "All right." "How much do you want to give up for it? We'll take sixty quid, hang it up in Jimmy's living room for you. Great deal of exposure, that." "I'd like a lift to S t Louis. I'm going to be an uncle. They've named the kid — " "All right then. Give us twenty quid and we'll lean it against the wall outside the pub. But that's the best we can do, you ungrateful bastard." "Ah, forget it, Alex" said Mustache. "He's a snob. He's not Pinky at all." T h e thin one glared at Pad. "And all along I

thought you were Pinky." "Let's go then," the other said. "Leave the bastard alone. C o m e on then." Both headed for the passenger seat, and Beard said, "Oh, bloody hell," and walked around to the driver's side of the car. T h e car sped off, and Pad saw Mustache mouth something indecipherable. It was clear to- Pad that the current state of his sign was not satisfactory.- T h e sign was not communicating what he wanted.* In fact, what it was communicating had to be pretty strange. So he set about changing it. He knelt over the sign, and it looked drab. There was bright blood on his hand, where he had drawn it across his bleeding nose, and he wiped this across the St. Louis skyline. It smeared and a gave a pleasing effect, a fiery comet which proclaimed the urgency of his mission. It was a half hour before the next car, a small red Fiat, pulled away from the parking l o t A woman was driving. She was alone. Tad smiled at her, and the car slowed'down-almost involuntarily, it seemed. The woman's eyes focused on the sign, and the .corners of her mouth quivered, an expression of fear spreading across her face. She accelerated and veered to her left, away from Pad and his sign, ^o.that two of her wheels ran off the macadam and churned up dust.

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Something funny was going on. More cars passed. Optimistic Pad was growing despondent:' If he didn't get a ride before nightfall, he knew he would not get* a ride at all, and his nephew would be named Juan Pizarro. He opened his can of tobacco and got a nice gob going in his lower lip. Perhaps he could draw-Little Pad's face on the sign, and t h e n the h u m a n interest of his p r e d i c a m e n t would draw Samaritan drivers to him by the-dozens. He worked with the black pen, and drew an oval for a face. He thought about eyes and nose and ears and tried to put them in their proper spots. W h e n cars, growled by he didn't care. Once he'd finished Little Pad's face they would beg to give him a lift. But the black pen was .static and dull. He could not bring


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

W h e n the image faded, he found that he was holding his strawberry milk. He had no recollection of picking it up. He opened it and poured it over St. Louis, and the pink smear of the city was the color of baby flesh. A car slammed its brakes imfront of Pad. It was a new Ford, a rental car, Pad could see. Two men stepped to and came directly towards him. They wore white tuxedo coats and black ties, and their shoes were shining. Pad asked them if they were headed to St. Louis. O n e of them, a thin fellow with a wisp of a mustache and a cigarette in his mouth, stepped up and removed his sunglasses. He said, in a high-pitched English accent, "Is that a F u n n y Pinky Monkey you've got there?" "Excuse me?" Pad said. "We're talking about your picture," said Mustache. Stubby Beard took a few steps towards him, and in. a voice meant to be calm, said, "No .trouble, all right?" And then, without warning, Beard was upon him, wrenching the sign- from Pad and flinging it to Mustache, and in two lightening strokes, driving a fist into Pad's stomach and an elbow into his larynx. Pad dropped to his knees. "All right," Beard said. "Now we can talk." He wiped his palms on his slacks. Pad drew his hand across his bloodied mouth. "Don't mess about," said Beard. There was a m o m e n t of silence. "We're interested, all right?" "Okay," Pad said with uncertainty. "All right." "How much do you want to give up for it? We'll take sixty quid, hang it up in Jimmy's living room for you. Great deal of exposure, that." "I'd like a lift to S t Louis. I'm going to be an uncle. They've named the kid — " "All right then. Give us twenty quid and we'll lean it against the wall outside the pub. But that's the best we can do, you ungrateful bastard." "Ah, forget it, Alex" said Mustache. "He's a snob. He's not Pinky at all." T h e thin one glared at Pad. "And all along I

thought you were Pinky." "Let's go then," the other said. "Leave the bastard alone. C o m e on then." Both headed for the passenger seat, and Beard said, "Oh, bloody hell," and walked around to the driver's side of the car. T h e car sped off, and Pad saw Mustache mouth something indecipherable. It was clear to- Pad that the current state of his sign was not satisfactory.- T h e sign was not communicating what he wanted.* In fact, what it was communicating had to be pretty strange. So he set about changing it. He knelt over the sign, and it looked drab. There was bright blood on his hand, where he had drawn it across his bleeding nose, and he wiped this across the St. Louis skyline. It smeared and a gave a pleasing effect, a fiery comet which proclaimed the urgency of his mission. It was a half hour before the next car, a small red Fiat, pulled away from the parking l o t A woman was driving. She was alone. Tad smiled at her, and the car slowed'down-almost involuntarily, it seemed. The woman's eyes focused on the sign, and the .corners of her mouth quivered, an expression of fear spreading across her face. She accelerated and veered to her left, away from Pad and his sign, ^o.that two of her wheels ran off the macadam and churned up dust.

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Something funny was going on. More cars passed. Optimistic Pad was growing despondent:' If he didn't get a ride before nightfall, he knew he would not get* a ride at all, and his nephew would be named Juan Pizarro. He opened his can of tobacco and got a nice gob going in his lower lip. Perhaps he could draw-Little Pad's face on the sign, and t h e n the h u m a n interest of his p r e d i c a m e n t would draw Samaritan drivers to him by the-dozens. He worked with the black pen, and drew an oval for a face. He thought about eyes and nose and ears and tried to put them in their proper spots. W h e n cars, growled by he didn't care. Once he'd finished Little Pad's face they would beg to give him a lift. But the black pen was .static and dull. He could not bring


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Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

the pink face to life. It lacked definition. Frustrated, he tore his Twinkie from its wrapper arid smeared it across the oval face, the arch, the skyline. Now there was some color, some white with the red and black, some dimension. He dabbed the creamy filling on the eyes and nose. From his mouth he extracted his tobacco goo and spreadit over Little Pad's scalp, making a thin layer of brown baby-fuzz hair.

cator, a flea-craft carrier. His work rubbed me the wrong way." Yet on that day, moments after Tiger's rig had trundled off down Highway 70, and as the paramedics lifted the gurney.into the ambulance,- Pad's-blood coloring the white sheets that lay over him, a crowd gathered. Bystanders—truckers, vacationing families, farmers, commuters —formed a Circle around his body. A police officer rested Pad's sign above the hook of his own belt, like a beer vender holding a tray, and peered into it thoughtfully. Another officer gazed over his shoulder.

Now there was a hint of life, and Pad felt dizzy. He did not know what he was,doing. Overwhelmed, he tore off his green Tshirt and threw it on the ground, and this became part of the picture too. With the dripping sign above him, he did a bare-chested d a n c e , the D a n c e of the Namesake Uncle. And motorists whirred by, astounded, wet-eyed, frightened.

Perhaps Tiger Baldwin'had had too much coffee (Spyglass the waitress would, in an article in the Non-Representational Review,., credit him twenty-three cups). Perhaps it was just an accident, or some destructive form of anti-hero-worship. But Pad La Verre's broken body lay on the entrance ramp of a Kansas truck stop. Tiger Baldwin was apprehended in Newport, Kentucky, one week later. When asked why he hadn't bothered to stop after running the boy down, he replied, mysteriously: "The guy was a pip-squeak, a picaroon, a hapless weasel, a forni-

"Wild stuff," the first one said.' "Yeah, mighty turbulent" A trucker in a Peterbilt cap and holding a Styrofoam cup in his hand, said, "You get one good'look'at that picture and you can tell the guy was heading to hell in a hand basket." The'officers nodded, still brboding over the picture. Others joined the crowd. "But you can also see," the trucker went on, "that the guy had something. Something fiery and real." "You're-right there," said a salesman from Kansas City. "No fucking doubt," said a mescaline addict from Tulsa. "Yes, sir," said a mannequin from Fresno. " M m m m m , " others agreed. "It's a gift that* don't come around but once in a hunnerd years," an old, withered farmer said, after spitting. "Poor damn fella." (Pad La Verre's sister would later see a reproduction of the sign in the St. Louis Herald, and proclaim, with some finality: "I now prefer the name Cortez") Two miles away the ambulance was speeding along the interstate. Pad was not quite dead. He had tubes in his nose and in his arms, and he was dying, but he didn't care. If that crowd of good folk outside Coffee cafe could see what he saw, in living Technicolor motion, they too would feel no sorrow, only joy. For Pad La Verre is an old man, refined, the facial creases of a satisfied life around his mouth and a Cary Grant scarf at his neck. A loved and honored man captured on seventy-millimeter celluloid. He smiles contentedly into the camera. His name-

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An eighteen-wheeler pulled away from the cafe. It had been there all day long. It picked up speed while Pad danced and waved his sign above his head. T h e rig rolled to a stop in front of him, the engine rumbling and menacing. Behind the wheel of the rig hovered the large head of Tiger Baldwin. T h e truck started up again, slowly. T h e gears shifted and the rig came forward. It seemed to be moving as slowly as a vehicle could go, and it was moving right towards him. The silver grill reflected' the sunlight and Pad was blinded. He could not move, nor did he want to. He held onto his sign, clutching-it in white bloodless hands. And the silver grew brighter, hotter, and the grind and crank and thunder of the truck came slowly upon him.


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Berkeley Fiction Review

A Blur in the Crib

the pink face to life. It lacked definition. Frustrated, he tore his Twinkie from its wrapper arid smeared it across the oval face, the arch, the skyline. Now there was some color, some white with the red and black, some dimension. He dabbed the creamy filling on the eyes and nose. From his mouth he extracted his tobacco goo and spreadit over Little Pad's scalp, making a thin layer of brown baby-fuzz hair.

cator, a flea-craft carrier. His work rubbed me the wrong way." Yet on that day, moments after Tiger's rig had trundled off down Highway 70, and as the paramedics lifted the gurney.into the ambulance,- Pad's-blood coloring the white sheets that lay over him, a crowd gathered. Bystanders—truckers, vacationing families, farmers, commuters —formed a Circle around his body. A police officer rested Pad's sign above the hook of his own belt, like a beer vender holding a tray, and peered into it thoughtfully. Another officer gazed over his shoulder.

Now there was a hint of life, and Pad felt dizzy. He did not know what he was,doing. Overwhelmed, he tore off his green Tshirt and threw it on the ground, and this became part of the picture too. With the dripping sign above him, he did a bare-chested d a n c e , the D a n c e of the Namesake Uncle. And motorists whirred by, astounded, wet-eyed, frightened.

Perhaps Tiger Baldwin'had had too much coffee (Spyglass the waitress would, in an article in the Non-Representational Review,., credit him twenty-three cups). Perhaps it was just an accident, or some destructive form of anti-hero-worship. But Pad La Verre's broken body lay on the entrance ramp of a Kansas truck stop. Tiger Baldwin was apprehended in Newport, Kentucky, one week later. When asked why he hadn't bothered to stop after running the boy down, he replied, mysteriously: "The guy was a pip-squeak, a picaroon, a hapless weasel, a forni-

"Wild stuff," the first one said.' "Yeah, mighty turbulent" A trucker in a Peterbilt cap and holding a Styrofoam cup in his hand, said, "You get one good'look'at that picture and you can tell the guy was heading to hell in a hand basket." The'officers nodded, still brboding over the picture. Others joined the crowd. "But you can also see," the trucker went on, "that the guy had something. Something fiery and real." "You're-right there," said a salesman from Kansas City. "No fucking doubt," said a mescaline addict from Tulsa. "Yes, sir," said a mannequin from Fresno. " M m m m m , " others agreed. "It's a gift that* don't come around but once in a hunnerd years," an old, withered farmer said, after spitting. "Poor damn fella." (Pad La Verre's sister would later see a reproduction of the sign in the St. Louis Herald, and proclaim, with some finality: "I now prefer the name Cortez") Two miles away the ambulance was speeding along the interstate. Pad was not quite dead. He had tubes in his nose and in his arms, and he was dying, but he didn't care. If that crowd of good folk outside Coffee cafe could see what he saw, in living Technicolor motion, they too would feel no sorrow, only joy. For Pad La Verre is an old man, refined, the facial creases of a satisfied life around his mouth and a Cary Grant scarf at his neck. A loved and honored man captured on seventy-millimeter celluloid. He smiles contentedly into the camera. His name-

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An eighteen-wheeler pulled away from the cafe. It had been there all day long. It picked up speed while Pad danced and waved his sign above his head. T h e rig rolled to a stop in front of him, the engine rumbling and menacing. Behind the wheel of the rig hovered the large head of Tiger Baldwin. T h e truck started up again, slowly. T h e gears shifted and the rig came forward. It seemed to be moving as slowly as a vehicle could go, and it was moving right towards him. The silver grill reflected' the sunlight and Pad was blinded. He could not move, nor did he want to. He held onto his sign, clutching-it in white bloodless hands. And the silver grew brighter, hotter, and the grind and crank and thunder of the truck came slowly upon him.


Berkeley Fiction Review sake, Young Pad, now middle-aged with a gentle, face much like Pad's own, approaches from off-camera and takes his hand. "You mean everything to me, Uncle," he says. Then,YoungYoung Pad, the great nephew, steps forward, in his arms a newborn, adorned in a liquidey white robe. "You mean everything to me, dear Great Uncle, and so we have n a m e d the child Young Young Young Pad." T h e n Pad La Verre Senior Senior Senior, with a sideways turn and a sweep of his left arm, invites the camera, which dollies forward, past that outstretched arm, info the calm lushness of miles of rolling meadow. "We have named- them all after you," a voice says, with some echoey reverb effects, "in a land where no one wears a Spanish conquistador helmet." T h e camera dollies (slowly at first, then gaining speed) to show a long row of baby carriage? (then pulls back for a sweeping panorama): the carriages continue in an unbroken line, down the slope of the meadow abloom with wildflowers, up a hillock and out of sight, only to reappear on a further hill, and a further hill, finally to be blotted out in the distance by the round, orange sun.

Doug Rennie

T e l l

Me-

Y o u

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A i n ' t

M a d

t's not how dark it was-inside or the beery, smoky fog that you r e m e m b e r most, bu t that rattlesnake all coiled up behind the glass. Push the button at the side of the case and h e ' d b u z z like h e l l . T h o s e rattles w o u l d shake a n d z z z z z z z z z z z z z z as l o n g as you k e p t t h e b u t t o n d o w n . Snakes-any kind-just scared the crap out of you and the first time you saw thi^ one, a big fat copper-colored tube, you didn't know about the hidden button. The case, all lit up inside, was over in the" corner next to the machine where for a dime you could shoot at metal bears. It laid there real still, so you natural-

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Berkeley Fiction Review sake, Young Pad, now middle-aged with a gentle, face much like Pad's own, approaches from off-camera and takes his hand. "You mean everything to me, Uncle," he says. Then,YoungYoung Pad, the great nephew, steps forward, in his arms a newborn, adorned in a liquidey white robe. "You mean everything to me, dear Great Uncle, and so we have n a m e d the child Young Young Young Pad." T h e n Pad La Verre Senior Senior Senior, with a sideways turn and a sweep of his left arm, invites the camera, which dollies forward, past that outstretched arm, info the calm lushness of miles of rolling meadow. "We have named- them all after you," a voice says, with some echoey reverb effects, "in a land where no one wears a Spanish conquistador helmet." T h e camera dollies (slowly at first, then gaining speed) to show a long row of baby carriage? (then pulls back for a sweeping panorama): the carriages continue in an unbroken line, down the slope of the meadow abloom with wildflowers, up a hillock and out of sight, only to reappear on a further hill, and a further hill, finally to be blotted out in the distance by the round, orange sun.

Doug Rennie

T e l l

Me-

Y o u

I

A i n ' t

M a d

t's not how dark it was-inside or the beery, smoky fog that you r e m e m b e r most, bu t that rattlesnake all coiled up behind the glass. Push the button at the side of the case and h e ' d b u z z like h e l l . T h o s e rattles w o u l d shake a n d z z z z z z z z z z z z z z as l o n g as you k e p t t h e b u t t o n d o w n . Snakes-any kind-just scared the crap out of you and the first time you saw thi^ one, a big fat copper-colored tube, you didn't know about the hidden button. The case, all lit up inside, was over in the" corner next to the machine where for a dime you could shoot at metal bears. It laid there real still, so you natural-

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Tell Me You .Ain't Mad

ly thought it was a fake or a stuffed one, just like the heads of the deer and elk that looked down from the walls. Your dad pointed the case out to you right after you walked through the door. Glasses clinked and voices hummed and Fats D o m i n o singing "Blueberry Hill" came out of the juke box across the room. This here was one damn rare snake, Lenny, one of a kind, he said, that's why it's in that lit-up box. So's you can't miss it. Its eyes are blue, see, damn strange since most snakes' eyes are black like that king snake we caught fishing last summer, remember? Go on, he said, get up real close and have a look and don't worry none 'cause you can see it ain't real, well, not alive anyways. Then he pushed the button when your face was pressed up against the glass and you screamed and j u m p e d back and d a m n e d near peed your pants: Your dad laughed so hard he had to sit down. He stomped his foot on the floor and pointed at the doorbell-like button on the side of the case wired up to the stuffed snake's rattles. Laughed and slapped his hand on his oily jeans and pointed at you. O h God, I got you, son. O h , did I get you!

tryin' hard not to smile but he-ain't gonna make it, your-dad said, grinning and rolling his forehead back and forth on yours real gentle. C o m e on now, son, come on. Tell me you ain't mad. You held out for a few seconds/the n you laughed and jumped up and" put your arms around his neck and buried your face in his chest and breathed the sweat and cigarette smell'ln" his dirty t-shirt. OK, dad, you said, sure, but only if-you make a muscle for me. So he pumped his arm up round and hafd as a baseball with the veins wriggling like little worms-under the sunburned skin and three women sitting at a table close by smoking cigarettes whistled and some • men clapped. Your dad just turned and did a little bow and your mom shook her head. O h Dwight,- she said. Then your dad said, come on now, let's see about that root beer, and he ran a rough hand over your hair and then the,two of you walked toward the bar, your little hand inside his big one.

Everyone who was at the bar a n d sitting at the tables laughed too, women with hair piled high on their heads and rough-looking men with big bellies. Your mom didn't laugh, t h o u g h . She just w h a c k e d your dad on the arm and said, Dwight that's just plain mean, you scared him half to death. But she was having a hard time keeping up that frown. Your heart p o u n d e d in your head and* now your ears felt hot, too. You looked down at the floor and backed away from your dad and pushed his hands away when he tried to touch you. But he picked you up anyway and tossed you in the air and caught you when you came down and said, you ain't sore at me, Lenny? Tell me you ain't mad and your ol' dad he'll get you a root beer and a bag of them peanuts, too. Come on, son, come on now, please, he said, letting you go and liolding his hands together in front of him like he was a beggar. Your dad did this kind of stuff all the time. Tricked you. Embarrassed you. Made you look dumb. He didn't mean any harm, you thought. He loved you, you were sure of that, you just didn't trust'him sometimes. He's

They were always drinking. Half-full bottles of Seagrams, of Four-Roses, and lots of empties, too,-were albover the place in the kitchen and living room at home. Theirfavorite place to drink was the Cold Springs Tavern just outside of town, up towards the hills.'They'd head up there every Sunday morning, Saturdays too, except in the winter when there was ice all over the roads. They'd get there just about noon. You'd get in trouble or hurt yourself if they left you alone, your mom said, and your dad nodded, so they put you in the back seat and took you along. Most times U n c l e Roy a n d Aunt Billie and cousin Wesley would be there, too. You liked going there. The first few times anyway. You'd set off the rattlesnake, grinning bigger than a yawn whe"n you pushed the button. You'd ask your, mom for nickels to put in the jukebox (play "Your Cheatin' Heart" will you Lenny) or ydur dad for dimes so you could shoot the*bear. It was some kind of electric ray-gun rifle that shot out a little stream of light, and you had to hit a glass circle about the size of a dime -on the shoulder of black-iron bears that moved in a straight line in front of you. If you hit the circle, the bear roared and stoqd on his hind legs and" fell oyer and another" hundred

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Tell Me You .Ain't Mad

ly thought it was a fake or a stuffed one, just like the heads of the deer and elk that looked down from the walls. Your dad pointed the case out to you right after you walked through the door. Glasses clinked and voices hummed and Fats D o m i n o singing "Blueberry Hill" came out of the juke box across the room. This here was one damn rare snake, Lenny, one of a kind, he said, that's why it's in that lit-up box. So's you can't miss it. Its eyes are blue, see, damn strange since most snakes' eyes are black like that king snake we caught fishing last summer, remember? Go on, he said, get up real close and have a look and don't worry none 'cause you can see it ain't real, well, not alive anyways. Then he pushed the button when your face was pressed up against the glass and you screamed and j u m p e d back and d a m n e d near peed your pants: Your dad laughed so hard he had to sit down. He stomped his foot on the floor and pointed at the doorbell-like button on the side of the case wired up to the stuffed snake's rattles. Laughed and slapped his hand on his oily jeans and pointed at you. O h God, I got you, son. O h , did I get you!

tryin' hard not to smile but he-ain't gonna make it, your-dad said, grinning and rolling his forehead back and forth on yours real gentle. C o m e on now, son, come on. Tell me you ain't mad. You held out for a few seconds/the n you laughed and jumped up and" put your arms around his neck and buried your face in his chest and breathed the sweat and cigarette smell'ln" his dirty t-shirt. OK, dad, you said, sure, but only if-you make a muscle for me. So he pumped his arm up round and hafd as a baseball with the veins wriggling like little worms-under the sunburned skin and three women sitting at a table close by smoking cigarettes whistled and some • men clapped. Your dad just turned and did a little bow and your mom shook her head. O h Dwight,- she said. Then your dad said, come on now, let's see about that root beer, and he ran a rough hand over your hair and then the,two of you walked toward the bar, your little hand inside his big one.

Everyone who was at the bar a n d sitting at the tables laughed too, women with hair piled high on their heads and rough-looking men with big bellies. Your mom didn't laugh, t h o u g h . She just w h a c k e d your dad on the arm and said, Dwight that's just plain mean, you scared him half to death. But she was having a hard time keeping up that frown. Your heart p o u n d e d in your head and* now your ears felt hot, too. You looked down at the floor and backed away from your dad and pushed his hands away when he tried to touch you. But he picked you up anyway and tossed you in the air and caught you when you came down and said, you ain't sore at me, Lenny? Tell me you ain't mad and your ol' dad he'll get you a root beer and a bag of them peanuts, too. Come on, son, come on now, please, he said, letting you go and liolding his hands together in front of him like he was a beggar. Your dad did this kind of stuff all the time. Tricked you. Embarrassed you. Made you look dumb. He didn't mean any harm, you thought. He loved you, you were sure of that, you just didn't trust'him sometimes. He's

They were always drinking. Half-full bottles of Seagrams, of Four-Roses, and lots of empties, too,-were albover the place in the kitchen and living room at home. Theirfavorite place to drink was the Cold Springs Tavern just outside of town, up towards the hills.'They'd head up there every Sunday morning, Saturdays too, except in the winter when there was ice all over the roads. They'd get there just about noon. You'd get in trouble or hurt yourself if they left you alone, your mom said, and your dad nodded, so they put you in the back seat and took you along. Most times U n c l e Roy a n d Aunt Billie and cousin Wesley would be there, too. You liked going there. The first few times anyway. You'd set off the rattlesnake, grinning bigger than a yawn whe"n you pushed the button. You'd ask your, mom for nickels to put in the jukebox (play "Your Cheatin' Heart" will you Lenny) or ydur dad for dimes so you could shoot the*bear. It was some kind of electric ray-gun rifle that shot out a little stream of light, and you had to hit a glass circle about the size of a dime -on the shoulder of black-iron bears that moved in a straight line in front of you. If you hit the circle, the bear roared and stoqd on his hind legs and" fell oyer and another" hundred

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Tell Me You Ain't Mad

points rang up. If you got two. thousand points in a minute, you got a free game. You won one, at least one, every time you went. That's a boy, your dad would say and put his hand on y o u r shoulder, that's a boy. You're a regular dead-eye, son. Hey, Roy, Lenny won him another free game, whadya think of that? he'd holler, and your uncle would raise his beer glass up in the air. T h e n your dad would pat you again, and go back to the. table and kiss your mpm on the neck or jab one of the big-bellied men on the arm and duck down like a boxer and punch away at the air and they'd all start laughing again.

burger and it smelled good sizzling on the grill behind the counter, but when he handed it to you there was watery blood over the plate and the'bun's edges were pink with it, so you pushed it away. What's the matter? your m o m said, and you shook your head and told-her that it was all bloody and she said, silly thafs rfot blood, it's just the juices, go on now'and take a bite. So you closed your eyes arid did and it tasted all wet coppery, like when you cut your finger and sucked the blood off. You almost threw up. Your dad just laughed and messed up your uair and said, that's ok, son, I don't like mine movin' on the plate either.

T h e Cold Springs Tavern, with its wood sides beat all to hell by the weather, had been there in the exact same spot since right after World War I (your dad told you almost every time he got drunk). Inside, thea place was so dark that you couldn't hardly see anything if it weren't for the lights coming out of the jukebox and the bear hunting machine and the electric plastic signs with beer names on them-Acme, Falstaff, Hamms-that hung behind the bar and on the walls and sort of glowed. Some had clocks on them and some had thermometers and others had little lit-up plastic tubes that water bubbled in. But it was still like n i g h t i n s i d e a n d it took you almost a minute, just like in a movie theater, before you could really see anything. Men and women sat at the bar and at the tables tha t filled the. room. T h e y drank and smoked a n d l a u g h e d and all of t h e m , it seemed, knew your dad. Hi, Dwight. Dwight, you old dog! C o m e on over h e r e , D w i g h t . W h a t c h a d r i n k i n , Dwight ? D w i g h t , you a n d E d n a park it h e r e with us for a while. Sometimes the men would stand up and nod and hitch their belts and shake hands with your dad or the women would say something about his shoulders ahd your mom would say, look all you want, but no one touches 'em but .me, ain't that right sweetie? and they'd- all laugh and say, that's right, you tell 'em, Edna.

You couldn't stay inside very long because of all the smoke that made you cough and burned your eyes. So you set off the rattlesnake a few times and shot the bear and drank a Nehi Grape and then headed outside, out behind' the tavern where' there was a creek you never found the end of, and your mom called out over her shoulder, you be careful now, Lenny, you* hear me? Wesley, why don't you go with him and make^sure he don't wander' too far. Cousin Wesley, was two years older and a lot bigger, but he was really dumb and you didn'f understand exactly why your-mom felt that you'd be safer with him around.

That's how you r e m e m b e r t h e tavern. A sour-smelling, happy sort of place. T h e first time you went there, the snaketrick time, your mom said, you hungry, Lenny, has your tummy settled down yet? And she told Mel in the back to fry up a ham-

You always wore your P.F. Flyers with the bottoms like rubber suction cups so you could move up the creek by humping along the rocks to the spot a few hundred feet upstream where the water branched off into three deep, shaded pools with huge boulders like walls all around them. You knew you could stay there until you heard your mom call, Lenny, time to go, come on back here. Time to go. You loved catching frogs, some green like leaves some almost-black, and all of them rubbery and slick. You'd catch t h e m and giggle when they'd wiggle and croak and pop'their eyes out like they were plugged into something a n d you'd make faces back at t h e m and move them through the water while you made speedboat noises and then toss them back in. O n e Sunday you saw a raccoon and he saw you, too, and the two of you just sat staring at each other for minutes. T h e n you started to stand up, real slow like your dad had said to, and the raccoon turned and trotted back into the

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Tell Me You Ain't Mad

points rang up. If you got two. thousand points in a minute, you got a free game. You won one, at least one, every time you went. That's a boy, your dad would say and put his hand on y o u r shoulder, that's a boy. You're a regular dead-eye, son. Hey, Roy, Lenny won him another free game, whadya think of that? he'd holler, and your uncle would raise his beer glass up in the air. T h e n your dad would pat you again, and go back to the. table and kiss your mpm on the neck or jab one of the big-bellied men on the arm and duck down like a boxer and punch away at the air and they'd all start laughing again.

burger and it smelled good sizzling on the grill behind the counter, but when he handed it to you there was watery blood over the plate and the'bun's edges were pink with it, so you pushed it away. What's the matter? your m o m said, and you shook your head and told-her that it was all bloody and she said, silly thafs rfot blood, it's just the juices, go on now'and take a bite. So you closed your eyes arid did and it tasted all wet coppery, like when you cut your finger and sucked the blood off. You almost threw up. Your dad just laughed and messed up your uair and said, that's ok, son, I don't like mine movin' on the plate either.

T h e Cold Springs Tavern, with its wood sides beat all to hell by the weather, had been there in the exact same spot since right after World War I (your dad told you almost every time he got drunk). Inside, thea place was so dark that you couldn't hardly see anything if it weren't for the lights coming out of the jukebox and the bear hunting machine and the electric plastic signs with beer names on them-Acme, Falstaff, Hamms-that hung behind the bar and on the walls and sort of glowed. Some had clocks on them and some had thermometers and others had little lit-up plastic tubes that water bubbled in. But it was still like n i g h t i n s i d e a n d it took you almost a minute, just like in a movie theater, before you could really see anything. Men and women sat at the bar and at the tables tha t filled the. room. T h e y drank and smoked a n d l a u g h e d and all of t h e m , it seemed, knew your dad. Hi, Dwight. Dwight, you old dog! C o m e on over h e r e , D w i g h t . W h a t c h a d r i n k i n , Dwight ? D w i g h t , you a n d E d n a park it h e r e with us for a while. Sometimes the men would stand up and nod and hitch their belts and shake hands with your dad or the women would say something about his shoulders ahd your mom would say, look all you want, but no one touches 'em but .me, ain't that right sweetie? and they'd- all laugh and say, that's right, you tell 'em, Edna.

You couldn't stay inside very long because of all the smoke that made you cough and burned your eyes. So you set off the rattlesnake a few times and shot the bear and drank a Nehi Grape and then headed outside, out behind' the tavern where' there was a creek you never found the end of, and your mom called out over her shoulder, you be careful now, Lenny, you* hear me? Wesley, why don't you go with him and make^sure he don't wander' too far. Cousin Wesley, was two years older and a lot bigger, but he was really dumb and you didn'f understand exactly why your-mom felt that you'd be safer with him around.

That's how you r e m e m b e r t h e tavern. A sour-smelling, happy sort of place. T h e first time you went there, the snaketrick time, your mom said, you hungry, Lenny, has your tummy settled down yet? And she told Mel in the back to fry up a ham-

You always wore your P.F. Flyers with the bottoms like rubber suction cups so you could move up the creek by humping along the rocks to the spot a few hundred feet upstream where the water branched off into three deep, shaded pools with huge boulders like walls all around them. You knew you could stay there until you heard your mom call, Lenny, time to go, come on back here. Time to go. You loved catching frogs, some green like leaves some almost-black, and all of them rubbery and slick. You'd catch t h e m and giggle when they'd wiggle and croak and pop'their eyes out like they were plugged into something a n d you'd make faces back at t h e m and move them through the water while you made speedboat noises and then toss them back in. O n e Sunday you saw a raccoon and he saw you, too, and the two of you just sat staring at each other for minutes. T h e n you started to stand up, real slow like your dad had said to, and the raccoon turned and trotted back into the

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Tell Me You Ain't Mad

woods. It was on that same day, the raccoon Sunday, that Wesley wandered down to your spot How you doin' Len? he said and you said, fine, caught me two frogs already and he said, well, I'm gonna mash me one, I hate them things.- T h e n he picked up a big rock and started walking around, moving his head slowly from side to side like some giant lizard in one of those stupid Japanese horror movies. You said, why do you want to do that? They don't hurt you none, you'd better not, Wesley, I mean it, you'd better not. But he just laughed and kept walking around the pool tossing the rock from one hand to the other. After a minute or so he stopped and his eyes closed halfway and his tongue slid out Šf the corner of his mouth. A few feet from where he stood sat a little yellow-green frog in a narrow strip of s u n l i g h t , its c h e s t puffing in a n d o u t t h e way t h e y do. Goddammit, don't Wesley, don't you dare, you craphead, but he didn't even look up, he just dropped the rock on the frog. Thunk. You ran straight at him and he turned and just started to open his mouth when you landed on him punching as hard and fast as you could, pounding his face and throat and screaming and crying, you bastard, you goddammned dumb stupid sonofabitch craphead. Your fists weren't very big, but you hit him so many times that blood squirted out his nose and it got all foamy red on his teeth and he didn't even try to hit you back, he just covered up his face. Finally, he threw you off onto the muddy bank and started running back to the tavern crying Dad! Dad!

dad grabbed his wrist Didn't do anything else, just grabbed it and held it, held it hard. You could tell because the skin around your dad's knuckles was almost white and his hand and Roy's wrist were shaking like mad. Leggo my arm, Dwight, goddamn you're hurtin' it, Roy said, but your dad just held on and the muscles in his arm looked ready to explode. T h e n he pulled your uncle toward him until their faces almost touched. Roy, you touch my boy again, ever, and I'll break your God damn arm. I swear. I'll break it like a piece of lattice right between your wrist and your elbow. Don't you think for minute I won't, you hear? You were close enough to touch them, you remember clear as if it all happened an hpur ago, and you still could barely hear your dad's voice. Then he nodded, just one time, and Roy looked down at the ground and your dad let go of his wrist and Roy started rubbing it. Didn't mean no harm, Dwight, just thought the boy needed a lesson, that's all, he said and turned back toward ..the tavern. Your dad's chest was moving in and out, fast like a frog's,'as he watched your uncle walk off. Then he looked down at you and ran his hand across your face where Roy had slapped it. Looks like you'll live, he said. He took a deep breath and held it a while before letting it out long and slow. C o m e on, son, let's-go,down by the creek a while and sit, you and me. You reached'up and grabbed his arm with both of your hands and you still remember how hot the skin felt.

You got up and took off after him, but you slipped'all over the place and fell and by the time you goHo the grass behind the tavern Uncle Roy and y o u r dad were walking toward the creek and Aunt Billie was back aways, wiping Wesley's face with a Kleenex while he blubbered and pointed down toward you, yelling over and over, I didn't do nothin'. Uncle Roy walked right toward you. fust what in Holy Hell do you think you're doin'? he screamed, and when he,was right in front of you he slapped you hard right on the face, so hard it made your eyes water and you almost fell over and your face felt like it was on fire. He started to pull his hand back to hit you again when your

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Tell Me You Ain't Mad

woods. It was on that same day, the raccoon Sunday, that Wesley wandered down to your spot How you doin' Len? he said and you said, fine, caught me two frogs already and he said, well, I'm gonna mash me one, I hate them things.- T h e n he picked up a big rock and started walking around, moving his head slowly from side to side like some giant lizard in one of those stupid Japanese horror movies. You said, why do you want to do that? They don't hurt you none, you'd better not, Wesley, I mean it, you'd better not. But he just laughed and kept walking around the pool tossing the rock from one hand to the other. After a minute or so he stopped and his eyes closed halfway and his tongue slid out Šf the corner of his mouth. A few feet from where he stood sat a little yellow-green frog in a narrow strip of s u n l i g h t , its c h e s t puffing in a n d o u t t h e way t h e y do. Goddammit, don't Wesley, don't you dare, you craphead, but he didn't even look up, he just dropped the rock on the frog. Thunk. You ran straight at him and he turned and just started to open his mouth when you landed on him punching as hard and fast as you could, pounding his face and throat and screaming and crying, you bastard, you goddammned dumb stupid sonofabitch craphead. Your fists weren't very big, but you hit him so many times that blood squirted out his nose and it got all foamy red on his teeth and he didn't even try to hit you back, he just covered up his face. Finally, he threw you off onto the muddy bank and started running back to the tavern crying Dad! Dad!

dad grabbed his wrist Didn't do anything else, just grabbed it and held it, held it hard. You could tell because the skin around your dad's knuckles was almost white and his hand and Roy's wrist were shaking like mad. Leggo my arm, Dwight, goddamn you're hurtin' it, Roy said, but your dad just held on and the muscles in his arm looked ready to explode. T h e n he pulled your uncle toward him until their faces almost touched. Roy, you touch my boy again, ever, and I'll break your God damn arm. I swear. I'll break it like a piece of lattice right between your wrist and your elbow. Don't you think for minute I won't, you hear? You were close enough to touch them, you remember clear as if it all happened an hpur ago, and you still could barely hear your dad's voice. Then he nodded, just one time, and Roy looked down at the ground and your dad let go of his wrist and Roy started rubbing it. Didn't mean no harm, Dwight, just thought the boy needed a lesson, that's all, he said and turned back toward ..the tavern. Your dad's chest was moving in and out, fast like a frog's,'as he watched your uncle walk off. Then he looked down at you and ran his hand across your face where Roy had slapped it. Looks like you'll live, he said. He took a deep breath and held it a while before letting it out long and slow. C o m e on, son, let's-go,down by the creek a while and sit, you and me. You reached'up and grabbed his arm with both of your hands and you still remember how hot the skin felt.

You got up and took off after him, but you slipped'all over the place and fell and by the time you goHo the grass behind the tavern Uncle Roy and y o u r dad were walking toward the creek and Aunt Billie was back aways, wiping Wesley's face with a Kleenex while he blubbered and pointed down toward you, yelling over and over, I didn't do nothin'. Uncle Roy walked right toward you. fust what in Holy Hell do you think you're doin'? he screamed, and when he,was right in front of you he slapped you hard right on the face, so hard it made your eyes water and you almost fell over and your face felt like it was on fire. He started to pull his hand back to hit you again when your

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Feasts of some pond; became apelike, erect, gained reason (to distinguish him from other, less erect species — a disputable fact), became MAN-like (whilst retaining many simian traits), developed diseases, vaccines, irrational fears, psychoanalysis, sent apes to space, then MAN, quit smoking, installed air-bags in cars, ate lots of bran, and still died. Now, clean-shaven gorillas miss the Cold War, Coke in bottles, milk m bottles, war w,ith honor, and many other things^ their orangutan cousins generally don't regard as worth thinking about (so they don't.) Somewhere'between Plato and ; American Gladiators, in a moment of p'eep personal significance, I, Gabriel, happened. T h e Cave

Oscar F u e n t e s

F e a s t s

Surprised to find that he had not been bound or shackled, but had only assumed so, the cave-dweller turned around and rested his sore back against the wall. And now the maker of the shadows was staring at.him, a bloated, red-cheeked face showing annoyance. Tentativery.with a circular motion of his index finger, the shadowmaker asked: "Turn around?" With some difficulty, the cave-dweller stood. He shook his head. Asylum

ASS&gZt*,

With bleary, bloodshot, beat-up eyes, my landlord, Lenny, comes to collect the rent, which I don*t have. Through a-noxious cloud of vodka, a smile makes his leathery face wrinkle up.

here -are many versions of this story, depending on who is tellirjg it and what that person has to gain; You can edit a lot of shit out and despite the missing love, hate, sex, blood, romance, gore, wisdom, backstabbing and other minor details lost either to time or some monk's ulterior ink, it'll still make sense.

"It's* O.K., main!" he says. "Were one big fucking happy family here!"

T

Sort of.

He fgils to see the misery inherent in his assertion. "I'll tell you what, man," he says, his eyes as blue as the morning sky outside is* grey. "I'll give you a week. You've got a week/' "Oh," I lie, "no problem,, Give me a couple of days. In fact, I've got a-gig coming up."

This is the story so far: Once, a very long, long time ago, a scaly MAN crawled out 48

"What you need is a job, man," Lenny says. Hard to argue 49


Feasts of some pond; became apelike, erect, gained reason (to distinguish him from other, less erect species — a disputable fact), became MAN-like (whilst retaining many simian traits), developed diseases, vaccines, irrational fears, psychoanalysis, sent apes to space, then MAN, quit smoking, installed air-bags in cars, ate lots of bran, and still died. Now, clean-shaven gorillas miss the Cold War, Coke in bottles, milk m bottles, war w,ith honor, and many other things^ their orangutan cousins generally don't regard as worth thinking about (so they don't.) Somewhere'between Plato and ; American Gladiators, in a moment of p'eep personal significance, I, Gabriel, happened. T h e Cave

Oscar F u e n t e s

F e a s t s

Surprised to find that he had not been bound or shackled, but had only assumed so, the cave-dweller turned around and rested his sore back against the wall. And now the maker of the shadows was staring at.him, a bloated, red-cheeked face showing annoyance. Tentativery.with a circular motion of his index finger, the shadowmaker asked: "Turn around?" With some difficulty, the cave-dweller stood. He shook his head. Asylum

ASS&gZt*,

With bleary, bloodshot, beat-up eyes, my landlord, Lenny, comes to collect the rent, which I don*t have. Through a-noxious cloud of vodka, a smile makes his leathery face wrinkle up.

here -are many versions of this story, depending on who is tellirjg it and what that person has to gain; You can edit a lot of shit out and despite the missing love, hate, sex, blood, romance, gore, wisdom, backstabbing and other minor details lost either to time or some monk's ulterior ink, it'll still make sense.

"It's* O.K., main!" he says. "Were one big fucking happy family here!"

T

Sort of.

He fgils to see the misery inherent in his assertion. "I'll tell you what, man," he says, his eyes as blue as the morning sky outside is* grey. "I'll give you a week. You've got a week/' "Oh," I lie, "no problem,, Give me a couple of days. In fact, I've got a-gig coming up."

This is the story so far: Once, a very long, long time ago, a scaly MAN crawled out 48

"What you need is a job, man," Lenny says. Hard to argue 49


Berkeley Fiction Review

Feasts

with-that logic. "See, you've got your eggs in too many baskets, Gabe. I mean," he continues, head moving from side*to side, "you're a musician, you're a writer, you're...well, what are you?"

I think about this seriously.."Well, it's only Costa Mesa. In any case, you should liken it to Sarajevo. It would be modern of you." Lenny looks at me funny and heads for the stairs. T h e termite-ridden terrace groans under our weight. "Anyway," he,says, "we'll take care of ya, man!"

"Well," I say, "neither, according to some." He laughs, a merry cackle filtered through too many cigarettes. "I'll work with ya, man!" He nods. "Jesus H!" he cries, taking one look into my living room. There are clothes strewn about, hiding the newspapers which hide the notebooks which hide the stained rug (which, I fear, will cost me my deposit). Lenny says, "You bury a body in here?" "Of course," I say. "Now I'm gonna have to kill you too." He turns to me, a paternal tiand on my shoulder, looking like a gentle u n c l e who might m o o n l i g h t in cheesy Vegas lounges. "I was worryin', man. Wondering how you were getting along without your woman and all." -A sharp nod assesses me. "You look sick." I picture the face in the mirror, in the morning, staring back at me. I almost laugh. "Well, I haven't been feeling too hot, lately. To be honest. T h e mean reds, you know?" "What?" "It's like the blues...only worse." Lenny comes intoxicatingly closer. "Don't fucking brood about it, man! I mean, there's worse things than your woman leaving ya!" He guides me to the door and a panoramic.view of the complex; a driveway snakes in from the street, flanked by the apartments, shrouded in shrubbery. M y o w n second story cave is partially shielded from the factories and mini-malls and cement by a two story tree which sheds about a million purple, pinky-finger-sized flowers a day. I don't know the name of the tree, t>ut I do know how those little purple flower's stick to the bottom of your shoe and stain your rug. "Look!" Lenny says, pointing meaningfully beyond the complex. I look. By the pool, a black cat is stalking a fat duck who is floating peacefully on the water, unaware of the danger. "It's turning into fucking Beirut out there, Gabe."

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My Neighbor Hates Women "Your w o m a n left you?" Bob, my neighbor, asks. " T h e bitch." I smile, uncomfortably. I want to hit him, even though he's a pretty nice guy and, on top of that, my neighbor. And he has asked me up for food, a rare treat. So I smile as Bob runs his hand through his hair, long like rnine but blond and short on top, so short it sticks straight up, stiff, punkish. All in all, the kind of haircut given by bitter, drunken relatives. "What happened?" I blink, shrug. "I'm not sure." "She's screwing somebody else." "I...no. I don't think so." Bob sits up on the couch and slaps his own knees. "You just changed, then," he says. "Shit! I need a beer. Got any beer at your pad?" I shake my head,. "I feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me," I say, and feel pathetic. "I don't know which way is up, really." "That's O.K.," Bob3says, heading for the kitchen. "I've still got a couple of brews." His apartment, I notice, is exactly like mine, except that it is clutter-free. Sports trophies, a pair of skis, and a photo of Bob skiing adorn one wall, a sleek, black, modern entertainment center another. A fat, dead, stuffed duck sits inside the chimney. "Change is good, bro!" Bob says, coming back. He hands me a beer. "People, they don't wanna change, Gabe. They resist

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with-that logic. "See, you've got your eggs in too many baskets, Gabe. I mean," he continues, head moving from side*to side, "you're a musician, you're a writer, you're...well, what are you?"

I think about this seriously.."Well, it's only Costa Mesa. In any case, you should liken it to Sarajevo. It would be modern of you." Lenny looks at me funny and heads for the stairs. T h e termite-ridden terrace groans under our weight. "Anyway," he,says, "we'll take care of ya, man!"

"Well," I say, "neither, according to some." He laughs, a merry cackle filtered through too many cigarettes. "I'll work with ya, man!" He nods. "Jesus H!" he cries, taking one look into my living room. There are clothes strewn about, hiding the newspapers which hide the notebooks which hide the stained rug (which, I fear, will cost me my deposit). Lenny says, "You bury a body in here?" "Of course," I say. "Now I'm gonna have to kill you too." He turns to me, a paternal tiand on my shoulder, looking like a gentle u n c l e who might m o o n l i g h t in cheesy Vegas lounges. "I was worryin', man. Wondering how you were getting along without your woman and all." -A sharp nod assesses me. "You look sick." I picture the face in the mirror, in the morning, staring back at me. I almost laugh. "Well, I haven't been feeling too hot, lately. To be honest. T h e mean reds, you know?" "What?" "It's like the blues...only worse." Lenny comes intoxicatingly closer. "Don't fucking brood about it, man! I mean, there's worse things than your woman leaving ya!" He guides me to the door and a panoramic.view of the complex; a driveway snakes in from the street, flanked by the apartments, shrouded in shrubbery. M y o w n second story cave is partially shielded from the factories and mini-malls and cement by a two story tree which sheds about a million purple, pinky-finger-sized flowers a day. I don't know the name of the tree, t>ut I do know how those little purple flower's stick to the bottom of your shoe and stain your rug. "Look!" Lenny says, pointing meaningfully beyond the complex. I look. By the pool, a black cat is stalking a fat duck who is floating peacefully on the water, unaware of the danger. "It's turning into fucking Beirut out there, Gabe."

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My Neighbor Hates Women "Your w o m a n left you?" Bob, my neighbor, asks. " T h e bitch." I smile, uncomfortably. I want to hit him, even though he's a pretty nice guy and, on top of that, my neighbor. And he has asked me up for food, a rare treat. So I smile as Bob runs his hand through his hair, long like rnine but blond and short on top, so short it sticks straight up, stiff, punkish. All in all, the kind of haircut given by bitter, drunken relatives. "What happened?" I blink, shrug. "I'm not sure." "She's screwing somebody else." "I...no. I don't think so." Bob sits up on the couch and slaps his own knees. "You just changed, then," he says. "Shit! I need a beer. Got any beer at your pad?" I shake my head,. "I feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me," I say, and feel pathetic. "I don't know which way is up, really." "That's O.K.," Bob3says, heading for the kitchen. "I've still got a couple of brews." His apartment, I notice, is exactly like mine, except that it is clutter-free. Sports trophies, a pair of skis, and a photo of Bob skiing adorn one wall, a sleek, black, modern entertainment center another. A fat, dead, stuffed duck sits inside the chimney. "Change is good, bro!" Bob says, coming back. He hands me a beer. "People, they don't wanna change, Gabe. They resist

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Berkeley Fiction Review change. But how else they gonna learn anything?" 1 want to ask him about the duck in the chimney. "Now, personally," he continues, "I hate women. I think they're all fucking insane..." At that moment a woman, whom I gather Bob must hate, appears from the bedroom, wearing a purple bathrobe and a look which says she stayed up way too late. Bob smiles, unconvincingly. "Gabe, this is my girlfriend." "Camille," she growls at him. "Pleasure," I say. "Bob s told me a lot about you." "I bet." Bob plops down on him. "Beast," she says, pers something in her widen. She giggles and

the couch and pulls Camille down with and takes the beer from him. Bob whisear, looking at me, and Camille's eyes they both look at me.

I still want to ask Bob about the duck in the chimney. Symposium On my living room floor great minds have gathered. "He is the eldest of Gods," Socrates says. Miles Davis interrupts, "I get so sick about it, man, I can't even pick up my horn." I tried to join in, earlier, b ut was silenced by some nasty looks. So I sulked off to the kitchen with a cup of dark, bitter coffee and an open ear, trying to glean some insight through eavesdropping. "Sometimes, boys," Bukowski says, "you get so lonely it just fucking makes sense " He's cranky that I don't have anything stronger than coffee. "Everyone," Sartre says, "can be free. No?" He's supposed to be cheering me up. " T h e lover," Socrates is intent on proving, "has a nature 52

Feasts more divine and more worthy of worship." T h e comment fails to cut through the masochistic blanket of gloom. Miles hangs his head. Bukowski groans. A derisive laugh from Sartre. T h e whole evening is shot. They Play The Slow Empire Waltz "See our new neighbor?" Bob, my neighbor who hates women, especially Camille, who just left him, is at my door. It is much too early in the morning arid Bob has woken me from a perfectly dreadful nightmare — I am stranded at the top of a beautiful building, a spiralling Ode-to Man-'straight out-of Gaudi. BeloW, the city is completely deserted, inspiring a horrible melancholy in me. I cry and I can't get down because there is no way down. And now Bob is at my door, with beer on his breath and red in his eyes. It occurs to me to ask him what he wants. And there's the question of that duck. But Bob sidesteps m e and settles comfortably on the couch. He and Lenny, it turns out, are forming a band, and he wants pie to dust off my guitar and join them. "You know," he-says, " L e n n y t h e r e , well, h'e's a former Disneyland musician. Hey, got any brews?" "I really should buy some beer," I say, looking at my guitar. It leans dejectedly on the wall, between the tremor cracks and the plastic plant, and it's missing the D string, which I clipped off one night after trying, unsuccessfully, to emulate Andres Segovia. T h e D got it because jt was always out of tune. "Want some coffee?" Bob heads for the door and I realize I'm thinking of the new neighbor, the Granola. I want to fuck her. But her boyfriend is a blond, short-haired Rastafarian who looks mean. He probably hates women. "Fuck!" Bob's foot has just made a rather large hoje on my rotting front terrace. "Better get Lenny over here, man. You've 53


Berkeley Fiction Review change. But how else they gonna learn anything?" 1 want to ask him about the duck in the chimney. "Now, personally," he continues, "I hate women. I think they're all fucking insane..." At that moment a woman, whom I gather Bob must hate, appears from the bedroom, wearing a purple bathrobe and a look which says she stayed up way too late. Bob smiles, unconvincingly. "Gabe, this is my girlfriend." "Camille," she growls at him. "Pleasure," I say. "Bob s told me a lot about you." "I bet." Bob plops down on him. "Beast," she says, pers something in her widen. She giggles and

the couch and pulls Camille down with and takes the beer from him. Bob whisear, looking at me, and Camille's eyes they both look at me.

I still want to ask Bob about the duck in the chimney. Symposium On my living room floor great minds have gathered. "He is the eldest of Gods," Socrates says. Miles Davis interrupts, "I get so sick about it, man, I can't even pick up my horn." I tried to join in, earlier, b ut was silenced by some nasty looks. So I sulked off to the kitchen with a cup of dark, bitter coffee and an open ear, trying to glean some insight through eavesdropping. "Sometimes, boys," Bukowski says, "you get so lonely it just fucking makes sense " He's cranky that I don't have anything stronger than coffee. "Everyone," Sartre says, "can be free. No?" He's supposed to be cheering me up. " T h e lover," Socrates is intent on proving, "has a nature 52

Feasts more divine and more worthy of worship." T h e comment fails to cut through the masochistic blanket of gloom. Miles hangs his head. Bukowski groans. A derisive laugh from Sartre. T h e whole evening is shot. They Play The Slow Empire Waltz "See our new neighbor?" Bob, my neighbor who hates women, especially Camille, who just left him, is at my door. It is much too early in the morning arid Bob has woken me from a perfectly dreadful nightmare — I am stranded at the top of a beautiful building, a spiralling Ode-to Man-'straight out-of Gaudi. BeloW, the city is completely deserted, inspiring a horrible melancholy in me. I cry and I can't get down because there is no way down. And now Bob is at my door, with beer on his breath and red in his eyes. It occurs to me to ask him what he wants. And there's the question of that duck. But Bob sidesteps m e and settles comfortably on the couch. He and Lenny, it turns out, are forming a band, and he wants pie to dust off my guitar and join them. "You know," he-says, " L e n n y t h e r e , well, h'e's a former Disneyland musician. Hey, got any brews?" "I really should buy some beer," I say, looking at my guitar. It leans dejectedly on the wall, between the tremor cracks and the plastic plant, and it's missing the D string, which I clipped off one night after trying, unsuccessfully, to emulate Andres Segovia. T h e D got it because jt was always out of tune. "Want some coffee?" Bob heads for the door and I realize I'm thinking of the new neighbor, the Granola. I want to fuck her. But her boyfriend is a blond, short-haired Rastafarian who looks mean. He probably hates women. "Fuck!" Bob's foot has just made a rather large hoje on my rotting front terrace. "Better get Lenny over here, man. You've 53


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got a mean termite problem. Now, personally, I hate fucking termites!"

Behind her the grey afternoon sky promises sun and rain, but delivers nothing but the in-between.

"I don't know," I whine. "I've been kinda sick and I don't even have a D string, you know?"

"Holly," I say, and feel a smile stretch across my face. "Come in!"

"So get better," Bob sighs, as t h o u g h this should have occurred to m e long ago. "And buy a friggin' D string, babe!"

We kiss, politely. I want to devour her mouth, her smell, her eyes. She shakes her head at the sad sight that is my living room. "Jesus Christ, Gabriel!" she says, walking over to my keyboard. It's an old Oberh'eim and it's gotpersonaliry, battle scars in the. form of five broken keys -hastily Super-Glued back on. Holly plays on two of these and they admit defeat and break *>ff again.

"I'll see. Yeah. All right" "O.K.!" Bob says, pleased we're finally getting somewhere. He starts bounding down the stairs. "And bring your guitar and your D string down on Friday." I look at him blankly and wonder what I've gotten myself into. "To the party, babe!" he says. "We'll all be there!" Lamb I am stumbling out to the parking lot, dizzy because rice only passes as nutrition for a little while. From the door of the Granola wafts Bob Marley and the smell of pot u n d e r the incense. "Don't worry," I sing along, softly, "about a thing..." A sudden rumbling and the door flies open and I Jiear the boyfriend scream: "So what if I fucking did, bitch?" She runs out, barefoot, redhaired, crying, and the door slams shut b e h i n d her as she runs down the stairs. Her eyes are swollen. She looks young and scared. "Are you O.K.?" I ask, idiotically. Don't let the bastard get you down. She nods, curtly, and runs out to- a green Volvo parked out on the street. I realize, a little embarrassed, that I still want to flick her.. Holly Open the door and there she is, divine yet also a dove dropping A-bombs over ponds where cute little unsuspecting ducks bathe in their own shit, and feed on moldy pieces of bread. i

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Holly laughs (lovely). She holds her hand in front of her mouth, as though,to cover the smile,-but her eyes are smiling. Sorry? "Ah, hell," I say, laughing, "who needs an A and an E anyway?" "So it's O.K.?" "It's O.K." I follow her gaze. "Gonna clean my'place?"^ joke. She's sfaying!' "I'm not gonna clean your place, Gabriel. I'm not your mother." With that she plops' familiarly down on the sofa. I try not to stare, but what's the point? She can read my mind and predict my words, my thoughts even, like lovers can after so much time. "I'm writing a song for you," I say. "And I'll finish it someday....I swear." "You know what I'd like to hear,, Gabriel?" she smiles. "My song." She lets her hair down and it is the most beautiful, curly hair I've ever seen. Again. "Of course, you didn't actually write it for me, but...you did dedicate it to me, so it's O.K." "You know you inspired it," I say. "Except I can't play it. I'm missing the D string," I explain. "The song's in D." "Some things never change,"Gabriel." "Well...I could transpose it," I offer, misunderstanding.

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got a mean termite problem. Now, personally, I hate fucking termites!"

Behind her the grey afternoon sky promises sun and rain, but delivers nothing but the in-between.

"I don't know," I whine. "I've been kinda sick and I don't even have a D string, you know?"

"Holly," I say, and feel a smile stretch across my face. "Come in!"

"So get better," Bob sighs, as t h o u g h this should have occurred to m e long ago. "And buy a friggin' D string, babe!"

We kiss, politely. I want to devour her mouth, her smell, her eyes. She shakes her head at the sad sight that is my living room. "Jesus Christ, Gabriel!" she says, walking over to my keyboard. It's an old Oberh'eim and it's gotpersonaliry, battle scars in the. form of five broken keys -hastily Super-Glued back on. Holly plays on two of these and they admit defeat and break *>ff again.

"I'll see. Yeah. All right" "O.K.!" Bob says, pleased we're finally getting somewhere. He starts bounding down the stairs. "And bring your guitar and your D string down on Friday." I look at him blankly and wonder what I've gotten myself into. "To the party, babe!" he says. "We'll all be there!" Lamb I am stumbling out to the parking lot, dizzy because rice only passes as nutrition for a little while. From the door of the Granola wafts Bob Marley and the smell of pot u n d e r the incense. "Don't worry," I sing along, softly, "about a thing..." A sudden rumbling and the door flies open and I Jiear the boyfriend scream: "So what if I fucking did, bitch?" She runs out, barefoot, redhaired, crying, and the door slams shut b e h i n d her as she runs down the stairs. Her eyes are swollen. She looks young and scared. "Are you O.K.?" I ask, idiotically. Don't let the bastard get you down. She nods, curtly, and runs out to- a green Volvo parked out on the street. I realize, a little embarrassed, that I still want to flick her.. Holly Open the door and there she is, divine yet also a dove dropping A-bombs over ponds where cute little unsuspecting ducks bathe in their own shit, and feed on moldy pieces of bread. i

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Holly laughs (lovely). She holds her hand in front of her mouth, as though,to cover the smile,-but her eyes are smiling. Sorry? "Ah, hell," I say, laughing, "who needs an A and an E anyway?" "So it's O.K.?" "It's O.K." I follow her gaze. "Gonna clean my'place?"^ joke. She's sfaying!' "I'm not gonna clean your place, Gabriel. I'm not your mother." With that she plops' familiarly down on the sofa. I try not to stare, but what's the point? She can read my mind and predict my words, my thoughts even, like lovers can after so much time. "I'm writing a song for you," I say. "And I'll finish it someday....I swear." "You know what I'd like to hear,, Gabriel?" she smiles. "My song." She lets her hair down and it is the most beautiful, curly hair I've ever seen. Again. "Of course, you didn't actually write it for me, but...you did dedicate it to me, so it's O.K." "You know you inspired it," I say. "Except I can't play it. I'm missing the D string," I explain. "The song's in D." "Some things never change,"Gabriel." "Well...I could transpose it," I offer, misunderstanding.

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Berkeley Fiction Review "Gabe," she sighs, "I'm going away on a trip." Visions'of t a n n e d Brazilian gigolos swim before my eyes. " B u t I've been...worried about you. Don't look like that, Gabe. It'll be good for us. You'll see! We need to grow apart...individually, from each other." "We need to grow apart from each other?" "Oh, Gabe!" she says, rising. "You know what I mean. You do, don't you?" She opens the door and I want to scream 'don't go!', and let my mind succumb to my already defeated pride. "I guess," she says, "I need to know that you're all right." Her look says pity. "I'm fine," I lie, as best I can, which is not much. "Oh, Holly! I miss you so much!" "I miss you too, Gabe," she says, softly. But the epiphany has come too soon for her. Her eyes avoid mine. Holly is not much into losing control of herself, which is something I admire, in a way. "1 just don't know what's going on with us right now." She leans closer and we kiss. Her lips are warm, moist, and hers, but I still feel cheated. There are moments that don't live up to their history, that are robbed of their dignity by the mundane — the ticking of the clock or the laundry on the floo.r. Holly leaves and I'm left only with my own mess, with the grey creeping in through the blinds and the oppressive silence. "I love you," I tell the door. Treatment Your skin crawls for intimacy, stretches taut over your body then slips off, searching for that curious sympathy of touch. Oppressed by the coming dusk, I grab my notebook and venture outside onto sidewalks crowded by isolated fences. I meet Sid at Kafka's, a coffeehouse hidden behind a hardware store on Nineteenth. Sid heard I "lost it" and so he's worried. "Are you O.K.?" he asks. "I mean, you know you can call me up, anytime, if you need me." "I know."

Feasts Sid seems relieved. "Good " he says, leaning back and assessing our surroundings. We are sitting pear the back by the bookcase from which all,the Kafka books were stolen. On the, wall to our left is a painting of a huge, dark brown cockroach. "You like this place," Sid snorts, looking uncomfortable in his white polo shirt and blue slacks. "Damn artsy-fartsy bunch of socialist kneejerk liberals! Like you, Gabriel!"'' "Deviant perverts, Sid. Boy," I marvel, "you are so American! Still, you'd make a great character in a story,, provided I could round you out. Give you sdme depth, you know?" "You're a dick, Gabriel." "I miss her." Sid nods. "But look at it this way: You're free! You're a Mexican, after all. You're supposed to want to sleep with anything that moves." "Ever the pragmatist, aren't you?" I tap my fingers on the table top with its coffee stains and hastily scribbled bad poetry. "Let's go grab a drink." "I can't," Sid says, cracking up. "Gpt a date." "You are vicious, Sid. Spot me a^twenty." After Sid leaves I Tele'ase my thoughts as aborted scribblings. I'm drawn into conversation with the old Cambodian man who owns the place. "I see much suffering," he tells me. "Many people I see suffering. For their ideas, their...for nothing! My family, my friends...and when I can," he says. "When I can I'd like to send for my family. To come here..." His hands tap the enamel surface of the counter and travel up to His chest, pointedly. "Here." Suddenly his eyes travel past me and to the world outside. I turn and see a bright yellow taxi pull up out front, "the driver unceremoniously helps a legless man out of the cab, depositing him on the curb like some kid who's lost intereshin a toy. T h e people sitting in the patio, like gleeful kids at a circus, pretend not to stare or ogle the skinny, bearded man. "He can'fstay here," the old Cambodian says to me. "Its bad

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Berkeley Fiction Review "Gabe," she sighs, "I'm going away on a trip." Visions'of t a n n e d Brazilian gigolos swim before my eyes. " B u t I've been...worried about you. Don't look like that, Gabe. It'll be good for us. You'll see! We need to grow apart...individually, from each other." "We need to grow apart from each other?" "Oh, Gabe!" she says, rising. "You know what I mean. You do, don't you?" She opens the door and I want to scream 'don't go!', and let my mind succumb to my already defeated pride. "I guess," she says, "I need to know that you're all right." Her look says pity. "I'm fine," I lie, as best I can, which is not much. "Oh, Holly! I miss you so much!" "I miss you too, Gabe," she says, softly. But the epiphany has come too soon for her. Her eyes avoid mine. Holly is not much into losing control of herself, which is something I admire, in a way. "1 just don't know what's going on with us right now." She leans closer and we kiss. Her lips are warm, moist, and hers, but I still feel cheated. There are moments that don't live up to their history, that are robbed of their dignity by the mundane — the ticking of the clock or the laundry on the floo.r. Holly leaves and I'm left only with my own mess, with the grey creeping in through the blinds and the oppressive silence. "I love you," I tell the door. Treatment Your skin crawls for intimacy, stretches taut over your body then slips off, searching for that curious sympathy of touch. Oppressed by the coming dusk, I grab my notebook and venture outside onto sidewalks crowded by isolated fences. I meet Sid at Kafka's, a coffeehouse hidden behind a hardware store on Nineteenth. Sid heard I "lost it" and so he's worried. "Are you O.K.?" he asks. "I mean, you know you can call me up, anytime, if you need me." "I know."

Feasts Sid seems relieved. "Good " he says, leaning back and assessing our surroundings. We are sitting pear the back by the bookcase from which all,the Kafka books were stolen. On the, wall to our left is a painting of a huge, dark brown cockroach. "You like this place," Sid snorts, looking uncomfortable in his white polo shirt and blue slacks. "Damn artsy-fartsy bunch of socialist kneejerk liberals! Like you, Gabriel!"'' "Deviant perverts, Sid. Boy," I marvel, "you are so American! Still, you'd make a great character in a story,, provided I could round you out. Give you sdme depth, you know?" "You're a dick, Gabriel." "I miss her." Sid nods. "But look at it this way: You're free! You're a Mexican, after all. You're supposed to want to sleep with anything that moves." "Ever the pragmatist, aren't you?" I tap my fingers on the table top with its coffee stains and hastily scribbled bad poetry. "Let's go grab a drink." "I can't," Sid says, cracking up. "Gpt a date." "You are vicious, Sid. Spot me a^twenty." After Sid leaves I Tele'ase my thoughts as aborted scribblings. I'm drawn into conversation with the old Cambodian man who owns the place. "I see much suffering," he tells me. "Many people I see suffering. For their ideas, their...for nothing! My family, my friends...and when I can," he says. "When I can I'd like to send for my family. To come here..." His hands tap the enamel surface of the counter and travel up to His chest, pointedly. "Here." Suddenly his eyes travel past me and to the world outside. I turn and see a bright yellow taxi pull up out front, "the driver unceremoniously helps a legless man out of the cab, depositing him on the curb like some kid who's lost intereshin a toy. T h e people sitting in the patio, like gleeful kids at a circus, pretend not to stare or ogle the skinny, bearded man. "He can'fstay here," the old Cambodian says to me. "Its bad

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Berkeley Fiction Review for business." In the warm air, my skin tingles in anticipation as I walk to the liquor1 store to spend Sid's money on all the beer I can ill afford. Honest I Do Fall out of bed and Ah! Is Spring in the air? Bird fugues and counterfugues, sonatas and symphonies, dance through the air. Sympathetic tree branches let them rest weary wings while the sun warms their backs. Birdsongs dissolve into unintelligible cacophony, the sun causes cancer, and merciless winds blow birds onto the fenders of uncaring cars which get blown into the ditch off the 10 freeway. And what about those poor worms? All the fucking notebooks scattered across the floor, filled with thoughts that no longer need to be hidden, have begun to assume the creeping anonymity of their surroundings. These thoughts have nowhere to go and I feel something in me — something central — crack. In a panic I slither to the pen, heavy as a broadsword, and just as deadly. Dearest diary, for you have mutated into one, I think I will give you a name, like Kitty or Minny or something. Who do you want to be? I wish I could find a clean notebook. No offense. Cliches rush through my head in soapbox screaming neon and...they make sense. O n the stereo, even the James Cotton Blues Band sounds too fucking cheery. "Don't you know that I Jove you? Honest I do!" Shut the fuck up.

blue sky and an ambitious, skinny tree branch reaching upward. Illuminated by the sunlight, flecks of dust float peacefully downward, swaying from side to side like angels waltzing. It is a hypnotizing dance,.tempting,me, reminding me of that childhood ability to just let a moment engulf me completely in* its own secret tranquility. In this .reverie, staring up at the ceiling, the window, and the world outside, I notice it. T h e ceiling is high, and it is easy to overlook this web, enshrouding a corner, which has doubled in size since the last time I dusted. T h e spider (I have dubbed her Penelope, or Penny, for short) is at the center of the web, fed or feeding^ and inert. I admire her delicate, intricate patterns and wonder if the web will envelope me, if I let it. If it will trap me. Threads Slip outside and I'm caught in-the sun's glare like an animal. Lenny is walking towards me and I'm reminded thatd've done nothing — nothing ,— aboirtthat "rent" thing, except to drink it. But most of him seems -very far away, and he's forgotten how to walk. "Olga left me," he states. I don't know what to say. I always liked Olga.'She was always watering the shrubbery with a long green hose on sunny days when shrubbery seems full of life. "She went back to Spain." We stand there for a while, saying nothing. "All r i g h t / he says, presently, resigned. "All right," I mimic, and we each unravel towards our destinations. O n the way out for cigarettes and the classified section I pass by the Granola's apartment. I observe shades drawn against the late morning sun, hear stereos and" televisions turned up too loud to drown out arguments and loneliness.

The Web Through the window on the high wall I can finally see the 58

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Berkeley Fiction Review for business." In the warm air, my skin tingles in anticipation as I walk to the liquor1 store to spend Sid's money on all the beer I can ill afford. Honest I Do Fall out of bed and Ah! Is Spring in the air? Bird fugues and counterfugues, sonatas and symphonies, dance through the air. Sympathetic tree branches let them rest weary wings while the sun warms their backs. Birdsongs dissolve into unintelligible cacophony, the sun causes cancer, and merciless winds blow birds onto the fenders of uncaring cars which get blown into the ditch off the 10 freeway. And what about those poor worms? All the fucking notebooks scattered across the floor, filled with thoughts that no longer need to be hidden, have begun to assume the creeping anonymity of their surroundings. These thoughts have nowhere to go and I feel something in me — something central — crack. In a panic I slither to the pen, heavy as a broadsword, and just as deadly. Dearest diary, for you have mutated into one, I think I will give you a name, like Kitty or Minny or something. Who do you want to be? I wish I could find a clean notebook. No offense. Cliches rush through my head in soapbox screaming neon and...they make sense. O n the stereo, even the James Cotton Blues Band sounds too fucking cheery. "Don't you know that I Jove you? Honest I do!" Shut the fuck up.

blue sky and an ambitious, skinny tree branch reaching upward. Illuminated by the sunlight, flecks of dust float peacefully downward, swaying from side to side like angels waltzing. It is a hypnotizing dance,.tempting,me, reminding me of that childhood ability to just let a moment engulf me completely in* its own secret tranquility. In this .reverie, staring up at the ceiling, the window, and the world outside, I notice it. T h e ceiling is high, and it is easy to overlook this web, enshrouding a corner, which has doubled in size since the last time I dusted. T h e spider (I have dubbed her Penelope, or Penny, for short) is at the center of the web, fed or feeding^ and inert. I admire her delicate, intricate patterns and wonder if the web will envelope me, if I let it. If it will trap me. Threads Slip outside and I'm caught in-the sun's glare like an animal. Lenny is walking towards me and I'm reminded thatd've done nothing — nothing ,— aboirtthat "rent" thing, except to drink it. But most of him seems -very far away, and he's forgotten how to walk. "Olga left me," he states. I don't know what to say. I always liked Olga.'She was always watering the shrubbery with a long green hose on sunny days when shrubbery seems full of life. "She went back to Spain." We stand there for a while, saying nothing. "All r i g h t / he says, presently, resigned. "All right," I mimic, and we each unravel towards our destinations. O n the way out for cigarettes and the classified section I pass by the Granola's apartment. I observe shades drawn against the late morning sun, hear stereos and" televisions turned up too loud to drown out arguments and loneliness.

The Web Through the window on the high wall I can finally see the 58

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Berkeley Fiction Review Bared Sunbathing after noon, Nina, an aging stripper, winks at me as I pass the pool". It doesn't turn me on. "Hey, Gabriel," she says, "will we see you at the party?" Her tone seems desperate. She has varicose veins and her short-cropped hair is dyed a taxi cab yellow. Her eyes are light blue, almost white, and they fail to hide disappointment. Smiling vaguely, I give her the thumbs up sign and go on upstairs to my cave, yielding to its umbilical pull. I open the door and the first sight that greets me is the huge Budweiser sticker which adorns the door of the incredibly ugly, faded yellow refrigerator Lenny loaned me, disregarding the fact that I have no food to put in it. I can't keep the disappointment off my face, b ut Lenny is taking care of me, like he promised. So I put the cereal, milk, and cheap, watery American beer in the fridge, then pace, alternately staring at the neglected guitar, at the classifieds section lying on the floor, and the picture of Holly on the wall. F r u s t r a t e d , I draw my shades against the l e e r i n g s u n . Through my peephole I watch the faces gathering poolside and at once they, too, become anonymous, faceless. Work is over and their gestures are too grand, if tired; they wave and flap their arms through the air as though to ward off spirits or to affirm, at least to themselves, that they are still alive; their voices rise competitively and speak only of what is not wrong. They will all be there, at week's end, at the party. Up close, I wonder, will my own arms swing about, will my:voice be too loud?

Feasts which, of course, means we keep turning up. An hour ago, we were ready to kill each other. Jeff keeps smoking too many cigarettes between songs and his voice is cracking. His guitar is going out of tune and it's good that he wears those Sunglasses when we play or .he'd scare the audience. Otto is pjssed off because he sold his good sax, the alto, and he's stuck with this tenor sax that sounds like it was abused by some high school marching band, which, as it turns out, it was. So he keeps turning to us, telling us in his heavy Austrian accent (like mine, it surfaces under stress) to "stop making all these fucking mistakes! Moron's!" I try to stop making all these fucking mistakes but sometimes my fingers catch in the holes where the keys sho'uld be. But then something happens. T h a t i s , we get lost in the music, in the trance, and we Forget we're supposed to hate each other. We are almost "painfully aware of each' other's presence, and of the fact that it's the music 'that has prevented many a broken nose. And just then, I look up and notice Holly3, sitting alone at a table near the back. We get d o n e with Miles' "So What?" and the audience applauds, reluctantly,.and falls to quiet, hushed tones. I approach Holly and get a terrible feeling that something is going to happen. I don't know if it's good or bad, and that only makes it worse. Still, Holly's nearness makes me forget it all quickly enough. "And how," I say, taking her hand, "is my Irish rose?" It's corny but she smiles and motions for me to take a seat I do so, kissing, her hand."You look tired, Gabe."

Equinox

I run a hand through my hair.'"It's been a really, really long day," I say. "Still, it's nice to see you."

We are playing- at Kafka's, me and Jeff and Otto. T h e audience, perhaps sensing that we haven't practiced or even spoken to each other for over a month, is in a playfully competitive mood; their voices rise in mob hysteria every time we turn up

"Well...I'm leaving tomorrow, for my trip," she says. "So I thought I'd come over and say goodbye."

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"Goodbye?" I say, chuckling nervously. "You're not leaving


Berkeley Fiction Review Bared Sunbathing after noon, Nina, an aging stripper, winks at me as I pass the pool". It doesn't turn me on. "Hey, Gabriel," she says, "will we see you at the party?" Her tone seems desperate. She has varicose veins and her short-cropped hair is dyed a taxi cab yellow. Her eyes are light blue, almost white, and they fail to hide disappointment. Smiling vaguely, I give her the thumbs up sign and go on upstairs to my cave, yielding to its umbilical pull. I open the door and the first sight that greets me is the huge Budweiser sticker which adorns the door of the incredibly ugly, faded yellow refrigerator Lenny loaned me, disregarding the fact that I have no food to put in it. I can't keep the disappointment off my face, b ut Lenny is taking care of me, like he promised. So I put the cereal, milk, and cheap, watery American beer in the fridge, then pace, alternately staring at the neglected guitar, at the classifieds section lying on the floor, and the picture of Holly on the wall. F r u s t r a t e d , I draw my shades against the l e e r i n g s u n . Through my peephole I watch the faces gathering poolside and at once they, too, become anonymous, faceless. Work is over and their gestures are too grand, if tired; they wave and flap their arms through the air as though to ward off spirits or to affirm, at least to themselves, that they are still alive; their voices rise competitively and speak only of what is not wrong. They will all be there, at week's end, at the party. Up close, I wonder, will my own arms swing about, will my:voice be too loud?

Feasts which, of course, means we keep turning up. An hour ago, we were ready to kill each other. Jeff keeps smoking too many cigarettes between songs and his voice is cracking. His guitar is going out of tune and it's good that he wears those Sunglasses when we play or .he'd scare the audience. Otto is pjssed off because he sold his good sax, the alto, and he's stuck with this tenor sax that sounds like it was abused by some high school marching band, which, as it turns out, it was. So he keeps turning to us, telling us in his heavy Austrian accent (like mine, it surfaces under stress) to "stop making all these fucking mistakes! Moron's!" I try to stop making all these fucking mistakes but sometimes my fingers catch in the holes where the keys sho'uld be. But then something happens. T h a t i s , we get lost in the music, in the trance, and we Forget we're supposed to hate each other. We are almost "painfully aware of each' other's presence, and of the fact that it's the music 'that has prevented many a broken nose. And just then, I look up and notice Holly3, sitting alone at a table near the back. We get d o n e with Miles' "So What?" and the audience applauds, reluctantly,.and falls to quiet, hushed tones. I approach Holly and get a terrible feeling that something is going to happen. I don't know if it's good or bad, and that only makes it worse. Still, Holly's nearness makes me forget it all quickly enough. "And how," I say, taking her hand, "is my Irish rose?" It's corny but she smiles and motions for me to take a seat I do so, kissing, her hand."You look tired, Gabe."

Equinox

I run a hand through my hair.'"It's been a really, really long day," I say. "Still, it's nice to see you."

We are playing- at Kafka's, me and Jeff and Otto. T h e audience, perhaps sensing that we haven't practiced or even spoken to each other for over a month, is in a playfully competitive mood; their voices rise in mob hysteria every time we turn up

"Well...I'm leaving tomorrow, for my trip," she says. "So I thought I'd come over and say goodbye."

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"Goodbye?" I say, chuckling nervously. "You're not leaving


Feasts

Berkeley Fiction Review for good, are you?" I picture my hand tracing the curved outline of her back. I used to lie awake, some nights, just watching her while she slept. "Oh," she says, "I'll be back." She looks down and sees her coffee cup is empty. "How are things, Gabe?"

cute, pathetically so, labrador puppy wags its-tail at her and she, picturing the sensitive loner, leans-closer, breasts warm and sensuous on my forearm. I feel her hippies stiffen through the fabric. "I thought you were a poet," says she. "You look like a poet." "Should I sit at the end of the bar, then?"

Her tone is guarded. -I wonder what answer she wants to hear.

She doesn't'get it, as the perfectly vacant look she.gives me explains. Still, she is pretty, so I buy us both some Drambuie.

"Let's go down to 'Durty Molly's'," I suggest. "I could go for a Guinness or few."

"What the fuck is in this?" she cries, eyes filling up' with revulsed tears. "Gasoline?"

"I can't," she says, shakes her head. "How are you, Gabe?" "I have mean termites," I say, "and my neighbor keeps a dead duck inside his chimney. Does that answer your question?" She nods, thanking me with her eyes. I start to wonder if it really is better this way, without the raw, naked emotions, without the collisions. Without resolution. But then Hollv is rising, once more, to leave. Leaning over, she touches my face and kisses me, briefly. I don't move. "I'll see you," Holly says. "Yeah." I don't need to say anything else. She knows. It's going to be a long, long night. Napkin At 'Durty Molly's' the band plays "Waltzing Mathilda" while the Guinness nurses me back from my dulled state of nerves. A pretty girl with a short black skirt and knee-high white stockings looks at me and smiles. She has long, black hair which'is very straight, and big, expressive, brown eyes.

"You were supposed to sip it," I explain. "Another?" She looks at me. "Are you from Ireland?" "Worse," I say. "Mexico." "Well," she says, "you look Irish! Dark hair, pale skin...and you have an accent!" "The Mexicans are the Irish of North America," I proclaim. After all, she's intent on proving I'm not who I say I am. "Canadians, of course, are the Scottish," I continue. "And obviously America is the Imperial power, right? Like father, like son. But...what about Wales?" She looks at me like I've lost my mind. "Maybe our own California?" I muse. But then I shut up cause the girl, Heather-from-Detroit, wants me to spend the money I should be saving for rent on some Jose Cuervo. So I buy its'both some more Drambuie. Substitute

She wants to know-what I'm writing about. Conversation from the bar drifts over, surreal.

Erotic groping and fumbling turns erratic, then Jiigh camp. We stumble over the piles of books, over each other, as we fall to the bed. I dim the light by throwing my .shirt over the lamp. Heather-from-Detroit wants me to turn it off altogether.

"I hope you like dogs",an Englishman is telling some poor American girl, "cause my dog is my best "friend."-

Have I spent the whole night trying to find something that reminded me of her?'

I grab another napkin and quickly draw a picture of a dog; a 62

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Feasts

Berkeley Fiction Review for good, are you?" I picture my hand tracing the curved outline of her back. I used to lie awake, some nights, just watching her while she slept. "Oh," she says, "I'll be back." She looks down and sees her coffee cup is empty. "How are things, Gabe?"

cute, pathetically so, labrador puppy wags its-tail at her and she, picturing the sensitive loner, leans-closer, breasts warm and sensuous on my forearm. I feel her hippies stiffen through the fabric. "I thought you were a poet," says she. "You look like a poet." "Should I sit at the end of the bar, then?"

Her tone is guarded. -I wonder what answer she wants to hear.

She doesn't'get it, as the perfectly vacant look she.gives me explains. Still, she is pretty, so I buy us both some Drambuie.

"Let's go down to 'Durty Molly's'," I suggest. "I could go for a Guinness or few."

"What the fuck is in this?" she cries, eyes filling up' with revulsed tears. "Gasoline?"

"I can't," she says, shakes her head. "How are you, Gabe?" "I have mean termites," I say, "and my neighbor keeps a dead duck inside his chimney. Does that answer your question?" She nods, thanking me with her eyes. I start to wonder if it really is better this way, without the raw, naked emotions, without the collisions. Without resolution. But then Hollv is rising, once more, to leave. Leaning over, she touches my face and kisses me, briefly. I don't move. "I'll see you," Holly says. "Yeah." I don't need to say anything else. She knows. It's going to be a long, long night. Napkin At 'Durty Molly's' the band plays "Waltzing Mathilda" while the Guinness nurses me back from my dulled state of nerves. A pretty girl with a short black skirt and knee-high white stockings looks at me and smiles. She has long, black hair which'is very straight, and big, expressive, brown eyes.

"You were supposed to sip it," I explain. "Another?" She looks at me. "Are you from Ireland?" "Worse," I say. "Mexico." "Well," she says, "you look Irish! Dark hair, pale skin...and you have an accent!" "The Mexicans are the Irish of North America," I proclaim. After all, she's intent on proving I'm not who I say I am. "Canadians, of course, are the Scottish," I continue. "And obviously America is the Imperial power, right? Like father, like son. But...what about Wales?" She looks at me like I've lost my mind. "Maybe our own California?" I muse. But then I shut up cause the girl, Heather-from-Detroit, wants me to spend the money I should be saving for rent on some Jose Cuervo. So I buy its'both some more Drambuie. Substitute

She wants to know-what I'm writing about. Conversation from the bar drifts over, surreal.

Erotic groping and fumbling turns erratic, then Jiigh camp. We stumble over the piles of books, over each other, as we fall to the bed. I dim the light by throwing my .shirt over the lamp. Heather-from-Detroit wants me to turn it off altogether.

"I hope you like dogs",an Englishman is telling some poor American girl, "cause my dog is my best "friend."-

Have I spent the whole night trying to find something that reminded me of her?'

I grab another napkin and quickly draw a picture of a dog; a 62

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Feasts sweet time to accept this.

I switch the Jight off. My lips keep missing hers. My hands are too eager, impatient, as though searching for their own revelation. I whisper her name. She stops cold, her eyes widening. "My name isn't Heather." There is nothing I can say to this, but then her hand covers her mouth and she pushes me off of her and I realize, as she stumbles to'the bathroom, that her overriding concern is of a much more physical nature. "It was that fucking snake oil you gave me," she yells from the b a t h r o o m , p r o c e e d i ng to curse m e , the Scottish, a n d Mexico. She comes back and color has deserted her cheeks and she doesn't feel well at all and wants to go home. And it's all fine because I want to go home too. Love, T h e God I keep following the voices. They seem, always, just around the corner, as I walk down another dark, lonely aisle. There are rows upon rows, and the occasional leather bound tome looks obscenely lonely, neglected, on those mostly deserted shelves. T h e voices, hushed yet jubilant and warm, keep taunting me, teasing. But then I see him, at the far end of an aisle. His back is to me and with the scant light I can't make him out. He disappears around the corner and I realize I am dreaming and am glad. I am awake and up in an instant. My lips have been glued together. I rush out to the kitchen, an image of tap water as saviour. T h e black cat is in the living room, on the couch. He is just sitting there on his haunches, ignoring me and staring up at'Penelope, the poor spider, with an air of indignation. He knows it is too far for him to reach. He's taking his own

64

Outside Near the college there is a park where Holly and I used to go to feed the ducks. We'd stop off at the store and buy hard, dayold, fifty-cent bread whjch, it seemed to us, could have no purpose. Sometimes the geese would come up, just to let you know they were still in charge. They'd scare off the ducks and the birds and the humans and if you didn't leave the bread for them they'd chase after you and just take it from your hand. O n e time, a goose bit my butt. He grabbed hold of my back pocket real hard, with that cute little beak, and gave me a good scare before Holly was able to lure him away by brandishing a tree branch. We figured the poor thing drought it was some-fifty-cent bread. W h e n the geese weren't terrorizing us we would sometimes have a pic'nic, or just sit and talk and kiss like teenagers. Or else we'd actually take out our books and read. Or Holly would'tell me she liked some amateurish poem I'd written. Sometimes, tne light would filter down through the branches and the way it hit Holly's face, her hair, was just rigHt. Now Lenny is at my door, wanting the rent money. I press an envelope into his'hand and he looks at'it, disbelieving. Wide-eyed; he takes the money and counts it. "How'd you pull it off, Gabe?" "I begged, pleaded," I say. "Borrowed it." Like I always do, I want to ad,d but don't. No sense telling the man that I'm a bum. Satisfied, Lenny stuffs the riioney back in the envelope and looks at m e , "What are you*gorina do now?" * "I dunrio," I say. "Admit defeat* maybe? Crawbback nome to my parents" "Yeah?-Leririy nod's: "Maybe that's'best"

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Feasts sweet time to accept this.

I switch the Jight off. My lips keep missing hers. My hands are too eager, impatient, as though searching for their own revelation. I whisper her name. She stops cold, her eyes widening. "My name isn't Heather." There is nothing I can say to this, but then her hand covers her mouth and she pushes me off of her and I realize, as she stumbles to'the bathroom, that her overriding concern is of a much more physical nature. "It was that fucking snake oil you gave me," she yells from the b a t h r o o m , p r o c e e d i ng to curse m e , the Scottish, a n d Mexico. She comes back and color has deserted her cheeks and she doesn't feel well at all and wants to go home. And it's all fine because I want to go home too. Love, T h e God I keep following the voices. They seem, always, just around the corner, as I walk down another dark, lonely aisle. There are rows upon rows, and the occasional leather bound tome looks obscenely lonely, neglected, on those mostly deserted shelves. T h e voices, hushed yet jubilant and warm, keep taunting me, teasing. But then I see him, at the far end of an aisle. His back is to me and with the scant light I can't make him out. He disappears around the corner and I realize I am dreaming and am glad. I am awake and up in an instant. My lips have been glued together. I rush out to the kitchen, an image of tap water as saviour. T h e black cat is in the living room, on the couch. He is just sitting there on his haunches, ignoring me and staring up at'Penelope, the poor spider, with an air of indignation. He knows it is too far for him to reach. He's taking his own

64

Outside Near the college there is a park where Holly and I used to go to feed the ducks. We'd stop off at the store and buy hard, dayold, fifty-cent bread whjch, it seemed to us, could have no purpose. Sometimes the geese would come up, just to let you know they were still in charge. They'd scare off the ducks and the birds and the humans and if you didn't leave the bread for them they'd chase after you and just take it from your hand. O n e time, a goose bit my butt. He grabbed hold of my back pocket real hard, with that cute little beak, and gave me a good scare before Holly was able to lure him away by brandishing a tree branch. We figured the poor thing drought it was some-fifty-cent bread. W h e n the geese weren't terrorizing us we would sometimes have a pic'nic, or just sit and talk and kiss like teenagers. Or else we'd actually take out our books and read. Or Holly would'tell me she liked some amateurish poem I'd written. Sometimes, tne light would filter down through the branches and the way it hit Holly's face, her hair, was just rigHt. Now Lenny is at my door, wanting the rent money. I press an envelope into his'hand and he looks at'it, disbelieving. Wide-eyed; he takes the money and counts it. "How'd you pull it off, Gabe?" "I begged, pleaded," I say. "Borrowed it." Like I always do, I want to ad,d but don't. No sense telling the man that I'm a bum. Satisfied, Lenny stuffs the riioney back in the envelope and looks at m e , "What are you*gorina do now?" * "I dunrio," I say. "Admit defeat* maybe? Crawbback nome to my parents" "Yeah?-Leririy nod's: "Maybe that's'best"

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Feasts

Walking down the stairs, he still looks baffled about the envelope in his hand.

pitch. Crushed potato chips and chicken bones lie conquered on the floor; a half-eaten drumstick floats wounded in the pool. A giggling Lenny looks at me. "What kind of a gun did he use?" "So, Gabriel," Bob turns to me, eyeing me with a hostile look. "You sit up there, man, and you write your books all day..." He shakes his head. "So what kind of..." He searches for the word, "...what grand wisdom can you hand down to us mortals?"

Crisis (a message on the answering machine) "Gabriel, this place is so beautiful! You really should make it a point to get down here someday. I can't really wear any jewelry, because of these roving bands of street kids, but.!.anyway, this is costing a fortune." (a pause) "...you know, having this distance between us...it makes it easier to say certain things..." The Party

He looks like he's gonna spring up from his chair and break his guitar on my head, his eyes shining with the misdirected rage of everyday failure. "Bet he used a shotgun", Lenny adds.

They're all there, even Georges Berkeley, who -wants to play poker and can see no reason why we shouldn't. Sartre, proving that looks aren't everything, is surrounded by a bevy of cute French girls adoringly absorbing every word he miserably utters. He is_ missing, terribly, his "special friend" who is not-so-conspicuously absent. "Everyone can be free," I remind him. He starts to weep, and I feel terrible, only partly for him. Unfortunately, I cannot stay. "Pool party," I .explain, standing by the door, a twelve pack of Keystone-in one hand, a pack of cigarettes in the other. No one notices, so I sulk off, down the stairs and to a lesser feast. s . •i They Wrestle With Their Conscience Collectively "A noted black scholar," tsay, "maintains that Napoleon personally shot ofLthe ,Sphinx's npse so it would, lose its African appearance." Too much alcohol has been consumed and grand gestures have given way to tired ones and voices have risen to a hysterical 66

"The key to wisdom," I say gamely, "is to always expect the opposite of what you want to happen to happen. That way you won't be disappointed."

"Shut up!" Bob says, wincing. "They didn't have 'em, babe. They got revolvers, is all." Me and Lenny and Bob are the band, set up right next to the pool; drunken hands are drums and don't know what time is and drunken voices hover somewhere between melody and harmony. Nina, the stripper, is sad because she will have to leave us to go pretend she is turned on by foreign businessmen and the men who keep their hands under the table and the men who should be at home with their sleeping wives. The new couple from Chicago look slightly baffled, slightly amused. Lorna is nowhere -to be seen. This is good, according to Bob, who says that Lenny's girlfriend is "kind of a freak" when she's had a drop or few. Lenny laughs uneasily. "Let's play Charleston," he suggests. "You know that one?" "Of course," Bob says. "Dickhead." "Where's vour girlfriend?" the Granola asks me. Her stoned, happy eyes suggest she's found her answer, if at least for now. "She left 'im's what she did!" Bob answers, helpfully. "She left 'im."

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Feasts

Walking down the stairs, he still looks baffled about the envelope in his hand.

pitch. Crushed potato chips and chicken bones lie conquered on the floor; a half-eaten drumstick floats wounded in the pool. A giggling Lenny looks at me. "What kind of a gun did he use?" "So, Gabriel," Bob turns to me, eyeing me with a hostile look. "You sit up there, man, and you write your books all day..." He shakes his head. "So what kind of..." He searches for the word, "...what grand wisdom can you hand down to us mortals?"

Crisis (a message on the answering machine) "Gabriel, this place is so beautiful! You really should make it a point to get down here someday. I can't really wear any jewelry, because of these roving bands of street kids, but.!.anyway, this is costing a fortune." (a pause) "...you know, having this distance between us...it makes it easier to say certain things..." The Party

He looks like he's gonna spring up from his chair and break his guitar on my head, his eyes shining with the misdirected rage of everyday failure. "Bet he used a shotgun", Lenny adds.

They're all there, even Georges Berkeley, who -wants to play poker and can see no reason why we shouldn't. Sartre, proving that looks aren't everything, is surrounded by a bevy of cute French girls adoringly absorbing every word he miserably utters. He is_ missing, terribly, his "special friend" who is not-so-conspicuously absent. "Everyone can be free," I remind him. He starts to weep, and I feel terrible, only partly for him. Unfortunately, I cannot stay. "Pool party," I .explain, standing by the door, a twelve pack of Keystone-in one hand, a pack of cigarettes in the other. No one notices, so I sulk off, down the stairs and to a lesser feast. s . •i They Wrestle With Their Conscience Collectively "A noted black scholar," tsay, "maintains that Napoleon personally shot ofLthe ,Sphinx's npse so it would, lose its African appearance." Too much alcohol has been consumed and grand gestures have given way to tired ones and voices have risen to a hysterical 66

"The key to wisdom," I say gamely, "is to always expect the opposite of what you want to happen to happen. That way you won't be disappointed."

"Shut up!" Bob says, wincing. "They didn't have 'em, babe. They got revolvers, is all." Me and Lenny and Bob are the band, set up right next to the pool; drunken hands are drums and don't know what time is and drunken voices hover somewhere between melody and harmony. Nina, the stripper, is sad because she will have to leave us to go pretend she is turned on by foreign businessmen and the men who keep their hands under the table and the men who should be at home with their sleeping wives. The new couple from Chicago look slightly baffled, slightly amused. Lorna is nowhere -to be seen. This is good, according to Bob, who says that Lenny's girlfriend is "kind of a freak" when she's had a drop or few. Lenny laughs uneasily. "Let's play Charleston," he suggests. "You know that one?" "Of course," Bob says. "Dickhead." "Where's vour girlfriend?" the Granola asks me. Her stoned, happy eyes suggest she's found her answer, if at least for now. "She left 'im's what she did!" Bob answers, helpfully. "She left 'im."

67


Berkeley Fiction Review "We'll take care of ya, man!" T h e Granola's half smile remains "fixed. "Where'd she go?" Bob starts strumming something that's not the Charleston. "No, no, no!" Lenny, exasperated, explodes. "That's not how the fucking Charleston goes!" "I know how it goes." "Here," L e n n y says, s t r u m m i n g s o m e t h i n g .close to the Charleston. "Let me show you." Putting his guitar on the wet floor next to him, Bob circles the neclf of Lenny's guitar with his hand.

Feasts T h e other guy nods and at this moment they both notice Love, the God, posing in front of the mirror by the dance floor, combing his hair and asserting, loudly, his own virtues." I pause for effect and am greeted by gin-happy, lobotomized stares. From the bushes a black cat is watching Lenny and Bob's dance, which is reaching a climax. Bob dips Lenny. It's graceful, God knows how, and they both tumble into the pool, guitar and all. I record their faces, as they fall — the wide eyes, the clenched teeth...they could be making love. "So," I say, "these two guys go up to Love, the God, and beat the shit out of him."

"I've got a joke!" I say, to lighten things up. "That ain't it, babe!" Bob snarls. ¥<•

I

"It's pretty funny, I think," I say. "A howler." "Get your fucking hand," Lenny'growls, "off my fucking guitar." "So Love, the God, walks into a bar — a real dive..." "Make me!" Lenny's hand connects with Bob's cheek, making, a sound that manages to, bring the Granola out of her reverie. She draws her legs u p to herself, on her chair, and starts sobbing loudly. Bob rushes Lenny. The guitar comes up like a barrier and it seems as though they're fighting for the guitar, but it is just some symbolic wishbone. You can tell by the bulging veins on both their hands that they're not gonna let go. "...there's these two guvs, and they are well into the few pints they can afford — one of the only real pleasures-in their miserable lives. So one guy says: 'What do you think, man? I mean, seriously." Lenny and Bob are swaying to some insane waltz only they can hear. "And the other guy says: 'You really wanna know?' And the first guy shakes his head and says: 'Basically,Tm fucked, right?'

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Berkeley Fiction Review "We'll take care of ya, man!" T h e Granola's half smile remains "fixed. "Where'd she go?" Bob starts strumming something that's not the Charleston. "No, no, no!" Lenny, exasperated, explodes. "That's not how the fucking Charleston goes!" "I know how it goes." "Here," L e n n y says, s t r u m m i n g s o m e t h i n g .close to the Charleston. "Let me show you." Putting his guitar on the wet floor next to him, Bob circles the neclf of Lenny's guitar with his hand.

Feasts T h e other guy nods and at this moment they both notice Love, the God, posing in front of the mirror by the dance floor, combing his hair and asserting, loudly, his own virtues." I pause for effect and am greeted by gin-happy, lobotomized stares. From the bushes a black cat is watching Lenny and Bob's dance, which is reaching a climax. Bob dips Lenny. It's graceful, God knows how, and they both tumble into the pool, guitar and all. I record their faces, as they fall — the wide eyes, the clenched teeth...they could be making love. "So," I say, "these two guys go up to Love, the God, and beat the shit out of him."

"I've got a joke!" I say, to lighten things up. "That ain't it, babe!" Bob snarls. ¥<•

I

"It's pretty funny, I think," I say. "A howler." "Get your fucking hand," Lenny'growls, "off my fucking guitar." "So Love, the God, walks into a bar — a real dive..." "Make me!" Lenny's hand connects with Bob's cheek, making, a sound that manages to, bring the Granola out of her reverie. She draws her legs u p to herself, on her chair, and starts sobbing loudly. Bob rushes Lenny. The guitar comes up like a barrier and it seems as though they're fighting for the guitar, but it is just some symbolic wishbone. You can tell by the bulging veins on both their hands that they're not gonna let go. "...there's these two guvs, and they are well into the few pints they can afford — one of the only real pleasures-in their miserable lives. So one guy says: 'What do you think, man? I mean, seriously." Lenny and Bob are swaying to some insane waltz only they can hear. "And the other guy says: 'You really wanna know?' And the first guy shakes his head and says: 'Basically,Tm fucked, right?'

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Advice stayed with him because she talked to inanimate objects long before it became fashionable to do so. And because she told him, somewhat apologetically, that she's only learned to swear after we sent the troops to Vietnam. She perfected the art of cursing when she saw the photos of the napalmed children. T h e y weren't the euphemistic expletives of her well-heeled friends. Not a "Jesus", Mary and Joseph" among them. They were mostly body parts delivered like a stevedore.

Alana Ryan

A d v i c e

I snorted the last of Wheeler's offering in the downstairs bathroom of the house on Woodworth Street; on top of the washing machine, while running cold water in the sink. I stared out the window toward the woods and pressed my nose into the glass before stuffing the shiny piece of black paper back into the pocket of my blazer. I wondered if the priest had Marilyn Monroe in mind. I entered the kitchen warmed and delighted. T h e caterer put his arm right there at the counter, while holding onto a tall wooden stool and smiling. T h e aunts, all nine of them, were huddled in the corner by the bar, and I heard someone say "Poor thing" but ho one's lips appeared to move. I felt shielded and e u p h o r i c and so when Auntie Babs stepped forward, held my hand in hers and whispered, "You'll feel all better in a*week,"<I believed her..

>SS0S5ÂŤK

D

oug called Wheeler and told him that my mother had just died and so Wheeler sent me a gram of'heroin with a note which read "Seasons Change." It ".was such a sweet, anachronistic gift. And much more useful than a casserole. It sheltered me all through the service, even when the priest said Marilyn instead of Madelyn. I grinned while those around me grimaced. Later, when my sister suggested we not pay the curch as required, Uncle Brady said, "For Chrissake, he never even met her-what did you expect?" Wheeler had only met my mother once but said the visit

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Advice stayed with him because she talked to inanimate objects long before it became fashionable to do so. And because she told him, somewhat apologetically, that she's only learned to swear after we sent the troops to Vietnam. She perfected the art of cursing when she saw the photos of the napalmed children. T h e y weren't the euphemistic expletives of her well-heeled friends. Not a "Jesus", Mary and Joseph" among them. They were mostly body parts delivered like a stevedore.

Alana Ryan

A d v i c e

I snorted the last of Wheeler's offering in the downstairs bathroom of the house on Woodworth Street; on top of the washing machine, while running cold water in the sink. I stared out the window toward the woods and pressed my nose into the glass before stuffing the shiny piece of black paper back into the pocket of my blazer. I wondered if the priest had Marilyn Monroe in mind. I entered the kitchen warmed and delighted. T h e caterer put his arm right there at the counter, while holding onto a tall wooden stool and smiling. T h e aunts, all nine of them, were huddled in the corner by the bar, and I heard someone say "Poor thing" but ho one's lips appeared to move. I felt shielded and e u p h o r i c and so when Auntie Babs stepped forward, held my hand in hers and whispered, "You'll feel all better in a*week,"<I believed her..

>SS0S5ÂŤK

D

oug called Wheeler and told him that my mother had just died and so Wheeler sent me a gram of'heroin with a note which read "Seasons Change." It ".was such a sweet, anachronistic gift. And much more useful than a casserole. It sheltered me all through the service, even when the priest said Marilyn instead of Madelyn. I grinned while those around me grimaced. Later, when my sister suggested we not pay the curch as required, Uncle Brady said, "For Chrissake, he never even met her-what did you expect?" Wheeler had only met my mother once but said the visit

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Serendipity Burning Nel only stayed long enough for one cup of coffee and a few more paragraphs about her views on cause and effect. She left peacefully enough and I thanked her for the contents of the bag, a peach pie and some figs.

Alana Ryan

S e r e n d i p i t y

B u r n i n g

>&a&&5k

I know what she was getting at, though. I used to believe it: carried the do unto others thing in my pocket, lit it like a cigarette and inhaled real hard. And when I did the wrong thing unto others, I'd dive to make it right: misdemeanors meant a trip to the animal shelter with cat food, a dozen bones, or a ten dollar check (it's my good fortune that Nel makes her amends with pie). But one time, after a white-striped lie, the shelter was closed and so I drove around until I saw an elder on the corner of Dorset Street looking rather lost. I pulled over, rolled down the window and yelled, "Need help? Want a ride or something?" She looked pretty startled, stepped back from the curb, grabbed her handbag real tight, looked away and said, "I'm waiting forthe bus." GiieVshe could tell how desperate I was to do the right thing. Later I realized how badly I'd scared that little w o m a n and how I'd have to make amends for the trouble I caused while trying to set things s straight I ran my finger along the edges of the fluted crust and sampled yet another explanation for my father's exit. Pies or bones or rides were insufficient to make amends.

N

el heard my father hanged himself so she stopped by on Thursday morning. It was raining and she was drenched when she lumbered into the kitchen, cradlitig a brown paper bag in her arms. She took off her green slicker, put the bag on the counter, and bellowed "You just don't deserve it" as she took a seat at the table. She said it with such practiced angst I didn't dare correct her. I just listened while she spoke of cards and karma, about the aces you'll be dealt if you're very, very kind.

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Serendipity Burning Nel only stayed long enough for one cup of coffee and a few more paragraphs about her views on cause and effect. She left peacefully enough and I thanked her for the contents of the bag, a peach pie and some figs.

Alana Ryan

S e r e n d i p i t y

B u r n i n g

>&a&&5k

I know what she was getting at, though. I used to believe it: carried the do unto others thing in my pocket, lit it like a cigarette and inhaled real hard. And when I did the wrong thing unto others, I'd dive to make it right: misdemeanors meant a trip to the animal shelter with cat food, a dozen bones, or a ten dollar check (it's my good fortune that Nel makes her amends with pie). But one time, after a white-striped lie, the shelter was closed and so I drove around until I saw an elder on the corner of Dorset Street looking rather lost. I pulled over, rolled down the window and yelled, "Need help? Want a ride or something?" She looked pretty startled, stepped back from the curb, grabbed her handbag real tight, looked away and said, "I'm waiting forthe bus." GiieVshe could tell how desperate I was to do the right thing. Later I realized how badly I'd scared that little w o m a n and how I'd have to make amends for the trouble I caused while trying to set things s straight I ran my finger along the edges of the fluted crust and sampled yet another explanation for my father's exit. Pies or bones or rides were insufficient to make amends.

N

el heard my father hanged himself so she stopped by on Thursday morning. It was raining and she was drenched when she lumbered into the kitchen, cradlitig a brown paper bag in her arms. She took off her green slicker, put the bag on the counter, and bellowed "You just don't deserve it" as she took a seat at the table. She said it with such practiced angst I didn't dare correct her. I just listened while she spoke of cards and karma, about the aces you'll be dealt if you're very, very kind.

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M i c h a e l Propsom

F r e e

V e r s e

^ES&££k

M

urphy pulled his car over beneath a corner streetlight. He jammed a cigarette into his mouth and ran a thumb across the striker wheel of his-lighter. T h e old Zippo threw off a shower of sparks, but the wick only smoldered. Murphy turned the lighter upside down and slapped it against his palm a few times, then tried it again. Still nothing. He slipped the lighter into his pocket. "Well, thafs par for the goddamned course," he grumbled. "An empty Zippo, a broken car lighter, and no damned matches." Halfway down the block, a pair of teenage boys ran up the 74

steps of the youth shelter. The bigger youth shook the locked doors, while the smaller one jogged in place, hands jammed under his armpits. After the bigger kid peed on the steps, they started down the street. M u r p h y slid down in his seat and watched them approach. When they came abreast of his car, the big one veered over to the passenger door. He stuck his fat face close to the window and stared at Murphy with small, porcine eyes. "Hey, you got any spare change?" he hollered. " D o you have any spare matches?" Murphy called back. T h e youth turned to his companion, who shook his head. He looked a t Murphy again. "We don't got no matches." "Then I don't got no spare change," Murphy said. T h e kid kicked the door and shouted, "Go to hell, you old fuck!" His partner laughed, echoing, 'Toil old fuck!" Murphy threw open "his door. T h e boys sprinted off down the street laughing and cursing. Murphy watched them disappear around the'comer. There was no sense trying to run them down,- not the way his knees were acting up. He slammed the door. This night was going to hell at the speed of sound. And it had started out so damn well. Less than an hour earlier, there'd been more than a dozen students jammed into and around his booth at the bar. For half the night he'd regaled his young audience, reciting both verse and fabricated tales of meeting Kerouac as a teen and hanging out with Brautigan at Big Sur. They'd been buying him drinks all night. One, fan had even sprung for a pack of smokes. And, best of all, he had an ample-bosomed coed nestled under his right arm. T h e n she appeared, sliding through the crowded bar as though she'd been baptized in lube oil, working her way right vip alongside of him. She was attractive —in a predatory w a y one of those high-contrast types, black clothes, raven hair, and lips redder than a B-movie vampire's. Murphy knew she was trouble the instant their eyes met. It was like trying to stare down an Alpha wolf.

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M i c h a e l Propsom

F r e e

V e r s e

^ES&££k

M

urphy pulled his car over beneath a corner streetlight. He jammed a cigarette into his mouth and ran a thumb across the striker wheel of his-lighter. T h e old Zippo threw off a shower of sparks, but the wick only smoldered. Murphy turned the lighter upside down and slapped it against his palm a few times, then tried it again. Still nothing. He slipped the lighter into his pocket. "Well, thafs par for the goddamned course," he grumbled. "An empty Zippo, a broken car lighter, and no damned matches." Halfway down the block, a pair of teenage boys ran up the 74

steps of the youth shelter. The bigger youth shook the locked doors, while the smaller one jogged in place, hands jammed under his armpits. After the bigger kid peed on the steps, they started down the street. M u r p h y slid down in his seat and watched them approach. When they came abreast of his car, the big one veered over to the passenger door. He stuck his fat face close to the window and stared at Murphy with small, porcine eyes. "Hey, you got any spare change?" he hollered. " D o you have any spare matches?" Murphy called back. T h e youth turned to his companion, who shook his head. He looked a t Murphy again. "We don't got no matches." "Then I don't got no spare change," Murphy said. T h e kid kicked the door and shouted, "Go to hell, you old fuck!" His partner laughed, echoing, 'Toil old fuck!" Murphy threw open "his door. T h e boys sprinted off down the street laughing and cursing. Murphy watched them disappear around the'comer. There was no sense trying to run them down,- not the way his knees were acting up. He slammed the door. This night was going to hell at the speed of sound. And it had started out so damn well. Less than an hour earlier, there'd been more than a dozen students jammed into and around his booth at the bar. For half the night he'd regaled his young audience, reciting both verse and fabricated tales of meeting Kerouac as a teen and hanging out with Brautigan at Big Sur. They'd been buying him drinks all night. One, fan had even sprung for a pack of smokes. And, best of all, he had an ample-bosomed coed nestled under his right arm. T h e n she appeared, sliding through the crowded bar as though she'd been baptized in lube oil, working her way right vip alongside of him. She was attractive —in a predatory w a y one of those high-contrast types, black clothes, raven hair, and lips redder than a B-movie vampire's. Murphy knew she was trouble the instant their eyes met. It was like trying to stare down an Alpha wolf.

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"So you're Alexander," she had said, a veiled challenge in her voice. Murphy nodded. "Thafs what it says on my rap sheet." She raised an eyebrow. "Funny, I've never read any of your work." "I'm not really into the money trip," Murphy said. "But I just signed a book deal with City Lights." "Then you know Ferlinghetti," she said. Murphy shrugged. "Doesn't everyone?" A healthy portion of his audience laughed. T h e coed at his side gave his leg a squeeze, and Murphy felt a surge of confidence. The vampire's lips curled back in a carniverous smile. "I didn't mean to interrupt. Please, carry on like I'm not even here." M u r p h y s e a r c h e d his memory for the last poem he'd recited, struggling to r e g a i n his s t r i d e , like a long-distance runner intent i o n a l l y b u m p e d in t h e h o m e turn. Her stare had so untracked him that he actually recited one of his own poems, a deficient slab of blank verse about hangovers and angst, framed in a stumbling pentameter. After h e ' d f i n i s h e d , she chuckled through her nose. A few of the others nodded politely. O n e latter-day b e a t n i k a c t u a l l y said, "Heavy, man," but with little conviction. If he'd only given it up for B.S.Futman the evening, feigned a

headache, or maybe said, "Sorry, the muse has flown." But no, that would have required one thimbleful more of c o m m o n sense than he had—or one thimble less bourbon. He'd actually considered bowing out gracefully, when that irritating Ginsberg clone across the booth said, "Alexander's at his best when he just wings it." And that scrap of praise proved more seductive than the vampire's silent challenge. Murphy paused as though gathering inspiration, then he launched into his undoing. "running out of days as as the banister glints—" T h e vampire leaned forward. He could almost see her bunching up inside like a lioness preparing her charge. "in the early morning sun" And still he rambled on in a whiskey-driven panic, like some d u m b fawn, crippled and terrified, not knowing which way to run, but running just the same. "there will he no rest even in our dreams"% "What a coincidence," the vampire interrupted. Her tone was frighteningly innocent. "There's a piece in The Last Night on Earth Poems, that begins with those exact lines." Of all the comebacks he could have employed to salvage the evening, perhaps even his reputation, "Kiss my ass, you smart bitch," proved a poor selection. His audience dispersed as though he'd just confessed a penchant for necrophilia. T h e coed at his side shrunk away from him. At first he'd resisted when she tried to shrug off his arm, but the expression on her face left no question that she'd raise holy hell if he tried to hold her. He downed his bourbon and hurried out of the bar before his former disciples realized how much booze they'd bought him. He'd invested so much time: over two weeks memorizing the more obscure works of the beat poets, then nearly a month cultivating his reputation at that college bar, posing as an aging lion of underground poetry, passing off the memorized verse as his own. But all of his efforts had swirled unceremoniously

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"So you're Alexander," she had said, a veiled challenge in her voice. Murphy nodded. "Thafs what it says on my rap sheet." She raised an eyebrow. "Funny, I've never read any of your work." "I'm not really into the money trip," Murphy said. "But I just signed a book deal with City Lights." "Then you know Ferlinghetti," she said. Murphy shrugged. "Doesn't everyone?" A healthy portion of his audience laughed. T h e coed at his side gave his leg a squeeze, and Murphy felt a surge of confidence. The vampire's lips curled back in a carniverous smile. "I didn't mean to interrupt. Please, carry on like I'm not even here." M u r p h y s e a r c h e d his memory for the last poem he'd recited, struggling to r e g a i n his s t r i d e , like a long-distance runner intent i o n a l l y b u m p e d in t h e h o m e turn. Her stare had so untracked him that he actually recited one of his own poems, a deficient slab of blank verse about hangovers and angst, framed in a stumbling pentameter. After h e ' d f i n i s h e d , she chuckled through her nose. A few of the others nodded politely. O n e latter-day b e a t n i k a c t u a l l y said, "Heavy, man," but with little conviction. If he'd only given it up for B.S.Futman the evening, feigned a

headache, or maybe said, "Sorry, the muse has flown." But no, that would have required one thimbleful more of c o m m o n sense than he had—or one thimble less bourbon. He'd actually considered bowing out gracefully, when that irritating Ginsberg clone across the booth said, "Alexander's at his best when he just wings it." And that scrap of praise proved more seductive than the vampire's silent challenge. Murphy paused as though gathering inspiration, then he launched into his undoing. "running out of days as as the banister glints—" T h e vampire leaned forward. He could almost see her bunching up inside like a lioness preparing her charge. "in the early morning sun" And still he rambled on in a whiskey-driven panic, like some d u m b fawn, crippled and terrified, not knowing which way to run, but running just the same. "there will he no rest even in our dreams"% "What a coincidence," the vampire interrupted. Her tone was frighteningly innocent. "There's a piece in The Last Night on Earth Poems, that begins with those exact lines." Of all the comebacks he could have employed to salvage the evening, perhaps even his reputation, "Kiss my ass, you smart bitch," proved a poor selection. His audience dispersed as though he'd just confessed a penchant for necrophilia. T h e coed at his side shrunk away from him. At first he'd resisted when she tried to shrug off his arm, but the expression on her face left no question that she'd raise holy hell if he tried to hold her. He downed his bourbon and hurried out of the bar before his former disciples realized how much booze they'd bought him. He'd invested so much time: over two weeks memorizing the more obscure works of the beat poets, then nearly a month cultivating his reputation at that college bar, posing as an aging lion of underground poetry, passing off the memorized verse as his own. But all of his efforts had swirled unceremoniously

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t

i

Berkeley Fiction Review

Free Verse

down the commode, flushed by some pseudo-counterculture bitch with a chip on her shoulder. Of course he'd known it would happen sooner or later. Only a year ago he'd had no trouble usurping a beat poet's work. But lately it seemed that every twenty-year-old neo-Bohemian who believed she invented all-black haute couture and free love had discovered Bukowski and his ilk. Even the little suburban dilettante, the weekend Generation X'r who didn't know Hoffer from Hefner, had become an endangered species.

Murphy cruised the back streets of the neighborhood for twenty minutes, driving past his own building three times before

finally stopping. After all, there was no sense making it too easy for the kid to find her way back to his place. T h e girl walked behind Murphy as he trudged up the two dimly-lit flights of steps to his loft. He unlocked a trio of deadbolts, then pushed open the door. T h e apartment was cramped and drafty, but rent was cheap. Other parts of the city were falling victim to the upscale creep of re-urbanization. But the belligerent little clot of tenements and lofts that comprised his neighborhoo d had r e m a i n e d unchanged, thanks largely to the benevolent stench of a nearby meat processing plant. Murphy led the girl into the kitchen area and began rummaging through the cupboards. "There's beer and wine in the fridge," he said. He held up a pair of cans. "Ravioli or corned beef hash?" T h e girl poked h e r head a r o u n d the refrigerator door. "Ravioli." "How about some crackers?" "Yeah." "Peanut butter?" "Sure." Murphy opened the ravioli. He excavated a saucepan from the pile of dirty dishes in the sink and ran some water into it. But before he could finish rinsing out the oatmeal-en cms ted pan, the girl grabbed the ravioli and started toward the living room. M u r p h y poured himself a bourbon, then helped the girl transport her dinner to the living room. The kid sat on the floor and scooted her legs beneath the coffee table. She tore open the package of saltines and jammed three into her mouth. Murphy settled onto the sofa behind her. He lit up a Pall Mall as the girl drove her spoon into the can of ravioli. "Are you sure you don't want me to heat that?" he asked. T h e girl shook her head. "S'okay like this," she said through a mouthful of pasta. Murphy took a pull of his cigarette and fidgeted under the heavy mantle of silence. He missed the knee-jerk, lost genera-

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Another youth appeared on the shelter steps and jerked on the door before starting down the sidewalk toward Murphy's car. T h e kid was slight, with short, spikey hair, head hunched down against the raw November wind. Murphy didn't realize it was a girl until she stepped into the jaundiced glow of the streetlight. He sprawled across the seat and threw open the passenger door. "Need a place to stay?" T h e girl leaned over and scanned his face. "I'm hungry." "I've got food back at my place," Murphy said. "How does that sound?" T h e girl nodded. "Okay." She climbed into the car. Murphy started the engine and pulled away from the curb. "What's your name?" loni. "Mine's Jackson," Murphy said. "Tom Jackson." He reached out and drew the girl to his side. She offered no resistance, even when he slid a hand down the neck of her jacket and his fingertips sought out one of her tiny breasts. He'd never do this again, he told himself. Next weekend he'd find a different bar, some place where nobody, knew him. In a couple of weeks, a month at most, he'd be holding court again, maybe as an elder statesman of the beats or maybe the flower child generation, whatever the scenario dictated. O n e thing was certain; this was the first and last time he'd ever pick up a street kid.


t

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Free Verse

down the commode, flushed by some pseudo-counterculture bitch with a chip on her shoulder. Of course he'd known it would happen sooner or later. Only a year ago he'd had no trouble usurping a beat poet's work. But lately it seemed that every twenty-year-old neo-Bohemian who believed she invented all-black haute couture and free love had discovered Bukowski and his ilk. Even the little suburban dilettante, the weekend Generation X'r who didn't know Hoffer from Hefner, had become an endangered species.

Murphy cruised the back streets of the neighborhood for twenty minutes, driving past his own building three times before

finally stopping. After all, there was no sense making it too easy for the kid to find her way back to his place. T h e girl walked behind Murphy as he trudged up the two dimly-lit flights of steps to his loft. He unlocked a trio of deadbolts, then pushed open the door. T h e apartment was cramped and drafty, but rent was cheap. Other parts of the city were falling victim to the upscale creep of re-urbanization. But the belligerent little clot of tenements and lofts that comprised his neighborhoo d had r e m a i n e d unchanged, thanks largely to the benevolent stench of a nearby meat processing plant. Murphy led the girl into the kitchen area and began rummaging through the cupboards. "There's beer and wine in the fridge," he said. He held up a pair of cans. "Ravioli or corned beef hash?" T h e girl poked h e r head a r o u n d the refrigerator door. "Ravioli." "How about some crackers?" "Yeah." "Peanut butter?" "Sure." Murphy opened the ravioli. He excavated a saucepan from the pile of dirty dishes in the sink and ran some water into it. But before he could finish rinsing out the oatmeal-en cms ted pan, the girl grabbed the ravioli and started toward the living room. M u r p h y poured himself a bourbon, then helped the girl transport her dinner to the living room. The kid sat on the floor and scooted her legs beneath the coffee table. She tore open the package of saltines and jammed three into her mouth. Murphy settled onto the sofa behind her. He lit up a Pall Mall as the girl drove her spoon into the can of ravioli. "Are you sure you don't want me to heat that?" he asked. T h e girl shook her head. "S'okay like this," she said through a mouthful of pasta. Murphy took a pull of his cigarette and fidgeted under the heavy mantle of silence. He missed the knee-jerk, lost genera-

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Another youth appeared on the shelter steps and jerked on the door before starting down the sidewalk toward Murphy's car. T h e kid was slight, with short, spikey hair, head hunched down against the raw November wind. Murphy didn't realize it was a girl until she stepped into the jaundiced glow of the streetlight. He sprawled across the seat and threw open the passenger door. "Need a place to stay?" T h e girl leaned over and scanned his face. "I'm hungry." "I've got food back at my place," Murphy said. "How does that sound?" T h e girl nodded. "Okay." She climbed into the car. Murphy started the engine and pulled away from the curb. "What's your name?" loni. "Mine's Jackson," Murphy said. "Tom Jackson." He reached out and drew the girl to his side. She offered no resistance, even when he slid a hand down the neck of her jacket and his fingertips sought out one of her tiny breasts. He'd never do this again, he told himself. Next weekend he'd find a different bar, some place where nobody, knew him. In a couple of weeks, a month at most, he'd be holding court again, maybe as an elder statesman of the beats or maybe the flower child generation, whatever the scenario dictated. O n e thing was certain; this was the first and last time he'd ever pick up a street kid.


Berkeley Fiction Review

Free Verse

tion banter he exchanged with his usual pickups. Boring as the chatter was, it filled up those agonizing conversational voids, df they could only make a little small talk. But what could they talk about? Generally he could read a female the instant she opened her mouth. But the closest thing this kid came to communicating was the Morse code tapping of spoon against can. A small shudder ran through the girl as she took a sip of beer. "Not much of a drinker, are you?" Murphy said. "I like Coke." "Did you know that they used to really p u t cocaine in Coke?" Murphy said. T h e girl said, "Oh," then returned her full attention to the ravioli. "So, how long have you been on the streets?" She washed down a mouthful of food. "Five, maybe six months." She looked around. 'Ton got a TV?" "The opiate of the masses? No," Murphy said. "How about some music?" tune. Murphy walked over to his stereo and dropped an album onto the turntable. As he returned to the sofa, Jim Morrison's dark voice .uncoiled from the stereo's lone working speaker. "I hung out with Morrison for a while in Florida," he said. "Who?" "Jim Morrison. T h e leader of T h e Doors." T h e girl smeared a dollop of peanut butter onto a saltine. "I'm info rap." T h a t lie about Morrison had cinched his conquest of tiedyed nouveau-hippie chicks on three separate occasions. Now it just floated around the rafters of his loft like a misplaced footnote. Murphy snuffed his cigarette. "Why did you get into my car?" T h e girl took another shuddering sip of beer. "It's cold outside." "But I could've been a rapist or a killer."

She shrugged. "It's cold out." Murphy began massaging the girl's shoulders. She passively accepted his touch. He worked a hand over her right collarbone and down her front. A legion of shivers exploded in his spine. They ran througlfhis torso, down his limbs. So mdny times he'd known these low-voltage tremors that skittered beneath the skin like terrified field mice. He had always reveled in the sensation. It was like a perpetual rebirth. Yet,-with this young thing—this sure thing—the shivers were more a pulsing achej like trie onset of flu. He reached around and slipped^ hand into the waistband of her jeans.

80

She leaned forward, trapping his fingers. "I'm almost finished." Murphy withdrew his* hand. His face burned. He tried to sperfk but his tongue felt as supple as shoe leather. T h e girl scraped the inside of the can.and licked the'spoon clean. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve as she stood up. Murphy followed her over to the bed. She casually undressed in front of him and crawled onto the bed. She appeared even frailer and mote.sexually ambiguous without her*clothes. But for the rumor of swelling at her chest, he thought, and absence .of external'plumbing, she could be a boy. Murphy shed his clothes and lay down beside her. He ran a1 hand from her buttocks up to her chest. His thumb and forefinger sought out one understated nipple and gave it a half twist. He mashed his lips against hers. T h e girl returned his kiss'with a dispassionate expertise. Her tongue tasted of peanut butter and tomato sauce. He pressed a hand between the^girl's knees. Her legs fell open. When he rolled his bulk onto her, she nearly seemed to disappear. T h e girl was no larger on the bottom than on the top. After his third failed attempt to enter her, she reached down and guided him inside. He began rhythmically driving himself into h e r . T h e girl lay back, her only m o v e m e n t provided by Murphy's momentum. Air hissed painfully through her nostrils with every thrust of his hips. "Do you want me to call you Daddy, or something?" she


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tion banter he exchanged with his usual pickups. Boring as the chatter was, it filled up those agonizing conversational voids, df they could only make a little small talk. But what could they talk about? Generally he could read a female the instant she opened her mouth. But the closest thing this kid came to communicating was the Morse code tapping of spoon against can. A small shudder ran through the girl as she took a sip of beer. "Not much of a drinker, are you?" Murphy said. "I like Coke." "Did you know that they used to really p u t cocaine in Coke?" Murphy said. T h e girl said, "Oh," then returned her full attention to the ravioli. "So, how long have you been on the streets?" She washed down a mouthful of food. "Five, maybe six months." She looked around. 'Ton got a TV?" "The opiate of the masses? No," Murphy said. "How about some music?" tune. Murphy walked over to his stereo and dropped an album onto the turntable. As he returned to the sofa, Jim Morrison's dark voice .uncoiled from the stereo's lone working speaker. "I hung out with Morrison for a while in Florida," he said. "Who?" "Jim Morrison. T h e leader of T h e Doors." T h e girl smeared a dollop of peanut butter onto a saltine. "I'm info rap." T h a t lie about Morrison had cinched his conquest of tiedyed nouveau-hippie chicks on three separate occasions. Now it just floated around the rafters of his loft like a misplaced footnote. Murphy snuffed his cigarette. "Why did you get into my car?" T h e girl took another shuddering sip of beer. "It's cold outside." "But I could've been a rapist or a killer."

She shrugged. "It's cold out." Murphy began massaging the girl's shoulders. She passively accepted his touch. He worked a hand over her right collarbone and down her front. A legion of shivers exploded in his spine. They ran througlfhis torso, down his limbs. So mdny times he'd known these low-voltage tremors that skittered beneath the skin like terrified field mice. He had always reveled in the sensation. It was like a perpetual rebirth. Yet,-with this young thing—this sure thing—the shivers were more a pulsing achej like trie onset of flu. He reached around and slipped^ hand into the waistband of her jeans.

80

She leaned forward, trapping his fingers. "I'm almost finished." Murphy withdrew his* hand. His face burned. He tried to sperfk but his tongue felt as supple as shoe leather. T h e girl scraped the inside of the can.and licked the'spoon clean. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve as she stood up. Murphy followed her over to the bed. She casually undressed in front of him and crawled onto the bed. She appeared even frailer and mote.sexually ambiguous without her*clothes. But for the rumor of swelling at her chest, he thought, and absence .of external'plumbing, she could be a boy. Murphy shed his clothes and lay down beside her. He ran a1 hand from her buttocks up to her chest. His thumb and forefinger sought out one understated nipple and gave it a half twist. He mashed his lips against hers. T h e girl returned his kiss'with a dispassionate expertise. Her tongue tasted of peanut butter and tomato sauce. He pressed a hand between the^girl's knees. Her legs fell open. When he rolled his bulk onto her, she nearly seemed to disappear. T h e girl was no larger on the bottom than on the top. After his third failed attempt to enter her, she reached down and guided him inside. He began rhythmically driving himself into h e r . T h e girl lay back, her only m o v e m e n t provided by Murphy's momentum. Air hissed painfully through her nostrils with every thrust of his hips. "Do you want me to call you Daddy, or something?" she


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asked. , "What?" . "Do you want me to call you Daddy?" she repeated. "Some guys.like that." A tendril of nausea snaked into Murphy's stomach. His mind and body fell out of rhythm. He desperately drove himself between her legs, but his erection softened and he slid out of her. As he tried to press his slack penis back into her, the girl covered her mouth. It was only a cough, a small, stifled cough. But it sounded like a chuckle. Murphy reared up and backhanded her across the-cheek. She coughed again. "Christ, I—I'm sorry," Murphy stammered. "I didn't mean — I didn't know—I thought you were laughing." T h e girl put a hand over his lips. "It's okay," she said. "You can slap me if you want to. Just please don't punch me." Murphy rolled off the girl, still choking on apologies, her words roaring in his head, "It's okay. You can slap me — "

M u r p h y slid from the bed, hoping the desolate feeling would remain with the girl, but it trailed behind him. He gathered u p his clothes, tiptoed over to the living room, and dressed. He grabbed a pack of Kools from beneath the sofa and lit one. A chilling whirlwind of menthol raced down his throat. It felt soothing compared to the unfiltered Pall Malls that he had to smoke at the bars to keep up the proper image.

Her breaths were deep and long, nine per minute. Murphy had been staring at the,phosphorescent sweep hand of his alarm clock and counting them for two hours, every inhalation a reminder of her existence, every exhalation a'reminder of his failure. What the hell happened anyway? he wondered. He'd never gone limp before. Was it something physical? Was he deficient in some vitamin, or maybe suffering from a virus? He didn't feel any different from how he'd felt for years. More than likely the girl was the problem. He lifted the covers and stared at her. She was so slender, narrow of hip, and small-of breast. He let down the covers. That was the problem. Sex with her was too much like screwing a boy. Murphy rolled onto his side. This loneliness of his—the feeling, the word—seemed to take form, wedging itself between himself and the girl. For years he'd been able to keep the loneliness at bay, first with booze, then with progressively younger women. Lately, however, this soul-sick void clung to his insides like some spiritual tar baby.

T h e girl issued a n o t h e r c h u c k l i n g cough in her sleep. Murphy's conscience drove a nail into his gut. Damnit, he could have sworn that she'd been laughing at him. Murphy dragged a chair over to the window. It was nearly three o'clock. T h a t gal from'the factory should be walking past any minute. He'd met her on one of those sleepless nights when arthritis was playing hell with his knees, and maudlin rumination over lost loves was weighin'g him down like the ledger books and money bbxes of Marley's ghost. He'd hobbled down to the corner diner, intent on basking in the apathetic fellowship of the handful of drunks and insomniacs who haunted the place. She was sitting at the far end of the short order counter, nibbling on a sweet roll and reading the Sun-Times. He'd taken the stool to her left and asked, "Mind if I borrow the sports section?" She looked like the kind of woman who expected men to like sports. She smiled and introduced herself. What was her name? Carla? No, Darla. Her smile was open and warm, so insidiously inviting that Murphy had abandoned his myriad aliases and confessed, "My name's Murphy. John Murphy." He'd shuffled through the sports section for a minute before asking, "Do you live around here?" "No, I got off work late and missed my bus. T h e next one comes in an hour." "What do you do?" "I run a wire welder in a light fab shop down the street." "Sounds interesting." She shrugged. "It pays the bills." As the stream of cordial small talk changed course, they dis-


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asked. , "What?" . "Do you want me to call you Daddy?" she repeated. "Some guys.like that." A tendril of nausea snaked into Murphy's stomach. His mind and body fell out of rhythm. He desperately drove himself between her legs, but his erection softened and he slid out of her. As he tried to press his slack penis back into her, the girl covered her mouth. It was only a cough, a small, stifled cough. But it sounded like a chuckle. Murphy reared up and backhanded her across the-cheek. She coughed again. "Christ, I—I'm sorry," Murphy stammered. "I didn't mean — I didn't know—I thought you were laughing." T h e girl put a hand over his lips. "It's okay," she said. "You can slap me if you want to. Just please don't punch me." Murphy rolled off the girl, still choking on apologies, her words roaring in his head, "It's okay. You can slap me — "

M u r p h y slid from the bed, hoping the desolate feeling would remain with the girl, but it trailed behind him. He gathered u p his clothes, tiptoed over to the living room, and dressed. He grabbed a pack of Kools from beneath the sofa and lit one. A chilling whirlwind of menthol raced down his throat. It felt soothing compared to the unfiltered Pall Malls that he had to smoke at the bars to keep up the proper image.

Her breaths were deep and long, nine per minute. Murphy had been staring at the,phosphorescent sweep hand of his alarm clock and counting them for two hours, every inhalation a reminder of her existence, every exhalation a'reminder of his failure. What the hell happened anyway? he wondered. He'd never gone limp before. Was it something physical? Was he deficient in some vitamin, or maybe suffering from a virus? He didn't feel any different from how he'd felt for years. More than likely the girl was the problem. He lifted the covers and stared at her. She was so slender, narrow of hip, and small-of breast. He let down the covers. That was the problem. Sex with her was too much like screwing a boy. Murphy rolled onto his side. This loneliness of his—the feeling, the word—seemed to take form, wedging itself between himself and the girl. For years he'd been able to keep the loneliness at bay, first with booze, then with progressively younger women. Lately, however, this soul-sick void clung to his insides like some spiritual tar baby.

T h e girl issued a n o t h e r c h u c k l i n g cough in her sleep. Murphy's conscience drove a nail into his gut. Damnit, he could have sworn that she'd been laughing at him. Murphy dragged a chair over to the window. It was nearly three o'clock. T h a t gal from'the factory should be walking past any minute. He'd met her on one of those sleepless nights when arthritis was playing hell with his knees, and maudlin rumination over lost loves was weighin'g him down like the ledger books and money bbxes of Marley's ghost. He'd hobbled down to the corner diner, intent on basking in the apathetic fellowship of the handful of drunks and insomniacs who haunted the place. She was sitting at the far end of the short order counter, nibbling on a sweet roll and reading the Sun-Times. He'd taken the stool to her left and asked, "Mind if I borrow the sports section?" She looked like the kind of woman who expected men to like sports. She smiled and introduced herself. What was her name? Carla? No, Darla. Her smile was open and warm, so insidiously inviting that Murphy had abandoned his myriad aliases and confessed, "My name's Murphy. John Murphy." He'd shuffled through the sports section for a minute before asking, "Do you live around here?" "No, I got off work late and missed my bus. T h e next one comes in an hour." "What do you do?" "I run a wire welder in a light fab shop down the street." "Sounds interesting." She shrugged. "It pays the bills." As the stream of cordial small talk changed course, they dis-


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covered acres of common ground. They were both transplanted—rather, uprooted —New Englanders. Both of them had campaigned for Eugene McCarthy; neither had voted since. Their conversation embraced warm reminiscences of the days when people were corifronted with real issues, Vietnam and civil rights — n o t pissy little pseudo-threats like record censorship and secondhand smoke. He'd commiserated with her on the loss of innocence, missed opportunities, and how one's palate is irreversibly altered after biting into the soul-puckering apple of experience.

And with those words it came, a drowning feeling as though he were being sucked under quicksand. He broke free from her grip. T h e glow in her eyes dulled, like the flame of a kerosene lamp being turned down against a long winter night. "Maybe I'll see you again?" she had asked. Murphy found himself stammering like a guilty schoolboy. "Yeah, well —sure. I don't come by too—I mean, well, once in a while." He had stood up slowly, deliberately, trying to mask his desire to flee. She had scribbled down her phone number on the sports section and pushed it toward him. "Give me a call some time." He had nodded his thanks and left with the sports section. On his way home, he stuffed it into a dumpster. A volley of laughter ricocheted off Murphy's window. Four women were hurrying along the sidewalk below. One of them looked like Darla. Murphy grabbed his jacket, then headed over to the bed. He stared down at the sleeping girl. What if she woke up before he returned? He took a five dollar bill from his wallet and set1 it on the nightstand. Adequate compensation for services almost rendered, he thought. As he pulled out his keys, a coin fell from his pocket and clattered to the floor.

They had even shared a laugh about the upper-crust baby b o o m e r s w h o limit their political involvement to bumper stickers, and the dimple-thighed matrons who believe they're saving the environment by recycling soup can labels, then drive to the health spa in their petrol-sucking land yachts. Gas lampreys she'd called thein. Murphy shifted iri his chair. His bladder felt tighter than a drumhead. But he'd be damned it he'd take a leak before five o'clock. Only old farts can't hold their water through the night. Life had barely dragged him, kicking and screaming, into middle age. He certainly wouldn't acquiesce to old age with less "of a,fight. That Darla was an appealing woman. There was no denying it. She had a depth to her smile, a substance in her laugh. And she possessed a healthy dose of cynicism that was bom of experience, not simply inherited from some arrogant college professor. Despite the lines around Darla's eyes and the doubtless sag of her substantial breasts, he felt an attraction to her, a kinship of shared history and something else, something deeper yet unnameable. "Well," she had said. "My bus will be coming in five minutes." She held out her hand. "It was nice meeting you." Her touch felt like a poultice, drawing out his defenses as though they were so much poison, He saw the invitation in her eyes. He felt the expectant lag in her handshake, that subtle reluctance to surrender contact. "I can always take the next bus," she said.

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T h e girl bolted upright. "What are you doing?" Murphy tapped the bill on the nightstand. "This is for you." "I'm not a whore," she said. Her voice was as thin as the collarbones pressing against her pale skin. "Are you kicking me out?" M u r p h y shook his h e a d . "I'm just going out for some smokes. Go back to sleep." T h e girl snuggled back u n d e r the covers, b u t her eyes tracked him all the way out the door. T h e pilgrimage to the diner had been a royal-assed waste of time. M u r p h y had pissed a w a y a n excruciating hour hiding behind the Sun-Times business section, listening to some mentally defective geek two stools away blowing bubbles into his milk with a straw. Darla had been there all right, sitting with a gaggle of co-


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covered acres of common ground. They were both transplanted—rather, uprooted —New Englanders. Both of them had campaigned for Eugene McCarthy; neither had voted since. Their conversation embraced warm reminiscences of the days when people were corifronted with real issues, Vietnam and civil rights — n o t pissy little pseudo-threats like record censorship and secondhand smoke. He'd commiserated with her on the loss of innocence, missed opportunities, and how one's palate is irreversibly altered after biting into the soul-puckering apple of experience.

And with those words it came, a drowning feeling as though he were being sucked under quicksand. He broke free from her grip. T h e glow in her eyes dulled, like the flame of a kerosene lamp being turned down against a long winter night. "Maybe I'll see you again?" she had asked. Murphy found himself stammering like a guilty schoolboy. "Yeah, well —sure. I don't come by too—I mean, well, once in a while." He had stood up slowly, deliberately, trying to mask his desire to flee. She had scribbled down her phone number on the sports section and pushed it toward him. "Give me a call some time." He had nodded his thanks and left with the sports section. On his way home, he stuffed it into a dumpster. A volley of laughter ricocheted off Murphy's window. Four women were hurrying along the sidewalk below. One of them looked like Darla. Murphy grabbed his jacket, then headed over to the bed. He stared down at the sleeping girl. What if she woke up before he returned? He took a five dollar bill from his wallet and set1 it on the nightstand. Adequate compensation for services almost rendered, he thought. As he pulled out his keys, a coin fell from his pocket and clattered to the floor.

They had even shared a laugh about the upper-crust baby b o o m e r s w h o limit their political involvement to bumper stickers, and the dimple-thighed matrons who believe they're saving the environment by recycling soup can labels, then drive to the health spa in their petrol-sucking land yachts. Gas lampreys she'd called thein. Murphy shifted iri his chair. His bladder felt tighter than a drumhead. But he'd be damned it he'd take a leak before five o'clock. Only old farts can't hold their water through the night. Life had barely dragged him, kicking and screaming, into middle age. He certainly wouldn't acquiesce to old age with less "of a,fight. That Darla was an appealing woman. There was no denying it. She had a depth to her smile, a substance in her laugh. And she possessed a healthy dose of cynicism that was bom of experience, not simply inherited from some arrogant college professor. Despite the lines around Darla's eyes and the doubtless sag of her substantial breasts, he felt an attraction to her, a kinship of shared history and something else, something deeper yet unnameable. "Well," she had said. "My bus will be coming in five minutes." She held out her hand. "It was nice meeting you." Her touch felt like a poultice, drawing out his defenses as though they were so much poison, He saw the invitation in her eyes. He felt the expectant lag in her handshake, that subtle reluctance to surrender contact. "I can always take the next bus," she said.

84

T h e girl bolted upright. "What are you doing?" Murphy tapped the bill on the nightstand. "This is for you." "I'm not a whore," she said. Her voice was as thin as the collarbones pressing against her pale skin. "Are you kicking me out?" M u r p h y shook his h e a d . "I'm just going out for some smokes. Go back to sleep." T h e girl snuggled back u n d e r the covers, b u t her eyes tracked him all the way out the door. T h e pilgrimage to the diner had been a royal-assed waste of time. M u r p h y had pissed a w a y a n excruciating hour hiding behind the Sun-Times business section, listening to some mentally defective geek two stools away blowing bubbles into his milk with a straw. Darla had been there all right, sitting with a gaggle of co-


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workers. Her companions were large-boned, fleshy-creatures, broad-nosed and dull-eyed. Their loud voices and coarse laughter chafed his nerves. 'From the few glances, he'd been able to glean, Darla haddiardly stood out from the others. Murphy had remained hidden behind the newspaper until she went to the restroom, then he bolted for the door.

but American women will kill you like they tear a lampshade Murphy's vision drifted in and out of focus. He guided his disobedient eyes down the page with a forefinger. American women care less than a dime, His mind coasted back over a trio of decades to embrace the memory of his first love, an olive-skinned beauty whose teasing, serpent-fbngued kisses and half-finished handjobs had always left him wanting, dissatisfied, and feeling just a little betrayed. Murphy tried to steer his attention back to the poem but, like a tongue seeks out the jagged tooth, his memory returned to her. He marked the poem with an empty cigarette package and tossed the book onto the, coffee table. Maybe next weekend he'd drive up to Evanston. There had to be a club or two up there that pandered to the desires of the pseudo-Bohemian element at Northwestern.

T h e girl was gone when' Murphy arrived back at his place. T h e five spot still lay on the nightstand. True to her word, she wasn't a whore. She was a thief. She'd ripped off his alarm clock. A pillowcase -was missing too. Murphy ran to the cupboard. Except for the salt shaker, it was empty. Worst of all, she'd taken the Quaker Oats box where, he'd stashed two hun dred bucks. Murphy took a quick inventory-of the place. T h e little bitch had ripped-off everything worth pawning, even the dirty silverware. T h e only piece -she'd overlooked was the spoon in the ravioli can. Murphysagged against the counter. This had been one. long, disappointing goddamn night. He trudged over to the bed and flopped onto his back. A pall of guijt hung over the bed like',the faint stench of ancient carrion- He .threw a blanket across his shoulders and hobbled to the bookcase.-He pulled out.a book. It was an old one, out of print for decades. Murphy settled onto the sofa and turned on his gopseneck reading lamp. He opened the book, but the cold room and the arthritis in nis knuckles made" turning the pages impossible. He pulled the lamp close and flexed his fingers in the warmth of the light, gently working the knuckles as though he were freeing up old hinges, frozen with rust Gradually the flexibility returned to his fingers, a n d ' h e began leafing through the book's yellowed pages, scanning several poems. "The Japanese Wife" seemed especially promising. Oh lord, he said, Japanese women, real women, they have not forgotten bowing and smiling, closing the wounds men have made; It was about as old and obscure as a piece could be. Hell, if Bukowski were still alive, even he wouldn'tremember it.

M u r p h y eased his legs onto the sofa. His jeans pressed painfully Against his Madden He pushed a button on his ten dollar, digital Timex and watched the minutes race by. As the watch stuttered past 5:03, Murphy pushed himself off the sofa, and started toward the bathroom.

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workers. Her companions were large-boned, fleshy-creatures, broad-nosed and dull-eyed. Their loud voices and coarse laughter chafed his nerves. 'From the few glances, he'd been able to glean, Darla haddiardly stood out from the others. Murphy had remained hidden behind the newspaper until she went to the restroom, then he bolted for the door.

but American women will kill you like they tear a lampshade Murphy's vision drifted in and out of focus. He guided his disobedient eyes down the page with a forefinger. American women care less than a dime, His mind coasted back over a trio of decades to embrace the memory of his first love, an olive-skinned beauty whose teasing, serpent-fbngued kisses and half-finished handjobs had always left him wanting, dissatisfied, and feeling just a little betrayed. Murphy tried to steer his attention back to the poem but, like a tongue seeks out the jagged tooth, his memory returned to her. He marked the poem with an empty cigarette package and tossed the book onto the, coffee table. Maybe next weekend he'd drive up to Evanston. There had to be a club or two up there that pandered to the desires of the pseudo-Bohemian element at Northwestern.

T h e girl was gone when' Murphy arrived back at his place. T h e five spot still lay on the nightstand. True to her word, she wasn't a whore. She was a thief. She'd ripped off his alarm clock. A pillowcase -was missing too. Murphy ran to the cupboard. Except for the salt shaker, it was empty. Worst of all, she'd taken the Quaker Oats box where, he'd stashed two hun dred bucks. Murphy took a quick inventory-of the place. T h e little bitch had ripped-off everything worth pawning, even the dirty silverware. T h e only piece -she'd overlooked was the spoon in the ravioli can. Murphysagged against the counter. This had been one. long, disappointing goddamn night. He trudged over to the bed and flopped onto his back. A pall of guijt hung over the bed like',the faint stench of ancient carrion- He .threw a blanket across his shoulders and hobbled to the bookcase.-He pulled out.a book. It was an old one, out of print for decades. Murphy settled onto the sofa and turned on his gopseneck reading lamp. He opened the book, but the cold room and the arthritis in nis knuckles made" turning the pages impossible. He pulled the lamp close and flexed his fingers in the warmth of the light, gently working the knuckles as though he were freeing up old hinges, frozen with rust Gradually the flexibility returned to his fingers, a n d ' h e began leafing through the book's yellowed pages, scanning several poems. "The Japanese Wife" seemed especially promising. Oh lord, he said, Japanese women, real women, they have not forgotten bowing and smiling, closing the wounds men have made; It was about as old and obscure as a piece could be. Hell, if Bukowski were still alive, even he wouldn'tremember it.

M u r p h y eased his legs onto the sofa. His jeans pressed painfully Against his Madden He pushed a button on his ten dollar, digital Timex and watched the minutes race by. As the watch stuttered past 5:03, Murphy pushed himself off the sofa, and started toward the bathroom.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Juliet

Stelzman


Berkeley Fiction Review

Juliet

Stelzman


Brown and Lime Green

Martha, E n g b e r

B r o w n

a n d

L i m e

G r e e n

1 >£3&S£k.

t's like =you think brown dnd lime greeri go together. What's the matter with you?" i He narrowed his eyes and waited. "My god," she said, shaking her head, her mouth slightly open. •Hunched shoulders, all that muddy brown hair, face too thin, the eyes small and the color of dead leaves. Like an abandoned mutt, he thought. He wanted to tell her that, speak his mind, and he would

have. But he couldn't. Not now. She cocked her-head and looked '"him over, as if scheming where and how hard to bite. Theywere-rubbing'him raw, those eyes. He put his right elbow on the armrest of the green vinyl chair'and leaned away from her, feigning nonchalance. T h e t u n e r a c e d t h r o u g h - h i s m i n d : - " D o n ' t give y o u r name/she's not our game/she's a big deal better/yes, she's a big stakes bettor." Charlie shook his head. Swaying together, his nose against her neck, bathing in heVsdent Her eyes were "softer then. "You bring her here to see me with her fdce not washed and looking like she's got five day's'growth., How does a two year old get to look like she's sprouting a beard?" Charlie raised his eyebrows and blinked.-Tell me, please. "Oh, Charlie." S h e sighed. "The sippy cup-she can take the lid off. What, did you do, filled it u p and-gave it right to her, huh? Just handed it right over." They both, turned their heads to the sound of an old man's guffaw. A real haw-haw. A bouffant-headed woman at the man's elbow, kept talking and smiling while her right hand nervously fidgeted with the back of his hospital gown, trying to keep anyone from,seeing his wrinkled behind. Not that a man with a laugh like that would much care, Charlie thought and smiled. ' T h e n he looked at Joan. He sighed. "When you give her a full sippy cup'," she said, "she drinks what she wants-like a sip or-two at most-and then pulls off the lid.. She likes to watch it pour out and then she gets down on hands land knees and treats'it like any old raifi puddle. Juice probably dried right on her face and you go putting on that old brown sweatshirt, letting fuzz just stick to those cheeks." A slight smile at the image. "But you would-know all this if you hadn't spent so much time with your-" Buddies. Charlie rubbed his cheek. T h e stubble that had been growing since yesterday itched: Joan laughed once. "Do you remember your beard and how you looked on our first date?" She used a nail to scrape at a

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Brown and Lime Green

Martha, E n g b e r

B r o w n

a n d

L i m e

G r e e n

1 >£3&S£k.

t's like =you think brown dnd lime greeri go together. What's the matter with you?" i He narrowed his eyes and waited. "My god," she said, shaking her head, her mouth slightly open. •Hunched shoulders, all that muddy brown hair, face too thin, the eyes small and the color of dead leaves. Like an abandoned mutt, he thought. He wanted to tell her that, speak his mind, and he would

have. But he couldn't. Not now. She cocked her-head and looked '"him over, as if scheming where and how hard to bite. Theywere-rubbing'him raw, those eyes. He put his right elbow on the armrest of the green vinyl chair'and leaned away from her, feigning nonchalance. T h e t u n e r a c e d t h r o u g h - h i s m i n d : - " D o n ' t give y o u r name/she's not our game/she's a big deal better/yes, she's a big stakes bettor." Charlie shook his head. Swaying together, his nose against her neck, bathing in heVsdent Her eyes were "softer then. "You bring her here to see me with her fdce not washed and looking like she's got five day's'growth., How does a two year old get to look like she's sprouting a beard?" Charlie raised his eyebrows and blinked.-Tell me, please. "Oh, Charlie." S h e sighed. "The sippy cup-she can take the lid off. What, did you do, filled it u p and-gave it right to her, huh? Just handed it right over." They both, turned their heads to the sound of an old man's guffaw. A real haw-haw. A bouffant-headed woman at the man's elbow, kept talking and smiling while her right hand nervously fidgeted with the back of his hospital gown, trying to keep anyone from,seeing his wrinkled behind. Not that a man with a laugh like that would much care, Charlie thought and smiled. ' T h e n he looked at Joan. He sighed. "When you give her a full sippy cup'," she said, "she drinks what she wants-like a sip or-two at most-and then pulls off the lid.. She likes to watch it pour out and then she gets down on hands land knees and treats'it like any old raifi puddle. Juice probably dried right on her face and you go putting on that old brown sweatshirt, letting fuzz just stick to those cheeks." A slight smile at the image. "But you would-know all this if you hadn't spent so much time with your-" Buddies. Charlie rubbed his cheek. T h e stubble that had been growing since yesterday itched: Joan laughed once. "Do you remember your beard and how you looked on our first date?" She used a nail to scrape at a

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label stuck to the bed railing. "I remember-exactly. You were wearing a new red plaid .shirt. I could tell because it still had the fold creases." ÂŁhe-smiled* "And fresh-washed jeans. Your boots were polished some. And your hair...." She glanced 'at him quickly, almost shyly, and then looked back d o w n ^ S h e had looked fine, back then. "You tried to slick it d o w n ^ b u t j knew it was wild like-mine."

Joan was trying to pull Mellie up onto the bed by the cuffs of her shirt frustrated, Mellie bit*the sheet and shook her head. Charlie,leaned forward and cupped his hand under the girl's, airborne shoe. Mellie pushed on-his. hand a n d with one hefty' pull landed face-down on the bed. Her head pqpped up and she started laughing. Charlie's sister, Rosalie, walked through the door, Mellie's coat in hand. O n unsteady legs, Mellie stood up on the b e d , toddled toward Joan and belly-flopped on her lap. Joan gasped and Charlie yelled, "Settle down, Mellie."

T h e girl whipped around toward her daddy. "She doesn'tknow," Joan said. Charlie^sat back. He'd never heard it before, the pain. Mellie started jumping on the stiff mattress. Joan pulled at Mellie's wrisf and the girl sat down for a hug and hold just seconds long, then she was up again. She draped her middle over the railing and leaned over. Charlie grabbed her before she fell. Mellie laughed. Charlie set Mellie on her feet and she ran to the bedside table where she opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a mustard-colored plastic bedpan. She threw it on the floor when she spotted the box of disposable thermometer covers. "Mel, honey," Joan said, trying to catch the girl. "Hey, you," Charlie said. He leaned forward and grabbed Mellie beneath her armpits. She kicked her feet wildly while arching her back and letting out a big yell. "Oh, hell, I'll take her out again," said Charlie's plump and permed sister, who embraced the squirming child as if she were a cactus. "You're sweet, but you're a wild one," she said on the way out. "Like your daddy used to-be." Charlie looked at Joan, who was watching'Rosalie's back. Pure hatred, he thought. Everything was pure on 'Joan's face nowadays. N o t that she was too good at concealing things before. But at least he used to*be able to ignore her. Now there were no pretenses at all. No niceties, no how. He hadn't noticed the sweet moments slipping away. O n e day it was just no fun anymore. Echoes of her pleading voice scratched at him. Could you ... Try to ... You don't... You used to ... Please ... Please ... Finally he told her just to shut up, and what a surprise when she actually did. But then there was this Joan. He looked at her. Her teeth were pale yellow. Once he had a notion; that it might be partly his fault, the* change. But then he thought, what had he done? Nothing. He hadn't done anything. She turned to him. "Don't give her all those chips and soda and all that junk you like."

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He smiled and looked away. O u t of the corner .of his eye, he. saw Joan cock, her head toward the door. T h e n he heard it, too; small, madly running gym-shped feej approaching. He glanced at Joan and saw the smile of delight. His mouth tightened. T h e brown-ha'ired little girl charged through the 'doorway and. raced with, infant speed toward the bed. Joan threw open her arms. The* girl's brown sweatshirt had a dark stain just'belowthe chin. Red juice was spattered on her lime green pants? The socks were a dull; dirty yellow. "Hey, you little whirling dervish! C o m e on over here!" Joan said. Hey, you little whirling dervish. Charlie felt a sta^) of pain and.touched his head, trying to remember. His.mind flitted in and out of the years*until the scene emerged. Walking along, a horn blares and he turns. Gold late afternoon sunlight glinting off her cheap sunglasses as she leans her head out the window of, that old pickup. Hey, you little whirling dervish! C o m e on oyer here!,He kisses her lips. Newlyweds. Newly wedded. New.


Berkeley Fiction Review

Brown and Lime Green

label stuck to the bed railing. "I remember-exactly. You were wearing a new red plaid .shirt. I could tell because it still had the fold creases." ÂŁhe-smiled* "And fresh-washed jeans. Your boots were polished some. And your hair...." She glanced 'at him quickly, almost shyly, and then looked back d o w n ^ S h e had looked fine, back then. "You tried to slick it d o w n ^ b u t j knew it was wild like-mine."

Joan was trying to pull Mellie up onto the bed by the cuffs of her shirt frustrated, Mellie bit*the sheet and shook her head. Charlie,leaned forward and cupped his hand under the girl's, airborne shoe. Mellie pushed on-his. hand a n d with one hefty' pull landed face-down on the bed. Her head pqpped up and she started laughing. Charlie's sister, Rosalie, walked through the door, Mellie's coat in hand. O n unsteady legs, Mellie stood up on the b e d , toddled toward Joan and belly-flopped on her lap. Joan gasped and Charlie yelled, "Settle down, Mellie."

T h e girl whipped around toward her daddy. "She doesn'tknow," Joan said. Charlie^sat back. He'd never heard it before, the pain. Mellie started jumping on the stiff mattress. Joan pulled at Mellie's wrisf and the girl sat down for a hug and hold just seconds long, then she was up again. She draped her middle over the railing and leaned over. Charlie grabbed her before she fell. Mellie laughed. Charlie set Mellie on her feet and she ran to the bedside table where she opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a mustard-colored plastic bedpan. She threw it on the floor when she spotted the box of disposable thermometer covers. "Mel, honey," Joan said, trying to catch the girl. "Hey, you," Charlie said. He leaned forward and grabbed Mellie beneath her armpits. She kicked her feet wildly while arching her back and letting out a big yell. "Oh, hell, I'll take her out again," said Charlie's plump and permed sister, who embraced the squirming child as if she were a cactus. "You're sweet, but you're a wild one," she said on the way out. "Like your daddy used to-be." Charlie looked at Joan, who was watching'Rosalie's back. Pure hatred, he thought. Everything was pure on 'Joan's face nowadays. N o t that she was too good at concealing things before. But at least he used to*be able to ignore her. Now there were no pretenses at all. No niceties, no how. He hadn't noticed the sweet moments slipping away. O n e day it was just no fun anymore. Echoes of her pleading voice scratched at him. Could you ... Try to ... You don't... You used to ... Please ... Please ... Finally he told her just to shut up, and what a surprise when she actually did. But then there was this Joan. He looked at her. Her teeth were pale yellow. Once he had a notion; that it might be partly his fault, the* change. But then he thought, what had he done? Nothing. He hadn't done anything. She turned to him. "Don't give her all those chips and soda and all that junk you like."

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He smiled and looked away. O u t of the corner .of his eye, he. saw Joan cock, her head toward the door. T h e n he heard it, too; small, madly running gym-shped feej approaching. He glanced at Joan and saw the smile of delight. His mouth tightened. T h e brown-ha'ired little girl charged through the 'doorway and. raced with, infant speed toward the bed. Joan threw open her arms. The* girl's brown sweatshirt had a dark stain just'belowthe chin. Red juice was spattered on her lime green pants? The socks were a dull; dirty yellow. "Hey, you little whirling dervish! C o m e on over here!" Joan said. Hey, you little whirling dervish. Charlie felt a sta^) of pain and.touched his head, trying to remember. His.mind flitted in and out of the years*until the scene emerged. Walking along, a horn blares and he turns. Gold late afternoon sunlight glinting off her cheap sunglasses as she leans her head out the window of, that old pickup. Hey, you little whirling dervish! C o m e on oyer here!,He kisses her lips. Newlyweds. Newly wedded. New.


Berkeley Fiction Review

Brown and Lime Green

He shrugged. "She doesn't like broccoli, but she'll eat carrots and beansgreen ones-and most kinds* of fruits, though she hasn't been much for apples lately,-but I expect that'll pass. And she needs red meat for the iron, though I'don't {funk she likes anything but hot dogs right now-" He shifted in his seat. "Aren't there more important things we need to talk about now?" he asked slowly. "Rosalie knows about those-" "The hell with what Rosalie knows! You..." Joan sputtered, jabbing a bony finger at him. "That is your daughter, no one else's. She's not a car or a house or those damn golf clubs that you never use. You don't let her be taken over by*someone else just because it's easier for you. Don't be that weak." Charlie stood up and-faced the door. "Oh, Charlie, sit down," Joan said. "All you're doing is yapping at me." She stared at him. "I wouldn't have to if you had listened to me." "I am listening. My God, how can I not!" Charlie paded back and forth a-few times. "Sit .down, Charlie/' Joan said. Charlie looked at the door for a long m o m e n t , then he turned and slumped in the chair. Quietly she said, "Yesterday you brought her in wearing a pink shirt with the orange and black shorts. T h e day before it was a summer dress that fit her last ye'ar. I told you that was a storage drawer. Her hair's always messy, h e r face is always dirty-" "Kids get messy." She slapped the bed. "It's more than that." Charlie glanced at the wall clock above the door arid then back at her. "We're sitting here talking kids clothes and you're dying." A soothing, amplified female voice said, "Dr. Gross,, code blue in room 235, code blue in room 235." Charlie got up, closed the door, and returned to his chair.

He looked at Joan. She was staring at the ceiling, as if listening to a bird. That's how he had often found her after.one of their bouts. O n the front porch at dusk, looking up. He would ask what she was doing. "Listening," she would say, then turn and go inside. She was big on that, listening.

"They're things, Joan," Charlie said, shrugging his shoulders. "They're not!" She leaned forward, her eyes fierce. "Charlie. You can't go dressing her like that and taking away all her girlishness and any chance of her caring about herself. You've got to brush her hair and put in little barrettes and wipe her mouth after she eats-all of her mouth, not kind of wipe and*spread the food around so it dries and flakes off, making her look like she's got some sort of skin disease." Charlie looked at her blandly. He saw somethings slide from her eyes, something vital-hope, maybe-and he felt alarmed, though whether for himself or her he didn't know. "And you'll r e m e m b e r that she needs her teeth brushed every night?" Sure. Joan began to cry, though her voice remained steady "And that she'll have to start preschool next year? And that you should put her in day care while you're at work instead of leaving her with your sister-" "Well..." "-because Rosalie's got that boyfriend"over a lot, and I don't trust him. Spend the money and have somebody good watch her."

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Joan lowered her eyes to his face. "You completely miss the point. You have for years now." He braced. "All the time you're looking at plain everyday things and think they're telling you nothing, nothing. And then when I tell you you don't know what's going on about feelings and people, you wave your hands and say to give you specific details. Then I point to details, like Mellie's clothes, and you say those are just things and don't mean anything. Well what does mean something, Charlie?"


Berkeley Fiction Review

Brown and Lime Green

He shrugged. "She doesn't like broccoli, but she'll eat carrots and beansgreen ones-and most kinds* of fruits, though she hasn't been much for apples lately,-but I expect that'll pass. And she needs red meat for the iron, though I'don't {funk she likes anything but hot dogs right now-" He shifted in his seat. "Aren't there more important things we need to talk about now?" he asked slowly. "Rosalie knows about those-" "The hell with what Rosalie knows! You..." Joan sputtered, jabbing a bony finger at him. "That is your daughter, no one else's. She's not a car or a house or those damn golf clubs that you never use. You don't let her be taken over by*someone else just because it's easier for you. Don't be that weak." Charlie stood up and-faced the door. "Oh, Charlie, sit down," Joan said. "All you're doing is yapping at me." She stared at him. "I wouldn't have to if you had listened to me." "I am listening. My God, how can I not!" Charlie paded back and forth a-few times. "Sit .down, Charlie/' Joan said. Charlie looked at the door for a long m o m e n t , then he turned and slumped in the chair. Quietly she said, "Yesterday you brought her in wearing a pink shirt with the orange and black shorts. T h e day before it was a summer dress that fit her last ye'ar. I told you that was a storage drawer. Her hair's always messy, h e r face is always dirty-" "Kids get messy." She slapped the bed. "It's more than that." Charlie glanced at the wall clock above the door arid then back at her. "We're sitting here talking kids clothes and you're dying." A soothing, amplified female voice said, "Dr. Gross,, code blue in room 235, code blue in room 235." Charlie got up, closed the door, and returned to his chair.

He looked at Joan. She was staring at the ceiling, as if listening to a bird. That's how he had often found her after.one of their bouts. O n the front porch at dusk, looking up. He would ask what she was doing. "Listening," she would say, then turn and go inside. She was big on that, listening.

"They're things, Joan," Charlie said, shrugging his shoulders. "They're not!" She leaned forward, her eyes fierce. "Charlie. You can't go dressing her like that and taking away all her girlishness and any chance of her caring about herself. You've got to brush her hair and put in little barrettes and wipe her mouth after she eats-all of her mouth, not kind of wipe and*spread the food around so it dries and flakes off, making her look like she's got some sort of skin disease." Charlie looked at her blandly. He saw somethings slide from her eyes, something vital-hope, maybe-and he felt alarmed, though whether for himself or her he didn't know. "And you'll r e m e m b e r that she needs her teeth brushed every night?" Sure. Joan began to cry, though her voice remained steady "And that she'll have to start preschool next year? And that you should put her in day care while you're at work instead of leaving her with your sister-" "Well..." "-because Rosalie's got that boyfriend"over a lot, and I don't trust him. Spend the money and have somebody good watch her."

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Joan lowered her eyes to his face. "You completely miss the point. You have for years now." He braced. "All the time you're looking at plain everyday things and think they're telling you nothing, nothing. And then when I tell you you don't know what's going on about feelings and people, you wave your hands and say to give you specific details. Then I point to details, like Mellie's clothes, and you say those are just things and don't mean anything. Well what does mean something, Charlie?"


Berkeley Fiction Review

Brown and Lime Green

'Til think about it." "Ydu do it," she hissed, "or I'll wait around a long time and stack up those bills until you do i t " "Whatkindofathing-" "You do it." "Oh-" "You do it." "I'll do it, I'll do it." He rubbed his forehead, though if was his chest that felt tight. She leaned back against her pillows. "I don't want her around strange men." "I said all right." "And she'll need to start going to a dentistin another year." "Joan-" "And that includes no male baby-sitters, by the way. You stick to Lisa and Danielle for whenever you want to go out..." "Joan-" "I don't think it's a good idea to let her start dating until she's sixteen." "Joan!" "What?" she whispered. i He=waved his hand, a tear rolling from the corner of his eye. "Dentists, dating, baby-sitters; why are you telling me-all this?" he said, though he suspected. "Because I spend all the time with her." Charlie started shaking his head. "I spend~time with her." "But you d o n ' t see things. She could be a dog r u n n i n g around." "That's not tme." She nodded,*sobbing now. "We'll be-all right," he said, wanting to pat her shoulder. Joan shook her.head violently and stared at him, like she had at Rosalie. "Why don't you believe me?" he said. And out with.a rush and a bitelike death, she said,*"Because I don't trust you." He bent his head, a hand over his eyes, and cried. He mar-

veled at such an ugly sound; so primitive. And.the gushing, as if life were draining out of him. He pulled in a breath and held it until the flow became a trickle. "Trust me to do what?" Jumping up, he started flailing his arms, the energy of anger all about him. "To do what? To take her to the dentist on time? To keep her from getting raped by Rosalie's boyfriend? To keep her friends from'laughing at her for wearing a brown sweatshirt and lime green pants?" "I'm not-" He sneered. "To raise her exactly like you would?" "No," she said, shaking her head. "Because I'm not you." "I don't expect you to be," she said, the edge in her voice sharpening. "You don't?" "No." 'You don't?" he said, standing over her. He was breathing heavily and tears streamed down his grizzled face. "Then what don't you trust me to do?" She didn't speak for a moment, but only stared at him in horror. T h e n with hatred. "To love her always," Joan said evenly. "To see her beauty; to encourage her to care for herself, to think about her, you bastard! If you couldn't with me, why should I think you'll do it for her?" Charlie closed his eyes and hissed as if burned. Her voice whispered in his mind like shame. "If you don't think about people, Charlie, when they ask, when they plead, they'll turn out..." Silence. "... like me." Charlie held his ears, deafened. His sense of failing her was raw and unspeakable. Taking her hand now, he knew, would make it worse. It would be cheap and bad. But he followed this instinct, which before would have been a warning to resist. He followed it, but then began to panic as he felt his strength seep away. A trickle became a torrent. He couldn't stop it this time. She was watching, he knew, and thought how demeaning it all was. She was watching him, willing him. Willing him, and then he felt the last ounce of control he thought he ever pos-

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'Til think about it." "Ydu do it," she hissed, "or I'll wait around a long time and stack up those bills until you do i t " "Whatkindofathing-" "You do it." "Oh-" "You do it." "I'll do it, I'll do it." He rubbed his forehead, though if was his chest that felt tight. She leaned back against her pillows. "I don't want her around strange men." "I said all right." "And she'll need to start going to a dentistin another year." "Joan-" "And that includes no male baby-sitters, by the way. You stick to Lisa and Danielle for whenever you want to go out..." "Joan-" "I don't think it's a good idea to let her start dating until she's sixteen." "Joan!" "What?" she whispered. i He=waved his hand, a tear rolling from the corner of his eye. "Dentists, dating, baby-sitters; why are you telling me-all this?" he said, though he suspected. "Because I spend all the time with her." Charlie started shaking his head. "I spend~time with her." "But you d o n ' t see things. She could be a dog r u n n i n g around." "That's not tme." She nodded,*sobbing now. "We'll be-all right," he said, wanting to pat her shoulder. Joan shook her.head violently and stared at him, like she had at Rosalie. "Why don't you believe me?" he said. And out with.a rush and a bitelike death, she said,*"Because I don't trust you." He bent his head, a hand over his eyes, and cried. He mar-

veled at such an ugly sound; so primitive. And.the gushing, as if life were draining out of him. He pulled in a breath and held it until the flow became a trickle. "Trust me to do what?" Jumping up, he started flailing his arms, the energy of anger all about him. "To do what? To take her to the dentist on time? To keep her from getting raped by Rosalie's boyfriend? To keep her friends from'laughing at her for wearing a brown sweatshirt and lime green pants?" "I'm not-" He sneered. "To raise her exactly like you would?" "No," she said, shaking her head. "Because I'm not you." "I don't expect you to be," she said, the edge in her voice sharpening. "You don't?" "No." 'You don't?" he said, standing over her. He was breathing heavily and tears streamed down his grizzled face. "Then what don't you trust me to do?" She didn't speak for a moment, but only stared at him in horror. T h e n with hatred. "To love her always," Joan said evenly. "To see her beauty; to encourage her to care for herself, to think about her, you bastard! If you couldn't with me, why should I think you'll do it for her?" Charlie closed his eyes and hissed as if burned. Her voice whispered in his mind like shame. "If you don't think about people, Charlie, when they ask, when they plead, they'll turn out..." Silence. "... like me." Charlie held his ears, deafened. His sense of failing her was raw and unspeakable. Taking her hand now, he knew, would make it worse. It would be cheap and bad. But he followed this instinct, which before would have been a warning to resist. He followed it, but then began to panic as he felt his strength seep away. A trickle became a torrent. He couldn't stop it this time. She was watching, he knew, and thought how demeaning it all was. She was watching him, willing him. Willing him, and then he felt the last ounce of control he thought he ever pos-

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Berkeley Fiction Review sessed-over life^and death slip away. So. H e opened his eyes. Joan was looking at him, weary. ,He looked around the room slowly'and noticed for the first time the fluorescent purple dinosaur with the bandaged head, the-one on*the card taped to the bed rail. His eyes moved to the pitcher of water on the bedside table. No beads'of water. It must be Very warm, he thought, almost tasting the .tepid, plastic-flavored liquid. He saw his hand reach out for the flimsy handle. "You need fresh water " Charlie said. Joan shook her head slightly. "That's okay." "No," Charlie said, standing up. "This .stuff probably tastes like pond water now. You need some fresh and real cold." He made it to the door. He gripped its handle. "Charlie?" she said.

Wyatt Bonikowski

T h e

I s l a n d

>K3&ÂŁ9k

O

n this island I have no hunger or thirst, I produce no bodily waste, and I am never plagued by fatigue or the need to sleep. My body is meant only for the breeze on my face, the smell of the ocean, the sounds of the waves and the shifting of the island itself, which stretches out below me as far as I wish to see it extend. O n e fault exists, however, and that is the propagation of diseases. I have been acquiring a new one each day, and after a time it wears off and another has taken its place. Since night never comes to the island, I mark the passing of days with the 96

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Berkeley Fiction Review sessed-over life^and death slip away. So. H e opened his eyes. Joan was looking at him, weary. ,He looked around the room slowly'and noticed for the first time the fluorescent purple dinosaur with the bandaged head, the-one on*the card taped to the bed rail. His eyes moved to the pitcher of water on the bedside table. No beads'of water. It must be Very warm, he thought, almost tasting the .tepid, plastic-flavored liquid. He saw his hand reach out for the flimsy handle. "You need fresh water " Charlie said. Joan shook her head slightly. "That's okay." "No," Charlie said, standing up. "This .stuff probably tastes like pond water now. You need some fresh and real cold." He made it to the door. He gripped its handle. "Charlie?" she said.

Wyatt Bonikowski

T h e

I s l a n d

>K3&ÂŁ9k

O

n this island I have no hunger or thirst, I produce no bodily waste, and I am never plagued by fatigue or the need to sleep. My body is meant only for the breeze on my face, the smell of the ocean, the sounds of the waves and the shifting of the island itself, which stretches out below me as far as I wish to see it extend. O n e fault exists, however, and that is the propagation of diseases. I have been acquiring a new one each day, and after a time it wears off and another has taken its place. Since night never comes to the island, I mark the passing of days with the 96

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Berkeley Fiction Review

The Island

changing of diseases, no matter how irregular their schedule. Some diseases feel as though they might last years in a place where the sun does rise and set, and a few hours of darkness remove the burden of light from the eyes; others feel somehow shorter, like a day that slips unexpectedly into a night colored by loss. Perhaps it is only my experience of each disease that makes them seem irregular, but what does it matter?

Finally, the roof is layered with leaves of cacti, the only green life the sandbar can sustain, whose white blooms and forbidding spikes both threaten and allure. W h e n I first saw them, their sad beauty made me want to hold them gently, b u t all I received for my efforts was a. thorn in my palm that, no matter how I dig into the skin, I still cannot remove. I found a pair of garden gloves my father had used to pull weeds, and I put them on to protect myself.

T h e first disease I r e m e m b e r having was a skin disorder where each layer of skin slowly peeled off until I was nothing more than a hobbling mass of blood, muscle, and bones. T h e skin-sloughing was impossible to prevent; in fact, late in the progression of the disease it was necessary to peel off the skin myself because it no longer felt comfortable or useful and had even become irritating. By the end I was furiously ripping my face off. My nose and ears felt to my skinless hands like clumsy and ridiculous rubber extensions. Then, without warning, I ,was fully reclothed in my own skin. I felt natural and secure once again but later that day I contracted the second disease: I could see only in black and white on a two-dimensional field. I believe I have contracted a total of eight diseases since I have been here, and at first I did not know what to call them. Was this my body's attempt to acclimate itself to new surroundings? Was there a pattern to these distortions, a code which I was being forced to decipher? Now I have come to see them as nothing more than diseases, akin to the common cold, influenza, pneumonia. They can do m e no permanent harm, and I have even begun to expect them and leam from them. I built a hut out of found objects, not for sleep since my body never tires, but for the security I need in small, enclosed spaces. T h e floor is made entirely of packaged loaves of white bread, cushiony-soft and pleasant to roll around on, which, as a child, I sometimes ate with meatloaf and ketchup. T h e walls consist of rows of malformed, rejected railroad spikes from my home town in South Carolina (where I used to walk the tracks, ignoring the sun and the trees h u n g with Spanish moss).

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After building the h u t I stand a good distance from it and admire my work. T h e hu t looks homey and very attractive. I am proud of myself. Disease of the day: open sores. Mannequins are beginning to grow out of the mulch behind my hut. Right now only their arms are visible, reaching frozen fingers to the sky. T h e positions of the hands express a desire for movement, sad gestures of paralysis. I walk among them, weaving my way around the pale plaster arms, noting the crooked and swollen elbow, and I imagine that there will soon be a garden of fully formed mannequins. They will dance under the moon like a fluid lunar time-piece, instructing the stars, controlling the tides, irtfuriating the waters until a circle of tidal waves wash over my retreat and drown me in water the color and consistency of blood. But there is no night, no moon or stars, and the water only brushes softly against the beach. I sit and watch the ocean for hours on a beach of pages from unread books. T h e surf trails lifeless strings of nerves across the beach like the disembodied tentacles of jellyfish; they tangle with driftwood made of splintered bone. Every now and then the line of the horizon will tremble and shudder, and I have to close my eyes to keep my balance. Why this happens I'm not sure, except that perhaps the world is trying to force itself on top of me; even this safe place wishes to smother me. And meanwhile, the dark red ocean calmly rises and falls like the brain waves of the cdmatose. Disease ofthe day: hunchback and clubfoot.

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The Island

changing of diseases, no matter how irregular their schedule. Some diseases feel as though they might last years in a place where the sun does rise and set, and a few hours of darkness remove the burden of light from the eyes; others feel somehow shorter, like a day that slips unexpectedly into a night colored by loss. Perhaps it is only my experience of each disease that makes them seem irregular, but what does it matter?

Finally, the roof is layered with leaves of cacti, the only green life the sandbar can sustain, whose white blooms and forbidding spikes both threaten and allure. W h e n I first saw them, their sad beauty made me want to hold them gently, b u t all I received for my efforts was a. thorn in my palm that, no matter how I dig into the skin, I still cannot remove. I found a pair of garden gloves my father had used to pull weeds, and I put them on to protect myself.

T h e first disease I r e m e m b e r having was a skin disorder where each layer of skin slowly peeled off until I was nothing more than a hobbling mass of blood, muscle, and bones. T h e skin-sloughing was impossible to prevent; in fact, late in the progression of the disease it was necessary to peel off the skin myself because it no longer felt comfortable or useful and had even become irritating. By the end I was furiously ripping my face off. My nose and ears felt to my skinless hands like clumsy and ridiculous rubber extensions. Then, without warning, I ,was fully reclothed in my own skin. I felt natural and secure once again but later that day I contracted the second disease: I could see only in black and white on a two-dimensional field. I believe I have contracted a total of eight diseases since I have been here, and at first I did not know what to call them. Was this my body's attempt to acclimate itself to new surroundings? Was there a pattern to these distortions, a code which I was being forced to decipher? Now I have come to see them as nothing more than diseases, akin to the common cold, influenza, pneumonia. They can do m e no permanent harm, and I have even begun to expect them and leam from them. I built a hut out of found objects, not for sleep since my body never tires, but for the security I need in small, enclosed spaces. T h e floor is made entirely of packaged loaves of white bread, cushiony-soft and pleasant to roll around on, which, as a child, I sometimes ate with meatloaf and ketchup. T h e walls consist of rows of malformed, rejected railroad spikes from my home town in South Carolina (where I used to walk the tracks, ignoring the sun and the trees h u n g with Spanish moss).

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After building the h u t I stand a good distance from it and admire my work. T h e hu t looks homey and very attractive. I am proud of myself. Disease of the day: open sores. Mannequins are beginning to grow out of the mulch behind my hut. Right now only their arms are visible, reaching frozen fingers to the sky. T h e positions of the hands express a desire for movement, sad gestures of paralysis. I walk among them, weaving my way around the pale plaster arms, noting the crooked and swollen elbow, and I imagine that there will soon be a garden of fully formed mannequins. They will dance under the moon like a fluid lunar time-piece, instructing the stars, controlling the tides, irtfuriating the waters until a circle of tidal waves wash over my retreat and drown me in water the color and consistency of blood. But there is no night, no moon or stars, and the water only brushes softly against the beach. I sit and watch the ocean for hours on a beach of pages from unread books. T h e surf trails lifeless strings of nerves across the beach like the disembodied tentacles of jellyfish; they tangle with driftwood made of splintered bone. Every now and then the line of the horizon will tremble and shudder, and I have to close my eyes to keep my balance. Why this happens I'm not sure, except that perhaps the world is trying to force itself on top of me; even this safe place wishes to smother me. And meanwhile, the dark red ocean calmly rises and falls like the brain waves of the cdmatose. Disease ofthe day: hunchback and clubfoot.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

The Island

Every day I take a stroll. I can walk as far in any direction as I want, and the island continuously creates itself o u t of the b l u r r e d h o r i z o n : a fuzzy d i s t a n c e slowly takes form as I approach, at first only a lump of color and undefined shape, then a hill, and, closer, a mountain, and as I reach its foot I grab hold and begin to climb its glossy slope, my hands finding purchase in crevices of layered slick magazine pages. T h e mountain is a thousand feet of Ranger Rick and National Geographic. My body does not tire-, so time does not pass as it should while climbing a mountain. Before I know it, I am at the top, and I sit down to read a Ranger Rick story about the raccoon ranger and his adventurous animal friends. Halfway through I wonder, "Have I read this one before?" T h e simple prose, the short sentences, haunt me. I begin to tremble, certain that this story has, like a palimpsest, another written beneath it

locked in grimaces, teeth exposed. They smile in their agony. Their sightless eyes seek the sun's blaze to burn away their cataracts. I want them to see me. I want to touch them, but only after the sun has brought them to life, because now they are cold and I have to keep my distance. All I can do is stare and wish the heat of my gaze could match the sun's as it shines down on us and bums our faces. Disease ofthe day: my body wrinkled like a raisin.

From this height, the island stretches out to the blood-red border ofthe horizon in all directions around me. T h e ocean is barely visible even though only a little while.earlier I walked barely along the shore. A wave of vertigo passes through me. I feel like I am standing in the pupil of an immense bloodshot eye. Behind me, a yellowed movie screen stands, its legs bent under the weight of rust, before a defunct slide projector. Disease ofthe day: lack of breath. -I tend to the garden of mannequins. They do not require maintenance, no weeds to pull, no nourishment to lend, only a careful observation. I find that the -more I stare, the more they struggle towards the sun. They are all female. They resemble paralyzed women buried to their waists in dirt T h e m a n n e q u i n s are perfect representations of beauty, smooth and unblemished except for slight swellings in the joints of fingers,-elbows, and shoulders, as though in straining for growth they have become arthritic. Their breasts yary in size, but all are polished globes with no sag or droop. T h e delicate lines of their ribs curve down and around the diaphragm muscles, tensed in the struggle against the earth. Their mouths are

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O n my daily survey and collection walk, I gather various items scattered on the edge of a cliff. I place the following in a canvas sack: a used tissue, a vinyl record, a dead mouse, a toupee, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, and a how-to book on remodeling your kitchen.. W h e n I return to my hut, I put the items in the piles of found objects along the back wall. My small, enclosed space is becoming smaller, cluttered with objects divorced from their original contexts. Most of these things are vaguely familiar, but their appearance on the island makes it nearly impossible to pinpoint their significance, if any. They must mean something, I often think, or else they would not be here. T h e dead mouse, the comic books, the King James Bible, the moth-eaten mink stole, the life-size plaster h u m a n skeleton, the toy soldiers, the jar of lightening bugs, the fragments of photographs of women's bodies (piles of them, heaped into one corner of the hut, and I often imagine the pieces as one photograph of one makeshift whore with 20,000 pursed and wet lips a n d 40,000 unnaturally firm breasts). All of these objects want to m e a n more to m e , they want to be strung together with cause and effect in an order that makes sense. They want to be words in a sentence that reads, "My life means this." So I heap them on top of each other against the back wall of the hut, in any order, in no order. There, they hold together against their own weight. Whenever I return to my hut, I am comforted seeing them lying there like so much garbage, a compost of memory. Disease ofthe day: unnaturally enlarged appendages.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

The Island

Every day I take a stroll. I can walk as far in any direction as I want, and the island continuously creates itself o u t of the b l u r r e d h o r i z o n : a fuzzy d i s t a n c e slowly takes form as I approach, at first only a lump of color and undefined shape, then a hill, and, closer, a mountain, and as I reach its foot I grab hold and begin to climb its glossy slope, my hands finding purchase in crevices of layered slick magazine pages. T h e mountain is a thousand feet of Ranger Rick and National Geographic. My body does not tire-, so time does not pass as it should while climbing a mountain. Before I know it, I am at the top, and I sit down to read a Ranger Rick story about the raccoon ranger and his adventurous animal friends. Halfway through I wonder, "Have I read this one before?" T h e simple prose, the short sentences, haunt me. I begin to tremble, certain that this story has, like a palimpsest, another written beneath it

locked in grimaces, teeth exposed. They smile in their agony. Their sightless eyes seek the sun's blaze to burn away their cataracts. I want them to see me. I want to touch them, but only after the sun has brought them to life, because now they are cold and I have to keep my distance. All I can do is stare and wish the heat of my gaze could match the sun's as it shines down on us and bums our faces. Disease ofthe day: my body wrinkled like a raisin.

From this height, the island stretches out to the blood-red border ofthe horizon in all directions around me. T h e ocean is barely visible even though only a little while.earlier I walked barely along the shore. A wave of vertigo passes through me. I feel like I am standing in the pupil of an immense bloodshot eye. Behind me, a yellowed movie screen stands, its legs bent under the weight of rust, before a defunct slide projector. Disease ofthe day: lack of breath. -I tend to the garden of mannequins. They do not require maintenance, no weeds to pull, no nourishment to lend, only a careful observation. I find that the -more I stare, the more they struggle towards the sun. They are all female. They resemble paralyzed women buried to their waists in dirt T h e m a n n e q u i n s are perfect representations of beauty, smooth and unblemished except for slight swellings in the joints of fingers,-elbows, and shoulders, as though in straining for growth they have become arthritic. Their breasts yary in size, but all are polished globes with no sag or droop. T h e delicate lines of their ribs curve down and around the diaphragm muscles, tensed in the struggle against the earth. Their mouths are

100

O n my daily survey and collection walk, I gather various items scattered on the edge of a cliff. I place the following in a canvas sack: a used tissue, a vinyl record, a dead mouse, a toupee, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, and a how-to book on remodeling your kitchen.. W h e n I return to my hut, I put the items in the piles of found objects along the back wall. My small, enclosed space is becoming smaller, cluttered with objects divorced from their original contexts. Most of these things are vaguely familiar, but their appearance on the island makes it nearly impossible to pinpoint their significance, if any. They must mean something, I often think, or else they would not be here. T h e dead mouse, the comic books, the King James Bible, the moth-eaten mink stole, the life-size plaster h u m a n skeleton, the toy soldiers, the jar of lightening bugs, the fragments of photographs of women's bodies (piles of them, heaped into one corner of the hut, and I often imagine the pieces as one photograph of one makeshift whore with 20,000 pursed and wet lips a n d 40,000 unnaturally firm breasts). All of these objects want to m e a n more to m e , they want to be strung together with cause and effect in an order that makes sense. They want to be words in a sentence that reads, "My life means this." So I heap them on top of each other against the back wall of the hut, in any order, in no order. There, they hold together against their own weight. Whenever I return to my hut, I am comforted seeing them lying there like so much garbage, a compost of memory. Disease ofthe day: unnaturally enlarged appendages.

101


Berkeley Fiction Review

The Island

At first I t h o u g h t t h e disease of t h e day was m y o p i a . Everything was blurred to obscurity except for those objects closest to me. Wherever I walked I felt I was encased in a field of clear vision whose radius was growing slowly smaller.-As it is now, I c a n only see clearly twenty*yards in front of m e . Thinking about this change, I realize that it has always been this way. T h e island, ever since my first day, has always been a little fuzzy around the edges, and if I had been paying more attention I would have realized that each day the island has been shrinking. ÂŤOr.rather, my ability to see the island has been shrinking. I wonder how long it will be before a fog surrounds m e utterly and I can no longer see my-hand in front of my face or my feet when I walk.

strain on the eyes. Besides, the hut is>small enough that Lean still see-everything inside as I have always seen it. Only now the piles of found objects are cbnspiring against me, tempting me to manufacture some significance in the way they haye juxtaposed themselves. A toy firetruckd received for Christmas when I was five and used to push around the decorated tree (tangling my hair with evergreen spikes, the sticky smell of sap in my nose) sits atop a collection of writings by the Marquis de Sade I found in the garage when I was thirteen. T h e clipped photographs of exposed bodies lie between the drawings in the Dr. Seuss books my mother used to read to me. A bottle of ammonia with which my mother mopped the kitchen floor lies open and dripping onto a torn bag of old-pipe tobacco, the same Mend my father smoked while reading Hemingway in his leather chair after supper. T h e hut smells like sickness, it wraps itself around me, ijs claustrophobia is no longer comforting.

It upsets me. It confuses me. I used to marvel at the vastness of the island stretching to the inevitable horizon, knowing that all I could see was mine. Now I know how far it extends, I-know how huge this place is, but I cannot see it. And if I canndt, how do I know it remains the way I remember it? Because the island is changing, not just my perception of it. If I come across an outcropping of stone or a pile of sawdust or autumn-colored leaves, walk away-until I can no longer see it clearly, and then return to inspect it, something has changed, something minor, like a slight difference in shape or breadth, or perhaps a leaf has changed its color or its place. Most x)f the time, though, the change is, imperceptible; I can only feel that something is different, that somehow something is wrong. I cannot walk-around this island, watching everything sink into haze twenty yards around me, without thinking t h a t beyond my ability to see them, the objects on the island are mutating slowly, so^slowly and so slightly that I will never notice, will never remember their original faces. Or maybe I will remember, but attribute their difference to only a change in my perception: I Vill grow older and wiser and believe that experience has altered the shapes of things around me.

"What do you want from me?" I say to the wall of objects, hoping for power, but my voice comes out small and frightened. I turn to leave, and I am not coming back, because if I do my answer will be waiting for me in the new positions of these objects. They mean nothing to me, but have appeared on the island for one last try at importance. In the night the h u t looks smaller than it ever could have been. I walk around the side, wondering how such a tight space could have accomodated all of those objects, and find myself in the garden of mannequins. Two things strike m e suddenly: night has fallen for first time on the'island and the mannequins have all grown to full maturity. Their arms still reach upward, but the gesture, is pointless and weary. Theymo longer reach for anything. Their faces are parodies of agony. They do not want to strain their muscles against gravity, they do not want to be standing;'night has come; and all they want is rest. But their plaster bodies do not allow for movement. I turn my back on them, hoping that through neglect they will fall to ruin.

So I am careful. I try to protect myself against doubt. I look at everything "with suspicion. I return to my hut with a headache. T h e blurring island is a

In the island's night I feel that I, like them, am blind, except for the faint blur of light high in the distance. It seems that I am walking forever across a landscape that grows increasingly

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Berkeley Fiction Review

The Island

At first I t h o u g h t t h e disease of t h e day was m y o p i a . Everything was blurred to obscurity except for those objects closest to me. Wherever I walked I felt I was encased in a field of clear vision whose radius was growing slowly smaller.-As it is now, I c a n only see clearly twenty*yards in front of m e . Thinking about this change, I realize that it has always been this way. T h e island, ever since my first day, has always been a little fuzzy around the edges, and if I had been paying more attention I would have realized that each day the island has been shrinking. ÂŤOr.rather, my ability to see the island has been shrinking. I wonder how long it will be before a fog surrounds m e utterly and I can no longer see my-hand in front of my face or my feet when I walk.

strain on the eyes. Besides, the hut is>small enough that Lean still see-everything inside as I have always seen it. Only now the piles of found objects are cbnspiring against me, tempting me to manufacture some significance in the way they haye juxtaposed themselves. A toy firetruckd received for Christmas when I was five and used to push around the decorated tree (tangling my hair with evergreen spikes, the sticky smell of sap in my nose) sits atop a collection of writings by the Marquis de Sade I found in the garage when I was thirteen. T h e clipped photographs of exposed bodies lie between the drawings in the Dr. Seuss books my mother used to read to me. A bottle of ammonia with which my mother mopped the kitchen floor lies open and dripping onto a torn bag of old-pipe tobacco, the same Mend my father smoked while reading Hemingway in his leather chair after supper. T h e hut smells like sickness, it wraps itself around me, ijs claustrophobia is no longer comforting.

It upsets me. It confuses me. I used to marvel at the vastness of the island stretching to the inevitable horizon, knowing that all I could see was mine. Now I know how far it extends, I-know how huge this place is, but I cannot see it. And if I canndt, how do I know it remains the way I remember it? Because the island is changing, not just my perception of it. If I come across an outcropping of stone or a pile of sawdust or autumn-colored leaves, walk away-until I can no longer see it clearly, and then return to inspect it, something has changed, something minor, like a slight difference in shape or breadth, or perhaps a leaf has changed its color or its place. Most x)f the time, though, the change is, imperceptible; I can only feel that something is different, that somehow something is wrong. I cannot walk-around this island, watching everything sink into haze twenty yards around me, without thinking t h a t beyond my ability to see them, the objects on the island are mutating slowly, so^slowly and so slightly that I will never notice, will never remember their original faces. Or maybe I will remember, but attribute their difference to only a change in my perception: I Vill grow older and wiser and believe that experience has altered the shapes of things around me.

"What do you want from me?" I say to the wall of objects, hoping for power, but my voice comes out small and frightened. I turn to leave, and I am not coming back, because if I do my answer will be waiting for me in the new positions of these objects. They mean nothing to me, but have appeared on the island for one last try at importance. In the night the h u t looks smaller than it ever could have been. I walk around the side, wondering how such a tight space could have accomodated all of those objects, and find myself in the garden of mannequins. Two things strike m e suddenly: night has fallen for first time on the'island and the mannequins have all grown to full maturity. Their arms still reach upward, but the gesture, is pointless and weary. Theymo longer reach for anything. Their faces are parodies of agony. They do not want to strain their muscles against gravity, they do not want to be standing;'night has come; and all they want is rest. But their plaster bodies do not allow for movement. I turn my back on them, hoping that through neglect they will fall to ruin.

So I am careful. I try to protect myself against doubt. I look at everything "with suspicion. I return to my hut with a headache. T h e blurring island is a

In the island's night I feel that I, like them, am blind, except for the faint blur of light high in the distance. It seems that I am walking forever across a landscape that grows increasingly

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Berkeley Fiction Review unfair. 1 must nearly collide with the mountain before I realize it is "in front of rne*, and a s I climb I find that it has grown steeper,-the* handholds less forgiving. By the time I reach its^plateau, I am'breathing heavily, almost on the verge of collapse. T h e light is from the'slide projector, which now plays, in slow and irregular succession, images of me and my parents on a*warped movie screen.. But the images seem wrong. I inspect the slide projector and find that the lens is cracked, bending the light which holds my memories in its crooked beam. I sit and watch the show, and for a while it does not strike me as strange that I am in each picture, albeit deformed by the faulty lens.-Then I" wonder: this may be my past, but these are not my memories.! would not remember myself as an extra participant in-my own life. I-remember thaLbirthday on which I smeared cake and white icing all over my face and body when I was three, or at least I believe I. do, unless someone {my mother? my father?) told m e the story while showing me this picture in a photo album. "Were all my memories told to- me?", I think as the next image, of myself cuddling a. black, mutt in the rain, flashes on the screen. Or are these'-memories of another who watched me, ,some unknown, invisible spectator busily recording my every move? No, not my every move,-only these particular instances: But what made these meaningless moments so interesting, I think, that someone would bother to note them and remember them and play them back to me?I feel a great fear overtaking me, a fear that makes the night heavier and-the images on the screen" even less distinct. Below,.I know the mannequins stare at me with their blind eyes. My insides fell like liquid and, I am shaking. As the slide carousel circles-endlessly a n d the night absorbs this m o u n t a i n , the iifiages keep coming, playing over and over memories that were .never my own. I

Craig Loomis

O n e

M o r n i n g

i n

A p r i l

>ÂŁS&ÂŁ&k

On April 17, I960, not far from the town of Aftia, Mexico, a bus plunged into a 500-meter gorge, into a rain-swollen river. Eleven people were killed, twenty-three injured. It was reported that it took rescue teams two days and two nights to find the bus, and the survivors.

D

riving with one hand, while explaining to somebody's grandmother with the other, he says he's been over this road a hundred times, two hundred. Twice during big storms. O n c e even drunk. And with his explaining hand, he shows her how he tipped the wine bottle, how very hard it was 304

105


Berkeley Fiction Review unfair. 1 must nearly collide with the mountain before I realize it is "in front of rne*, and a s I climb I find that it has grown steeper,-the* handholds less forgiving. By the time I reach its^plateau, I am'breathing heavily, almost on the verge of collapse. T h e light is from the'slide projector, which now plays, in slow and irregular succession, images of me and my parents on a*warped movie screen.. But the images seem wrong. I inspect the slide projector and find that the lens is cracked, bending the light which holds my memories in its crooked beam. I sit and watch the show, and for a while it does not strike me as strange that I am in each picture, albeit deformed by the faulty lens.-Then I" wonder: this may be my past, but these are not my memories.! would not remember myself as an extra participant in-my own life. I-remember thaLbirthday on which I smeared cake and white icing all over my face and body when I was three, or at least I believe I. do, unless someone {my mother? my father?) told m e the story while showing me this picture in a photo album. "Were all my memories told to- me?", I think as the next image, of myself cuddling a. black, mutt in the rain, flashes on the screen. Or are these'-memories of another who watched me, ,some unknown, invisible spectator busily recording my every move? No, not my every move,-only these particular instances: But what made these meaningless moments so interesting, I think, that someone would bother to note them and remember them and play them back to me?I feel a great fear overtaking me, a fear that makes the night heavier and-the images on the screen" even less distinct. Below,.I know the mannequins stare at me with their blind eyes. My insides fell like liquid and, I am shaking. As the slide carousel circles-endlessly a n d the night absorbs this m o u n t a i n , the iifiages keep coming, playing over and over memories that were .never my own. I

Craig Loomis

O n e

M o r n i n g

i n

A p r i l

>ÂŁS&ÂŁ&k

On April 17, I960, not far from the town of Aftia, Mexico, a bus plunged into a 500-meter gorge, into a rain-swollen river. Eleven people were killed, twenty-three injured. It was reported that it took rescue teams two days and two nights to find the bus, and the survivors.

D

riving with one hand, while explaining to somebody's grandmother with the other, he says he's been over this road a hundred times, two hundred. Twice during big storms. O n c e even drunk. And with his explaining hand, he shows her how he tipped the wine bottle, how very hard it was 304

105


Berkeley Fiction Review

One Morning in April

to take a drink and watch the road at the same time. Laughing at this, the two of them, he and somebody's grandmother. She, toothless, with long gray hairs curling out of a mole on her cheek, laughs at the way his head is back with adam's apple bobbing, drinking out of his t h u m b . Behind her, children stretch their necks, standing on torn seats to see out the windows and deep into the ravine, into the river that winds like a dirty ribbon. Behind them is a young soldier who glances once, twice, at the dinosaur-like boulders, the rim of the abyss. But only a glance, and then he turns back smiling, aiming straight ahead, hoping to show her—two seats back —that he is not afraid, has never been afraid, and look at me smile, grin, even l a u g h at f i v e - h u n d r e d m e t e r s of cliff. Is s h e l o o k i n g ? Meanwhile, two children, still too young to care about things like windy mountain roads and straight-down ravines, clutch ballpoint pens, making their own roads across palms, up their tiny arms, around the hills of their ankles. They giggle when the blue ink takes a detour over their ribs. A radio blares more static than music.

After all, even he can see she is beautiful. Not. far from the young corporal and the beautiful girl with the wind in her hair, are newlyweds. They sit hand-in-hand: she, daring not to look, hearing the children oooh and aaah at the windows, has buried her perfumed face deep into his-neck, while he, now a husband and soon-to-be father, looks straight ahead as if she isn't there, as if it's some sort of test to see if he can ignore the moist face-that's burrowing into his flesh. T h e bus is full of assorted farmers and villagers headed for Attia because, first of all, it is Sunday, and second, because tomorrow is a holiday and it is their spring chance to wear their bright shirts, Christmas hats, and wedding shoes. There -is still more static than music, but nobody says anything. Nobody ever says anything. After all, tomorrow is a holiday. His army jacket is growing hotter, tighter, and yet he musn't u n b u t t o n a button, u n z i p a zipper. It is crucial that he not squirm. Angry at himself for sweating, he tries to make up for it by sitting taller, straighter. Right after that,' he counts to ten and then twenty and finally twenty-five before running to look out the window behind him. There is nothing to be seen out that window that can't be seen out his window, but he turns, glancing at her, seeing how t h e wind is tumbling over her face, how it pushes and swirls>*her hair. Turning back to his window, he smiles, his pulse beating harder. He can't believe there is someone like her only two seats away. He strokes his moustache as if it were large and thick. T h e n , from the other direction, comes the other bus. It is bigger, rust-streaked and just as full of farmers and villagers and soldiers going the other way. It takes the curve in a lunge. T h e driver, his black hair flapping across his forehead, still driving with that one hand, says something that sounds like singing, even opera. T h e grandmother leans forward, saying, What did you say? thinking that maybe he's ready to give her his coat, her hands reaching out to take it.

T h e driver, still steering with one hand but no longer gesturing with the other, wears a coat that is much too heavy for a day like this, and the grandmother—being a grandmother—sees it right off, and so a thin liyer-spotterj hand touches -his shoulder, motioning to Kim to give it to her, patting her lap, showing him how she will fold it. He laughs at this. . . this somebody's grandmother. Towards the back, the young woman continues to secretly watch the corporal two seats in front of her—the one with a black line for a moustache; and now she's wondering what's so funny, why he's laughing, his white teeth- reflecting in the glass. Her window is down, the wind rushing over her face, her hair. Before Attia, he will look back at me, smile at me, maybe even wink. She is getting ready for the .young,'handsome soldier. Her sisters have told her that she is most beautiful when the wind is blowing through her hair; while her mother has said it is that and more: it shows your noble forehead. She lets the warm wind rush in, and although the farmer behind her doesn't like it—squinting, pulling his hat tighter—he says nothing.

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It's nothing like the movies—no corkscrewing swerve, no jolt throwing passengers ,intb the aisle, flat against the windows. There is no honking. It is, in fact, quite simple. With music 107


Berkeley Fiction Review

One Morning in April

to take a drink and watch the road at the same time. Laughing at this, the two of them, he and somebody's grandmother. She, toothless, with long gray hairs curling out of a mole on her cheek, laughs at the way his head is back with adam's apple bobbing, drinking out of his t h u m b . Behind her, children stretch their necks, standing on torn seats to see out the windows and deep into the ravine, into the river that winds like a dirty ribbon. Behind them is a young soldier who glances once, twice, at the dinosaur-like boulders, the rim of the abyss. But only a glance, and then he turns back smiling, aiming straight ahead, hoping to show her—two seats back —that he is not afraid, has never been afraid, and look at me smile, grin, even l a u g h at f i v e - h u n d r e d m e t e r s of cliff. Is s h e l o o k i n g ? Meanwhile, two children, still too young to care about things like windy mountain roads and straight-down ravines, clutch ballpoint pens, making their own roads across palms, up their tiny arms, around the hills of their ankles. They giggle when the blue ink takes a detour over their ribs. A radio blares more static than music.

After all, even he can see she is beautiful. Not. far from the young corporal and the beautiful girl with the wind in her hair, are newlyweds. They sit hand-in-hand: she, daring not to look, hearing the children oooh and aaah at the windows, has buried her perfumed face deep into his-neck, while he, now a husband and soon-to-be father, looks straight ahead as if she isn't there, as if it's some sort of test to see if he can ignore the moist face-that's burrowing into his flesh. T h e bus is full of assorted farmers and villagers headed for Attia because, first of all, it is Sunday, and second, because tomorrow is a holiday and it is their spring chance to wear their bright shirts, Christmas hats, and wedding shoes. There -is still more static than music, but nobody says anything. Nobody ever says anything. After all, tomorrow is a holiday. His army jacket is growing hotter, tighter, and yet he musn't u n b u t t o n a button, u n z i p a zipper. It is crucial that he not squirm. Angry at himself for sweating, he tries to make up for it by sitting taller, straighter. Right after that,' he counts to ten and then twenty and finally twenty-five before running to look out the window behind him. There is nothing to be seen out that window that can't be seen out his window, but he turns, glancing at her, seeing how t h e wind is tumbling over her face, how it pushes and swirls>*her hair. Turning back to his window, he smiles, his pulse beating harder. He can't believe there is someone like her only two seats away. He strokes his moustache as if it were large and thick. T h e n , from the other direction, comes the other bus. It is bigger, rust-streaked and just as full of farmers and villagers and soldiers going the other way. It takes the curve in a lunge. T h e driver, his black hair flapping across his forehead, still driving with that one hand, says something that sounds like singing, even opera. T h e grandmother leans forward, saying, What did you say? thinking that maybe he's ready to give her his coat, her hands reaching out to take it.

T h e driver, still steering with one hand but no longer gesturing with the other, wears a coat that is much too heavy for a day like this, and the grandmother—being a grandmother—sees it right off, and so a thin liyer-spotterj hand touches -his shoulder, motioning to Kim to give it to her, patting her lap, showing him how she will fold it. He laughs at this. . . this somebody's grandmother. Towards the back, the young woman continues to secretly watch the corporal two seats in front of her—the one with a black line for a moustache; and now she's wondering what's so funny, why he's laughing, his white teeth- reflecting in the glass. Her window is down, the wind rushing over her face, her hair. Before Attia, he will look back at me, smile at me, maybe even wink. She is getting ready for the .young,'handsome soldier. Her sisters have told her that she is most beautiful when the wind is blowing through her hair; while her mother has said it is that and more: it shows your noble forehead. She lets the warm wind rush in, and although the farmer behind her doesn't like it—squinting, pulling his hat tighter—he says nothing.

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It's nothing like the movies—no corkscrewing swerve, no jolt throwing passengers ,intb the aisle, flat against the windows. There is no honking. It is, in fact, quite simple. With music 107


Berkeley Fiction Review

One Morning in April

blaring, static scratching, the driver sees the bus lunge—his' m o u t h opened-wide for singing—the rocky road is suddenly made smooth, and like magic, a new, brighter'blue is suddenly at the windows. T h e air grows faster, cooler, pouring over her face like a waterfall, flooding her hair, for the first time her eyes open wide. Behind her, the farmer grabs the window>with both hands, tilting his head to get a better look, his hat spills to the ceiling. A doll, naked, with red, rosy cheeks, iloats dreamlike^ through the bus, toward the driver, whose song is beginning to sound more and more like .opera. Feeling the sudden difference^ she pulls -her face away from his sweaty throat Somebody laughing, giggling, as if it were a great joke, a wonderfui trick, and how.can he do it without hurting anyone? Perhaps he'll tell us how it's done later, .but in the meantime, it's time to stop it, to put us right again. It must be magic, I've read about things like this.

ver gash has taken her place. Bodies roll, bounce, twist like terrible acrobats. A little body with inky blue lines running along its toes and fingers hits the wall and sticks. T h e wind is screeching, metal s h r e d d i n g / a n d uncles and cousins and daughters are being yanked through shiny new holes. He doesn't feel the final flip-flop of the bus. He only stops hearing the wind, stops seeing the funhouse spin of blue and brown, blue and brown...a long yellow vomit covers the front of his uniform. He is flat against something soft, almost spongy. An orange is spinning. As he waits to see if there is more, something else, the cold brown water gushes in. Somebody's black braid with blue ribbon floats by. A shoe. He feels for his moustache, his hand coming away dark and sticky.

And now something tears at the bus's belly, between the wheels, something that has nothing to do with roads or bumps. A farmer's holiday,hat—feathers laced with rattlesnake s k i n cartwheels-out the window. A yellow blur of babychicks. T h e driver is no longer driving, no longer sitting with his one hand draped across the steering-wheel; he is fighting to stand, wobbjy, as if his drinking story has come true, hands up, his Saint Christopher flat against his jaw.

M u c h later, when asked, he would remember the rollercoaster tickle that shot up and down his thighs and the wheel that, like a dream, had floated alongside his window for the longest time. He would remember the dust and clods of cliff that c a m e crashing through the glass, digging into his ears, jumping into his mouth.

As he sees all, he tries to push her face back into the hollow of his neck, but this isn't the man she knew last night, or the night before that, this grabbing of her hair, and she tears at his shirt, saying, What? What?*But all h e can do is push her harder, deeper into his throat, saying, Shhhh. T h e music with static .disappears. T h e boulders an.d, granite and river hurry to m e e t them. A bag of grapes splats against the seat, another-bag, and another—green grapes pelting the arms and heads, stinging like anything but green grapes. T h e young corporal can not breathe. His throat growing thick, his eyes animal-wide. And how, finally, the screaming begins. T h e comical spinning of chicks. He looks back through the ,storm of dust' and chickens and grapes, but she is gone. Her seat is gone. T h e window gone. A great sil-

Quiet—an unfriendly hospital hush. T h e n they would ask him, What else? T h e white-coated doctors fold their arms, waiting like only doctors can wait, while the police ready their pencils and paper, wanting to get it all. So, what else? A policeman tapping his clipboard, not caring about the hush of hospitals. It would be then—doctors waiting, policeman .tapping—that he would begin to feel the burning in his eyes. Although he is a soldier, a corporal in the army, the burning would quickly get larger and harder, and finally overflowing. What else? And so he would begin to tell them the story of how she sat two seats behind him —not more than an arm's reach away— and how he'had only glanced at her, just once, but it had been enough because he had seen how the wind played in her hair, how the sunlight swept across her face, and then how he wanted her to see how he didn't care about the gorge, how he was

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Berkeley Fiction Review

One Morning in April

blaring, static scratching, the driver sees the bus lunge—his' m o u t h opened-wide for singing—the rocky road is suddenly made smooth, and like magic, a new, brighter'blue is suddenly at the windows. T h e air grows faster, cooler, pouring over her face like a waterfall, flooding her hair, for the first time her eyes open wide. Behind her, the farmer grabs the window>with both hands, tilting his head to get a better look, his hat spills to the ceiling. A doll, naked, with red, rosy cheeks, iloats dreamlike^ through the bus, toward the driver, whose song is beginning to sound more and more like .opera. Feeling the sudden difference^ she pulls -her face away from his sweaty throat Somebody laughing, giggling, as if it were a great joke, a wonderfui trick, and how.can he do it without hurting anyone? Perhaps he'll tell us how it's done later, .but in the meantime, it's time to stop it, to put us right again. It must be magic, I've read about things like this.

ver gash has taken her place. Bodies roll, bounce, twist like terrible acrobats. A little body with inky blue lines running along its toes and fingers hits the wall and sticks. T h e wind is screeching, metal s h r e d d i n g / a n d uncles and cousins and daughters are being yanked through shiny new holes. He doesn't feel the final flip-flop of the bus. He only stops hearing the wind, stops seeing the funhouse spin of blue and brown, blue and brown...a long yellow vomit covers the front of his uniform. He is flat against something soft, almost spongy. An orange is spinning. As he waits to see if there is more, something else, the cold brown water gushes in. Somebody's black braid with blue ribbon floats by. A shoe. He feels for his moustache, his hand coming away dark and sticky.

And now something tears at the bus's belly, between the wheels, something that has nothing to do with roads or bumps. A farmer's holiday,hat—feathers laced with rattlesnake s k i n cartwheels-out the window. A yellow blur of babychicks. T h e driver is no longer driving, no longer sitting with his one hand draped across the steering-wheel; he is fighting to stand, wobbjy, as if his drinking story has come true, hands up, his Saint Christopher flat against his jaw.

M u c h later, when asked, he would remember the rollercoaster tickle that shot up and down his thighs and the wheel that, like a dream, had floated alongside his window for the longest time. He would remember the dust and clods of cliff that c a m e crashing through the glass, digging into his ears, jumping into his mouth.

As he sees all, he tries to push her face back into the hollow of his neck, but this isn't the man she knew last night, or the night before that, this grabbing of her hair, and she tears at his shirt, saying, What? What?*But all h e can do is push her harder, deeper into his throat, saying, Shhhh. T h e music with static .disappears. T h e boulders an.d, granite and river hurry to m e e t them. A bag of grapes splats against the seat, another-bag, and another—green grapes pelting the arms and heads, stinging like anything but green grapes. T h e young corporal can not breathe. His throat growing thick, his eyes animal-wide. And how, finally, the screaming begins. T h e comical spinning of chicks. He looks back through the ,storm of dust' and chickens and grapes, but she is gone. Her seat is gone. T h e window gone. A great sil-

Quiet—an unfriendly hospital hush. T h e n they would ask him, What else? T h e white-coated doctors fold their arms, waiting like only doctors can wait, while the police ready their pencils and paper, wanting to get it all. So, what else? A policeman tapping his clipboard, not caring about the hush of hospitals. It would be then—doctors waiting, policeman .tapping—that he would begin to feel the burning in his eyes. Although he is a soldier, a corporal in the army, the burning would quickly get larger and harder, and finally overflowing. What else? And so he would begin to tell them the story of how she sat two seats behind him —not more than an arm's reach away— and how he'had only glanced at her, just once, but it had been enough because he had seen how the wind played in her hair, how the sunlight swept across her face, and then how he wanted her to see how he didn't care about the gorge, how he was

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Berkeley Fiction Review sweating too much, but there was nothing he could do about it,—nothing at all—ana" how h'e wds getting ready to turn'again and this time take a good long look and maybe smile, even speak to her, and how...but then a doctor holds up his hands, saying, That's enough. T h e doctors and policemen "exchange looks, with one of the policemen saying it one more time, just to be svffe, That's enough. A doctor, hands behind his back—and a policeman, clipboard under his arm—step into the hallway. A young woman? T h e policeman flips through the pages on the clipboard, saying, Farmers; children, somebody's grandmother, more farmers. Shaking his head". Newlyweds under the bus, nothing but their •arms sticking out ofthe mud. But no young woman. T h e doctor leans over the clipboard to 'see" for himself. Shock? T h e doctor shrugs, then nods.* Delirium? Hallucinations? T h e doctor still nodding, answering, Yes, something like that. Hallucinations about a girl. About loving a girl. Not meaning to, the policeman snickers. Shakes his head and snickers. Yes, yes, s o m e kind of d e l i r i u m , reaffirms the doctor. They step back into* the room, their shoes clicking over the linoleum. That's enough for*now. You're tired. Get some rest. But two seats behind me, and with long sweeping hair, and... T h e doctor, holding up his hand policeman-like, says loudly, Enough. Get some sleep. And so later that-aftemoon, on April 20, 1960, they would give the young corporal an injection to help Hirrl sleep, to*take away the hallucinations of love.-

110

Gary Noland

A

W e l l - T e m p e r e d

B o n e

B o x

,-i£2©£54v

I

n the frantic haste of the final hours, Irving tossed the remainder of his possessions —files, correspondence and knickknacks—into plastic incinerator sacks. He loaded them into the,van parked outside the garage. T h e piano movers were due any moment. While awaiting their arrival, Irving puffed a fag and made a parting survey ofthe premises, wiping an occasional spot of grease off the countertop, a dustball off the mantelshelf, or a cobweb off the antiers ofthe elkhead hanging over the fireplace. All in all, it looked quite convincing. T h e authorities wouldn't suspect a thing and the 111


Berkeley Fiction Review sweating too much, but there was nothing he could do about it,—nothing at all—ana" how h'e wds getting ready to turn'again and this time take a good long look and maybe smile, even speak to her, and how...but then a doctor holds up his hands, saying, That's enough. T h e doctors and policemen "exchange looks, with one of the policemen saying it one more time, just to be svffe, That's enough. A doctor, hands behind his back—and a policeman, clipboard under his arm—step into the hallway. A young woman? T h e policeman flips through the pages on the clipboard, saying, Farmers; children, somebody's grandmother, more farmers. Shaking his head". Newlyweds under the bus, nothing but their •arms sticking out ofthe mud. But no young woman. T h e doctor leans over the clipboard to 'see" for himself. Shock? T h e doctor shrugs, then nods.* Delirium? Hallucinations? T h e doctor still nodding, answering, Yes, something like that. Hallucinations about a girl. About loving a girl. Not meaning to, the policeman snickers. Shakes his head and snickers. Yes, yes, s o m e kind of d e l i r i u m , reaffirms the doctor. They step back into* the room, their shoes clicking over the linoleum. That's enough for*now. You're tired. Get some rest. But two seats behind me, and with long sweeping hair, and... T h e doctor, holding up his hand policeman-like, says loudly, Enough. Get some sleep. And so later that-aftemoon, on April 20, 1960, they would give the young corporal an injection to help Hirrl sleep, to*take away the hallucinations of love.-

110

Gary Noland

A

W e l l - T e m p e r e d

B o n e

B o x

,-i£2©£54v

I

n the frantic haste of the final hours, Irving tossed the remainder of his possessions —files, correspondence and knickknacks—into plastic incinerator sacks. He loaded them into the,van parked outside the garage. T h e piano movers were due any moment. While awaiting their arrival, Irving puffed a fag and made a parting survey ofthe premises, wiping an occasional spot of grease off the countertop, a dustball off the mantelshelf, or a cobweb off the antiers ofthe elkhead hanging over the fireplace. All in all, it looked quite convincing. T h e authorities wouldn't suspect a thing and the 111


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Well-Tempered Bone Box

new tenants would never know the difference. Having applied his craftsmanly expertise, Irving had recast the Steinway from a six-footer to a six-and-a-fta/f-footer. Since most of his compeers and subordinates were oblivious to such minutiae, they'd probably assume —at worst—that their eyes had been playing tricks on them. In the improbable event that they were to catch the grotesque distortions in the Steinway's clang color, they'd attribute it, no doubt, to mutations in temperature or dampness. Most movers he had dealt with were big, burly, and ox-like, so he wasn't concerned that they'd detect anything irregular. T h e strong scent of recent varnish all but obliterated the vinegary stench of formaldehyde. Besides, all the sections were tightly sealed in Ziplocs and encased deep inside the woodwork beneath the frame and keyboard. Irving had had to e l o n g a t e t h e i n s t r u m e n t to a c c o m m o d a t e t h e extra poundage, but luckily the garbage disposer had taken care of most of the doughy, glutinous parts.

Unsympathetic towards being made into an object of ridicule (especially by hempy little brats), he snatched hold of a convenient golf club and was about to clobber the vehicle when, unexpectedly, four little men, no taller than half-pints, emerged from it and approached him. "Hi," said one, extending an elfin hand, "I'm Eeny, this is M e e n y , that's Miny, and that's Mo . We're from K'leinway Movers. You called?" Looking down upon the four movers, Irving was taken aback by the scrimpiness of their bulk for the task at hand. Over the phone they had quoted sixty dollars an hour for their services, a fee which -had not seemed at all unreasonable. However, judging from their= bodily dimensions and the size of their dolly, it appeared the task would take them many weeks, if not months, to complete, by which time the disinfective and preservative effects of the Formalin (and other aqueous chemical agents) would long since have lost their potency, producing an unsavory emanation-and drawing hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of bluebottles and their legless grubs. Such* a sight and smell would arouse suspicion in even the most beef-witted of musclelovers. Furthermore; the cost of such a move, at the quoted price, would be astronomic, all but eliminating whatever benefits were to be derived from the insurance money he had collected;: Not to mention that the new tenants would, in all probability, wear thin on patience and after a time, elect to sue him for the impediments caused by the persistent breaches upon their privacy that would result from the various, delays, obstructions, and technical problems occasioned by such a maneuver.

Stepping out onto the stoop, Irving relumed his coffin nail and sucked in the sour, carcinogenic smother. He felt confident about his decision to skip north, away from the hectic, inner-city turbulence. T h e passing traffic, he observed, was like a stationary l u m p of knotted scrap iron being propelled on a sluglike conveyor belt. Every time he spotted an eighteen-wheeler in the distance, he assumed it was the movers. Stoically, he watched for their approach. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes went by, and still there was no sign of them. With mounting uneasiness, he paced the pavement to and fro, his attic enveloped in a cloud of smudge. At forty past the hour, a toy truck —one of those remote controlled affairs —pulled up on the sidewalk in front: of the 'apartm e n t complex. It was about sixteen inches long and five inches tall. Irving expected to see some youngsters governing the device, but not a soul was in sight up or down the Mock. He c o u l d n ' t help marvelling at the high-tech wizardry of the whirligig before him as it performed wheelies and other acrobatics. He wondered if there were pranksters watching him or— worse — l a u g h i n g at h i m from an u n s e e n v a n t a g e p o i n t .

As these troubled thoughts rushed through Irving's mind, the four little men h a d already ( and not without considerable exertion) clambered the staircase, using a foodadder, and were just entering the antechamber of his apartment. Unperturbed by the toilsome task at hand, they rolled their sleeves and attempted to topple the grand piano over onto its side, but, to no avail —it wouldn't budge!

112

IB

Irving, pressed for time, offered to assist them. However, in abidance with the loftiest ethical codes of their profession;- they


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Well-Tempered Bone Box

new tenants would never know the difference. Having applied his craftsmanly expertise, Irving had recast the Steinway from a six-footer to a six-and-a-fta/f-footer. Since most of his compeers and subordinates were oblivious to such minutiae, they'd probably assume —at worst—that their eyes had been playing tricks on them. In the improbable event that they were to catch the grotesque distortions in the Steinway's clang color, they'd attribute it, no doubt, to mutations in temperature or dampness. Most movers he had dealt with were big, burly, and ox-like, so he wasn't concerned that they'd detect anything irregular. T h e strong scent of recent varnish all but obliterated the vinegary stench of formaldehyde. Besides, all the sections were tightly sealed in Ziplocs and encased deep inside the woodwork beneath the frame and keyboard. Irving had had to e l o n g a t e t h e i n s t r u m e n t to a c c o m m o d a t e t h e extra poundage, but luckily the garbage disposer had taken care of most of the doughy, glutinous parts.

Unsympathetic towards being made into an object of ridicule (especially by hempy little brats), he snatched hold of a convenient golf club and was about to clobber the vehicle when, unexpectedly, four little men, no taller than half-pints, emerged from it and approached him. "Hi," said one, extending an elfin hand, "I'm Eeny, this is M e e n y , that's Miny, and that's Mo . We're from K'leinway Movers. You called?" Looking down upon the four movers, Irving was taken aback by the scrimpiness of their bulk for the task at hand. Over the phone they had quoted sixty dollars an hour for their services, a fee which -had not seemed at all unreasonable. However, judging from their= bodily dimensions and the size of their dolly, it appeared the task would take them many weeks, if not months, to complete, by which time the disinfective and preservative effects of the Formalin (and other aqueous chemical agents) would long since have lost their potency, producing an unsavory emanation-and drawing hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of bluebottles and their legless grubs. Such* a sight and smell would arouse suspicion in even the most beef-witted of musclelovers. Furthermore; the cost of such a move, at the quoted price, would be astronomic, all but eliminating whatever benefits were to be derived from the insurance money he had collected;: Not to mention that the new tenants would, in all probability, wear thin on patience and after a time, elect to sue him for the impediments caused by the persistent breaches upon their privacy that would result from the various, delays, obstructions, and technical problems occasioned by such a maneuver.

Stepping out onto the stoop, Irving relumed his coffin nail and sucked in the sour, carcinogenic smother. He felt confident about his decision to skip north, away from the hectic, inner-city turbulence. T h e passing traffic, he observed, was like a stationary l u m p of knotted scrap iron being propelled on a sluglike conveyor belt. Every time he spotted an eighteen-wheeler in the distance, he assumed it was the movers. Stoically, he watched for their approach. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes went by, and still there was no sign of them. With mounting uneasiness, he paced the pavement to and fro, his attic enveloped in a cloud of smudge. At forty past the hour, a toy truck —one of those remote controlled affairs —pulled up on the sidewalk in front: of the 'apartm e n t complex. It was about sixteen inches long and five inches tall. Irving expected to see some youngsters governing the device, but not a soul was in sight up or down the Mock. He c o u l d n ' t help marvelling at the high-tech wizardry of the whirligig before him as it performed wheelies and other acrobatics. He wondered if there were pranksters watching him or— worse — l a u g h i n g at h i m from an u n s e e n v a n t a g e p o i n t .

As these troubled thoughts rushed through Irving's mind, the four little men h a d already ( and not without considerable exertion) clambered the staircase, using a foodadder, and were just entering the antechamber of his apartment. Unperturbed by the toilsome task at hand, they rolled their sleeves and attempted to topple the grand piano over onto its side, but, to no avail —it wouldn't budge!

112

IB

Irving, pressed for time, offered to assist them. However, in abidance with the loftiest ethical codes of their profession;- they


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Well-Tempered Bone Box

refused his help. An hour, two hours, six hours went by, and still the piano wouldn't budge. By dinnertime the new tenants arrived. Upon finding Irving and the movers present, they politely inquired as to how long it would take for the premises to be vacated. Before Irving could respond, however, the movers rushed forward and genially extended their apologies, promising it wouldn't be more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Reassured, the new tenants began unloading huge, bulky a p p l i a n c e s from their van and wheelbarrowing them into the a p a r t m e n t . After twenty minutes had passed, the piano stood in the same spot, with no signs of progress having been made. T h e tenants courteously offered a h e l p i n g hand but, again, t h e four l i t t le movers were adamant in refusing a s s i s t a n c e of any kind, promising it w o u l d n ' t take b u t a n o t h e r five or ten m i n utes. T h e r e u p o n , Eeny and M e e n y descended the staircase to their toy t r u c k and

removed two miniature chainsaws and blowtorches. Upon returning, the two homunculi began sawing away at the front legs while the other two escalated the hind leg to finetooth-comb the innards of the instrument, hoping to locate the source of the overweightage. Naturally, their meticulous attention to detail threw Irving into a panic, for he feared they might uncover the relics. Meanwhile, the new tenants had moved so much bric-abracs and so many appurtenances into the chambers, there was virtually no space left for navigating the instrument through the narrow span of the vestibule. T h e last item to be brought in was a cage holding a large, vicious-looking canine that intermittently sniffed and growled. Although Irving was losing patience with the ineptness ofthe movers, he decided to control his temper, lest he invoke their suspicions. T h e faint scent of sweet molasses began to seep through the strings of the piano. Two of the dwarflings had donned gas masks to avoid inhaling the fumes of sawdust that emerged to form a thick fog beneath the belly of the instrument. T h e other two were behind the keyboard, dismantling the striking mechanisms and damper lifters while blowtorching the escapements and action levers. They seemed to be going about their business adroitly, so Irving was hesitant to dismiss them just yet T h e dog began to whimper and lick its chops as it piningly ogled the instrument. T h e new tenants, though not uncivil, were cracking their joints, gazing at their watches, and pacing counter-clockwise in small circles. As midnight approached, they inquired once again, more brusquely, whether the movers were making any progress. Eeny explained that the instrument weighed more than they had anticipated, but that they were getting closer to pinning down the coordinates of the logjam. Once they could locate and excise the "excess baggage," as he called it, they'd have the piano out in "half a jiffy." Upon hearing this, living's stomach churned and he began to suffer a serious case of the whim-whams. T h e tenants yawned theatrically to indicate it was already far beyond their bedtime, but consented — albeit grudg-

/. Carpenter 114

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refused his help. An hour, two hours, six hours went by, and still the piano wouldn't budge. By dinnertime the new tenants arrived. Upon finding Irving and the movers present, they politely inquired as to how long it would take for the premises to be vacated. Before Irving could respond, however, the movers rushed forward and genially extended their apologies, promising it wouldn't be more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Reassured, the new tenants began unloading huge, bulky a p p l i a n c e s from their van and wheelbarrowing them into the a p a r t m e n t . After twenty minutes had passed, the piano stood in the same spot, with no signs of progress having been made. T h e tenants courteously offered a h e l p i n g hand but, again, t h e four l i t t le movers were adamant in refusing a s s i s t a n c e of any kind, promising it w o u l d n ' t take b u t a n o t h e r five or ten m i n utes. T h e r e u p o n , Eeny and M e e n y descended the staircase to their toy t r u c k and

removed two miniature chainsaws and blowtorches. Upon returning, the two homunculi began sawing away at the front legs while the other two escalated the hind leg to finetooth-comb the innards of the instrument, hoping to locate the source of the overweightage. Naturally, their meticulous attention to detail threw Irving into a panic, for he feared they might uncover the relics. Meanwhile, the new tenants had moved so much bric-abracs and so many appurtenances into the chambers, there was virtually no space left for navigating the instrument through the narrow span of the vestibule. T h e last item to be brought in was a cage holding a large, vicious-looking canine that intermittently sniffed and growled. Although Irving was losing patience with the ineptness ofthe movers, he decided to control his temper, lest he invoke their suspicions. T h e faint scent of sweet molasses began to seep through the strings of the piano. Two of the dwarflings had donned gas masks to avoid inhaling the fumes of sawdust that emerged to form a thick fog beneath the belly of the instrument. T h e other two were behind the keyboard, dismantling the striking mechanisms and damper lifters while blowtorching the escapements and action levers. They seemed to be going about their business adroitly, so Irving was hesitant to dismiss them just yet T h e dog began to whimper and lick its chops as it piningly ogled the instrument. T h e new tenants, though not uncivil, were cracking their joints, gazing at their watches, and pacing counter-clockwise in small circles. As midnight approached, they inquired once again, more brusquely, whether the movers were making any progress. Eeny explained that the instrument weighed more than they had anticipated, but that they were getting closer to pinning down the coordinates of the logjam. Once they could locate and excise the "excess baggage," as he called it, they'd have the piano out in "half a jiffy." Upon hearing this, living's stomach churned and he began to suffer a serious case of the whim-whams. T h e tenants yawned theatrically to indicate it was already far beyond their bedtime, but consented — albeit grudg-

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ingly—to allow Irving and the micromorphs to stay overnight to continue their work. In reciprocation for this "favor," they asked Irving to take their dog, "Dildo," out for a short walk if he started yelping. Before Irving could think of a tenable excuse to naysay their request, the lodgers disappeared into .the boudoir, bolting the doors and occluding the passageways behind them. While the munchkins busily mutilated his Steinway, a subtle scheme presented itself to Irving—a way in which he might kill two birds with one stone. T h e hound ; foaming at the mouth and wading in a pond of its own drool, was sharpset and fuming from being caged in and neglected by its owners. Irving considered that it might be strategically advantageous for him to establish a friendly rapport with the peeved pet. He opened the freezer and found a chunk of hamburger meat inside. Prompdy, he defrosted the meat in the microwave. Onc e it was soft and succ u l e n t , h e m a r i n a t e d it in v a r i o u s s a u c e s a n d r e l i s h e s , approached the cage, and dangled the morsel in front of the famished wolfhound's muzzle. T h e beast whimpered, snarled, and slobbered. To appease it, Irving tossed- it a chunk of the ground flesh, which it instantly gobbled up, licking clean the ridges of its snout while snapping its jaws. Irving divided the rest of the hamburger meat into tiny lumps. He then marinated the d i n n e r clothes of the movers whil e their a t t e n t i o n s were momentarily averted. After preparing.a thimble-sized garden salad and petite pommes frites, he fried the hamburger'lumps in leaf lard. Onc e the meat was sufficienfty browned, he invited the four little busybodies to take a break and join him for supper (an offer they graciously accepted). He placed their tableware beside the kennel. After changing into their dinner jackets, the movers partook heartily of the toothsome comestibles. T h i s enraged Dildo, who began barking furiously

b o u n d e d spastically towards the piano with an unmistakable intent. Pouncing upo*n the instrument, it scratched and dug vigorously beneath the frame, making a terrible rumpus as it did so. T h e movers set aside their meals and approached the piano cautiously to ascertain what the animal was all hopped up about, at which point the tenants burst into the room, atremble from top to toe, wiping sleep from the heavy bags under their eyes while making no effort to hide their annoyance at being so rudely awakened in the middle ofthe night.

W h e n Irving judged t h a t the appropriate m o m e n t h a d arrived, he unlatched the cage door under the pretense of obliging the tenants' request to "walk their dog," but, to his chagrin, t h e r a v e n o u s c a r n i v o r e p a i d n o h e e d to t h e m a r i n a t e d m u n c h k i n s , nor what they were feeding u p o n , b u t instead

Wagging his tail triumphantly, Dilda leapt from the piano with a drumstick between his jaws. A wooden panel opened beneath the soundboard ofthe instrument and a bloated caricature of livings Uncle Seymour plopped to the floor, bearing likeness to an oversized Easter egg. T h e tenants and dandiprats froze like statues. Their jowls dropped and their tongues hung low as they stared at the severed conk piece rolling about on the hardwood. Vertebrae, tendons and wind pipes extruded at its point of detachment, like the nutty portion of a candy bar after the first bite's been bitten off. As they directed their stern gazes u p o n Irving, the air became so gummy, one could chew it. Mortified, Irving drew a stub from his pocket, lit it, then backed towards the a n t e c h a m b e r, deliberating how he was going to talk his way out of the cul-de-sac in which he now found himself. "You knew all along!" the first tenant exclaimed in a tone rife with accusation. "Why didn't you tell us?" the second tenant asked in a sibilation so incisive, it could peel an apple. "This is an outrage!" the third tenant roared Olympianly, followed by a nod of consensus and whispers of "egregious!", "disgraceful!", and "scandalous!" from the four little pigwidgeons. "We are not amused!" they proclaimed in unison as they glowered menacingly at Irving. T h e room began to fill with a distinct canine odor. T h e tenants' ears were larger and flappier than Irving had originally

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ingly—to allow Irving and the micromorphs to stay overnight to continue their work. In reciprocation for this "favor," they asked Irving to take their dog, "Dildo," out for a short walk if he started yelping. Before Irving could think of a tenable excuse to naysay their request, the lodgers disappeared into .the boudoir, bolting the doors and occluding the passageways behind them. While the munchkins busily mutilated his Steinway, a subtle scheme presented itself to Irving—a way in which he might kill two birds with one stone. T h e hound ; foaming at the mouth and wading in a pond of its own drool, was sharpset and fuming from being caged in and neglected by its owners. Irving considered that it might be strategically advantageous for him to establish a friendly rapport with the peeved pet. He opened the freezer and found a chunk of hamburger meat inside. Prompdy, he defrosted the meat in the microwave. Onc e it was soft and succ u l e n t , h e m a r i n a t e d it in v a r i o u s s a u c e s a n d r e l i s h e s , approached the cage, and dangled the morsel in front of the famished wolfhound's muzzle. T h e beast whimpered, snarled, and slobbered. To appease it, Irving tossed- it a chunk of the ground flesh, which it instantly gobbled up, licking clean the ridges of its snout while snapping its jaws. Irving divided the rest of the hamburger meat into tiny lumps. He then marinated the d i n n e r clothes of the movers whil e their a t t e n t i o n s were momentarily averted. After preparing.a thimble-sized garden salad and petite pommes frites, he fried the hamburger'lumps in leaf lard. Onc e the meat was sufficienfty browned, he invited the four little busybodies to take a break and join him for supper (an offer they graciously accepted). He placed their tableware beside the kennel. After changing into their dinner jackets, the movers partook heartily of the toothsome comestibles. T h i s enraged Dildo, who began barking furiously

b o u n d e d spastically towards the piano with an unmistakable intent. Pouncing upo*n the instrument, it scratched and dug vigorously beneath the frame, making a terrible rumpus as it did so. T h e movers set aside their meals and approached the piano cautiously to ascertain what the animal was all hopped up about, at which point the tenants burst into the room, atremble from top to toe, wiping sleep from the heavy bags under their eyes while making no effort to hide their annoyance at being so rudely awakened in the middle ofthe night.

W h e n Irving judged t h a t the appropriate m o m e n t h a d arrived, he unlatched the cage door under the pretense of obliging the tenants' request to "walk their dog," but, to his chagrin, t h e r a v e n o u s c a r n i v o r e p a i d n o h e e d to t h e m a r i n a t e d m u n c h k i n s , nor what they were feeding u p o n , b u t instead

Wagging his tail triumphantly, Dilda leapt from the piano with a drumstick between his jaws. A wooden panel opened beneath the soundboard ofthe instrument and a bloated caricature of livings Uncle Seymour plopped to the floor, bearing likeness to an oversized Easter egg. T h e tenants and dandiprats froze like statues. Their jowls dropped and their tongues hung low as they stared at the severed conk piece rolling about on the hardwood. Vertebrae, tendons and wind pipes extruded at its point of detachment, like the nutty portion of a candy bar after the first bite's been bitten off. As they directed their stern gazes u p o n Irving, the air became so gummy, one could chew it. Mortified, Irving drew a stub from his pocket, lit it, then backed towards the a n t e c h a m b e r, deliberating how he was going to talk his way out of the cul-de-sac in which he now found himself. "You knew all along!" the first tenant exclaimed in a tone rife with accusation. "Why didn't you tell us?" the second tenant asked in a sibilation so incisive, it could peel an apple. "This is an outrage!" the third tenant roared Olympianly, followed by a nod of consensus and whispers of "egregious!", "disgraceful!", and "scandalous!" from the four little pigwidgeons. "We are not amused!" they proclaimed in unison as they glowered menacingly at Irving. T h e room began to fill with a distinct canine odor. T h e tenants' ears were larger and flappier than Irving had originally

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realized, and their teeth, sharper—almost like-fangs. Also, the movers were taller, and brawnier -in frame than Irving -had noticed when first meeting them. In fact, their physiques were npt unlike th9se.of heavyweight boxers. Upon closer inspection, Dildo, it seemed, \yas only an innoxious little Chihuahua (an error of j u d g e m e n t Irving c o u l d . o n ly attribute to the flat's oblique lighting).

ing the elkhead over the fireplace with a stuffed and pickled trophy of living's uncle. T h e milky goo that had dribbled from Uncle Seymour's eye sockets was replaced with lacquered banjo marbles. T h e shocked grimace he had worn (when he saw the meat cleaver coming down) was taxidermically altered, for living's benefit, into a wide and mirthful grin.

, As these revelations swirled through living's consciousness, he lost balance and collapsed upon the sofa in a feverish deliriu m . W h e n he came to t the movers were looming loftily abbve him, applying cold compresses to-his knob and smelling salts to his snoot Evidently, he had fainted. "You'll,be alright," Eeny said. "Those fellows are pretty upset, though. They've been talking to their lawyers for the last three hours. It seems they're not taking .this affair too lightly. As for us, no skin off our noses— we're delighted to be of service." Eeny handed Irving a bill. Apparently relieved that what they had feared to be s their own incompetence bad turned out to be someone else's mistake, and would not, therefore,- reflect unfavorably on their reputations, the four movers lifted the piano onto the dolly and rolled it nimbly down, the stairwell, out the front entranceway and into the van. Dildo enjoyed a. hearty feast for the remainder of the night, Irving, exhausted from a hard day, curled into a fetal position and sleptinside the kennel. Next morning, after breakfasting with the tenants, Irving persuaded them to settle the matter out of court by offering to, remunerate them liberally for the inconvenience caused by his negligence (and gross stupidity, he wanted to add). This .cost h i m more than half the insurance money he had collected. Still, it left him with enough assets to* comfortably subsist on after his r e t i r e m e n t T h e tenants, with their long whiskery snouts and waggy tails, agreed to sublease the dog cage to Irving at a nominal monthly fee (plus all the biscuits they could eat). He accepted their offer and moved into the cage after cleaningout the scum left by its previous occupant. After a time the tenants redecorated the apartment, replac-

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realized, and their teeth, sharper—almost like-fangs. Also, the movers were taller, and brawnier -in frame than Irving -had noticed when first meeting them. In fact, their physiques were npt unlike th9se.of heavyweight boxers. Upon closer inspection, Dildo, it seemed, \yas only an innoxious little Chihuahua (an error of j u d g e m e n t Irving c o u l d . o n ly attribute to the flat's oblique lighting).

ing the elkhead over the fireplace with a stuffed and pickled trophy of living's uncle. T h e milky goo that had dribbled from Uncle Seymour's eye sockets was replaced with lacquered banjo marbles. T h e shocked grimace he had worn (when he saw the meat cleaver coming down) was taxidermically altered, for living's benefit, into a wide and mirthful grin.

, As these revelations swirled through living's consciousness, he lost balance and collapsed upon the sofa in a feverish deliriu m . W h e n he came to t the movers were looming loftily abbve him, applying cold compresses to-his knob and smelling salts to his snoot Evidently, he had fainted. "You'll,be alright," Eeny said. "Those fellows are pretty upset, though. They've been talking to their lawyers for the last three hours. It seems they're not taking .this affair too lightly. As for us, no skin off our noses— we're delighted to be of service." Eeny handed Irving a bill. Apparently relieved that what they had feared to be s their own incompetence bad turned out to be someone else's mistake, and would not, therefore,- reflect unfavorably on their reputations, the four movers lifted the piano onto the dolly and rolled it nimbly down, the stairwell, out the front entranceway and into the van. Dildo enjoyed a. hearty feast for the remainder of the night, Irving, exhausted from a hard day, curled into a fetal position and sleptinside the kennel. Next morning, after breakfasting with the tenants, Irving persuaded them to settle the matter out of court by offering to, remunerate them liberally for the inconvenience caused by his negligence (and gross stupidity, he wanted to add). This .cost h i m more than half the insurance money he had collected. Still, it left him with enough assets to* comfortably subsist on after his r e t i r e m e n t T h e tenants, with their long whiskery snouts and waggy tails, agreed to sublease the dog cage to Irving at a nominal monthly fee (plus all the biscuits they could eat). He accepted their offer and moved into the cage after cleaningout the scum left by its previous occupant. After a time the tenants redecorated the apartment, replac-

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Keepin 'em Out ain't nothin but niggers for at least ten miles. Diane don't even like Jennifer goin down there durin t h e day and. she wudn't gonna let Jennifer go alone. I tell Diane that I'll dial the police if she don't call when she gets to Darryl's. D i a n e shouldn'ta gone to Darryl's in the first place since there ain't nothin her or Jennifer can do after the fact. And also, it ain't smart goin where you don't belong late at night like that, especially when Darryl ain't even hurt bad. Diane don't like listenin to her own sister when it come to her kid cause when she does, Jennifer gets upset at Diane. Jennifer bitches to get her way and -Diane gives in cause Jennifer makes her feel bad. T h e n Diane can't figure out why Jennifer don't ever do nothin around the house or why she ain't ever had a job till she was nineteen years old.

y niece Jennifer come back at three in the afternoon after her class at the junior college in Marion Park. This morning she called in sick where "she works to take care of her boyfriend, Darryl. Her daddy somehow heard she was datin a nigger, found out where Darryl worked, went to the place and gave him a whippin. Darryl called late in the night yesterday, and when I answered the phone he was cryin like he wasn't more than ten years old. So then Jennifer gets on the phone and starts cryin and raisin all kinda hell about her daddy. She wakes her mama u p with all her hollerin and makes Diane take her way on the north side of the city where there

I try and stay out of it, because Jennifer ain't mine. But I'm gonna say somethin if I see her takin advantage of Diane. It's bad enough Jennifer goes out with whoever she wants without carin about what her mama or her daddy thinks. If you ask me, Darryl gettin a whippin is some of her fault. She's the one that put em in the situation in the first place. Today, Jennifer don't even look at me when she comes into the kitchen. She's still mad cause I was tellin Diane not to take her last night. "Your mama told me Darryl ain't hurt too bad," I says to her. "He's got seven stitches on the side of *his head and he got his ribs bruised real bad. But that ddn't mean nothin .to you. You'd- only think- it was bad if he was dead," she "says with her voice shakin. "That ain't true at all, Jennifer," I says, bein serious so she'd look at me. "Only reason I didn't want you goin is cause* I didn't want you and your mama out that late at night if Darryl wasn't hurt bad." She still isn't lookin at me. "Besides, I told you last night all you had to do -was wait till today to go and see him. You coulda waited that long." "Well, it wudn't none of your business any way," she says like a smart ass, ldokin at me. "And you don't know if my daddy woulda come after him again. He told Darryl he wanted to kill

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Keepin 'em Out ain't nothin but niggers for at least ten miles. Diane don't even like Jennifer goin down there durin t h e day and. she wudn't gonna let Jennifer go alone. I tell Diane that I'll dial the police if she don't call when she gets to Darryl's. D i a n e shouldn'ta gone to Darryl's in the first place since there ain't nothin her or Jennifer can do after the fact. And also, it ain't smart goin where you don't belong late at night like that, especially when Darryl ain't even hurt bad. Diane don't like listenin to her own sister when it come to her kid cause when she does, Jennifer gets upset at Diane. Jennifer bitches to get her way and -Diane gives in cause Jennifer makes her feel bad. T h e n Diane can't figure out why Jennifer don't ever do nothin around the house or why she ain't ever had a job till she was nineteen years old.

y niece Jennifer come back at three in the afternoon after her class at the junior college in Marion Park. This morning she called in sick where "she works to take care of her boyfriend, Darryl. Her daddy somehow heard she was datin a nigger, found out where Darryl worked, went to the place and gave him a whippin. Darryl called late in the night yesterday, and when I answered the phone he was cryin like he wasn't more than ten years old. So then Jennifer gets on the phone and starts cryin and raisin all kinda hell about her daddy. She wakes her mama u p with all her hollerin and makes Diane take her way on the north side of the city where there

I try and stay out of it, because Jennifer ain't mine. But I'm gonna say somethin if I see her takin advantage of Diane. It's bad enough Jennifer goes out with whoever she wants without carin about what her mama or her daddy thinks. If you ask me, Darryl gettin a whippin is some of her fault. She's the one that put em in the situation in the first place. Today, Jennifer don't even look at me when she comes into the kitchen. She's still mad cause I was tellin Diane not to take her last night. "Your mama told me Darryl ain't hurt too bad," I says to her. "He's got seven stitches on the side of *his head and he got his ribs bruised real bad. But that ddn't mean nothin .to you. You'd- only think- it was bad if he was dead," she "says with her voice shakin. "That ain't true at all, Jennifer," I says, bein serious so she'd look at me. "Only reason I didn't want you goin is cause* I didn't want you and your mama out that late at night if Darryl wasn't hurt bad." She still isn't lookin at me. "Besides, I told you last night all you had to do -was wait till today to go and see him. You coulda waited that long." "Well, it wudn't none of your business any way," she says like a smart ass, ldokin at me. "And you don't know if my daddy woulda come after him again. He told Darryl he wanted to kill

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him." "Yeah, and your daddy was probly drunk. He ain't smart enough to kill nobody," I tell her. "Well he wudn't too drunk to find where Darryl works." Martin got a hold a Darryl at midnight when Darryl was comin outta work. I was surprised he figured out where Darryl works cause Martin hardly ever talks to Jennifer. Only reason he even knows Jennifer's datin a colored kid is cause one of the neighb o r s r o u n d here called him after seein her and the boy together. Martin ain't even been around here in five years u p till this s u m m e r w h e n his last wife divorced h i m . T h a t was w h e n Martin come lookin for Diane again. He still runs around with a couple of the neighbors that live down the block, so he's always got some idea of what's goin on around the house.

thin or pays attention to somethin else. She says she smells dog shit in the house, but I can't smell nothin cause I got the grill on. "You sure you don't smell nothin?" she says and starts lookin all over the house. "She never cleans u p after the dog," I says, puttin the pork chops on a plate. "Plates ain't clean neither, and she was supposed to do the dishes today." "Well, she wasn't really home all day." "She was here for a while, earlier " I says. Diane jumps on me. "She's got enough to deal with now without you criticizin her all the time." " W h a t I say don't have nothin to do with her bein lazy around the house," I say and Diane don't say nothin. She sets the table, makin everything look right. Diane don't like to argue with nobody and she thinks I'm always arguin and complainin with people. But I ain't gonna feel bad for pointin things out about Jennifer. Diane sees what's goin on and she don't do nothin about it. Diane might decide to tolerate the bullshit and I might not be Jennifer's mama, but I share the same house and I pay to live here.

"Mama comin home at four?" she asks. She's calmed down but she stilbdon't Wanna look at me. "I would guess so," I says, lookin at a magazine. W h e n she's about to leave, she tells me to tell her mama she's gonna borrow Diane's bus pass. I ask her if she done anything arpund here since she's been home, and then she turns- it around on me. She starts bitchin at me about how she don't have time and says that I never think about how nobody feels. She looks like she's gonna cry again, and when she's done with her" fit I tell her bitchin ain't gonna work on m e like it does on her mama. "One thing I realize lately^" she says while she's cryin, "is that you ain't no different than my daddy." I tell her she ain't n o different than him either since she do whatever the hell she wants without thinkin of anybody else. She cries some more and'then walks out o f t h e kitchen. She don't say nothin till she gets to the front door when she hollers "bitch" at me. T h e n she slams the door, as if I'm the cause of her problems. Diane come in little later than four acti'n the same as any other day, worried about'Jennifer showin up to them classes Diane paid for. I tell her Jennifer went to her class but that she didn't go to work cause she was with Darryl. Diane don't say nothin, but I can tell she's pissed cause she won't look right at me. W h e n she gets mad, she just makes herself busy with some-

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I decide I'm gonna let up on it today though. Diane looks already worried about other things. "Jennifer says Darryl got a bad cut on him," I says while spoonin the mashed potatoes. " M a r t i n hit h i m with a bottle right up here," she says, pointin to her temple. "Probly used one of them beer bottles he's got rollin all over the place in his car. I hope to hell he feels guilty bout now, cause he knows what he did ain't right." She stirs the gravy. "Whether he was drunk or not, he knows there ain't no excuse for attackin a kid half his age and size. I know Martin." Diane clears her throat. "Even he ain't that mean not to feel sorry for doin that to the boy." I sit down after I get the plates filled up. "Long as he tell himself he's keepin a nigger away from his daughter..." I look around for the fork she was sposed to give me, "long as he tell himself that, he ain't gonna feel bad about it. He's got his excuse right there."

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him." "Yeah, and your daddy was probly drunk. He ain't smart enough to kill nobody," I tell her. "Well he wudn't too drunk to find where Darryl works." Martin got a hold a Darryl at midnight when Darryl was comin outta work. I was surprised he figured out where Darryl works cause Martin hardly ever talks to Jennifer. Only reason he even knows Jennifer's datin a colored kid is cause one of the neighb o r s r o u n d here called him after seein her and the boy together. Martin ain't even been around here in five years u p till this s u m m e r w h e n his last wife divorced h i m . T h a t was w h e n Martin come lookin for Diane again. He still runs around with a couple of the neighbors that live down the block, so he's always got some idea of what's goin on around the house.

thin or pays attention to somethin else. She says she smells dog shit in the house, but I can't smell nothin cause I got the grill on. "You sure you don't smell nothin?" she says and starts lookin all over the house. "She never cleans u p after the dog," I says, puttin the pork chops on a plate. "Plates ain't clean neither, and she was supposed to do the dishes today." "Well, she wasn't really home all day." "She was here for a while, earlier " I says. Diane jumps on me. "She's got enough to deal with now without you criticizin her all the time." " W h a t I say don't have nothin to do with her bein lazy around the house," I say and Diane don't say nothin. She sets the table, makin everything look right. Diane don't like to argue with nobody and she thinks I'm always arguin and complainin with people. But I ain't gonna feel bad for pointin things out about Jennifer. Diane sees what's goin on and she don't do nothin about it. Diane might decide to tolerate the bullshit and I might not be Jennifer's mama, but I share the same house and I pay to live here.

"Mama comin home at four?" she asks. She's calmed down but she stilbdon't Wanna look at me. "I would guess so," I says, lookin at a magazine. W h e n she's about to leave, she tells me to tell her mama she's gonna borrow Diane's bus pass. I ask her if she done anything arpund here since she's been home, and then she turns- it around on me. She starts bitchin at me about how she don't have time and says that I never think about how nobody feels. She looks like she's gonna cry again, and when she's done with her" fit I tell her bitchin ain't gonna work on m e like it does on her mama. "One thing I realize lately^" she says while she's cryin, "is that you ain't no different than my daddy." I tell her she ain't n o different than him either since she do whatever the hell she wants without thinkin of anybody else. She cries some more and'then walks out o f t h e kitchen. She don't say nothin till she gets to the front door when she hollers "bitch" at me. T h e n she slams the door, as if I'm the cause of her problems. Diane come in little later than four acti'n the same as any other day, worried about'Jennifer showin up to them classes Diane paid for. I tell her Jennifer went to her class but that she didn't go to work cause she was with Darryl. Diane don't say nothin, but I can tell she's pissed cause she won't look right at me. W h e n she gets mad, she just makes herself busy with some-

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I decide I'm gonna let up on it today though. Diane looks already worried about other things. "Jennifer says Darryl got a bad cut on him," I says while spoonin the mashed potatoes. " M a r t i n hit h i m with a bottle right up here," she says, pointin to her temple. "Probly used one of them beer bottles he's got rollin all over the place in his car. I hope to hell he feels guilty bout now, cause he knows what he did ain't right." She stirs the gravy. "Whether he was drunk or not, he knows there ain't no excuse for attackin a kid half his age and size. I know Martin." Diane clears her throat. "Even he ain't that mean not to feel sorry for doin that to the boy." I sit down after I get the plates filled up. "Long as he tell himself he's keepin a nigger away from his daughter..." I look around for the fork she was sposed to give me, "long as he tell himself that, he ain't gonna feel bad about it. He's got his excuse right there."

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lerkeley Fiction Review She stops eatin and look u p at m e . "I can't believe you'd even say somethin like t h a t , T w i l a . Specially after what happened." She looks back down at her plate. "The way you t h i n k , Darryl a i n ' t even a c o n cern-" "I d i d n ' t say I t h i n k it's a l r i g h t what Martin d o n e to him, Diane. I'm Julie Stone talkin about what's goin through Martin's head." I look at Diane, but she's focused on her plate. "And whether you believe it or not, I don't hate niggers near as bad as Martin or anybody else from around here does." I was real serious when I said it cause she don't have any business sayin or guessin what I think. "And if you think he ain't forgive himself right now then you better take your head outta the sand." Diane gets quiet and cuts the pork real slow. I don't care if her or Jennifer or anybody has a problem with what I say. Nobody's got any business tellin me what I think about somethin. "I felt bad about what happened to Darryl," I says. She stares at her plate with a guilty look, chewin her food like a cow. "It just don't surprise me what happened, that's all."

Keepin 'em Out that did somethin wrong. I go in the livin room and turn on Wheel of Fortune and try to not listen to what Diane says. Sometimes I can't help it when she's on the phone with him cause she gets so upset. I'da never stayed with my husband as long as she did, even though Martin ain't a pure drunk like David was. Diane and Martin was married eight years. Me and David was married four before I left him and start livin with Diane. Since Diane's three years older and she was divorced by the time I left David, I stayed with her and Jennifer ever since. This is one of the first times he's called since the summer. This summer was when Martin come back to Diane. His second wife, the woman he left Diane for, left him and after that he come right to our doorstep. Diane didn't trust him at first but then she let him stay around and started talkin about how he changed. He stayed at the apartment a couple nights a week for about a month. All that time, I was tellin Diane he wasn't bein truthful and that he was only stayin with her cause he ain't got nobody to go to. But she hardly talked to me when he was around. She believed what she wanted at the time, so she stop listenin to me. In her mind, he respected her and he told her she was a different person, able to do things for herself. He said he was proud a her since she wasn't hidin behind nobody and cause she took care of Jennifer by herself. But after he hung around for a month, he disappeared like he wasn't ever there. Diane was heartbroke for the next couple months. She didn't say nothin to nobody-not even Jennifer-and durin that time, she went to bed round seven or eight o'clock. Jennifer kept away from the house, got fired from her work, and started datin a colored kid.

Me and Diane don't say nothin for the rest of time. We eat, and after supper I do the dishes. Diane looks in the living room for dog shit and lets the dog in after she finds it. Round six o' clock, the phone rings and I get it. Martin's on the other end and he asks for Diane. I don't say nothin to him and drop the phone on the kitchen table without worryin bout where it's settin. I call for Diane, and when she comes I tell her she better not let him bully. She picks up the phone like she's a little kid

I know I shouldn't get on Jennifer so much considerin how her daddy treats her. Ever when she was little he never called or come round to see her, and I seen how it upset her when he left in the summer. Part of her problem is she don't got nobody givin her discipline or gettin on her ass every now and then. But you wouldn't be disciplined neither if your daddy only called on your birthdays. He even forgot those most the time.

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lerkeley Fiction Review She stops eatin and look u p at m e . "I can't believe you'd even say somethin like t h a t , T w i l a . Specially after what happened." She looks back down at her plate. "The way you t h i n k , Darryl a i n ' t even a c o n cern-" "I d i d n ' t say I t h i n k it's a l r i g h t what Martin d o n e to him, Diane. I'm Julie Stone talkin about what's goin through Martin's head." I look at Diane, but she's focused on her plate. "And whether you believe it or not, I don't hate niggers near as bad as Martin or anybody else from around here does." I was real serious when I said it cause she don't have any business sayin or guessin what I think. "And if you think he ain't forgive himself right now then you better take your head outta the sand." Diane gets quiet and cuts the pork real slow. I don't care if her or Jennifer or anybody has a problem with what I say. Nobody's got any business tellin me what I think about somethin. "I felt bad about what happened to Darryl," I says. She stares at her plate with a guilty look, chewin her food like a cow. "It just don't surprise me what happened, that's all."

Keepin 'em Out that did somethin wrong. I go in the livin room and turn on Wheel of Fortune and try to not listen to what Diane says. Sometimes I can't help it when she's on the phone with him cause she gets so upset. I'da never stayed with my husband as long as she did, even though Martin ain't a pure drunk like David was. Diane and Martin was married eight years. Me and David was married four before I left him and start livin with Diane. Since Diane's three years older and she was divorced by the time I left David, I stayed with her and Jennifer ever since. This is one of the first times he's called since the summer. This summer was when Martin come back to Diane. His second wife, the woman he left Diane for, left him and after that he come right to our doorstep. Diane didn't trust him at first but then she let him stay around and started talkin about how he changed. He stayed at the apartment a couple nights a week for about a month. All that time, I was tellin Diane he wasn't bein truthful and that he was only stayin with her cause he ain't got nobody to go to. But she hardly talked to me when he was around. She believed what she wanted at the time, so she stop listenin to me. In her mind, he respected her and he told her she was a different person, able to do things for herself. He said he was proud a her since she wasn't hidin behind nobody and cause she took care of Jennifer by herself. But after he hung around for a month, he disappeared like he wasn't ever there. Diane was heartbroke for the next couple months. She didn't say nothin to nobody-not even Jennifer-and durin that time, she went to bed round seven or eight o'clock. Jennifer kept away from the house, got fired from her work, and started datin a colored kid.

Me and Diane don't say nothin for the rest of time. We eat, and after supper I do the dishes. Diane looks in the living room for dog shit and lets the dog in after she finds it. Round six o' clock, the phone rings and I get it. Martin's on the other end and he asks for Diane. I don't say nothin to him and drop the phone on the kitchen table without worryin bout where it's settin. I call for Diane, and when she comes I tell her she better not let him bully. She picks up the phone like she's a little kid

I know I shouldn't get on Jennifer so much considerin how her daddy treats her. Ever when she was little he never called or come round to see her, and I seen how it upset her when he left in the summer. Part of her problem is she don't got nobody givin her discipline or gettin on her ass every now and then. But you wouldn't be disciplined neither if your daddy only called on your birthdays. He even forgot those most the time.

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Even though I'm tryin to stay outta Diane's problems with Martin, I keep the TV-down so I can hear if he's bullyin her. She ain't talkin much so I figure he already started on her. All of a sudden she chatters a hundred miles an hour. "Less you gonna be round here or try and be a part of her life you ain't got no business'tellin her who she can and who she can't be with. You ain't even talked to her since you left." She sounds like she's bearin down on him but then she don't talk for a long time. "That still don't give you the right.. .That still don't give you...". He's probly goin on about Darryl bein a nigger cause then she start defendin herself. "Yes, I do got respect. And I got respect for. her, t o o . . . t h e n you can think what.you-wann a think."

into the living room and stares at the TV, lookin like she ain't hearin a word of it. "What the hell's he callin here for?" I ask without lookin at her. "He says he's worried about Jennifer," I laugh cause she sound serious when she says i t "He ain't worried bout nobody," I tell her. "I'll tell you what he's worried a b o u t He's worried about himself. Thafs why he beat that boy." I shift around in my seat cause I'm gettin antsy. "You was worried about her and the boy. Martin was worried bout the nigger part." "I'm just sayin what he said," she says, on the defense. "He says he's afraid of her ruinin her life over it and that he's worried about her." "If he's so worried bout her then how come he don't wanna have nothin to do with her the rest of the time? He better worry bout all the lyin he's doin." She don't say nothin and keep starin at the-TV. "You.believe his bullshit, don't you?" I say. She keep starin at the TV. "I believe he's worried about her," she says as she wipes her hands on her pants, "and that he cares about her some." "For Chrissake, Diane " I could hardly think of what to say even though I was expectin her to think that way. "All I can say is you better start knowin the difference between what you wanna think, and what you know is right." I was lookin right at her but then I look back toward the TV. "You can go head and be stupid bout it for all I give a damn. But just remember, you was.the.one who was all worried boutDarryl last night and sayin I was the one who don't care bout it." I ain't lookin at her but I can tell she's gettin upset by it. "You can go on and think whatever you want and believe-whatever bullshit he^s sayin, long as you know you're screwin up your own thinkin by it and that you're lettin him push you all over-"

"If he says he's got respect for either one of you," I holler toward the kitchen, "then he should-leave everybody the hell alone." I ain't gonna listen to him start his shit again. "Tell him to go find himself a whore to cry on. H e don't think about nobody but himself," I says real loud, "so he shouldn't be botherin nobody." I can tell he's pissed cause Diane's gettin panicky. "That's Marjorie from next door. She's b e e n over here drinkin," Diane says like she's apologizin. "Bullshit it ain't," I holler louderso he can figure my voice. I know I gone too far but I figure he'd done the same. He,keeps Diane scared by goin farther with things than she will. That's how he pushes her around and keeps her under his thumb. D i a n e gets off the p h o n e and come in the living room. She's gettin on m e to be quiet and says she ain't ever gonna speak to me if I don't. I keep quiet cause when she decides on somethin like that, she keeps to i t I had her not talk to me for three and four days before just cause she gets so damn mad. Diane gets back on the phone and doesn't say miich for the rest of the time she's on. I turn the sound up on the TV and watch the end of the news. They show some nigger's- house b u m i n down on the north side, probly got somethin to do with bad electric which is the same reason why fires start in this neighborhood. I watch the news till Diane get off the phone.

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"I'm not listenin to you no more," she says and gets up off the sofa. She's cryin a little. "You don't know nothin bout nobody, cept what you see inside the house " she yells and walks

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Even though I'm tryin to stay outta Diane's problems with Martin, I keep the TV-down so I can hear if he's bullyin her. She ain't talkin much so I figure he already started on her. All of a sudden she chatters a hundred miles an hour. "Less you gonna be round here or try and be a part of her life you ain't got no business'tellin her who she can and who she can't be with. You ain't even talked to her since you left." She sounds like she's bearin down on him but then she don't talk for a long time. "That still don't give you the right.. .That still don't give you...". He's probly goin on about Darryl bein a nigger cause then she start defendin herself. "Yes, I do got respect. And I got respect for. her, t o o . . . t h e n you can think what.you-wann a think."

into the living room and stares at the TV, lookin like she ain't hearin a word of it. "What the hell's he callin here for?" I ask without lookin at her. "He says he's worried about Jennifer," I laugh cause she sound serious when she says i t "He ain't worried bout nobody," I tell her. "I'll tell you what he's worried a b o u t He's worried about himself. Thafs why he beat that boy." I shift around in my seat cause I'm gettin antsy. "You was worried about her and the boy. Martin was worried bout the nigger part." "I'm just sayin what he said," she says, on the defense. "He says he's afraid of her ruinin her life over it and that he's worried about her." "If he's so worried bout her then how come he don't wanna have nothin to do with her the rest of the time? He better worry bout all the lyin he's doin." She don't say nothin and keep starin at the-TV. "You.believe his bullshit, don't you?" I say. She keep starin at the TV. "I believe he's worried about her," she says as she wipes her hands on her pants, "and that he cares about her some." "For Chrissake, Diane " I could hardly think of what to say even though I was expectin her to think that way. "All I can say is you better start knowin the difference between what you wanna think, and what you know is right." I was lookin right at her but then I look back toward the TV. "You can go head and be stupid bout it for all I give a damn. But just remember, you was.the.one who was all worried boutDarryl last night and sayin I was the one who don't care bout it." I ain't lookin at her but I can tell she's gettin upset by it. "You can go on and think whatever you want and believe-whatever bullshit he^s sayin, long as you know you're screwin up your own thinkin by it and that you're lettin him push you all over-"

"If he says he's got respect for either one of you," I holler toward the kitchen, "then he should-leave everybody the hell alone." I ain't gonna listen to him start his shit again. "Tell him to go find himself a whore to cry on. H e don't think about nobody but himself," I says real loud, "so he shouldn't be botherin nobody." I can tell he's pissed cause Diane's gettin panicky. "That's Marjorie from next door. She's b e e n over here drinkin," Diane says like she's apologizin. "Bullshit it ain't," I holler louderso he can figure my voice. I know I gone too far but I figure he'd done the same. He,keeps Diane scared by goin farther with things than she will. That's how he pushes her around and keeps her under his thumb. D i a n e gets off the p h o n e and come in the living room. She's gettin on m e to be quiet and says she ain't ever gonna speak to me if I don't. I keep quiet cause when she decides on somethin like that, she keeps to i t I had her not talk to me for three and four days before just cause she gets so damn mad. Diane gets back on the phone and doesn't say miich for the rest of the time she's on. I turn the sound up on the TV and watch the end of the news. They show some nigger's- house b u m i n down on the north side, probly got somethin to do with bad electric which is the same reason why fires start in this neighborhood. I watch the news till Diane get off the phone.

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"I'm not listenin to you no more," she says and gets up off the sofa. She's cryin a little. "You don't know nothin bout nobody, cept what you see inside the house " she yells and walks

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out of the living room. " O n l y time you even leave is to go to work and when you go over to Marjorie's to talk bout other people's business.-! ain't even gonna h e in the room no more when you start bitchin." I can hear the door of her room shut. I tell her I don't give a shit what she thinks about me and that she-don't know how to handle h e r own business. I'm hollerin to the other room but it ain't too-far. "You think I don't, know nobody, but I know why*he called. I can see that without even knowin the man; and I know you can see it."" I'm gettin a little upset, too, cause she hurt my feelins, sayin I don't do nothin but talk about everybody. And she know I got friends where I work. "The only reason he's callin you is cause everybody's seein his girl datin a north side nigger." I get up and walk out of the living room to where her door's at and I'm almost screamin. "He's afraid of how he's gonna look with his girl lovin a nigger."

pissed-about last night. "I'm pickin you up," she says. "Well, I can see that, Diane." It makes me mad when she acts dumb. It makes me nervous too. "What the hell's the matter?" I ask her, losin my patience. She asks me to get in the car and says she's got somethin to tell me. She don't want to look at me, and I feel my stomach tumin. Her forehead is sweatin a little, even though it's ten degrees out. I get in on the passenger side. She talks, lookin straight ahead out the front window. She talks soTast you can barely understand what the hell she's sayin. "Would you slow down for Crissake, I don't even know what the hell your talkin b o u t " I says. "And turn on the heater. Ifs cold as hell in here." I turn on the heater instead and she catches her breath. T h e n she tells the whole thing to me. She says that Darryl and his mama got kicked out of their apartment by .the landlord cause his mama couldn't pay the bill. Diane says they're gonna move into a project next month and that his mama's gonna take her stuff and stay with her sister. Problem is, Darryl ain't got no place to stay. His aunt got ten kids just like every othe r welfare nigger, so Jennifer asked, Diane if h e could stay with us for a month. Diane said yes without even thihkin or botherin to ask the other person that payspto live in the goddamn place. I can hardly believe it's-true what she's sayin, and I don't say nothin for a second. I let her keep goin on bout how he ain't gonna be in nobody's way and how I ain't better than nobody else and that I shouldn't judge. She finally shuts up, and by the time she's done I ain't evendookin at her. I keep starin ahead.

I can h e a r h e r cryin in her room and-hollerin abouf me. We don't talk for the rest of the night and she stay in her-room. Jennifer called earlier and said she was stayin the night at Darryl's-like she does half the time-so she-don't-come home. I hate it.when the house is quiet and only thing to do is watch TV. I hear them asshole teenage kids racin their cars down the street out front, screechin all over the place. They scare the* helh out of everybody on the road a n d keep everybody up in. the night time. They think there ain't nobody on the earth cept them. Next day, I 'go run errands -and stop by the laundramat before work. (I work second shift, three to eleven.) I'm a cashier at the twenty-four hour grocery market and I work about four, five times a week dependin on what hours are .open.-1 only "been workin there bout three months so I ain't "workin full time yet. I used.to work at a pizza place for bout two years but I got tired of* takin the bus a half hour each way. Workin at-the supermarket is easycause it's only five blocks away. I go to workand when I get done, Diane is outside waitin to pick me up. She don't normally pick me up, and she looks nervous. "Why are you here?" I ask her. I'm surprised she still ain't

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"Let me ask you one question, Diane", I ask her in a straight voice. She gives me a pleading look. !*You really that goddamn dumb?" I say. I can feel a bubble in my throat cause-I'm gettin so pissed off I can hardly see straight. She don't say nothin, and then I look at her. I raise my'voice at her. "Ydu even thinkin before you let a nigger stay in your house?" "I knew you was gonna make this hard," she says and puts her hand on her mouth like she gonna get upset.

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out of the living room. " O n l y time you even leave is to go to work and when you go over to Marjorie's to talk bout other people's business.-! ain't even gonna h e in the room no more when you start bitchin." I can hear the door of her room shut. I tell her I don't give a shit what she thinks about me and that she-don't know how to handle h e r own business. I'm hollerin to the other room but it ain't too-far. "You think I don't, know nobody, but I know why*he called. I can see that without even knowin the man; and I know you can see it."" I'm gettin a little upset, too, cause she hurt my feelins, sayin I don't do nothin but talk about everybody. And she know I got friends where I work. "The only reason he's callin you is cause everybody's seein his girl datin a north side nigger." I get up and walk out of the living room to where her door's at and I'm almost screamin. "He's afraid of how he's gonna look with his girl lovin a nigger."

pissed-about last night. "I'm pickin you up," she says. "Well, I can see that, Diane." It makes me mad when she acts dumb. It makes me nervous too. "What the hell's the matter?" I ask her, losin my patience. She asks me to get in the car and says she's got somethin to tell me. She don't want to look at me, and I feel my stomach tumin. Her forehead is sweatin a little, even though it's ten degrees out. I get in on the passenger side. She talks, lookin straight ahead out the front window. She talks soTast you can barely understand what the hell she's sayin. "Would you slow down for Crissake, I don't even know what the hell your talkin b o u t " I says. "And turn on the heater. Ifs cold as hell in here." I turn on the heater instead and she catches her breath. T h e n she tells the whole thing to me. She says that Darryl and his mama got kicked out of their apartment by .the landlord cause his mama couldn't pay the bill. Diane says they're gonna move into a project next month and that his mama's gonna take her stuff and stay with her sister. Problem is, Darryl ain't got no place to stay. His aunt got ten kids just like every othe r welfare nigger, so Jennifer asked, Diane if h e could stay with us for a month. Diane said yes without even thihkin or botherin to ask the other person that payspto live in the goddamn place. I can hardly believe it's-true what she's sayin, and I don't say nothin for a second. I let her keep goin on bout how he ain't gonna be in nobody's way and how I ain't better than nobody else and that I shouldn't judge. She finally shuts up, and by the time she's done I ain't evendookin at her. I keep starin ahead.

I can h e a r h e r cryin in her room and-hollerin abouf me. We don't talk for the rest of the night and she stay in her-room. Jennifer called earlier and said she was stayin the night at Darryl's-like she does half the time-so she-don't-come home. I hate it.when the house is quiet and only thing to do is watch TV. I hear them asshole teenage kids racin their cars down the street out front, screechin all over the place. They scare the* helh out of everybody on the road a n d keep everybody up in. the night time. They think there ain't nobody on the earth cept them. Next day, I 'go run errands -and stop by the laundramat before work. (I work second shift, three to eleven.) I'm a cashier at the twenty-four hour grocery market and I work about four, five times a week dependin on what hours are .open.-1 only "been workin there bout three months so I ain't "workin full time yet. I used.to work at a pizza place for bout two years but I got tired of* takin the bus a half hour each way. Workin at-the supermarket is easycause it's only five blocks away. I go to workand when I get done, Diane is outside waitin to pick me up. She don't normally pick me up, and she looks nervous. "Why are you here?" I ask her. I'm surprised she still ain't

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"Let me ask you one question, Diane", I ask her in a straight voice. She gives me a pleading look. !*You really that goddamn dumb?" I say. I can feel a bubble in my throat cause-I'm gettin so pissed off I can hardly see straight. She don't say nothin, and then I look at her. I raise my'voice at her. "Ydu even thinkin before you let a nigger stay in your house?" "I knew you was gonna make this hard," she says and puts her hand on her mouth like she gonna get upset.

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"You was the one who made everything hard by sayin he could stay," I says grittin my teeth. "If you're too dumb to think about anything except what Jennifer wants, then you go head and be dumb. But she ain't gonna make no decisions for me when it come to the place where I live. You hear what I'm sayin?"

Diane sits there a few seconds and then she starts the car. We ride home, not sayin nothin to each other. I'm hopin we don't come home and see the apartment gettin burned down by one ofthe neighbors. W h e n w e get home and go inside the apartment, Darryl and Jennifer are bringin in plastic bags and a suitcase with all his clothes. They just come back from his work-Darryl work the second shifVlike m e - a n d they don't say nothin when me and Diane come in. Jennifer's puttin some of Darryl's stuff in the bathroom and she give m e a dirty look when I come by. She look like she's gettin ready for me to say somethin, but I ain't gonna give her the satisfaction. She knows her fits don't work on me like they do with her mama so she don't go out of her way.

"I hear what you're sayin," she yells, with her bottom lip shakin, "but you ain't callin me Âťdumb no more." I sit back in the seat and she looks weak. "I ain't gonna listen to nothin you say if you keep callin me d u m b , Twila: -You been doin it a lot lately." She wipe her face with her hand and calms down. "And I don't care if you" think you're better t h a n everybody," she takes a second to catch her breath, "you don't even know Darryl-" "It ain't about m e thinkin I'm better than h i m . People round here hate niggers to begin with. You even .think about what somebody might try to' do if they see him'livin with us?" I don't care if she don't believe me. "If they see .him comin in and out, somethin could happen to him or Jennifer." I can tell she don't wanna listen and that she already made up her rhind. She says he's only gonna stay a month or a cduple weeks and that he ain't gonna be in nobody's way. She says he gonna-'sleep-on the floor in Jennifer's room, and I laugh a t h e r . You can tell she d o n ' t even believe that a n d that she just repeatin what Jennifer says. But I decide I ain't gonna say no more bout it. I figure Diane has already dug the grave and.I know that she won't change her mind. "You better hope Martin don't find out about it," I tell her. She looks down a t the steering wheeHike she already run that part through her headland don't wanna think about it no more. ,r You even think bout that yet?" I ask so I can make1 sure. "What do you think, Twila?" she says. "Of course I thought about-" "All I did was ask you a question." "You asked it like you already knew the answer." "And you let somebody live with us without waitin for my answer," I says, truly sick of her crybaby shit. "Just start the damn car."

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I go in the kitchen-and smoke a cigarette and start readin the paper. Diane come in and start puttin away the dishes. Darryl walk in with his head down, lookin nervous. I c a n see how he woulda 'cried when Martin give him a whippin cause he look shy and wimpy. He talks to Diane but don't look in her face. He asks her what he can do round the house. "You don't gotta do nothin in particular," she says real polite, tryin to stop him from bein'so nervous. "Just maybe help out when you see somethin lyin around or when the trash has to be taken out." "If you wanna help, you can do all the cleanin Jennifer don't do," I say while I'm tryin to find the Lifestyle section in the paper. Jennifer's*still in the bathroom, but the bathroom is right next to the'kitchen so*she hear me. T h e house is so small you can hear everything from anywhere. "Darryl," Jennifer hollers, "you can help yourself by stayin out of the house as much as possible. That way you don't gotta listen to her bitchin every minute of the day." Jennifer never gets me upset when she come at me like that cause <you can tell she's lookin to get emotional bout something. Sometimes, I like that she does it-cept when she's doin it to her mama-cause ifs her way of standih up for herself. She ain't gonna let nobody cross her or she's gonna raise holy hell. It's good she's got some of that cause she won't get shit on like Diane does. Jennifer's got

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"You was the one who made everything hard by sayin he could stay," I says grittin my teeth. "If you're too dumb to think about anything except what Jennifer wants, then you go head and be dumb. But she ain't gonna make no decisions for me when it come to the place where I live. You hear what I'm sayin?"

Diane sits there a few seconds and then she starts the car. We ride home, not sayin nothin to each other. I'm hopin we don't come home and see the apartment gettin burned down by one ofthe neighbors. W h e n w e get home and go inside the apartment, Darryl and Jennifer are bringin in plastic bags and a suitcase with all his clothes. They just come back from his work-Darryl work the second shifVlike m e - a n d they don't say nothin when me and Diane come in. Jennifer's puttin some of Darryl's stuff in the bathroom and she give m e a dirty look when I come by. She look like she's gettin ready for me to say somethin, but I ain't gonna give her the satisfaction. She knows her fits don't work on me like they do with her mama so she don't go out of her way.

"I hear what you're sayin," she yells, with her bottom lip shakin, "but you ain't callin me Âťdumb no more." I sit back in the seat and she looks weak. "I ain't gonna listen to nothin you say if you keep callin me d u m b , Twila: -You been doin it a lot lately." She wipe her face with her hand and calms down. "And I don't care if you" think you're better t h a n everybody," she takes a second to catch her breath, "you don't even know Darryl-" "It ain't about m e thinkin I'm better than h i m . People round here hate niggers to begin with. You even .think about what somebody might try to' do if they see him'livin with us?" I don't care if she don't believe me. "If they see .him comin in and out, somethin could happen to him or Jennifer." I can tell she don't wanna listen and that she already made up her rhind. She says he's only gonna stay a month or a cduple weeks and that he ain't gonna be in nobody's way. She says he gonna-'sleep-on the floor in Jennifer's room, and I laugh a t h e r . You can tell she d o n ' t even believe that a n d that she just repeatin what Jennifer says. But I decide I ain't gonna say no more bout it. I figure Diane has already dug the grave and.I know that she won't change her mind. "You better hope Martin don't find out about it," I tell her. She looks down a t the steering wheeHike she already run that part through her headland don't wanna think about it no more. ,r You even think bout that yet?" I ask so I can make1 sure. "What do you think, Twila?" she says. "Of course I thought about-" "All I did was ask you a question." "You asked it like you already knew the answer." "And you let somebody live with us without waitin for my answer," I says, truly sick of her crybaby shit. "Just start the damn car."

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I go in the kitchen-and smoke a cigarette and start readin the paper. Diane come in and start puttin away the dishes. Darryl walk in with his head down, lookin nervous. I c a n see how he woulda 'cried when Martin give him a whippin cause he look shy and wimpy. He talks to Diane but don't look in her face. He asks her what he can do round the house. "You don't gotta do nothin in particular," she says real polite, tryin to stop him from bein'so nervous. "Just maybe help out when you see somethin lyin around or when the trash has to be taken out." "If you wanna help, you can do all the cleanin Jennifer don't do," I say while I'm tryin to find the Lifestyle section in the paper. Jennifer's*still in the bathroom, but the bathroom is right next to the'kitchen so*she hear me. T h e house is so small you can hear everything from anywhere. "Darryl," Jennifer hollers, "you can help yourself by stayin out of the house as much as possible. That way you don't gotta listen to her bitchin every minute of the day." Jennifer never gets me upset when she come at me like that cause <you can tell she's lookin to get emotional bout something. Sometimes, I like that she does it-cept when she's doin it to her mama-cause ifs her way of standih up for herself. She ain't gonna let nobody cross her or she's gonna raise holy hell. It's good she's got some of that cause she won't get shit on like Diane does. Jennifer's got

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the guts to shit on everybody else, and that's better in the end. I can see why she's got a q u i e t , scared boyfriend like Darryl, cause she can probly run him all over the place. Since I work second shift and so does Darryl, we both end up home durin the day. I watch TV in the momin and he stay in Jennifer's room most of the time. He only come out of the room two or three times and every time he come out he look around like somebody's gonna yell at him to go back in. He use the batiiroom a couple times and then another time he come out he ask if he can get somethin to drink.

"What the hell are you doin?" I says to him when I'm in the kitchen. He tells m e he was feedin the dog. "You don't gotta go outside ,to feed the dog," I say and start emptyin the bags I got from the store. "Why you think you gotta go outside to feed the dog?" "I was cleanin up the dog mess in the yard," he says and looks down like-a little baby. "Somebody tell you go clean up the mess in the yard?" I says, keepin on him. "Cause I know all I says was 'feed the dog.'" I take the toilet paper and put it in the bathroom closet. He can. still hear me talkin. "I guess.,that's too hard to understand for all of you, isn't it?" I says. I almost stopped myself from sayin it, but it ain't m y f a u l t if he ain't gonna listen or think about nothin. Whether I t o m e down too hard on him or not, he gotta start thinkin bout the people round him, specially when he's gettin a place to stay. I don't even,wanna look at him cause I hate when people play dumb. They do somethin dumb and then they act like nobody's got a right to be upset about it.

"Why you askin me?" I say. He bites on his lip. "Don't need to ask nobody. If you're thirsty go get somethin to drink, and if you're hungry go fix somethin. It ain't that hard." He=walks off into the kitchen. "Long as they say you -can live here, you can do whatever the hell you want, far as I'm concerned.-" I watch the first ten minutes of one of the old Harry O's on TV, and then I get ready to go to the drug store since we're outta toilet p a p e r and sqme other things. Darrryl's in the kitchen eatin, and I tell him on nry way out that I'm goin to the store. "You need a ride?" he says. I hear him gettin up out .of his chair. "Hell, no," I say, cause it stirs me up for a second, "I only gotta walk down the block." It ain't that he scared me at all, but I don't want him goin in and outta the house if he don't have to. I thought earlier bout tellin him to park his car at the end of the block so nobody thinks he lives here. Somebody^ lijcely to start pullin shit.

W h e n I come out of the bathroom, I can hear the faucet turn on # so I figure at least he got the*mind to keep clean. I go back in the kitchen and ask him if he's gonna eat somethin before^he goes to work, since a Iplanned make soup in a little bit. Either he can't hear cause of the faucet or he thinks I'm out to get him, cause he don't give no answer. He don't say nothin to me for the rest of the day or even look up when he walk by. I figure I'll stay outta his way since it don't make a difference to me what he does. As long he 'don't leave the house till he goes to work, I don't have a problem.

Darryl asks me if he can do somethin around the house as if he's lookin for somebody to be his boss. I telhhim he don't gotta do nothin cept stay in the house. I tell him that if h e feels like he's gotta do somethin, he qan sweep the kitchen floor or call the dog in to feed her. I leave for bout an hour and a half cause I walk over to the clothes exchange and look around for a while. W h e n I come back to the house, Darryl's comin in, the h a c k dopr by the kitchen.

T h e nextvday, things go regular except Darryl get a little smarter bout stayin in the house. T h e day after I got on him about goin out in the yard, I explain to him-thatpeoplfe round here don't trust coloreds, and that they don't want no-blacks livin round em. I says that somebody might try to start somethin or come after him ox Jennifer, and he~seem to understand, especially when I mention that they might say somethin to Martin.

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the guts to shit on everybody else, and that's better in the end. I can see why she's got a q u i e t , scared boyfriend like Darryl, cause she can probly run him all over the place. Since I work second shift and so does Darryl, we both end up home durin the day. I watch TV in the momin and he stay in Jennifer's room most of the time. He only come out of the room two or three times and every time he come out he look around like somebody's gonna yell at him to go back in. He use the batiiroom a couple times and then another time he come out he ask if he can get somethin to drink.

"What the hell are you doin?" I says to him when I'm in the kitchen. He tells m e he was feedin the dog. "You don't gotta go outside ,to feed the dog," I say and start emptyin the bags I got from the store. "Why you think you gotta go outside to feed the dog?" "I was cleanin up the dog mess in the yard," he says and looks down like-a little baby. "Somebody tell you go clean up the mess in the yard?" I says, keepin on him. "Cause I know all I says was 'feed the dog.'" I take the toilet paper and put it in the bathroom closet. He can. still hear me talkin. "I guess.,that's too hard to understand for all of you, isn't it?" I says. I almost stopped myself from sayin it, but it ain't m y f a u l t if he ain't gonna listen or think about nothin. Whether I t o m e down too hard on him or not, he gotta start thinkin bout the people round him, specially when he's gettin a place to stay. I don't even,wanna look at him cause I hate when people play dumb. They do somethin dumb and then they act like nobody's got a right to be upset about it.

"Why you askin me?" I say. He bites on his lip. "Don't need to ask nobody. If you're thirsty go get somethin to drink, and if you're hungry go fix somethin. It ain't that hard." He=walks off into the kitchen. "Long as they say you -can live here, you can do whatever the hell you want, far as I'm concerned.-" I watch the first ten minutes of one of the old Harry O's on TV, and then I get ready to go to the drug store since we're outta toilet p a p e r and sqme other things. Darrryl's in the kitchen eatin, and I tell him on nry way out that I'm goin to the store. "You need a ride?" he says. I hear him gettin up out .of his chair. "Hell, no," I say, cause it stirs me up for a second, "I only gotta walk down the block." It ain't that he scared me at all, but I don't want him goin in and outta the house if he don't have to. I thought earlier bout tellin him to park his car at the end of the block so nobody thinks he lives here. Somebody^ lijcely to start pullin shit.

W h e n I come out of the bathroom, I can hear the faucet turn on # so I figure at least he got the*mind to keep clean. I go back in the kitchen and ask him if he's gonna eat somethin before^he goes to work, since a Iplanned make soup in a little bit. Either he can't hear cause of the faucet or he thinks I'm out to get him, cause he don't give no answer. He don't say nothin to me for the rest of the day or even look up when he walk by. I figure I'll stay outta his way since it don't make a difference to me what he does. As long he 'don't leave the house till he goes to work, I don't have a problem.

Darryl asks me if he can do somethin around the house as if he's lookin for somebody to be his boss. I telhhim he don't gotta do nothin cept stay in the house. I tell him that if h e feels like he's gotta do somethin, he qan sweep the kitchen floor or call the dog in to feed her. I leave for bout an hour and a half cause I walk over to the clothes exchange and look around for a while. W h e n I come back to the house, Darryl's comin in, the h a c k dopr by the kitchen.

T h e nextvday, things go regular except Darryl get a little smarter bout stayin in the house. T h e day after I got on him about goin out in the yard, I explain to him-thatpeoplfe round here don't trust coloreds, and that they don't want no-blacks livin round em. I says that somebody might try to start somethin or come after him ox Jennifer, and he~seem to understand, especially when I mention that they might say somethin to Martin.

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playin cards on some days, but only when there ain't nothin that's got to be'done. He been parkin his car down the block most the time, but somebody eventually mess with it. T h e day we find out,.Diane was drivin down the Mock and seen t h a t i h e mirror on his door was busted. She come back to the house and tells him about it. At first we think Martin' did it, but then" we figure if he found out bout Darryl stayin here, he'd a done more than bust a mirror.

I see Darryl comin outta Jennifer's room, lookin like he don't know what the hell's goin on. His pants are unbuckled, cause he was gettin ready for work when Martin come. "Go 'back and lock the* door, Darryl," Diane says, and you can barely understand her cause her voice is so shaky. Darryl don't move right away cause if looks like part of him is sayin he should be there. Maybe he's scared for Diane. "C'mon, Darryl," she says like she's beggin him. He finally goes in the room cause you can tell he don't wanna Upset her. Martin's on the other side hollerin at Diane,'kickin the door every now and then.

So after we eat lunch at about one o'clock, I tell Darryl we ought to go to the glass and window place downtown so he can get a mirror cut for his car. He's surprised at first when I tell him, cause the last couple days Jre's .been offerin me a. ride to work, and I say no everyrime-except yesterday when I was runnin late. So when he looked at me funny after I tell Jiim bout gettin a mirror, I tell him he's gotta get the damn thing fixed anyway. I says, "you^rcan go ahead'to a dealer and let him take all your-money if you want. All I'm sayin is, at this place, you only gotta throw down'about ten Qr fifteen dollars to get,a little square cut." After I say that, he laughs for no.good reason. Him and-me go the glass; shop and we end up havin to wait there a couple hours since the store's' real busy. At first, I feel strange bein with a nigger in a public place. But after ; a little while, I don't even think about it. There's niggers alhover the place downtown, and. nobody even notices me and him bein together. Darryl bein there actually makes it easier cause I don't feel uncomfortable bein surrounded by the rest of em. W h e n we come back home, Diane's already back from work and she's startin on dinner. Just bout ten minutes later, when L'm puttin -on j n y work uniform, is wJien-Martin shows up. He bout scares the shit outta me cause he show up hollerin and kickin the front door. Me and Diane are in the kitchen at the time,-and soon as I recognize his voice", I ain't scared no more. I go over-to the door and I can see-the bottom of'it bendimlike rubber every time he kicks it. "What the hell are you doin?" I yell at him. Diane come behind me, gettin ready to panic. W h e n I turn around; she starts babblin nonsense. I don't even hear-what she's sayin cause

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"You're wastin your time cause I'm gonna call the police on you right now, you son of a" bitch," I holler to the door. He stop for a second and then start yellin somethin bout niggers. I start to walk to the living room where the phone is an'd all a sudden Diane grabs me by my shirt sleeve. "What are you doin?" I ask her, rurnin to look at her face. She'looks down so she can hide her eyes from me, but she ain't so ashamed that she's gonna let go my sleeve. My head get so hot I feel like it's gonna explode. I get about ready to smack her mouth, but she start bawlin like she ain't got nothin'left in her. "I'll get him to leave " she says while she's sobbin.- She lets go of my sleeve and goes over to the door. She's tryin to stop herself from cryin while unlockin the door. "I'm comin out," she yells to the other side. I ain't thinkin, and I'm so frustrated with her, I let her go without sayin nothin. I tell myself that she deserves what she gets, a n d I can feel part of myself h o p i n that she gets it. Anyway, she goes out leavin only the screen door closed. I can see in case somethin happens. "You better not"touch her," I yell to Martin. "I bet you're so hard up, you been fuckin that nigger yourself, Twila," he'yells iike the drunk he is. Diane turns around and yells at m e to stay out of the whole thing, like she don't even-give a damn bout what he said and don't care that I'm tryin to protect her. "I ain't afraid of you like she is," I- holler back at Martin, lookin at D i a n e . Right t h e n I feel like goin out there a n d

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playin cards on some days, but only when there ain't nothin that's got to be'done. He been parkin his car down the block most the time, but somebody eventually mess with it. T h e day we find out,.Diane was drivin down the Mock and seen t h a t i h e mirror on his door was busted. She come back to the house and tells him about it. At first we think Martin' did it, but then" we figure if he found out bout Darryl stayin here, he'd a done more than bust a mirror.

I see Darryl comin outta Jennifer's room, lookin like he don't know what the hell's goin on. His pants are unbuckled, cause he was gettin ready for work when Martin come. "Go 'back and lock the* door, Darryl," Diane says, and you can barely understand her cause her voice is so shaky. Darryl don't move right away cause if looks like part of him is sayin he should be there. Maybe he's scared for Diane. "C'mon, Darryl," she says like she's beggin him. He finally goes in the room cause you can tell he don't wanna Upset her. Martin's on the other side hollerin at Diane,'kickin the door every now and then.

So after we eat lunch at about one o'clock, I tell Darryl we ought to go to the glass and window place downtown so he can get a mirror cut for his car. He's surprised at first when I tell him, cause the last couple days Jre's .been offerin me a. ride to work, and I say no everyrime-except yesterday when I was runnin late. So when he looked at me funny after I tell Jiim bout gettin a mirror, I tell him he's gotta get the damn thing fixed anyway. I says, "you^rcan go ahead'to a dealer and let him take all your-money if you want. All I'm sayin is, at this place, you only gotta throw down'about ten Qr fifteen dollars to get,a little square cut." After I say that, he laughs for no.good reason. Him and-me go the glass; shop and we end up havin to wait there a couple hours since the store's' real busy. At first, I feel strange bein with a nigger in a public place. But after ; a little while, I don't even think about it. There's niggers alhover the place downtown, and. nobody even notices me and him bein together. Darryl bein there actually makes it easier cause I don't feel uncomfortable bein surrounded by the rest of em. W h e n we come back home, Diane's already back from work and she's startin on dinner. Just bout ten minutes later, when L'm puttin -on j n y work uniform, is wJien-Martin shows up. He bout scares the shit outta me cause he show up hollerin and kickin the front door. Me and Diane are in the kitchen at the time,-and soon as I recognize his voice", I ain't scared no more. I go over-to the door and I can see-the bottom of'it bendimlike rubber every time he kicks it. "What the hell are you doin?" I yell at him. Diane come behind me, gettin ready to panic. W h e n I turn around; she starts babblin nonsense. I don't even hear-what she's sayin cause

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"You're wastin your time cause I'm gonna call the police on you right now, you son of a" bitch," I holler to the door. He stop for a second and then start yellin somethin bout niggers. I start to walk to the living room where the phone is an'd all a sudden Diane grabs me by my shirt sleeve. "What are you doin?" I ask her, rurnin to look at her face. She'looks down so she can hide her eyes from me, but she ain't so ashamed that she's gonna let go my sleeve. My head get so hot I feel like it's gonna explode. I get about ready to smack her mouth, but she start bawlin like she ain't got nothin'left in her. "I'll get him to leave " she says while she's sobbin.- She lets go of my sleeve and goes over to the door. She's tryin to stop herself from cryin while unlockin the door. "I'm comin out," she yells to the other side. I ain't thinkin, and I'm so frustrated with her, I let her go without sayin nothin. I tell myself that she deserves what she gets, a n d I can feel part of myself h o p i n that she gets it. Anyway, she goes out leavin only the screen door closed. I can see in case somethin happens. "You better not"touch her," I yell to Martin. "I bet you're so hard up, you been fuckin that nigger yourself, Twila," he'yells iike the drunk he is. Diane turns around and yells at m e to stay out of the whole thing, like she don't even-give a damn bout what he said and don't care that I'm tryin to protect her. "I ain't afraid of you like she is," I- holler back at Martin, lookin at D i a n e . Right t h e n I feel like goin out there a n d

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wringin her neck with my own hands. Martin's still laughin bout what he said and acts like he don't hear what I say. D i a n e turns back a r o u n d to talk to M a r t i n a n d stands between him and the door. I can barely hear what they're sayin b u t D i a n e don't look like she's doin the talkin. He's talkin to her pointin at her face like he wishes, he could stick his finger right in her eye. "He's at work," she finally says. He points at the dopr, but it ain't like he's pointin at me. Diane keep shakin her head, sayin somethin about Darryl bein at work again, and that's when- he start comin forward. Diane's movin backwards b u t she still keepin herself between-him and the door. Finally, she got her backÂťon the screen door and that's when I go over to the phone and call the police. "I got a drunk man gettin ready to beat his wife," I says tQ.the woman dispatcher. I'm startin to panic cause I'm tryin to get the phone to stretch to the door so I can see what's goin pn. I don't even hear the operator when she asks for the address cause I can't think straight. W h e n I finally tell her the address, the d u m b bitch keeps on askin me to repeat it, and that's when I hear somethin bang, against the door. "You, son of a bitch," I scream, not knowin whether to hang up. After a couple a seconds I can't wait no more and I let the p h o n e down sd I can go over to the door. But before I can get there, Darryl come flyin outta Jennifer's room and goes, right past me on l\is way to the door. He goes out on the porch and I come right h e h i n d him like I'm followin him irito a fire. I'm .thinkin he's gonna get whipped.

seconds. W h e n I come to, I can barely move. I'm layin on the steps and I can see Martin sittin on top of Darryl, bangin his head on the ground on the regular sidewalk that runs up the block. I start screamin but I get dizzy from tryin. Half the neighborhood's watchin and some of em are makin comments. I feel like I'm about to throw up from bein dizzy and from everything else. T h e neighbors ain't doin shit, Diane's grabbin the collar on Martin's shirt tryin to pull him off and I'm tryin to crawl toward him. Martin gets up for a second and soon as it seems like he's done, he sees Darryl got his pants unbuckled and starts pullin off his pants. I scream more but I feel like I'm gonna pass out. I try and get up.again but my right ankle gives. I look at Darryl with his pants pulled down to his knees, lookin like a boy that just got a whippin from his daddy. His forehead and his nose is all scraped and bloody and everybody around is just watchin. I can hear police sirens in the background but I can hardly pay attention to em c a u s e I keep on seein Darryl. I'm wonderi n why the hell nobody tries to stop it when they see it right in front of their face. I start cryin cause I- see the look in Darryl's face and I know he feels like everybody's turned on him. I try and scream at Martin while he start walkin down the block, but I get weak again. Last thing I see is a cop throw Martin on the ground and handcuff him. Another cop come and put handcuffs on Darryl.

W h e n we get out there, Martin's pullin Diane down the steps by her hair. Martin pulls Diane the rest of the way to the concrete, and soon as he sees Darryl, he throws her aside like a sack of potatoes. I almost cry when I see -the way she hit the ground. W h e n he come up the steps after Darryl, I got right at Martin, scratchin and kickin. I try to get, at his eyes but I only scratch him once on the head before he pushes me backward and cold-cocks me.,It feels like somethjn drops/on my head. I feel my legs give from under me and I see" black for a couple

After that disaster is over Diane takes me to the hospital, and t h e n we go over to the police station for questionin. Diane leaves a note at home for Jennifer sayin we're at the police station, waitin to bail Darryl out cause her daddy gone after him again. W h e n Jennifer shows up at the police station, she's hysterical and come right up to m e at the conference room and hollers a:bunch*of mess. Comin after me don't make sense, but she got to. have somebody she can blame, so she accuses m? of lettin Darryl get beatoip. She don't even notice that Diane got a bandage on her head o r t h a t I got a splint on my leg. She says I don't give a damn about Darryl and that I wouldn'ta done nothin to help him. I let her go on and bitch anyway, since she

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wringin her neck with my own hands. Martin's still laughin bout what he said and acts like he don't hear what I say. D i a n e turns back a r o u n d to talk to M a r t i n a n d stands between him and the door. I can barely hear what they're sayin b u t D i a n e don't look like she's doin the talkin. He's talkin to her pointin at her face like he wishes, he could stick his finger right in her eye. "He's at work," she finally says. He points at the dopr, but it ain't like he's pointin at me. Diane keep shakin her head, sayin somethin about Darryl bein at work again, and that's when- he start comin forward. Diane's movin backwards b u t she still keepin herself between-him and the door. Finally, she got her backÂťon the screen door and that's when I go over to the phone and call the police. "I got a drunk man gettin ready to beat his wife," I says tQ.the woman dispatcher. I'm startin to panic cause I'm tryin to get the phone to stretch to the door so I can see what's goin pn. I don't even hear the operator when she asks for the address cause I can't think straight. W h e n I finally tell her the address, the d u m b bitch keeps on askin me to repeat it, and that's when I hear somethin bang, against the door. "You, son of a bitch," I scream, not knowin whether to hang up. After a couple a seconds I can't wait no more and I let the p h o n e down sd I can go over to the door. But before I can get there, Darryl come flyin outta Jennifer's room and goes, right past me on l\is way to the door. He goes out on the porch and I come right h e h i n d him like I'm followin him irito a fire. I'm .thinkin he's gonna get whipped.

seconds. W h e n I come to, I can barely move. I'm layin on the steps and I can see Martin sittin on top of Darryl, bangin his head on the ground on the regular sidewalk that runs up the block. I start screamin but I get dizzy from tryin. Half the neighborhood's watchin and some of em are makin comments. I feel like I'm about to throw up from bein dizzy and from everything else. T h e neighbors ain't doin shit, Diane's grabbin the collar on Martin's shirt tryin to pull him off and I'm tryin to crawl toward him. Martin gets up for a second and soon as it seems like he's done, he sees Darryl got his pants unbuckled and starts pullin off his pants. I scream more but I feel like I'm gonna pass out. I try and get up.again but my right ankle gives. I look at Darryl with his pants pulled down to his knees, lookin like a boy that just got a whippin from his daddy. His forehead and his nose is all scraped and bloody and everybody around is just watchin. I can hear police sirens in the background but I can hardly pay attention to em c a u s e I keep on seein Darryl. I'm wonderi n why the hell nobody tries to stop it when they see it right in front of their face. I start cryin cause I- see the look in Darryl's face and I know he feels like everybody's turned on him. I try and scream at Martin while he start walkin down the block, but I get weak again. Last thing I see is a cop throw Martin on the ground and handcuff him. Another cop come and put handcuffs on Darryl.

W h e n we get out there, Martin's pullin Diane down the steps by her hair. Martin pulls Diane the rest of the way to the concrete, and soon as he sees Darryl, he throws her aside like a sack of potatoes. I almost cry when I see -the way she hit the ground. W h e n he come up the steps after Darryl, I got right at Martin, scratchin and kickin. I try to get, at his eyes but I only scratch him once on the head before he pushes me backward and cold-cocks me.,It feels like somethjn drops/on my head. I feel my legs give from under me and I see" black for a couple

After that disaster is over Diane takes me to the hospital, and t h e n we go over to the police station for questionin. Diane leaves a note at home for Jennifer sayin we're at the police station, waitin to bail Darryl out cause her daddy gone after him again. W h e n Jennifer shows up at the police station, she's hysterical and come right up to m e at the conference room and hollers a:bunch*of mess. Comin after me don't make sense, but she got to. have somebody she can blame, so she accuses m? of lettin Darryl get beatoip. She don't even notice that Diane got a bandage on her head o r t h a t I got a splint on my leg. She says I don't give a damn about Darryl and that I wouldn'ta done nothin to help him. I let her go on and bitch anyway, since she

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Keepin 'em Out

gonna assume everything without seein or knowin what happen. I tell her to go to hell after she's through, and Diane tries to tell her what happen but Jennifer don't wanna listen..Jennifer starts screamin again and I feel like my head's gonna explode."Vyhy don't you shut your goddamn mouth for a minute and go ask bout Darryl," I says.-She woulda snapped right back but soon as she heard Darryl's name she stop thinkin bout what a bitch I am. She leaves the room to see bout Darryl, and a minute later, two black ladies, a middle-aged one and an older lady, come in the conference room. I'm guessin that the one is Darryl's mama cause she nods at Diane real polite when she sees her, and I figure the old lady's his grandma. Darryl's mama got a weak smile like she's scared and don't know what the hell's goin on. T h e grandma don't even look at.me or Diane. She's wearin dark glasses and is holdin Darryl's mama by the arrfi of her jacket. Even after them two sit down, the old lady's squeezin tight, like she's protectin the both of em.

don't trust either one of us cause I sure as hell don't trust her. While she's sittin there starin at me like I'm the nigger, I start to have a daydream that Martin, Jennifer and this old colored woman are comin at me all at once, tryin to strangle me to keep me down and shut me out. T h e whole time they're reachin for my neck, Diane's there feelin sorry for me and tryin to protect me, but at the same time she's explainin to me why it ain't none of their faults.

Diane starts small talk with the mama, tryin to be nice like she always does and talkin about how good Darryl been to Jennifer. Diane's tryin to talk to the grandma but the grandma ain't givin her the time of day. Every now and then, the grandma is pullin the mama's attention away from Diane, tuggin on the mama's arm and whisperin. Like the idiot'she is, Diane keeps-tryin with the grandma and the old bitch won't pay attention to her. After a little while, Diane gives up on talkin and the room goes quiet for a long time. Here and there, I notice the old woman lookin over at me, but every time I catch her she looks away. Maybe she can see that I know what's goin on in her head with everything that's b e e n happening and that's why she's lookin over. She finally just sets.her eyes on me like she don't care and^like she ain't afraid of^blamin me and Diane. I "look back at her the same way cause she* ain't gonna pin nothin on either of us. At the same time I'm pissed at the grandma, I can feel myself bein mad at Diane for kissin her ass, and for kissin Jennifer's ass and Martin's ass. That stilt don't forgive the grandma for shittin on Diane', and I* don't feel bad or hurt that she

138

I break out of the daydream cause I notice the grandma lookin at the splint on my leg. She points and looks at it suspicious. "Where you get it?" she says. Thinkin she means the splint, I tell her I got it at the hospital. "How'd you get it?" she asks. "Her ex-husband gave it to me when he was throwin m e down the steps," I says, pointin to Diane. I point to her bandage. "Gave her that, too." "You both was in the fight?" She looks confused. "Yeah," I says. She nods, lookin like she's picturin i t She doesn't say nothin after that but she stops starin. I start to feel more comfortable and I look at Diane. Diane looks funny with the expression she's got and the bandage on her head. She's hurt but she looks like she still wants to apologize to somebody or make everything better. I shake my head and keep my lips puckered to keep myself from smilin, cause for some crazy reason, it makes me silly. When people keep doin somethin that pisses you off, they can piss you off to the point that you want to laugh at the same time. I look at the mama. "You got a brave boy," I says, feelin relaxed in general. After a second, the mama, a little scared by my comment for some reason, nods to thank me. T h e grandma glares at me, suspicious, and Diane looks at me, confused as hell. O n e simple comment and they all lose their minds. "Is the entire earth filled with jack-asses," I wonder in my head. I laugh it all out.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Keepin 'em Out

gonna assume everything without seein or knowin what happen. I tell her to go to hell after she's through, and Diane tries to tell her what happen but Jennifer don't wanna listen..Jennifer starts screamin again and I feel like my head's gonna explode."Vyhy don't you shut your goddamn mouth for a minute and go ask bout Darryl," I says.-She woulda snapped right back but soon as she heard Darryl's name she stop thinkin bout what a bitch I am. She leaves the room to see bout Darryl, and a minute later, two black ladies, a middle-aged one and an older lady, come in the conference room. I'm guessin that the one is Darryl's mama cause she nods at Diane real polite when she sees her, and I figure the old lady's his grandma. Darryl's mama got a weak smile like she's scared and don't know what the hell's goin on. T h e grandma don't even look at.me or Diane. She's wearin dark glasses and is holdin Darryl's mama by the arrfi of her jacket. Even after them two sit down, the old lady's squeezin tight, like she's protectin the both of em.

don't trust either one of us cause I sure as hell don't trust her. While she's sittin there starin at me like I'm the nigger, I start to have a daydream that Martin, Jennifer and this old colored woman are comin at me all at once, tryin to strangle me to keep me down and shut me out. T h e whole time they're reachin for my neck, Diane's there feelin sorry for me and tryin to protect me, but at the same time she's explainin to me why it ain't none of their faults.

Diane starts small talk with the mama, tryin to be nice like she always does and talkin about how good Darryl been to Jennifer. Diane's tryin to talk to the grandma but the grandma ain't givin her the time of day. Every now and then, the grandma is pullin the mama's attention away from Diane, tuggin on the mama's arm and whisperin. Like the idiot'she is, Diane keeps-tryin with the grandma and the old bitch won't pay attention to her. After a little while, Diane gives up on talkin and the room goes quiet for a long time. Here and there, I notice the old woman lookin over at me, but every time I catch her she looks away. Maybe she can see that I know what's goin on in her head with everything that's b e e n happening and that's why she's lookin over. She finally just sets.her eyes on me like she don't care and^like she ain't afraid of^blamin me and Diane. I "look back at her the same way cause she* ain't gonna pin nothin on either of us. At the same time I'm pissed at the grandma, I can feel myself bein mad at Diane for kissin her ass, and for kissin Jennifer's ass and Martin's ass. That stilt don't forgive the grandma for shittin on Diane', and I* don't feel bad or hurt that she

138

I break out of the daydream cause I notice the grandma lookin at the splint on my leg. She points and looks at it suspicious. "Where you get it?" she says. Thinkin she means the splint, I tell her I got it at the hospital. "How'd you get it?" she asks. "Her ex-husband gave it to me when he was throwin m e down the steps," I says, pointin to Diane. I point to her bandage. "Gave her that, too." "You both was in the fight?" She looks confused. "Yeah," I says. She nods, lookin like she's picturin i t She doesn't say nothin after that but she stops starin. I start to feel more comfortable and I look at Diane. Diane looks funny with the expression she's got and the bandage on her head. She's hurt but she looks like she still wants to apologize to somebody or make everything better. I shake my head and keep my lips puckered to keep myself from smilin, cause for some crazy reason, it makes me silly. When people keep doin somethin that pisses you off, they can piss you off to the point that you want to laugh at the same time. I look at the mama. "You got a brave boy," I says, feelin relaxed in general. After a second, the mama, a little scared by my comment for some reason, nods to thank me. T h e grandma glares at me, suspicious, and Diane looks at me, confused as hell. O n e simple comment and they all lose their minds. "Is the entire earth filled with jack-asses," I wonder in my head. I laugh it all out.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Jun Fujita


Berkeley Fiction Review

Jun Fujita


What Do Minotaurs Do...

Alan Casey

W h a t D o

W h e n I n

D o

M i n o t a u r s

N o t

K i l l i n g

E l a b o r a t e

P e o p l e

M a z e s ?

.jsa&ssk

U

u re aV "-Minotaur, yes" interjected the partially dressed bull-man. "I heard a story about you." Drawing his straight razor back and forth across a rather 140

pink, almost translucent strop, the minotaur spared his guest a sideward glance. "You'd hardly be here if you hadn't." T h e guest watched the glinting blade skim across the delicately freckled band. "What are you doing?" T h e blade rose, hovering just shy ofthe hugely muscled taurine neck. "What does it look like I'm doing?" Pressing two fingers to his lather-covered throat he drew the blade upwards with graceful restraint. "Shaving." A flick of the wrist deposited the razor's burden of soap and stubble onto the water steaming in the porcelain bowl before him. "Then I am shaving." "I didn't know minotaurs shaved." At the zenith of another stroke the minotaur eyed himself in the mirror. "Neither did I until you arrived. Pass me that towel, would you." He motioned with the blade. " W h e r e am I?" asked the guest while relinquishing the towel, its corner trailing a thread. "In my labyrinth." T h e minotaur bent over the bowl and rinsed his face with handfuls of water, drying himself moments later.-Finished, he turned to face his guest T h e creased shirt he wore hung open to the waist, revealing a chest the equal of any two men's. He seemed to await some further c o m m e n t "Am I dreaming?" whispered the guest. A smile undermined the image- of a bull. A raised finger bade the guest to wait .After fastening the numerous shirt buttons and tucking its white hem into the trim waist of.his red kilt, the minotaur let fall a few drops of aftershave into his left palm. "Tell me, can you smell this?" he asked, patting his snout and neck. "Yes, it's very strong." "Then you are not dreaming. Smells have their own dreams, wakeful and elusive." T h e bull-man struggled to fasten his collar.

141


What Do Minotaurs Do...

Alan Casey

W h a t D o

W h e n I n

D o

M i n o t a u r s

N o t

K i l l i n g

E l a b o r a t e

P e o p l e

M a z e s ?

.jsa&ssk

U

u re aV "-Minotaur, yes" interjected the partially dressed bull-man. "I heard a story about you." Drawing his straight razor back and forth across a rather 140

pink, almost translucent strop, the minotaur spared his guest a sideward glance. "You'd hardly be here if you hadn't." T h e guest watched the glinting blade skim across the delicately freckled band. "What are you doing?" T h e blade rose, hovering just shy ofthe hugely muscled taurine neck. "What does it look like I'm doing?" Pressing two fingers to his lather-covered throat he drew the blade upwards with graceful restraint. "Shaving." A flick of the wrist deposited the razor's burden of soap and stubble onto the water steaming in the porcelain bowl before him. "Then I am shaving." "I didn't know minotaurs shaved." At the zenith of another stroke the minotaur eyed himself in the mirror. "Neither did I until you arrived. Pass me that towel, would you." He motioned with the blade. " W h e r e am I?" asked the guest while relinquishing the towel, its corner trailing a thread. "In my labyrinth." T h e minotaur bent over the bowl and rinsed his face with handfuls of water, drying himself moments later.-Finished, he turned to face his guest T h e creased shirt he wore hung open to the waist, revealing a chest the equal of any two men's. He seemed to await some further c o m m e n t "Am I dreaming?" whispered the guest. A smile undermined the image- of a bull. A raised finger bade the guest to wait .After fastening the numerous shirt buttons and tucking its white hem into the trim waist of.his red kilt, the minotaur let fall a few drops of aftershave into his left palm. "Tell me, can you smell this?" he asked, patting his snout and neck. "Yes, it's very strong." "Then you are not dreaming. Smells have their own dreams, wakeful and elusive." T h e bull-man struggled to fasten his collar.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

What Do Minotaurs Do...

"You're a strange minotaur." "Really-" he succeeded in sealing the collar and stretched his chin to settle it. "How so?" "You're not at all frightening." "It's my day off. Do you mind, you're sitting on my necktie."' T h e guest rose, allowing the minotaur to retrieve his tie, which bore a more than striking resemblance to the now discarded strop. "Why are you getting dressed up?" "At this point in time I'm not altogether certain, b u t it's beginning to feel like a funeral." He lifted his collar and slid the lengthy tie around its staggering circumference. "Whose?" "That rather depends upon a number of closely related factors." "What do you mean?" His beautifully manicured fingers paused upon the fabric of his necktie. "Perhaps if I approach it from another 1 angle things will become clearer. What do minotaurs d"o?" T h e guest hesitated only a moment before answering, "Kill people in elaborate mazes." A subtle, wavering nod evidenced itself in the balance of the minotaur's great horns. 'Til rephrase. W h e n not killing people in elaborate mazes, what do minotaurs do?" Three bull breaths populated* the space between question and answer. "I, er...I never really gave it much thought." "Neither do minotaurs." A hint of sadness had entered his eyes Only to flee in t h e wake of words. T h e guest expressed irritation. "Is that supposed to be some kind of riddle?" "No. To call that a riddle would be like-calling that which exists on the other side of your belly button 'imaginable'." "My belly button?" "You do have one, I take it? What am I saying, of course you have one, I could hardly be standing here knotting a tie made from your navel string if you didn't." As if to emphasize the point he set to work Upon that very task..

"What's navel string?" "Umbilical cord." T h e statement carried a measure of the frustration the minotaur experienced as he failed to construct a pleasing knot. "That tie is my-" "Well it isn't mine. A dog ate mine. A little dog...with red ears. Your mother didn't mention seeing such a creature while carrying you did she?" "No...I haven't forgotten you know." "Womb memories?" inquired the minotaur, flashing a dangerous smile in celebration of a successfully completed knot. "No, about you going to a funeral. Whose is it?" "Mine." "But you're alive." With the aid of a tattered scrap of rabbit fur, the.bull-man began buffing his mottled horns. "Funerals are the property of the living, it's a labyrinth by-law." "Who's being buried?" "More precisely 'what'." "What?" "Exacdy!" "Look, stop messing me about and tell m e who's being buried." "You, or rather your body. That's what I meant by what'. Your deceased flesh, although not strictly inanimate, is no longer a 'who' but a what'. You are the 'who', or you were the 'who'; what you are now, whether 'who' or 'what', remains to be seen-stop me if I should start making sense." Setting aside the fur he took up a tiny file and with it set about sharpening the tips of his horns, tilting each in turn towards t h e mirror. "I'm being buried...? I don't want to h e buried." "You're dead, what you want is secondary to what you need; and take my word for it, you need burying-why else do you think I'd be wearing this hideous aftershave?" "I'm dead?" "For the foreseeable future."

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Berkeley Fiction Review

What Do Minotaurs Do...

"You're a strange minotaur." "Really-" he succeeded in sealing the collar and stretched his chin to settle it. "How so?" "You're not at all frightening." "It's my day off. Do you mind, you're sitting on my necktie."' T h e guest rose, allowing the minotaur to retrieve his tie, which bore a more than striking resemblance to the now discarded strop. "Why are you getting dressed up?" "At this point in time I'm not altogether certain, b u t it's beginning to feel like a funeral." He lifted his collar and slid the lengthy tie around its staggering circumference. "Whose?" "That rather depends upon a number of closely related factors." "What do you mean?" His beautifully manicured fingers paused upon the fabric of his necktie. "Perhaps if I approach it from another 1 angle things will become clearer. What do minotaurs d"o?" T h e guest hesitated only a moment before answering, "Kill people in elaborate mazes." A subtle, wavering nod evidenced itself in the balance of the minotaur's great horns. 'Til rephrase. W h e n not killing people in elaborate mazes, what do minotaurs do?" Three bull breaths populated* the space between question and answer. "I, er...I never really gave it much thought." "Neither do minotaurs." A hint of sadness had entered his eyes Only to flee in t h e wake of words. T h e guest expressed irritation. "Is that supposed to be some kind of riddle?" "No. To call that a riddle would be like-calling that which exists on the other side of your belly button 'imaginable'." "My belly button?" "You do have one, I take it? What am I saying, of course you have one, I could hardly be standing here knotting a tie made from your navel string if you didn't." As if to emphasize the point he set to work Upon that very task..

"What's navel string?" "Umbilical cord." T h e statement carried a measure of the frustration the minotaur experienced as he failed to construct a pleasing knot. "That tie is my-" "Well it isn't mine. A dog ate mine. A little dog...with red ears. Your mother didn't mention seeing such a creature while carrying you did she?" "No...I haven't forgotten you know." "Womb memories?" inquired the minotaur, flashing a dangerous smile in celebration of a successfully completed knot. "No, about you going to a funeral. Whose is it?" "Mine." "But you're alive." With the aid of a tattered scrap of rabbit fur, the.bull-man began buffing his mottled horns. "Funerals are the property of the living, it's a labyrinth by-law." "Who's being buried?" "More precisely 'what'." "What?" "Exacdy!" "Look, stop messing me about and tell m e who's being buried." "You, or rather your body. That's what I meant by what'. Your deceased flesh, although not strictly inanimate, is no longer a 'who' but a what'. You are the 'who', or you were the 'who'; what you are now, whether 'who' or 'what', remains to be seen-stop me if I should start making sense." Setting aside the fur he took up a tiny file and with it set about sharpening the tips of his horns, tilting each in turn towards t h e mirror. "I'm being buried...? I don't want to h e buried." "You're dead, what you want is secondary to what you need; and take my word for it, you need burying-why else do you think I'd be wearing this hideous aftershave?" "I'm dead?" "For the foreseeable future."

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Berkeley Fiction Review

What Do Minotaurs Do...

"But I don't feel dead." "That.part of you which, remains in the labyrinth will feel n o t h i n g for quite some time. H e r e - " he ceased filing and moved towards his guest, "-prick your finger upon my horn. G o on." With some reluctance the guest complied and was astonished to discover that the penetration induced no sensation, whatsoever, even though blood trickled forth. "I didn't feel a thing." "No, it was quick and painless. Which is more that can be said for the lastiew hours ofthe man upon whom you landed." T h e guest watched the minotaur return to the mirror, saw his face reflected, his eyes darken. "I fell—I remember falling," the guest stammered, "weight where there was weighfiessness." "Ah, it's all,coming back to you, isn't it?" "I fell from a building, I was on the roof and I-" "Fell?" "Yes." "No." "No?" "You were pushed." "I was? By who?" "By whom." "Whatever!" "Your mother." "What!?" "Your mother pushed you. Though it has t o b e said that she h a d no choice. A brother broke her flesh and in darkness breathed light into the wound. In her world you were sinless and worth more than her survival. Strangers stole her brother's breath and with it bound her hopes, denying her the words of freedom they themselves so dearly cherished." "Don't play games with m y mother's memory!." "I fear her memory isn't what it used to be. Even now she forgets the terror of continuance, the joy of falling, the months of suffering and fear that bred strength enough to make that step

possible." "My mother killed me..." T h e mirror smashed. T h e minotaur withdrew his horn. "She'll be there." "Where?" "At your funeral." "Will I be able to see her? I mean, am I a ghost...will she see me?" T h r o u g h clenched teeth the bull-man hissed, "No comment." "I'm so confused." Looking up through a haze of tears-unfelt, the guest could see again that sadness in the minotaur's ageless eyes. "Welcome to the labyrinth...mind your horns on the way out"

144

O n the sun-paled p a v e m e n t a man writhed, screaming. Spread across his shattered legs like an unfinished rag-quilt lay the exploded corpse of a heavily pregnant schoolgirl.

Author's note: This story was inspired by the experience of an Irisf? schoolgirl rape victim. Despite her protestations' that shewould commit suicide rather than-bear her rapist's child, a panel of judges'refused, to grant her an abortion. With the aid of her parents, the young girl obtained an abortion in Ertgland.

14*


Berkeley Fiction Review

What Do Minotaurs Do...

"But I don't feel dead." "That.part of you which, remains in the labyrinth will feel n o t h i n g for quite some time. H e r e - " he ceased filing and moved towards his guest, "-prick your finger upon my horn. G o on." With some reluctance the guest complied and was astonished to discover that the penetration induced no sensation, whatsoever, even though blood trickled forth. "I didn't feel a thing." "No, it was quick and painless. Which is more that can be said for the lastiew hours ofthe man upon whom you landed." T h e guest watched the minotaur return to the mirror, saw his face reflected, his eyes darken. "I fell—I remember falling," the guest stammered, "weight where there was weighfiessness." "Ah, it's all,coming back to you, isn't it?" "I fell from a building, I was on the roof and I-" "Fell?" "Yes." "No." "No?" "You were pushed." "I was? By who?" "By whom." "Whatever!" "Your mother." "What!?" "Your mother pushed you. Though it has t o b e said that she h a d no choice. A brother broke her flesh and in darkness breathed light into the wound. In her world you were sinless and worth more than her survival. Strangers stole her brother's breath and with it bound her hopes, denying her the words of freedom they themselves so dearly cherished." "Don't play games with m y mother's memory!." "I fear her memory isn't what it used to be. Even now she forgets the terror of continuance, the joy of falling, the months of suffering and fear that bred strength enough to make that step

possible." "My mother killed me..." T h e mirror smashed. T h e minotaur withdrew his horn. "She'll be there." "Where?" "At your funeral." "Will I be able to see her? I mean, am I a ghost...will she see me?" T h r o u g h clenched teeth the bull-man hissed, "No comment." "I'm so confused." Looking up through a haze of tears-unfelt, the guest could see again that sadness in the minotaur's ageless eyes. "Welcome to the labyrinth...mind your horns on the way out"

144

O n the sun-paled p a v e m e n t a man writhed, screaming. Spread across his shattered legs like an unfinished rag-quilt lay the exploded corpse of a heavily pregnant schoolgirl.

Author's note: This story was inspired by the experience of an Irisf? schoolgirl rape victim. Despite her protestations' that shewould commit suicide rather than-bear her rapist's child, a panel of judges'refused, to grant her an abortion. With the aid of her parents, the young girl obtained an abortion in Ertgland.

14*


A Soft Pencil was rather a good job of book-making, I thought, by a printer in D u b l i n who was sympathetic to the nostalgic strain that he observed in-my work-for I was nostalgic eydn then. It cost remarkably little for this book to be published, in an edition of 500 copies; few paid any attention to it beyond a marginal quarterly or two, and I still have an embarrassingly large number of copies left. T h e .title is Reaching Back, and you're welcome to one if you'd like.

Andrew Wright .

A

Soft

P e n c i l

stS3&ÂŁ36*,

T

he name Benjamin Stone will not mean anything to you. In a long career as an academic-or, as I should prefer to put it, as a man of letters-I know better than to think that I have attracted more than the most ephemeral kind of attention. If you have a long memory you may recall some poems I published.here and there in the early sixties, before* the unrest that transformed-the college campuses forever made impossible the* kind of composure that encourages creative activity. It also made reading*my kind of poetry almost impossible. In 1967, I did collect my poems and publish them at my own expense. It

146

But poets do norlive by words alone, even when they can recollect in tranquility: I had a family to support, and I knew from the outset t h a t I must e a r n my keep. I h a d n ' t b e e n inclined to become a physician like William Carlos Williams, nor 'fo go into insurance like Wallace* Stevens, nor to'write thrillers like Day Lewis-ohyes, I had my sights set high-so I settled down to getting a doctorate in English. It was boring, but not by any means difficult, especially as I found' a sympathetic and pliant mentor who guided m e to Matthew Prior. If you had majored in English before the sixties you would know Prior, but no one has read him for twenty-five years. A pity, because this society poet of the early eighteenth century wrote with rare grace. I k n o w my dissertation simply said so, more or less elaborately, and I have to declare that I learned 'some useful things about prosody from him. But I never intended to settle into a life of scholarly endeavor, arid I successfully resisted the trap o f t h e dry-as-dust drone. To be sure*, the dissertation on Prior was duly published, with a generous subvention from my university, and it sleeps peacefully on the shelves of a small number of libraries. I never again turned my hand to such an enterprise. For I wanted to be in a quiet corner of a coffee shop or sitting on bench in the park with a notebook and a soft pencil, thinking out lines of poetry. I have spent many a morning or afternoon doing just that. As far as my academic career is concerned, I do have some regrets. Certainly I have had the security that even the most modest attention to the job can ensure. My wife and children have been housed, fed, and clothed for all these years, and I 147


A Soft Pencil was rather a good job of book-making, I thought, by a printer in D u b l i n who was sympathetic to the nostalgic strain that he observed in-my work-for I was nostalgic eydn then. It cost remarkably little for this book to be published, in an edition of 500 copies; few paid any attention to it beyond a marginal quarterly or two, and I still have an embarrassingly large number of copies left. T h e .title is Reaching Back, and you're welcome to one if you'd like.

Andrew Wright .

A

Soft

P e n c i l

stS3&ÂŁ36*,

T

he name Benjamin Stone will not mean anything to you. In a long career as an academic-or, as I should prefer to put it, as a man of letters-I know better than to think that I have attracted more than the most ephemeral kind of attention. If you have a long memory you may recall some poems I published.here and there in the early sixties, before* the unrest that transformed-the college campuses forever made impossible the* kind of composure that encourages creative activity. It also made reading*my kind of poetry almost impossible. In 1967, I did collect my poems and publish them at my own expense. It

146

But poets do norlive by words alone, even when they can recollect in tranquility: I had a family to support, and I knew from the outset t h a t I must e a r n my keep. I h a d n ' t b e e n inclined to become a physician like William Carlos Williams, nor 'fo go into insurance like Wallace* Stevens, nor to'write thrillers like Day Lewis-ohyes, I had my sights set high-so I settled down to getting a doctorate in English. It was boring, but not by any means difficult, especially as I found' a sympathetic and pliant mentor who guided m e to Matthew Prior. If you had majored in English before the sixties you would know Prior, but no one has read him for twenty-five years. A pity, because this society poet of the early eighteenth century wrote with rare grace. I k n o w my dissertation simply said so, more or less elaborately, and I have to declare that I learned 'some useful things about prosody from him. But I never intended to settle into a life of scholarly endeavor, arid I successfully resisted the trap o f t h e dry-as-dust drone. To be sure*, the dissertation on Prior was duly published, with a generous subvention from my university, and it sleeps peacefully on the shelves of a small number of libraries. I never again turned my hand to such an enterprise. For I wanted to be in a quiet corner of a coffee shop or sitting on bench in the park with a notebook and a soft pencil, thinking out lines of poetry. I have spent many a morning or afternoon doing just that. As far as my academic career is concerned, I do have some regrets. Certainly I have had the security that even the most modest attention to the job can ensure. My wife and children have been housed, fed, and clothed for all these years, and I 147


Y

i 1:

Berkeley Fiction Review

A Soft Pencil

have been able to devote enough of my time to that which really inerests me. But that's only part of the story: in a better frame of mind I tell myself that I have earned my independence, that I despise the worldly standards that would compromise a much-prized integrity. And yet there is always a certain ache as well, because the truth is that I have not done what I intended to do. There's a difference between being and doing, and I have, done little,* almost nothing that I wanted to do as a man of letters. I should like to have been a roaring success at. . . something. I should" like to hear from admirers.

now sixty years old and I am still an associate professor at my university. My lack of tenure proclaims my failure, and don't think it doesn't sting every time I encounter my name in the university catalog or on a n official document. Yes, it does sting, not least of all since some ofthe younger people who came here long after I did have gone beyond me, not only in rank, but also in reputation. I tell myself that I should respect myself enough not to care so much. But I do care. If I had made a name as a poet, this would not have mattered, but if I had made such a n a m e I would have been a full professor long since.

WJhen I was eighteen my prospects were bright. I thought I was going to become what I aspired to be. Benjamin Stone was going to be noticed and remembered for his wit, his ^diverse accomplishments, his compassion caught in memorable words. I suppose I can still call myself a man of-letters, but.honesty compels m e to admit that I am so in a narrow sense at best I am

For, having come here as full of promise as I was all those years ago, I'm caught, caught in a place where, to tell the truth, very few people care about literature as I know and love it. There are only a handful of assbciate professors in my department, and we stick together. But we are an uneasy group, each of us disappointed in a different way. One—a certain Leslie Boulger —is a friend. He wrote o n e good book, a study of Southey's intellectual background, and it remains a respectable contribution to scholarship. But he has done nothing since, beyond publishing an article now and again in a scholarly journal of second rank. And Boulger is, to tell the truth, a fairly dull dog, while my other friends are few and far and between. Unlike most of my colleagues, I'm just as interested in thinking about literary matters as ever. Some of the others have become entirely ensnared in competition and fashion. You have learned about them in the early novels of Kingsley Amis and David Lodge. Such colleagues don't remember what it's like to read a book. At least they never talk about the books they read, except for the notorious French tomes—which they call texts—of portentious fogginess. But I can count o h the fingers of one hand the conversations I've had about Scott or Dickens or Hopkins or even Yeats, conversations in which affection or even passion played a part. But perhaps it's partly the fact (and it is a fact) that I don't give my colleagues m u c h of a chance. Nor they me. Why should they? They see me as more or less contemptible and unthreatening, a relic of dead hopes. And, to tell the truth, that's the way I see myself as well, from time to time.

148

149

Perhaps I ought to dispose of the poet first of all. Looking back on my poems .now, I see that they were an effort, by no means wholly unsuccessful, to transpose the N e w England of Robert Lowell to the Midwest, where I grew up. You agree that Lowell was a poet of atmosphere, of geography, of history? Well, the towns along the Ohio river, especially Marietta which I know the best, have their own air, their own geography and history, and I wanted to capture them. Also, dike Lowell —and Richard Wilbur as well —I write poetry that is poetry, not the sort of thing you see everywhere today, lines that don't scan, arranged helter-skelter. Yes, I have written some poems, and one of the happiest days in my life was when I received a note from the editor of the Southern Review accepting one. It was published several months later, and I was proud of myself for a little while. Several other poems were published in such quarterlies, but the thrill of the first could not be repeated. Then my muse, fled, and though sometimes I feel that I have caught-her again, she's damned elusive. That, however, was my .poetic career, and although I have denied and denied it, and keep on writing, it was pretty well finished before I was in my mid-thirties.


Y

i 1:

Berkeley Fiction Review

A Soft Pencil

have been able to devote enough of my time to that which really inerests me. But that's only part of the story: in a better frame of mind I tell myself that I have earned my independence, that I despise the worldly standards that would compromise a much-prized integrity. And yet there is always a certain ache as well, because the truth is that I have not done what I intended to do. There's a difference between being and doing, and I have, done little,* almost nothing that I wanted to do as a man of letters. I should like to have been a roaring success at. . . something. I should" like to hear from admirers.

now sixty years old and I am still an associate professor at my university. My lack of tenure proclaims my failure, and don't think it doesn't sting every time I encounter my name in the university catalog or on a n official document. Yes, it does sting, not least of all since some ofthe younger people who came here long after I did have gone beyond me, not only in rank, but also in reputation. I tell myself that I should respect myself enough not to care so much. But I do care. If I had made a name as a poet, this would not have mattered, but if I had made such a n a m e I would have been a full professor long since.

WJhen I was eighteen my prospects were bright. I thought I was going to become what I aspired to be. Benjamin Stone was going to be noticed and remembered for his wit, his ^diverse accomplishments, his compassion caught in memorable words. I suppose I can still call myself a man of-letters, but.honesty compels m e to admit that I am so in a narrow sense at best I am

For, having come here as full of promise as I was all those years ago, I'm caught, caught in a place where, to tell the truth, very few people care about literature as I know and love it. There are only a handful of assbciate professors in my department, and we stick together. But we are an uneasy group, each of us disappointed in a different way. One—a certain Leslie Boulger —is a friend. He wrote o n e good book, a study of Southey's intellectual background, and it remains a respectable contribution to scholarship. But he has done nothing since, beyond publishing an article now and again in a scholarly journal of second rank. And Boulger is, to tell the truth, a fairly dull dog, while my other friends are few and far and between. Unlike most of my colleagues, I'm just as interested in thinking about literary matters as ever. Some of the others have become entirely ensnared in competition and fashion. You have learned about them in the early novels of Kingsley Amis and David Lodge. Such colleagues don't remember what it's like to read a book. At least they never talk about the books they read, except for the notorious French tomes—which they call texts—of portentious fogginess. But I can count o h the fingers of one hand the conversations I've had about Scott or Dickens or Hopkins or even Yeats, conversations in which affection or even passion played a part. But perhaps it's partly the fact (and it is a fact) that I don't give my colleagues m u c h of a chance. Nor they me. Why should they? They see me as more or less contemptible and unthreatening, a relic of dead hopes. And, to tell the truth, that's the way I see myself as well, from time to time.

148

149

Perhaps I ought to dispose of the poet first of all. Looking back on my poems .now, I see that they were an effort, by no means wholly unsuccessful, to transpose the N e w England of Robert Lowell to the Midwest, where I grew up. You agree that Lowell was a poet of atmosphere, of geography, of history? Well, the towns along the Ohio river, especially Marietta which I know the best, have their own air, their own geography and history, and I wanted to capture them. Also, dike Lowell —and Richard Wilbur as well —I write poetry that is poetry, not the sort of thing you see everywhere today, lines that don't scan, arranged helter-skelter. Yes, I have written some poems, and one of the happiest days in my life was when I received a note from the editor of the Southern Review accepting one. It was published several months later, and I was proud of myself for a little while. Several other poems were published in such quarterlies, but the thrill of the first could not be repeated. Then my muse, fled, and though sometimes I feel that I have caught-her again, she's damned elusive. That, however, was my .poetic career, and although I have denied and denied it, and keep on writing, it was pretty well finished before I was in my mid-thirties.


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Soft Pencil

In some ways, however, I have a good life still. I love my children. Steve is a doctor, now in his last year of a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, and is married to an intelligent young woman who has been able to bear his medical training serenely. And then there's young Rachel, who is majoring in art history at Columbia. I sometimes worry about her as a single woman in New York, especially at night, but she is entirely selfsufficient, and perfectly confident. It is good to think about those two, and though they are far away they keep in touch. As for Rachel the elder, my wife, I love her, but we are a terrible combination. We get on each other's nerves. We quarrel. T h e children grew up hating our arguments, but there seemed to be no alternative. If I didn't argue I would sink, and I sunk far too often as it was. But we manage, for the most part. We are, so to speak, amiable antagonists.

where I can settle down with the Times and my notebook. By the time I get there, about nine in the morning, the rush of customers has started to thin out and I can have a booth to myself in the corner by the window where the light is good. The oldest of the waitresses calls me "professor" because she once looked over my shoulder at an envelope addressed to me. Toast and several cups of coffee (I don't eat eggs anymore), the Times, and some entries for my notebook. The luxury of that time at Harry's consoles me for many reasons, not the least because it encourages what I am rather than what I should be. And part of the pleasure consists in my mentally thumbing my nose at those colleagues who are bent double over their computers, churning out books that nobody is going to read.

Yet, I love to escape to Harry's, the coffee shop on the corner

As for me, I use a Number One pencil, and the notebooks I buy at the book store still cost less than a dollar. The simplicity pleases me, and when I start writing I become content, sometimes for as long as an hour or two. The very act of writing is a liberation. After a time, however, I put down my pencil and look out the window at the passing cars. They are going somewhere. I begrudge them their very motion. Then I feel a tremor of loneliness and I wonder about the rest of the day, and the next.

Nick Petrulakis

150

151


Berkeley Fiction Review

A Soft Pencil

In some ways, however, I have a good life still. I love my children. Steve is a doctor, now in his last year of a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, and is married to an intelligent young woman who has been able to bear his medical training serenely. And then there's young Rachel, who is majoring in art history at Columbia. I sometimes worry about her as a single woman in New York, especially at night, but she is entirely selfsufficient, and perfectly confident. It is good to think about those two, and though they are far away they keep in touch. As for Rachel the elder, my wife, I love her, but we are a terrible combination. We get on each other's nerves. We quarrel. T h e children grew up hating our arguments, but there seemed to be no alternative. If I didn't argue I would sink, and I sunk far too often as it was. But we manage, for the most part. We are, so to speak, amiable antagonists.

where I can settle down with the Times and my notebook. By the time I get there, about nine in the morning, the rush of customers has started to thin out and I can have a booth to myself in the corner by the window where the light is good. The oldest of the waitresses calls me "professor" because she once looked over my shoulder at an envelope addressed to me. Toast and several cups of coffee (I don't eat eggs anymore), the Times, and some entries for my notebook. The luxury of that time at Harry's consoles me for many reasons, not the least because it encourages what I am rather than what I should be. And part of the pleasure consists in my mentally thumbing my nose at those colleagues who are bent double over their computers, churning out books that nobody is going to read.

Yet, I love to escape to Harry's, the coffee shop on the corner

As for me, I use a Number One pencil, and the notebooks I buy at the book store still cost less than a dollar. The simplicity pleases me, and when I start writing I become content, sometimes for as long as an hour or two. The very act of writing is a liberation. After a time, however, I put down my pencil and look out the window at the passing cars. They are going somewhere. I begrudge them their very motion. Then I feel a tremor of loneliness and I wonder about the rest of the day, and the next.

Nick Petrulakis

150

151


C o n t r i b u t o r ' s

N o t e s

yÂŁ3&&2v Lauren Alwan received degrees in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University. She has exhibited her art locally and nationally. Alwan resides in Oakland where she is working on a collection of short stories. Roy Glassberg was educated at Alfred University, Southern Illinois I_[niversity, and the University of Iowa,.where he received his Ph.D. in Speech and Dramatic Arts. His stories have appeared (or are scheduled to appear) in Mamoa, The Madison Review, and Kansas Quarterly. Sarah Odishoo is a professor of English at Columbia College, Chicago. She has been a.finalist in the Nelson Algram Short Fiction Contest, the Nimrod Poetry Contest, and the St. Agnes Eve Poetry Contest. Kevin McCaughey is traveling in Poland. He is a graduate of U.C. Davis and a former fellow, at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. His work has appeared in Sundog and Manoa. Douglas Rennte taught Advanced Placement, classes in American and European history for twenty-seven years in California before moving to Portland, Oregon. His stories have appeared in Quarterly, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Vignette, the Sycamore Review, and Boy's Life, among others. Oscar Fuentes was born in Mexico City, Mexico, before moving to Southern California. He lives in,Newport Beach and is a student at Orange Coast College. In his free time, he plays keyboards for a local band. His stories have appeared in the Coast


C o n t r i b u t o r ' s

N o t e s

yÂŁ3&&2v Lauren Alwan received degrees in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University. She has exhibited her art locally and nationally. Alwan resides in Oakland where she is working on a collection of short stories. Roy Glassberg was educated at Alfred University, Southern Illinois I_[niversity, and the University of Iowa,.where he received his Ph.D. in Speech and Dramatic Arts. His stories have appeared (or are scheduled to appear) in Mamoa, The Madison Review, and Kansas Quarterly. Sarah Odishoo is a professor of English at Columbia College, Chicago. She has been a.finalist in the Nelson Algram Short Fiction Contest, the Nimrod Poetry Contest, and the St. Agnes Eve Poetry Contest. Kevin McCaughey is traveling in Poland. He is a graduate of U.C. Davis and a former fellow, at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. His work has appeared in Sundog and Manoa. Douglas Rennte taught Advanced Placement, classes in American and European history for twenty-seven years in California before moving to Portland, Oregon. His stories have appeared in Quarterly, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Vignette, the Sycamore Review, and Boy's Life, among others. Oscar Fuentes was born in Mexico City, Mexico, before moving to Southern California. He lives in,Newport Beach and is a student at Orange Coast College. In his free time, he plays keyboards for a local band. His stories have appeared in the Coast


Report and in Impetuous. Alana Ryan is an attorney and a graduate student at Dartmouth in the Arts in Liberal Studies program. Her stories have been published in The Greensboro Review, The Taproot Review, and the Livermont Bar Journal. Her poetry will be featured in the anthologies Ariel and Muse. Michael Propsom has been published in Westwind Review and Appalachian Heritage. He lives in Vancouver, Washington. Martha Engber received her journalism degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Her short stories have been published in the Writers Literary Journal and the Brighton Hill Literary Review. She also has done freelance work for the Chicago Tribune. Wyatt Bonikowski graduated from U.C. Berkeley last year with highest honors in English. Craig Loomis has spent much of the'last fourteen years living and teaching in Asia. His stories have been published in literary journals such as The Iowa Review, Rosebud, Louisville Review, American Writing, and the Maryland Review. In 1995, the Minerva Press of London published a collection of his short fiction entitled A Softer Violence: Tales of Orient. Gary Noland received his B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in 1979, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in musical composition from'Harvard in 1989. Over thirty of his musical compositions have'heen published. He has completed three novellas, three short stories, and is currently at work on a novel. Josh Stevens will enter the Iowa M.F.A. program this fall. He won both first and second place in the Nick Adams Writing Contest. A native of St. Louis, he will be married this spring.

Alan Casey is an Irish writer and artist who lives in London, England. His short stories hves been published in Australia, Japan, Belgium, Ireland, the U.K., and the United States. Andrew Wright's stories have appeared in the Kenyon Review, London Magazine, the Times Literary Review, and Four Quarters. In 1995, one of his works was nominated for inclusion in Pushcart #20.


Report and in Impetuous. Alana Ryan is an attorney and a graduate student at Dartmouth in the Arts in Liberal Studies program. Her stories have been published in The Greensboro Review, The Taproot Review, and the Livermont Bar Journal. Her poetry will be featured in the anthologies Ariel and Muse. Michael Propsom has been published in Westwind Review and Appalachian Heritage. He lives in Vancouver, Washington. Martha Engber received her journalism degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Her short stories have been published in the Writers Literary Journal and the Brighton Hill Literary Review. She also has done freelance work for the Chicago Tribune. Wyatt Bonikowski graduated from U.C. Berkeley last year with highest honors in English. Craig Loomis has spent much of the'last fourteen years living and teaching in Asia. His stories have been published in literary journals such as The Iowa Review, Rosebud, Louisville Review, American Writing, and the Maryland Review. In 1995, the Minerva Press of London published a collection of his short fiction entitled A Softer Violence: Tales of Orient. Gary Noland received his B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in 1979, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in musical composition from'Harvard in 1989. Over thirty of his musical compositions have'heen published. He has completed three novellas, three short stories, and is currently at work on a novel. Josh Stevens will enter the Iowa M.F.A. program this fall. He won both first and second place in the Nick Adams Writing Contest. A native of St. Louis, he will be married this spring.

Alan Casey is an Irish writer and artist who lives in London, England. His short stories hves been published in Australia, Japan, Belgium, Ireland, the U.K., and the United States. Andrew Wright's stories have appeared in the Kenyon Review, London Magazine, the Times Literary Review, and Four Quarters. In 1995, one of his works was nominated for inclusion in Pushcart #20.


S p o n s o r s


S p o n s o r s


Malt does more than Milton To justify G o d ' s w a y s to

C o f f e e should b e black as hell,

can

as death, and s w e e t as

man.

love. Turkish proverb

A. E. H o u s m a n

PJA

#

&

m

strong

S

Q

U

A

4 C O F

F E E

Consistent quality through continuous variety Espresso

located at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Parker Street in Berkeley

Panini Sandwiches

Salads

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1

Baked'Goods


Malt does more than Milton To justify G o d ' s w a y s to

C o f f e e should b e black as hell,

can

as death, and s w e e t as

man.

love. Turkish proverb

A. E. H o u s m a n

PJA

#

&

m

strong

S

Q

U

A

4 C O F

F E E

Consistent quality through continuous variety Espresso

located at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Parker Street in Berkeley

Panini Sandwiches

Salads

PASQUACOFFEE 2 1 2 8 OXFORD STREET BERKELEY CA 9 4 7 0 4 TEU BIO • 486 • 4786,

1

Baked'Goods


O u t s i d e o f a dog, b o o k s are a

man's

b e s t friend; i n s i d e o f a d o g , it's dark to

A

s m i l i n g face is half the

meal.

Latvian proverb

too

read. Groucho Marx

m ^ f t m o o

A Gourmet Food Store Whole grain pastas

Freshly baked bread

Light sauces

Berkeley Bookstore 2 4 8 0 Bancroft Way

1786 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley 1 1/2 blocks north of Hearst, under the big clock (serving the community for over 157 days)

(510)204-0900 (510)883-0783 Hours: lues-Sat-. 9'a.m.-7 p.m. The used textbook

specialists

Desserts


O u t s i d e o f a dog, b o o k s are a

man's

b e s t friend; i n s i d e o f a d o g , it's dark to

A

s m i l i n g face is half the

meal.

Latvian proverb

too

read. Groucho Marx

m ^ f t m o o

A Gourmet Food Store Whole grain pastas

Freshly baked bread

Light sauces

Berkeley Bookstore 2 4 8 0 Bancroft Way

1786 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley 1 1/2 blocks north of Hearst, under the big clock (serving the community for over 157 days)

(510)204-0900 (510)883-0783 Hours: lues-Sat-. 9'a.m.-7 p.m. The used textbook

specialists

Desserts


You

can find your w a y

across

the

country using burger joints the w a y If a b o o k is w o r t h r e a d i n g ; it is worth

navigator uses

a

stars'. Charles Kurfclt

buying. John Ruskin

2.476 Telegraph Avenue Berkeley, CA 94704 new & used books bought & sold & swapped

Virtual M o e ' s moe@moesbooks.com http://moesbooks.com/moe.html

SOUTHSIDE 2505 Dwight Way Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 540-9147

CENTER 2154 Center Street Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 540-9014

Mon-Fri 8am-10pm Sat-Sun 8:30am-10pm

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NORTHSIDE 1839 Euclid Avenue Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 540-9573 Mon-Fri 8am-10pm Sat-Sun 8:30am-10pm


You

can find your w a y

across

the

country using burger joints the w a y If a b o o k is w o r t h r e a d i n g ; it is worth

navigator uses

a

stars'. Charles Kurfclt

buying. John Ruskin

2.476 Telegraph Avenue Berkeley, CA 94704 new & used books bought & sold & swapped

Virtual M o e ' s moe@moesbooks.com http://moesbooks.com/moe.html

SOUTHSIDE 2505 Dwight Way Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 540-9147

CENTER 2154 Center Street Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 540-9014

Mon-Fri 8am-10pm Sat-Sun 8:30am-10pm

Mon-Fri 8am-8pm Sat 8:30am-5:30pm

NORTHSIDE 1839 Euclid Avenue Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 540-9573 Mon-Fri 8am-10pm Sat-Sun 8:30am-10pm


Berkeley Fiction Review

Editor Jacqueline Carpenter Creative Director Catherine M. Wurdack Editorial Assistants Rachael Courtier Daphne Young Photography Editor Robin Chambers Editorial Staff Ian Bagger Michael A. Berry Anita Mohan Nicole Thompson Production Artist Julie Stone Production Assistant Jeremy Russell Cover Illustrator Jon Dalton Special thanks to George Stilabower for his professional guidance during the production of this book. B.S. Ptitman


A hack poet attempts to revive his shattered ego in bed with a teenage runaway. The road to River City, an irredeemable place in the heart, is circumscribed by loss and an uneasy freedom. A dark red ocean calmly rises and falls like the brain waves of the comatose around an island populated by bleeding mannequins. The Berkeley Fiction Review, funded by the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley, publishes inventive work by emerging writers who represent the fragmented voices of contemporary life.